Oct 17, 2011

Mana: a discussion

John Moore has done some great work analysing the Mana Movement. His latest post at Liberation is a must read. This from the post itself:

Guest blogger John Moore argues that the selection of Kereama Pene represents the marginalisation of the left within the Mana Party. For although the party appears radical on paper, in reality a number of Mana’s leaders aim to cut deals and form alliances with parties that would have little interest in Mana’s ‘socialist’ policies. Therefore, the selection of Karema Pene sends a signal that Mana is both ideologically flexible and that the party’s socialists are being kept on a tight leach. All of this amounts to the attempt by a section of Mana’s leadership to present the party as respectable and non-threatening. So, is the game up for Mana’s left?

What needs to be understood is that the left in Mana is a minority, albeit an influential minority. The party’s rank and file, or the flaxroot if you will, consists almost exclusively of ex-Maori Party members and young Maori with a tino rangatiratanga bent. There is a scattering of socialists and political newbies (mainly Maori). The left do not have the strength of numbers at the base of the party to exercise any influence on decisions like candidate selection, policy remits etc.

As Matt McCarten takes a step back Gerard Hehir is taking a step forward. Gerard’s presence and prominence in the party ensures that the left punch above their weight in the party. Hone has a great deal of respect for Gerard and the work he does for Mana.

The marriage between Hone and Matt, read Maori nationalism and socialism, is one of convenience. Mana Movement satisfies both men’s ambitions. Matt serves to extend Hone’s electoral base while Hone provides the genesis for Matt’s dream of building a working class movement. However, both men share a similar political outlook. Hone is the product of a Maori nationalist upbringing, but he is intuitively left-wing (as are most Maori nationalists). Matt is the product of an underclass upbringing, but he maintains an intuitive Maori nationalist streak.  

Hone knows that he will not build the movement he dreams of without extending his base beyond hardcore Maori nationalists. Therefore, he will not allow the left to be marginalised. I think the decision was made not to veto Pene’s selection because Hone, and his advisers like Hehir and McCarten, felt that it did not pose a serious threat to the role of the left in the party.

An examination of Mana’s policy reveals a leftist bent. As I’ve said before the party’s policy platform is almost devoid of any tino rangatiratanga type policy.

I can almost guarantee that Hone will not enter a coalition government in the medium term. I say this because Hone has told me as much. Of course, circumstances change and so do a person’s intentions, but at this stage Hone appears unlikely to even consider lending support on a coalition or confidence and supply basis to any government. Mana is aiming in the short term to renter Parliament with, hopefully, two extra MPs - Annette Sykes and John Minto (and if things go better than expected Sue Bradford). In the medium term the party hopes to build a sustainable movement. Building a sustainable movement includes extending the party membership and implementing a succession plan. As an aside Maori politics specialist Veronica Tawhai is leading the party’s succession plan. In the long term the party will, inevitably, enter government. Forcing change from the streets is a nice concept, but a far fetched one in my opinion and Hone and co. know this. There are so many variables and the opposition (capitalism) is so overwhelming. Furthermore, Mana does not have the intellectual grunt at the moment to put forward a viable alternative to the current system.

Mana has a long way to go yet. The contradictions, nuances and ultimate direction of the party are yet to be settled. This is the nature of a new movement. In the mean time we can analyse and predict where the party is and will head, but, ultimately, we just don’t know enough yet.

1 comment:

  1. I think at this stage Kereama Pene should be given the benefit of the doubt. And I don't think it was contrived at all. It just appears he was the only one present on the day after Willie Jackson withdrew and let us all down. I guess noone else was game enough to be 'the next best candidate'. But then again, you could be right.



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