[The ISO recently published an article ‘Should Socialists Support the Internet-Mana Alliance?‘, the product of discussion within our organisation. This is a response and a contribution to the debate from Martin Gregory, a member of our Poneke branch.]
The publication of ‘Should socialists support the Internet-Mana alliance?’ on 18 June on this website marks, in my opinion, a new low-point in the trajectory of the International Socialist Organisation. The article was sanctioned by the ISO’s national committee. A continuation along this track will spell the end of the organisation’s prospects of becoming the nucleus of a revolutionary worker’s party. Theoretical clarity is essential, and we are losing it.
The developments of the last few months have given the ISO ample opportunities to re-assess its affiliation to Mana and return to principled socialist politics. We have had the prospect of the alliance with Dotcom prior to Mana’s April AGM, the AGM decision to seek alliance, the interval for negotiations, and the announcement of Internet Mana. Unfortunately but a change of direction has not been taken.
So where does the ISO stand on the Internet-Mana alliance? Although not baldly stated, it is clear from ‘Should socialists support the Internet-Mana alliance?’ that the ISO’s publicly declared position is for an Internet Mana party vote. Whether the ISO will support Internet Party candidates in electorates is not discussed. The article is equivocal, although overall it is an apologia for the alliance and the ISO’s continued support for Mana.
One of the contradictions of the article is that it states that the ISO was against the alliance and would have preferred a straight Mana campaign for the Te Tai Tokerau and and Waiariki electorates. On the other hand the article runs through a load of excuses and reasons for the link up with Dotcom.
If the ISO was against the Dotcom alliance its opposition has been less than forthright. The website posting on 28 March was against allying with Dotcom but concessions were made to opportunism:
“And that’s my first point in defence of Hone and Gerard [Hone Harawira and Gerard Hehir]: it’s news. The Mega Mana story has been on every news bulletin since the beginning of the week. National Radio on Thursday played a quote from Annette Sykes every hour saying “Mana is against National and for the poor”. We may be less than happy with the way it spins in the media, but it is getting some basic messages out.”
“In Gerard’s defence, Dotcom is a millionaire, but not every boss is the same. Gerard is a union organiser, and part of that job is playing off one boss against another. Dotcom’s company, Megaupload, makes money by undermining the monopoly model of movie and music companies. That’s why he is wanted by the FBI. There are constant battles within the ruling class – in this case involving old media vs new media. There is nothing wrong in principle with using them to our advantage, so long as we don’t end up being casualties for someone else’s cause.”
Poneke/Wellington ISO branch had a verbal report back on Mana’s April AGM. The branch was told that the ISO’s spokesperson spoke neutrally on the proposed alliance.
It has yet to be explained by the ISO majority how the anti-alliance position was so thoroughly defeated at the Mana AGM. This majority claims that Mana is a far left party. In my opinion this assessment is ludicrous. If Mana is far left how can it be that it has made an alliance with an ACT-donating capitalist? Why did it invite Gareth Morgan to address its AGM?
To reach their position on Mana the national committee has had to sacrifice socialist principles. One of these is that Marxist socialists oppose parliamentary opportunism; i.e., the dropping of principles in order to get seats. The principles dropped in this case are around the acceptance of Dotcom’s money at the price of Mana giving a leg-up to a new bourgeois parliamentary party. This party, a plaything of Dotcom, depends on Hone Harawira winning Te Tai Tokerau.
Instead of attacking parliamentary opportunism the national committee supports it. They welcome the “excitement” that the alliance brings to the general election. The article says that Mana has the right to make such deals to improve its chances. What right? Is this an admission that Mana is not far left after all and has the “right” to behave just like any bourgeois party? We are told “There is nothing wrong with wheeling and dealing in itself.” In my book it is wrong. For generations revolutionary socialists have condemned reformist social democrats for their parliamentary opportunism.
The second trampled Marxist socialist principle is to warn the working class against false friends. Socialists do not sow illusions in tendencies that claim the way forward is through Parliament, but instead criticise them sharply. Marxists are against giving “communist colouration” to people who do not stand for workers taking power into their own hands and destroying the capitalist state machine. On this principle the NC again excels in its wrongness. Laila Harre is described as a trade unionist. She has only ever been a paid appointed union official, and that is history. Her more recent career has been on the other side as head of human resources at the Auckland Transition Agency where she oversaw the cut of 1200 jobs. She is a small-business owner, an exploiter. The NC tells us that John Key’s estimation that the Internet Party is far left is probably correct. This is beyond the pale. We have the ISO chiming in with the bourgeois media’s efforts to play up the Internet Party’s threadbare leftwing credentials. We are told a party vote for Harawira, Harre, Sykes and Minto is for a strong team. If National is re-elected that illusion may be sustained. None of them are revolutionary socialists. If Internet Mana are incorporated into a Labour-led government they will be a strong team on behalf of capitalism, all the better for their leftwing credentials to deceive the working class.
Mana is a progressive Maori-nationalist party and should be respected as such. The struggle for Maori liberation contributes to the workers’ side in the struggle between the classes. However, Mana only challenges the status quo on a partial basis. It stands for reform, not a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. Mana is focused on change through MPs in Parliament, as opposed to change through mass action from below. Socialists can work together with the Mana Party on specific issues, but they must do so from the independent standpoint of the international working-class. The socialist programme is more far-reaching and more radical than Mana’s programme of nationalism and reformism. The ISO should be explaining the limitations of Mana’s politics. Instead the ISO pretends that these politics are “far left” and in doing so it negates its own programme.
If the current policy of the ISO continues it will go into the general election period supporting a Dotcom-financed campaign to lever the Internet Party into Parliament. This is in the hope that Mana can get one, two or three MPs elected in the process.
As a revolutionary socialist, a Marxist, I do not believe that unprincipled manoeuvres to get MPs elected is a strategy that the ISO should support. I consider that the ISO’s policy of affiliation and uncritical attitude to Mana over the last two years has caused damage to the organisation by leading its members away from Marxism.
If you read the blurbs on their candidates on the Internet Party website you will discover a bourgeois, middle-class party drawn from small businesses and academia. Typically the candidates are left-liberal, but in no way anti-capitalist. Candidate Gil Ho’s blurb says “Gil believes that entrepreneurship, science and technology are important focus areas for New Zealand to create more jobs and compete globally. The Internet Party agrees.” Do we want to be in alliance with this crowd?