By Mike Kay and Jared Phillips
Around 200 activists from the Mana movement gathered for its AGM hui at Mataikotare Marae on the shores of Lake Rotorua over the weekend of 24-25 March. The programme, including speeches, debates, practical workshops and waiata showed Mana to be a vibrant and maturing movement.
The event opened with guest speakers, the most inspiring being Dayle Takitimu of Te Whanau-a-Apanui. She focused on the struggle against oil exploration by petroleum giants in the Ruakumara Basin, but in the process delivered broadsides on a number of wider issues.
Te Whanau-a-Apanui are “tangaroa people,” explained Takitimu. The iwi was determined to uphold “te mana o te whenua - mana of the whenua; not mana over the whenua, as some iwi leaders would have it.” Speaking of the draconian Search and Surveillance Act, Takitimu described it as “the coloniser inside our living room.” She detailed her iwi’s continual struggle against the Crown, drawing applause for her observation that “it’s no coincidence that Parliament is shaped like a beehive - the role of bees is to protect their queen.”
There was a significant afternoon session attended by most conference-goers on the role of tauiwi (non-Māori people) in the Mana Movement. This was initiated by former Green MP and current Mana activist Sue Bradford who stood in a general electorate seat for Mana in the 2011 election. The session included many eye-opening contributions from the floor. One was given by a member from a rural area who recounted how he had never met a Pākehā in his childhood and that he had hated Pākehā because of injustices, but being in Mana was one of the things that had made him think differently and he welcomed more Pākehā involvement.
Within the tauiwi session Mike Treen, a Pākehā socialist and organiser for low-paid workers then spoke of how the fight against capitalism is key to the question of social injustice so it means that Mana needs to continue to be broader than Māori. He emphasized that because we are on Māori land it means Māori will be absolutely central to meaningful revolutionary change. He went on to say that we have to be united in struggle and that racism is still used to divide people. He gave examples of how the perpetuation of racism against Māori leads to poor Pākehā thinking that they have more of a stake in the system when they don’t.
Matt McCarten was a key note speaker on the second day of the hui. The veteran unionist warned the audience that “the Movement cannot be swallowed up by parliamentarianism.” The point of getting MPs into parliament was to gain “a platform and a resource base” for our politics. Talking of David Shearer’s recent attempt to reposition the Labour Party, he said “I encourage Labour’s move to the right, it will open up space to their left.” He talked about the need to form alliances with other parties on campaigns such as opposing asset sales, but added the reminder that: “they are our allies, but not the same as us.”
Revolutionary left groups were represented at the hui - Workers Party had half a dozen delegates, and the International Socialist Organisation had a similar number. Two Workers Party members - Heleyni Pratley and Ian Anderson - delivered excellent after-dinner speeches to the whole AGM on behalf of the Rangatahi (younger people) group. A motion that originated from a WP member was passed by the conference which mandated that Mana “develops and deploys a programme of political education for branches nationwide.”
The hui gave the sense that Mana is beginning to cohere into a truly national movement, with delegates representing localities from across both islands (and even one from the newly established Mana Sydney group). The struggles of the Ports of Auckland wharfies and the locked out freezing workers were continually referenced, like a red thread running through the entire hui. Overall, people came away energised and enthusiastic about organising the next big event - the “Aotearoa Is Not For Sale” hīkoi.