Defend the NHS and the Welfare State!

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YESTERDAY key Blairite cabinet ministers, Blunkett and Hewitt, launched a massive attack on the Welfare State. Hewitt promised to use the NHS budget to build up the private medical industry, while allowing NHS hospitals to close, while Blunkett pledged to get rid of the Welfare State ‘safety net’ – i.e. to get rid of the Welfare State.

As usual, the Blairites are listening to nobody except the bosses and the bankers!

Health Secretary Hewitt pledged that the private sector will double its work in the NHS in the next five years, and will be handed £3 billion of the NHS budget, so that it can make super-profits. Hewitt admitted that this privatisation drive could lead to NHS hospitals closing, brazenly saying: ‘If services aren’t attracting patients because they’re not good enough . . . If they can’t do that then yes, they may have to close’.

The NHS budget is to be managed to force the closure of NHS hospitals and to promote the expansion of the private medical industry.

Professor Vincent Marks intervened yesterday to call what is happening by its right name. He said: ‘This is really the destruction of the NHS. Once you start farming it off into private enterprises the NHS as we understood it will gradually disintegrate.’

This is indeed Blair’s Thatcherite policy at the heart of his third term. Blunkett, the new Works and Pensions Secretary was even more provocative with his declaration that he was going to end the Welfare State ‘safety net’. ‘Safety nets’ are for saving lives by stopping people hitting the deck with deadly force. This happens under capitalism when the anarchy of capitalist production destroys workers’ jobs, or destroys their pensions schemes. When safety nets are removed – people die, and they will die by their thousands if there is no adequate state pension.

Blunkett says that he will transform the Welfare State away from the ‘safety net’ to one where people ‘will take responsibility’. He says he is going to put an end to the situation where the state ‘digs them out of poverty’.

What he means is that capitalism is in such desperate straits, that private pensions funds have collapsed, and the system can no longer afford adequate pensions.

The government will not ‘dig out’ those whose private pensions have been destroyed, and is actually moving to destroy the final salary pension schemes of the public sector as unaffordable, at the same time as it cannot guarantee an adequate state pension.

Mighty ‘global capitalism’ is collapsing. Blunkett’s solution is that the people, not the bosses, ‘will have to take responsibility’ for this, and pay extra compulsory contributions, outside their national insurance contributions, just to to get a poverty pension. He says that the issue is ‘what people are prepared to do for themselves’.

The government is absolving itself of any responsibility to provide, out of the massive taxation revenue that it takes off the working class, pensions that people can live off.

Of course he doesn’t mean all of the people. The bankers, the bosses, and state officials, cabinet ministers, MPs, judges, army officers, police chiefs etc will continue to receive magnificent pensions, mainly paid out of the public purse.

Capitalism has failed. It is not the ‘safety net’ that must go, it is bankrupt capitalism that must go!

The trade unions must oppose these plans to destroy the Welfare State in Labour’s third term. They must take strike action to bring down the Blair government, to go forward to a workers’ government. This will provide decent pensions and jobs for all.

The resources will come from nationalising the banks, the oil companies and the major industries, withdrawing British troops from Iraq and the Middle East, and introducing a socialist planned economy, based, not on providing huge profits for the bankers and bosses, but on satisfying the needs of the people. This is the only way forward.