The NACT regime is fearful of both Mana and the new Dotcom party so they are spinning a campaign to smear both as they talk about an alliance to get over the 5% electoral threshold. Well the NACTs would know all about the 5% threshold. But is Mana selling out to a rich 'internet pirate' in danger of being extradited to the US, or is there some logic to Mana doing a deal with Dotcom?
Mana is not very left wing. It is basically a Maori nationalist party with some populist elements linked to the Australian Green Left and the Bolivarians in Latin America. Mana came out of the Maori Party, itself a split from the Labour Party in opposition to the former Labour government “Foreshore and Seabed Act" effectively confiscating Maori claims to rights to the Foreshore and Seabed such as aquaculture and mining. But the Maori Party was always committed to the emerging capitalist tribal, or iwi, leaders whose interests were not those of the mass of Maori workers. They proved this by joining in a coalition with the National Government alongside ACT and NZ Future.
Harawira split from the Maori Party to form the Mana movement when it proved incapable of standing up to its National Party partner to defend ordinary Maori. It appeared that Hone Harawira had been trying to meet the needs of poor and working class Maori as a Maori Party MP, and was obstructed by the Maori party leadership because of their alliance with the capitalists. The lesson should have been that an alliance with capitalists will not meet the needs of working or poor. Has Mana taken that lesson on board?
Mana took those dissatisfied Maori party members those who agreed that the Maori Party were betraying the needs of working and poor Maori in government with National. Mana enlisted Unite union official Matt McCarten as campaign manager and gained some union activist support. Mana movement also attracted some working class activists and left wing activists including some from Socialist Aotearoa (SA) and International Socialists Organisation (ISO).
Mana’s policy reflects the diverse membership – influenced by Maori nationalism and a popular practical ‘social welfare’ for the poor. “Feed the kids” has been one of Hone Harawira’s more potent policies raised in parliament. However just as the Maori Party was formed to defend the right of iwi to set up capitalist corporations to exploit the Foreshore and Seabed, Mana’s policies for the poor are a compromise with capitalism. They seek to patch up a problem within capitalism, rather than overthrow the entire system. As such it is a movement for reform and not a movement for revolution. Let’s see how this works in practice.
Mana movement for reforms not revolution
Housing - Mana participated in the fight against privatisation of state housing areas in Glen Innes, Porirua and Hastings. It is committed to state housing and has picketed and blocked trucks removing state houses from Glen Innes. This is a good tactic but it is being used to push a parliamentary strategy rather than building a working class movement on the ground. Mana failed to build support in the community and in the unions against the removals to not only picket but occupy these homes with working class families that need the homes. Instead they used small groups of locals and supporters in futile attempts to stop the removals. As a result Mana’s weakness and desperation lead to individuals staging risky stunts and members being arrested – including leaders such as John Minto and Hone Harawira. This has reduced housing activism to no more than political diversions such as road trips to Wellington (parliament) and letters to politicians. As a result the NACT regime has successfully divided Maori into competing over a declining stock of houses with Kaitaia Maori receiving relocated Glen Innes houses and Whakatane Maori offering to buy up State houses for removal.
Workers struggles - Mana has had victories in some picket line protests – shaming an Otara retailer into removing gambling machines, and embarrassing the Auckland city council into exploring other options for an East – West motorway from the airport (instead of through Mangere suburban housing area). These are notable because they are based on the effective rallying of working class communities which then have the potential to get politically involved in a questioning and challenging Mana’s reformist strategy. Generally however, Mana has only supported union pickets as followers not as leaders. Except for those in Mana who are involved in the Unite! union they have not given priority to campaigns for workers in struggle against the capitalist class. Similarly, the Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP), founded by Mana co-Vice President Sue Bradford, a pressure group that is active in campaigning for the poor, does not promote itself as recruiting the poor to the unions, nor the Mana Party itself. The Mana movement is therefore fragmented and aimed at local body and parliamentary politics rather than aimed at building a united working class mass base capable of developing into a revolutionary movement.
Against Asset sales – Instead of workers occupations of state assets against sales, Mana has played into the hands of private capitalism by supporting the Maori Council legal fight (injunction) against the sales (for Maori rights as capitalist rights). Power station workers combined with working class communities could occupy these sites together. However we would need to cut the power to the capitalist class to stop the sales. And that would have raised the question of who has the power? – a revolutionary working class; or a parasitic capitalist class. What is needed is more direct action that mobilises the local working class communities in the issues that matter. The weakness of organised working class movement outside parliament cannot be overcome by being again and again diverted into parliamentary dead-ends.
Parliamentary partners - Mana has agreed to talks with the capitalist-aligned Maori Party (who props up this capitalist government – and backs their anti-worker actions). The Maori Party are dedicated to being at the capitalist table. In talks, they agreed to work together on common programmes for the poor. This is further evidence of a non-revolutionary party: A party committed to working with self-declared capitalists is in bed with the bosses. If Mana is serious in fighting for the poor working class it needs to split the remaining workers from the Maori Party leadership. This is also true for Labour and the Greens? Now Matt McCarten is the “Chief of Staff” for Labour leader, David Cunliffe, will he attract the working poor back to Labour? Where does that leave Mana in relation to Labour?
Many on the left including the small 's' socialists who are active in Mana support McCarten’s strategy for a left-coalition government in which the leftish Greens and Mana will pull Labour to the left. But even at best this is an Australian Green Left/Boliviarian reformist strategy of reviving social democracy in the belief that capitalism can be reformed and ‘socialism’ legislated into existence. As we have argued many times, a reborn social democracy today is looking to China as a ‘populist’ if not ‘socialist’ power capable of uniting all the oppressed nations of the world in a bloc against the dominant power of the US and its allies.
NZ left in and around Mana
The International Socialists Organisation (ISO), Socialist Aotearoa (SA), and Fightback, are tiny left organisations that work inside or around Mana. They claim to be ‘socialist’ but over many years they have participated in popular fronts where they hook up with a layer of the capitalist class. While they promote worker activism, they are at risk of betraying working class interests to the capitalists. This is what happens internationally when these parties align themselves to the Green Left/ Bolivarian bloc with China which today is also an imperialist country exploiting the masses on every continent.
Even if their support is ‘critical’ which means that they do not endorse the complete program of Mana, and reserve the right to criticise it, they end up effectively supporting the Mana program which is fundamentally reformist and geared to give Maori a fair share of kiwi capitalism. For example the asset sale campaign has become a shadow of the campaign that it was. Instead of the working class getting mobilised in the streets and occupying the assets, the struggle was demobilised. Now it’s only a paper war, ticking the boxes. It has been diverted into parliament with the petition and referendum begging for notice from the ruling class which of course ignores it. The capitalists go right ahead with their sales agenda.
Mana’s reformist program shows that those on the ‘left’ inside Mana who object to alliances with Labour, Greens, of Dotcom because they are ‘capitalist’, are sowing illusions in Mana as ‘revolutionary’. As we argue in the section below on ‘Social Democracy and Revolution’, to build an extra-parliamentary mass revolutionary party it is necessary to destroy all those parties that drag workers into parliament on the promise to reform capitalism. Against the ‘ultralefts’ we adopt Lenin’s strategy of supporting such parties like a "rope supports a hanged man”.
Mana and Dotcom?
We can see that Mana stands for reforming capitalism in alliances with political parties that have links to the capitalist ruling class such as the Maori Party, the Greens, and the Labour Party. This reformist strategy is based on building a parliamentary majority so its first requirement must be getting enough votes to become the government. That’s why Mana is talking to Kim Dotcom and the new Internet Party. There is no doubt that Dotcom is a capitalist who made his millions with his internet Megaupload and Mega businesses. But in order to stay in business Dotcom has to fight the giant monopolies that dominate the internet and the media empires. Both Dotcom and Mana have an interest in campaigning for internet freedom against the media and other monopolies that control global wealth for the 1% against the 99%.
So there is reformist logic in a political agreement between Mana and Dotcom. It’s unlikely to be a formal alliance but one in which common policies are jointly defended. This could be a commitment to electoral cooperation and /or to policy proposals around the internet, spying, rights of minorities, etc. Such an agreement could easily be part of a wider left coalition in Government. As revolutionaries our position is not to moralise about who owns fast cars or fascist memorabilia, but to judge deals on whether or not they advance the interest of workers.
Social Democracy and Revolution
In the last issue of Class Struggle we spelled out our position on the Labour Party as a capitalist party and the need to build a Revolutionary Socialist Labour Party capable of leading a socialist revolution in NZ that will smash the state and replace capitalist parliament with a Workers State. We will not go over all the arguments again. What is important here is that such a new RSLP will not arise out of thin air but out of those who currently vote for existing parties of the left who become convinced that they are betraying the interests of workers and who split to the left to build that new party.
Our attitude towards the McCarten strategy of a left coalition is that it is necessary to give critical support to such a coalition to put it in government so that it can be shown up as pro-capitalist and anti-worker. But this can only work if a left coalition keeps left and doesn’t include in it openly capitalist or openly racist and chauvinist parties like NZ First. This is because the left becomes a hostage to the right to stay in government so that the right can be blamed for broken promises to the workers. So who would we give critical support to in such a left coalition?
The Greens are a 'cross class party' because while largely based on the petty bourgeois or middle class, they are in some areas more ‘left’ than Labour especially on the environment and global warming which brings them up against monopoly capital. Labour itself is a divided party with a capitalist program but a working class base. It too includes a large middle class element. In short we would give critical support to a Labour/Green/Mana coalition government where beyond confidence and supply agreements the parties remain independent. Each party would then be judged on delivering on its own promises and not who else they can blame for its failure to deliver. This would allow workers to judge them on how they matched words and deeds, and prove that parliament is a bosses’ talk shop and that workers need to build a mass revolutionary party for socialism.
In the event that Mana makes a deal with the Internet Party or any of the other reformist parties for the purposes of getting a left coalition into government we would have no principled objection to such an agreement. We would also consider giving critical support to the Internet Party if its program advances the interests of the working class e.g., opposition to spying and the TPPA, and support for 'free' education' and 'free internet', which collide with the interests of global finance capital. A new revolutionary party will not fall from the sky but arise out of the struggle of workers in defence of basic democratic rights and social and economic security. That includes the majority working class being able to vote for a government of their choice so that they learn that real democracy is impossible unless they go all the way to the overthrow of the capitalist state and the creation of a Workers and Oppressed Government. (See article on the ‘Spanish Marches March 22’ in Class Struggle, 108).