A new article in The Guardian isn’t as convinced about Jacinda Ardern as her supporters are. But a supposed critic of Labour, union organiser Joe Carolan, has likened the centrist Ardern to the left wing Jeremy Corbyn and his American counterpart, Bernie Sanders.
WHILE JACINDA ARDERN continues to be fawned over by her uncritical fans The Guardian isn’t as celebratory.
In a new assessment
by Dunedin-based journalist Eleanor Ainge Roy, the view is less enthusiastic. While she gives equal time to supporters of Ardern ,largely middle class professionals , Eleanor Ainge Roy also writes:
“Ardern has consistently remained New Zealand’s preferred leader in the polls since being sworn in, but solutions to some of the nation’s problems remain elusive. As the months have slipped by it has become hard for New Zealanders to see evidence of transformative change in their day-to-day lives.”
The main critic highlighted in the article is union organiser Joe Carolan:
“Joe Carolan, an organiser at Unite Union which represents many low-paid workers, says there is “huge anger” about the high cost of housing and transport, and many workers feel betrayed that a Labour-led government is not doing enough, fast enough to improve their everyday lives.
“We’re gearing up a for a big round of strikes in 2019 that is coming with the new mood … there seems to be a hundred working groups about everything, and any change seems to be token,” says Carolan.”
“It’s been nearly a year since we had the government, and most people would say the housing and transport situation has got worse.”
While this might sound like Carolan is about to lead the troops to the barricades, it will only be for a temporary stay. While he stood as an independent candidate in the Mt Albert by-election, when the rubber hits the tarmac Carolan remains a supporter of the Labour Party.
When Jacinda Ardern was elected Labour leader Carolan likened the centrist politician to the more determinedly left wing Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders. He declared that there was a ‘excitement’ about Ardern “just as people have got excited about Corbyn’s reformism and Bernie Sanders.”
Joe Carolan dismissed warnings that the Labour Party, still committed to neoliberalism, was a political dead end. Said Carolan:
“If National were beaten by Labour and the Greens that would be good. That’s what working class people think. That’s not what sectarian little groups think.”
Presumably by ‘sectarian little groups’ he meant the nearly million people who no longer vote because they, rightly – unlike Carolan – see little difference between the pro-market parliamentary parties and have rejected them all.
So while Joe Carolan might be critical of the Labour-led government now, come 2020 he’ll be out there campaigning for the Labour Party because that’s what the policy of the CTU dictates and because, supposedly, Labour is ‘preferable’ to National.
Joe Carolan’s continued defence of Labour as the ‘lesser evil’, which is also the view of the Unite Union, is a losing proposition. By attempting to deflect political protests into a vote for Labour (or the Green’s) every three years, it stifles the development of a independent left wing politics in New Zealand.
Fortunately people like Joe Carolan represent an old left increasingly out of step with the public mood. While these are early days there is evidence of a new left emerging through organisations like Organise Aotearoa. Unlike an old left seemingly terminally chained to the political fortunes of the Labour Party, the new left is attracting younger activists who don’t share the same loyalty to Labour as people like Joe Carolan do. They don’t remember Labour as being anything other than a right wing party.
The new left has worked out that hitching its political fortunes to that of Labour can only lead to preventing the emergence of an independent left political alternative.