Thousands of NHS workers out on strike

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.

Join us now and help us make it happen!

 

Some photos from the picket lines:

NHS workers’ Strike, Monday 13 October, pickets at City Hospital Birmingham

NHS workers’ Strike, Monday 13 October, pickets at City Hospital Birmingham

NHS workers’ Strike, Monday 13 October, pickets at City Hospital Birmingham

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“Demonstration” at the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham

This warm, sunny Sunday in late September saw an event that usually unites various left elements in the country: the demonstration at the Tory party conference. Only that this year it was not planned as a protest but as a ‘festival’! Are we celebrating the British state’s attack on the working class and the non-existent resistance now?! Even though it might not have been that much more impressive on the day, at least two years ago, when it was also held in Birmingham, it was still billed as a ‘march and rally for the alternative’

© Stalingrad O'Neill

Even as a street festival, the event organised by the TUC this Sunday can only be described as an underwhelming experience, lasting hardly any longer than 4 hours, including a short 20 minute stroll through the city centre of Birmingham. The festival was set up on Victoria Square in front of the Council House, which would have been a decent enough location, had the conference not been held half a mile away, out of sight and hearing range. The march through the centre merely moved further away and made full use of empty backstreets, so as not to disturb the shopping public.

At least the CPGB-ML and Red Youth put on a good display under the circumstances, with one of the nicer stalls, shining in full crimson and displaying not only party literature but also a selection of Marxist classics that put others to shame.

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In the process we chatted to many interested members of the public, some disillusioned with other left groups and also one self-proclaimed ‘anarcho-capitalist’, who somehow found his way from the internet into the real world. The latter provided us with the invaluable information that the European Union is in fact a communist institution, as it supposedly redistributes wealth to the poorer countries at the expense of the successful ones. Comrades, we can pack up, we have already achieved power across Europe!

In all seriousness, individuals like this, providing they are not purely interested in having an argument, should look into who really benefits from the European single market – big banks, industrialists and financiers. Even more importantly is understanding the definition of communism and socialism and not equating it with a ‘big state that hates the market’.

In any case, we made a number of new contacts, including a number of young comrades from China who showed interest in working with us, reinforcing the image that many the more serious revolutionaries in this country tend to be from an international background, like the author of this blog piece!

Signed, an Austrian living in Birmingham!

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CPGB-ML South Wales Update

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It has been a busy few months for CPGB-ML comrades in South Wales as they continue to step up activity in the region. Comrades have attended Bedroom Tax and NHS events and there has been activity in both Merthyr Tydfil and Abergavenny. The latest Gaza leaflets were distributed in Cardiff City Centre and there was a high level of interest in them. The CPGB-ML were also once again present at the 1911 Railway Strike commemoration in Llanelli as they have been since its centenary in 2011.

The Party has long been instrumental in highlighting and raising awareness about Nato’s murderous warmongering and this was reflected in a good contingent at the ‘No to Nato’ protest in Newport where comrades from Newport, Merthyr Tydfil and Swansea were joined by party members from Runcorn, Hereford, Bristol and London. The demo was large and lively and we were able to set up a gazebo both at the start of the march and the town centre rally afterwards. Comrades marched proudly with the CPGB-ML banner and flags as well as the Palestinian flag, and over 700 of our Nato leaflets were distributed. There was a lot of interest in our latest Ukraine leaflets too and it was refreshing to note that people are not buying in to the Russia as warmonger mythology.

Comrade Giles was able to take our message to a wider audience in an interview for Bangladeshi TV and footage of the CPGB-ML featured on the RT coverage of the event. Despite the usual lack of accurate reporting from the BBC which aimed to make the week of protest look smaller than it actually was in a vain attempt to diminish its impact, the Activists were out in full force. All this despite the intimidation of a heavy police and military presence, the kettling of protesters and access to both Newport and Cardiff having been made as difficult as physically possible.

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With the streets of Newport being tarted up for the visit of the ‘World Leaders’ the public showed what they really thought and surrounded Cardiff Castle as the leaders were treated to a slap up feast! While the eyes of the world are riveted to footage of atrocity after atrocity in Syria and Iraq and bombs rain down on Palestinian schoolchildren Obama took time out to visit a local school. The irony of this was lost on him…

As the US and its Imperialist chums turn their attentions back to Syria there is an air of disbelief emanating from the masses, an anger building. A gentleman who was reading our leaflets talked about the convenience of the BBC coverage concerning ISIS and Iraq to divert attention away from Gaza and the outpouring of solidarity across the world with the Palestinian people.Indeed, it is getting harder and harder to keep up lately. Who is on the target list today: DPRK? Syria? Iraq? Iran? Venezuela?

The people of South Wales have always been immensely proud of their heritage and justifiably so. Although the scarred hillsides serve as a constant reminder of the loss of industry in the area it is the actions of the Chartists, the Miners and the working people that remains in our hearts and our minds and serves as an example to us. South Wales has a staunch and admirable Socialist past and the region and indeed Wales as a whole must continue to stand with the workers of Britain and continue to fight for the cause of Internationalism in the same spirit as the Welsh volunteers of the International Brigades. In 1831 during the Merthyr Uprising the red flag of revolution was raised for the very first time and the CPGB-ML are proud to march beneath this international symbol of the working classes – join us!

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“Remember the procession of the old-young men
From dole queue to corner and back again,
From the pinched, packed streets to the peak of slag
In the bite of the winters with shovel and bag,
With a drooping fag and a turned up collar,
Stamping for the cold at the ill lit corner
Dragging through the squalor with their hearts like lead
Staring at the hunger and the shut pit-head
Nothing in their pockets, nothing home to eat.
Lagging from the slag heap to the pinched, packed street.
Remember the procession of the old-young men,
It shall never happen again.”
-Dylan Thomas

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CPGB-ML at lobby of Labour Party Conference

CPGB-ML comrades attended the lobby of the Labour Party Conference in Manchester on Sunday, 21st September 2014. Protesters pushed to the brink by continuing war and austerity gathered to express their anger outside the conference centre while Labour bigwigs soaked up the luxury and opulence of the Midland Hotel opposite. The lobby was attended by various campaign groups such as KONP (Keep Our NHS Public) and there was a vocal and spirited stand against G4S and its human rights abuses in Palestine.

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The lobby also coincided with one of the national climate marches where anti-fracking protesters were out in force. CPGB-ML comrades showed solidarity against ALL capitalist cuts and our message was simple but clear: Socialism is the ONLY alternative to the corruption and oppression of all working people under the current system.

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Our contingent had a visible presence with banner and flags, and were able to secure a good spot at the conference entrance to set up a stall where copies of Proletarian and Lalkar were purchased along with a number of party publications (‘Nato’s Predatory War against Yugoslavia’ proved to be popular!).

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CPGB-ML members also handed out leaflets on issues ranging from Palestine and Nato to the NHS and Austerity with a good response from the public, protesters and even one or two conference delegates! Our stall was popular with a number of Trade Unionists coming from the conference to speak to us about their disillusionment with the Labour Party. And despite an intimidating police presence (also armed forces and helicopters) which almost outnumbered the protesters, a few members of the police force chatted to us about how they don’t receive over time for events such as these as they are salaried workers. Of course refusal to attend would result in their being disciplined!

Despite the enthusiasm of protesters it was a noticeably small gathering. Many protesters shouted slogans such as ‘Don’t be a Tory all your life!’ and urging Labour not to sell off our NHS, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Labour have been instrumental in its creeping privatisation. Labour brought us PFI, and Labour brought us Atos and its heinous fit for work assessments. Labour have also refused to ban fracking and have now put forward the earth shattering proposal of raising the minimum wage to £8 per hour… in 2020!

We all have to stand together and realise that Labour are every bit as dangerous as the Tories. They do not represent working people. Capitalism Must Go! Labour, Tory? Same Old Story! Join the CPGB-ML.

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Wigan Diggers Festival 2014

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 On Saturday 13 September, the Wigan Diggers festival came around for its fourth consecutive year. The festival was set up to celebrate the life of Wigan-born Gerrard Winstanley (1609-1676), a leading member of the 17th-century Diggers movement.

Last year’s festival was a great success, with around 2,000 people attending. The organisers worked hard this year to make it even better than the year before. There was an excellent line-up of music, stalls and activities.

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The high-point of the day was a march through the town accompanied by an English Civil War era-style troop of drummers.  Spurred on by the tremendous positive response they received from the people of Wigan, our comrades boldly took centre-stage, proudly holding aloft the flags of Palestine and the Soviet Union as they marched.

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Indeed, many CPGB-ML and Red Youth comrades attended this year’s festival, and one of our comrades was involved in the organisation of the festival itself. We also had a stall there, which allowed us to speak and have plenty of discussions about recent events, with a lot of people’s discussions focused around the NHS and Palestine. We had lots of books, leaflets and pamphlets available on the stall.

10626780_332208093613282_4309286412441055537_nThe festival was bigger this year than it has ever been, and the signs are that it will continue to grow, to become perhaps the biggest and most vibrant event of its kind in the North West.  We feel sure that our proud association with the Wigan Diggers Festival will continue to grow also, since the communists of today carry the proud tradition of Comrade Gerrard Winstanley into the 21st century and beyond.

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Online: red youth interview with marcel cartier

Check out these interviews with marcel conducted by a young member of red youth. Marcel has witnessed first hand the achievements of socialism in DPR Korea and Cuba. Thanks to Marcel for his time and speaking to red youth in London, Birmingham, Bristol and Glasgow this summer:

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Is Scotland a Nation? Inform your opinion!

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On 18th September 2014 the people of Scotland will vote in a referendum to decide whether they will remain part of the Great British Nation.

Read “THE NATIONAL QUESTION IN SCOTLAND” here: http://www.lalkar.org/issues/contents/sep2012/scotland.html

It is undeniable that the Scots have a Scottish Culture and national consciousness – but it is our contention that the poeple of Scotland developed all the characteristics of nationhood in the late 18th and early 19th century – and precisely at that time elected to throw their lot in with the people of England and Wales to join in the creation of a British Nation.

The Scottish and English – British – ruling capitalist class cooperated fully in their quest for industrial development, conquering colonial markets and creaeting a fully fledged empire, characterised by the systematic export of capital, the exploitation and domination of millions of clonial peoples.

Morever the British working class came together, including the poeple of the highlands, islands and lowlands of Scotland, to either make their fortune in assisting the British project, or to cooperate in their quest for chartism, and for either reform of the exploitative capitalist syustem, or its revolutionary overthrow.

Adherants of left nationalism make all sorts of claims regarding the prospect of an independent Scotland – that it will bring world equality (at least one step nearer), that it will give rise to a fair and just (albeit monarchist, capitalist and imperialsit!) society; that it will rid scotalnd of nuclear weapons, or aggressive armies (although Scotland will remain part of the most aggressive warmongering imperial alliance ever assembled – namely NATO -, and will seek to become a member of the EU imperialist club), etc, etc.

Rest assured, that the British monopoly capitalist class are not offering the dismemberment of their exploitative machine, or marauding armies. The State will not be broken by an independant Scotland as envisaged by the SNP, SSP, or any other member of this alliance.

These parties can win at best a little more personal influence and power. They will not bring the British people – be they English, Welsh or Scotch – one step closer to meaningful freedom. Rather they can achieve only the sowing of greater discord, and disorganisation, among British workers, with the diversion and false poanacea of ‘independence’.

The truth is that the only fight that can bring equality and justice to the working beople of Britain, is the fight against capitalism and for socialism – that must place decisoin-making power in the hands of workers.

What is urgently required is not more divisive nationalism, but the wide adoption of an internationalist outlook and approach to our problems: Workers are better together; stronger united. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XD687At2NvU

In this excellent presentation, Harpal Brar, speaking in 2012 in (the semi-autonomous republic of) Southall, explains “what is a nation?”, and goes on to adderss the specific question “Is Scotland a nation”.

Excellent introductory and explanatory fotage – Don’t vote before you watch!

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