Mana Party foundation hui and Te Tai Tokerau bye-election

 Mike Kay, Workers Party Auckland and Mana Te Raki Paewhenua (North Shore) branch

Following Hone Harawira’s election victory, Mana convened a foundation hui of activists in Whangarei on 26 June. I will summarise the proceedings of the hui conducted in English below, followed by an assessment of the bye-election, and a political appraisal of the prospects for Mana.

In Whangarei Matt McCarten set the tone by stating: “We did not just win a bye-election, we changed the nature of politics. There’s a lot of people out there who are not sure what they want, but they know what they don’t want. The entire political elite and establishment were against us – there were four anti-Hone editorials in the Herald. We represent danger because we cannot be bought.”

Annette Sykes described Mana as “a Kaupapa Māori party that transcends race, whanau and hapū… also a party of the workers.” She said Mana should work with unions and left activists. On Te Tiriti, she proposed abolition of the 2014 deadline for settlements and opposed the Crown “deciding who our leaders are.” On environmental issues, she opposed the Emissions Trading Scheme on the basis that it does not make the polluters pay. In Education, she proposed that Te Reo become a compulsory language. She talked of the need for Mana to embrace Pākehā as well, and oppose neo-liberal policies that “put profit before people, bankers before workers and privatisation before the Treaty.”

Hilda Harawira spoke of the mamae (pain) and betrayal still felt by Te Tai Tokerau after its experience with the Māori Party. Talking of the effort put in by activists in the campaign, she said “the poorest gave more.”

Hone Harawira announced that he would be embarking on a “Hikoi of Hope” across the country to help launch Mana as a national movement. The hui also made a number of other decisions: Hone was endorsed as leader, Raewyn Harrison endorsed as interim Party Secretary and Matt McCarten endorsed as interim President. An interim Executive of six people was established, to be supplemented by representatives from each region. The following few weeks were designated as time for branches to discuss Mana’s draft policy in advance of its first AGM on 6 August in Auckland. There was a consensus to hold out an olive branch to the Māori Party to see if an agreement on standing in the other Māori seats could be brokered within the next month. But most of the participants were realistic about its likely prospects. Most probably, Mana will stand against the Māori Party in those seats, and contest some general seats as well. Although McCarten said that candidates standing in the general seats would primarily seek the party vote for Mana.

What Mana lacked in resources and a fully worked out political programme for the bye-election, it made up for in enthusiasm and commitment. Essentially, activists sought votes on Harawira’s record, and Te Tai Tokerau responded by endorsing him and the Mana movement. As well as the privileges in Parliament that being a party leader affords, Harawira has gained a mandate. Whilst the Labour candidate Kelvin Davis claimed to have made serious inroads, Mana still managed to win the polling stations at Kaitia Intermediate (where Davis was headmaster) and Hoani Waititi (Pita Sharples’ marae).

It is not surprising that Harawira’s majority was slashed standing as a Mana candidate, compared to standing as a Māori Party candidate. His former party, whilst splitting from Labour, remained a part of the political establishment, evidenced by the ease with which they allied with the Nats. Mana, however, represents a class break from the Māori party. Because of the low level of class consciousness, to say nothing of the class differentiation within Te Tai Tokerau, the appeal of Mana was always going to be limited. But the fact of its success means that Mana can lead to a sharpening of class consciousness around the general election. Even without the intervention of leftist groups, many Mana activists instinctively grasp the reality that the party needs to differentiate itself from its political rivals most especially on class questions.

While some left wing commentators have pointed out flaws in Mana, including left nationalism, excessive identity politics and parliamentarianism, they overlook the fact that this is a party with a strongly plebian base which includes many activists motivated by socialist ideas.

What is striking about Mana’s activist base is that it is in large part female. These wāhine Māori have created a parallel women’s movement based around struggles for Kōhanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa Māori. It is also far more inclusive than many other would-be progressive movements, embracing young and old, straight and takatāpui.

In my short involvement in Mana, I have found it to be an open and democratic party. Anyone is welcome to raise their views, providing they do the hard yards in the campaign work. Socialists who are have misgivings or apprehensions about Mana would do well to  engage with their local branch before writing the movement off so early in the day.

For a young movement starting out, the people involved in setting it up have a great influence in its subsequent development. As Lenin observed:

“To say, however, that ideologists (i.e., politically conscious leaders) cannot divert the movement from the path determined by the interaction of environment and elements is to ignore the simple truth that the conscious element participates in this interaction and in the determination of the path. Catholic and monarchist labour unions in Europe are also an inevitable result of the interaction of environment and elements, but it was the consciousness of priests and Zubatovs [Colonel of the Gendarmes] and not that of socialists that participated in this interaction”. (Iskra, 6 December 1901)

In other words, if revolutionaries want to see Mana develop in a revolutionary direction, they will have to involve themselves in it.

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Comments

  1. Ben Hamo says:

    Thanks for this Mike. An interesting and informative account.

    In particular, interesting to read that many Maori women are taking leadership roles.

    “Most probably, Mana will stand against the Māori Party in those seats” – Has this changed, with the recent Mana-Maori Party meeting?

    Also, “McCarten said that candidates standing in the general seats would primarily seek the party vote for Mana” – What does this mean? Suggesting supporters give their electoral votes to candidates of other parties?

  2. Your Lenin quote is interesting, Mike. Particularly because it leaves out the very important sentences that come directly before it in the very same paragraph. Namely:

    “They fail to understand that the ‘ideologist’ is worthy of the name only when he precedes the spontaneous movement, points out the road, and is able ahead of all others to solve all the theoretical, political, tactical, and organisational questions which the ‘material elements’ of the movement spontaneously encounter. In order truly to give ‘consideration to the material elements of the movement’, one must view them critically, one must be able to point out the dangers and defects of spontaneity and to elevate it to the level of consciousness.”

    In other words, it wasn’t simply a case of all aboard whatever happens to be moving.

    Phil

  3. Jared Phillips says:

    I don’t think Mike’s quoting is selective to remove the meaning. I’d say his argument still stands equally as valid with the inclusion of this part of the quote.

    I’d also question why you are implying there is a perspective of ‘all on board whatever happens to be moving’. Mana has been given serious treatment internally, and will continue to.

    Jared.

  4. Jared, the first part of the Lenin paragraph says something quite different from what Mike is arguing, so it seems an odd quote. And, after all, why selectively quote from the paragraph, which simply takes the quote out of context, rather than quote the whole paragraph so poeple can see for themselves what Lenin is actually saying?

    I wish you well with your Mana and anti-TPPA involvements. Far be it from me to try to stop consenting adults who insist on putting their hands on a hot plate.

    Phil

  5. Phil your pedantry is taking on an air of desperation. Of my article, written as a two-sided Spark insert, only a small part was addressed towards those socialists standing on the sidelines. We don’t disagree with Lenin’s point about revolutionaries’ role in “pointing out the road” ahead. That is precisely why we are developing an analysis of Mana, from the standpoint of critical support.

    I simply quoted the section of the article that was relevant to the abstentionist left. i.e., the point that “the conscious element *participates* (emphasis in original) in this interaction and in the determination of the path.”

    Lenin was fond of quoting Napoleon’s dictum: “On S’engage; Et Puis, On Voit” (Let’s engage in the battle and then we will see.) That to me is a proper revolutionary attitude towards Mana.

  6. Hone says that a political party merely aims to get into parliament and a movement is much more than that. Hone described Mana as a movement not just a party. The parties formalised structure is that of a parliamentary party. Mike probably has a better idea of the informal structure of the movement than what I do but participation within Mana networks no doubt would aid in the respect gained by an activist seeking respect within the parties formal executive structure.

    Josh said:
    “You rightly ask, who will be the voice which challenges the
    conservatism and reformism within the new party? Who will present the Marxist politics to the broad layers of supporters and win them over to the communist cause? Who will assert a progressive influence upon the leaders of the Mana Party?”

    A question which you apparently answer by saying?

    “For the past decade, there has been one party which has consistently championed progressive trade union politics, progressive Maori liberation, anti-racist and anti-imperialist politics, and led the fight against monopoly capitalism in New Zealand. That party is the Workers’ Party of New Zealand…
    …The Mana Party represents a great opportunity for working people, Maori and non-Maori, all over New Zealand. They have a high chance of gaining meaningful representation of their class interests in Parliament, something which nobody has been able to offer for a considerable period. It is up to us to relate to this new party and its supporters, to build unity and strength in the working class movement, and to build a united force against neoliberalism and monopoly capitalism. It is also up to us to exert a Marxist influence against class-collaboration, bourgeois nationalism, social-democratic reformism and reactionary policies from poisoning the movement.”

    So if the Workers Party is not contesting the Party vote it is up to workers party supporters to gain a voice within the Mana Parties formal parliamentary party structure? I am confused because some people seem to be suggesting this whilst others dismayed by the idea. I know that they workers party does not have the numbers it used too or it would still be a registered party. Given the time and effort putting into writing and distributing the Spark and other essential party activities I would not have thought there was much left over to build another party but rather cooperate with Mana in those areas of agreement where they exist and there are many.

    Mana is still a new movement so gaining representation would not be significantly difficult. Where 500 members were required to form a registered parliamentary political party only 20 are required to form a mana party branch. Each branch has representation on the local Rohe which in the case of Te Tai Tonga includes all the south island and Wellington. If my memory serves correct 200 members gets you 2 representatives on the Rohe.

    My point is that at the Rohe level would be the opportunity to put forward a working class perspective. If that perspective was supported by the Rohe and was seen as helping the movement by others on the same Rohe then those views could be represented at the highest levels of the party the AGM and National executive. It would seem to me that the executive in theory would have the same power within the organization as what an MP would within any other parliamentary party.

    All this sounds like quite a tall order but in reality if this is the beginning of a mass movement of the oppressed then the best time to join it would be at the beginning. Even if Mana ends up taking a more divisive maori nationalist road at least then socialists could say they tried to honestly work within the movement and oppose attacks on working class immigration. Perhaps many have been more inclined to point out where opinions differ than where they converge.

    Now I have confused myself anyway I have copies of their Final Draft Policies, candidate selection process and party structure. When you consider that there is over a hundred policy bulletin points there is not that many which most of us would disagree with.

  7. Jared Phillips says:

    Matt, I find this post particulalry hard to follow. For instance, you quote ‘;Josh’. Now I could be wrong, but within this I cannot see anything written by Josh. That is followed by a long quote which doens’t appear to be a quote or represent the view of a WP member…

  8. You have clarrafied the Workers Party position on this in other posts.

    In future I will think more before posting if I dont know what Im saying how could anyone else !

    I dont assumed Josh Eilken was WP as the post was in this group anyway I had too many tabs open and posted this post in the wrong place. It is a quote here is the post I was quoting:

    Josh Eilken View profile On Thu, May 5, 2011 at 10:40 AM, Don Franks wrote: > Remove the various parliamentary components from the Mana project and > what is left? But does anyone really expect the Mana Party to be anything but a parliamentary party? The strong activist element in the party suggests that protest and organising amongst workers and the wider community will play a key part, but my prediction is that it will be an auxiliary, subordinate force providing support to Mana’s parliamentary activities. Both Hone and McCarten have experience doing just that, in the Maori and New Labour parties respectively. It’s clearly no Communist Party. > In his opening address Hone also declared: > “I want every Kiwi to get a decent days wage for a decent day’s work”. > Was that outdated conservative position challenged by any socialist at the > hui? > Other political questions waiting in the wings are the Mana party’s line on > immigration controls, “peace keeping”, and imperialist military alliances. > I think the Mana project does include genuine attempts to revitalise class > issues amongst dispossed people. So does what’s left of the Alliance. To be fair on Hone, he has also called for the party to be anti-monopoly capitalism, and supported the construction of a planned economy in New Zealand. This is quite a shift from the snorefest that is Alliance (and formerly New Labour) policy, with such uninspiring slogans as fiddling with our progressive taxation system, or the negligible effect of removing GST from food.

    You rightly ask, who will be the voice which challenges the conservatism and reformism within the new party? Who will present the Marxist politics to the broad layers of supporters and win them over to the communist cause? Who will assert a progressive influence upon the leaders of the Mana Party?

    There is one party which consistently upholds Marxist-Leninist politics and fights against reformism and revisionism in this country. For the past decade, there has been one party which has consistently championed progressive trade union politics, progressive Maori liberation, anti-racist and anti-imperialist politics, and led the fight against monopoly capitalism in New Zealand. That party is the Workers’ Party of New Zealand. The Workers’ Party has contributed to rebuilding a militant trade union movement in this country, holding leading positions in several left unions, and culminating in the election of the first Communist leader of a trade union in over twenty years. The Workers’ Party have lead the progressive youth movement in this country, holding leading positions in the student unions, and playing a key role in developing youth involvement in the trade unions, where a united campaign lead to the abolition of youth rates. For the past three general elections, the Workers’ Party has demonstrated its commitment to winning a Marxist voice for workers in parliament. In 2008, the Workers’ Party became the first communist party in the history of New Zealand to have its name on every ballot paper. Consistently, too, the Workers’ Party has exposed the nature of the modern Labour Party, and the contradictions within the Green Party and Maori Party. The Workers’ Party publishes New Zealand’s only left-wing magazine, in which working-class issues and Marxist analysis are presented in a popular format every month. The other parties have come and gone. The remnants of those who are left continue to vacillate in an unprincipled manner, chasing single-issue campaigns and tailing the reformists. The Mana Party represents a great opportunity for working people, Maori and non-Maori, all over New Zealand. They have a high chance of gaining meaningful representation of their class interests in Parliament, something which nobody has been able to offer for a considerable period. It is up to us to relate to this new party and its supporters, to build unity and strength in the working class movement, and to build a united force against neoliberalism and monopoly capitalism. It is also up to us to exert a Marxist influence against class-collaboration, bourgeois nationalism, social-democratic reformism and reactionary policies from poisoning the movement. Nobody wants to return to the ultra-left mistakes of the Third Period in the 1930s, where Communists everywhere were denouncing their potential allies as ‘social fascists’, engaging in sectarianism and extremist adventurism, and often (including in this country) dividing and weakening the movement, losing allies and isolating themselves from the masses. If the Mana Party does connect with a sizeable working-class audience, it’s entirely up to us as to whether we engage with and influence the movement, or remain lonely and idle in our own sectarianism. Josh
    More options May 5, 1:12 pm

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