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.

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Comments

  1. Interesting analysis, one of the better reviews of the state of the MANA Movement from a socialist perspective. It seems appropriate to view MANA as socialist-sympathetic, rather than a genuine socialist party. I actually believe that its only half-hearted embrace of socialist philosophy is to its detriment, as the party is clearly struggling to define itself and its wider strategy for long-term, radical social change. It is an admirable party of well-meaning activists, but theory needs to come first, otherwise the activism will be ad-hoc and ill-directed.

    I would be intrigued as to the response of the non-socialist MANA members to the proposals above (ie. abstaining from a Labour-Greens government). The lure of power can be difficult to resist, especially with so many Ministerial support jobs with which to reward the party faithful. I would suggest that MANA would be far more effective if it bargained for two or three key policies to be implemented, while promising to abstain (or if absolutely necessary, vote for such a Govt) on confidence and supply. These policies should be aimed at promoting lasting social change, rather than short-term ‘wins’. Some options (not especially well-thought out):
    – subsidies/development support for the creation of worker cooperatives (quite plausible)
    – implementation of a universal income (a long shot)
    – devolution of powers to local government (the decentralisation of powers is a crucial step in dismantling the tyranny of the capitalist state)

    Anyway, good analysis and a timely reminder for the socialist wing of MANA.

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