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Healthcare: A Universal Right of Every Worker

By Punkerslut

Revised Edition -- June, 2007

Image by Eric Drooker
Image: By Eric Drooker

Start Date: Dec. 12, 2006
Finish Date: Jan. 19, 2007


"I am a convinced partisan of economic and social equality, for I know that outside of this equality, freedom, justice, human dignity, morality, and the well-being of individuals as well as the prosperity of nations are all nothing but so many falsehoods."

-- Mikhail Bakunin [*1]

     My contention in this piece is very simple and very direct. Every worker has an absolute right to healthcare. Allow me to elaborate upon some of these terms. A generally accepted definition of the term worker is "one who labors in the social production." The phrase "healthcare" has many in-depth definitions with countless inclusions, exceptions, and conditional rules. When I talk about healthcare, I am speaking about providing for the people whatever is necessary to relieve them of impediments to mental, emotional, or physical health. Many Leftists and Liberals also agree that workers ought to be guaranteed a right to healthcare, but not all of them believe in the definition I have provided. Those with moderate or conservative influences tend to lean towards a more restrictive healthcare policy, one that allows exceptions to be left outside of the system's officialized record for compassion. This is not the definition of universal healthcare as I understood. A true system of healthcare allows each member of the community to satisfy their needs for emotional, mental, and physical sustenance, regardless how strong or deep their need may be.

     The universal right to healthcare can only naturally follow when the world realizes the universal rights to food, shelter, and an equitable means of contributing to social production; or as it is commonly referred to it, "a living." A true living can only be satisfied when an individual is allowed both a democratic voice in governing their workplace and the economic distribution of society. This entails a social order where every individual is allowed to pursue and advance themselves in matters of culture, art, science, or industrial ability. To maintain roots to the base of human consciousness, education must be an unfettered right to all members of society. Individuals must be provided with both the facilities of a just social order and the necessary means to keep themselves alive. These are the struggles of Leftist revolutionaries. We will be found fighting in places where people are denied the right to food, water, and a fair means of living. We will also be found in places where Democracy is threatened, where the rights to association, assembly, and press are starting to crumble. Once these basic rights of physical necessity and social integration are granted, progressive thinkers will demand that a right to healthcare should be recognized. It is only natural that the right to healthcare can only follow when the primal rights of humanity are first met.

     When speaking on the rights of the people, it is unfair to use the word "citizen." Where a person was born or whether they are federally registered to the local government is irrelevant. No human being is an island, and to say that social policy should be applied to one group of people and not another, based on arbitrary differences, is to make yourself an enemy of international, working-class solidarity. The ideal ethic of the Communist, of every Leftist, is that every person should work as much as they can and that every person should take as much as they need. To recreate a society based on class divisions of "inclusion to privilege" and "exclusion to society's institutions" is to recreate the current causes of our misery. For this reason, when I speak of the rights of the members of the community, I will not use the word citizen. Being a part of a community is enough to guarantee an individual the same rights as any other.

     All workers have the absolute right to healthcare. To insist upon anything else would be a violation of social justice.

A Brief History of the Working Class

"All sorts of manufacturing work was carried on under crude and brutal conditions. The children thrust into premature and excessive labour, suffered from occupational diseases and malformation. The Nottingham lace workers were afflicted with eye troubles. The pottery workers from lead paralysis and collic in the glazing departments, and injury to the lungs in the scouring rooms. The glassblowers from blindness, rheumatism, and other ailments. The mining children had the hardest lot of all, and were so tired by their toil that they often, had to be led or carried home from the pits and usually fell asleep before they could be put to bed. They were frequently injured by falls of coal or rock, or by the tubs and machinery. Their work being mainly to push or drag the tubs along the narrow workings, was excessively arduous; they became dwarfed, bowlegged, crippled and otherwise deformed, suffered from curvature of the spine, abcesses and boils on the head from pushing the coal tubs with it; and on the back from getting it scraped on the rocks as they bent to their load, and from carrying coal on the back. They contracted heart trouble through excessive exertion, lung trouble through the lack of ventilation in the mines, eye trouble, rheumatism, boils from working in salt water, rupture and disease of glands and joints."
          --Sylvia Pankhurst, 1918
          "Education of the Masses"

     The world has become a very different place today than in 1848, the year the Manifesto of the Communist Party was first authored by Marx. Since that time, we have seen the Haymarket Massacre, the laws defining the eight hour day, muckrakers exposing the filthy conditions of tenements and factories, the rise and fall of Socialist political parties, public watchdog groups, and the reality of globalized, corporate power. The founding of first Communist Party did not mark the first date that the working class assembled in order to secure their own interests. Nor did it mark the last battle that the people would face against tyranny. Class struggles have a tendency to evolve as fast as people are capable of understanding them. The reins of power will always be revolving through the hands of different social and economic elites. To grasp an accurate understanding of the history of the working class, one must look to the battles that they waged and to the enemies that brought poverty and oppression to them, as well as the ideas that motivated and inspired them to take action.

     Some historians today still regard America's 19th century as a period of economic and technological growth. They are fond of using phrases like "the era of rugged individualism" or "industrial revolution." Here is the greatest proof of class antagonisms. As far as what history has to say, the books that make it into our schools, our libraries, and our bookshops will very vaguely and faintly reference this period. By calling it a period of "rugged individualism," they are simply identifying it by the title of the ideology of the power elites. Is an absolute ruler a king, queen, or monarch, or are they just a despot, dictator, and tyrant? It depends on who paid the bill for society's history books. Similarly, when we look to the early development of society as it occurred during this period, we will find no time in history where there are so many in poverty and so few with wealth. It is the pinnacle of a tyrannical world -- the gap between oppressor and oppressed never widened so much or so quickly. The world became a different place and today's historians are content to call it an Industrial Revolution.

     "... there are always the mines in which fifty, a hundred, or five hundred poor devils are suffocated, swallowed in a single moment of horrible destruction, their charred bodies never to see daylight again." [*2] This is one glimpse into the world of the 1800's. In 1906, an article was published describing, "...the case of a girl whose hand was caught in the wheels of a dangerous machine and so mangled that it was necessary to cut off her arm at the shoulder. The accident was directly due to a violation by the employer of the statute which requires safety guards on this machinery." [*3] Another piece further describes child labor as it was commonly practiced: "A Child from 3 to 10 or 12 years adds by its labor from 50 cents to $1.50 per week to the family income. The hours of the child are as long as its strength endures or the work remains. A child 3 years old can work continuously from 1 1/2 to 2 hours at a time; a child 10 years old can work 12 hours." [*4] These are the images that our schools won't teach to us. This is the history that universities feel is better left ignored. And these are the types of stories that the mainstream media will never publish. At the same time that the working-class was exploited, there become a revolutionary class; a group of individuals, without regard for law or social custom, with the simple interest of abolishing all that is at the root of mankind's misery. The Capitalists responded in kind...

"By using the state troops and the influence of the Federal Government they were able to man the mills in Colorado City with scab millmen; and after months of hardship, after 1,600 of our men had been arrested and placed in the Victor Armory in one single room that they called the 'bullpen,' after 400 of them had been loaded aboard special trains guarded by soldiers, shipped away front their homes, dumped out on the prairies down in New Mexico and Kansas; after the women who had taken up the work of distributing strike relief had been placed under arrest --we find then that they were able to man the mines with scabs, the mills running with scabs..." [*5]

     In 2005, Temple University published a study titled, "Increase in inflammatory cytokines in median nerves in a rat model of repetitive motion injury." The study demonstrated that nerve damage from repetitive behavior can cause serious physical, mental, and emotional problems. The researchers used the term "sick worker syndrome" to describe the condition. In human models, what is seen as "slacking off" may actually just be the brain's unconscious response to nerve-damage caused by repetitive behavior. [*6] It is amazing that scientists have finally isolated the chemical reaction that causes debilitation from prolonged, monotonous action. Now science has the privilege of knowing what the working class have known for several millenia.

The Social Contract

"Such was, or may well have been, the origin of society and law, which bound new fetters on the poor, and gave new powers to the rich; which irretrievably destroyed natural liberty, eternally fixed the law of property and inequality, converted clever usurpation into unalterable right, and, for the advantage of a few ambitious individuals, subjected all mankind to perpetual labour, slavery and wretchedness. It is easy to see how the establishment of one community made that of all the rest necessary, and how, in order to make head against united forces, the rest of mankind had to unite in turn. Societies soon multiplied and spread over the face of the earth, till hardly a corner of the world was left in which a man could escape the yoke, and withdraw his head from beneath the sword which he saw perpetually hanging over him by a thread."

-- Jean Jacques Rousseau, 1754 [*7]

     Every member of society has certain obligations and rights, when it comes to their behavior with others. Social equity is founded on the idea that the law enforces its penalties and requirements uniformly. No party's influence or presence should be a deterring or persuading in how the law treats them. If the state, the "sacred guardian of the law," favors one class over another, it will only instigate social conflict between the parties. Those who survived the Holocaust internment camps would seek and obtain some restitution for their suffering. Japanese-Americans endured life in concentration camps, and they also receive a restitution. Native Americans today are also given restitution for crimes against their ancestors. The behavior of Capitalists throughout history is inexcusable. To say it was simply a matter of the law being different is ignoring the fact that the state had been hijacked by bribery and corruption. There was no Democratic alternative to the working individual. It would be erroneous to pass on this debt to those of a certain blood; it was not a crime committed by certain families, but a crime committed by an entire class. Specifically, it was a crime committed by property. Today's wealth exists because of those who suffered such great misery during the "Industrial Revolution." The same weapon is still causing the same great tragedy. Universal healthcare is the first step in restitution.

     A true worker would refuse to work under our current conditions. They would kick and scream, they would attack their managers and supervisors, and they would burn down all the factories and bomb all the mines. Why are we still working to build the excesses of this elite class when my own people are dying in the streets? It is a question that presents itself to every worker. Those who work in the industry sectors that provide the entertainment for the elite class must know the truth. While their hands labor on expensive commodities, they must know that there are millions of people who face starvation and homelessness. The system makes good use of the unemployed millions; without people who can't find work, wages and worker benefits increase. [*8] To say that Capitalism had discovered a fault in the way humans behave and think, and failed to exploit it, is beyond the conscience of any rational thinker. Even though these facts ring true, we must still eat, and to do that, we must still work. The true worker would see his people suffering and do everything he could to stop it. A culture created by several hundred years of Free Enterprise cannot be abolished in one day. If it could, then the constantly lingering threat of starvation would mean nothing to those who refused to bargain with the enemy. If it only took the sheer will of good people to destroy tyranny, then no one would be in chains. Capitalism proves that it will take much more.

     Something invaluable was taken from the most innocent ranks of humanity. It is only fair that something invaluable be indebted upon those who committed the first crime. There is nothing that can be done to bring back those who fell to injustice, the good people of history who lost everything due to some over-ambitious individual in a high position. Nothing can change what has happened, but we can change how things will be. Only seven percent of Capitalism's profit will give all of America what our ancestors rightfully deserved. The absolute and universal right to healthcare is more than possible. It is justice.

"There's never a mine blown skyward now
But we're buried alive for you.
There's never a wreck drifts shoreward now
But we are its ghastly crew.
Go reckon our dead by the forges red
And the factories where we spin.
If blood be the price of your accursed wealth,
Good God, we ha' paid it in!

"We have fed you all for a thousand years,
For that was our doom, you know,
From the days when you chained us in your fields
To the strike of a week ago,
You ha' eaten our lives and our babes and wives,
And we're told it's your legal share,
But if the blood be the price of your lawful wealth,
Good God, we ha' bought it fair!"

          --Joseph J. Ettor, 1913
          "Industrial Unionism: the Road to Freedom," published by the Industrial Workers of the World (the IWW)



1. "Stateless Socialism: Anarchism," by Mikhail Bakunin, from "The Political Philosophy of Bakunin," by G.P. Maximoff, 1953, The Free Press, NY.
2. "Ravachol," by Octave Henry Marie Mirbeau.
3. Geo. W. Alger "Some Equivocal Rights of Labor" Atlantic Monthly, March, '06. As quoted in "Working Hours of Women in Factories," Mary Van Kleeck, 1906-1907.
4. "The Wreck of the Home: How Wearing Apparel is Fashioned in the Tenements," Annie S. Daniel, 1905.
5. "The General Strike," Big Bill Haywood, 1911.
6. "Slacker Or Sick?" Science Daily, October 24, 2005. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051024081408.htm
7. "Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Among Men," Jean Jacques Rousseau, 1754, the Second Part, translated by G. D. H. Cole
8. A study on this matter was published in the journal Public Choice, by Springer Netherlands. Issue: Volume 72, Number 1 / October, 1991.

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