Save Our NHS: Junior Doctors Speak Out

17616Socialist Party, RMT, PCS, Unite, UNISON, NUT and Momentum members were all out supporting junior doctors as they took to strike action on February 10th earlier this year.

Ryan Aldred interviewed Kim, Daniel and Rebecca about the reasons why they were on strike:

RA: Why are junior doctors on strike?

K: Nothing has changed since the last strike action and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has vetoed an agreement between the British Medical Association (BMA) and NHS Employers.

RA: What are the effects of the proposed changes?

K: If the changes go through then the safeguards which prevent doctors from working dangerously long hours will be removed. “Lower hours” would be nice but this is going to be less likely without the safeguards in place. You certainly wouldn’t want to see me after a 30 hour shift (the maximum length of time a doctor could be expected to work before the safeguards were removed)! We don’t want to make mistakes and if we are working longer and longer hours mistakes will be more likely which will put patients at risk which is something we won’t risk.

D: It is likely that there will be more walkouts if the government refuses to listen.

R: I see an end of the NHS coming. In 13 years it’s never been this bad. The NHS has the monopoly so there’s nowhere else to go. I know 6 people who have already taken contracts in Australia or New Zealand.

RA: What is the pay for a newly qualified junior doctor?

For someone who has just qualified they will be on around £24,000 a year. However, we also have to fund a lot of our training ourselves with no external support. The General Medical Council (GMC) fees are £500 and I have to pay in order to progress. For example, I’ve got to pay for two lots of exams which cost £500 each this year alone.

RA: Will patient care suffer if these changes are brought in?

K: Definitely. The new rotas aren’t compatible with life let alone working life.

D: If safeguards are removed doctors will be exhausted and will be more likely to make mistakes. A demoralised workforce is an unproductive one. A standard working week is 48 hours. I have even had to do 39 hour weekends.

RA: What has public support been like?

K and D: Amazing.

K: One patient said “if you’re here tomorrow, I’ll be cross.” It’s such an important cause.

D: It was nice to know that I had the support of my patients, with one of my patients saying “We’re all behind you!”

RA: What do you hope to achieve with the strike?

K: We hope that this will convince the government to listen to the BMA. Safe contracts should be the real goal.

D: No more lies from Jeremy Hunt and no more false statistics. Actual negotiations without threat of imposing contracts.

Since this interview, Jeremy Hunt has imposed the new contract terms and has refused to negotiate with the BMA. In response the BMA has called for 3 lots of 48 hour strike action, determined to get the government to listen. The first 48 hour stoppage took place from Wednesday 9th March-Friday 11th March with doctors still receiving overwhelming public support.

The National Shop Stewards Network has been in contact with a number of junior doctors and many of our supporters have invited them to speak at their union meetings to help build solidarity. In consultation with them, we have drawn up a model motion that can be discussed and hopefully passed throughout the union movement.

It calls on the TUC and the unions to “urgently convene a special TUC general council with an invitation to the BMA and the other health unions.

This meeting should discuss organising an emergency Saturday national demonstration on the theme of ‘Defending the NHS, supporting the junior doctors’ and coordinating industrial action against Tory health service cuts and their effect on health workers, such as the attack on NHS bursaries.”

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For more reports on the junior doctors strike click the link below:

http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/22355/10-03-2016/doctors-out-in-force-for-third-phase-of-action

 

Cuts, Contradictions and Outright Lies

Plymouth City Council yesterday passed its annual budget and the entire spectacle was almost comical in its presentation but the trouble is that underneath all the blustering and posturing there was a very serious and all too familiar outcome.

Labour were happy to point out how damaging the cuts from central government have been when wagging their fingers at the Conservative opposition as they bragged about how much the Labour Council has achieved despite the cuts. Yet, Labour have obediently implemented another cuts budget and offered no real opposition in Plymouth to the attacks levied by central government.

Even a cursory glance at some of the figures showed some of the “achievements” Labour were less keen to boast about, such as the 16,911 people dragged through the courts for non-payment of Council Tax since slashing Council Tax Support by 20%. Moreover, Labour talked about the increasing pressure on adult social care and mental health services, undoubtedly a result of increasing poverty, which they responded to by cutting the funding for both adult and child social care.

This will inevitably put extra strain on the NHS which will have to pick up the slack. Thus, an extra £2.6 billion promised by Labour will be nothing more than tokenism when stacked against the cuts in pay, stretching of services and the privatisation which has already been introduced into the NHS, opening up a funding black hole. But I digress.

The Con-Dem inspired austerity budget, which cuts deeper and looks increasingly at outsourcing public services to the private sector, was pushed through by Labour’s majority of 1. However, the contradictions didn’t end there. UKIP broke their seeming vow of silence speaking for the first time at a full council meeting since being elected last May. Maddi Bridgman argued that people in her ward have not seen wage rises and that people are struggling but when given the opportunity to vote for a living wage she, and her two UKIP colleagues both voted against the motion. This demonstrates again that whilst UKIP posture about being for the people, when given the opportunity they vote against the interests of ordinary working-class people.

Worst of all, Labour resorted to outright lies as a means to sling mud at the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), determined to taint a party which is exposing Labour for its lack of opposition to austerity. Councillor Bill Stevens alleged that “TUSC Councillor Alison Casey voted against the living wage” despite Alison Casey having no affiliation to TUSC and never being endorsed by the TUSC national steering committee as a representative of TUSC. The fact that Labour have to resort to such disgraceful and wholly dishonest tactics as a means to justifying its shambolic commitment to austerity is a disgrace and it will only hasten the “Pasokification” of the Labour Party.

TUSC remains committed to opposing all cuts and will be raising another full slate of candidates in Plymouth this May to firmly keep opposition of austerity on the agenda. If Labour will not oppose austerity then step aside because Plymothians cannot be subjected to further eye-watering cuts. This is the case whether it be at their “brilliant and co-operative” hands or the hands of the Con-Dems, UKIP or even the Greens, as exhibited in both Bristol and Brighton and Hove. Cuts are still cuts and they sting no matter who wields the axe; the solution is to vote for, and get involved with TUSC.

http://www.tusc.org.uk/support.php

The April Theses

Lenin wrote the April Theses upon his return to Russia in April 1917 and it marked an important shift in the direction of the Bolshevik Party. The main shift was a rejection of the idea that a socialist revolution could only be sought after a successful bourgeois revolution took place, paving the way for capitalism.

Essentially, Lenin recognised the idea that Two-Stage theory was flawed and Trotsky’s notion of permanent revolution should be adopted. This would mean that rather than waiting for the establishment of a bourgeois democracy and the development of a capitalist class in Russia, Lenin recognised the need for workers to take control and make demands in their interests directly; to prevent the formation of counter-revolution.

In the April Theses, Lenin called for the immediate end to its involvement in World War One due to it being an Imperialist war rather than a war which was necessary for “revolutionary defencism”. Lenin also made it clear that there were many sections of the proletariat who honestly believed that the war was being fought for the purposes of revolutionary defencism. He made it clear that the Bolsheviks should take the time to explain to the masses why they were mistaken in this belief by pointing out their error.

This is, in my view, a perfect example of how a vanguard party of the working-classes should conduct themselves. Rather than making a decision on behalf of working-class people and assuming that they will follow, Lenin highlights the importance of engaging with working-class people and bringing them round to our ideas through discussion. It is by doing so that we can remain at the heart of the working-class struggle and not an ultra-left or sectarian faction.

With the demand for an end to Russia’s involvement in the war Lenin made it clear that all annexations should be renounced in deed not just in word. This highlights a tactic used by bourgeois parties and bourgeois apologists which can still be seen in mainstream politics today.

Labour have said that they are opposed to the privatisation of the NHS, the bedroom tax and anti-union laws and yet they have made no pledges to reverse the changes. The Conservatives pledged all manner of things before the election, one of the most memorable being no top-down reorganisation of the NHS which is now on the road to privatisation. Even the Lib-Dems have betrayed working-class people with similar lies and in doing so have lost a generation of youth voters. Students will not soon forget that not only did the Lib-Dems go against their pledge to end fees for students, instead they have compounded their betrayal by being a part of seeing fees triple.

Lenin also called for no support for the provisional government precisely because of “the utter falsity of all its promises”. By exposing the vast chasm between the word and deed of bourgeois parties and juxtaposing it with the conviction of those within the Socialist Party, we will hopefully be able to win over much of the disillusioned working-class masses and encourage them to draw the revolutionary conclusions that are necessary to affect the changes needed rather than putting their faith in the hollow words of political charlatans.

Lenin also demonstrated the need to be aware of the objective situation and to act accordingly. He identified that the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies were to form the basis of a revolutionary government but also that the Bolshevik Party were a small minority against “a bloc of all the petty-bourgeois opportunist elements, from the Popular Socialists and the Socialist Revolutionaries down to the Organising Committee”. Lenin pointed out that these groups had all yielded to the influence of the bourgeoisie which has the effect of spreading the influence of the bourgeoisie amongst the proletariat.

Lenin stated that it is important that these elements need to be exposed at every avenue while expressing the necessity for power to be transferred into the hands of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies. It is thus from experience and the critical analysis of revolutionary elements that workers can learn from their mistakes and proceed in a manner that looks out for their interests and not those of bourgeois apologists. This is one of the reasons why we, as the Socialist Party, engage in Trades Councils today.

Lenin stressed that to organise as a parliamentary republic would be a retrograde step as the soviets are where the voice of the proletariat resides, not in bourgeois democratic structures. This emphasises, even today, the vast shortcomings of bourgeois political structures in catering for the interests of the proletariat; many leading trade union activists will attend Trades Councils but will rarely, if ever, be seen in the council chambers. This clearly demonstrates where the voice of the proletariat is best expressed in contemporary society.

Lenin called for the abolition of the police and a standing army as these are institutions used by the bourgeoisie to repress and restrict the proletariat. Lenin argues that the people as a whole should be armed to protect themselves against invasion rather than relying on a standing army.

This may seem like a shocking measure to those of you who are new to revolutionary politics but if you see the way the state has been mobilised to quash protests internationally you will understand the necessity for this call. Even here in Britain, there are plenty of well-documented cases of police using agent provocateurs to stir up violence only to use it as justification to come down hard on protesters.

Lenin also called for all elected officials to be limited to the average wage of the worker in order to be able to adequately represent the people they are meant to be speaking on behalf of. This requires little justification and one need only look at the state of the trade union movement to see why this demand is raised.

Many high paid trade union officials form a bureaucratic layer who slow down the movement as they are effectively on a boss’s pay and it is in their interest not to be leading an active union as it means more work for them. By pledging to take an average wage leading trade unionists remain firmly in the class of people they are elected to represent and are more likely (though by no means is this assured) to fight for working-class rights.

Lenin calls for the nationalisation of all landed estates and the consolidation of all banks into a national bank which is to be governed under the democratic control of workers. This shift of economic control from the hands of the bourgeoisie into the hands of the proletariat would mark one of the most important shifts in the transition from Capitalism to Socialism. This is because it would mean that democracy would no longer be constricted by economic factors imposed by the bourgeoisie. Thus, with democratic control of the economy, society would become much more equal in economic terms as wealth is collectivised rather than hoarded by a minority to levy power over the majority.

Lenin draws attention to the need for a new international which would have the function of bringing together working-class people from all over the world. The reason for this is that Capitalism is global in its exploitation and Socialism needs to be global if it is to truly emancipate working-class people. Without the international spread of Socialism, countries will be isolated as Russia was after the Bolshevik Revolution as it is in the class-interests of the bourgeoisie to prevent the spread of Socialism.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that Lenin’s rebuttal of Plekhanov at the end of the April Theses is admirable in that Lenin takes the time to scrutinise each and every point that Plekhanov raises and then counter these points on an intellectual basis by pointing out the error of his ways.

If you would like to read the April Theses yourself and simultaneously help to fund the Socialist Party in our struggle for Socialism you can do so by ordering the pamphlet from here for the modest price of £2:

http://leftbooks.co.uk/epages/950002679.sf/en_GB/?ObjectID=5190769

The Fire Rises; Taunton Branch is Born…

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We live in austere times and it shows; we assembled in Taunton to spread the word of Socialism on Saturday 15th June and were incredibly well received. Comrades from Bristol, Exeter, Taunton, Tiverton and myself from Plymouth, got together to highlight that there is an alternative to the crippling austerity faced by Britain and indeed much of Europe.

After many conversations with frustrated people, it was clear that a number of people in Taunton are ready to explore different avenues; avenues which mainstream media and politicians have always tried to demonise or ridicule. There are many frustrations in Taunton on a range of issues, spanning from youth unemployment to the bedroom tax to the privatisation of the NHS.

Within one Saturday afternoon in the heavy rain, high winds and then glorious sunshine we picked up a wealth of contacts who were keen to participate in the building of a new mass workers’ party and stand defiant against a government that has left them behind in the pursuit of profit.

The following Wednesday we held our inaugural Socialist Party branch meeting in Taunton which was well attended. After 2 hours of discussion on “What We Stand For”, led off by Jim Thompson, people were hungry for more discussion and everyone in attendance were keen to organise another meeting to continue exploring what Socialism has to offer.

Taunton will be holding another branch meeting on Wednesday 3rd July with Steve German, the driven and committed branch secretary ready to hit the ground running with an already optimistic group of individuals. I have no doubts that the Taunton branch will quickly flourish and join a whole host of branches in the South West as we build an alternative to cuts, cuts, cuts that will put the needs of millions of people before the greed of a select few multi-millionaires.

If you would like to get involved with the struggle and build for a prosperous and sustainable future, then don’t hesitate to check out the website of the Party that has helped me to find my own voice and join the thousands of others who share the vision to build our collective future:

http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/

Feel free to check out my latest article in The Socialist, I’m on page 8:

http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/pdf/issue/770/770.pdf

I also look forward to the results of the upcoming council elections in the Southway Ward by-election which I am standing in. I am standing on a platform of no cuts and hope that people can resist the hollow promises of the mainstream parties to deliver anything other than more austerity and posturing on issues which are having harsh consequences on the everyday lives of Plymothians.

The fire rises; spreading far and wide while burning more brightly, fueled by a mixture of frustration at the way things are in mainstream politics and a glimpse of hope that there are people standing united in struggle up and down Britain and indeed much of Europe demanding change and ready to work hard for it. The results will show themselves in time, with patience and a fervour to resist simply lashing out and instead an energy to build something new…