Bernie Sanders' election platform applies to Australia too

March 17, 2016
Bernie Sanders has been successful in popularising anti-neoliberal policies.

During the early days of his campaign to be US president, Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders wondered if the crowds that he saw on the street were headed to a baseball game, only to be told: “Actually they are on the way to hear you”.

This story illustrates how the Sanders message of free education, affordable health care, a $15 minimum wage, taxing the mega-rich and support for renewable energy has taken off.

Young Americans — the millennials — facing unpayable student debts, unaffordable health care, low wages and climate change inaction, are flocking to his campaign.

In Australia, the defunding of TAFE, $100,000 university degrees, Medicare cuts, job casualisation, the decline of manufacturing and environmental destruction are issues an Australian Bernie Sanders might oppose. But where might that person come from?

Labor's moral failure over refugees will make it hard for their current leaders to occupy the Sanders space and the legacy of the political right is social intolerance and income inequality.

The Greens are looking to win votes from the centre in order to be political players and do not seem to be looking leftwards. While left parties, such as the Socialist Alliance, have been elected to local government positions, their influence is limited to some social movements and unions.

A person or movement who can popularise a socialist or even just a consistent anti-neoliberal message — like Sanders, British Labour's Jeremy Corbyn or Pablo Iglesias of Podemos in Spain — may well shake up the way young people view politics.

Meanwhile Sanders continues to amaze everybody by talking about political revolution and socialism in the capitalist heartland.

[This article first appeared in the Newcastle Herald. Stephen O'Brien is a member of the Socialist Alliance.]

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