Anti-Capitalist Folk Instincts?

Michael Moore’s “SiCKO” is, in certain respects, a perfect political movie. One film isn’t going give us single-payer universal health care in this country, but this one might just move us a little closer to it. In its portrayal of a perverse health care system that places profits before patients, “SiCKO” manages to do the two things that any effective piece of agitprop must.The first, of course, is to inspire outrage. And there is plenty of outrage to be had. The guy who had to decide which finger he could afford to get reattached; the old folks living in their daughter’s storage room because they sold the house to pay medical bills; the woman whose daughter died because the hospital refused to treat her. At various points in the movie, I was teary-eyed with rage.

But it’s not enough to just upset people. This is a common mistake made by leftists—middle class white ones especially. They think that people will rise up if they find out how much they are being screwed. But it turns out that many people are perfectly aware that they are being screwed; they just don’t think there’s anything they can do about it. So after you get people riled up, it’s vitally important that you show them how things could be different.
And that’s where SiCKO really shines. Health care was really a brilliant choice of subject. Not just because, as many reviewers have pointed out, insurance companies make an excellent villain. The genius of it is that when it comes to our awful health care system, things not only can be better, they are better in every other rich country in the world. The strongest part of the movie was the parts talking about the Canadian, British, and French systems, which guarantee free health care to everyone. It really is that simple—just rip off the French!

Maybe that’s why Moore’s message is finding such a receptive audience. Even Oprah waxed social democraticafter seeing it. Boing Boing (via TPM Café) reports that even in Texas, the movie can inspire spontaneous organizing. Meanwhile, the movie has apparently scared the crap out of the health insurance industry. And on right-wing TV, they’re reduced to arguing that universal healthcare causes terrorism. Unfortunately, SiCKO has not yet inspired any of the leading Democratic candidates to come out in favor of true single-payer universal coverage instead of some partial compromise position (Dennis Kucinich does support single payer Medicare-for-all, however).

It’s also worth noting that this movie is about a lot more than health care. Some of the more perceptive critics have noticed that Moore is just using health care as an entry point to a much broader social democratic vision. He wants to promote a vision of the country in which people look out for each other—and the government looks out for them—rather than our current ethos of ultra-individualism. That’s why Matt Yglesias—who is no socialist—suggests that the reaction to the movie is a sign of the “anti-capitalist folk instincts” of many Americans. “The crux of the matter”, he argues, “is that ordinary people think that if there’s a sick person, and you’re in a position to help the sick person, that you ought to help the sick person. This is what us socialists might call the principle of solidarity.

Is this right? Do Americans have “anti-capitalist folk instincts”? And if so, how do we tap into them and direct them toward political action?


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Revolution at the Crossroads: Igniting the Socialist Resistance Against Trump

February 17, 2017 · $20.00 USD

Location: MayDay Space
Where: 176 St Nicholas Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237
When: Friday, February 17th at 6 PM to Sunday, February 19th to 4 PM

Political Context

This Presidents’ Day weekend, the Young Democratic Socialists will gather for our annual winter conference in New York City titled Revolution at the Crossroads: Igniting the Socialist Resistance Against Trump. We did not choose the name lightly. In doing so, we call for leftists to collectively confront Trump and Trumpism at every possible opportunity. When a Trump administration attempts mass deportations of undocumented workers, when it attempts to register Muslims or roll back worker protections, when it attempts to take away reproductive, LGTBQ, civil, or any other rights, then we must militantly resist to prevent such measures.

To succeed, this must be explicitly socialist resistance. With liberalism having repeatedly shown itself incapable of combating the far right, it is now the time for socialists to openly declare our place in building the mass, multi-racial, and working class movement necessary for defeating the Trump administration. In this struggle, millennials will play an outsized role. That is why this conference comes at such a critical time—together we must create spaces for democratic and strategic discussion, spaces to gain organizing skills, and most importantly, spaces to form networks of young radicals for the future struggles ahead. These spaces will only come together if socialists come together. Join us this Presidents Weekend and help ignite the movement to defeat the Trump administration, continue the political revolution, and build the socialist alternative.

Key Deadlines

  • January 8th: Travel Scholarship for Air Travel (for application see below)
  • January 15th: Travel Scholarship for Non-Air Travel (ex: bus, car, train, etc.)
  • February 3rd: Early Bird Registration Ends - Tickets prices go up from $5 to $10
  • February 10th: Free Housing - We have limited free housing. You need to first register, then you will be sent an application for free housing.

Apply for a travel scholarship here! (First Deadline January 8, 2017)

Check out the working program (subject to change)