In Support of Campaign to Win CA Single-Payer and M4A

Luke T. and Michael L.

As socialists with limited ranks and resources, we have to strategically set our priorities based on a sober political analysis. We need campaigns with real promise to address working-class needs, forge powerful coalitions, and attract millions of people to democratic socialist politics. For years, East Bay DSA has been a steadfast supporter of the fight for single-payer in California. It’s time to finish that fight. Once again, “socialists have an opportunity to organize ordinary people toward a common goal: genuine universal coverage, managed and dispersed by democratic, transparent, and efficient institutions that are accountable to us, not corporate shareholders.” If we can achieve this historic pro-worker victory in California, we will pave the way to Medicare for All nationally.

Single-payer is such a strategic demand because healthcare is a widely and deeply felt issue. It’s a labor issue, as healthcare negotiations get harder every year for union members. It’s also a social justice issue: women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and people of color are disproportionately uninsured and unable to receive the care they need. Furthermore, it would save money for small businesses and provide real benefits to the middle class, many of whom still struggle to afford healthcare. Single-payer is thus a solidaristic policy in the direct self-interest of the vast majority of people. While it has the potential to unite a broad coalition and divide the corporate class (a la Prop 15), it maintains a clear democratic socialist vision that seeks to reclaim a public good on behalf of the entire working class. 

In the era of COVID-19, single-payer has taken on a new urgency. It has revealed again the fundamental inequities created by our private insurance-based system that provides only the healthcare you can afford. Noteworthy in California, Latinos make up 60% of COVID cases, yet are 39% of the population. Single-payer would be the best policy to combat these racial health inequalities. Similarly, linking healthcare to employment has always been an anchor around the necks of the U.S. working class. Now it's sinking us. A year ago, nearly 3 million people were uninsured in California, the vast majority of whom were working-class minorities. That number has more than doubled in the wake of COVID-19 as Californians lose their jobs — and with their jobs their coverage. Meanwhile Kaiser (headquartered in our own backyard) has just reported a quarterly net income of $4.5 billion, more than double what it reported this time last year. 

The best way to turn up the heat on the Congressional healthcare agenda next year is to build a movement for single-payer where it is viable. Joe Biden says he will veto Medicare for All if it reaches his desk, but we may be able to pressure his administration to provide a waiver to capture the federal resources we need. California Congressman Ro Khanna already has a bill lined up to do just that. Federal inflexibility has been the excuse used by Gov. Gavin Newsom (who ran on single-payer) to avoid taking action, but if a waiver is approved the question becomes how, not whether. We need to hold our elected politicians’ feet to the fire, including every state legislator who has voted against the previous bill, SB 562. The fact that the Democratic Party is the primary obstacle to universal healthcare means that this campaign can be a vehicle for independent politics.

A top-down coalition isn’t going to cut it though. DSA needs to bring mass, grassroots militancy to this struggle. We need to organize direct actions that agitate against the healthcare industry. We need to organize rank and file union members and healthcare workers, many of whom are joining DSA through the new Health Workers Collective. We need to push the Healthy California Now coalition into a democratically led, member-driven organization. We need to engage with our comrades up and down the state, in rural and urban chapters, to put pressure on California legislators.

Once passed, this ‘non-reformist reform' will be evidence to convince millions of people outside California that Medicare for All is possible. It could also be the leading edge towards making other basic needs, such as housing, a human right. If this sounds like the kind of campaign that you are excited to build in the coming year, we are asking you to join us and support the priorities resolution #4: Campaign to Win California Single-Payer and Medicare for All.