The formation of the Mana Party in April marked a “major step forward for a genuine working-class political voice” in New Zealand, the national director of the Unite Union and Mana party member Mike Treen told Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.
The Mana Party was formed at a 500-strong conference on April 30. It was called by Hone Harawira, MP for the Maori electorate of Te Tai Tokerau.
At the conference, Harawira announced his resignation from the Maori Party and his re-election campaign as a member of the Mana Party in a by-election.
Harawira left the Maori Party after his suspension in February for criticising the party's alliance with the right-wing National Party government.
The conference established the Mana party on a pro-worker, pro-Maori and anti-neoliberal platform.
Harawira said the party would campaign for nationalisation of key industries, an increase of the tax burden on the rich, guaranteed affordable food and shelter for all, to rebuild unions and workers' rights, and an end to government bailouts of failed corporations.
Treen said: “The formation of the Mana Party is an exciting opportunity to change the character of political life in this country. For the first time a political leader is talking about the reality of life for the big majority.
“For the first time in decades a serious left political movement is rising from the heartland of the working class.”
Many trade unionists, Maori rights activists and social justice activists have joined the party.
Mauistreet.blogspot.com said on May 17 that the Maori Party had lost most of its activists to the new party, leaving them more reliant on the National Party for their continued survival.
A Horizon poll published on May 8 said “30.5% of Maori surveyed said they would consider becoming a member of the new Mana Party”.
The word Mana is a te reo Maori term that can mean “prestige, authority, control, power, influence, status, spiritual power and charisma”.
Harawira said: “I want us to be a movement to rebuild the Mana of our people. The Mana of workers who have been reduced to near slavery.
“The Mana of our Pacific cousins who continue to be used as cheap labour and exported home every season, and the Mana of our people, worn down by decades of deceit and dishonest dealings by the Crown, and governments who would reduce us to being no more than another ethnic minority, in our own land.”
[The full interview with Mike Treen can be read at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.]