Only one way forward whether in France or Britain: fight for a capitalism-free world!

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
19 June 2024

For the population - not just "voters" - the terrible state of the NHS is the biggest issue.

    But the inability of the NHS to meet the needs of the sick and unwell is a long-standing problem. It doesn't just predate the Covid pandemic. It has never ever been able to provide adequately for need.

    It has always had too little funding; it has always had too few staff (and yes, it has been staffed by immigrant workers almost since its inception - from the 1950s Windrush generation onwards!).

    It has also always been a public-private service. GPs are NHS contractors running a business, even if they have an assured income, since they're the guardians of the gates to all hospital care - except emergency treatment - for the whole population.

    This was the fundamental compromise - and ongoing weakness - agreed by Labour's Nye Bevan when the NHS was finally legislated for, in 1948.

    And by the way this NHS, as well as the rest of the so-called "Welfare State" was set up on the basis of collective agreement across the whole political spectrum. It was the Liberal William Beveridge who penned the 1942 report arguing for a system of national insurance to combat social inequality - taking on the "five giants" of "want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness"!

    And it was RA Butler, a Tory politician, who was responsible for the 1944 Education Act which opened up free secondary education to working class children... So no, contrary to the electoral politicking today by Labour politicians, Labour did not "invent" the welfare state, nor the NHS.

We got the NHS because they feared us

If there was a consensus in the pre- and post-war years of the need for the state to provide public services it was entirely due to the fear of ALL politicians, Labour, Tory and Liberal, of popular unrest in the face of the dire post-Depression and war-economy deprivation faced by the poor and working class.

    Their experience was that war could bring revolution. Less than 30 years before - after World War 1, this was exactly what had happened. A wave of revolutions aiming to overthrow capitalism, starting in Russia in 1917, spread right across the world.

    Since 1948, every single government has felt obliged to maintain free health care at the point of use and free education for the working class. But as the capitalist economy lurched from crisis to crisis, governments have, always under the guise of "reforms", serially cut funding. True, the major NHS privatisations were begun by Thatcher's Tory government in the 1980s, turning hospitals into autonomous "trusts" which had to "buy" in services and compete with each other on the basis of a circumscribed pot of money provided by the Treasury. It was all about cost-saving. And it left (and leaves) some trusts bankrupt. Worse, privatisation of elderly care and its separation from the NHS has literally abandoned the ageing population to penury and neglect!

It's not "immigration", stupid!

By now, cumulative cost-cutting (Tory and Labour) "reforms" have landed the NHS in a big black hole. Its most painful symptom is the lack of staff. And this brings us to the other "main issue" of the election: "immigration"... and the politics of Nigel Farage & Co.

    Unsavoury characters like Farage point a finger at immigrants as the main cause of the inadequacy of the NHS and the rest of the public services. Never mind the truth - or that if it wasn't for immigrant workers there'd be little or no NHS today!

    It's not just here in Britain that immigrants are blamed for the failings of the lousy, profit&greed-based capitalist system and those who administer it in government, whether their party colours are red, pink, yellow, green or blue!

    In France, President Macron has called a snap election, to try and call the bluff of the far-right party of Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella, after their Rassemblement National (RA) beat his "Renaissance"(!) in the European parliamentary election.

    RA politicians, just like Farage, have always said immigration is the main problem for society and cause of all ills. Finger-pointing, scape-goating politics like this are, of course, as old as the hills. But they become more mainstream in times of capitalist crisis, like now.

    The working class can have no truck with any of this nonsense. Just as we know that it's the rotten and degenerate economic system which is at fault, we also know that this system produces rotten politicians who reflect it, including snake-oil salesmen like Farage here in Britain and Bardella over the Channel.

    Obviously, and in any case, it's never elections which are going to change anything fundamental in this society, but the concerted and collective fighting in workplaces and on the streets. It's the struggle of workers and youth that has always been the main factor in any change - and the fear of such uprisings! This is the lesson of history.

    Let's remember that the "welfare state" has never met its promise to workers, because it couldn't have in a class society, underpinned by a capitalist economy. If workers are ever to "fare well", we'll need to build up our fighting ranks to overthrow capitalism, i.e., make that revolution, which the establishment fears so much, but which is in the interests of all, a reality.