More again on the Mana by-election victory

Posted: June 26, 2011 by Nick Scullin in Maori

by Nick Scullin

It is good that Hone Harawira held onto the Te Tai Tokerau electorate in yesterdays by-election but it seems very naive the way much of the New Zealand left is embracing the win as the beginning of a mass movement.

The fact is that Harawira only has a relatively small majority over Labour’s Kelvin Davies and the total voter turnout was only around two fifths of those enrolled to vote in the electorate.

Where is the mass movement then? It certainly wasn’t amongst voters. The party has a group of activists, including some from the far left, but again this hardly constitutes a mass movement.

I fail to see how Mana will be able to capture a large working class vote as many on the left are hoping. To be sure Harawira and Mana are likely to be more pro-worker than either Labour or National but their policies seem likely to be no more radical than those of the Greens and the Alliance neither of which is able to motivate much support from workers at present.

Marxists need to be advocating class-struggle based politics. Te Mana is never going to do that. It is a race-based party with a primary focus on standing up for Maori rights.

At best it may fight for some Alliance style reforms but I fail to see how it will ever be a party proposing any kind of class-struggle approach. So the question is: what exactly do Marxists hope to achieve by supporting and participating in the Mana Party?

  1. Anonymous says:

    The last couple of days have been interesting. Far from enunciating any sort of class-oriented politics, Hone has been talking about making nice again with the Maori Party and fusing into a new Mana-Maori Party, presumably with him as the dominant figure. . .

    His cross-class pan-Maori approach was – and will remain – uncontested by his cheerleaders/footsoldiers on the pakeha left. As always, the swamp left will line up to do grunt work and go to the back of the line when it comes to any serious political input. Politically, their game is to trail behind whatever politics are self-determined by Hone and a tiny handful of others around him; this will be jusified under the rubric of supporting tino rangatiratanga / Maori self-determination but, in practice, in just means going along with reformist (and even subreformist) politics.

    The fact that this approach is part of the explanation for why the far left is so numericaly and politically weak seems to be totally lost on them. They would rather be paddling their little rowboat around in the swamp in ever-decreasing circles than face up to making a Marxist analysis of society as it is and working out a road forward based on that, however modest the project may be. Instead, they always have to be on someone else’s coat-tails in order to convince themselves that they amount to osmething more than what they really do.


    • Don Franks says:

      My view is that leftist Mana supporters have good intentions. The theoretical justification for their position is summed up in this extract from a recent ISO article:
      “Could Mana accommodate class struggle and Maori identity politics, unity and separatism, revolutionaries and reformists? Can socialists and cultural warriors be allies? There are not single or dogmatic answers to such questions. It depends on the concrete circumstances and direction. If the class struggle is taken forward the magnetic pull would be towards unity. Otherwise, the centrifugal forces of political differences, identity politics and the corrosive effects of parliamentarism, may prevail. Only the participation of revolutionary socialists in Mana puts the question. The existing socialist organisations can be actors in this test. Their abstention will not help gain the confidence of Maori that hope lies in their class and seeing the enemy as capitalism, the system of labour exploitation and oppression of colonised peoples.”
      Looks good on paper. It suggests that the socialists will be systematically advancing their arguments among Mana members and winning them over to a revolutionary position. I have been party to similar attempts myself in the past. What invariably happened was that socialists were accepted in the other party as long as they worked for the cause and didn’t push their own agenda. If they got too ideologically assertive they would be thrown out, like the PRG was expelled from the Alliance.
      The usual result is that the socialists pocket their politics, hoping they will be transfered by some sort of osmotic process, which of course does not happen.
      We’ll only make progress when we break from this time wasting self deception.
      The intention may be good, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.