Save the NHS: this is the fight of our lives

Submitted by Matthew on 14 March, 2012 - 8:57

You get sick, you will be cared for regardless of your income. When you need healthcare, the National Health Service is there — for free. That is the founding principle of the NHS. All of that is now under threat.

The principles embodied in the NHS are a high point, perhaps the high point, of attempts to civilise and tame capitalism. As profit reigned supreme above all else, establishing the NHS was a major victory for the working class. What went before it was misery, suffering and premature death for workers and their families.

Yet the Coalition government is being allowed to snatch the NHS away with little more than a whimper and a moan from the labour and trade union movement.

The logic of capitalism always dictates that the working class pay for the crises caused by the bosses. It is our job is to organise as a class to resist their attacks, to set our own agenda, to make demands and fight for them so that workers and their families can live with as much dignity as this brutalising, profit-worshipping system will afford us.

The leaders of the boss class know instinctively what to do in a crisis. They make us pay.

On the other hand, the leaders of the working class have lost any instinct they might have had. Coupled with this is their lack of theory and ideas independent of the dominant ideas of capitalism. They have no ballast to keep them grounded in the working class.

Instead they aspire to being nothing more than third-rate plasterers smoothing over the cracks in the system. And this is how, in the midst of this historic world economic crisis, when the injurious brutality of capitalism is laid bare for all to see, the government of the bosses’ class can get away with robbing us of the National Health Service.

The uselessness of our “leaders” was made abundantly clear at last week’s TUC rally (March 7) in central London against the Health and Social Care Bill. Brendan Barber (General Secretary of the TUC), Len McCluskey (General Secretary of Unite), and Dave Prentis (General Secretary of Unison), were amongst the 16 speakers to address a crowded hall of protesters.

These three powerful men, between them leaders of several million workers, failed to show any leadership. They all said that the NHS is ours and we should fight to save it; but none of them offered one word, not one single word, on how we should fight to save it.

None of them mentioned a national demonstration in defence of the NHS (some people will remember the 50,000 strong demonstration to save the NHS in the 1980s when Thatcher began her programme of restructuring that laid the foundations for the privatisation of healthcare in Britain).

Neither did any of them utter a single syllable about industrial action to defend “health care free at the point of need”. There was no mention making the bosses pay for the NHS through taxing the rich and big business. There was no mention of mobilising the might of our class to take what is rightfully ours.

More than half of all the platform speakers quoted Nye Bevan: “The NHS will last as long as there are folk with faith to fight for it.”

Nye Bevan, not a revolutionary socialist by any means but at least an honest and dedicated reformist, would have known how to fight for it. He’d have had the courage to agitate for a fight and he would have dared to lead a fight. Instead we have leaders, taking leadership wages, wearing leadership suits, driving leadership cars, but resolutely refusing to lead.

If the NHS is to be saved, if our class is to retain the right to “healthcare free at the point of need”, then we have to organise to win. We cannot rely on the unaccountable officials and bureaucrats whose wages we pay from our monthly union subscriptions. We have to rely on ourselves to organise a bottom-up campaign of rank-and-file activists.

The Health and Social Care Bill looks set to be passed as law within the next few weeks. If we cannot prevent that, we have to organise and mobilise to make it impossible for the law to be applied and put into action. We have to build a campaign that can apply pressure to stop the law in its tracks.

We have to take up the campaign in the unions, in the Labour Party, and on the streets and in communities. We need to bring together the many different NHS campaigns around the country and unite them in action, coordinating the fightback to save the NHS.

Tories’ foundations laid by New Labour

The Health and Social Care Bill is the biggest attack on the core values of the NHS since its inception and it runs in tandem with £20 billion of cuts to local healthcare services.

Once the Bill is law, the NHS will be turned into a host of private companies that either commission or provide services or both and NHS will be reduced to a logo. It is widely believed by professional bodies in the health service, by NHS workers and trade unions that complete privatisation of the health service is at the heart of Lansley's agenda.

Successive governments have made cuts since the late seventies, though it was not until the Thatcher government in the 1980s that the challenge to the core value of 'health care free at the point of need' began.

Both the Blair and Brown Labour governments continued Thatcher's work with the introduction of market structures, foundation trusts, GP consortia, the introduction of private corporations into commissioning services.

It is on those foundation that Lansley and the Coalition government are now able to lay the Health and Social Care Bill.

Make Labour fight!

Andy Burnham, Shadow Health Secretary, has pledged to repeal the Health and Social Care legislation if he becomes Health Secretary in the next Labour government.

Whilst this is a step in the right direction we believe it does not go far enough.

We are asking all Labour MPs to sign our pledge to:

1. Actively support the repeal of the Coalition government’s Health and Social Care legislation.

2. Actively support the rebuilding of the NHS to pre-Thatcher government levels.

3. Actively support taxing the rich and big business to pay for this.

Lobby your Labour MP to sign!

What else can I do?

1. Organise lobbies, pickets and protests outside private health companies offices; hold street meetings raising awareness of the coalition’s plans to privatise the NHS; petition people; invite anyone who signs to take part in your next protest.

2. Make contact with local doctors, fin out who opposes the Bill and who will get involved in campaigning. Start a discussion with healthcare professionals about how the Bill can be made unworkable when it becomes law.

3. Call meetings to plan campaigning, but also call meetings to discuss what kind of health service we want and need. We should go beyond defending the status quo. There’s plenty of room for improvement.

To contact Health Alarm call Rosie Woods on: 07734 088 243 or email healthalarm@yahoo.co.uk.

Visit healthalarm1159.wordpress.com and the Facebook page here. Postal address — BM Box 4628, London, WC1N 3XX

Please support these initiatives:

• dropthebill.org • dropthebill.net

• 38degrees.org.uk/page/s/ProtectourNHSPetition

• keepournhspublic.com

“Disrupt their lives like they intend to disrupt ours.”

By June Hautot

We need to get people on to the streets in support of the NHS. We need people treating this issue like they treated Thatcher's poll tax.

We need to make the Health and Social Care Bill, when it becomes law, unworkable. We should make every Tory and every Lib-Dem who voted for this Bill suffer as they intend we should suffer when they privatise our NHS.

We should find out where they live and we should disrupt their lives like they intend to disrupt ours with their cuts and their privatisation. We have to find out where the likes of Lansley lives and where the big private bosses live who just want to make a profit out of people's ill health and we should make life difficult for them.

Andy Burnham, Shadow Health Secretary, spoke at last week's TUC rally to save the NHS and he vowed to repeal the Coalition government's Health and Social Care Act (as it soon will be). Well, good for him. This is what we want from a Labour government. I feel sure Labour know they made some big mistakes with the NHS, but Andy Burnham's promise to repeal what the Coalition are forcing on to us is a good start. From that we can rebuild the NHS.

We're expected to pay for the mess the bankers have made of the economy, this is unfair and unreasonable.

We shouldn't stand for it. We must organise the biggest fight back possible to save the NHS. We have to educate people about the issue. We have to urge them to take one day off work (except emergency workers) or, better still, the TUC should organise a strike to save the NHS.

“This will create chaos in the NHS”

By Dr. Ron Singer, President, Medical Practitioners’ Union — Unite (pc)

In light of the Health and Social Care Bill passing into law, there will to be a huge tension in the system and it will be further compounded by massive cuts.

It will create chaos in the NHS. What we will see over the coming years is a simple reduction of what the NHS provides, on a big scale. Routine procedures will, in effect, be axed, and more and people will have to go private for operations such as hip replacement and cataracts.

GPs commissioning services will have to act in a ruthless way that PCTs never had to. GPs will get the blame when patients can’t get the care they need through the NHS. The national fight against the Health and Social Care Bill will turn into a wave of local fights over the next five years as local hospitals and services are cut, and campaigns are set up to defend them.

Social democracy is so discredited it is now saying we can’t afford a welfare state, instead it will be each person for themselves. This is a backward step for civilised society.

Demonstrate on 17 March!

“Kick the market out of the NHS”

Richard Branson’s company Assura Medical plans to bid for contracts in the new NHS. Demonstrate 11am-2pm at Virgin Health Club, Plaza Shopping

Centre, 120 Oxford Street, London W1D 1LT. Called by Health Alarm

Picket the Department of Health - from 2:30pm at Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London SW1A 2NS. Called by Hackney Keep Our NHS Public

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