We need redistribution, not more ‘opportunity’

This is the dividing line between Bernie Sanders’ and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns

Breaking down barriers. Giving everyone a fair shot. Helping every child live up to his or her ‘God-given’ potential. Helping people get ahead, and stay ahead. These platitudes have defined Hillary Clinton’s campaign so far, and the message is clear. Hillary Clinton will attempt to clear away obstacles to people getting ahead and ‘staying ahead’. It is liberalism at its finest — rather than taking into account power imbalances, it believes that more and more people can be given a chance to gain power. It is not an agenda that opposes inequality, but one that believes in inequality.

Contrast this with Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Making the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share. Taking on the establishment. Creating sweeping new social programs that provide free, universal public services. An ardent call for workers’ rights, living wages, and strong unions. It’s clearly a Left agenda. Rather than trying to accommodate power imbalances, it attempts to mitigate and change them. It is an agenda that gives working people a greater share of the wealth they create, rather than selling them a myth that they too can benefit from inequality.

We need more of the latter, and less of the former. Policy and politics should be about redistributing power and wealth, not giving more people an opportunity to exploit an unjust system. We need to reduce inequality via a strongly redistributive programme of higher taxes, free and universal healthcare and education, and empowering working people. We can empower working people by strengthening unions, legislating for better pay and conditions, and giving workers a say in the management of their workplaces.

Working people create all of the wealth in society. A truly progressive agenda would mean challenging the system via redistribution, to ensure workers can keep a larger share of the wealth they create — not managing an unjust and unsustainable system that is dependent on ever-increasing inequality. Let’s move away from the milquetoast liberal politics of ‘opportunity’ to a more progressive Left agenda of redistribution.

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