Shots fired at Mana office – Harawira

mana shots fired

Reprinted from mana.org.nz.

“I get threatened with violence and I get death threats, but when somebody starts taking shots at my office then that’s another matter altogether”,  said MANA leader and Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira after shots were fired at one of his offices last week.

Harawira was speaking after a report was filed with the police about shots being fired through the front window of his office in Kaitaia last Thursday night.

“I’m glad my staff reported it straight away because people call in to my office at all times of the day and night to get help with a range of issues, and their safety, and the safety of my staff, is a huge concern to me”, said Harawira.

“Politics can be a tough game and you can get hardened against some of the nasty and mean-spirited attacks against you, but shooting into an office without knowing who might be inside is more than scary, it’s life-threatening and I hope the police catch the perpetrators soon”

“I’ve got a job to do and I’ve got some bloody good staff helping me to do it, and we won’t be put off by threats like this”

MANA and Industrial Relations: “Between equal rights, force decides”

MANA at a 2013 McStrike against zero-hour contracts and poverty wages.

MANA at a 2013 McStrike against zero-hour contracts and poverty wages.

Fightback participates in the MANA Movement, whose stated mission is to bring “rangatiratanga to the poor, the powerless and the dispossessed.” Capitalism was imposed in Aotearoa through colonisation, and the fight for indigenous self-determination is intimately connected with the fight for an egalitarian society.

Leading up to the election, we will be examining the major policies that have been developed within MANA over the last three years. As members of MANA we have been a part of the critical (and some times heated) discussions at branch, rohe and national levels, discussing what these policy areas mean as well as what is needed to bring about these radical changes.

This article by Joel Cosgrove (Fightback) examines MANA’s Industrial Relations policy in relation to wider struggles.

Industrial relations are an essential area of struggle. The workplace – the “point of production”  (the space where decisions about what is produced are made) is a primary site of struggle between workers and bosses. The right to strike, the right to organize and the right to associate have been resisted by bosses and their organisations and fought for by workers.

Youth rates, (low) minimum wages and the gender pay gap, are all structural tools that drag down wages as a whole.

Anyone who has worked in the jobs that generally pay youth rates (supermarkets, fast food, retail etc) knows that the work done, whether by a 17 year old or a 19 year old, is no different. Historically it used to be argued that women couldn’t work as hard as men, or do jobs that involved complicated thinking. The point of these claims is an attempt to undermine our pay rates.

Even when the working class is successful in winning gains, the bosses will constantly try to claw them back. Currently in Australia, weekend work is paid out at time and a half (150% of normal pay) and the Abbot government are trying to undermine that by drawing it down to time and a quarter (125%) Restaurant & Catering Australia CEO John Hart has been quoted as saying:

“The industry will most likely save about $112 million each year – with this decision ensuring the industry continues to push for further penalty rate reforms under the Fair Work Commission four- yearly review of Modern Awards.”

Of course, NZ workers have already lost penalty rates for working weekends or after hours.

The battle between workers and bosses is a battle for the profit created through the work of workers and it is at this point, over the pay and conditions that bosses are forced to pay, that the struggle is fiercest.

This is why MANA’s policies around ending the 90 day trial period, youth rates and extending paid parental leave to one year are important elements in a fightback. Supporting gender pay and employment equity is another important aspect of this policy, with the case of Kristine Bartlett’s claim that caregivers (made up of 92% women) being paid at just above the minimum wage demonstrates a gender bias against women currently going through the Court of Appeal.

Aotearoa is a nation framed by overwork or underwork. On average according to the OECD, New Zealanders work 1,762 hours a year compared to places like Germany and Netherlands who work 1,397 and 1,381 hours per year respectively. When you compare the average wages of the respective countries you find that Germans earn $US30,721; the Dutch $US25,697; and New Zealanders $US21,773. Yet polling company Roy Morgan reportthe unemployment rate as being 8.5% (compared to an official rate of 6%), with a further 11.3% under-employed. Collectively, 19.8% of the workforce ( or around 519,000 people) were are either unemployed or under-employed.

British think tank New Economics Foundation has outlined a plan where the average working week is 21 hours a week, almost halving hours worked, while maintaining wages through increased taxation and a number of other measures. The question remaining is how this political change would actually be brought about. As Eco-socialist Ian Angus says, change will not happen just because it is the right thing to do.

Mana’s policies around this area include initially strengthening a return to a 40 hour week and restoring penal rates for those working for over 40 hours a week or 8 hours a day;  increasing sick days from five to ten; and bringing in a minimum redundancy payment of six weeks’ pay for the first year of employment and two weeks’ pay for each subsequent year of employment. The initial aim of these reforms is to make it more expensive for employers to make workers bear the brunt of any changes they make. Employers in Aotearoa have a history of exacting cuts in pay and conditions of employees to increase their rate of profit. Unite Union head Mike Treen has pointed to workers’ productivity increasing by 83% while real wages (inflation adjusted) fell by 25%. This is the result of weak defences of workers’ conditions around hours and penal rates.

Competition between companies over the past few decades has centred on who can cut workers’ pay and conditions the most. In the past industry conditions (or awards) set out minimum conditions and pay that in part functioned to undermine the ability to cut them – the minimum wage is an example of this in action. This is another area covered in MANA’s policy, setting out industry awards/minimum conditions as well as making sure that workers performing any outsourced government services are not employed in worse conditions than those in government, something which is currently endemic with cleaners’ contracts.

As good as these various policies are, they rely on the workers to uphold and push them forward, and to punish employers who break them. The right to strike is central to this. Workers en masse downing tools and stopping production cuts to the chase and forces the issue. The right to strike has been progressively cut back over the years, until in almost all situations it is illegal to strike. MANA policy puts forward “the right to strike for workers to enforce their contact and on any significant political, economic, cultural and environmental issues.”  MANA policy extends the right to strike to these issues but also gives an example of “workers for Fisher and Paykel in New Zealand taking action in support of Fisher and Paykel employees in Thailand”, an important aspect of internationalism demonstrated by the worldwide protests around the world recently in May against McDonalds’ global anti-worker policies.

Yet it was Karl Marx who said “between two equal rights, force is the arbiter”, namely the right of employers to legally undermine workers conditions and workers fight for improved conditions.  For example, from 1990 to 1999 the minimum wage moved from $6.13 to $7.00 and from 2000-2009 the minimum wage increased from $7.00 to $12.50. That the National party (who increased it in the 90’s by 87 cents) have increased the minimum wage since 2008 by $1.75 is something worth investigating further. The difference is the mass struggle that was waged in the 00’s, particularly by Unite Union, which forced the political situation to change – to the point where the National party felt they had to increase the minimum wage each year (in the face of opposition from their own supporters).

What we can see from all this is that these rights are not given, they’re fought for.  MANA might have an excellent industrial policy, but actually bringing this about will be a massive struggle. There are already examples that show how struggle can be waged to win these conditions. We need to learn from them and develop new and creative ways to push forward the fight for a fairer and egalitarian society that benefits the many and not the few.

Why Fightback supports the MANA Movement

hone at fightback conference 2014

The decision by the MANA Movement to enter into a formal alliance with the Internet Party has drawn criticism from Right and Left. Fightback has voiced criticism of our own.

In our April editorial, we said that “Fightback opposes any close ties between the Internet Party and the MANA Movement”. We added: “Fightback also opposes MANA entering a coalition government with pro-capitalist parties”.

We argued that the Internet Party “is more or less a front for millionaire Kim Dotcom”, that the “Internet Party’s politics are extremely vague and no candidates have yet been revealed” and that “there is no sign that it represents a progressive force.”

We were wrong.

Even as we criticised moves towards the alliance back in April, however, we did reaffirm that “whatever MANA decides on this issue, Fightback will continue to belong to and support the movement, as long as policies and principles are not sacrificed”.

At our national conference in Wellington on 2 June, Fightback members voted unanimously that we should remain in MANA. As a contribution to the public debate over MANA’s new direction, we would like to restate why we support the Movement, including its decision to join the Internet MANA alliance.

Fightback decided to participate in MANA back in 2011. “What makes Mana an important progressive force”, we wrote at the time, “is the interface of its class composition, its leadership, its policy, its democratic space, and the class/community outlook of the non-socialist activists involved, who are the majority of the party membership”.

The “democratic space” within MANA, and the role of the leadership in maintaining it, were clearly displayed during the negotiations with the Internet Party.

“Democracy” within a kaupapa Māori movement does not always look the same as it does in a European context. Nor should it. But party leader Hone Harawira announced in April that “it will be the membership and not the leadership, who will make the final decision on any possible arrangements” (MANA – and, or, or not – Dotcom).

Despite criticisms from some on the Left about “authoritarian” leadership in MANA, it was our experience that branches thoroughly debated the pros and cons of the alliance. Where opinion was divided, members voted. The decision to enter into the alliance reflected the democratic will of the membership.

It has become clear to us that the Internet Party is not “a front for millionaire Kim Dotcom”. MANA has also had influence, for example in the choice of party leader. Laila Harré, a former cabinet minister from 1999-2002, championed paid parental leave and caused controversy by joining a picket line of striking journalists. After stepping down as Alliance Party leader in 2003, she went on to head the Nurses Organisation’s historic “Fair Pay Campaign” and then the National Distribution Union (part of FIRST Union today). As a Left wing and pro-union leader of the Internet Party, Harré has already influenced candidate selection and party policies.

So we can now see many signs that the Internet Party “represents a progressive force” and is a legitimate political ally.

From its foundation, MANA has sought to broaden out its main support base among Māori in Te Tai Tokerau to include progressive Pākehā, tagata Pasifika and other tau iwi. At the 2011 general election, MANA stood Pākehā and Pasifika candidates in general seats, including Sue Bradford, John Minto and James Papali’i. But this strategy did not succeed. The alliance with a new, progressive force – the Internet Party – simply represents another strategy to achieve MANA’s original vision.

Critics of the alliance have also claimed that MANA is “selling out”, trading its principles or its ability to bring in list MPs on its “coat tails”, in return for Dotcom’s cash. Ironically, this attack comes mainly from parties to the Right of MANA, who happily accept corporate donations and “game the system” all the time.

But MANA’s policies for the 2014 election, to be released soon, will reflect even more strongly the principles of uplifting Māori and the poor. The agreement with the Internet Party guarantees MANA’s policy independence. Meanwhile, the more MPs that MANA can help to elect, the greater the chance of changing the government.

MANA also remains committed to the goal of changing the world – a goal broadly shared by Fightback. At the party’s AGM in April, president Annette Sykes outlined “rules of engagement” for dealing with all other parties. We will not work with a party that maintains the status quo, she said, or one with incompatible policies or people. We will only work with another party if it does not compromise MANA’s values. Fightback supports the view that MANA should allow Labour to form a government in September, but not join it. Staying outside of capitalist coalitions is necessary for MANA to keep playing the role described by Hone Harawira – being “the independent voice for Maori, the fighter for te pani me te rawakore (the poor and the dispossessed)”.

Fightback’s ongoing commitment to MANA reflects a long-term perspective about the importance of linking the fight for indigenous self-determination and the socialist struggle for an egalitarian society in Aotearoa.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can see some reasons why we were mistaken in our earlier assessment of the Internet Party alliance. Hone Harawira pursued the opportunity of the alliance from the outset. Many of the MANA members who supported the idea had come to know Hone through whanau connections and decades of shared struggle, and developed deep trust in his political judgement. Fightback, as an organisation made up of mainly young, Pākehā members, do not yet have the benefit of this experience.

Finally, therefore, Fightback will continue to belong to and support the MANA Movement in order to gain experience and learn, so we can better contribute to the struggle for a world beyond the parliamentary capitalist system.

MANA gets it right on Pacific migration

Many Pasifika migrants work in fruit-picking through the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.

Many Pasifika migrants work in fruit-picking through the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.

by Byron Clark.

Following questions directed at Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse from opposition MPs and media regarding a meeting with businessman and National Party donor Donghua Liu, who in Woodhouses words “had ideas about investor policies and his experience as a migrant coming in” Woodhouse rejected the idea that the meeting was controversial, claiming there were “hundreds of examples” of people who don’t donate to political parties who have access to him and other ministers.

The MANA movement responded by issuing a press release inviting the minister to make a house call “to discuss the matter of a struggling family of three children, one of whom has a medical condition which a medical expert said would be exacerbated in a hot Pacific climate and advised strongly against the child being forced to live there”.

Significant was the statement from MANA co-president John Minto: “MANA wants to discuss with the Minister why the government discriminates against Pacific people from Tonga and Samoa while it puts out the welcome mat for anyone from Australia – irrespective of skills or any other criteria. An Australian can get off the plane, get a job and no-one bats an eyelid but Tongan and Samoan people face demeaning discrimination to enter New Zealand.”

While locally there isn’t a groundswell of support for opening New Zealand’s borders to people from the Pacific, regional labour mobility has been a key demand of Pacific countries in the ongoing negotiations for a successor to the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER). “The reality is that without substantive commitments on labour mobility and development assistance, [Australia and New Zealand] will be the major beneficiaries of this Agreement.” Robert Sisilo, Lead Spokesperson for the Forum Island Countries (FICs) told the Solomon Star News on May 5th.

“We have three main demands on Labour Mobility, namely the legal certainty of the RSE and SWP labour schemes, removal of the caps or increasing the current numbers and to include employment sectors in which the FICs have a comparative advantage such as healthcare and construction.”

The Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme allows workers from a number of Pacific countries to come to New Zealand for fruit-picking jobs in the provinces. It was created in response to labour shortages. While under the scheme employers must give New Zealand citizens hiring priority, few citizens are moving to rural towns to take up the low wage work.

In many ways the scheme has been hugely positive for Pacific island countries, for whom labour could be considered an export, but workers who come here are at risk of the all too frequent abuses of migrant labour: underpayment of wages, violation of labour laws, substandard accommodation, and the threat of deportation if they complain about any of the above.

One ridiculous seeming example of the tight control RSE workers are put under is the actions following a group of Vanuatu workers entertaining people at a multi-cultural day in Nelson, this activity as well as busking at weekend markets were deemed to be illegal secondary employment, as the workers were only here to pick fruit. Presumably, these workers are not among Michael Woodhouse’s “hundreds of examples” of people who have access to him.

Giving workers from the Pacific the same rights in New Zealand as Australians would not immediately stop the abuses happening to RSE workers, but it would remove the threat of deportation and in doing so make it easier for those workers to join unions and have grievances addressed, at the very least it would mean no one stopping them from busking on their day off.

Taking the side of migrant workers is a principled stand in an election year where the Labour Party is hoping to ride a wave of anti-immigrant populism by talking of cutting immigrant numbers from the current 31,000 per year to somewhere between 5000 and 15,000. NZ First has gone further with policy to ban migrants from living in the major cities until they have been in the country for five years, and the Green’s have been largely silent on the issue. In this instance MANA is showing itself to be a genuine party of the dispossessed.

Why the Internet Party is resonating

te kotahitanga o otangarei

By Byron Clark (Fightback).

In the March issue of Fightback we examined the politics at the then new Internet Party. The verdict at that time was that “there is no sign that it represents a progressive force”. There have been some developments since then, Kim Dotcom has dispelled the idea that he is a libertarian, confirming in his The Nation interview that he supports a welfare state. Later at the members-only picnic held at his Coatesville mansion he also spoke in favour of free education.

The policies released on their website, internet.org.nz, are all supportable (though the one about a digital currency seems like a silly gimmick). The main difference between the Internet Party and the Green Party -at least in the areas they share policy- appears to be a question of emphasis. If Dotcom were to fold the party if it failed to get over the 5% threshold for seats in parliament, something he indicated he would do, it could have been expected that the Greens would gain his endorsement.

This isn’t what happened. In what came as a surprise to many, he looked further to the left and sought out an alliance with the MANA movement. While Fightback opposed an alliance, the outcome of talks at the MANA AGM was to continue discussions between the two parties. Fightback remains opposed, but will continue to participate in the MANA movement, provided there is no compromise of core policy or principles.

The Internet Party has only got as far as it has with MANA because its message has resonated with a significant number of members. The greater chance of changing the government post-September 20th appears to be the only significant gain for MANA, and that wouldn’t be enough on its own to get people excited. The Internet Party has signed up over 2000 members in a matter of days, attracted 700 to its launch event and is equaling MANA in the polls (not to mention three other parties currently in parliament) before even officially registering. This level of support is not insignificant.

Some in MANA, as well as commentators watching the saga unfold, have questioned how relevant an ‘Internet Party’ is to ‘someone who can’t afford a computer’. This might have been a valid point had the party emerged 15 years ago, but fails to see that internet access today is seen by most as an essential utility for full participation in society. Its notable that those making this political criticism are doing it largely via Internet platforms such as social media, and purporting to do so on behalf of those who don’t have the same level of access to those platforms.

One of the Internet Party’s core policies, increasing access to high speed internet and halving the price is a policy in the same league as halving the cost of electricity. It will appeal to a late night World of Warcraft player of course, but it will also appeal to a single parent aiming to escape life on the DPB through an internet delivered distance learning course. The latter actually benefits more from the policy, even if the former might be closer to the idea of an Internet Party supporter we have in our minds.

Examples of the crossover between the demographic targeted by MANA and the the policies of the Internet Party are easily found. Wahine Paewhenua of Te Kotahitanga Marae in the Whangarei suburb of Otangarei told The Herald that when they surveyed a newly formed youth group about what they’d like to have available, computers and internet access were to top of the list. The Marae now has an IT hub with twelve computers connected to ultra fast broadband.

“Before there was nothing happening for the children and the youth. Now they just have so many projects,” she told the Herald, adding that a lot of children in the area didn’t have internet access at home and that those involved in the project also wanted to roll out the programme to the senior citizens as a lot of them didn’t have a telephone.

“Otangarei has a very transient and poor population and to run a project like this is a big ask, but this has the potential to upskill people with the many opportunities that are available,” said Piripi Moore, project manager of the hub.

This sort of project is something MANA would support in principle, but the policies to make it happen are under developed. In contrast, the Internet Party places them front and centre. The “missing million” who didn’t vote in 2011 are over represented among youth, Maori and the poor, three groups that often intersect. No doubt many MANA members including in the leadership are in favour of an alliance as they see the potential for Internet Party policy to mobilise these groups. The growth in MANA’s membership since media coverage of the proposed alliance lends credence to that idea.

While there are local branches forming and an online forum for developing policy, the Internet Party is not holding an AGM until after the election, so its membership is not having the democratic discussion about an alliance that is going on within MANA. Yet some members have been vocal about their support.

On his Facebook page Hone Harawira shared an email he received after appearing on Nine to Noon. “My husband and I are geeks, that is to say, privileged, well paid, middle-class etc. We are natural supporters of the Internet Party and I want you to know that I don’t have any problem with an alliance between MANA and the Internet Party because from my perspective, the two have a lot in common – as Internet Party supporters, we believe that good internet access is a way out of poverty.” The email went on to say;

“I am appalled by Duncan Garner’s casual racism when he talks like this: ‘Dotcom wants internet freedom. Many of Hone’s rural supporters in outback Hokianga and Kaikohe don’t even own computers, let alone have super-fast broadband at their doorstep Hone wants jobs, opportunities and better wages; Dotcom wants to stay in NZ.’

He’s talking as though he can’t imagine a world where your supporters in Kaikohe and the Hokianga use computers to access the web, and this speaks volumes about the kinds jobs he sees them doing.

A big reason for our support of the Internet Party is that we believe that the people of rural Hokianga and Kaikohe should have computers as well as super-fast broadband because it’s a path towards jobs, opportunities and better wages for them as it has been for us and our family. If poverty is an inability to participate in society then the internet is a powerful tool that can break down the barriers that prevent participation.”

Indeed MANA and the Internet Party are not necessarily the strange bedfellows a casual observation would make them appear.

The risks of an alliance

Members of MANA, and no doubt voters as well, have been skeptical of Kim Dotcom because of the treatment of his own workers, the fact he is a foreigner lacking knowledge of Te Ao Maori (the MANA AGM was the first time he had been on a Marae), his class position, and the presumed politics that come with that. People have noted his use of the phrase “social fairness” during his address to the MANA AGM rather than “social justice” or “social equality”. The difference in meaning here is subtle but significant.

The woman who emailed Hone is correct when she says “good internet access is a way out of poverty,” but it’s only a way, not the way. It’s the way used by Kim Dotcom in his rags to riches story. Providing the opportunity might be “fair,” but it can’t work for everyone – not because of individual failings, but because capitalism is not structured in a way that means everyone can be an entrepreneur and become wealthy. If the focus on innovation and entrepreneurialism that Dotcom and party president Vikram Kumar are so keen on overshadows MANA’s goal of lifting everyone out of poverty, that becomes a problem.

Internet Party members have also raised their own worries about the alliance. “My biggest concern is that the Internet Party is not going to be taken seriously by voters because it is choosing to make an alliance with the Mana party,” writes a member going by the name Alana Hyland on the party’s policy forum “Everyone that I have talked to about the Internet Party has told me that they weren’t going to vote for the Internet Party because “they’re joining with the crazy racist group”. I think the Internet Party would do better on its own.” Responses to a photo of Kim Dotcom and Hone Harawira the former shared on Twitter seem to be of the nature Alana talks about: “You had my vote. You lose it if you align with that racist idiot!” and “Hone is the biggest racist I’ve ever seen in a while” (sic).

These views of course are ignorant and incorrect, and we shouldn’t judge the party based on its supporters (its worth commending the Internet Party for a clause in their constitution stating “the Internet Party will also maintain and promote economic, cultural, social, ethnic, age and gender diversity and equality within the membership, candidacy and organisational structure of the Internet Party.”)

That said, how many potential Internet Party voters share the “Mana are racist” view, and would stay home on polling day rather than vote for an alliance? iPredict and other media are estimating the number of seats an alliance would win by adding together the poll results of both groups, yet this wont be an accurate prediction if a significant number of supporters of each party abstain.

Moreover, a joint list would have to mean a shared policy platform. At the AGM, Dotcom criticised MANA’s support of the Hone Heke (Financial Transactions) Tax and Capital Gains Tax, instead endorsing ‘luxury taxes.’ While Dotcom says he supports taxes on the wealthy, he appears to mean taxing consumption, not property or business. After Harawira’s principled opposition to raising GST, and endorsement of the Hone Heke Tax, it remains unclear whether Dotcom will compromise on this point. While it is entirely possible for a capitalist to support progressive working-class struggles, this also must mean betraying their class and making sacrifices, and Dotcom’s choices so far seem more opportunistic.

Perhaps MANA’s best course of action would be to adopt the Internet Party’s progressive policies and continue to advocate lowering the threshold for entry to parliament, remaining independent. As we go to print, results of the negotiation remain to be seen.

Tino Rangatiratanga: What’s it got to do with Pākehā?

grant brookes

Talk by Grant Brookes, 7 April 2014 – No.4 in Fightback’s weekly “Introduction to Marxism” series

Perhaps more than the first three topics in Fightback’s “Introduction to Marxism” series, this one is loaded with questions.

Most people probably had some idea about why a socialist group like Fightback supports trade unions, for instance, or what capitalism and socialism are. But what has Tino Rangatiratanga got to do with Pākehā? Nothing? Something? What? It’s a bit less obvious.

For this reason, I’d like to start a discussion on this topic through an FAQ format, with an initial set of questions and some answers. After this, people may feel free to open up with their own questions, and their own answers. [Read more...]

The 2014 elections and the future of Mana

Mana movementThe following is excerpted from a document called ‘Socialist Perspectives for New Zealand’ that was co-written for CWI Aotearoa/NZ. Fightback also supports MANA, but opposes any entry into a capitalist coalition government.

The Mana Movement provides an important opportunity for reframing a pro-worker and pro-Maori political agenda. Mana was formed in 2011 as a Maori radical and leftist split from the Maori Party, led by MP Hone Harawira. The split finally took place after the Maori Party, in government with the ruling National Party, supported an increase of the general services taxes which disproportionately impacts on workers and the poor.

Since then the Maori Party has shifted to the right and in many respects has become a circus. Most of the media attention about the Maori Party has been about its leadership disputes. Meanwhile Mana has had a consistent and strong presence on issues such as child poverty (with actions and events around Harawira’s Feed the Kids Bill), asset sales and housing. Mana has been very visible in key industrial disputes, particularly in the meat industry disputes.

Harawira has said “Mana is what the Maori Party was supposed to be – the independent voice for Maori, the fighter for te pani me te rawakore (the poor and the dispossessed).” Mana plays a good role in local communities and in parliament. The development of the Mana Party can be seen as an important step in the process of building a mass working class party in the future.

At the moment Mana has democratic space for socialist participation and while its leadership is not socialist it is comprised of many respected class fighters. Its base is almost exclusively working class and there is scope for socialist ideas to take root both inside and outside the party.

Hone Harawira has won the last two elections for the Te Tai Tokerau seat for Mana. It will be important to put other people alongside him in the next parliament as well as developing the party’s structures and its ability to intervene in struggles. Mana came close to winning Waiariki in the 2011 general elections. Its candidate also made a strong showing in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election in mid-2013, gaining 26% of the vote. They lost out to Labour but beat the Maori Party.

As the Maori Party diminishes and Mana develops there is a possibility of Mana establishing a base real base across four North Island Maori electorates of Te Tai Tokerau, Tamaki-Makaurau, Waiariki, and Ikaroa-Rawhiti. Work in these areas will be become increasingly important in the coming period.

However, the key issue in the long-term for Mana is two-fold. Firstly, it needs to maintain itself as a party of struggle over the long term and not succumb to an electoral focus. The maintenance of a struggle-based approach is always a question for any organisation of the oppressed. It is a question which has to be taken seriously and consciously. Secondly, it needs to be clear that it will not enter capitalist government coalitions.
It is possible that an opportunity arises for Mana to participate in a Labour and Green led government after the next election. The character of this government would be pro-capitalist from the outset. Neither of those two parties have an economic or political alternative to capitalism. While their style may differ to National they too will be forced to adhere to the demands of big business and the finance markets. At the end of the day they will also implement policies that make working people pay the price for the crisis.

In our view if Mana entered into government with those parties it would become trapped or absorbed into a regime that fundamentally represents the interests of the ruling class. They would be forced to vote for budgets that include cuts and other attacks against the people they are supposed to represent. As was seen with the Alliance a decade ago wrong decisions in regards to coalitions with capitalist parties can destroy small fledging parties.

Some prominent left populists within or aligned with Mana, who do have some influence, are aggressively pushing for a Labour-Greens-Mana government. Some people in other socialist groups who also participate in Mana have similarly encouraged this position by creating illusions in Labour.

In our view it would be a mistake and a distraction from the work of building movements from below for Mana to participate in a capitalist government. Real support and growth will not be built from inside parliament house but from leading campaigns. If Mana avoids entering the traps of government or supporting supply agreements then it is possible that it can play an important role in pushing back assaults on our rights and living standards.

Socialists must warn that Mana is facing the possibility of a real turning point and decisions in 2014 can be key to the party’s future.

Waitangi Day, Te Rā o Waitangi – What does it mean today, 174 years on?

grant brookes waitangi alert

Talked delivered by Grant Brookes, MANA Pōneke branch and Fightback (Wellington), at Wellington event Waitangi Alert.

To start with the annoyingly obvious, Waitangi Day means that the poly-ticians are back from their summer holidays. Have you noticed? The talking heads have started filling the TV news again. And in recent years, this means “state of the nation” addresses from the prime minister and opposition leader, and follow-up speechifying at Ratana Pā and Waitangi.

And most people know that February 6 is also Bob Marley’s birthday. So sometimes Waitangi Day means “One Love” concerts.

But what is this “nation” the politicians speak of in their “state of the nation” addresses?

Who is this unified people, who are persuaded to “get together and feel alright”?

On this day in 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi was signed by Governor William Hobson, for the Crown, and by over 40 chiefs. The Māori signatories included some of those who had issued the 1835 Declaration of Independence, He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga.

As each chief signed Te Tiriti, Busby proclaimed: “he iwi kotahi tātou” – we are one people.

So the proclamation of the “nation” that our politicians speak of began at Waitangi. And maybe, just maybe, it could have been true that “we are one people” – if the treaty signed there had been honoured.

But today, anyone who knows anything about Te Tiriti, knows that the Crown never honoured it. Prime minister John Key admits that the Crown breached the agreement signed at Waitangi . Helen Clark said that the Crown failed spectacularly to fulfill its treaty obligations. The current Crown representative, Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae, says the Crown breached the Treaty.

So what does Waitangi Day mean, 174 years on? It serves as a reminder of Busby’s original untruth. We are not one people. There is not a single nation in this land. There are different nations existing side by side.

There’s one nation of around 35,000 people, living mainly in South Canterbury. When this nation woke up three years ago and found that up to $1.8 billion worth of assets had been taken from under them, John Key said it was “a distressing and sad day”. He said it was fair for them to get all their money back, and he said the government would move swiftly, so they were fully compensated. This nation of depositors in South Canterbury Finance got $1.8 billion of taxpayers’ money from the government, quick as a flash.

Then there’s another, much bigger nation, of around 750,000 people all up. This nation had around 250 million square kilometres of land taken by force and fraud, worth tens of billions of dollars. Countless other treasures were taken, too, and communities wiped out. People belonging to this nation have waited and waited, in some cases for 150 or 160 years, for compensation from the government. Even though they are much more numerous, and have suffered far greater dispossession, they’ve received less than the $1.8 billion given to the nation of South Canterbury investors. As a fraction of what they lost, compensation in monetary terms has amounted to a few cents in the dollar. Yet when the people of the Māori nation protest the unfairness, John Key says they need to get beyond grievance mode. When Māori point out discrimination against their nation – with imprisonment rates six times higher than others, twice as much child poverty and unemployment, or lifespans 10 percent shorter due to second-rate health care – they’re told by Justice Minister Judith Collins that their human rights are “excellent”.

Waitangi Day reminds us that we are not all one nation, equal before the lawmakers.

And believe it not, there’s a tiny tribe living among us which is completely foreign. Its customs are different, as are its values and beliefs. It’s a nation so small that the names of all its inhabitants can be printed in a magazine in July each year. Their tribal connection is reflected by the common first name many of them share: “Sir”. Although entry to this nation is extremely difficult, it seems that a handful of Iwi Leaders are pursuing residency.

This the nation made up of the people on the National Business Review’s “Rich List”. Last year, the wealth of these 164 individuals and families was $60 billion. This is more than the combined wealth of the two and a quarter million people who make up the poorer half of the population in Aotearoa.

The residents of Rich List NZ believe that everyone living here this year is part of a “rock star economy”. It’s not surprising they believe this, when they live like rock stars themselves. Their leader, Graeme Hart, lives in a $30 million dollar house, when he’s in Auckland. But he also owns mansions overseas and two 200-foot superyachts, which he can sail to the Fijian island he owns. Or he just could ask his compatriot, Andrew Bagnall, for the use of his Gulfstream G200 private luxury jet. This is the lifestyle that comes when you’ve got a personal fortune of up to $6.4 billion.

The inhabitants of this nation believe privatisation is right, and paying taxes is wrong. Their system of values is based on alien concepts of individual self-interest. They do not agree with protesting on Waitangi Day. To them, leaders like Metiria Turei and Hone Harawira who uphold the right to protest are like the Devil himself. They even deny that issues like inequality and environmental destruction are growing problems needing urgent attention.

There are other nations residing in Aotearoa. There’s a Rainbow Nation, whose sexuality is used a term of abuse. And there’s a people who shoulder the majority of the work but get 17 percent less pay per week, who experience 75 percent of the sexual assaults in this land, and are blamed for it.

But make no mistake. The nation of Rich Listers is at war with us all.

They are the ones holding the most valuable real estate taken from Māori through colonisation. Property tycoons like Michael Friedlander and Peter Cooper enjoy the spoils of victory in Auckland, and Sir Robert Jones here in Wellington.

They’re attacking livelihoods. Members of the Talley family personally oversaw the cuts to wages and job security for the meatworkers at AFFCO, and directed the 12-week lockout to try and break the union when the workers objected.

They’re attacking our environment. The Todd family made its billion dollar fortune drilling for oil, in partnership with offshore oil companies. They also own the airport at Paraparaumu, built on land confiscated from Māori in my parents’ lifetime.

But their foreign occupation of this land is secured not by their wealth alone. It is also maintained by their control of the levers of power. John Key is a citizen of the Rich List nation. So is National Party President Peter Goodfellow and Labour Party funder Sir Owen Glenn. ACT Party financiers Craig Farmer, Craig Heatley and Doug Myers are residents, along with the Vela family who bankrolled NZ First.

They use this power to block efforts to tackle child poverty, to undermine unions, to defend double standards which discriminate against us.

Today, it is right that we’re standing up to resist those who are waging war on us.

Today, we should celebrate the Hīkoi from Te Rerenga Wairua to Waitangi, opposing offshore drilling by Norwegian company Statoil. We should support author Patricia Grace’s stand against the confiscation of Māori land at Waikanae so yet another motorway to be built. We should cheer the high school teachers in Whangarei, and their union, for boycotting cooperation with the Charter Schools which will further undermine education for the majority.

We should take up the calls to honour Te Tiriti.

And as well as “One Love”, there’s another Bob Marley song we should remember on February 6. It goes:

Until the philosophy which hold one race superior

And another

Inferior

Is finally

And permanently

Discredited

And abandoned –

Everywhere is war –

Me say war.

That until there no longer

First class and second class citizens of any nation

Until the colour of a man’s skin

Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes –

Me say war.

That until the basic human rights

Are equally guaranteed to all,

Without regard to race –

Dis a war.

That until that day

The dream of lasting peace,

World citizenship

Rule of international morality

Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,

But never attained –

Now everywhere is war – war”

There’s a leaflet being handed out at this event – the one with “MANA” at the top. It says, “end child poverty”, “feed the kids”, “end economic apartheid”, and “end the war on the poor”.

These are messages we need to take forward from today. The war has been going on too long.

What is the meaning of Waitangi Day in 2014? The politicians are right about one thing. It is “our national day”. It’s the day for our nations to renew the resistance against theirs, in the hope that one day we may become one people.

Video: MANA’s Te Hāmua Nikora at the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti candidates debate

Sunday 9 June, “Hei Waha” Debate, Taita Community Hall, Lower Hutt.


Statement on poverty. [Read more...]

Bolivia’s Red October: What Mana can learn

bolivia__protest_2003

Mike Kyriazopoulos reviews Red October: Left-Indigenous Struggles in Modern Bolivia, by Jeffery R. Webber

This major study of the movement in Bolivia that delivered hammer-blows to the neoliberal project is rich in lessons for activists in Aoteroa.

In tracing the movement’s origins, Webber notes how its indigenous activists are inspired by the tradition of the anti-colonial hero of the 1781 insurrection against the Spaniards, Túpaj Katari. Before Katari was drawn and quartered for his role in the six month siege of La Paz, he warned the colonialists that he would “return as millions”, and the protagonists of recent rebellions see themselves as the embodiment of this return.

Another influential figure was the writer Tristán Marof, who advanced the slogan “Land to the Indians” alongside “Mines to the state”. Marof went on to become a founder of Trotskyism in Bolivia, which was influential amongst the vanguard of the working class, the miners. Events such as the Catavi Massacre of 1942, when striking miners and their families were machine-gunned by the army are indelibly burned into the collective consciousness of the working class.

After a prolonged period of dictatorship in the 1970s, the union movement, in alliance with indigenous activists launched a general strike. Electoral democracy was eventually restored in 1982. However, this was followed by a “neoliberal revolution” in 1985, which saw the privatisation of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), and the proliferation of subcontracting, leading to informalisation and fragmentation of the working class. [Read more...]

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