Aotearoa/New Zealand: 'The Mana revolution has begun'

By Joe Carolan

June 27, 2011 -- Socialist Aotearoa, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Hone Harawira’s victory in the Te Tai Tokerau by-election means that the Mana Party is now the newest party with parliamentary representation in Aotearoa [New Zealand].This achievement is impressive, given the range of forces ranged against us -- the Maori Party, the Labour Party machine, supported by the National Party, and most of the mainstream media and political commentators.

Knocking on the doors out in Waitakere, the best reception I got from people was to our upfront class politics.The Maori Party had abandoned the Maori working class and poor just like the Labour Party had abandoned the whole of the working class -- the huge poverty and deprivation we came in contact with on the doorsteps had not just fallen from the sky a day after [New Zealand's conservative National Party Prime Minister] John Key’s electoral victory in 2008.

When we argued for fighting trade unions, for living benefits and a living wage, for the abolition of unjust taxes like goods and services tax in favour of taxing the rich and their banks, you could see peoples eyes light up.

When we talked about a planned, social economy -- where the crime of unemployment would no longer be tolerated, and everybody would have socially useful work on a living wage, you saw hopes rise.And several times, when people said a plague on all politicians and all their parties, and we agreed that yes, what was needed was something more fundamental, like a revolution, you saw people smile and laugh.This was not a run of the mill centrist electoral campaign.This was a hikoi [protest march] to the ballot box.

The potential of the Mana movement is immense.New Zealand is built on theft -- theft of the land from our Tangata Whenua [the indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, literally means "people of the land"] and theft of our sweat and labour from a greedy, corporate boss class.Those of us workers who own nothing in the cities have nothing to lose by Maori land being restored to its original owners.If  theTuhoe people want their own state -- fine with us.Indeed, the working class in New Zealand will never be free unless we have liberation and justice for Maori people.

But it’s the theft of our sweat in the towns and the cities that makes Mana a movement for all of us -- Maori, Pasifika, Pakeha and other migrants to Aotearoa.There are nearly half a million workers trying to survive on less than NZ$15 an hour, and many of those workers have insecure hours from week to week -- even the concept of a 40-hour week is now a radical proposition in the KFC and McDonald's stores of our land.

There are also nearly half a million people either unemployed or in receipt of poverty level benefits, and it is them and their dependants that suffer the crime of child poverty in a land of plenty.Raising the next generation of workers is real work -- and a decent society would pay those who take care of children at home a full wage.But beneficiaries and the unemployed have suffered falling incomes, under both Labour Party and National Party governments.

This is our wider Mana tribe.The half a million workers on less than $15 an hour.The half a million people on benefits, raising up their children as best they can in crippling poverty.This tribe should not be polite or silent any longer.Its time for this tribe to awake from its slumber and use its anger to organise, one million strong.

The Mana movement must begin to organise against the poverty we suffer, the exploitation and bullying we fight in the warehouses and stores.The victories we win in the electoral field must build a movement that spreads into our communities and workplaces.Its for this reason that activists organised in Socialist Aotearoa congratulate Hone on his historic victory in te tai Tokerau, and promise to help spread the Mana revolution from its northern homeland into the working-class areas of Auckland and beyond.


The disenfranchised, the poor and ultimately the north is what brought Hone Harawira home in Saturday's Te Tai Tokerau by-election with a third of his majority coming from just four Far North towns.

Mr Harawira won the Te Tai Tokerau by-election with 5611 votes, 867 ahead of Labour List MP Mr Davis, but well short of the 6308 vote majority he held at the 2008 general election.

But an analysis of where the votes were cast shows that what won the vote was the strong support from Mr Harawira's "heartland"- the poor and disenfranchised Maori in Northland.

In Ahipara, Kaitaia, Kaikohe and Moerewa Mr Harawira got 954 votes, 294 more than Mr Davis and 33.9 per cent of the majority. In perhaps the most revealing result of the night Mr Davis was beaten to the vote at Kaitaia Intermediate - the school he was principal of - where he got 72 votes, compared to Mr Harawira's 107.

Mr Davis got a biggest majority in his hometown of Kawakawa, with 113, compared to his rival's 68. Mr Davis also got more support in traditional Labour strongholds of west and north Auckland.

Before the election Labour was trumpeting its ability to mobilise its supporters in both more affluent areas as the key to winning, but it seems that it was the poor and disenfranchised who turned out in numbers.

Targeting the north was a deliberate ploy, Mr Harawira' campaign strategist and Mana Party chairman Matt McCarten said.

"We knew it was always going to be the north that would win it for Hone.

We thought if we could hold Auckland to a draw or thereabouts the north would bring it home for us and that's what happened," Mr McCarten said.

"Hone's got a track record in the Far North, but that didn't seem to register with the chattering classes in Wellington who all supported Kelvin. Even the Prime Minister, who is supposed to be in coalition with the Maori Party, came out behind Kelvin."

He said the mandate was far bigger than people suggested, despite the lower majority and he believed it was getting the poor and disenfranchised of the electorate to enroll, then actually vote, that made the difference.

"There was about a 41 per cent [voter] turnout in Te Tai Tokerau, which is far higher than recent by-elections in Botany and Mt Albert. It was a very good turnout for a by-election and [the results] show we managed to motivate the poorest sectors to get out and vote, who are the ones that usually don't [vote]," Mr McCarten said.

He said a deliberate part of the strategy was to hit the last week of the campaign with the message "a vote for Hone will get voters two MPs" - he and Mr Davis who is a Labour List MP.

It was a "get two for the price of one" message that Mr McCarten said tipped many undecided voters Mr Harawira's way.

"When we were door knocking people were saying they liked Kelvin but wanted Hone to get in too. We know people got that message, but if we had done it too early in the campaign it would have given time for a rebuttal and the message may have been lost," he said.


Mike Kay, Workers Party Auckland and Mana Te Raki Paewhenua (North Shore) branch

 Following Hone Harawira’s election victory, Mana convened a foundation hui of activists in Whangarei on 26 June 2011. I will summarise the proceedings of the hui conducted in English below, followed by an assessment of the bye-election, and a political appraisal of the prospects for Mana.

 In Whangarei Matt McCarten set the tone by stating: “We did not just win a bye-election, we changed the nature of politics. There’s a lot of people out there who are not sure what they want, but they know what they don’t want. The entire political elite and establishment were against us – there were four anti-Hone editorials in the Herald. We represent danger because we cannot be bought.”

 Annette Sykes described Mana as “a Kaupapa Māori party that transcends race, whanau and hapū… also a party of the workers.” She said Mana should work with unions and left activists. On Te Tiriti, she proposed abolition of the 2014 deadline for settlements and opposed the Crown “deciding who our leaders are.” On environmental issues, she opposed the Emissions Trading Scheme on the basis that it does not make the polluters pay. In Education, she proposed that Te Reo become a compulsory language. She talked of the need for Mana to embrace Pākehā as well, and oppose neo-liberal policies that “put profit before people, bankers before workers and privatisation before the Treaty.”

 Hilda Harawira spoke of the mamae (pain) and betrayal still felt by Te Tai Tokerau after its experience with the Māori Party. Talking of the effort put in by activists in the campaign, she said “the poorest gave more.”

 Hone Harawira announced that he would be embarking on a “Hikoi of Hope” across the country to help launch Mana as a national movement. The hui also made a number of other decisions: Hone was endorsed as leader, Raewyn Harrison endorsed as interim Party Secretary and Matt McCarten endorsed as interim President. An interim Executive of six people was established, to be supplemented by representatives from each region. The following few weeks were designated as time for branches to discuss Mana’s draft policy in advance of its first AGM on 6 August in Auckland. There was a consensus to hold out an olive branch to the Māori Party to see if an agreement on standing in the other Māori seats could be brokered within the next month. But most of the participants were realistic about its likely prospects. Most probably, Mana will stand against the Māori Party in those seats, and contest some general seats as well. Although McCarten said that candidates standing in the general seats would primarily seek the party vote for Mana.

 What Mana lacked in resources and a fully worked out political programme for the bye-election, it made up for in enthusiasm and commitment. Essentially, activists sought votes on Harawira’s record, and Te Tai Tokerau responded by endorsing him and the Mana movement. As well as the privileges in Parliament that being a party leader affords, Harawira has gained a mandate. Whilst the Labour candidate Kelvin Davis claimed to have made serious inroads, Mana still managed to win the polling stations at Kaitia Intermediate (where Davis was headmaster) and Hoani Waititi (Pita Sharples’ marae).

 It is not surprising that Harawira’s majority was slashed standing as a Mana candidate, compared to standing as a Māori Party candidate. His former party, whilst splitting from Labour, remained a part of the political establishment, evidenced by the ease with which they allied with the Nats. Mana, however, represents a class break from the Māori party. Because of the low level of class consciousness, to say nothing of the class differentiation within Te Tai Tokerau, the appeal of Mana was always going to be limited. But the fact of its success means that Mana can lead to a sharpening of class consciousness around the general election. Even without the intervention of leftist groups, many Mana activists instinctively grasp the reality that the party needs to differentiate itself from its political rivals most especially on class questions.

 While some left wing commentators have pointed out flaws in Mana, including left nationalism, excessive identity politics and parliamentarianism, they overlook the fact that this is a party with a strongly plebian base which includes many activists motivated by socialist ideas.

 What is striking about Mana’s activist base is that it is in large part female. These wāhine Māori have created a parallel women’s movement based around struggles for Kōhanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa Māori. It is also far more inclusive than many other would-be progressive movements, embracing young and old, straight and takatāpui.

 In my short involvement in Mana, I have found it to be an open and democratic party. Anyone is welcome to raise their views, providing they do the hard yards in the campaign work. Socialists who are have misgivings or apprehensions about Mana would do well to  engage with their local branch before writing the movement off so early in the day.

 For a young movement starting out, the people involved in setting it up have a great influence in its subsequent development. As Lenin observed:

 “To say, however, that ideologists (i.e., politically conscious leaders) cannot divert the movement from the path determined by the interaction of environment and elements is to ignore the simple truth that the conscious element participates in this interaction and in the determination of the path. Catholic and monarchist labour unions in Europe are also an inevitable result of the interaction of environment and elements, but it was the consciousness of priests and Zubatovs [Colonel of the Gendarmes] and not that of socialists that participated in this interaction”. (Iskra, 6 December 1901)

 In other words, if revolutionaries want to see Mana develop in a revolutionary direction, they will have to involve themselves in it.