Strategy and principle: East Bay DSA leaders in support of the national M4A campaign

This statement is authored and signed by 31 appointed and elected leaders of East Bay DSA.

"Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman." - Martin Luther King Jr., 1966

We the undersigned see many reasons for East Bay DSA to endorse national DSA’s Medicare for All (M4A) campaign at our upcoming general meeting. First, single-payer healthcare was democratically established as an organization-wide priority at the national convention, and dozens of chapters have already opted to participate in the campaign. Our endorsement would mean joining a coordinated effort with chapters around the country, and maximizing the impact of DSA’s 30,000-strong membership by acting in concert.

Second, a national Medicare for All campaign channels the energy and attention focused on Bernie Sanders and his wildly popular, highly visible Medicare for All legislation. While state-based single-payer legislation like SB562 might be easier to win over the coming years, many working-class people pay less attention to state and local politics than they do to national politics. Millions of people support Sanders and his push for Medicare for All—and over the next two years we can expect his campaigning for the legislation, if not for the office of president in 2020, will bring more visibility to the fight for single-payer than it has had in generations. A majority of Americans support Medicare for All, and by connecting our fight for single-payer in California with the national fight for Medicare for All, we can help to coalesce a nationwide, mass movement for health justice.

Third, since our massive membership boom that began in 2016, we in DSA have no shortage of dedicated activists, righteous outrage and creative ideas. If we want to become a serious fighting force for the working class—and intervene in political, social and economic conditions to build toward a break with capitalism—attention to strategy is necessary for socialists today.

We believe that strategic campaign development flows through a series of motions connecting five essential components. We must start by identifying our socialist ideal, locate a mass demand that moves us closer to that ideal, identify a powerful lever that will help us win that demand, build a base of working-class people who will mobilize to pull that lever, and develop tactics for effectively engaging that base and maximizing its power. The M4A campaign developed by national demonstrates this process very clearly:

 

Ideal

full socialized medicine

Demand

single-payer healthcare

Lever

national and state M4A legislation

Base

mass political organization of the working class

Tactics

canvassing, rallies, direct action, propaganda, educational events, etc.

 

This schema compels us to act strategically, given our scarcity of resources, and consider every choice we make in the context of a broader plan of action and vision for socialist politics. In the long run, this same campaign development process can and will be applied to other vital spheres we seek to decommodify and turn over to public and democratic control, from housing to education to finance. What better place to begin than with the most popular working-class demand for decommodification we’ve seen in more than a generation—one that will bring us into contact with millions of people already eager for change?

As socialists, we should be advancing a coherent program of working-class politics, and we should fight to put these politics front and center in the growing movement for Medicare for All. Through this campaign, socialists can connect with mass numbers of ordinary working Americans and help them articulate the following pillars of left politics:

 

  1. Anti-austerity: rejecting the neoliberal strategy of undermining public programs by defunding them to pay for tax cuts for the ultra rich, and then highlighting the failures of (underfunded) public provision as justification for further cuts.

  2. Decommodification: demanding that certain (and eventually all) essential spheres of production be removed from the market and shielded from the profit motive. Healthcare, education, housing, food and more should be treated as public goods, not privatized commodities. Instead of enriching a few wealthy capitalists at the expense of those who can’t afford these essential services, they should be provided as a social right to everyone who needs them.

  3. Redistribution: taking money from the rich via taxation and using it to improve the lives of the people whose labor generates that wealth to begin with.

  4. Class consciousness/struggle/solidarity: uniting working people to see their shared interests in fighting back against the class war that the ruling class has been winning for decades.

The M4A campaign deftly incorporates all of these themes, and applies them to a real-world demand that resonates with millions of people. The campaign allows us to translate and convey these fundamentals of working-class politics to ordinary people around the country, all while seeking to achieve something concrete that will liberate working-class people from their dependence on for-profit insurance, terrible jobs, and the high costs of healthcare.

The Medicare for All movement is already happening, and rapidly gaining steam. It’s being driven by militant labor unions and working-class activists who’ve had enough of seeing the private insurance industry ruin lives for profit. It’s up to organized socialists to step to the fore and imbue the movement with a broader anti-capitalist character and vision—to shape the conversation so it’s not just about “fixing a problem” in the current system, but also about the broader program of eliminating the profit motive, resisting privatization, rejecting a zero-sum conception of social provision, and countering capitalist-class abuse with working-class solidarity.

Finally, a crucial element of the national M4A campaign is its articulation of the five principles of social health insurance. We must put pressure on the political center to advance our demands, for the left is too weak yet to advance them alone. But we should also expect that Democrats’ vision will differ substantially from ours, trending in favor of capital. We must fight against compromise legislation, and demand a true single-payer system that meets the following five criteria:

  1. A single program — not a patchwork of multi-payer state and federal systems

  2. Comprehensive coverage — all services requiring a medical professional will be covered

  3. Free at the point of service — financed through progressive tax contributions based on ability to pay, not shifting costs onto the sick: no fees, no copays, no cost-sharing

  4. Universal coverage — coverage for all U.S. residents, non-citizens included

  5. Jobs — replacement and severance for those affected by the transition

We urge members of EBDSA to vote to endorse the national DSA Medicare for All campaign. We have a historic opportunity to reconstruct the American left. We must take full advantage of it.

The following signatories are elected and appointed leaders of East Bay DSA.

 

Meagan Day, At-Large Member of the Local Council
Jackie Andrews, External Organizer
Hannah Klein, Internal Organizer, Local Council
Keith Brower Brown, Internal Organizer
Megan Svoboda, External Organizer
Jeremy Gong, At-Large Member of the Local Council
Molly Armstrong, Co-Chair, Local Council
Coleman Lukas, Internal Organizer
Jeff Lee, Treasurer, Local Council
David Vieira, External Organizer
Sean Murphy, External Organizer
Zach McDonald, External Organizer, Local Council
Jamie Gardner, External Organizer, Local Council
Mary Virginia Watson, Co-Chair, Local Council
Abigail Gutmann-Gonzalez, External Organizer
Frances Reade, Vice Chair, Local Council
Michael Kaufman, Internal Organizer
Ari Marcantonio, External Organizer, Local Council
Ben Fife, Secretary, Local Council
Dan Deck, Internal Organizer
Ahmed Kanna, Internal Organizer, Local Council
Robbie Nelson, Internal Organizer, Local Council
Mark Gabriel, External Organizer
Nate Nicholson, Internal Organizer
Cooper Rogers, External Organizer
Ian Miller, Internal Organizer
Andres Chirino, Internal Organizer
Hannah Ehrlinspiel, External Organizer
Annika Bastacky, Internal Organizer
Meagan Gibeson, External Organizer
Matt Stone, External Organizer