Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials - 4 April 2018

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4 April 2018

Winter may be over by now, but, according to senior doctors, the NHS "winter crisis" is not.  More chaos will come:  the NHS is in chronic crisis.
    No-one knows what the real cost of this "winter crisis" has been in terms of lives.  But damning evidence is beginning to emerge concerning the thousands of procedures which were cancelled by hospitals because they couldn't cope with the flow of emergency cases.
    Ministers had pledged that cancer operations and time-critical procedures would be protected, no matter what.  But they were not.  Hundreds of cancer-related procedures were cancelled, reducing patients' survival chances.
    Now the government is covering its back by boasting that "the proportion of cancer patients fast-tracked for treatment within 62 days was the highest this January than it has been for the past three years."  Within 62 days?  How dare they?  As if this wasn't a long enough waiting time for many cancer patients to become incurable - or to die!  But what do these politicians care?

May's "long-term" NHS fudge

If the NHS "winter crisis" is not over, it is because it wasn't just due to winter in the first place!
    And, this time, May can't really blame the NHS crisis on Russia, the EU, or any other of her usual scapegoats!  Which is why she had to be seen to do something, instead of remaining in complete denial of the NHS predicament, as she's done ever since she came into office.  Hence her sudden U-turn, at the end of March, pledging "the first ever long-term funding plan for the NHS".
    But what does this mean in the real world?  Will there be an immediate stop to her government's harassment policy against EU and other foreign workers, which is pushing so many of them to leave an already understaffed NHS?  Will there be a massive recruitment programme of doctors and nurses - to end the crazy conditions in which NHS staff have to operate?  Will the countless number of wards - and hospitals - which have been closed over the past years be re-opened?
    Above all, will the massive diversion of NHS funding into the coffers of private sharks be ended?  Because this is the real gangrene which is eating up NHS resources today.  The parasitic existence of the pharmaceutical giants on the NHS was already bad enough.  But now, every possible source of profits is being hacked out of the NHS by a growing maze of private companies - whether it be for scans, tests or common surgical procedures - to line shareholders' pockets at an exorbitant price.
    But May did not mention any of this.  It was just an electoral fudge, designed to soften the likely rout of her party in the coming local elections!

Capitalism is unaffordable

It's not just the NHS which is in crisis, but all social provision.  Social care is collapsing: having milked the system dry, private providers now consider that it's not profitable enough and they're dumping patients.
    Instead of helping the poorest, the benefit system has become a channel for massive subsidies to rapacious landlords, while Universal Credit will force more people into poverty - including the growing millions of low-paid who are being forced into irregular self-employment.
    As to pensions, they are increasingly reduced by companies trying to cut their contributions, thereby effectively cutting workers' real wages.  And the government is giving them a helping hand.  So, from April 6, workers on self-enrolment pensions will see their contributions increase 3-fold, while their employers' share will go up only 2-fold!
    Social provisions, from the NHS to social care, pensions and benefits, have always been a form of subsidy to the capitalist class, by allowing companies to pay low wages.  But this is no longer enough for the capitalists.  So not only do they use every possible trick to make profits out of the NHS, not only do they cut their share of social funding, but they cut the provisions themselves.  This is why the whole social protection system is in crisis.
    May's Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, dared to claim that any long-term NHS plan will be "unaffordable" unless it is paid for by the working class, through a special tax.
    But this government didn't find it "unaffordable" to cut corporation tax by another 1% last year and by 2% in 2020!  Nor does it find it "unaffordable" to hand out tens of billions in NHS  funding to private shareholders!
    Yet, it is the parasitism of the capitalist class which is "unaffordable".  Because it is slowly destroying all the social provisions on which the working class majority depends.  And this is why the working class needs to destroy capitalism before it gets destroyed by it!