Matt McCarten

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Jim Anderton and Matt McCarten

Matt McCarten is a prominent New Zealand socialist activist, unionist and commentator.

One Union

In early 2020 he helped establish One Union, which aims to help unrepresented low-wage workers in small businesses. It has two 'offshoots': the Migrant Workers' Association, and Utu—a campaign for direct action against unethical employers.


One Union management team: Desmond Leota, Maori & Pasifika Support; Isobel Cain, Youth Support; Anu Kaloti, Migrant Workers/Indian Support; Matt McCarten, Case Advocate; Joe Carolan, Campaigns; Julia Liu, Chinese Support.


Matt McCarten was born in Dunedin 1959, of Nga Puhi tribal descent. In 1985, McCarten worked as a bartender at the Auckland Airport Travelodge, through which he became involved in the Hotel Workers Union. [1]

Anti-Prebble faction

In 1987/1988, McCarten was one of the leaders of the leftist anti-Richard Prebble Labour Party faction in the Auckland Central electorate fight.[2]

Key player in The New Labour Party

Matt McCarten

In 1989, McCarten was the president of the New Labour Party . Also, in that year, he was on the New Labour Party National Council.

On June 24 of that year, McCarten was quoted by journalist Denis Welch in the left-leaning magazine The Listener, at the first Wellington New Labour Party conference;"We have a chance, maybe our only chance in this generation at least, to build a mass political party that will provide a genuine voice for the working people of this country. If we mess it up, they will not forgive us."[3]

In 1990, McCarten was a member of the ten "person" New Labour Party campaign committee.[4] In 1991, McCarten was on the New Labour Party National Executive in Auckland.

Peoples Voice appeal

In 1990, McCarten signed The Peoples Voice- newspaper of the Communist Party of New Zealand- Appeal "Join us in a united campaign to defeat the compact" [5]

Association with the Democratic Socialist Party

In 1990, McCarten attended the Socialist Scholars Conference in Australia, which was organized by the Marxist-Leninist Democratic Socialist Party. [6]

On January 2-6, 1991, McCarten attended the Democratic Socialist Party conference in Australia.[7]

In 1992, McCarten was a guest speaker at the DSP's Resistance conference along with Joss Debreceny in Melbourne, Australia.[8] The same year , McCarten became the international correspondent to the DSP's paper, Green Left Weekly.

In January 1993, McCarten was a guest speaker on the Alliance Party at a DSP organized Socialist Activists Education Conference, in Sydney Malik Miah of Committees of Correspondence and Helmi Fauzi of Indonesia were also speakers there.[9]

In 1998, McCarten attended a DSP conference in Australia on 150 Years of the Communist Manifesto.[10]

Also in 1999, according to Melbourne DSP member Jorge Jorquera, McCarten was the main DSP-Alliance Party link.

In 2000, McCarten attended the DSP's Marxism 2000 conference in Australia.

Matt McCarten, Marxist-Leninist

In November 1992, McCarten wrote to the Green Left Weekly offering condolences on the death of DSP leader Jim Percy. He said;

I valued my friendship and political collaboration with Jim. He gave me the theoretical base for my political work. I owe so much to him. The impact Jim had on me over the last few years was enormous. Jim was one of the few left leaders who was able to bring Marxism-Leninism alive into today's world. He made socialism relevant to those of us who seek a new society based on social justice. His socialism was inclusive, warm and exciting. He was the major political influence in my life.
Matt McCarten, President of the New Labour Party and Chairman of the Auckland Alliance, New Zealand.[11]

"Links - a journal of international socialist renewal"

In 1994, McCarten was on the Editorial Board of Links, a "journal of international socialist renewal" produced and sponsored by the Australian Democratic Socialist Party.

By 1999, McCarten was still on the Editorial Board of Links, with;

American comrades

Through his relationship with the Australian Democratic Socialist Party, McCarten developed strong ties to U.S. based Marxist groups, in the early 1990s, particularly the Communist Party USA offshoot, the Committees of Correspondence.

On April 22, 1993, he gave a talk in San Francisco on the Alliance Party.This was the first time he had spoken on the party in the Northern Hemisphere. The speech was reprinted in the Green Left Weekly. It gave thanks to Alex Chris of Independent Politics for the text.[12]

Major figure in the Alliance Party

In 1992, McCarten became the Auckland coordinator of the left-wing Alliance Party.[13] On February 15, 1992, McCarten was interviewed on TV as the Alliance Party campaign organizer in Tamaki, Auckland. In that same month, he wrote the Alliance Party's policy platform for the Tamaki By-election.[14]

In 1993, McCarten was the Alliance Party campaign director in Auckland.[15]

In May 1996, McCarten was the Alliance Party's National Director. Also in that year, McCarten was reported to likely become a special Alliance Party list candidate.[16]

In 2000, McCarten was President of the Alliance Party In 2002, Mccarten was number 3 on the Alliance Party list.

On November 11, 2004, he left the Alliance to support the Maori Party.[17]

Socialist Workers Organisation petition

In 2000, McCarten was one of many leftists and unionists to sign a Socialist Workers Organisation petition on the Freedom to Strike.

Progressive Parties conference

The Communist Party of Australia's The Guardian, March 1, 2000, carried an article that stated the following: "Left unity, progressive unity it's time!

The Progressive Labor Party under the title of 'Towards a Progressive Alliance' convened a one-day conference of progressive parties and community groups in Sydney last weekend. It brought together representatives of a number of political parties and community organisations, including some trade unions. Upwards of one hundred people took part. Matt McCarten, Director, of the New Zealand Alliance Party, attended and spoke of the New Zealand experience and, while warning against simply attempting to copy the New Zealand 'model', advanced some excellent principle on which to build relationships between different organisations."[18]

Union involvement

In 2003, McCarten became the secretary of the Unite union in Auckland. On September 11,2005, he became director of the union.

Assisting the Maori Party

On May 11, 2004, Alliance Party leaders Matt McCarten, Laila Harre, left to support the Maori Party, angering the remnants of the Alliance]. McCarten had been selected as campaign manager for the Maori Party if there was to be a byelection in Tamaki-Makaurau, Auckland, as a result of the John Tamihere affair, and Ms Harre had also expressed her support for the Maori Party.[19]

In 2004, McCarten became the campaign manager for Maori activist and politician Tariana Turia and her new Maori Party , in their campaign to to secure the Te Ta Haaru electorate.[20]

Involvement in Workers Charter

On July 2, 2005, A Steering Committee of 20 emerged from the Workers Charter meeting. Held in Auckland They were (in alphabetical order): Rachel Asher, Paul Carrucan, Cathy Casey (Matt McCarten's partner) , Luke Coxon, Stuart Fancy, Cecil Fowler, Roger Fowler, Jennifer Francis, Chrissy Holland, Robyn Hughes, Maria Humphries, Daphne Lawless, Matt McCarten, John Minto, Grant Morgan, Pat O'Dea, Sam Quayle, Melody Shinnock, Mike Treen, and Elaine West.

In October 22, 2005, a conference was held at the Trades Hall, 147 Great North Road, Grey Lynn from 10am to 5pm. The media were welcomed to attend. Luke Coxon and Daphne Lawless were both the hosts and co-chairs of the Conference, and *John Minto and McCarten were "spokespeople" for the Conference Working Group.

Media Columnist

By September 11, 2005, McCarten had become a media columnist for the Herald on Sunday.

Asia-Pacific International Solidarity Conference

Over Easter 2005, some major developments were discussed at the Democratic Socialist Party organized Asia-Pacific International Solidarity Conference held in Sydney;

"One of these was the rapidly changing map of New Zealand politics, in particular, the development of the Maori Party, the Unite union and the Residents Action Movement."

Several left-wing leaders from New Zealand attended the conference, including Matt McCarten, who was until recently the campaign manager for the Maori Party, Global Peace and Justice Auckland leader Mike Treen, and David Colyer and Grant Morgan from New Zealand Socialist Worker, who all addressed a feature session on March 28.

Workers Charter conference


Matt McCarten, John Minto and Socialist Worker hosted a “Workers Charter” meeting Saturday October 11 2006, in Auckland.

The Workers Charter Movement was the embryo of a new left wing political party, modeled on the successful British “Respect” coalition and the less successful Australian Socialist Alliance. It was also a co-ordinating body for militant union trade union activity. The “movement” published a “Workers Charter” newspaper.

This Saturday, 7th October, starts 11am

Auckland Trades Hall 147 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn

11 – 11.10am Welcome from chair (Daphne Lawless).
11.10am – 12.30pm – Workers Charter, a paper for the movement – introduced by John Minto (editorial) & Bronwyn Summers (financial).
1.30 – 3pm – Unions in the 21st century – intro by Laila Harre (NDU), Andrew Little (EPMU), Sue Bradford (Green MP), Mengzhu (Radical Youth) and Joe Carolan (unionist & socialist).
3.15 – 4pm – Human Rights for Workers campaign – introduced by Vaughan Gunson (unionist & socialist) and Eliana Darroch (Radical Youth).
4pm – 4.30 pm – Graham Matthews, Australian unionist.
4.30 – 4.45pm – election of expanded, national editorial board of Workers Charter paper.
4.45 – 5.30pm – Climaction Day (4 November) to build a campaign for

System Change, Not Climate Change. Speaker(s) to be confirmed.

Graham Matthews was a National Committee member of Australia’s largest Marxist-Leninist organisation, the Democratic Socialist Perspective. He had also been in recent years, NSW and Victorian convener for the Socialist Alliance.

Daphne Lawless, Vaughan Gunson and Joe Carolan were all members of NZ’s largest Trotskyite group, Socialist Worker, which effectively has sister party ties to the DSP and Socialist Alliance.

It was significant that Green Party MP Sue Bradford supported the meeting. When Bradford was in the Workers Communist League, her group had very close ties to the DSP’s fore-runner, the Socialist Workers Party. [21]

Mana Party launch

At the launch of the Mana Party, in 2011, on the stage with Hone Harawira to express their solidarity and support were some of the most well-known names from the left, union, Maori rights and social justice movements. They included Annette Sykes (Ngati Pikiao, lawyer and activist), Matt McCarten (general secretary of Unite Union), John Minto (leader of the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s and spokesperson for Global Peace and Justice Auckland), Sue Bradford (unemployed workers rights leader in the 1980s and 1990s and former Green Party MP), Syd Keepa (Maori vice-president of the Council of Trade Unions), Nandor Tanczos (former Green MP), Margaret Mutu (Ngāti Kahu’s chief negotiator, the chairperson of Te Rūnanga-a-Iwi o Ngāti Kahu and the professor of Māori Studies at Auckland University). Most groups that describe themselves as socialist, such as Socialist Aotearoa, the Workers Party, Socialist Worker and the International Socialist Organisation, have also generally greeted the emergence of this new party positively.[22]

2012 "Revolution" conference

The first weekend of September 2012 saw Socialist Aotearoa's Revolution conference held over the weekend at Auckland Trades Hall.

Debating the future of the left on Saturday afternoon, Matt McCarten from Unite union told the conference that Socialist Aotearoa is a small but serious part of the left, respected for its interventions in union disputes and political campaigns and 'Punched above its weight.' Labour MP Darien Fenton also spoke at the closing session, calling for unity on the left to fight the Government. And Joe Carolan from Socialist Aotearoa discussed the situation of the radical left internationally and the success of parties of the radical left such as Die Linke in Germany andSyriza in Greece and the need for a radical left alternative.[23]

Little appointment


Labour leader Andrew Little appointed left wing strategist Matt McCarten as his chief of staff, December 10, 2014..

Mr McCarten was chief of staff for former leader David Cunliffe and was kept on in a temporary basis after Mr Little won the leadership in November.

Mr McCarten's appointment in February stunned the Labour caucus because as a founder of the break-away Alliance Party, he had spent years opposing Labour.

But he has earned the trust of MPs and staff with his strategic skills and people management skills.

Mr Little has been reviewing the leaders' office. Yesterday he confirmed Mr McCarten's appointment and all other staff will be kept on.

Mr McCarten helped to found the militant Unite Union for low paid workers.[24]



  1. Shift, April/May 1985
  2. DST June 18, 1989
  3. The Listener June 24, 1989
  4. Peoples Voice April 30, 1990
  5. Peoples Voice April 2, 1990
  6. Direct Action September 11, 1990
  7. Green Left Weekly No. 37
  8. Green Left Weekly Number 63
  9. Green Left Weekly Number 84
  10. Green Left Weekly Number 302
  11. Green left Weekly November 1992 number 80
  12. Green Left Weekly Number 107
  13. Workers Voice 1992 Number 16
  14. Greenweb, June, 1992
  15. The Press March 18 1993
  16. April 10 The Press
  17. Newstalk ZB November 11 2004 02:11 PM
  18. The Guardian, dated March 1, 2000
  19. Newstalk ZB November 5 2004 02:11 PM
  20. The Press May 24 2004
  21. [, Workers Charter Conference Submitted by Anonymous on 4 October 2006]
  22. LINKS, Aotearoa/New Zealand: A new working-class, pro-Maori political voice.May 11, 2011
  23., Socialist Aotearoa blog Monday, September 03, 2012,Revolution conference - Spring in our step]
  24. [, NZH, Audrey Young, Labour leader appoints new-but-old chief of staff Matt McCarten 11:45 AM Thursday Dec 11, 2014]