Internet MANA’s campaign to eliminate poverty reviewed

Posted: September 11, 2014 by Admin in Alienation, At the coalface, Capitalist ideology, Class Matters, Commodification, Economics, Limits of capitalism, Poverty & Inequality, State capitalism, Workers' rights

IMPby Don Franks

On Tuesday 9 September 2014, Internet Mana launched a Campaign to Eliminate Poverty outlined by Internet MANA at a public meeting in Otara.

The campaign launch noted  that “30,000 New Zealand families are now officially listed as homeless – living in cars, cowsheds, cockroach-infested caravans, and jammed into garages or three or four families per house. Home ownership is now completely out of the reach of these and tens of thousands of other families”

“Unemployment has continued to rise with fewer jobs available now than in 2008, wages have continued to fall to the point wh ere 40% of children who live in poverty have parents in paid work, and three out of four New Zealanders now earn less than the average wage.

“The free market policies introduced by Labour and ramped up by National, have given us nothing more than 30 years of lost assets, high unemployment, falling real wages, and rocketing levels of homelessness.”

The campaign claimed further that: “In fact, never before in the history of this country, has so much poverty been imposed on so many people over such a short time, as under the curre nt National-ACT-United Future-Māori Party government.”

That is just wishful thinking.

Leftist attempts to demonize the present government grow the more shrill as Key’s popularity has risen. The present National regime presides over growing sections of social misery and decay, but it nowhere comes close to the social desecration by the fourth Labour government. Or, for that matter, the Land Wars.

Internet MANA  offer “a range of policies which aim to eliminate poverty through simple and direct action – feeding the kids, a programme to build 10,000 new state houses a year, and a right to work programme that will get everyone back to work.”

The means to these ends is to be parliamentary legislation, funded by taxing the wealthy.

Internet MANA say :”Therefore we will immediately”:

Raise the marginal tax rate – for high income earners

Introduce a robust capital gains tax

Replace the Emissions Trading Scheme with a carbon tax with compensation for low-income households

Redirect some of the ACC reserves

Then we will undertake a fundamental review of our tax system with the aim of ensuring it is broad and genuinely progressive. We will engage experts and consult communities on the best way to do this, including consideration of:

  1. A financial transactions tax on the repatriated profits of multinationals, currency speculation and other financial movements
  2. Abolishing GST or removing it from some products and services
  3. The reintroduction of death duties for large estates
  4. A Universal Basic Income as a fairer and more efficient alternative to welfare benefits
  5. Returning ACC to a pay-as-you go model and redirecting further reserves to health and social programmes.

Neither experts nor community consultations are capable of serious wealth redistribution. The massive upheaval required for that can only come about by force, from a determined committed majority of society, organised, armed and aided by at least some international solidarity. Internet MANA’s anti-poverty policy may be well-intentioned, that is not enough. As a weapon for the poor  the policy it is worse than useless. To suggest that the cruel iniquities of capitalism can be legislated through parliament on clouds of righteous indignation is a misleading fraud.

That criticism may sound unduly harsh. But MANA’s veteran activists understand the basic nature of capitalism. Why do they wilfully misrepresent it?

Internet MANA’s actual intended direction is indicated by their GST formulation:  “Abolishing GST or removing it from some products and services.” Such a built-in open-ended compromise won’t feed many kids, but may serve parliamentary horse trading admirably.

Alarm bells ring right here.  Financial “experts” are not neutral. In a capitalist society, the foremost of such experts are, naturally enough, expert in seeking maximum profit for the capitalists at the top of the heap. There do exist other liberal leftist-leaning financial experts. The technical term for such experts in big business circles is “crazy neanderthals”. In good times they are mocked, in more turbulent  times they are jailed or shot.

  1. Thomas R says:

    Not a bad post but I have to say:
    ” There do exist other liberal leftist-leaning financial experts. The technical term for such experts in big business circles is “crazy neanderthals”. In good times they are mocked, in more turbulent times they are jailed or shot.”

    Seems to ignore that during the GFC there were repeated readings and articles along the lines of ‘do we need to look back to Marx’ in leading financial journals. Yes, sure, these were deluded capitalists looking for ways to get out of their wee contradictions and everything – which Marx shows is not possible indefinitely. But this point sounds false in my ears. For all the limits of Picketty, one can’t deny that that was a perfect example of “crazy neanderthals” being extremely popular?

    As for the “unduly harsh” criticism in that middle paragraph – I largely agree. But I think you definitely assume that most of MANA (either rank and file, or the leadership) would protest to this reading. That’s not my experience anyway.

  2. Don Franks says:

    Cheers Thomas. In terms of left leaning financial experts I had in mind pro worker economic research, prepared for union offices in the ’70’s by sympathetic academics. Several of which number later turned their coats.

  3. Thomas R says:

    Makes more sense now! Cheers. I do wonder of course, whether these criticisms would be more on the mark if it were Labour pretending to be social-democrats and making these policies. MANA is pretty intimately aware of the massive limitations of parliament – an impression you surely gleaned earlier this year from Annette at the Capitalism: Not Our Future conference. Another Marxist, currently unaffiliated, commented recently that what can look like a shift to the right in MANA is more like the undulating that goes on around elections: the need to apparently ‘solidify’ policies and campaign on them specifically looks a lot like a shift to the right. But if, in principle, MANA is movement-focused, not parliamentary focused, then this is really just a smoke and mirrors ‘shift to the right’. Time will tell, I’d say

  4. Barrie says:

    Some within Mana may be aware of the limitations of parliament but as far as I can tell its not their intention to eliminate capitalism and its institutions. They want to manage the system or soften its rough edges, not overthrow or fundamentally subvert it. The fact they are using a dual tactic of pursuing the parliamentary road while simultaneously engaging in classical street politics is hardly anything new. When you look at the early history of the Labour Party or the Alliance in the 90s or subsequently the Greens, they followed such a dual approach too and its pretty clear which part of the parliament/exterior movement formula has won out in those cases.

    Mana intends using a dirigiste approach in areas where the economy impacts on social policies. To some extent that distinguishes them from some on the Right. Though even National at its worst beneficiary bashing has never entirely crushed the welfare state. Also in some aspects Mana expresses the kind of poisonous protectionist nationalism you can find in NZ First/Greens or Labour. Hone couches his opposition to land sales in terms of national sovereignty and given the colonial experience you can understand where hes coming from but it still smacks of some ugly xenophobia. See his comments towards the end of this clip:

    Mana may appear to be to the left of the other parties in some areas but they are still a ‘system party’ and its only because the whole zeitgeist of the past 30 years has shifted so far to the right that they can seem even remotely threatening to the status quo. Truth is, even if they were able to implement their entire programme it would do no more than restore the status quo ante of 40 years ago. Hardly amazing stuff.

    • Thomas R says:

      To be fair, the status quo of 40 years ago was much more keen on shitting on/ignoring Maori than if MANA’s policy was introduced. I think calling it protectionist nationalism is a bit of a stretch. Do you feel that about Bolivia etc? Anyway, yeah it’s something to challenge – which many people do – within MANA. Who ever knew that working class people can sometimes have some ideas that should be challenged right? Collecting a dozen fully formed anarchists with no problematic ideas barely seems like a priority right now. I’m not sure of your perspectives Barrie, but most seem to agree that struggle does not flourish in periods of being slowly crushed (the last 30 years of homogenous policies from Labour/Nats). So while I understand the “hardly amazing stuff” – don’t working people need a bit of a break?

      The question for me comes to what has shifted the entire zeitgeist – to the point that the top tax rate proposed by the Greens is actually lower than Tony Abbott’s government across the ditch. I also think there’s some contradictory ideas going on here – it’s agreed that the entire zeitgeist has shifted massively to the right. In that regard, MANA can appear threatening to the status quo. However, the political climate is such that not even what MANA has on offer is getting particularly much support (though a considerable amount more than any more “proper leftist” groups have for what.. 100 years in this country? heh).

      The idea at Redline seems to be: progressive reforms are impossible to pass. What we need is a convincing anti-capitalist movement that speaks to people.

      I have to assume the idea here is that with the right views and positions, people will rally (since they’re clearly not swayed by social democratic things anymore)? Is this materialism or idealism?

      My view is more along the lines of: if even MANAs platform can’t get more than 5% support then god help us all tbh.

      • PhilF says:

        Thomas in response to Barrie: “I think calling it protectionist nationalism is a bit of a stretch. Do you feel that about Bolivia etc?”

        Barrie is right: Mana’s politics are quite loaded in the direction of NZ nationalism.

        I don’t know what Barrie would say in relation to Bolivia – as an anarchist he may be opposed automatically to all nationalism. But, Thomas, it seems an odd question for a Marxist to ask anyway. NZ is an imperialist country, so NZ nationalism is – and can only be – reactionary.

        Bolivia is not an imperialist country; it is a country oppressed by imperialism. So, for Marxists, protectionism in Bolivia is *qualitatively different* from protectionism in NZ.


    • PhilF says:

      One of the most notable things about Mana is how little it pursues street politics. I think their use of the dual tactic of combining parliamentary and street politics is already weighted very much to the parliamentary side. And, indeed, many of the left figures within it have moved, to varying degrees, rightwards in the course of building Mana.

      Plus, as you say, there’s quite a whiff of NZ nationalism off the party.


      • Thomas R says:

        Your claims around street politics seems fundamentally untrue here Phil. MANA has been heavily involved in basically every demo in most centres over the past year? Christchurch was very much an exception to that however so I would understand if that was from your experiences of demos in CHCH.

        As for the Nationalism, yes NZ is a junior imperialist. But it seems to me that Hone’s views and a lot of MANA, being Maori lead, are to do with Tino Rangatiratanga and a struggle around colonial legacy and ongoing dispossession. So it’s really contradictory, but not equivalent to the same kind of thing if being pursued in say Britain/Europe. One of the biggest fails I’ve heard of about NZ leftism is when Maori were just declared ‘brown workers’ by some touring British Trotskyist. Lack of nuance was astounding.

        So the question would be I guess whether what MANA is proposing is a Nationalism along indigenous nationalism lines, or just straight NZ Nationalism. Not sure. Certainly when Minto starts along those lines it’s the latter, but Minto is not one of the pull cards for me when it comes to MANA to be honest.

  5. PhilF says:

    Sure, Mana members turn up at demos. But that’s not ‘street politics’ in the sense that I, and I think Barrie, are talking about.

    Mana does very little to initiate struggle on the streets. Where are the Mana-initiated and Mana-led street campaigns?

    The Alliance used to turn up at demos too, with people holding placards that just said Alliance and had the Alliance logo on.

    Hone and other Maori leaders of Mana are as much NZ nationalists as they are Maori nationalists. This comes up again and again.

    John Minto may not be a big pull in terms of what attracts you to Mana, but that’s irrelevant because the discussion isn’t about you and what might attract you personally to Mana or alienate you from Mana. It’s about Mana and its politics.

    John M is a key leader of Mana and, alongside the stronger parts of his politics, is the left-kiwi-nationalism. It’s indicative of the dominant form of left politics in this country and one of the key obstacles to the development of independent class politics. Mana leaders reinforce NZ nationalism. The Mana position on asset sales was fairly kiwi-nationalistic, for instance.

    Moreover, when we discuss the politics of folk like John, Hone, Annette and others, we’re not talking about new political activists. We all start somewhere and it’s never with revolutionary politics, but these are folks who have been around *for decades* and yet they haven’t evolved to the left at all from where they were some decades ago. In fact, a chunk of people connected to Mana were *more left-wing* 10 or 20 or 30 years ago than they are now.

    Mana, like the Alliance before it, has shifted a layer of fairly radical-left people to the right. And Mana’s desire for a Labour-led government is indicative that some of these folks – who wouldn’t have touched the Labour Party with a 40-foot bargepole 20 or 30 years ago – are becoming reconciled to Labour.

    Ironically, their reconciliation to Labour comes at a point in time when National has more support among blue-collar workers than Labour does (in the 2011 election, National overtook Labour in terms of blue-collar votes).

    In any case, a different political vehicle to Mana is needed to advance revolutionary politics in this country in the 21st century. Building yet another reform-oriented party does not contribute to what is needed to advance revolutionary politics.


  6. PhilF says:

    Thomas wrote: “One of the biggest fails I’ve heard of about NZ leftism is when Maori were just declared ‘brown workers’ by some touring British Trotskyist. Lack of nuance was astounding.”

    “Some touring British Trotskyist”! Who? When? Which British trotskyist group? (So it was a failure of that british Trot group, not a fail of NZ leftism.)

    No Trotskyists in NZ have thought that for about 40 years, if ever.

    The dominant Trotskyist group in NZ was the Socialist Action League. It was immersed in Maori struggles from the time it was founded in 1969. And, at its height, in the early-mid 1980s, had a sizeable percentage of Maori and Pacific members.

    You need to find out a bit more about NZ left history before making these kind of statements. Even a cursory glance over their newspaper would indicate they never held any such view of Maori.


    • Thomas R says:

      Take it as a throwaway statement Phil, having a bit of a laugh. Something we’re gonna have to learn to do if we really want to break with old politics, don’t you think? Can’t remember off the top of my head though – I don’t really have the memory for trainspotting much

      • PhilF says:

        But you said it was “one of the biggest fails I’ve heard of about NZ leftism. . . Lack of nuance was astounding”. *One of biggest fails*, *astounding*!!! So not really the kind of thing someone would say in a “throwaway statement”. Especially as it’s quite a serious political accusation against any number of groups.

        If you don’t have any details about it at all, who knows, you might be a victim of false recovered memory syndrome or the person from whom you ‘heard’ it might be . . .

        And if you can’t recall any details at all, and it actually doesn’t match any NZ Trotskyist groups in the past 40 years or so anyway, it probably wasn’t the wisest idea to refer to it in such dramatic terms.

        I think the only British Trotskyist group whose leaders ever gave talks here was the British SWP and that statement sounds too crude even for them. .-)


  7. Malcolm says:

    Kia ora Thomas. I’m not sure why you think Redline or AWSM advocate some kind of purist revolutionary idealism. It is precisely the lack of attention to effective struggle around everyday material needs and the appeal to consciousness or modes of ethical persuasion (vote for us!) that is the problem with the New Zealand ‘left’. Almost no attention is paid to developing class power where it matters. So we end up with people jumping on whatever the next electoral big thing is rather than finding ways to engage with and deepen class struggle where it is thrown up in the normal day-to-day functioning of the system. So, workers who vote National may end up at the forefront of industrial struggles because of their position in the capitalist system (not because of who they vote for and we know that a large swathe of the working class don’t even bother to vote, for whatever reason.) Class struggle will lead to changes in consciousness, not the other way round – this is materialism!! AWSM’s primary commitment is to the class struggle, not building it’s own organisation by finding fully formed anarchists/libertarian communists.


  8. Don Franks says:

    “MANA is pretty intimately aware of the massive limitations of parliament – an impression you surely gleaned earlier this year from Annette at the Capitalism: Not Our Future conference”

    Thomas, I gleaned no such thing from Annette or other MANA person at that hui.

    On the contrary, the evening was a reminder that MANA is besotted with parliamentary politics. Their oft repeated bottom line is replacing National with Labour – Labour who doesn’t even want a bar of them.

    Although it will take a while to become generally apparent, parliament has passed its useby date as an arena to advance working class issues.

    MANA is willfully blind to parliament’s limitations.

    As has been noted above, several MANA veterans know better, they dissipate their hard won class struggle inheritance.

    • Thomas R says:

      So Annette literally and explicitly saying that she was skeptical of parliament being a worthwhile thing for MANA to be doing, and the irony of likely being in parliament after September 20th while holding this view, you managed to ignore that entirely? That’s odd.

  9. Don Franks says:

    Thomas, if Annette was really as skeptical of parliament as you imagine, she would not be putting in so much effort to enter the place.
    The general line of march trumps a throwaway line to the gallery of a leftist hui.

    • Thomas R says:

      So you think the WP approach of a disingenuous ‘run with no actual intention of actually ever getting into parliament’ is a better approach? I’m not so convinced. Annette mostly wants to go into parliament so that Hone doesn’t have to be there as much. But I think time will tell whether or not MANA slips into parliamentarian modes after the election curfuffle is over.

      I’m surprised you missed the comment though – I’m not sure if you pre-prepared your question for that hui, because if so that might indicate that coming with pre-prepared ‘intervention’ questions (though more from the IBT comrades than your own position) might interfere with listening comprehension. This isn’t being rude just for the record, I know I lose focus a bit when considering how best to word a question or point while someone is speaking.

      • PhilF says:

        There was nothing disingenuous about the ACA/WP runs; they were to take advantage of election time to put forward revolutionary politics. We weren’t running to get elected.

        After a couple of experiences of this, a number of us reached the view that running hadn’t really helped promote our politics anyway.

        But when we ran, we said we were Marxists and we didn’t believe that parliament could bring about a different kind of society. We ran on core principles like Open Borders; we didn’t advocate something much less than that and then pretend that it was some kind of approximation to Open Borders.

        I think it’s already clear that Mana is involved in parliamentary mode and has been since it started.

        I also don’t know why you assume Don missed Annette’s comment. He pointed out that what she said to a leftist hui is far less important than what is done in practice.

        But let’s come back to your own organisation. One of the Mana candidates is a member of Fightback. As a parliamentary candidate will she be arguing for Fightback policies like Open Borders, free abortion on demand, etc etc, or will she be promoting Mana policies which fall rather short of those kinds of positions?


      • Thomas R says: is with the young candidates from each party, including the Fightback comrade, so feel free to listen to it if you like. There’s at least some comic relief that the ACT candidate identifies Thatcher as her political hero.

  10. PhilF says:

    The Fightback candidate doesn’t say anything different to the Greens or even to a few people in Labour. For instance, she puts forward the old Keynesian idea that raising the minimum wage by $2 an hour would be good for the economy because it would put more money into circulation. That’s a pro-capitalist argument rather than an anti-capitalist one! She says “experts” should decide on alcohol and health policy (!!!). She did say “revolutionary change” is necessary to meet the challenge of climate change but there was no elaboration of what that change might mean; it could be that we all consume less, as far as a listener could tell.

    I know it’s very difficult in radio interviews, especially when you’re only one of half a dozen or more people being interviewed together, so I’d cut Heleyni some slack on that. Nevertheless, there’s absolutely nothing she says that indicates total opposition to the capitalist system and that workers need anti-capitalist politics. Nothing she says indicates any political stance that is not reconcilable with the politics of the Green Party.

    It’s clearly Mana politics, not Fightback’s ostensible politics, that she is putting forward.

    So you have someone who is ostensibly a revolutionary opponent of the capitalist system, actively campaigning on and for a reformist political platform. Frankly, if you campaign for reformist politics then, whatever you may call yourself in private, objectively you *are* a reformist. You are strengthening reformism, not undermining it.

    And, as we know from Rosa Luxemburg, reformism leads in a different direction altogether to revolutionary politics.


    • Thomas R says:

      Your reading of Luxemburg is a bit different from mine… Does she not also argue that revolutionaries should be fighting the hardest of progressive reforms, while understanding the nature of reformism being on the whole negative? Didn’t Lenin back some basic progressive parliamentary reforms?

      Heaven forbid anyone ever try to actually convince people of politics by approaching particular reforms and the reasons for them in different ways. I think with regards to ‘experts’ that was a misstep but knowing Heleyni she was probably meaning along the lines of: the people actually working in the health sector, because surely they are the experts? What’s that quote along the lines of “Of course there is authority in anarchism, if I want the authority on shoes I’ll ask a shoemaker”. I would posit that that is what was being meant.

      Do you not think it would be fairly shitty behaviour for a leftist running as a MANA candidate to not put forward MANA’s politics? Not to mention presumptuous, rude, arrogant, basically all the things that has been said of the white marxist left in NZ when it comes to engaging with Maori radicalism.

  11. PhilF says:

    Luxemburg is unequivocal about reformism. Show me where Luxemburg (or Lenin) argues that revolutionaries should *join reformist parties and publicly argue in favour of the politics of those parties*.

    Reformism, of course, is different from revolutionaries fighting for reforms.

    Your point about people running as Mana candidates is true. I agree totally. But that is precisely why revolutionaries *should not* run as Mana candidates. They have to hide their real politics and put forward reformist politics instead. (And, of course, it’s not running simply as a Mana candidate; it’s running as InternetMana.)

    If left groups want to support Mana, the least they should do is run their own independent campaigns, based on their own politics, and calling on people to vote for Mana as a protest against the status quo. I might not agree with that approach tactically, but I think that approach is within the framework of Marxism, except for the Kim Dotcom factor which makes InternetMana an unsupportable cross-class stitch-up. And then, of course, there is the further complicating factor that the number two on the InternetMana party list is someone who has just received a massive payment for helping oversee hundreds of council workers being made redundant!

    However, all you are doing by suggesting that it is perfectly fine for someone claiming to be a Marxist to run on a reformist programme is degrading Marxism. In practice, Fightback is not a revolutionary organisation. When the chips are down, here is the organisation promoting the reformist politics of a reformist organisation.

    What is really rude and presumptuous is to pretend to be a Marxist while advocating reformist politics. It doesn’t show much genuine respect for Maori radicalism either, because you are bullshitting them if you are really Marxist but pretending to agree with Mana’s reformism.

    All you are doing here Thomas is trying to make excuses for supposed ‘revolutionaries’ running around advocating reformism.

    Revolutionaries advocate and fight for revolutionary politics. Not sometimes. Not part of the year and then discard them in favour of reformist policies at election time.

    Fightback is an ostensibly revolutionary organisation that *in practice* is more radical-liberal than Marxist. All the election has done is highlight this even more starkly.

    This is why I have no interest in trying to convince anyone in Fightback of anything. They stand more as a warning of what to avoid. The fact that bigger and brighter organisations have already traveled this road and ended up on the rocks is perhaps the saddest comment on the NZ left.

    We need a new left. An anti-capitalist left. A revolutionary left.