Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1822

Guarantee on NHS is a con

TONY BLAIR'S speech at the Labour Party conference was hailed by the media as brilliant. The best description would be 'a bunch of lies' – and not just about Iraq or Palestine. As someone who works in cancer care, I was outraged when Blair used the government's 'achievements' in this area to show how well the NHS is doing. Blair told the Labour delegates, 'Listen to this story of a woman who has breast cancer who saw a consultant within two weeks. Saw him because now every urgent patient suspected of cancer has to be seen within two weeks. Treated within four weeks because that is now the maximum time for breast cancer treatment. Five years ago, even two years ago, none of that would have been guaranteed.'

The trouble is, it's not guaranteed now either. Looking at the figures for the hospital where I work, nearly 30 percent of breast cancer patients were not seen within two weeks by a consultant after referral by a GP.

Almost 40 percent of breast cancer patients had not started treatment within four weeks of diagnosis. Some wait as long as three months. It should be stressed, as Blair surely knew, that breast cancer has the best treatment figures. It is the area where the most resources have been focused and where the full range of list-busting methods has been employed.

The figures are much worse if you have other forms of cancer or chronic conditions such as respiratory disease. To say something is 'guaranteed' when over a third of people have to wait longer is a direct lie. Don't believe Blair on this...or on anything else.
Health worker, London

As job cuts hit north east – who speaks up for us?

YET ANOTHER jobs blow has hit the Spennymoor area of County Durham with the closure of most of the Black & Decker factory, resulting in a loss of 1,000 jobs. Black & Decker set up in Spennymoor in the late 1960s after the first wave of pit closures, and at one time provided well paid employment for over 2,000 men and women.

This devastating news is just the latest in a whole series of closures and redundancies that have also included Thorns, Electrolux and Rothmans. Between the four big employers more than 11,000 workers were once employed, whereas today there is only one tenth of that number.

Black & Decker are not really closing, but are transferring to the Czech Republic, in the same way that both Electrolux and Rothmans transferred much of their production to other parts of eastern Europe. There wages are lower and health and safety procedures are easier to ignore. It is called globalisation.

When Tony Blair, who happens to be a local MP, heard about the Black & Decker closure he shrugged his shoulders and implied that it was the way of the world. It might be his world and that of the rich and greedy, but it is not the way of the world for the workers who have given a lifetime to a company which has just sacked them.
John Gilmore, Bishop Auckland

Carers have no support

I HEARD the news report last month about a Durham woman, Helen Rogan, who jumped to her death clinging to her autistic son. The mundane problems for parents of children with autism can be hard to imagine. My son rips three or four items of clothing per week, which I have to sit and sew or scour charity shops to replace. Sometimes I end up spending money I don't have buying new ones.

Parents are constantly pressed into assessments and reviews. But support services drop away into nothing. The frustration of attending appointment after appointment following referrals to agencies that have no resources is a recipe for personal despair. The number of children with autism has increased tenfold in a decade. Eventually some government will limit the financial costs to the state, probably with legislation for containment or medication – whatever is the cheapest. Make politics out of this? Yes, every time you can.

I know the greatest hope for children like mine lies in fighting for a socialist society. People's intelligence and creativity could be put towards finding solutions based on the needs of every member of society. Then the freedom to be himself that my son enjoys in rare moments could be respected by everyone.
Gail Drew, Coventry

FBU needs solidarity

FIREFIGHTERS are preparing to strike, and it doesn't matter what industry you work in they need practical support. I work on London Underground. At our RMT branch annual general meeting we invited a firefighter from the station that attended the Ladbroke Grove rail disaster to talk about their dispute and how we could help them.

On our picket lines we've had nurses, council workers and firefighters with us. We believe it's essential to build links with other local unions. The support we can give each other boosts morale at a time when we're under attack.

Everyone can do something. Set up local FBU support groups and invite firefighters to your meetings so they can tell you what they need. Workers everywhere are flexing their muscles again. The FBU gave our fight their support, and we will return it.
Tony Collins, London

WILL PERRY (Socialist Worker, 5 October) makes an interesting and reasonable argument. Indeed, people are becoming disillusioned with politics, the main reason being because there is very little to choose between the main parties, and socialist parties haven't got the best results in recent elections. However, he is wrong when he says that power lies with parliament. The real power lies with the ruling class, who are protected by the police, army and judiciary.

In Chile in 1973 a reformist organisation was elected and supported by the workers in its nationalisation programme. The ruling class, supported by the US, used the military to overthrow it. This shows that parliament cannot be used as anything more than a propaganda tool against the system.

The ruling class will simply use the state apparatus to smash any socialist government. In Europe people have seen the centre left governments they voted for pander to big business and neo-liberal policies. Many people are now looking to radical ideas with socialist groups and the anti-capitalist movement.
Joe Varney, Coventry

Duncan's legacy

WHEN A comrade said after the recent death of Duncan Hallas that she had never heard him speak, my immediate reaction was to dig out some old Marxism tapes of his meetings and copy them for her.

Why should any socialist miss out on hearing such clarity, if there's a choice? How about the Bookmarks bookshop producing a collection of Duncan's meetings on half a dozen tapes? A new generation of fighters deserves his guidance.
Martyn Delbeke, Sheffield

RECORDINGS of Duncan Hallas speaking at the annual Marxism event can heard at
Mark Swindells, Manchester

Postal point

A GROUP involved in the non-violent direct action movement of the 1950s and 60s is working to make records of that movement available. Direct Action Committee against Nuclear War and Committee of 100 want to identify anyone who has material from this period or knows of any resources. Contact [email protected]
Terry Chandler

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Article information

Sat 19 Oct 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1822
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