Internet Mana: the sell-out and the reaction

A common response I saw to the Mana/Internet alliance today was, “Oh great, Mana’s sold out. Mana’s meant to be grassroots! Mana and the Internet Party have nothing in common!”

The thing is, it largely (not entirely) came from people who aren’t Mana members or supporters. It came from Labour supporters.

So my initial reaction was to say “Maybe Labour members shouldn’t crow too loudly about the idea of a party moderating its views in order to get broader mainstream appeal. Maybe, if you really love Mana’s kaupapa/ideology/vision/tactics that much, you should put a ring on it. I mean, join it.”

It wasn’t a particularly nice thought, but I was saved from tweeting it by character limits – probably for the best, because this kind of snark goes over much better in the longform.

The thing is, it does feel like there are some on the left who approved of Mana’s out-there down-and-dirty politics … in a very condescending way. An “isn’t it cute? They organise people living in state houses to go on marches and wave little flags, just like real revolutionaries!” way. An, “of course they’ll never win anything because they’re too scary and loud (and unashamedly brown) but wouldn’t it be great if we could all be ideologically pure like them? Bless” way.

I think Mana is seen by some in Labour as admirably extreme: but oh, they’re just not our kind of political ally. Obviously it would be delightful if they managed to pull 3-4% and bring in some definitely-not-going-into-coalition-with-National MPs, but until then we’d really rather they use the servants’ entrance while we do the grown-up politics thing.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing bad about wanting to work within a larger party like Labour to pull it back to its social justice roots (hi, I’m Stephanie and I’m a Labour Party member) and appreciate having a more radical minor party in the picture to shift the discourse (I refuse to say “Overton Window” because it’s terribly wanky and also the name of a Glenn Beck novel).

But if you are a member of that larger party, you just shouldn’t be too quick to scream “SELLOUT!!!” at the first sign of an unusual, untested, practically unique allegiance of two parties with very distinct, pretty well-defined interests and approaches. (Approaches which I don’t think are mutually exclusive, but that’s a post for another day).

Especially before we even know who the Internet Party leader will be, or what the joint policy platform looks like.

There are many valid criticisms of Kim Dotcom – my most generous assessment is that he’s like any number of self-centered socially-awkward politically-adrift nerds I’ve known, only with a big pile of cash, which doesn’t tend to prompt a lot of self-reflection and moderation. And there is still every chance that this alliance spells the end of Mana as the kind of radical force people both inside and outside wanted or expected it to be.

We’ve already seen resignations from Mana, so clearly some in the party aren’t happy, and that could lead to a loss of members or a Labour-style internal power shift if the process for deciding on the alliance is seen as unfair or undemocratic.

All I’m saying is that it’s probably too early for any outsider to start making grandiose declarations about another party’s kaupapa.

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