JUNIOR doctors start six days of strike action today, the longest strike by doctors in the history of the NHS, over their demand for a 35% pay increase following the Tories’ point blank refusal to negotiate any increase that comes near to restoring their pay levels following 15 years of cuts and wage freezes.
At stake in this bitter dispute is not just wages, but the defence of the NHS as a free at the point of delivery health service.
Every worker knows that the Tories hate the NHS and are determined to destroy it and return to the days of private health medicine where only the wealthy could afford the best treatment.
This hatred was expressed in an article in the Daily Telegraph just before Christmas, which labelled the NHS as ‘Labour’s Original Sin’, and stated: ‘The root cause of all its (the NHS’s) ills is that it is a nationalised system funded almost entirely out of taxation.’
How much better for the bosses and bankers if the NHS was a privatised health system where workers either pay up for medical insurance while the tens of millions who cannot afford this ‘luxury’ can go off and die.
The biggest win for the ruling class would be that all the billions spent on the NHS, paid for out of taxation, could then be ploughed into all the companies and industries that are plunging into bankruptcy in the new year.
If the Telegraph considers the NHS to be ‘Labour’s Original Sin’ it now believes that the solution of privatising the NHS out of existence lies in a future Labour government.
Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph carried an article applauding the Starmer-led right-wing Labour Party for its determination to destroy the NHS, with the headline: ‘Labour created the cult of the NHS. Now it is desperate to tear it down.’
The article notes that in recent weeks ‘the shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has insisted that Labour would not meet junior doctors’ wage increase demands.’
The Telegraph writes approvingly that Streeting ‘has denounced the health service as ‘complacent, wasteful, and even mendacious, using the so-called winter crisis as an excuse to demand more cash.’
It welcomes the fact that both the Tories and Labour ‘agree that the NHS is imploding’ and that providing it with the money required is just a waste when bankrupt capitalism can no longer afford it.
The article has one minor criticism of Labour, saying that what it ‘has not been honest about is that taming the cult of the NHS will demand one final, colossal sacrifice by people. Because the brutal truth is that reforming the NHS will carry a death-premium or a tax premium.’
No prizes for guessing that both the Tories and Labour will opt for the ‘death-premium’ for the working class as the only way to keep British capitalism staggering on and ensure that profits can be gouged out of a fully privatised health system.
The reason they are not being entirely honest is because Starmer fears that the powerful working class will never accept having the NHS destroyed to keep capitalism from collapse.
With the Tory Party too weak to carry out this war on the NHS the capitalist class is relying on Labour to smash the NHS.
This is a massive wake-up call to the trade union leaders and all those who cling to the illusion that any future Labour government will defend the NHS or any of the gains made by the working class in the past.
Junior doctors and their union, the BMA, are in a fight to the end to defend the NHS against a Tory government and a Labour Party committed to ‘saving’ British capitalism at the expense of workers.
They must not be left to fight alone.
The TUC must be made to call a general strike to save the NHS by bringing down the Tories and going forward to a Workers Government and Socialism – a workers government that will nationalise the banks and major industries, placing them under the management of the working class and bringing in a planned socialist economy where production is to satisfy the needs of all, not to provide the profits for a handful of billionaires.
This is the only way to defend the NHS.