New Zealand socialists discuss new party, rebuilding the left

The path for Maori liberation, debates on left perspectives and the 30th anniversary since the 1981 Springbok tour were some of the discussions at “Workers Power”, the national conference of the Workers Party held in Hamilton over June 3 to 5.

The recent formation of the Mana Party was a focus of the discussions.

Prominent Maori leader and MP Hone Harawira initiated Mana after leaving the Maori Party, frustrated over its deals while in coalition with the right-wing National Party.

Harawira resigned his seat to force a by-election and stand again as a Mana candidate.

In addition to working-class Maori, the Mana Party has started to regroup the left, including Unite union leaders Matt McCarten and Mike Treen, former Greens MP Sue Bradford, anti-war and anti-apartheid activist John Minto, and activist Maori lawyer Annette Sykes.

Sykes, who helped defend those charged with “terrorism” offenses in an infamous raid on Maori and activist homes in 2007, spoke on “Perspectives on class and Maori Liberation”.

She said Mana’s founding principles were: “Honor the treaty with the Maori people; stand for the poor and dispossessed; be a movement not just a party; a revolution of the hearts and minds; and the country is not for sale.”

Workers Party activist Ian Anderson outlined how his party is rethinking the Maori question. He said it was important to recognise and support the progressive content of Maori struggles around self-determination.

The panel on “30 years since the Springbok tour” discussed the anti-apartheid protests that took place when the South African rugby team toured New Zealand in 1981. Protesters in Hamilton stormed the field and stopped the game going ahead.

John Minto spoke about South Africa today. He said the racial apartheid of the past had been replaced with class apartheid that still leaves most black South Africans in poverty.

Other international topics of discussion at the conference included North Africa and the Middle East, Palestine and the global crisis of capitalism.

The conference also covered Marxist theory, with sessions debating the relevance of Marx and Engels’ theories in the light of neoliberalism, plus a panel on “Economics for Workers”.

Representatives of The Workers Party, Socialist Worker NZ, Socialist Aotearoa and the International Socialist Organisation addressed the final session on “Strategies and Tactics of Rebuilding the Left”.

All groups expressed some support for the new Mana Party. Representatives of the Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Party from Australia also addressed this session.