Hone Harawira's launching of the Mana Party will bring back some much needed mana to the left.
In Maori, Mana essentially means standing tall and proud. Today, Hone's launch of his new Treaty-based left wing political vehicle not only brings new hope for disadvantaged Maori but for all New Zealanders who feel that none of the current parliamentary parties represent working class values and aspirations.
Before today, the Alliance Party (to which I belong) was the main standard bearer of social democratic/democratic socialist ideals on the Left. However, since splitting with Jim Anderton in 2002, the party's ability to project itself publicly has been handicapped by no longer having a mass based membership or sufficient financial resources. The corporate media has also hung up the phone on the party (despite the best efforts of its various spokespeople including me) and any media releases have only made it onto the Internet, if nowhere else.
Now, the Mana Party affords the ability for parties on the left, including the Alliance, to constructively dialogue with Hone on how they might best fit into a new left wing arrangement. After all, Hone has publicly reiterated long-held Alliance policies such as on the need for further nationalisations, greater state control of the economy, progressive taxation and taking GST off all food.
In stating this, I believe that Hone would not have gone as far as he has in projecting a strongly left wing programme without the advice of Mana backers like former Alliance president Matt McCarten, former anti-apartheid campaigner and long time socialist activist John Minto, and former Green MP and community activist Sue Bradford.
I say this because the Mana Party could have been a Maori Party Mark II with a few nods given to social justice policies such as removing GST on food. But through the intervention of McCarten and other Left figures, the Mana Party looks like it could become a strongly Treaty-based party but with appeal to a broad Left wing voter base. In so doing, it will have to tread a fine line between rightfully advocating for Treaty-based justice for Maori as well as social justice for all communities in Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Further, there have been concerns expressed by some elements on the Left that Harawira has only been interested in advancing a race-based rather than class-based analysis on issues. I share some of these concerns, particularly regarding his comments on cross-racial relationships (and other matters) in the past, which I have commented on in this blog. Nevertheless, I strongly feel this should not preclude the Alliance or other parties/groups on the left (such as the Workers Party or RAM if they so chose) from pursuing an active and constructive dialogue with Hone and the Mana Party.
Besides, there is a yearning need for a new,left-wing party based on working class values given that Labour fails to project a consistent or even entirely left-wing message and the Greens refusal to entirely rule out dealing with a re-elected National Government. And if it turns out that Hone's new Mana Party is the one to fill that gap, then so be it.
There has long been talk, but no action, on the need to form a new left wing party. Hone Harawira has thrown down the gauntlet. The wider left outside of the Mana Party needs to meet that challenge and talk with Hone and his leadership team. And the first thing that fellow Left wingers can do is at least endorse Hone's campaign for re-election at the forthcoming Te Tai Tokerau by-election. That's what I am also doing here, straight off.
I look forward to seeing other left wing activists do.