MANA Movement regroups, call for Mana Wahine policy

mana

In the wake of this years’ electoral defeat, the MANA Movement is regrouping. On November 29th, Fightback members attended a Members’ Hui in Tāmaki/Auckland, with around 70 attending from around the country.

‘Back to the community’ was the overwhelming mood of the hui, with leaders outlining the formation of community hubs in Te Tai Tokerau and in Tūranga Gisborne.

The hui agreed to support MANA involvement in the upcoming State Housing Crisis National Hui, to be held in Auckland on February 21, 2015, and to support the organisation of a national educational conference later next year.

Hilda Halkyard-Harawira reported on her involvement in the recent electoral recount in Te Tai Tokerau, and the disenfranchisement faced by many Maori. Atleast 900 votes were discounted, for reasons as simple as voters moving house. Gerard Hehir, outgoing MANA National Secretary, noted that electoral reform is not in the government’s interests, so this requires a wider political struggle not just a campaign for enrolment.

To applause, Hilda Halkyard-Harawira also underlined the recent Waitangi Tribunal finding that Ngāpuhi – the Harawiras’ iwi – never ceded sovereignty. Participants acknowledged that the Tribunal’s finding was not news, and (again) that power cedes nothing without struggle. Fightback continues to critically support MANA because we maintain the importance of linking the struggle for tino rangatiratanga and the struggle for democratic socialism.

Call for Mana Wahine policy

After the election, the New Zealand Herald alleged that Hone Harawira hired sex offenders during his time in parliament. Although he chose not to engage media, Hone claimed at the recent hui that parliamentary services vet staff, and that the charges had not been laid when the men were hired. Regardless, the case poses a problem with ongoing significance; the challenge of dealing with sexual violence in the movement and society as a whole.

Kim Dotcom’s Moment of Truth event offered a platform to Julian Assange, who is facing questioning for sexual assault. Dotcom has his own record of sexist behaviour. These are only the most prominent cases; 1 in 3 women have experienced intimate partner violence. All too often, the ingrained instinct is to close ranks and protect abusers. Any movement for liberation must draw a clear line that gender violence will not be tolerated; you cannot have liberation without women’s liberation.

As Richard Pryor famously observed, when you go looking for justice, that’s what you find: just us. As demonstrated in the recent Roastbusters case, the same ‘justice system’ that locks up thousands of Māori men also protects sexual abusers – especially the sons of cops. John Tamihere and Willie Jackson, whose response to the Roastbusters case was unacceptable victim-blaming, nonetheless faced more consequences than the perpetrators. Whereas Tamihere and Jackson were stood down, the perpetrators and the cops got away scot-free. Worldwide, black and brown men are overwhelmingly scapegoated for sexism.

Combating racism and sexism requires prioritising Māori women’s leadership. Fightback has worked alongside other MANA members to propose a Mana Wahine policy for the movement, including the formation of a nationwide wahine caucus. MANA leadership must be accountable not to Pākehā journalists and courts, but to the wāhine toa who keep the flame alive in the movement.

At the recent hui, former MANA President and Waiariki candidate Annette Sykes endorsed and argued for the formation of a wahine policy and caucus. Sykes was a founding member of Rape Crisis in Rotorua, and is a continuing supporter of the Women’s Refuge movement. Fightback will continue to work within MANA to assert rangatiranga for te pani me te rawakore katoa.

Advertisements

Moves to gut public and Maori broadcasting

Te Hoki New Zealand in Afghanistan, broadcast on Maori TV. Image: Scoop, Lionel  de Coninck.

Te Hoki Huna New Zealand in Afghanistan, broadcast on Maori TV. Image: Scoop, Lionel de Coninck.

Ian Anderson (Fightback/MANA Poneke).

Paora Maxwell’s tenure as Maori TV CEO has been controversial. In August 2013, staff at Maori TV circulated a petition against Maxwell’s appointment by the Nats. More recently, Maxwell announced a restructuring process, and high-profile figures including Carol Hirschfeld left Maori TV. Now, plans to outsource TVNZ’s Maori and Pacific programming appear to confirm rumours of continued backdoor privatisation.

Maori TV remains the only TV broadcaster with content not dependant on advertising revenue, while TVNZ is now commercially funded. Public broadcasting enables journalism such as last year’s documentary He Toki Huna New Zealand In Afghanistan, commissioned and broadcast by Maori TV, which investigated New Zealand troops’ complicity in US occupation. Coupled with raids on independent journalist Nicky Hager’s house, and Maxwell’s banning of Hone Harawira from Marae Investigates, moves to gut Maori programming limit the capacity for critical journalism.

In an era of privatisation and neoliberal entrenchment, an era of Whale Oil and Kiwiblog, Maori TV’s continued existence is a tribute to decades of Maori struggle and organisation. At the same time, the complicity of the Maori Party in these changes reveals how a top layer of Maori have been co-opted into a system that dispossesses the majority.

With Hone Harawira booted out of his Taitokerau seat, the only serious public opposition to these moves has come from outside parliament. The struggle against neoliberal entrenchment, for a truly democratic society, is necessarily a community struggle. In addition to public broadcasting, we also need a people’s press, sources independent of capital and the state that aid struggles for self-determination.

Hone Harawira’s farewell speech

parliament steps MANA Movement

Ten years ago I led 50,000 Maori on the historic FORESHORE AND SEABED MARCH from Te Rerenga Wairua to the very steps of this parliament, in a march against the greatest land grab in the history of this country – Labour’s theft of the foreshore and seabed – a watershed moment for Maori because it wiped away any illusion that Labour would put Maori rights ahead the interests of big mining; because it showed that the colonial past of land thefts was still very much alive; and because it led to the formation of the first ever independent Maori political party – THE MAORI PARTY.

Those were the wonderful days when it seemed all of Maoridom spoke with one voice – days that quickly ended when the Maori Party did A DEAL WITH NATIONAL at the next election in 2008, and although it quickly became clear that we were being overwhelmed, the leadership of the Maori Party ignored my pleas for us to stop accepting National Party lies over the advice of our own experts, and supporting tax cuts for the rich, billion dollar bailouts for failed finance companies, benefit cuts and the privatisation of prisons.

But the final straw came when the Maori Party accepted National’s version of the Foreshore and Seabed Bill – the MARINE AND COASTAL AREAS BILL – a bill which has seen not one grain of sand returned to Maori in the 5 years since it became law.

That was the when I resigned from the Maori Party, resigned from parliament, and with the support of the people of the north and tautoko from around the country, won the seat back as the leader of the newly minted MANA MOVEMENT, and held it again in the election of 2011.

MANA defined its position when we announced that our constituency would be those we call TE PANI ME TE RAWAKORE, the poor and the dispossessed, and our last three years have been a challenging and vigorous time where we have staked out our place in the political world – a commitment to ending poverty for all and particularly those most vulnerable in our society, our kids; a commitment to putting an end to the grinding homelessness affecting tens of thousands of New Zealand families; a commitment to putting the employment of people ahead of the sacrifice of jobs in the endless pursuit of wealth for the few; and a commitment to a future where the Treaty of Waitangi is honoured as the basis for justice and good governance in Aotearoa.

Mind you – being so highly principled brings with it enormous risk, not least the fact that KIDS CAN’T VOTE AND POOR PEOPLE DON’T, but I am proud of what we have achieved in our short time in parliament.

When we first raised our FEED THE KIDS policy three years ago, everybody laughed, so we took our kaupapa on the road, we built a support coalition of more than 30 national organisations, we pushed the policy into the top 5 issues of the year, and with the support of a standout series on Campbell Live, we got a poll last year that showed more than 70% supported a government-funded food in schools programme.

When we called for 10,000 NEW STATE HOUSES EVERY YEAR until the housing crisis was over, other politicians squirmed, but after challenging them at a Housing Action protest outside parliament, Labour took up the same call for 10,000 new houses a year, albeit theirs was more a pitch to woo middle-class voters than a bid to help the poor.

We took up the call for FULL EMPLOYMENT because to accept anything less was to accept failure, and by pushing for the minimum wage to be the LIVING WAGE OF $18.80 AN HOUR, we forced other so-called left-wing parties to follow suit.

We created a space for those of the Ratana faith to meet in parliament, out of respect for TW Ratana’s commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi, a space that I sincerely hope that Rino Tirikatene and Adrian Rurawhe will honour in my absence, and we also allowed my parliament offices to be used as neutral ground for warring gangs – not exactly parliamentary business but certainly the business of MANA.

And as I leave, I lay down a challenge to this parliament.

My FEED THE KIDS bill is live in parliament as we speak, a bill which already has the support of Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First and the Maori Party, a bill to provide what the people of New Zealand have called for – a comprehensive, government-funded food in schools programme. It is ready to be passed at the first sitting of parliament, and if it did, I know it would gladden the hearts of all good Kiwis, please the mums who are struggling to get by, and fill the stomachs of the 100,000 children still going to school hungry every day. This is not my bill. This is a bill for the children. And I call on this parliament to pass it as a show of faith in our own future, and a show of love for those of our children who desperately need our help.

We have a full-blown housing crisis in Aotearoa, with 30,000 families officially listed as homeless – families living in cars, cowsheds, cockroach-infested caravans and garages, or in cold, damp, overcrowded, unhealthy homes, because rents are too high, and the cost of a new home is out of reach. I call on this parliament to stop the sale of New Zealand homes to non-resident foreigners, to stop the sale of state houses to private developers, to renovate or replace those that need them, and to commit to a full programme of building 10,000 new state houses every year until the housing crisis is over. All it takes to eliminate homelessness and employ thousands of people in the housing industry is political will.

Government also has the responsibility of managing the economy, and just as importantly, ensuring that that economy meets the needs of its people rather than the profits of its parasites, and I call on this parliament to restructure our economy to suit just such a purpose; to invest in community work programmes; to give life back to communities all around our country devastated by asset sales, asset stripping and corporate greed; to create employment for all of its citizens so that instead of wasting billions and billions of dollars every year in needless and mindless welfare dependency, that that money is used to engage communities in rebuilding their future, engage whanau in rebuilding their lives, and engage people in rebuilding their love for work.

And as I leave, I do so in good heart, for over the past couple of weeks I have travelled the MANA nation, and felt the love and the passion that is the lifeblood of MANA, and the commitment to continue our work: from Kaitaia to Kaikohe, Whangarei to the North Shore, West Auckland to Southside, Waatea to Waikato, Hamilton to Gisborne, Rotorua to Taihape, Christchurch, and here in Wellington.

Our meetings have not been the sombre and tearful farewell tour for Hone Harawira that others may have hoped for, but rather a joyous and uplifting revival tour for a Movement that takes up the challenge of being the conscience of the nation, and of taking action in support of our kaupapa.

I hear the mean-spirited and ugly voices of those who are desperately keen to see me go, but I don’t have time to respond because we’re too busy focussing on the tasks ahead.

We are already organising to FEED THE KIDS, and working with other groups to get in behind our campaign.

We will be calling on iwi up and down the country to open their marae to HOUSE THE HOMELESS.

We will be organising INTERNET CAMPS for senior students and Maori communities so that our young people can fly the highways of the world.

We are talking with work trusts about COMMUNITY EMPLOYMENT PROGRAMMES that can become a model for other communities to adopt.

We will create COMMUNITY HUBS where the MANA message of hope and action can become the core of the communities we serve.

We will MONITOR GOVERNMENT’S PERFORMANCE on steps they are taking to create real jobs with decent wages and safe working conditions, to house the homeless, and to eliminate child poverty, and we will also be challenging the opposition to keep the pressure on to achieve these goals.

And we will march against THE HATED GCSB; we will mount a legal challenge against the MASS SURVEILLANCE that this government is conducting illegally against the people of New Zealand; we will continue to oppose THE TPPA that threatens the sovereignty of our very nation; and we will campaign for the return of OUR ASSETS.

Believe me when I say that MANA will not be going gently into the night.

And as I leave, I thank the thousands of NZers of all creeds and cultures for their fabulous support for me personally, and for their recognition of the work that MANA has done and continues to do as the voice for the voiceless.

And I leave you all with the words of a National Party voter who wrote to me just two days after the election, who said

“Hone, I hope you get to read this.

I am a 57 year old pakeha centre right voter (don’t throw up just yet) who was delighted with the result of the election, with one exception. That exception is a big one, and one I believe all NZ is poorer for, and that is, you are for the present, no longer in our Parliament.

I have talked about this today with a large number of people who, like me, have had a reasonable amount of success in life, who support the current Government, and would on the surface appear to have little in common with you. The common feeling was that you are an honourable man with a strong and decent vision.

While you made a bad call with your partners for this election, this shouldn’t define you, and I and the people I mix with, genuinely hope that after a little time out, you will regroup and then start the next campaign shortly. Good government needs strong opposition and Labour is too factional to provide that, the Greens are too narrowly focused, and the rest are a bloody joke.

I like the fact that with you what one sees is what one gets. At times I wish you would learn to play with others better, but that’s you, so what the hell.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is a strong feeling out here that NZ needs you; that not only Maori, but all New Zealanders will be missing out, by not having you in our House of Representatives.

I hope out of this you will come back stronger than ever in your own right, without partners with baggage that you don’t need. Be your own movement!

Good luck and Stay Strong.

E te whanau – there is a saying that has fed my soul all the years of my adult life, a saying that you all know well, and a saying that says it all …

Happy are those who dream dreams, and are prepared to pay the price to make those dreams come true.

Our dream, MANA’s dream, is for a society where Maori can stand tall, where te pani me te rawakore is just a line in a song, and where everyone can feel good about the contribution they can make as a citizen of Aotearoa.

When I first came to parliament my people brought me here.

Today I thank the MANA whanau for making the long journey to take me home. Your love and your support has sustained me through the darkest of days, and your joy and your happiness has been a constant source of strength. Long may it continue.

And finally, to my darling wife, thank you for just being you, and for always being there for me.

MANA and resistance to the next National government

Protest

Fightback is committed to the MANA Movement, however we are still in the process of assessing the 2014 electoral defeat and future prospects. Grant Brookes (Fightback/MANA Poneke) offers one perspective.

Over the coming week, MANA leaders Hone Harawira and Annette Sykes will tour the country, talking with members and supporters about where next for the Movement after the election.

The media called it a “landslide victory” for National, a “catastrophe” for the opposition. John Key was labeled a “rock star politician”, said to be “even more popular” than he was three years ago.

National won 61 seats in Parliament – enough to govern alone, based on the provisional count.

The election turnout, at 77 percent, appeared slightly higher than the 74 percent of registered electors who cast a vote in 2011. But fewer people registered to vote this time. So the percentage of the population who voted in 2014 is much the same as in 2011. That was the lowest election turnout since 1887.

Of the 3.4 million eligible voters in New Zealand, just over a million of them wanted three more years of National. But over 2.3 million – 70 percent of the people – didn’t vote for that.

John Key does not have the support of the majority of New Zealanders. And popular opposition to National appears to be solidifying.

There is the potential for resistance, leading to a change of Government in 2017. Where will the resistance come from?

John Key has already outlined his three primary targets for the next National Government: “the economy, reforming the education system and changing the New Zealand flag” (http://www.3news.co.nz/politics/keys-priorities-economy-education-and-the-flag-2014092209)

According to the New Zealand Election Survey, non-voters are predominantly young, poor and Brown. John Key’s talk of focusing on “the economy” is code for helping the rich get richer. The suffering of the million non-voters will increase.

Four years of confrontation over national standards, Novopay, charter schools and executive principals have turned teachers ¬– especially those belonging to the NZEI union – into implacable opponents of this Government. Key’s plan for further “education reform” is a recipe for even greater tension. Lining up ACT pup David Seymour for the associate education portfolio could be one provocation too many.

Key has also signaled “the biggest shake-up of the State Sector so far”. This will mean renewed privatisation and attacks on public sector workers. So teachers could be joined in struggle by other groups – like nurses, who enter negotiations for a new national collective agreement in November.

The coalition deal with the Māori Party will ensure that some of the lucrative fruit carved off the state sector will go to Māori service providers, widening the rift between the favoured few around the tribal elites and the sufferers at the flaxroots.

New anti-union laws set to be rammed through before the end of the year will deepen the divide between the Government and organised workers. Workers could expect to have to fight for their rights after Saturday’s election, said Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly.

Key has also said he also expects rapid progress on signing the unpopular Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) after the election. The Petroleum Summit in Auckland next week is expected to announce new offshore oil drilling projects.

These could also be flash points for opposition. But in reality, this National Government is propped up by a minority of the population which is cocooned from the realities facing wider New Zealand society. The disconnect between the Government and most of the people means that resistance could emerge from just about anywhere.

As a smokescreen for all these unpopular moves, John Key will surf a wave of patriotism around the Gallipoli centenary next year to launch his great distraction – a referendum on the New Zealand flag. On issues like this, even small groups of socialists with clear ideas – like those in Fightback, the International Socialist Organisation and Socialist Aotearoa – can play an important role in stopping the opposition from being side-tracked.

To translate into long-term change, however, the struggles which emerge will need to connect with other streams of resistance. And they will need to articulate viable alternatives, as well as protesting against the Government’s agenda. This means that the struggles will need connections back into the political arena.

Three days after the election, MANA leader Hone Harawira wrote to his supporters, “The next three years will be tough, with National continuing to pass laws to make the rich even richer, destroy our environment, attack beneficiaries, and make even more families homeless. On top of that you can expect to see more attacks on Maori as people interpret the win as a license for Maori bashing.

“Unfortunately I don’t see anyone in the Opposition having the balls to lead the fight back. Sure there will be ‘outrage’ and ‘condemnation’, but after the big talk… nothing.”

Labour MPs have already shown they’re more interested in scrapping amongst themselves for the top job than in taking the fight to National.

“That’s why MANA is so important”, added Hone, “and why you are so important, because unless MANA campaigns for these issues and stands up for those who are vulnerable, the people will suffer.”

It was a call for MANA activists to be active in the resistance. This will not only reduce suffering. Visibly identifying with the struggles will allow MANA to publicly voice alternatives, and rebuild public support. The call will be well received. Most of us came to MANA from the Movement, and we are at home there.

But we shouldn’t just be resisting National’s agenda. MANA members should also represent our kaupapa by working in positive programmes to help the community, from volunteering in school breakfast schemes to teaching free classes in Te Reo Maori. Many of the million non-voters have switched off from “politics” to such an extent that they won’t notice our flags on protests and picket lines. But they might notice the MANA t-shirt worn by a volunteer over the counter at the soup kitchen.

Finally, where does this leave the Internet MANA alliance?

When MANA members agreed to a temporary alliance with the Internet Party, lasting until six weeks after the election, we accepted that it was gamble, but one worth taking for the chance to expand our appeal beyond Māori and a radical fringe and to get more MPs. The gamble did not pay off. The election result has badly damaged the public image of the alliance. It could be beyond repair.

If the perspective for MANA over the next three years is to turn “back to the streets” – joining the resistance and embedding ourselves in our communities – it is unclear how well-equipped the Internet Party is to join us.

Some Internet Party members have already joined MANA, including leading candidates like Roshni Sami and Miriam Pierard. But the party as a whole does not have the same roots or experience in struggle.

Laila Harré has said that the Internet Party will hold a general meeting to consider its future in the next few weeks. She said all options were open – including winding up the party.

If the Internet Party disappears, or decides not to join MANA in returning to the streets, I hope we will welcome any new friends willing to support our kaupapa.

Feed the kids, end the hunger system

Feed the Kids logo

Internet MANA recently released its policy platform for eliminating poverty. Feed The Kids is a key plank. This article by Grant Brookes, originally published by Fightback in March 2013, offers a socialist perspective on feeding the kids and ending the hunger system.

One in five New Zealand children were living in poverty in 2011, says the Ministry of Social Development. Other organisations put the figure at one in four, or 270,000 kids.

The Ministry of Health reports that over 20 percent of households with school-age children do not have enough food.

Over 1.8 million food items were distributed in schools last year by KidsCan – just one of a growing number of charities now feeding hungry kids.

In 2011, KidsCan also launched New Zealand’s first ever aid programme for children living in this country.

In January 2013 the Variety children’s charity became the second aid programme, with a new scheme allowing donors to sponsor a local child for $35 a month.

The facts are stark. The plight of children in Aotearoa today is an indictment of capitalism. The time for government action to “Feed the Kids” is now.

MANA Party leader Hone Harawira has a private member’s bill before parliament to deliver just that.

His Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill (or “Feed the Kids Bill”, for short) would ensure government-funded meals are available to every child in decile 1 and 2 schools.

The Bill is being supported by a wide range of groups, from education and health sector unions, to child welfare advocates, Christian social service agencies and the government’s own Children’s Commissioner.

With backing from the Labour Party, the Greens, the Maori Party, NZ First and independent MP Brendan Horan, it is currently just one vote short of the numbers needed for it to pass its first reading in parliament.

Yet MANA’s Feed the Kids Bill also has its critics. Right-wing opponents of the Bill say it’s the job of the parents, not the government, to make sure kids are fed. They say that if the state provides food it lets bad parents off the hook when they spend their money on “booze and smokes” instead.

Some of the harshest critics have been Maori.

Yet in the pre-European Māori world, looking after children wasn’t just the job of the parents. Men and women described each other’s children as “ā mātou tamariki” (the children of us many), as distinct from “ā māua tamariki” (the children of us two).

This shared parenting was based on shared resources. Extended family groups often had their own plot in communal gardens and their own places to fish and hunt. They also laid claim to particular trees.

The idea that the mother and father alone are to blame when children go hungry only came to Aotearoa with the introduction of capitalism.

In a repeat of the “enclosures of the commons” which had dispossessed European peasants, colonisation turned shared Māori land, natural resources and taonga into private property. Ownership was quickly transferred to the Crown, wealthy colonists and corporations.

Responsibility for raising children was transferred in turn to the biological parents, especially the mother, so the rest of the community could be put to work for the Pākehā capitalists.

Today, many of those who blame the parents feel genuine concern for the kids. They may also appear to reflect “common sense” about the way the world works. But ultimately they are echoing the mouthpieces of capitalism.

Prime minister John Key, for instance, responded to a Salvation Army report which showed record demand for food parcels in 2011 by blaming individuals: “Anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills… Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.”

However, the National government is also aware of substantial public support for state-funded meals for all kids in low decile schools.

So late last year they advanced their own counter-proposal. They announced a small increase in funding for businesses to deliver a little more, to a select few, through charities.

“The government has given money to KidsCan to fund more schools, and the government has worked with other commercial entities like Fonterra to run programmes in schools”, John Key said.

Fonterra attracted a lot of publicity for its milk in schools programme, trialled in Northland in 2011 and then rolled out across the country.

But Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings had spelled out the cold, capitalist logic behind the idea. It wasn’t about caring for kids at all:

“I don’t believe in charity”, said Spierings. “This is a business decision – it is really something like advertising and promotion…

New Zealand is the largest exporter of dairy products in the world, but at home, we’re not drinking as much milk as we used to…

Long term we want to have these kids on milk and not on carbonated drinks when they are 20 years old. And when they earn a salary, they go to the supermarket and buy our milk”.

The effect of leaving child welfare to the whims of “business decisions” was felt by the Red Cross in 2011, when Countdown supermarkets withdrew their sponsorship and crippled that organisation’s school breakfast programme.

Fonterra is not alone in its ruthless approach to “advertising and promotion” to children. Sanitarium uses its sponsorship of the KickStart Breakfast programme to teach kids “breakfast patterns that can be replicated in the home” by buying their products.

They also use children to subtly reinforce the message that their “bad parents” are to blame. They tell kids to “appreciate how good they feel and pass this message on hopefully improving their families’ overall health”.

And by refusing to provide breakfasts and lunches on a universal basis to all, the charities favoured by the National government brand the needy kids at school with the stigma of poverty from a young age.

The efforts of all the charities combined, meanwhile, represent a drop in the ocean compared with the level of need. Around 150 schools, and thousands of children, are stuck on the waiting list for help from KidsCan. Many more schools don’t bother applying.

The greatest outrage, however, is that charities are aligning themselves politically with the National government.

KidsCan proclaims a “vision of a New Zealand where less fortunate children have an equal opportunity to make a positive contribution to society”. Yet KidsCan CEO Julie Chapman is publicly campaigning to discredit the idea of government-funded school meals available to all.

“As the Prime Minister said, not all children in low decile schools need a food programme”, she declared. “KidsCan supports the model of business, community and the government working together… as the most effective and financially prudent approach.”

The problem of New Zealand’s hungry children is not down to “bad parents”. As Donna Wynd of the Child Poverty Action Group puts it, “If a few children go hungry in the morning then that suggests a problem within individual families. If hundreds of children go hungry morning after morning then the problem is structural.”

Part of the structural underpinning of hunger is our low wage economy. For it’s not just the children of beneficiaries who are effected. Food banks and budgeting agencies report that the greatest increase in people seeking assistance is coming from working families.

So part of the solution requires stronger unions and more militant bargaining, to raise wages across the board. But there is also the need to struggle for a collective approach which supports parents, children, and those disabled by capitalism.

The clearest commentary on MANA’s Feed the Kids Bill has come from the organisation Auckland Action Against Poverty.

“As the Bill recommends, the provision of this food shouldn’t be left to charity but should be taxpayer funded”, says AAAP spokesperson Sarah Thompson. “This will ensure greater access country-wide and decrease the dependance on the whims and follies of individual charities and businesses…

Every time another charity picks up a ‘feed the kids’ or ‘provide them with shoes’ or other such programme, commendable though it may be from an individual point of view, it is another nail in the coffin of the welfare state…

In addition, in the larger scheme of things, there is an urgent need for decent job creation, a living wage and higher benefit payment rates.”

MANA is pursuing struggles like these in parliament, as well.

The main job now is to get the Feed the Kids Bill passed. But there are also questions for MANA leaders.
Their feedthekids.org.nz website says, “The Bill recognises the importance of charities, businesses, and school volunteers currently involved in food in schools programmes”.

But it’s become clear that these charities and businesses are not wholeheartedly committed to child welfare. As the history of Aotearoa suggests, a society which truly shares the care of children must also share ownership and control of land and resources, taking them back from businesses like Fonterra.

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.