Joe Carolan is standing as a ‘Socialist’ in the Mt Albert by-election. This should give those who think that socialism is the answer to the country’s and the world’s problems an idea of how popular the ideal is.
Carolan asks himself some questions at The Daily Blog – Q & A with Joe Carolan, Socialist candidate for the Auckland electorate of Mt Albert – beware eco-fascism & lovely liberals – and then gives himself some very long answers.
Here’s some highlights.
Q. You stood in the 2014 election for the Mana movement and are now standing on a socialist platform. So why do you think the time is right now for a socialist agenda?
What made me think about standing as a socialist was seeing the rise of the left in other major western countries over the past year. The Labour Party in Britain had an election that resulted in John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn coming to the leadership there, who are explicitly socialist, very pro-union, pro-worker – which is not what we’ve had from the British Labour party for a number of decades. It’s very exciting.
And not very popular – Labour closes gap on Tories according to latest opinion poll – “The party’s overall poll rating is up two points from last month at 31%, while the Conservatives are down three points at 38%. However, Labour still languishes behind the Conservatives on a range of important issues despite its modest improvement.”
Q: What is the goal of your campaign?
A movement of people outside parliament. We have no illusions in parliament, you get people elected to parliament like the Alliance party did, like the Greens have, like Mana did, but there is no guarantee that will change things. My experience as a trade unionist organising workers to go on strike and lead themselves has seen real victories for workers under a Tory government. That’s without putting people in parliament, you can organise and win yourself.
For a lot of socialists their default party was Green. I voted Green for a long time. But it’s time to try something different.
A very vague goal.
Q: So you’re a place for people who are disillusioned with mainstream politics to go?
Yes and to actually to start that discussion about a new party of the left. Learning the lessons of past experiments.
We are explicitly clear that it’s a movement of the people, and of workers in the workplaces that will change things. We can change things ourselves.
NZ First is also a place for people who are disillusioned with mainstream politics, but not of the left. Both Labour and Greens, who will compete with each other in the by-election, try to appeal to the left.
Q: There has been a lot of coverage in the media about, and international surveys showing, rising inequality in NZ. How does that manifest in this electorate and, on a wider scale, what would you do to address it nationally?
He gives a long answer about how it manifests itself in Mt Albert, but makes no attempt to say how he would address it in the electorate let alone nationally.
Q: …What would you like to see to give people access to home ownership? What is your vision for a more equitable housing situation?
We need to plan society. I think what we need is 100,000 state houses. We need that huge vision that the left used to have.
That’s current Labour Party policy, and I’m sure Jacinda Ardern will be campaigning on housing..
We need good city living and you can build up. You can have nice apartments to live in, if we have enough green spaces so we reduce the carbon footprint as well. We need a huge vision.
I don’t see any vision in his answer.
Q: When you mention vision, at the last election there was about 1 million Kiwis who didn’t vote. It seems you don’t hear mainstream politicians talking about big visions, and people feel let down. Will that be your point of difference, that you are laying out a much bigger picture for voters, a vision that goes beyond just the electoral term?
I stand for a different kind of politics, based on people power and social movements themselves: Palestinian solidarity, Rent Control Now, State housing action coalition, unions that have won pay increases and defeated zero hours for workers in this area.
I think we need to have an alternative to that political class, that elite, and it needs to be led by working people themselves, the community themselves.
One obvious flaw with this is how much membership and interest in unions has declined in New Zealand over the last three decades.
Q: There’s been a lot of talk about immigration – especially as regards the growth of Auckland and pressure on housing. What have you got to say about that. Do you believe in immigration controls of any sort.
First, I think we need pro-migrant and pro-refugee voices on the left. There’s a dangerous game that’s going on, with scapegoating by both the Greens and Labour.
I am explicitly internationalist, pro migrant – I am a migrant myself. I believe we should have free movement for all… I believe we should have free movement for all, and that includes the Kiwi workers who have gone to Australia who are treated like second class citizens. We should have free and open travel for families. Part of that is repayment for the colonial legacy. Workers move to where they need work. Kiwis move to the UK for work and so on.
It’s highly unlikely New Zealand could obtain totally free movement with Australia and the UK. Brexit is in large part a reaction against freedom of movement of immigrants there.
Q: It’s not just an economic divide that is growing. Surveys have found Kiwi kids from poorer communities fare up to six times worse than other kids in some important subjects like maths. That’s opened up debate about an educational divide that’s also happening. How would you address that, to level the educational playing field?
First we need to reverse all of the attacks on social welfare, on benefits which have allowed people to go back in to training.
We need to restore free education for all, up to and including university.
Karl Marx talked about fishing in the morning, doing a bit of work here, and then be a student at night time.I think a lot of our schools could be hubs of cultural and learning activity, they don’t need to be limited to a 9pm-4pm existence.
We need to make war with the political class, to reverse these neo liberal attacks and start putting free education on the map.
Kids tend to go to bed at night. Getting them to do their homework can be a big enough challenge.
Q: Where will the resources come from?
We need to tax the rich … 50 60, 70 percent. I think we need to go back to that.
We need to tax multinationals that are making hundreds of millions of dollars.
Tax the rich more is not an unusual policy from the hard left, except for socialists. I thought they wanted the state to own and run everything.
What about personal taxation? Should we have higher rates of income tax?
I think workers pay too much tax and we should reduce tax for workers. We should abolish GST and you could abolish tax on lower paid workers, abolish secondary tax for people who doing two or more jobs.
You could get rid of all of those taxes, with one simple tax we’d call the Robin Hood tax, the Tobin tax, the financial transaction tax FTT. That’s a 1% tax on every financial transaction that is done digitally. For individuals, a 1% tax on everything would be a reduction in tax as we’re already paying 15%. But for the corporations that move around millions or billions around, they’ll start to have their ticket clipped.
We don’t pay GST on everything, only for goods and services.
If companies have their tax rates doubled plus have a transaction tax, as Carolan seems to be suggesting, then the cost of goods and services will rise by a lot more than 15%.
I asked a friend, a local solo mum in your electorate, what she’d like to see. She said more community initiatives – like a community centre where other mums could meet and support one another. Also she was made redundant when she went back to work after maternity leave and, like many of us as you’ve said, she lives in fear that her rent will go up or that she’ll have to move from her rental unit, which she’s happy in.
A statement, not a question, but Joe goes on to respond to himself, at great length. Abbreviated somewhat:
As to how to build a sense of community, I think this electoral campaign is part of that process. It is not about ‘vote for Joe’ or even ‘vote for the socialists’ as an abstract political philosophy. It’s here’s a group of people who live in the area, who care about these issues, who are out fighting for them, whether we get elected or not.
We want to see if there’s a thousand people out here who believe in socialism together. If there is, they’re a more important network together, coming together to fight for these causes, because that’s how you’ll get change.
A thousand votes won’t come close to winning the by-election, but it would be a sign of improvement. Carolan got 290 votes standing for Mana in Mt Albert in 2014.
So we have small networks of people, but we want to make those networks bigger, we don’t want them to be tokenistic, we want to actually change the world.
What we’re actually asking people to do is get involved in movements. If you want to fight for rent control, then join the housing movement. If you’re concerned about low pay, join a union. We’ll come and show you how to organise your workplace, how to fight back, get a big pay increase. These things are possible without politicians but it IS politics. Working class politics.
He seems to be confusing his union role with the role of a member of Parliament. Unless he is standing to promote his union work. He doesn’t sound confident any providing any serious challenge in the by-election.
While socialists talk big ideals – “we want to actually change the world” – they sound resigned to small victories at best.
If Carolan doubles his 2014 vote, standing on a socialist ticket without getting party support, he will be doing very well – but it won’t come close to being world changing.
I suggest he tries a more concise and more clearly defined message, but I suspect there isn’t a big market for his socialist ideals.