Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1956

We will have to fight the attacks on our health service (Pic: Jess Hurd/

We will have to fight the attacks on our health service (Pic: Jess Hurd/

March of NHS privateers

The government is making a further concession towards the private sector in the NHS, in addition to those mentioned in last week’s Socialist Worker.

At present the privately run NHS treatment centres are restricted to recruiting staff from overseas, or from among people who have not worked in the NHS for at least six months.

This is to stop them directly poaching NHS staff. But government ministers are now saying that this requirement will be altered or removed entirely.

The reason for this change of policy is that private sector compnaies have been complaining that they find it hard to attract sufficient people to staff their money-making enterprises.

Because the government has put so much emphasis on the private sector to cut waiting lists, ministers now have to bow to the blackmail from private concerns, or face humiliatingly bad waiting time figures.

The result will be further enticements to NHS staff to go into the private sector.

Already about half the doctors in privately run NHS treatment centres are on “structured secondment” from the NHS.

In the future because the “through put” at the treatment centres will be faster than in the NHS, consultants will be lured with the promise of improved earnings.

Senior doctors will be paid less per case, but they will get through more cases in a day and therefore grab more cash.

The issue highlights the way that private medicine is parasitical on public provision. All the training costs for doctors, nurses and other staff are paid by the state from public funds. Then private firms grab the finished products and use them to make profits.

As a health worker I find it disgraceful that, almost unnoticed by the public, nearly every day sees a further erosion of the NHS and a sterengthening of the private elements.

I know that our trade union leaders are quite firmly tied into the Labour Party. Does this mean they can fight such inroads into the NHS, or does it result in them keeping quiet about such scandals?

Agnes Wilson, East London

Don’t we have to change ourselves?

I very much agree with the demands put forward in last week’s Socialist Worker about debt cancellation, aid and the fight for democracy.

But this discussion also raised serious questions for me about the relationship of ordinary people in the G8 countries towards the Third World.

It is certainly right to talk about the obscene spending on armaments, but isn’t it also a scandal that we — that’s us — spend $30 billion on perfume and other luxury cosmetics, and $150 billion on alcoholic drink?

Together that is $180 billion. Half of that could transform the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

It could stop the deaths of tens of thousands of children a day.

And we would not really be any worse off.

Let me repeat, I am not for a moment trying to take the focus away from the war machine, or the lives of the rich.

But we must also agree that a very thorough re-examination of personal priorities and lifestyles will be part of a new global justice.

In the same way we can’t all fly around the world without damaging our planet.

Jane Wilcox, Birmingham

G8’s nuke obsession

I was pleased to see that the Unison union’s south west regional committee has voted to back the Campaign against Climate Change (Letters, 4 June).

In my trade union, Unison Scotland, several campaigning opportunities to support the Campaign against Climate Change are emerging.

Unison Scotland has produced a discussion paper on energy and climate change, and the topic will be discussed at Unison’s national conference next week.

On the G8 Gleneagles website, I found a curious piece by Tony Blair on climate change. It was curious because it did not mention the role that the British government wants nuclear energy to play in cutting carbon emissions.

There have been hints from some Labour MPs in the media that indicate that they have been lobbied by the nuclear industry.

Why do they not want to mention this nuclear possibility in public?

Is it because a renewed program of building nuclear reactors would initially depend on billions of taxpayers’ pounds?

Any “advantage” that could be gained from nuclear power in carbon emissions is overwhelmed by the legacy of nuclear disasters.

Two of the key themes at the G8 Alternatives counter-summit on 3 July will be climate change and nuclearism.

If we are to build a mass movement against global warming, then we must constantly highlight this barely hidden agenda to build a new generation of nuclear reactors.

Alan Scott, (Unison Scotland community and voluntary sector committee, personal capacity), Edinburgh

Rodney’s fine legacy

I was very pleased that last week’s Socialist Worker had an appreciation of the great writer Walter Rodney (Remembering Walter Rodney, 11 June).

If only the leaders of Africa today could regain the self-reliance and pride that Rodney represented!

Grace Masuka, South London

Referendum results energised Polish left

The fantastic referendum results in France and Holland have shifted the terms of the debate in the anti-globalisation movement in Poland.

In Poland as in other countries right wing social democratic neo-liberals are the greatest enthusiasts for the European Union. They foster illusions in the European Union (EU) as an almost charitable institution.

The results in France and Holland have made it clear to many people that a left wing no vote is possible and necessary — against privatisation, deregulation and militarisation.

Articles by anti-capitalists which stress the neo-liberalism of the constitution and the EU itself have appeared in the press.

We have to rely on solidarity from below with trade unionists and the movement in other countries.

This spirit was shown on 16 May when 2,000 people marched through Warsaw against the “politicians of war and poverty” who were meeting at the Council of Europe summit. The march had been banned but the organisers said it was going ahead anyway.

Last Saturday saw the Equality Parade organised by gay and lesbian groups. The right-wing Warsaw president had banned it.

The organisers said this was an illegal ban and refused to accept it — unlike last year when the ban was respected.

Kasia Puzon, Ellisiv Rognlien, Workers’ Democracy, Poland

For socialist unity in future elections

I am a member of the Socialist Party who is politically active in Grimsby.

George Galloway’s victory is great news for the left, and I would like to see a united front of Respect and the Socialist Party in future elections.

Otherwise there is a danger that people may be confused about the number of forces on the left.

New Labour’s popularity among working class people will not last for ever.

In the Socialist Party we are hoping to do well in next year’s council elections with candidates like Dave Nellist in Coventry.

Respect could also do well. At the European elections I voted for a Respect candidate in Grimsby.

I’d do it again but I want to remain a loyal Socialist Party member. I would be out on the knocker canvassing for Dave Nellist if I could.

The Labour Party is degenerating. There are now only three Labour councillors in Grimsby, which has been a rock-solid Labour stronghold since 1945.

An alternative party can fill a void which has been created by the collapse of the Labour Party under Blair.

Steve Draper, Grimsby

You can’t do it without labour

Owen Savory argued (Letters, 11 June) that value can be created from machinery, and without human labour. But machines themselves are the products of labour, as are the materials used in those machines.

Human labour is also required to maintain machinery, and ensure that the finished product is shipped.

In addition competition between firms forces capitalists to expand production and modernise machinery in order to stay afloat.

New factories and new machines also require human labour.

All this leads to the conclusion that capitalists need workers to survive, but workers don’t need capitalists.

Doug Nesbitt, Ottawa, Canada

New deal or old rip-off?

I am on the new deal scheme and I discovered that a private recruitment agency has got the contract in my area. The main adviser has told me, “Like it or lump it, do the placement or lose your benefits — we don’t care where you are placed.”

I was sent to a warehouse where the job was lifting boxes from vans to shelves, nothing else.

When I asked the employer if there was any chance of a job, he said they weren’t hiring.

Why should they when they get a new worker from the recruitment agency through the new deal every 14 weeks?

Adrian McGrath, by e-mail

The challenge of Respect

Given the impact of Respect’s electoral acheivements it seems that the SWP has, perhaps, a once in a generation opportunity to play a central role in building an organisation that can help reshape the electoral and revolutionary left.

I therefore welcome the recent edition of Socialist Worker that called for people to join Respect and help it grow.

However, these exciting times are not without their challenges. Not least how does the SWP ensure that it does not lose its distinct identity and politics at the expense of building Respect?

We are clearly on the threshold of the “beginning of the beginning” of something new in British politics.

Let’s grasp the opportunity firmly, but with our eyes wide open and alert to the creative tensions before us.

Peter Dwyer, Cape Town, South Africa

Worries about the US left

George Galloway's recent performance in front of a US senate subcommittee has been rightly lauded as one of the most inspirational examples of speaking truth to power ever seen anywhere.

But Galloway’s appearance has also served to reveal the comparative weakness and ineffectiveness of the US left.

When the best thing that’s happened to a movement after three years is the appearance of a British MP then you know you’ve got problems.

In order to be effective the US left has to be anti-imperialist, unequivocally on the side of the oppressed wherever the US ruling class dominates.

John Wight, Edinburgh

Don’t forget the elephant

The Folk Art exhibition reviewed in Socialist Worker (Folk Archive, 4 June) was a real disappointment.

It reduces political expressions like banners to items that are notable for their craft rather than their politics.

On this very limited basis a Unionist mural in Northen Ireland becomes a symbol of critical art just as much as a Republican one.

However I must say that I was intriugued by the mechanical elephant!

Danielle Hodgson, North London

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Sat 18 Jun 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1956
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