Socialism and health care
The concept of government responsibility in public health care was first upheld in Russia (later the Soviet Union federation) under the socialist state and the leadership of communist leader Vladimir Lenin. In 1920, he declared: “We have started a great war, a war which we shall not end soon. This is a bloodless war waged by the armies of labor on starvation, cold and typhus, a war for an enlightened, bright, well-fed and healthy Russia.”
Before Russia built socialism, no other country had a system of public health care. Epidemics of infectious diseases was rampant brought about by the abject, grimy and congested communities of workers and toiling people. Doctors worked for themselves or are funded by charity and religious institutions. Most of the people do not received medical attention.
All these changed under socialism which considered the people’s health as state responsibility. Amid the Spanish flu pandemic, the Soviet Union in 1919 started centralized state health service for all. It established the People’s Commissariat for Public Health to attend to people’s health.
In 1924, the Soviet government declared the view that doctors should have “the ability to study the occupational and social conditions which give rise to illness and not only to cure the illness but to suggest ways to prevent it.”
Capitalist countries in Europe and elsewhere followed the Soviet Union’s footsteps. This became a basic characteristic of the socialist system in China and a large part of the world. The Soviet Union’s example served as inspiration for the workers and toiling masses across the globe to march along the path of socialist revolution.
In the US and other former socialist countries, the public health system has been eroded by several decades of neoliberalism. Because of this, a great majority of the people do not receive proper health care. A vibrant system of public health now can be seen only in Cuba and other countries which continue to uphold socialism.
The Covid-19 pandemic shows not only the need to strengthen the public health system, but moreover, the need to establish a genuine democratic state that will truly prioritize and take care of the people’s interests and welfare.