Our current health system treats health care as a commodity, to be bought, sold, and profited from. As Americans are bankrupted by medical bills, high deductibles, premiums, or shut out altogether, administrators, pharmaceutical companies, and investors are lining their pockets. That health care in the form of insurance is tied to one’s employment is the sickness of a society in which one’s right to live is dependent on their ability to produce for their bosses. Illness itself is often caused and compounded by capitalism. Structural inequities place disproportionate health burdens on the working class, poor, and communities of color in the forms of environmental pollution, limited access to nutritional food, workplace injuries, psychological trauma, and more. Furthermore, dependence on employer-provided health insurance functions as a powerful tool of labor discipline, discouraging workers from leaving bad jobs and limiting the bargaining agendas of unions. A democratic socialist vision of health justice would enable all to have the right to a health-promoting life, treatment that is free, and be independent from the profiteering that defines the American system. We believe in a single-payer system that democratizes the healthcare system and eliminates insurance companies who make money by denying care to patients. Health equality can also be furthered by socializing health providers, who would be paid for their labor, rather than to generate profits for the investor class. Finally, the secure floor of comprehensive single-payer would empower unions to bargain for real workplace democracy and begin to rebuild the ability of the working class to contest capital. Eugene DSA is involved in fighting for single payer on both the state and national levels. We work with allied groups to bring a single-payer proposal to Oregonians by 2020 and to further the national DSA Medicare-for-All campaign.
As democratic socialists, we understand that we can never have true democracy in the political arena unless we have democracy in the economic arena as well. There can be no strong democratic socialist movement without a militant, powerful, and democratic labor movement. If DSA is “to become a socialist organization truly rooted in a multi-racial working class, it must expand its work both among unionized workers and among those currently without union representation” (from the 2017 DSA Priorities Resolution). In capitalist societies, most people are workers. To survive, the vast majority of us have no choice but to sell our ability to work to someone else in exchange for a wage. However, the incredible wealth that is created by working people does not end up in the pockets of the workers who created it. Rather it is captured by and becomes concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority of business owners and wealthy shareholders. While millions of workers struggle daily just to make ends meet, this tiny minority of capitalists becomes tremendously rich off the labor of those workers. This wealth is then further parlayed into political power, including power over the media, our education system, and all our societal institutions. Capitalism is profoundly undemocratic. It pits us against each other and workplaces are fundamentally authoritarian unless workers are able to self-organize and build collective power. Unions are tools by which working people are able to exert control over their pay, benefits, working conditions, and more. And this is why capitalists as a class constantly work to undermine unions and discredit unions. As socialists, we believe firmly in the importance of unions in building worker power viz-a-viz employers, protecting workers’ rights, and improving the lives of workers, their families and their communities. But we also strive for a world in which workers are not forced to work on behalf of others, but are themselves the owners and operators of the enterprises in which they labor. We are, therefore, committed to encouraging, supporting, and developing worker-owned and -operated cooperatives where workers are their own bosses and decisions in the workplace are made democratically by those who perform the labor.
From its beginnings in the 1800s the socialist movement has recognized the shared interests of workers of all nations. In the modern era, workers and capital alike have travelled the world, crossing borders in response to economic displacement, political instability, and wars. Yet in our modern era, where globalized capital flows freely across borders, workers find themselves restricted and regulated by the state. While capital crossing borders in search of new opportunities is welcomed by tax credits and sweetheart regulatory arrangements and enjoys robust protections under a raft of international trade agreements, actual people face harsh systems that restrict and discipline our movement. The U.S. immigration system privileges wealthy professionals through limited guest worker and employer sponsorship programs, while the vast majority of immigrants must cross deadly deserts on foot or oceans in overcrowded ships, dodging militarized immigration enforcers and vigilantes, only to face a system built on their exclusion. Reactionary political dogma demonizes the illegal immigrant while the capitalist system itself profits by defining people as illegal. Undocumented laborers, lacking legal recourse to defend their rights, are subject to extreme exploitation: paid abysmal wages, subjected to constant abuse in the workplace, and easily fired or even deported if they show resistance. Major industries in the U.S., including agriculture, domestic laborers, food processing, and others are built on this system, relying on sub-minimum wage hyper-exploited workers as the base for their business model. As socialists we recognize that solidarity with immigrant workers is the only logical outgrowth of our commitment to international working class solidarity, and so fight to empower all workers to struggle against international capital. Rather than demonize immigrants and refugees or support limited systems of disciplined labor control like guest worker programs offered by some immigration reform advocates, we support policies like city and state “sanctuary” policies, compassionate refugee support programs, and comprehensive immigration reforms that offer a real path to citizenship for all workers, resist draconian immigration enforcement and empower immigrant workers’ struggle for their interests, and for social movements and unions to support all workers’ interests regardless of what side of a border they come from. Solidarity across race, class, cultures, nationalities, and immigration status is the real meaning of the call for workers of the world to unite.
Race and racism are social systems central to the rise of capitalism, and remain central to how our economic and political system is organized. In the United States, white supremacist settler colonialism has used racial hierarchies to organize society. The ideological belief that certain people were biologically inferior shaped this nation from its colonial origins. The original colonies and independent United States consigning the Native American peoples of North America to genocidal violence and marginalization while using the labor of other racialized minorities, particularly enslaved people of African descent and their ostensibly free descendants, the colonized Latinx peoples of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the formerly Mexican territories of what is today the U.S. Southwest, and immigrants from East Asia as the engines to generate wealth. These dynamics fundamentally shaped the United States as expanded across the continent of North America and into the Pacific Ocean, and have long shaped the form that U.S. imperialism expresses itself around the world. Race also ties working class white folks to the capitalist system, fostering cross-class identification with wealthy elites who exploit all workers and undermining solidarity between workers of different races against the bosses who exploit us all. Our state of Oregon was an exemplar of this process, founded by white settlers who displaced the indigenous peoples of the state through wars of genocidal violence, confining the survivors to impoverished reservations. Today, we in Eugene DSA live and work on unceded lands stolen from the Kalapuya peoples, and must recognize the space we occupy and the state in which we struggle as the result of their violent displacement. The state’s 1859 Constitution outlawed slavery, but also made it illegal for people of African descent to move to the state, rejecting slavery in the name of a democratic white republicanism that abhorred slavery as tyranny but also abhorred the enslaved and their descendants as inferiors. In the twentieth century, and especially since World War II, the labor of Latinx immigrants and migrants from the Southwest, excluded from the protections of U.S. labor law as farmworkers or even, for a significant number of farmworkers, from all legal protections as non-citizens, was the backbone of the agricultural economy of our largely rural state. Racism upholds the system of de facto white supremacy in the United States, providing the foundation of ruling class power and dividing working people against each other. Some on the socialist Left have argued that race is a distraction from class struggle, but as Eugene DSA, we recognize that to challenge capitalism and build working class power we must directly confront and combat racism. Too often working class white people have turned on their fellow workers to enforce racism through “race riots,” lynching, and other forms of reactionary violence. We call for broad organizing in solidarity with racially oppressed peoples and the direct confrontation of racist, fascist, and white nationalist movements that twist working class white people’s resentments and turn workers against workers. Socialism must be built on a principled commitment to anti-racist solidarity, or it will not be.