While Marilyn Tucker worked behind the scenes on the Socialist Unity Party’s Maori programme, unionist Jackson Smith, was also very influential and certainly more visible.
SUP Maori activity was supervised by a special Party organ, the “National Commission on the National Question“. Jackson Smith, secretary of the SUP controlled Wellington Drivers Union, was a leading member of this commission.
In the late ’60s, Smith had been a member of Tom Poata’s Maori Organisation on Human Rights and had also helped found the anti-Apartheid organisation HART.
In 1973 he was recruited by Ken Douglas into the SUP, initially in an undercover role.
Supposedly a secret member of the party, Smith revealed his membership in an interview with a Palmerston North radio station. He was allegedly hauled over the coals by the SUP for this serious breach of discipline.
At the SUP’s 1985 National Conference, Smith presented a confidential paper entitled “The National Question” outlining his views on how the SUP should develop Maori issues.
The tragedy is that very few Maoris look to socialism for their solutions, and yet traditional Maori primitive communism should lend itself immediately to an attraction to socialism. . . The Party Commission on the National Question has a major responsibility to change our Party membership situation. We have a responsibility to introduce a programme of Maori development which can be taken to the Maori community and ultimately to the wider community.
This is a priority area of work which certain comrades must be responsible for, even if it means a total concentration by those comrades
As a Marxist-Leninist party we must be naturally attractive to those people who almost instinctively reject the politics of exploitation.
We see the kernel of a demand by some Maori workers for a Maori trade union.
We have the problem of ideological ignorance common among vast numbers of workers, but having a deadly effect upon Maori workers.
An example of this ignorance is epitomised by comments during a meeting of the FOL Maori and Pacific Island Workers Advisory Committee recently. When asked by the convener of that committee if the FOL Alternative Economic Strategy had any merit for Maori workers, or if the FOL attitude at the Economic Summit was correct, one delegate said “Housing and finance is not a maori issue. We’re here to talk about land theft, about the language and Taha Maori”.
In that short comment lies the problem!
A programme which our party should adopt is:
* to give the National Question and Racism status within the Party Programme as an integral aspect of party organisation;
* for branches to determine their own targets in recruiting campaigns to attract Maori membership;
* each region to appoint a comrade or comrades, especially trade union activists, to regard this as their special area of commitment. . .
* That Maori women receive greater priority.”
This indicates the importance the SUP placed on Maori issues. It also shows that SUP trade unionists were expected to use their positions for political purposes.