Joshua Collins is an openly socialist candidate running for Congress in WA-10. A founding member of the Rose Caucus, which has largely adopted his campaign's platform, Joshua is part of the new wave of leftist candidates that have garnered national attention this election cycle. We sat down with Joshua to discuss his 'radicalization' and his positions on: housing, ecosocialism, criminal justice and agrarian land reforms in the conclusion of this interview series. (Donate to Joshua's Campaign)
You proudly label yourself a socialist, but in today's world 'socialism' has become more of a spectrum ranging from Democratic Socialist, Libertarian Socialist, Anarchist Socialist, and further left ideologies. What does socialism mean to you?
To me, socialism means that I believe that the working class should own and control the government and the economy. That means radically democratizing our workplaces. That means also ensuring that the needs of the working class are the only priority and that we don't have the needs of the working class competing with corporate entities because I genuinely feel like the people, who give their labor to this economy, are the ones who matter; I feel like those are the people we should value. I don't think the profits of large corporations matter at all frankly, just how we are taking care of the people.
In your interview with Vaush, you said that you make "your own analysis" regarding theory. Is it possible for you to elaborate how you "frame things in a way that [people] would understand and relate to?"
Yeah, I mean, I have read theory and I've read a particularly large amount recently. I feel like I came to a lot of conclusions at the right time; it's been enlightening for me to have the right amount of analysis from past examples, particularly revolutionary examples, that I can see we're all still facing the same struggles. I think there's a lot to be gained from both Lenin and Kropotkin for different challenges that we're facing right now in the United States, particularly things like the crisis of opportunism and having this black and white view of electoral politics. These are things that have been addressed in revolutionary movements before and we see very clearly the evidence, for what is correct.
I actually had a take that lined up perfectly with Lenin before I'd ever really read Lenin: that electoral politics is not the revolution first of all, but also it shouldn't be dismissed entirely because the average working class person views it as the only legitimate version of politics. So we have to participate in it to make that case to the American people that electoral politics isn't the end of politics, right? Your participation in Democracy and political movements shouldn't end at the ballot box; it should also extend to your workplace, it should extend to your housing, and it should extend to your energy. Every part of society is political in nature and we have to make that case to people in the one sphere where they're actually paying attention, which is electoral politics. Of course there are successful non-electoral movements, and I think that's a good thing to understand, but in past revolutions and revolutionary movements it's been really obvious that electoral politics can be used to empower those movements.
I've specifically done this in a very direct way that I never would have been able to do if I wasn't participating in electoral politics, and that was creating the Rent Strike 2020 organization movement. I used my platform to put out petitions nationwide for suspending rent collection, mortgage collection, and utility payments and—because these demands were so agreeable for the average working class person and I had the initial platform to get it out to enough people to kind of start it out—those petitions have been signed by millions of people. That means millions of people agree with these demands and understand that this isn't unreasonable. Out of that we have formed the Rent Strike 2020 movement, which is organizing those people on the premise of, "we are demanding this. Our demands have not been listened to, so we should be acting."
I think that's something I personally didn't have the power to do before. I couldn't have started anything; I couldn't have started the Rose Caucus as just a truck driver. Particularly, I think electoral politics is something that builds a platform of organizers. Some of the most respected organizers in Washington State are people who ran for office once and then have used that platform to empower their movements and whatever organizations they were a part of after that.
A good example is Nikkita Oliver. She ran for Mayor in Seattle and is very well respected as an organizer; she was before that, but a lot of people know who she is and know the work that she's done as a result of that election because of how much of a spotlight is put on electoral politics as opposed to the non-electoral efforts. It's important to recognize that mutual aid is one of the most important things that we could be doing right now and I think seeing that as something that is effective for radicalizing people—for introducing people to left politics—is important.
You mentioned that you'd only recently started really diving into theory; how did you become "radicalized" then, so to speak? Was it through media, YouTube, or just the natural conclusion of your work and life experiences?
I make a lot of jokes about this but movies, tv shows, and the media in general introduced some basic notion of radicalism to me. I grew up surrounded by very apolitical or right-wing people entirely. As a truck driver, I was already at the point—where a lot of truck drivers are—where I had a general dislike of the very rich, large corporations, and the government. That was my general political leaning and it wasn't until I started participating in politics a little bit more, and paying attention, that I came to the conclusion that socialism was right.
A big thing that influenced my politics and actually my opinion of socialism was the existence of Socialist Alternative, which is a left political party. I don't know how they're viewed everywhere else, but they're very respected in Washington State; they were pushing for the $15 minimum wage when the Democrats hadn't even considered it, before Bernie Sanders even ran for President, and they actually achieved that $15 minimum wage in past legislation based on that movement. I knew about that before I knew who Bernie Sanders was and I knew that Socialist Alternative was the party pushing for that before I knew what a socialist was. As someone who has worked a lot of low wage jobs, whose family has to work low wage jobs, and who knows that's not a living wage and that $15 an hour isn't an unreasonable ask for the amount of value that we provide to society, that kind of inherently radicalized me.
Being a truck driver, I knew that I was the most important part of the equation of getting goods transported around the country. The CEO who owns the trucking company provides almost nothing. They don't do the logistics; they don't drive the truck; they don't fuel the truck; they don't monitor maintenance; they don't do any of the work. Their job is to try and maximize profits, which means trying to keep wages low, keep expenses low by making sure that we have lower quality equipment, and trying to nickel and dime employees on things like breaks; stuff that should be paid, but they will coincidentally fail to pay. They order a lot of things at that company that screw over the workers, and frankly, I don't see the value that those people provide to us. But they do serve a purpose, and that's to maximize profit for the shareholders; that's their entire job. I think that if you have been someone as a truck driver, you kind of recognize that dynamic. This is pretty common for truck drivers; they have a general understanding that we do the work, and those guys make the money. We make the sacrifice of living in the back of a truck 28 days out of the month and we are the ones doing all of the work, literally driving the truck, and some asshole—who just happened to have a bunch of buddies on Wall Street—was able to take on a bunch of debt and shareholders, creating this for profit company that makes them richer than we'll ever be.
What issues do you think most directly affect your district and how do you want to resolve those issues in office?
The number one issue in my district is probably housing. Housing is a serious crisis nationwide, but in Washington State we've had the impacts of large corporations moving into a city and 'investing' into a city. They have super gentrified Seattle and the downstream effects of that have been that all property is more expensive in basically any area down I-5 because we are a commute away from Boeing, Amazon, and all these other companies. We end up with really high housing prices without jobs that match that, so even though we have the highest minimum wage in the country—although we might get passed soon—we still are struggling as workers to survive just because housing itself is so incredibly expensive. Just over the last couple years, it's almost doubled. Our wages aren't doubling, but our rent is constantly increasing. Even to buy a home, how are you going to save up when your housing is so expensive?
I address that through Housing First policies and Rent Control on the federal level. This appeals to a lot of people that you wouldn't expect because Republican voters are also struggling with housing right now and people on base are also struggling with housing (we have a military base in our district). I've been taking the approach that we should build social housing by repealing the Faircloth Amendment—which is something passed in the Clinton administration—we should actually build public housing and create socially owned homes that are high quality and that a person can live in that no one's making a profit off of.
We should also have federal Rent Control so that you can't just have your rent endlessly increased. We are dealing with a massive homelessness crisis in my district, yet rents are still going up. I think the average person agrees with that because it feels so obvious that rent should not be going up when people already can't afford the housing, and especially when there is available housing. There is a lot of housing available, but landlords would rather their homes sit empty than rent it out at a lower price; that's the reality we're facing.
Do you support the use of eminent domain to acquire existing vacant housing for use in the Housing First model or just to build new public housing?
If we can do that, yes. We should take whatever approach can actually be achieved. I think building public housing is something that is necessary anyway because we need green homes to be built. That's a big reason why I take that tact. It's why Kshama Sawant in Seattle is also taking that route because frankly, a lot of the houses that we have are very inefficient. It's bad for our environment and if we're going to do a GND that transitions our economy, why don't we make part of that building public housing that is energy efficient? I think that's why we take that route.
Maybe you didn't know this, but Rent Control is illegal in Washington State, so we would have to have something happen on the federal level or we would have to take over our state legislature. I think that the easier way to push this issue is pushing it on the federal level.
Would you support nationalizing the oil and gas industry in the short-term to allow for more responsible production of oil and gas while we focus on building the infrastructure necessary for a zero emissions future?
Yeah, I would support nationalizing the energy industry. I don't think it's something that we should have a profit incentive for. We can see the clear impacts of that are that we are willing to start wars just to protect the interests of those corporations; whereas, if we were to do the rational thing, we would have started building solar panels and hydrogen fuel stations all around the country decades ago. We're not acting rationally because of corporate interests and because of the for profit energy industry.
What is your position on nuclear energy, because I know that's something a lot of people in general are divided on, granted that it is far safer than fossil fuels and has functioned well in the past as a means of transition to green energy?
That's something I've spent a lot of time debating whether or not it's something that we should push for. My position is mostly based on what the movement demands and there's not really much of a divide in the climate movement that we should try to take the approach of using solar and wind technology, prioritizing those. If we realize that it's actually unfeasible, then we should consider nuclear energy; that's generally my position. I understand that with a little bit more advancement in technology, it could be something that's viable.
I don't know everything about nuclear energy, but I do know storage is a big issue that we're still trying to solve today. If we did have solutions to those, I would be open to it. I also think there's an issue with the fact that natural disasters are occurring more frequently, so basically any nuclear energy plant would have to be borderline indestructible to the elements. There's just a lot of stuff that we would have to consider if doing that.
Given that policing forces have historically been derived from slave-catching institutions and strikebreakers, would the Rose Caucus support the dissolution of the contemporary police state in favor of autonomous community volunteers? Similar to what the Black Panther's did in terms of community policing.
I think that we should have community controlled policing and I think the current institution of policing in America is fundamentally morally bankrupt. It's not something that the majority of the people even agree with. They're organized as a protector of capital rather than a protector of people, and I think that's something that we do need to acknowledge.
There's a lot of legislation that we could pass at the federal level that impacts this. I particularly support demilitarizing all police forces because it's no surprise that—when they're dressed up in military gear and they have these fancy weapons—they feel like an invading force in their own communities; both in their own perspective and from the communities that they're policing. We need to be talking about what is the rational thing to do. How do we actually solve this problem of police forces that are almost entirely unaccountable. I think that can only be done by getting rid of the existing institution entirely and creating something new. Something that is very accountable, very transparent, and that cannot be used as the enforcement of capital.
Generally, the biggest problem with policing is that they view people as generally targets in any community that they're in and they will protect a business a lot stronger than they will a person. The racist nature of our policing is something that comes out of the history of policing, but also the culture in policing today is one that values the life of a police officer over the life of almost everyone; especially people from marginalized communities. That's why you see people with disabilities, black people, and hispanic people being killed so frequently. We need to assert that human lives should matter overall and that if we do have someone taking on that role of being a police officer in a community, that shouldn't mean their life is suddenly more valuable than others in that community. I think that's a big moral dilemma that we have today. It should never be justified that a cop values their own ego over someone else's life, let alone their own life over someone else's life, but I think that's the reality of what we have.
Do you support ending the practice of bail/bonds to secure pretrial release in the criminal justice system?
While there were significant issues in Andrew Yang's political platform, his argument that automation and the 4th industrial revolution will lead to significant job losses in the future posed an interesting question as far as the necessity of Universal Basic Income (UBI). I'm sure as a truck driver, you saw the future of automation and the danger of the job losses caused by that. Do you see a role for UBI in the economy?
I do; however, I would want something like that to be truly universal. I really did not like the completely unnecessary, exclusionary nature of Andrew Yang's UBI. His plan excluded people who were on disability, people who were receiving unemployment, and then it basically subtracted whatever aid you're already getting; in that form, I believe it would have been used to try and destroy the existing social support structures that we have. I do support it as a general policy and think something that is truly universal would be good.
I don't think it's the solution to automation though; the solution to automation has to be something much more radical than just giving people money. We should be guaranteeing anyone whose job is automated a job with the government—a high paying union job that is quality and serves to better our society—through the federal jobs guarantee. We should also be guaranteeing people who are replaced by a machine that they can get a free education if they want, and also get a stipend while doing that, so it's not just the most privileged people who can take that path.
I also want to make sure that housing is guaranteed. This is a particularly important issue for trucking; a lot of those drivers out there on the road—particularly the ones whose jobs are most threatened by automation—live in their trucks. I think it's important to recognize that there's a massive housing crisis tacked onto the issue of automation. We know what happens when peoples' jobs are just automated away and there isn't a plan in place for those people; all of the problems that we already face in society—crime, suicide, depression, families being broken apart, homelessness, drug addiction—would be amplified tenfold amongst truck drivers who had trucking as their only way to provide a living for them and their families and also use that as their source of housing. That's something we need to be prepared for. We need to build structures in place and frankly, we need to keep automated trucks off the road until that's all in place. That's mostly a moral issue. Automating trucks does not benefit truck drivers in the way our system is currently set up.
I think that we could do it in a way that is beneficial to drivers and workers in other industries. A lot of workers work above full time hours just to make a living wage. Truck drivers are the perfect example because they work 60-70 hours a week, so you could almost turn each individual job into two jobs. I think we need higher wages in the trucking industry and that will allow people to work a regular 40 hour week and live off that. Those jobs that are lost to automation should be things that benefit the trucking industry as a whole; the profit from those companies should be going back into the industry and not being abstracted by someone like Elon Musk. That way we can afford to have the existing jobs that will never be automated away, which is the reality of the trucking industry; a lot of jobs will never be automated just because they are so difficult and frankly, not something that I think AI is capable of at least in the next several decades. Those jobs should be brought down to a normal and healthy work week to allow for more workers to do those jobs in particular.
You call to abolish the CIA and argue that the military should be performing this intelligence gathering because there is more oversight, but one problem we've seen historically is that the military is good at scapegoating and avoiding oversight when scandals come to light. How would you work to ensure that by abolishing the CIA, the military intelligence communities don't immediately begin to perform the same operations as the CIA?
If we were in a position where we can achieve abolishing the CIA, we would also be in a position where we can call for Congressional inquiries and actually hold the military accountable. Currently there isn't really a large portion of Congress that feels it's necessary to hold the military accountable, but ideally that would change. I think there is a good argument to be made that we should be ending all of our involvement overseas and putting our focus on the biggest threat to humanity and the United States, and that's climate change. That means building solar panels, windmills, and doing very basic infrastructure projects, which is what the military has historically been used for; they built our road system. I think that's what we should go back to, and stop viewing them as a standing army for the fossil fuel industry.
You already touched on the fact that your campaign supports ending all wars and closing all foreign US military bases, which is awesome. That being said, would your campaign support a US-equivalent of Japan's Article 9, which punished Japan for egregious war crimes by limiting the role of its military to solely self-defense?
Yeah, I think we should limit the role of the military solely to self-defense. We also need to change the culture in America and the view on what self-defense is because it's not self-defense to wage war in a country overseas just because of the theoretical idea that someday they might attack the US. I think that's something we need to address culturally as well so that people understand that this isn't normal; what we're doing isn't something that other countries are allowed to do. We're the only country that gets away with this, frankly, and it's not good for those countries or good for us. We're destabilizing entire regions of the world and I think that's going to lead to downstream impacts on our view of ourselves.
We should strive to be a moral society; one that doesn't lead by being a boot on the neck of the world, but leads by example. What that means to me is doing things like actually flat out transitioning to Green Energy or taking the initiative to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There are so many things we could be using our position in the world to do that would actually be good and would influence the rest of the world in a positive way. I think that's what we should try and move towards.
Agrarian Land Reform
Recent estimates suggest that approximately 99% of US livestock is raised on factory farms. Would you support agrarian land reforms through the use of eminent domain to break the factory farm monopoly over US agricultural production?
Yeah, I do think we should end factory farming in the United States. It's got a lot of negative things about it that need to be addressed. One of the things is that we are both raising and slaughtering animals in the same area and, for that reason, it's particularly unhealthy and it causes just the animals themselves to live miserable lives and be unhealthy. It's done because it's profitable to not have to transport animals, right? There's also the issue of antibiotics being pumped into our animals because they're raised in such filthy conditions in part, but also to make them grow faster. I think that we need to end that practice; it wasn't used throughout history up until recently, and I think that we should go towards ending it.
That's the same approach I take to monocrops; monocrops are disastrous for the environment and disastrous for the earth that you're growing them on. Frankly, it wouldn't be a problem if we weren't subsidizing the agricultural industry. We need to end the subsidies of monocrops like corn and start taking a more environmentally sound approach, whatever is more rational. I think that means having rotating crops, having farms being owned by the people working those farms rather than by some mega corporation that's only interested in making a profit, and that means rethinking what we do with other land.
We should be doing community gardens. I talked about this earlier, but Vietnam has a very collectivist culture. Before socialism was even a thing, they already had the concept of community gardens—and other forms of collectivization— in their society. That is something that we need to completely integrate into our culture, the idea that food should be free and we have a moral obligation to: instead of growing a lawn, grow food and make sure that everyone in our community is able to eat food and also eat healthy food. I think that's another part of my agricultural policy.
Digital Infrastructure and Tech Monopolies
Do you support nationalizing internet/broadband?
Given the need to access a cell phone for employment purposes, would you support nationalizing the telecommunications industry?
Yeah, nationalizing and regulating as a utility. I would want some sort of separation between the federal government and those entities, so ideally I would prefer for them to be more locally controlled rather than just giving the federal government total control of them.
I happen to live in one of the first places to ever implement publicly owned broadband, which is Tacoma. We've had the experience that private companies put a lot of money into trying to chip away at it, so what they've done is they purchase and then sell the same internet at the same price. They're not providing anything additional, but they are willing to lose money just to take away from what the public broadband actually does. They pour a lot of money into our local politics and have succeeded at having part of our public broadband sold off. I would love to have a national movement to reverse that entirely and create universal public broadband around the country.
Would this include nationalization or breaking up of monopolistic firms such as Apple, Microsoft, or Google?
Yeah, I think that we need to take a pretty radical approach to companies like Amazon. Amazon in particular is one of the most disastrous companies that we have; they lost money for 14 years straight in order to consolidate power, they destroyed countless small businesses who probably paid better wages, and they destroyed a lot of people who worked for themselves in order to consume the entire online market, which they don't even really turn a profit off of; they just use that to legitimize their other ventures, which are their data storage and stuff like that. I think breaking them up would be a very important thing to do. We need to achieve some sort of democratization of Amazon warehouses and, whether that means we can actually nationalize Amazon, because frankly, all they are is a website for the USPS. We need to view what they do as a public service, particularly in this moment where home deliveries are actually a necessity for a lot of people. I would support the nationalization of Amazon, direct democratic control by the workers, or some action that changes the current dynamic, which is Jeff Bezos owning everything and the workers owning almost nothing.
One of the biggest issues with building out the US 5G infrastructure is that the military owns exclusive rights to the wavelengths countries like South Korea have used to build infrastructure that is both incredibly fast and doesn't have issues with range, would you support allowing the public sector (or the nationalized telecommunications industry) access to these wavelengths?
Sure, yeah. I'm not too familiar with that issue, but it sounds like something that I would agree with.
Time and time again we witnessed the FCC and Congress work to roll back net neutrality until its protections ended in 2018. Would you support the reinstatement of net neutrality? How would you work to ensure no future efforts to roll back net neutrality protections could take place?
I think beginning to regulate the internet as a public utility is the bare minimum for what we should be doing. That would enforce net neutrality, but also make it so that you do have certain rights—that normally you would have in a public sphere—that currently don't exist because those 'public spheres' are currently owned by private corporations. I know this is also controversial, but I do believe in the general right to free speech on the internet. I don't think that we should have private corporations suppressing speech based on their political views, and I think that's always been a problem with, particularly, Twitter.
If you didn't know this, I'm actually the only—one of my opponents might not be verified—but they went through and verified all of my opponents who have a tiny fraction of the following of me and didn't verify my account.
Given that 6 corporations own more than 90% of the media outlets in the country, there is clearly a danger presented in the power of corporations to control the narrative and restrict what information is discussed in the media's coverage of social, political, and economic news. How would you work to drastically reduce corporate control of the media?
I do think that we should take steps like probably reimplementing the fairness doctrine. Ending corporate control of the media is something that ideally we'd want to do. How do we do that? I don't know exactly what the path is, but I do think that we should have some sort of separation in media entities and some sort of forced fairness. The fact that they can cover my opponents at the local level endlessly and never cover me—aside from maybe the obscure mention here and there—is evidence in itself that they're not going to be fair; even when the facts are that I'm more well funded than some of the candidates that they're boosting and covering non-stop. I think that's something that we always kind of deal with; so equal coverage for political candidates, but also we should have coverage for political movements. Aside from independent media, I don't know exactly how we get that. There have been a lot of non-electoral movements that have been really successful and gotten a lot of energy, but have been completely ignored by the mainstream media; if it weren't for the more independent media, they probably wouldn't have been as successful as they are today.
Teen Vogue has surprisingly been the greatest about this; they've covered my efforts with the Rent Strike and interviewed me a couple times. Ideally, I would like to see everyone be like them, but at the very minimum I'd like to see just more fairness and more equal coverage on the issues. That doesn't mean treating right-wing ideas as if they're equivalent to liberal ideas, but it should mean being objective and giving equal coverage and fair coverage to certain things. I think the media is very hesitant to upset the powerful, I think that's always been the problem. That means even if someone is pretty terrible and goes against the values of the people working in that media, they will be afraid to go after that person. We're seeing that happen live where the exact standards that were applied to Brett Kavanaugh are not being applied to Biden, and I think that's ridiculous.
With the rise in popularity of independent media projects like MeansTV and educational leftist podcasts such as Citations Needed, are there any independent leftist media outlets that you'd like to give a shoutout to?
I really like the Humanist Report; I think he does a really great job. I like Chapo Trap House. I know there's some controversy around them, but I think they're a really good podcast that mixes politics with humor. I like The Antifada, but I haven't listened to it that often lately. Richard Wolff's Democracy at Work has produced a bunch of videos that make socialist concepts very digestible for the average person, so I really like them. I like The Rational National, I think he does good stuff. The Majority Report, particularly Michael Brooks; I think he's really great.
When a vaccine becomes available for COVID-19, how would you act to ensure it is distributed fairly and to as many individuals as possible?
I think that we need to make it so that it's not something that is patented and controlled by a private corporation. It should be available for free, primarily in the most dense areas that are being heavily impacted by the Coronavirus. Obviously a good place to focus on and prioritize would be New York because they're so densely populated and they've been hit so hard by the Coronavirus. Personally, I think that's the route we should take: prioritizing the places where it is the worst and the places that are most threatened. I think that this is something we should take based on need.
Candidates to Watch
Before we wrap this all up, are there any other campaigns you'd like to shoutout to and give our readers the opportunity to checkout, or anything else you'd like to plug for your campaign or just in general?
The biggest thing I'd like to plug is Angelica Dueñas (Twitter: @Angelica4CA, Donate); she's a member of the Rose Caucus and she was previously very active in Green Party politics. She ran as a Democrat this cycle, but also as an open socialist under the Rose Caucus and supports our full policy platform. She got through her primary in California (CA-29) with less than 2% of the money of her opponent, so I think that's really impressive. She did that all without any paid staffers; she just did all the work. She was working her day job and taking care of her children, while also being her own campaign manager, political director, strategic director, and all that stuff. She did an amazing job in her primary and if she gets just any amount of support, I think that she can really pull off a win in her district. I think that's a good campaign to back.
Courtesy: Angelica Dueñas
I really like Shahid Buttar (CA-12, Twitter: @ShahidForChange, Donate); he's not a member of the Rose Caucus, but he is very aligned with our views. I've been on a lot of panels with him and he's always been pretty great. He actually spoke at a DSA event here, in Washington, where he spent his whole time hyping me up before I spoke and helped me to have one of my best speaking engagements.
Thank you so much, Joshua; I really appreciate it. We're definitely following your race and I'll make sure to plug the donations for your campaign as well. Keep us posted on everything. I'm looking forward to seeing the news you all have on the logistics platform you've got for ID'ing voters as well as the other announcement you were hyping up. I'll make sure to link those in the article and update it once I see those are out.
Right on, thanks!
Thank you so much, Joshua. And good luck!
Thank you, have a good one!
Learn more about Joshua's Campaign; if you wish to support his campaign, donate here. The full audio recording of the interview will be uploaded to Spotify and other podcast services on May 9th (promoted via our Twitter and article will be updated to include links). Subscribe to our site's notifications to receive browser notifications when new content is published.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.