The only way we can win mass working class demands is through exerting the power of an organized class. Winning Medicare for All – which will involve an enormous transfer of independence and power from the capitalist class to working people – is no exception to this rule. Without the militant force of our organized, diverse class behind us, we will always fall short. We can not rely on the good will of politicians or moral arguments to win. We can only win by wielding the power of our labor under an organized strategy. And make no mistake: falling short is not an option. This is a fight to save lives.
These lessons were made abundantly clear in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has offered a grim daily reminder of the failings of the U.S. healthcare “system.” A study found that one-third of COVID-19 deaths and about 40% of infections were linked to being uninsured. Another found that for every 10% increase in a county’s uninsured rate, there is a 70% increase in COVID-19 infections and almost a 50% increase in deaths from it. Conditions like living in dense neighborhoods, lack of sick leave, and poor health from chronic stress have made this pandemic brutal for Americans working ‘essential’ jobs, particularly working class people of color. Instead of global cooperation to end the pandemic, the response has been dysfunctional travel bans, unethical vaccine patents and hoarding, and treating frontline workers as disposable. The for-profit healthcare model led to the lockdowns and mandates that further divide us politically, as we are scrambling for hospital beds and supplies because of the capitalist ‘just in time’ supply chain. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry’s stranglehold on prescribing practices triggered a worsening in our opioid epidemic that has torn communities and families apart.
In 2021 alone, we witnessed high-profile and massive strikes across the country. In Buffalo, Catholic Health heartlessly ended healthcare benefits to discipline hospital workers after a month of their strike. So did Frito-Lay in an effort to prematurely end contract bargaining during their strike in Topeka. As long as employers can hold our ability to take our families to the doctor and pay for prescriptions over our heads, workers are so far from bargaining for what we deserve for our work. Single payer healthcare would be cheaper for employers, but they prefer things the way they are because the current system gives their class leverage.
In addition, when the New York Health Act (NYHA), a statewide single-payer legislation was introduced with majority support in the New York state legislature for the first time, it was blocked from a floor vote. But neither legislative majorities nor widespread, deeply-felt working class outrage has translated into change. In fact, the only meaningful change in healthcare that has occurred thus far under the Biden administration is the further privatization of the Medicare program through the expansion of Direct Contracting Entities (DCEs), threatening access to care for seniors and for the many young people living with disabilities who rely heavily upon social services like Medicare and Social Security to live.
What lessons can we learn from this and how can we apply them to the universal healthcare movement in 2022?
From a certain angle, with this setback for the NYHA and with the defeat of Bernie Sanders in 2020, it appears that the legislative and electoral routes to success have been closed to us. But really, the legislative and electoral routes to change provide the same extremely narrow avenues of transformation that they always have, and these routes are predetermined by the political realities within each constituency.
Our tasks, therefore, are to 1) transform the political landscape in which the legislative and electoral paths unfold and 2) prepare our class to seize political opportunities in the moments of rupture where transformational material change becomes possible. To move this fight forward, we must be militant, disciplined organizers who never stop pushing forward and demanding more. We must use the failures of capitalism to agitate for a transformative socialist agenda. Each month, the DSA M4A campaign will host a national organizing call, make an organizing ask on universal healthcare to chapters, and release new resources to help you join the 2022 DSA M4A campaign. We hope that you will commit to joining the 2022 fight for universal healthcare by signing up for the campaign!
We seek nothing less than the total transformation of society. Medicare for All is the most powerful policy tool we have to weaken the power of the capitalist class, to unite the reserve and active armies of labor against our shared enemy in the employing class, to confront and eradicate health disparities, and to show our class we want both immediate benefits and to collectively fight for more.
Intro to Guide/How to Use
We are socialists, we are workers, and when we are organized, we are powerful. Right now, even after the pharmaceutical industry and the health insurance lobby poured millions of dollars into opposing it, Medicare for All is still incredibly popular. But the capitalist class will not give us anything without a fight. In order to win, we have to be laser-focused on building enough power to be a serious threat to the status quo. We have to consolidate our base of support for universal healthcare, recruit new organizers into the fight, and build a mass political organization that is ready to seize political opportunities when they arise.
That’s what this Organizing Guide is for: to give your chapter the tools it needs to build socialist power and advance the fight for universal healthcare. Each month, we will release new tools and resources for chapters to use. And each month, we will build a stronger, bigger, more militant movement. You can follow this guide all year to participate in the national fight for health justice, and along the way, you can strengthen your chapter, grow as an organizer, and build our collective power.
Join the 2022 M4A Campaign here, and don’t forget to check out the original DSA Medicare for All organizing guide for even more resources. Lastly, if you would like any of these linked documents in Spanish – or any other language – please email [email protected] to request translation.