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Proletarian issue 65 (April 2015)
Editorial: Our health is not for sale!
As the general election hype machine takes off, the kicking around of that favourite political football, the NHS, provides a useful gauge for judging the true allegiance of the parties asking for our votes.

Created after the victory of the red armies over fascism in World War 2, and inspired by the demands of a militant working-class movement, the ‘last remaining religion of the British people’ was a concession granted by a ruling class that was weak from war and threatened by the high tide of the world revolutionary movement.

Having granted this major concession, however, the capitalist class has been tireless in its campaign to attack – or ‘radically reform’ – the health service almost since the day of its foundation.

These attacks moved into a higher, more relentless gear with the onset of the capitalist overproduction crisis in the late 1970s, when opportunities for making decent profits out of industrial activity started to dry up as world markets glutted.

The reason for this apparent hostility to workers’ wellbeing is simply that the need to maximise profits is the built-in driving force of the capitalist system. As profits get harder to come by in the productive sphere, any public service provided to workers by the state is seen as a wasted opportunity by the billionaire profiteers who make up our ruling class.

This is the same logic that ensures that banks are bailed out while workers with disability and chronic ill-health are declared ‘fit to work’ and left to die in isolation and misery.

As the new electoral kid on the block, Ukip has been aggressively marketed by the media as an ‘alternative’ to the established parties of austerity and war – one in which we are encouraged to place our hopes as the bringers of ‘common-sense’ salvation.

As far as the NHS is concerned, Farage and co have laid their cards on the table and proposed the abolition of a public health service in favour of private provision and personal insurance – ie, the system in operation in the US, which deprives the poorest 50 million people of health care entirely, while creating vast profits for monopoly health and insurance companies.

Meanwhile, although there are very few workers who believe that the Conservatives have the best interests of the NHS at heart, there are plenty of people who, with the help of a never-ending stream of corporate media misdirection, have fallen for the lie put about by all the parties that Britain simply cannot afford to keep providing a comprehensive service, free to all at the point of use.

Our rulers have been clever. By artificially creating all sorts of problems such as waiting lists, staff shortages, debt burdens etc, they have created the impression that to go on ‘in the old way’ simply isn’t viable.

It is the same trick that was played with the post office – profitable and easy-to-run sections that had helped finance the whole were sold off first, and all sorts of other conditions imposed that made the remaining public-service rump increasingly inefficient and crisis-ridden. And then, hey presto, we were informed that all these problems were proof that public services simply don’t work!

In fact, what is not viable is the new way – the way of outsourcing, PFI building, the carving up of a single service into hundreds and thousands of dislocated entities, and the inevitable (given the increasingly complex web of interactions and payments between these entities) and innumerable layers of management and bureaucracy for every hard-pressed frontline staff member.

Meanwhile, the credulous faith that many workers and ‘left’-wing groups continue to place in the entirely misnamed ‘Labour’ party is a source of continual wonder to us. Labour’s claim to have ‘brought us the NHS’ overlooks the reality that, in 1945, the Tories and Liberals would have done precisely the same thing. And the party’s contribution to galloping privatisation and indebtedness during the Blair-Brown years has been extensively documented.

When the financial crisis hit in 2008, Labour was still in power. Even before the election that brought us the current ConDem government took place, all three main parties had agreed to £20bn cuts in the NHS budget, just as they had all agreed to a bottomless bailout fund for the banks.

And all the parties now collaborate in the game of coming up with fake ‘solutions’ to the ‘problem’ of NHS budget shortfalls that they previously conspired to create.

All the bourgeois parties are signed up and committed not only to an ongoing package of austerity, but also to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which they claim will bring ‘huge economic benefits’ by creating the world’s largest ‘free market’. But make no mistake – there is nothing free about it.

Under the innocuously-titled TTIP, large companies will be able to take local and national administrations to court and exact huge financial penalties for every public service that is provided by the NHS, or by your local council – unless they are allowed to tender for that service.

Far from the promised ‘increased efficiency’ of a few peripheral services being managed by the private sector that was mendaciously put forward by the Blairites and Brownites, this will be the final culmination of selling off the NHS, lock stock and barrel, to the privateers. It will make the £150bn doled out to private banks on PFI spending look like loose change.

We are clear – there is only one way to guarantee the future of health provision, and that is to ensure that the needs of the health of working people are the driving factor in decisions regarding health policy, rather than maximisation of profit.

The free market does not serve working people. Austerity is not a bitter pill that will lead to a better future. It is the poison that will blight the living standards of the vast majority in perpetuity, so that the parasitic financial oligarchy can continue to amass the wealth produced by our collective social labour.

We must get rid of all politicians who try and sell us our own slavery by insisting we ‘tighten our belts and wait for better times’. If this system cannot provide decent health care for all, the system must be removed. Meanwhile, w e must make it clear on the hustings that our health, our wellbeing, our lives are not for sale!

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