Three months to save the NHS! Trade unions must call industrial action now!


YESTERDAY, the Labour Party leader Miliband wrote in the Observer that ‘Everyone who loves the NHS must fight to defeat this health bill. This misguided bid to impose a free-for-all market on our health service must be stopped.’

What has happened is that Miliband has been hugely embarrassed and isolated by the fact that the BMA, the RCN, and all of the major trade unions and NHS professional organisations have now rejected the Bill and called for it to be smashed, with the BMA council deciding to mount a much-awaited public campaign to force the withdrawal of the Bill.

He could keep quiet no longer.

This is proven by his further ‘commentary’ remarks that: ‘That bill remains what it was in the beginning: a misguided attempt to impose a free-market free-for-all on our National Health Service.’

He kept quiet for many months as workers, doctors and trade unions fought for their organisation to campaign to stop the Bill, despite his recognition that the bill was always an attempt ‘to impose a free market free for all’, using ‘the regulatory model of the privatised gas, water and electricity industries to the NHS.’

Now the huge wave of opposition has forced him to speak, since his great fear is that it will lead to industrial action that will bring down the coalition and make Labour’s mission of saving British capitalism all that more difficult.

However, his late in the day opposition is not an unconditional defence of the NHS, since he argues that ‘this bill is working against the changes the NHS really needs if we are to make it fit for the future.

‘Changes like the greater integration of health and social care or a greater emphasis on prevention. And it is hindering the efficiency savings we must urgently make in order to meet the rising needs of an ageing population. The NHS needs reform, but not David Cameron’s.’

In fact, the Labour government, of which he was a member, brought in the programme to make £20bn of NHS cuts, a programme that is being used to shut down many NHS hospitals so that care can be transferred to the community, where the very minimum of care will be supplied by private providers whose number one interest is to make huge profits from NHS funds. Miliband is for Labour’s alternative programme for NHS hospital closures and privatisation!

Miliband concludes in the Observer: ‘We have three months to prevent great harm being done to the NHS. Now is the time for people of all parties and of none, the professions, the patients and now peers in the House of Lords to work together to try to stop this bill.’

The fact that Miliband leaves trade unions out of his call ‘to try to stop the bill’ gives his game away.

He has been forced to speak from a fear that the massive trade union and health professionals opposition will lead to industrial action, not to ‘try to stop the bill’, but to smash it in the next three months before it becomes law.

Miliband is proposing to head off the movement by a popular front of Labour MPs and peers along with whatever Liberals and others can be persuaded to join in, so that we can ‘try to stop this bill’ by parliamentary manoeuvres, but avoid, like the plague, industrial action.

The major trade unions Unite, Unison, the BMA and the mass of professional organisations must tell Miliband that parliamentary manoeuvres are not enough, that there has to be a real struggle.

Since it is three months to zero hour, the trade unions and NHS professional organisations must immediately call a massive national demonstration, as part of a one-day general strike, to prepare the way for a full indefinite general strike to bring down the coalition and bring in a workers’ government.

Such a government will carry out socialist policies, halt all hospital closures, expel the private sector from the NHS and defend and develop the NHS by nationalising the banks and the major industries under workers’ control and management. This is the way forward.