[Marxism] Safe nurse staffing, permanent revolution, and women's liberation

Andrew Pollack acpollack2 at gmail.com
Thu Jun 16 07:42:24 MDT 2016

Yesterday the State Assembly in New York passed a bill sought by nurses
which will force hospitals to have safe staffing levels, i.e. to have as
many nurses as their patients need.

This is a small but very significant victory, because the bill had failed
in previous tries, and the terrain of struggle has now broadened even
though it will be vetoed in the State Senate.

Victories in struggles like these - and in parallel struggles for more
teachers, more day-care workers, etc. etc. - are in my opinion key to
future revolutions which combine tasks in spheres of both production and
reproduction. In the short term they make women workers feel empowered, and
thus in the longer term they inspire them to fight for a society in which
all resources and labor are democratically allocated according to what
people NEED, whether for their heart, their bellies, their soul or their
loves, rather than what's "profitable."

Various progressive authors have been writing about and working on such
struggles - although often within a liberal bourgeois framework (see Ai Jen
Poo's book, or Judith Shulevitz's recent op-ed in the Times on

Other more radical voices (do a search at socialistworker.org on "social
reproduction) approach these struggles from a more strategic, revolutionary

Coincidentally (or perhaps not) this area of struggle and debate is
relevant to recent debates about permanent revolution. Some authors have
claimed the theory is now irrelevant because all "democratic tasks" are
solved. That may or may not be true, but more importantly what those
authors miss is the more fundamental aspect of the theory, i.e. its
insistence that only a qualitative restructuring of society can make the
achievement of those and other tasks permanent.

So, for instance, in the sphere of social reproduction, it's not a question
of the quantitative accumulation of more "care workers," broader access to
"care" services, etc. - think of recent austerity drives in social
democratic countries where supposedly everyone would always have all the
childcare, schooling, etc., etc. needed - but whether such accumulation is
part of a more deepgoing restructuring of society so that production is
carried out FOR healthier, more communal reproduction - and so that on that
basis gains in the reproductive sphere would become permanent (and vice
versa, as newly-socialized reproduction reinforces the abolition of the law
of value in production).

Relevant here is Ernest Mandel's isolation of the key weakness in
postcapitalist societies thus far, i.e. the contradiction between
nationalization in the sphere of production and the continued dominance of
the law of value in the commodified spheres of consumption and distribution
- a contradiction which can only be overcome (and that gradually) by a
workers' state which plans democratically and thus broadens the scope of
conscious decision-making and allocation to both, now-linked, spheres.

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