Grant Brookes for Capital and Coast DHB

Grant Brookes speaking as an NZNO delegate at Wellington Fairness at Work rally.

Grant Brookes speaking as an NZNO delegate at Wellington Fairness at Work rally.

Grant Brookes, Fightback member, is standing for election to Capital and Coast District Health Board (DHB) at the upcoming 2013 local body elections. Brookes is standing on a Health First ticket, endorsed by the Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and the MANA Movement. Fightback writer Ian Anderson interviewed him.

FB: What are your goals in standing for election to the Capital and Coast District Health Board?

GB: Elections are a difficult arena for activists. They favour candidates with big budgets, high public profiles and easy access to mainstream media, who trade off conventional memes – in other words, the mouthpieces of the rich and powerful.

But contesting elections is an important part of building a mass movement for radical change.

Many goals can be served by standing. For example, standing in elections can help legitimise and popularise radical ideas, raise the profile of socialist groups and recruit new members, put pressure on political parties which claim to represent working class and oppressed groups, and so on.

I have stood in elections in the past in pursuit of some of these goals.

But I am standing for election to the Capital and Coast District Health Board this October with the aim of winning a seat. This different goal colours all aspects of my campaign. [Read more…]

John Minto for Mayor: “We need a Kiwi socialism”

minto for mayor

The latest opinion polls put John Minto – teacher, veteran activist and MANA movement candidate – in third place in the race for Mayor of Tamaki Makaurau/Auckland. Fightback writer Daphne Lawless caught up with him at his campaign headquarters.

Why has John Minto decided to run for the most powerful urban office in Aotearoa/New Zealand? He hesitates for quite a long time before answering – he calls it “the hardest question”.

It’s certainly not a question of seeking the limelight. A recent interview in the NZ Herald by Michelle Hewitson focussed relentlessly on delving Minto’s personality – and bringing up what John calls “the wallpaper of history” about his 30-year activist career. So he seems quite relieved that Fightback is interested in his campaign’s politics.

“I wouldn’t have stood as an independent”, he tells us. ‘The MANA Movement is “keen to raise its profile in the community,” he explains, as a “building-block” for the general election next year.

A major goal of the Minto for Mayor campaign, John explains, is to change the perception of MANA as simply a Maori Party split, with Pakeha (European-ethnicity) leftists merely being supporters of Maori aspirations. John gives this as the reason why, in the last general election in 2011, “all of the MANA candidates in general seats bombed”, and only their main Maori spokesperson, Hone Harawira, was elected to Parliament.

Building “a broader base for MANA in Tamaki” is thus a crucial goal of the campaign. To this end, John mentions the role of revolutionary leftists – in particular the Socialist Aotearoa group – in his campaign, alongside single-issue activists such as the Tamaki Housing Group and some individual Green Party members. [Read more…]

Socialists gain in Melbourne elections

Socialist Party candidate Anthony Main speaks at an election night party.

Grant Brookes, in Melbourne

Elections for local councils across the Australian state of Victoria took place on October 27. Socialist candidates scored major gains.

The Socialist Party, standing in all three wards in the inner-Melbourne City of Yarra, won its highest ever vote – up 58 percent on 2008. SP councillor Stephen Jolly was re-elected under the Single-Transferrable Vote (STV) system, topping the poll with more first preference votes than any other candidate.

Socialist Alliance candidates, running in the northern Melbourne suburbs of Moreland and in the regional city of Geelong, scored the party’s best results in Victoria. Sue Bolton came third highest in the tally of first preference votes, out of 24 candidates. And under STV she was elected to Moreland City Council as the most preferred candidate overall for her ward. In Geelong, Sue Bull won over 10,000 first preference votes (8 percent of the total) in the mayoral election.

Yet in a country where voting is compulsory, around a quarter of registered electors didn’t cast a vote. Commenting on the low turnout, Monash senior politics lecturer Nick Economou observed, “If people do not believe the system is relevant to them, they won’t turn up, even if there is a threat of a fine”.

Institute of Public Affairs spokesperson James Paterson called for voluntary voting, adding, “We don’t believe people should be compelled to cast a vote for a party they don’t agree with”.

The largest socialist group in Melbourne maintains that elections shouldn’t be a focus for activists, and may even be a distraction from the “real” struggle. Sadly, their abstention meant that voters only had the option of supporting socialist candidates, campaigning to radically transform the system, in three out of Victoria’s 79 council areas.

But the strong results for the SP and SA show the opportunity – and the need – for activists to connect with community members through elections. [Read more…]

2011 General Election Analysis

From the December-January issue of The Spark.For a longer piece on the Mana Party in the election, see this article.

The Key Factor: PR and The National Party

Novembers’ election saw a narrow victory for the National Party and its allies. Compared to their 2008 result, National saw their vote drop by about 10%- over 95,000 votes. They only received such a large share of the vote because Labours dropped even more- an enormous 255,000. ACT went from 5 MPs to 1, who would have been gone too if not for winning Epsom- the country’s richest electorate with the lowest Maori population. The Greens and NZ First were the only parties in parliament that grew their vote from 20081. 1 in 4 people did not vote. [Read more…]

Mana in the election

Mana held Tai Tokerau for Hone Harawira and achieved 1% of the party vote, a respectable outcome, considering that the movement was launched just seven months ago, with bugger all money, and that the Labour and Māori Parties colluded to try and strangle it at birth. Mana won 12.7% of the Māori votes, and gained more votes than the ACT Party. The campaign that we ran was a refreshing display of left wing unity between Tino Rangatiritanga activists, Workers Party, Socialist Aotearoa, Socialist Worker, ISO and others. Mana is on the map.

But Mana was unlikely to repeat the success of the Māori Party when it was launched in 2004. For a start, there was no hikoi this time, and of course, Mana did not have the backing of the Brown Table. Mana also failed to make a real breakthrough into the Pasefika and working class Pākehā communities, perhaps because it was perceived to be a party exclusively for tangata whenua, like the Māori Party.
[Read more…]

Defend MMP in the 2011 referendum

This article by Jared Phillips will appear in the June 2011 issue of The Spark

This year New Zealand electors will vote in a national referendum, held as part of the general elections, asking them firstly to indicate whether they want to change from MMP, and secondly to indicate their preferred electoral system. The other options are First Past the Post (FPP), Preferential Voting (PV), Single Transferable Vote (STV), and Supplementary Member (SM). If a majority votes in favour of retaining MMP that decision will be binding. However, if a majority votes against retaining MMP, there will be a further referendum in 2014 whereby electors will decide between MMP and whichever alternative procedure gains the most support in the 2011 referendum. If a new system is selected in 2014 it will come into effect at the 2017 election.

Real advanced democracy can only be imposed and administered by the majority of working people through a workers‘ government. In the current period though, in which the working class has clearly not yet recovered organisationally or politically from the onslaught of neo-liberalism, it is important to ensure that the electoral system offering the most democratic electoral procedure prevails. From this point of view it is in the best interests of the working people and oppressed groups to retain MMP.

[Read more…]

What the Workers Party is about

All the registered parties got the following email a few weeks ago:

Dear Parties,
I am an 18 year old female. I would really like to be interested in politics, but I don’t know anything about it! I graduated high school 1 year ago, and for a few years political representitives have making sure I am enrolled to vote for the coming election. However no party has ever come forward to us to explain how everything works. I don’t know anyone my age who has a reasonable knowledge about politics. Probably, in the 2011 general election, most of my classmates will be making uninformed desicions about their choice of vote.

I understand that I can read your views on most of your websites but none of this makes any sense to me- there needs to some kind of 101 handbook ‘for dummies’ about what you are offering.

On Facebook, there is a tab on your profile called “Political Views”. All of my friends have things like “boring”, “what?!” or “none” written as theirs. You should be concerned!

Please explain!

Here’s what Jason Froch, a Workers Party member replied to her:

Many thanks,

I’m actually rather delighted by your e-mail, it’s good to know that I’m not alone.  I too have problems trying to make sense of that parliamentary sideshow that consists of bourgeois politics.

In 2008 we had before us:

v     An economic system which requires continued and rising levels of unemployment

v     State legislation that ensures the continuing fall of real wages derived from work, already down 25% since 1982.

v     A predatory war in Afghanistan where New Zealand soldiers assist in the slaughter of civilians, all to assure US military and economic interests

v     The continuation of an exploitative relationship with environment which will see a number of pacific islands underwater in the near future and cause massive social costs

v     Violence against women who are often unable to leave their abusers because of an inability to support themselves and their children

v     The spread of third-world diseases in our communities because of inadequate housing and an inability to afford a doctor visit

v     Not to mention disproportionate magnification of all the above if you happen to be born Maori, Pacific Islander, or are an immigrant

And yet this reality did not connect with those politicians whose happy smiles asked to be our representatives once again in 2008 (the only difference between them being marginal differences in the rate of tax cuts—43% of which have gone to the top 12% of taxpayers). [Read more…]

The Mana By-Election experiment

Note that this article does not necessarily represent the views of the whole party.

Don Franks


Below the big beaming blue and red billboards it was vacuous capitalist personality politics as usual.

Labour’s candidate claiming to be “working for Mana’ was Labour Party leader Phil Goff’s press secretary.

The best National’s Hekia Parata could produce for a slogan was a bastardisation of her own name – Vote Parata- “Heck yeah!”.

In the end Labour’s Kris Faafoi won the seat with 10,397 votes to  Parata’s 9317.

National came within 1080 votes of snatching a safe Labour seat  while their party is in government. Parata shattered Labour’s previous 6000-plus majority, turning Mana from the ninth safest seat in the country and one of Labour’s strongest bastions to a marginal one for the 2011 elections. [Read more…]

European election results – an overview

Mike Kay
The Spark July 2009

The March edition of The Spark carried a report of some inspiring class struggles by workers across Europe. Regrettably, that resistance has found very little political expression in the recent elections for the European Parliament. Support for far-right parties has surged, against a backdrop of the lowest ever turnout for a Euro-election, with just 43% bothering to vote.

  [Read more…]

What can we expect from National?

The Spark December 2008 – January 2009
Philip Ferguson

With National back in power, albeit as a minority government, what can workers expect? Is this going to be a repeat of the first term of the last National government (1990-1993), the one that produced the “mother of all budgets” (cutting the dole, the DPB and other benefits by around 25%) and the notorious Employment Contracts Act?
According to much of the left, it is going to be just as bad – or even worse! They think this is especially so because of ACT, and often insist on referring to the government as the National-ACT coalition. A number of important points are missed by that analysis, however.

[Read more…]