A Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM) of Toronto delegate attended the first Rebellious Nursing Conference in Philadelphia, PA this past September. The mission of the conference was to unite nurses and healthcare providers in solidarity to address health disparities; caregiving was envisioned “as a communal activity” where care is provided according to ability, and received according to need.
While this ideal would be possible in a communist society, nurses and attendees at the conference certainly knew that it is not a reality in our capitalist society. Workshops covered topics such as nursing care for prisoners, people involved in the sex trade, immigrants and refugees, and LGBTQ people. Issues around disability, abortion access, unions, and street medic work were also addressed in workshops.
We must realize, however, that helping individuals deal with the effects of capitalism is not enough. If healthcare providers, or anyone for that matter, are serious about the principle of health for all, we must realize that only by struggling for communist revolution could this be possible.
In capitalist Canada, the self determination and land rights of indigenous people are not respected, migrants and immigrants are used as cheap sources of disposable labour, feminized labour is devalued, and property and wealth are concentrated in the hands of the few ruling elite. In this context, income inequality, gender, immigration status and being indigenous will continue to dictate our health far more important than mere genetics or “lifestyle.” Without addressing these ills of capitalism, health will continue to be a privilege of the bourgeoisie.
What is the role of healthcare providers in this context? Nurses have an important role in serving the people. We bear witness to the ravages of capitalism written upon the bodies of the working class—in cancers related to chemical exposure, diabetes and heart conditions due to poor access to healthy food, drug addiction, and much more.
While our jobs may not allow us to directly struggle for communism, there is still an important role in agitating among patients to point out the contradictions in our society that result in ill health. Healthcare providers can also serve proletarian people in confrontations where they are combating the bourgeoisie—a role that has been taken up by street medics providing care in direct actions, prison support, and encampments like Occupy.
But most of all, we need to realize that the people’s health is directly undermined by the current mode of production: capitalism. Until the working class is victorious, caregiving will continue to be feminized, undervalued, and provided according to wealth rather than need. The struggle for communism needs not only rebellious nursing, but more importantly, revolutionary nursing.