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What is success for Internet MANA?

datePosted on 23:29, June 10th, 2014 by Lew

In the previous two posts I’ve covered the strategic rationales behind the Internet MANA alliance, and how, even if they spend their money very inefficiently, they are still very likely to gain a stronger presence in Parliament. But what does success actually look like for Internet MANA?

This is a complex question to answer because Internet MANA, for all its potential, is a mess of vanity projects existing in a state of ideological and pragmatic tension. But tensions all resolve sooner or later.

Kim Dotcom: Disruption (a change of government, or 10%)
Of all these vanity projects, Kim Dotcom’s is the greatest. It’s hard to imagine a guy who donated $50k to John Banks starting a cyber-utopian radical-left-aligned political vehicle for altruistic reasons, and it seems plain that he means to prevent, by any possible means, his extradition to the USA on copyright infringement and money-laundering charges. This is fair enough from his perspective — he can’t spend his pile in a US prison. NZ is a well-chosen target: a country with a small (therefore shallow, cheaply-manipulated) political system, but, unusually, also possessing a reasonably robust and independent judiciary.

To get his extradition case thrown out, Kim Dotcom needs to change the government, and prevail upon an incoming Minister of Justice that he and his party are great assets to that government.

The likelihood of this is slim, because he has already antagonised Labour, and because the leader of his own party has insisted she will not be led on the matter. Other members of the radical left groups aligned with the party are probably supportive of his ideological aim here, if only due to generalised anti-authoritarianism and anti-Americanism. And the other branch of Kim Dotcom’s game is fame, or notoriety, and if he can put his disruption engine in parliament, he will gain that, and it may provide him strategic cover for other manoeuvres regardless of who is in government.

The other way it could happen is if Internet MANA shocks everyone and polls very high — say, 10% — which would ruin almost everyone’s coalition plans. This is also extremely unlikely, but clearly it is Kim Dotcom’s hope, and it would be the purest sort of success for everyone involved.

Laila Harré: A launch (5%+) or a lifeboat (3%)
Her return to politics with the Greens last year was welcomed, and the conventional wisdom is that her appointment to lead the Internet Party was a strategic coup. I agree. But as I discussed in the first post, the deck is stacked in Te Mana’s favour. It is plausible, if the alliance performs poorly, that Harré would find herself marooned amid the wreckage of the Internet Party as its only MP, or even outside parliament, when the Internet MANA agreement expires six weeks after the election.

There’s a quirk here: Te Mana gets list places 1,3 and 4; Internet Party 2, 5 and 6, after which they alternate. So if they win five seats or fewer, Te Mana MPs will outnumber the Internet Party’s. If they win six or more seats, the numbers are more or less even. This provides a strong incentive for the Internet Party to perform, and also suggests shrewd negotiation by Te Mana.

In the event that the Internet Party bring Harré only into parliament (four seats or fewer), or if Kim Dotcom withdraws his cash and the party structure is no longer found to be self-sustaining, it seems very likely that Harré would join Te Mana formally. While her history in parties of this sort is its own guide, I suspect they would welcome her and it would be a fruitful arrangement: a win, of sorts, both for her and Te Mana.

The Internet Party: A future (7%)
The Internet Party doesn’t really exist. Kim Dotcom exists and Laila Harré exists, but without them it has no motive force. It could acquire such force by gaining a very substantial share of the party vote (7-8%, or 9-10 MPs), half of whom woulf be from the Internet Party, which could possibly — not probably — become self-sustaining. Without Laila Harré’s star power and Kim Dotcom’s money, this is a hard row for Vikram Kumar and the Candidate Idol contestants to hoe.

Te Mana and Hone Harawira: The only way is up
Te Mana’s case is easiest here: everything looks like a win for them. They have one MP facing a strong electorate challenge and polling under 1%, with no money, who is almost universally hated by the political mainstream. Even a mediocre performance of 2-3% would see Annette Sykes and possibly John Minto join Hone Harawira in parliament, which would make for some impressive fireworks. Even if the party then has to fend for itself, as Kim Dotcom’s largesse expires, or he is shipped off overseas, they have been granted a rare opportunity to galvanise the marginal electorate, and that’s better than under any other conceivable scenario.

The Left: It’s complicated
Given Labour’s current posture towards all parties that aren’t Labour, there is no way that Internet MANA benefits the left generally in the immediate term. Many commentators — Phil Quin has a good example at Pundit — have argued that the mere existence of Internet MANA could return John Key with a clean majority and the ability to have his way with Aotearoa in a glorious third term. I think this is pretty plausible. By no means does the left look like winning this election. But Labour has been underperforming for most of the past decade, and it might be that an injection of crazy disruptive ideas from a weird agglomeration of old leftwing radicals and young idealistic crypto-libertarians is what they need to shock them back to their senses.

There remains the slight possibility that they will bring enough MPs into parliament to make a chaotic and unholy alliance of the left a just slightly less-bad alternative to the Golden Age of John Key. As an aside: the better the Greens do, the better for Internet MANA post-election; and if nothing else they should hopefully form a strong ideological and generational counterpoint to New Zealand First, which I fear starts to fancy itself as the UKIP of the South Seas.

Aotearoa as a whole
I think New Zealand is better off having this argument than not. Much of what Internet MANA stands for has been unduly marginalised and is due consideration; especially the emergent aspects, such as with regard to modern standards of surveillance, the relationship and competing loyalties of the state to the citizenry and to its international community, and to the comparatively trivial matter of copyright. These debates feed into the notions of sovereignty and the primacy of people, rather than corporations and institutions, which mobilise Te Mana, and there are significant areas of ideological overlap, such as the flagship Internet Party policies of free tertiary education, withdrawal from the TPPA, severe constraints on the GCSB and other security and intelligence services, and — less popular with Hone Harawira than with his voters — the decriminalisation of marijuana. These are debates worth having, and we will be better off for having had them, whether the major parties want to or not.


11 Responses to “What is success for Internet MANA?”

  1. Phil Sage on June 11th, 2014 at 07:33

    There is a nice irony in the Maori nationalists looking to a foreign holder of technology as a “saviour”. A sense of Treaty of Waitangi repeating. The modern twist has the saviour in turn looking for protection from foreigners.

    Your analysis and prediction makes sense. They have already polled a combined 2.5% before the GOTV money spending starts so 3% is probably reasonably conservative. Harre and Kumar seem like professional operators and Dotcom did not become wealthy by being stupid.

    I wonder whether Laila Harre informally tried to get onto the Green list but was beaten back by the democratic rules and decided to go with IMP. Success for her would be getting into parliament. Once there she is smart enough to negotiate her next step. The salary probably looks pretty attractive compared to that of a Green researcher.

    Whilst dotcom would obviously like outright protection against extradition from a left wing government there is a possibility that he entwines himself deeply enough into the political fabric of the country that he gets a free pass. I assume the minister of justice has a veto power over extradition so the dim view of the judiciary could be over ridden.

    Success for Hone would be getting more MP’s than the Maori party.

    Cunliffe gives me the impression of being very like Ed Miliband. The more you look at him the less appealing he seems. Plenty of people voted Green when they had Keith Locke and Sue Bradford so the presence of far left radicals is not really going to do much of itself to change electoral arithmetic surely?

    As for the country it will be interesting to have the debate on some of their policies but with NZ doing so well economically it is unlikely people would want to risk throwing everything away. Are people prepared to sacrifice a little bit of liberty for security? As you say it is a debate worth having. The media will give them the oxygen of publicity whatever their policies are.

  2. Matthew Whitehead on June 11th, 2014 at 10:22

    I find highly amusing the idea of Mana being represented as radical, when we already have (or had) people like Judith Collins, John Banks, Winston Peters, et all in parliament, and Colin Craig and his bunch of bigots might be joining us for next term.

    Mana are radical only in the dictionary sense that they think there are some broken assumptions as to how society operates at the moment and they should be fixed. They are in no way radical in the common sense of “their policies are outside of the political mainstream”, which bears out when you consider their success in spreading the priority of child poverty to the rest of parliament.

  3. Hugh on June 11th, 2014 at 17:51

    @Matthew: It almost sounds like you think being outside the political mainstream is bad.

  4. Alan Armstrong on June 12th, 2014 at 09:42

    We in MANA are gobsmacked at the weird ‘reasons’ everyone else is inventing for our alliance with the Internet Party. It was really very simple, Kim Dotcom appeared on the horizon and said “I might be able to help you. After some careful thought we answered “Yes, you might.” I only know of 4 who resigned, several hundred more joined as they realized how much this would improve our prospects.

    MANA is still MANA, the difference in 2014 is we can put up as many billboards as we want without having to fundraise with sausage sizzles and buy one at a time as we get the money. Our 2011 campaign ran on a shoestring yet we still got a few more party votes than ACT. The big difference was theirs cost $35 each, ours about $2.35 per vote because with no money we had to talk to people at the grass roots, and that’s what we’re doing again this time because it works really well.

    Kim Dotcom has already given us the biggest contribution anyone could have, and it wasn’t money. It was all the media attention and publicity we’re now getting. That’s worth far more because it’s got other people thinking about the same issues that concern us.

    Matthew is right on target when he says MANA “think there are some broken assumptions as to how society operates at the moment and they should be fixed.” That is exactly what we’re all about, and it’s got nothing to do with any of the ideologies everyone else is trying to force-fit us into. When you make politics complicated you lose sight of what really matters.

  5. Mary Anne on June 12th, 2014 at 11:26

    The first priority, regarding the Internet Party/Mana Movement alliance, is to get National out. That is the first objective.

  6. Pablo on June 12th, 2014 at 14:26

    A party can win an election or significant numbers of votes based upon what it stands against, but in order to govern (or at least influence policy) it has to offer something concrete and practicable that it stands for. MANA may have the latter, but the Internet Party seems more about con rather than pro, and Dotcom certainly is. And even where the IP is pro it may not be practicable (Free internet for everyone? Abandoning 5 Eyes?). That might spell short term electoral success, but also trouble down the road.

  7. Peter on June 18th, 2014 at 01:59

    I remember talking to certain powerful central Auckland Labour activists in 1983 and finding to my disgust that they were closet Tories. I still couldn’t bring myself to vote for Muldoon in ’84, even though I knew Labour were going to do a “Callaghan”, i.e. save the system, screw the people. At the end of the day Callaghan just paved the way for Thatcher.

    I’m tired of the same old Tory shit-bags running the Labour Party. The 30 years of savagery visited on ordinary people by the Nats, and Labour before them is disgusting. Reverse the mother of all budgets? In your dreams, son. Sure, it was pretty off that DotCom approached such a crooked old turd as Banks, but that’s all water under the dock now. I’m ready for some entertainment in NZ politics. Currently Labour are irrelevant. Perhaps at some point in the future Labour could be puffed-up back into government by a desperate ruling class and it’s media – if they had no other cloaks to hide under. But go ask young people what Labour stands for, and how is it different to the Nats?
    No, I didn’t think so either.

    Mana/DotCom’s plans to reach out to young people via parties and the net are brilliant and I expect they will run rings around the narrow focus of those old FPP outfits – both technically and politically. Most people you talk to think all politicians are self-serving liars, and they would be correct in that assumption, which is of course based on lived experience. Political scribes could be shocked at how well Internet-Mana do…

  8. Tiger Mountain on June 30th, 2014 at 19:20

    A few months back Pablo bemoaned the lack of a strong genuine left in New Zealand. As do many of us lefties with a classic class analysis as opposed to anything goes post modernist or social democratic inclinations.

    What a good electoral showing by Mana Movement and strategic partner IMP (use by date on the pack don’t forget) will do is potentially provide direct input in the parliamentary setting for the socialist left. Importantly these groups will not have to submerge themselves in reformism directly. Nice guy, ex SAL Keith Locke sitting in parliament drove some of the torys spare, imagine what Minto would do. A circuit breaker. Who cares if Key finally remembers what he was doing in ’81, Minto, PAC favourer not ANC, historically non party aligned till Mana would be a credible strategic asset for the left. Brown faces have great respect for him in South Auckland.

    The small marxist groups have learnt a bit in the hybrid relationships with Te Mana over several years. Various sectors have had the benefit of experienced left input and the socialists have learnt directly more about the reality of life on our streets in our post colonial setting. Mana branches have had some good successes with community issues like gambling, loan sharks and liquor stores. The Mana leadership consulted widely unlike the Māori Party technical democracy during the IMP set up. When was the last time a sitting MP talked to Marxist Leninists in the course of party strategy? Well it happened recently with IMP.

    This whole process has reduced sectarianism and built links on the far left which provide hope for a larger left movement (but not likely party) incorporating the marxist hard left, Māori nationalists, ecosocialists, IMP if it survives and most importantly disparate newcomers of the previously alienated and disengaged.
    This is success for Mana.

  9. Tiger Mountain on July 1st, 2014 at 10:59

    Further to my 30.6 comment.
    • The Māori party formation was a great initiative that failed due to buddying too uncritically with nats. Hone wants the MP ‘rank and file’ to gravitate back to Mana. Families and friends are still split over this, so if the MP does not fare well in Sept. some consolidation could still happen. Mana has continued to have influence on parties like Labour re the “Foreshore & Seabed”.

    • After the colonial forces ceased direct armed aggression and suppression against Māori, assimilation and swamping (which continues today with multi ethnic immigration to the chagrin of some Pākehā) took over. It has always amazed me that Māori nationalists never took up the car bomb etc. Mana has a strong Māori base and character.

    • The surveillance state, high unemployment, dependent contracting, death of manufacturing, fading memories of decades gone compulsory unions, and anti union laws combine to put downward pressure on wages and a lid on direct industrial and political action by the left forces. So parliamentary struggle is being used in the 2014 Gen. election as a rallying focus rather than expecting great reforms to occur. So the left in Mana cannot be automatically categorised as a form of trotskyite “entrism”, it appears a mutually beneficial relationship so far.

  10. Lew on July 2nd, 2014 at 22:32

    Paul Scott, if you repost your comment coherently and without personal attacks, I’ll be happy to publish it.


  11. Peter Pienaar on July 4th, 2014 at 16:53

    Yes, we can’t be having personal abuse on Kiwipolitico, Paul. This blog has a well deserved reputation as a place where nobody will be abused personally and it must be maintained.

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