InternetMana alliance ends

Posted: December 15, 2014 by Admin in New Zealand politics

The alliance between the Internet and Mana parties has formally ended.  The alliance, which was also supported by the left groups operating within the Mana Party, cost Mana dearly.  They lost the Te Tai Tokerau seat and Annette Sykes was pushed back to third place in Waiariki, a seat which Mana previously had a chance of winning.

Laila Harre, meanwhile, is moving on.  She has announced her resignation as Internet Party leader and as a party member.  This move only serves to point up even more starkly the hollow nature of the IP and the almost surreal nature of the unprincipled InternetMana hook-up.

The farce was further highlighted by the fact that InternetMana had an electoral war chest of somewhere between three and four million dollars, thanks to Kim Dotcom, but they received only 34,000 votes.  This meant about $100 per vote!  By contrast National probably got a vote for roughly every three dollars they spent!  Even Colin Craig’s vanity project got a lot more bang for Craig’s buck.

Unlike the left groups within Mana, we argued against the alliance all the way through and most of us decided not to vote for Mana (or anyone else).  We saw the oncoming train wreck, but most leftists involved in Mana were far too caught up in the moment and in illusions about the alliance and what it might achieve to take note of the warning signs, even though they were brightly lit up and alive with bells and whistles: danger, danger, train wreck ahead!

This debacle became another indicator that a new and revolutionary left is needed.

Moreover, the Internet-Mana alliance was not unique.  All over the world leftists looking for short cuts have been attempting in recent years to build ‘broad parties’.  Almost invariably these parties have either imploded (like Respect in Britain) or turned out to be willing to help run the existing system (like Rifondazione in Italy or the Workers Party in Brazil).

Read the excellent critique of this strategy here: An international balance sheet of the ‘broad party’ strategy

See also: When is it time for revolutionary politics? 

And on the left groups in Mana, the party, the alliance and the election result, see here.

Lastly, see the symposium piece on the radical left and Marxism here.

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Comments
  1. Peter says:

    And where is that new and revolutionary left? In times of downturn of in the class struggle, there is still a place for a genuine leftist party to engage in bourgeois politics. It is better than throwing up our hands in despair at the situation, or engaging in the mindless violence of the anarchist ilk.

    There must be focal points of organisation and a platform for fresh left-wing thinking. Think-tanks, community groups, and unions can perform this function, but so can a left-wing parliamentary party. Yes, Parliament is the tool of the capitalist elite, but it is not exclusively their tool and it can be a used platform for advocating for radical, peaceful social change. I am emphasising the peaceful because of recent stupidity in Australia, which appears politically motivated and is certainly despicable.

    Will Parliamentarism alone bring about a socialist society? Of course not – that requires a broader movement that penetrates all aspects and institutions of society. But until this new revolutionary left force emerges, and in circumstances in which it can effective, the Parliamentary road is not to be ignored.

    I’m no Bernstein, just addicted to contrarianism.

  2. Phil F says:

    And we certainly tried to build a left party in the early 2000s. The Workers Party, which a number of us at Redline played leading roles in, signed up enough paper members to become a registered political party. In 2008 we were thus on the ballot in every single constituency and we even had (state-funded) radio ads and a TV ad.

    It was an interesting and valuable experience. It was part of a whole series of tactics we tried to break out of isolation and into a wider working class audience. But, in the absence, of some serious working class resistance, it was impossible to take that project any further and we moved away from it.

    One of the problems of the ostensibly Marxist left groups is that they have a very strong tendency to subordinate their politics to the politics of reformist movements they get involved in. When ostensibly revolutionary people get involved in non-revolutionary politics, it seems that it is always the non-revolutionary politics that they push. And the more they push them, the more those politics capture the erstwhile revolutionaries. So, in practice, these folks’ answer to the question, “When is it time for revolutionary politics?” is always “Tomorrow; we’re a bit busy right now with pushing reformism.”

    The experience of the NLP/Alliance and now Mana provides plenty of evidence. And there’s nothing I can see that provides counter-evidence. The left groups simply tailed along behind the InternetMana lash-up, unable and/or unwilling to oppose it and fight against it or push their own politics during the elections.

    The most useful thing that Marxists can do right now, in my view, is start to bring together people who have critically reflected on the course (and errors) of the far left over decades and whatever new people are open to Marxism. Redline is attempting to act as some kind of pole of attraction for such a layer of people, tiny as we (the blog and the layer of people who might be attracted) are.

    The two prerequisites for developing further are *some* change in the objective conditions, in particular involving serious resistance by the working class, and the cohering of a layer of serious, committed anti-capitalists. And by serious I mean serious about both theory and practice and the link between the two.

    I was having coffee earlier this morning with an old mate of mine who is a Marxist but not politically active and he mentioned to me, as he has done fairly consistently in recent months, that a new milieu is emerging of people concerned with social inequality and poverty and that the political situation is opening up somewhat for Marxists, at least in the sense of being able to get our ideas out there. We’ve noticed a big increase in hits on Redline. Each year our hits have gone up quite dramatically. And certainly inequality and poverty are being discussed publicly a lot more than any time since the effective demise of the Alliance in 2002.

    Phil

    • Thomas R says:

      Not a long response at this point but I find that an interesting point about how revolutionaries will start promoting reformist politics when in these movements: it’s a discussion which was perhaps peripherally beginning in Fightback before I left (though has continued to some extent publicly via the fightbackvoices blog) where the idea of radicals in these movements winning respect and promoting our politics by being ‘the best fighters/workers’ is often inadequate, if that isn’t paired with a very clear set of perspectives or even a programme sort of approach to promote within these movements and try to convince more reformist movements to adopt the planks of a more radical platform. All fairly straight forward stuff, and I’m ambivalent about whether that would necessarily work either (not much experience in these things, and my historical knowledge is broader rather than the various approaches of specific revolutionary groups which could inform how effective this proposed approach would be)

      Thomas

    • Peter says:

      See its interesting, because I don’t disagree with the general sentiment of what you are saying, I just disagree concerning the practical approach. I think a political party, even one that engages in bourgeois politics, can be a very useful mechanism for bringing likeminded individuals together, and channeling collective action toward political goals. This kind of gets back to the basic principles of political parties, and I don’t see why things have to be any different for Marxists.

      I totally agree with your criticism of the ostensibly Marxist groups submitted themselves to indefinite reformism, but I don’t think this is an inherent element of engagement with bourgeois politics. It needs to be guarded against certainly, but disengagement entirely is just counter-productive.

      I was briefly a member of the Workers Party, very much in my early days of learning about socialism, Marxism and all the rest. Looking back, I thought it was a great achievement and wound up far too soon. I sincerely wish it had endured, though I admit I was never actively involved and don’t have a full understanding of why it was dissolved. It is such a rare thing to find a genuinely Marxist political party that was able to get itself formally registered. There is nothing to stop such a group pursuing extra-parliamentary political action, while also going through the formalised electoral process. It is just another means of raising the political consciousness of the working class.

      • Admin says:

        Aaaaarrrrggggghhhhhh, Peter!

        One of the reasons it ended was folks like you! .-)

        People joined on paper but didn’t get active. If they had’ve, it might have been worth keeping going.

        But what was the point in a handful of people doing a massive heap of work so that others could do nothing other than say “Good on yer”? We’re Marxists not cross-carriers and witness-bearers and martyrs.

        Regardless of all the other differences between those of us who left in early 2011 and those who are still there, we both agreed that there was no point in staying a registered party.

        Those of us who left in February 2011 had also certainly had enough of the “good on yer” folks.

        If you really want there to be a registered Marxist party, go out and make it happen. And good on yer.

        Phil

      • Thomas R says:

        I wasn’t around at all during Workers Party registered days or anything. I think some kind of rallying point like that is certainly helpful. But Workers Party probably didn’t have the numbers to really become that without a lot of the registered people also becoming active. MANA, if it adopted a less reformist approach, could serve quite well as a rallying point for anti-capitalists of different stripes to work together. That hasn’t so far – and my understanding is ISO has pulled out, which will be interesting to read about.. particularly as ISO is the largest of the socialist orgs in NZ. I don’t hold many of the same positions as ISO seem to when you dig a bit further (a lot of it seems to relate to second half of 20th century Trotskyism which wasn’t small, but also feels like looking backwards a lot of the time).. but considering their sister organisation has done quite well (again, not really of the same current as Socialist Alternative myself) it will be interesting to see where ISO goes.

  3. Phil F says:

    The ‘best builder’ perspective was a big thing in the SAL; it was something I was trained in and it took me well over a decade of experience and then lots of critical reflection before I came to break with it.

    I was quite surprised therefore when, after the CPNZ morphed into SW, it adopted that kind of view.

    The verdict is in (well, in my opinion): it just doesn’t work. It results in revolutionaries doing heaps and heaps of work for non-revolutionary projects while downplaying their own. (I did briefly allude to this in the first SAL article when I mentioned their foot-soldiery for Sonja Davies’ Working Women’s Council career project.

    I’m going to try to deal with the ‘best builder’ fallacy when I deal with the SAL and new social movements. And that won’t be til some time in the New Year.

    I have the much more enjoyable task of cobbling together a review of the last two Seth Lakeman albums next.

    Phil

  4. Phil F says:

    Thomas wrote in relation to Mana, “my understanding is ISO has pulled out”. It would be logical if they had’ve but, like you say, there doesn’t seem to have been any announcement. I also wonder if they will publish a reflective balance sheet of their involvement.

    Phil

    • Thomas R says:

      Speaking to Andrew Tait I’m under the impression that some analysis is coming in the next issue of their mag so I’ll be interested in seeing it. It’s apparent that ISO generally felt it was time to retire from that project, but I think the reasons why and the analysis of what they did will be quite varied.

      From my own perspective, all socialist involvement in MANA was quite region dependant. Fightback’s involvement was always intended to depend on how strong MANA was regionally – trying to build a branch of MANA from a pretty small starting point always seemed like energy that could be used for explicitly Marxist educational work etc. ISO’s involvement seems quite regional as well from my fairly blinkered perspective – though surprisingly Dunedin perhaps being the more active grouping in that case rather than Wellington, where MANA has more activists.