Junior Doctor and CPGB-ML member Ranjeet speaks about the Junior Doctors Strikes in the context of the wider attacks on the NHS, following the May Day march from Clerkenwell Green to Trafalgar Square on 1 May 2016.
The plan to cut pay of medical staff, nursing staff, and all NHS workers, has not come out of the blue, he says, but is part of an ongoing plan to gut the NHS, and introduce an insurance based system that will make enormous profits for massive Health Corporations – United Health, Serco, Circle, Virgin (now the UK’s largest GP practice, ‘holding health contracts’ on some 3 million British citizens), McKinsey, Sodexo, Bupa, and a panoply of others – at the expense of rationed and substandard care, increasingly accessible only to those who supplement a basic level of provision by private insurance – which will become prohibitively expensive as the NHS is hamstrung and run down.
The NHS singers are a now well known and popular voice. A choir of NHS workers came together to write, perform and produce this anthem in support of the struggle to defend the NHS from the onslaught of privatisation, with the attack on pay and conditions of its staff – notably the junior doctors and nursing students – as a key component of privatisation.
Enjoy the video, and pass it on. And don’t forget to read WHY AND HOW our ruling class are planning to dismantle the NHS underneath!
Doctors, nurses, medical students, other healthcare professionals, and members of the public took to the streets on Saturday to voice their opposition to the proposed new contracts for junior doctors, the third public demonstration against the changes. The protest started with impassioned speeches, songs, and some comedy from NHS workers and supporters, before a masked march to Downing St for a silent protest.
The following letter was sent by a Proletarian reader to the British Medical Association journal BMA News.
“Readers of BMA News over the last couple of weeks cannot fail to have noticed the BMA’s conspicuous ‘No More Games’ campaign, designed – we are told – to appeal to the UK government to stop “playing games” with the NHS.
With all due respect to the leadership of our trade union, what UK governments – regardless of party political stripe – have done and continue to do to the NHS since 1979 is not a ‘game’, it is a pre-planned step-by-step programme to re-privatise healthcare in this country.
The first step in 1983 was to take NHS executive power away from doctors and place it instead in the hands of new business managers.
Step 2 in 1990 was to replace the old funding system of simple block budget allocation, with an artificial ‘internal market’ whereby ‘providers’ would henceforth compete for funding from ‘commissioners’.
Step 3, from 1997, was the expansion of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), whereby NHS Trusts were encouraged to ‘solve’ their funding problems by – in effect – paying for new (and often unnecessary) infrastructure projects on a credit card.
Step 4 was the introduction of ‘Foundation Hospitals’ – in effect embryonic private hospitals – from 2002: since then the government has decreed that all NHS Trusts must ultimately become Foundation Trusts, or else be subsumed into existing Foundation Trusts.
The final step was the Health and Social Care Act 2011, which in fact formally abolished the NHS as a universal free healthcare system: ‘NHS’ is now little more than the name for a pot of taxpayer money that will increasingly be directed to the government’s friends on the boards of private healthcare providers.
And so you see, the government is not ‘playing games’ here, far from it. It is no more likely to be dissuaded from privatising the NHS by appeal to reason or kindness than it was to be dissuaded from invading Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or Libya. Or Yugoslavia. Or Ukraine …
Perhaps if anyone needs to be told to stop ‘playing games’ here it’s the BMA?”
CPGB-ML and Red Youth activists attended and spoke at a demonstration opposing TTIP today at Shepherd’s Bush in West London (see video below).
TTIP is the latest in the legacy of cuts and privatisation ushered in by successive imperialist governments, and has been rearing it’s ugly head with increasing frequency in the media recently – but not without opposition, despite the best attempts of our governments and media to sanitise it, and brush its anti-social effects under the carpet.
Here we are at a grassroots demo,
but here come Labour, they got the memo!
Rousing us all with their ‘working class’ chanting,
another blast of their Anti-Tory ranting.
The Tories ARE scum but have we forgotten,
that Labour and its policies have always been rotten?
No, you cry – Labour gave us NHS!
They did. This is true. Yes, oh yes!
The Soviet Union had free healthcare,
the Commies in Britain knew this to be fair.
Labour were sweating at the Communists strength,
they pondered and plotted and worried at length.
They gave us our healthcare, our fabulous concession,
we were pacified – they sold it! – this should be our lesson.
Labour brought Atos, PFI, higher tuition fees,
it brought OUR NHS down to its knees,
and my favourite – the policy it backed to the max,
then a U-turn for votes… its own pet – Bedroom Tax!
A vote for Labour results in as much action,
as an Olympic runner with both legs in traction.
Thatcher is dead but what do we gain,
by voting for Imperialists again and again?
Red Ed? Really? Enough of this crap.
There’s less Socialism in Labour than MPs with the Clap!
This Parliamentary system is a complete farce,
Us masses need a massive kick up the arse.
These MPs are getting fatter and fatter,
on the spoils of our labour and what do we matter?
But we can draw strength through our collective might,
for our emancipation we ALL have to fight!
So fists in the air, one and all,
Let us always remember there is only ONE war.
It’s going to take time, won’t happen over night,
but if we’re committed and organised our future’s in sight.
UKIP and the far right are a sickening joke,
and what use the Greens under reactionary yoke?
For Reformists and Revisionists sound the death knell,
Our ONLY alternative is the CPGB-ML!
Red Youth was pleased to support a handful of the many hundreds of picket lines organised across the country today in defense of the NHS. Thousands of workers staged a 4 hour stoppage in protest against a provocative 1% pay rise (in effect a serious pay cut).
In July 2010, barely two months after a general election campaign in which the Tories promised “no more top-down reorganisations of the NHS”, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced the new government’s plans for the biggest restructuring of the NHS since its foundation in 1948.
Yet such bare-faced contempt for the British public profoundly misjudged the fact that these days, with disillusionment with mainstream politics at record levels, only the pathologically naïve would fail to see the Health and Social Care Bill 2011 for what it really is: the final outright privatisation of the NHS.
There has been a huge upsurge of popular opposition to the proposals, with inspired campaign groups like 38 Degrees and Keep Our NHS Public spearheading the fight alongside NHS workers themselves. As usual the do-nothing tactics of the Labour party and TUC have been put thoroughly to shame by the dedication, courage, and ingenuity of these activists.
Yet all too often even the likes of 38 Degrees leave themselves exposed by a superficial analysis that, for example, sees the HASC Bill as the personal project of Lansley himself – a problem that could perhaps be removed if only Lansley could be removed, if only the government could somehow be persuaded to ‘see sense’.
Always in the background there lurks the dangerous illusion that every British worker should by now know to avoid like the plague: that if only a Labour government were in office, all would be well.
Meanwhile, Lansley has given way to Jeremy Hunt, and the privatisation drive is intensifying rather than abating. The latest proposals, if they pass into law, will make it compulsory for GPs to open up all areas of health provision to private companies – something that Lansley stated emphatically last year would definitely not happen!
Privatisation and profiteering
Those who attempt to defend the last Labour government’s record on the NHS typically point to the increase in funding from 1999. But while some of that money did go to frontline care, this actually occurred only as an accidental and temporary trickle-down side effect of the real policies driving increased spending at that time: the likes of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) that sought easy profit opportunities for big business by mortgaging NHS assets to private banking consortia.
While the huge increase in public funding for the NHS (from £49bn in 1999/2000 to £119bn in 2009/10) that this covert privatisation process entailed was temporarily sustainable during the last decade’s cheap credit boom, the capitalist economy’s catastrophic tailspin into global recession means this is quite clearly no longer the case.
This is the rationale behind the ongoing so-called ‘Nicholson Challenge’ for the NHS to make £20bn-worth of cuts in ‘efficiency savings’ by 2015. And let us remember that this target of £20bn was announced to leading NHS doctors before the ConDem government was elected – ie, by the last Labour government.
If decency and common sense governed political decisions in Britain, these savings and more could easily be made by targeting the obvious source of the gross inefficiency that has caused NHS spending to spiral out of control in the first place: ie, by cancelling PFI debt and removing all private-sector involvement in the running of the NHS.
But capitalism does not quite work that way; and so wards and whole hospitals are closed and clinical staff thrown out of work so that corporate interests can continue to profit out of the NHS.
The media spin that persists in its weasel attempts to invert this reality, blaming spiralling NHS spending on an ageing population, or rising patient expectations, or the mythical ‘inherent inefficiency of the public sector’ should fool no-one. The US healthcare system is entirely privately-owned, and is the most expensive and inefficient in the developed world, costing $6,719 per person per year while leaving 50+ million Americans uninsured and millions more seriously underinsured.
The socialist alternative
In stark contrast, socialist Cuba’s health system, entirely publicly-owned, is able to provide free comprehensive health care for all at a cost of only $362 per person per year, achieving population health statistics rivalling and even surpassing those of developed countries.
The difference? At no point in the Cuban system is there anybody who is driving up costs by making a profit. Moreover, the fact that the state is the sole provider of health care avoids the obscenely wasteful duplication, cherry-picking, and poor coordination of services that inevitably arise when multiple inter-competing private providers are involved.
Though Cuba’s healthcare achievements are relatively well-known these days, it is less widely recognised that the inspiration for the Cuban system was that of the Soviet Union; still less that the Soviet system – as the world’s first free universal healthcare system – also served as the model for Britain’s NHS itself.
Though Labour are invariably credited as the benefactors of the NHS, the fact is that the NHS was effectively a concession made by British capitalism due to the relative strength of the working class in the aftermath of the triumph of Soviet socialism in the second world war.
Many things have changed since then. The collapse of the USSR has meant that British capitalism no longer feels compelled to make such concessions to workers to deter them from revolution. Moreover, the profits from reconstruction of industry that fuelled the post-war boom have long since dried up, with capitalists increasingly turning to the option of easy taxpayer-funded bonanzas arising from the privatisation of public services: utilities, railways, education … and the NHS.
Since the end of the post-war boom, Labour governments have been just as complicit as the Tories in the slow liquidation of the NHS. It was the Callaghan administration of 1976-79 that began the process of hospital closures, while the Blair government not only kept the Tories’ internal market but further accelerated NHS privatisation by transforming NHS Trusts into ‘Foundation’ Trusts – embryonic private hospitals.
The lesson of history is clear: the problem is not merely the HASC Bill and subsequent regulations, to be resolved simply by getting rid of Lansley, Hunt or Cameron, or – God forbid – by voting Labour at the next election, but the whole rotten capitalist system, which, in its insatiable desire for profit, will continue its merciless attack on the living standards of working-class people until it itself is overthrown.
Red Youth welcomes letters and comments from supporters and friends. Below is a heartfelt letter which we have received from a young comrade in the east midlands. We reproduce it below without change…
Having a family member work for the NHS rarely entitles you to any benefits. Working for the NHS in 2013 is synonymous with working unsocial hours trying to manage the work of a dozen on your own, all the while the sword of redundancy hangs precariously above your head. Having a mother who has worked for the NHS for nigh on two decades now, this is the sort of thing I’m used to hearing when she returns home. Nevertheless, despite all this, my mother has consistently come home with some of the most humorous and also some of the most saddening stories from a workplace that I’ve ever heard. Unfortunately, this story falls into the latter category.
Allow me to set the scene for the last tale she came home with. The hospital my mother works at currently, and has done for the best part of 10 years now, has been relatively ‘lucky’ when it comes to NHS cuts. The hospital (which I will not name to spare it the embarrassment) still stands relatively intact and has no major calamities to plague it. To the voyeur, this is one of Britain’s better public hospitals. If there was ever an apple with a rotten core however, then this would be it.
My mother works in the pathology department of the hospital. Or at least, sometimes she does. Her hospital has experienced such a shortage of staff (many of which due to walk outs due to poor treatment, but more on that later) that she and her co-workers often rotate between three and four different departments simply to cover the workload. Of course, this is masqueraded as a ‘varied experience’ for the staff, but in reality means they can’t afford to set on any more staff.
This tale from my mother concerns one of the other employees at the hospital, a co-worker left to manage an entire department on her own during a particularly busy shift of organizing blood samples, which are obviously quite crucial to the maintenance of patients’ health. Aware of the high workload demanded of its staff, the management’s solution to this problem is to send any excess work on to a nearby (by which I mean around 75 miles) hospital to be completed there. So, worrying that that the workload would go uncompleted if she were to carry on by herself, she sends some of the samples on the 150 mile round trip to be completed elsewhere. All done according to the guidelines she was given. Job done, work sorted, everyone carry on.
This hospital has achieved something of a wonderful bureaucracy of late, where staff can be expected to answer to around half a dozen different ‘bosses’, who don’t really do a great deal of work nor management, and any work or managing they do often conflicts with the work or management of a rival boss. The entire hospital appears to consist of little more than bosses, not sure what to do or who to manage. When the employee was questioned about what was done with the excess samples by another ‘senior’ boss. When she replies, confirming that she did was was instructed, this senior boss’ reply is, ‘that costs too much, you should have done it yourself’.
But what about the patients who needed these samples and who would go without if she was left to do them alone? The reply is, ‘stuff the bloody patients’.
So, what’s the point in this story? It might appear to be just another ‘boss from hell’ story, it certainly is, it’s much more than that. This is not just an isolated incident but a reflection of the way the entire hospital is run. The one thing that has plagued this hospital, and by extension the NHS, over the last few years is the complete disregard for human lives. Sure, these type of stories are your average ‘horrible boss’ story when it comes to any other place of work and I’m sure every person you talk to will have one. But when it come down to it, the ‘horrible bosses’ of the NHS are in charge of people’s lives as well as people’s wages.
In one harsh sentence, this senior boss has reduced the lives of patients at this hospital to little more than a monetary exchange, where if the cost is too high then they are left to rot. But it is not just the patients who’ve been reduced, but also the staff. The management at this hospital have long had a reputation for treating both patients and staff as a little less than human, little more than machines. As is common in so many workplaces, the boss is the craftsmen and the workers his tools. Faceless objects of labour, built to work and little more. This senior is the face of capitalism corrupt, where money is deemed more valuable than human lives.
Obviously, to attribute the failings of the NHS to the management based on a story from one hospital would be foolish indeed. But when the senior boss who was so keen to save money puts time aside in his schedule, which is quite frankly bare, to play golf every week with an even more senior management, then I find it hard not to judge the management for being completely detached and incompetent. The management at this hospital showed an attitude of such inconsideration which has no place in a modern society, let alone its health service.
It is the inconsiderate management that is to blame for the catastrophe that is the NHS in 2013, both within and without the institution. Whilst the hospital management do an excellent job of treating patients and employees like dirt, the management of the country do an even better job of treating everyone like that. Needless to say, the NHS is one of the greatest things that Britain has installed, so why is it being left to disintegrate? The simple answer to that question is because of the inconsiderate, incompetent and detached management, that comes in the form of the government. I write this in the wake of austerity measures, and coincidentally on the 65th birthday of the NHS, so we are all fully aware of the extreme measures that cuts to public services are facing. Only a few days ago, we saw that funding to hospitals, schools and other services was being cut again but somehow our government could justify increasing military and intelligence spending. Rather than nurture its own country, our government has chosen war-making and spying on its own citizens instead of caring for and educating its ill and vulnerable.
There is no justification for this. No excuse can warrant the slashing of public services whilst intelligence and military funding increases. Where is the intelligence in that? Its this kind of behaviour that leads me to label the government as incompetent and detached, but there are no other words to describe them (none I wish to put into print, at least). As it has been for so long, the few in our management seek to benefit themselves whilst the majority lay unattended for. The golf trip is paid for, whilst the many struggle. But where are we, the many, to turn to in such times? There was a time when the Labour Party were the obvious candidates to represent the many, who needed the NHS and the many other public services Britain used to provide. If you weren’t turned away from Labour after the Oil Wars, then you were almost certainly turned away when Labour declared they would do nothing to reverse austerity. What’re we to do, when the devil in the red mask is the same as the one in the blue? The words of Karl Marx spring to mind; ‘The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.’
The only thing the many who depend on public services can do is to continue fighting for them. Regardless of how powerful the few thing they are, they are still nought when compared to the many. The people you elected to represent you and your needs, now only represent the needs of themselves and the few. So no, this story is not just an isolated case and is not just the failure of management when it comes to the needs of employees and patients, but also the failure of government and ultimately the failure of capitalists when it comes to the needs of the working class.
The many must manage themselves when the boss is absent, which is why we have to keep up the defence of public interests, not the interests of those who seek to abuse us. The power has always been with the people, which is why they try so hard to repress us and take away that which we need. That is why its so important to keep fighting for the interests of the many, of the working class, of those who tire of seeing their rewards be reaped by someone else. We must remain defiant in the face of capitalists, for true power is possessed only by the people and the more the few are made aware of this fact, then the sooner we might seek to gain our rightful place as people, not just as tools.
A day when people come together to celebrate Britishimperialism
This year it was like any other, events up and down the country filled with flag waving members of the working class, and in Manchester a delusional youth cadet force who believe that they are fighting for “our freedom”. CPGB-ML north west regional members arrived in Manchester to leaflet on topics like the NHS and the Bedroom tax; comrades always do this at the public area of Piccadilly gardens. When we went into Piccadilly gardens comrades hadn’t even given out a leaflet when members were harassed by private security. One very brave private security guard of 30 squared up to one of our 16 year old youth members and pushed him back out of Piccadilly gardens without even asking them to leave. We oppose all thuggish behaviour by these corporate ‘police’. To make things worse some women then came to our comrades shouting abuse at them, comrades tried to explain that they were campaigning on the NHS but the women were adamant they were there “disrespecting the soldiers”! When comrades asked how they were “disrespecting the soldiers” no reply was given and they just walked off looking upset that there were no ‘lefties’ to bash, insult or scream at. A man who claimed he was an ex-soldier then squared up to our younger comrades and made threats, with the public passers-by watching, the comrade refused to leave the public space which only made this man even more angry! Once more our members patiently explained they were giving out NHS leaflets which were even handed to him! He either had difficulty reading or he had no time for reasoned argument and seemed not to care a jot! Our comrades were pushed, and one young member had his glasses broken!
We would like to take this moment to say thanks to the elderly women and other members of the public who stepped in and confronted this mad man and these thugs. The behaviour of the cadets was as shocking as it was pitiful as they stood laughing at the man being confrontational, with one member of the public even turning to the cadets and saying “Shame on you”.
When the situation died down we spoke to the cadets who claimed they support freedom and that soldiers fight for freedom! Despite their love of freedom they insisted they had a right to have us thrown out of a public space! The hypocrisy from these brave defenders of freedom is plain for all to see!