The bosses control the media and the “debate” that workers are exposed to on a given topic. In health care, the media outlets have chosen their sides: either favoring “nationalized” health care or supporting private insurance companies. CHALLENGE (9/2) exposed these plans as a move toward fascist control through “nationalization” and business-as-usual exploitation by the insurance and drug companies.
Both options are deadly for workers. PLP offers a third option: fight the racist practices of the for-profit capitalist health system now, while building a movement that will deliver free and accessible health care for all workers — denied by the bosses — once the working class unites to destroy capitalism and create a communist society.
The media and Obama show their hypocrisy, pretending to favor better health for everyone, while continuing the bloodshed in Iraq and expanding the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing and maiming more U.S. GI’s and Afghan and Pakistani workers. At Fort Campbell, Kentucky eleven soldiers have committed suicide already this year, prompting the brass to shut down the base for three days in May so every soldier could receive “suicide prevention counseling.”
More than 20% of the soldiers who make it back to the U.S. suffer from some form of psychological damage (Washington Post, 5/24). This attack on workers’ health will only increase as the wars intensify and additional casualties enter a Veterans Affairs medical system already overburdened with too many lives ruined by the capitalists’ drive for oil profits.
The bosses’ media is also silent about another aspect of this “debate”: access to health care is such a critical issue because capitalism creates horrific levels of disease and disability for workers worldwide. Due to pollution, the lack of clean water, global warming and racist unemployment, workers are unnecessarily dying by the millions. Actually the best way to improve our health is to destroy the system that creates these healthcare nightmares in the first place.
Malnutrition directly kills six million children per year and makes millions more susceptible to respiratory infection, malaria and other life-threatening diseases. A 1996 World Health Organization study reported that unsanitary conditions created due to the lack of clean water account for more than five million deaths per year, while three BILLION more suffer from diarrhea and intestinal diseases. These deaths, mainly black, Latino and Asian workers, are murders! For the sake of profit, bosses starve us, pollute our waters and poison our skies.
The massive unemployment resulting from the financial crisis will generate its own epidemic of bad health for workers. Overall, 6.7 million jobs have disappeared in the U.S since December 2007, although that number could easily be doubled considering the millions uncounted by government figures. According to the International Labor Organization, 51 million jobs could disappear worldwide this year alone.
A Congressional study in 1971 reported that for every 1.4% rise in unemployment, 30,590 workers died in the next five years from strokes, heart disease, kidney and liver ailments and suicide. (In January, 2009, the British medical journal Lancet, published a study showing that as many as one million working-age men died in capitalist Russia between 1989 and 2002 due to the implosion of the old communist movement and capitalist privatization throughout the economy. (Unemployment increased 56% over that period.) The stress of job loss significantly increases the incidence of diseases like high blood pressure and heart disease (NY Times, 5/9), along with depression and anxiety.
Access to health care is clearly an important issue for the world’s workers, but even with “national health” systems, the ruling class will never give us the health care we need. “National health” is synonymous with “government health” and the politicians’ constant kow-towing to healthcare industry bosses shows that the government is not a neutral mediator in the battle between workers and bosses. Capitalist governments are always subservient to their capitalist masters, a lesson workers shouldn’t forget when hearing about ‘town-hall meetings.” These meetings are orchestrated spectacles designed to build a movement that rails against “socialized” medicine in attempts to win workers to fascism. (Its standard-bearer is Sean Hannity, whose recent show entitled “Universal Nightmares” promoted the terror of universal health care.)
However, capitalist government health care is not the answer workers need. In Britain, the National Health Service denied the use of a drug to treat breast cancer because it was “too expensive.” Cancer researchers there also recently reported that as many as 15,000 people past 75 have died prematurely due to slow diagnosis and treatment.
Racist disparities in health care are also just as prevalent in countries with national health care as they are in the U.S. Throughout the European Union (where national health care is common) access to doctors is severely limited for undocumented immigrants. In 2007, Medicins du Monde (Doctors of the World) reported that so-called “universal coverage” denied treatment by a health care professional to 10% of undocumented immigrants. In general, immigrants don’t receive proper health care because of a “lack of knowledge about where to go for treatment, treatment cost, administrative problems, fear of being reported to the authorities and of discrimination, and linguistic and cultural barriers.” (European survey on undocumented migrants’ access to health care, MdM 2007).
No matter what the bosses or their politician-puppets say, and no matter what the proposed healthcare system, they will never voluntarily free workers from the system that creates poor health in the first place, a system that only needs us to be healthy enough to produce profit and to fight their imperialist wars. And they will never free us from a system where millions die needlessly because their deaths are deemed “too expensive” to prevent. Liberation is up to workers, armed with communist consciousness and led by the only party that fights to destroy the real disease: capitalism. Joining PLP and building this movement is the best way to ensure that workers get the health care