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.
There were also political weaknesses. Some of the contradictions within Mana were evident from its statements on the question of asset sales. It was a priority campaign for Labour who painted the issues in not-so-subtly nationalistic terms. “Grow our economy, not someone else’s” was Labour’s slogan - as if “we” all have the same interests in the New Zealand economy, whether beneficiary or billionaire!
Mana’s position was variable. In some instances, candidates talked about assets that “we” currently own. Well, they are owned by the state. But who “owns” the state? The reality is that the working class currently has little control over State Owned Enterprises, as evidenced by spiralling household energy costs.
In a press release, Mana candidate John Minto called for New Zealand government accounts to be shifted from “Australian-owned” Westpac to Kiwibank by posing the proposition: “What about some national economic pride in New Zealand?” Comrade Minto does his own long and proud record as an internationalist a disservice with such a comment. It also contradicts another of Comrade Minto’s statements, where he described Mana as being the “smallest party with the biggest ambitions.”
On the other hand, at a candidates’ meeting in Devonport, Harawira delivered a solid case against assets sales with the statement: “If assets are in private hands, whether foreign or New Zealand owned, they only care about three things – (1) profit, (2) profit and (3) profit.”
We in Mana need to be sharp on economic nationalism if we want to grow beyond 1% of the party vote. After all, if our policies are presented as a pale imitation of New Zealand First, we can hardly be surprised if voters end up going for the real deal instead.
Mana held a national hui in South Auckland on 4 December, where Matt McCarten stepped down from the presidency of the movement, and Annette Sykes was elected as his interim replacement. Sykes declared Mana to be “the first vanguard of resistance” to the austerity of the global recession. “We are a movement to be reckoned with, and we will change the world.” She compared Harawira to Labour’s Norman Kirk and Mana Motuhake’s Matiu Rata. She spoke of the tricky relationship between kaupapa Māori issues and class issues in terms of winning the party vote, adding “we have the intellectual and practical strength to deal with it.”
Harawira said Mana should now “kill off the Māori Party”, and acknowledged that more work needed to be done in reaching out to Pasefika especially: “We must take up the overstayers’ amnesty seriously.”
Workers Party has raised a proposal for Mana to develop a programme of political eduction for its activists, encompassing topics such as political economy, imperialism/ colonialism, and Treaty/ constitutional issues, as well as practical elements such as running a successful campaign and public speaking. If Mana is to emulate the spectacular success scored by the Greens in this election, the party vote will be crucial. And the party vote is ideological. Mana needs to clearly define and articulate its political ideas, vision and programme. The first step towards doing that is discussion and debate within the membership.
And as class war returns under a second term National-led government, Mana must be at the forefront of every progressive struggle. Mana’s positive orientation to the CMP lockout and the anti-eviction campaigns of state housing tenants in places like Glenn Innes, point to the way ahead.