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Health Campaigns Together March 4 Demonstration and Rally It's Our NHS:
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
Health Campaigns Together March 4 Demonstration and Rally It's Our NHS:
Build the Movement to Safeguard the Future of the NHS!
BMW Workers Act to Fight for their Pensions
For An Anti-War Government!:
The British Government Must Be Condemned for its Military Intervention in Yemen
Together let us chart a new path!:
North East Political Forum on the Future of Society
From the North East Political Forum on the Future of Society:
The Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign and the Building of an Unstoppable Movement
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Health Campaigns Together March 4 Demonstration and Rally It's Our NHS:
On Saturday March 4, thousands of people from community health campaigns, health workers and their trade unions and people from all over England and Wales will take part in a demonstration in London, marching from Tavistock Square to Parliament Square for a mass rally to affirm It's Our NHS. This demonstration and rally, which was called by Health Campaigns Together last Autumn, has now become a major focus of what is a growing movement to safeguard the future of the NHS and for society to take the alternative direction to the government-led cuts, closures and privatisation of our health services.
The capital-centred direction for the NHS, which has been deliberately implemented by successive governments over many years, has today placed the NHS in an unprecedented crisis. Over these winter months, this direction has brought the NHS to breaking point, endangering the lives of thousands of people with overstretched Accident & Emergency departments, ambulance services, mental health services and the cancellation of vital operations, not to mention the effect of the massive government cuts to social care budgets on the most vulnerable people. Yet still the government presses ahead with its cuts to health and social care with its Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), which take further the agenda of wrecking the NHS, in favour of increasing the privatisation by the US, EU and British health monopolies. This direction is for a health system for which people will increasingly be forced to pay, making it harder for people to have access to public NHS services. The organisers of the demonstration have therefore declared that STP really stands for "Slash, Trash and Privatisation" of the NHS.
It is this situation that is increasingly giving rise to campaigns that fight to save their NHS services and fight to reverse the whole direction of cuts to public health services, marketisation of the NHS and privatisation. These campaigns bring people together from trade unions in the hospitals, people in the community, MPs, councillors and political parties into a campaign where the people decide, working out their aims and actions regardless of political views.
Today in Britain, as in any modern society, health care is the right of all and must be guaranteed. This question is posed for the whole movement to solve by depriving the ruling elite of the power to deprive the people of their public health care system and opening the path for the creation of a modern direction for a health care system that meets all the needs of the people. The issue that health care is a right in a modern society was brought into being in 1948 but now must be renewed in the modern conditions where this right has increasingly denied by the powers that be. The ruling elite continually repeat that health and other public services are a "cost and a burden" because of "people getting older", "health tourism" and other such insults and disinformation. But what they refuse to recognise is that health workers and clinicians add value to the economy. It is the health service that maintains the people's health so that they can contribute to science, manufacturing, service industries, culture and other human endeavours. It is the people who bear the "cost and burden" because the monopolies consume this added-value without paying for it and successive governments refuse to reclaim this value from these owners of social wealth. Reclaiming this added-value for healthcare from the owners of social wealth would ensure that the rationing of healthcare is ended and that the claims of all are met for a modern healthcare system. The government continues to insist that a healthy economy is a priority to achieve a healthy NHS; but they fail to point out that a fully-funded NHS caring for the health and welfare of the people is a precondition for a thriving sustainable economy.
At this demonstration and rally we should declare that health care is a right, that public right should prevail and the duty of government to provide a comprehensive acute and community, physical and mental health service to all communities must be restored but with health workers and the people being the decision-makers. We should proclaim, as health workers and as workers everywhere, that we create the value in society and we make our claim on the economy - what is ours is ours - to safeguard the future of the NHS and all our public services.
Health Care Is a Right! Intensify the Fight!
It Is Our NHS!
To retire in dignity is a right of every working person, yet car giant BMW, which owns Mini and Rolls-Royce, would like to deprive its workforce of that right by eliminating one of the few remaining final salary schemes in the country. The response has been that more than 7,000 BMW workers are threatening industrial action over the German car-maker's plans, with 96% indicating their willingness to take action in a consultative ballot.
Despite making record pre-tax profits of over 9bn (£7bn) in 2015, and reporting a 14% surge in pre-tax profits for the third quarter of 2016 over the same period the previous year, BMW has declared its intent to close its two defined-benefit pension schemes. It plans to end further contributions to the schemes from June and move workers over to its defined-contribution pension scheme that would see workers thousands of pounds per year worse off in retirement according to Unite the Union.
The company currently runs two defined-benefit pension schemes. One, the "old Rover scheme", has 5,173 active members, 17,099 members who have left the company, known as deferred members, and 53,029 pensioners. The other defined-benefit scheme is much smaller, with 215 active and 450 deferred members, and 220 pensioners (figures from The Guardian).
The pension changes will impact workers at all of BMW's British locations, including the plants at Cowley, Swindon, Farnborough, Hams Hall near Birmingham, and Goodwood near Chichester.
"BMW Group has always prided itself in providing excellent pensions for its staff," said the company, "and wants to act now to protect future pension provision for all its staff and to help protect the cost competitiveness of the UK as a manufacturing base," having citied "cost and risk" as making defined-benefit pensions "unsustainable and unaffordable".
Tony Murphy, Unite the Union's national officer for the automotive industries, said: "This is plainly unacceptable, and Unite will be fighting this proposal tooth and claw. It is becoming increasingly too easy for highly profitable multinational companies to energetically salami-slice workers' pensions in pursuit of even greater profits."
"BMW is blaming both the increase in national insurance payments and the cost of future liabilities as to why the final-salary pension has become unaffordable, though, ironically, profits are still rising in the last two quarters," he added.
Defined-benefit pension schemes have been under attack for some time. Pensions are claims by retired workers on added-value produced by workers over their life-time, as part of the social contract in selling their capacity to work. Under defined-benefit schemes, pension funds are built up out of workers' production of added-value, from which retired workers claim their company pensions. The company must continue to contribute a portion of the added-value produced by its workers to the pension fund so that the fund can sustain the claims of retirees for the rest of their lives.
Car workers have a right to their claims in the form of wages when active, and in the form of pensions when retired, by virtue of being the producers of this added-value during their working lives. Other, competing, claims on this added-value are taxes by the government and the claims of the owners of capital, profits in various forms. From the narrow perspective of BMW, it sees contributions to its defined-benefit pension funds as a drain on its bottom-line profit, despite its record figures. It therefore aims to turn away from its social responsibility to its active and retired workers in pursuit of its narrow private interests driven by competition.
A defined-contribution scheme, in distinction to a defined-benefit one, is essentially a savings plan. Unlike a pension in the true sense of the word, these savings plans let the company off the hook by making provision for retirement an individual matter. Once a worker retires, the company can wash its hands of responsibility to its former employee.
The monopolies and oligopolies in a more general sense have their interest in shifting from defined-benefit to defined-contribution schemes, i.e. from pensions to individual savings plans. As this change runs its course throughout the economy, it breaks down any thinking of pensions as a social programme provided as of right, linked to earnings with a national standard minimum, to individual savings for one's retirement, as if guaranteeing a livelihood in retirement were a matter of personal choice. These plans are inherently insecure, typically invested in the stock market and subject to its vagaries, where now the individual bears much of the risk. Such savings plans are extremely lucrative for the financial oligarchy and are far more open to plunder.
Pensions must be viewed as a necessary modern social programme. Workers across the country are waging a struggle for retirement security for all at living standards they attained during their lifetime while working. Workers sell their capacity to work to owners of social wealth during their working years; in return, they expect to receive a national standard of living in sickness, injury and health from birth to passing away. That is the only acceptable arrangement under the capitalist system and governments are duty bound to guarantee retirement in dignity for all workers; otherwise, governments are not fit to rule. If they take further action, workers at BMW will do so knowing that they have stood up for future generations. The working class produces all the value in the economy in applying its labour to the material world and has the right to a decent standard of living under all circumstances.
Defend the pensions we have, defend pension rights for all!
This month the United Nations has issued a £1.7bn appeal to provide life-saving assistance to 12 million people in Yemen who face the prospect of famine. Some reports estimate that around 80% of the entire population are affected. According to UN agencies, at least 3.1 million people are internally displaced and over 10,000 have already been killed in conflict that has been dubbed by some sections of the media "Britain's forgotten war".
The famine is entirely the result of the ongoing conflict in that country, which although it is sometimes described as a civil war, involves at least eleven neighbouring countries, as well as other regional powers such as Iran. The instability in the country has also been exploited by the so-called al Qaeda and IS/Daesh, which have also seized territory in Yemen. Major external military intervention is being orchestrated by a Saudi-led coalition of mainly African and Gulf states including Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, while Eritrea, Djibouti and Somali are said to have provided air space. This coalition is armed and supported by Britain, the US and France and there is much evidence that British troops and special forces are playing an active role in the conflict. It is widely reported that aerial bombing by the coalition has targeted hospitals, markets and other civilian targets but the government claims that hitherto it has been unable to find any evidence of such crimes despite a recent UN Panel of Experts Report which concluded that the coalition "conducted airstrikes targeting civilians and civilian objects, in violation of international humanitarian law".
The British government has taken the position that it is mainly engaged in humanitarian work in Yemen, a former British colony. In fact, it claims that it is the greatest supporter of such activities! As the UN launched its famine appeal, the International Development Secretary declared that the government would "continue to push donors and partners alike to step up their efforts and to keep pace with the UK response". She added: "It is imperative that all parties to the conflict ensure lifesaving assistance can get through and aid agencies get the unfettered access they require. At the same time, the international community must provide the UN with the funding it is calling for along with the political pressure to ensure aid reaches those who need it."
But in fact, the British government, which sheds crocodile tears about the suffering of the people of Yemen, is one of the main perpetrators of the conflict which is devastating the country with so much loss of life. Since the aerial bombing of the country began in 2015 the government has approved £3.3bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, including £2.2bn worth of aircraft, helicopters and drones. In short the big armaments monopolies have made nearly twice as much in profit as is required for famine relief in Yemen, a famine which arms sales have significantly contributed to creating.
The British government's military support for Saudi Arabia - it is estimated that in 2015 alone 83% of all arms sales went to that country - has recently been made the subject of a judicial review brought by those campaigning against the arms trade. What is being questioned is the use of British-made weapons in criminal acts which it is claimed violate international humanitarian law. This is one aspect of the government's intervention in Yemen. But the other issue is the wider geopolitical interests which are being pursued in the region. It is not by accident that the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, recently made a speech in Bahrain in which he arrogantly proclaimed that "Britain is back east of Suez".
The coast of Yemen, especially the Bab el-Mandeb/Gulf of Aden, is a major maritime artery of vital importance for linking the Mediterranean with the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. The region and this artery has long been contested by the great powers and especially by Russia and the US, that have both sought military and naval bases on islands in Yemen's territorial waters. In the current crisis Russia has taken a strong stand against the Saudi-coalition and its backers. However, as the Foreign Secretary made clear, the big monopolies and rulers of Britain have their own economic and geopolitical interests in the region. These include countering the influence of Russia and Iran as well as strengthening links with all the Gulf States as part of extending Britain's influence throughout Asia. At the present time, the government is strengthening its military presence in Oman and the United Arab Emirates as well as in Saudi Arabia. The Foreign Secretary went so far as to boast that there are now over 1,500 British troops based in the region as well as seven warships. He stated that the government will spend £3bn on military commitments in the region over the next ten years, nearly twice as much as is required to save the people of Yemen from famine. British monopolies' exports to the region are worth some £20bn a year, the second biggest non-EU export market after the US.
The British government is clearly engaged in criminal activity in Yemen in defiance of international law and is falsifying its role and activity as it has done in Syria and many other countries. Such activity must be exposed and condemned. It is evident that in the current period the government is trying to revitalise all its old colonial ties and the days of empire to counter-balance its new position in Europe. It must not come to pass. What is required is a new direction for Britain's relationship with the world, one that puts the interests of the majority in Britain, as well as the people of other countries in first place. It is ever more necessary to create the conditions to usher in an anti-war government in Britain, one that takes a stand which is resolutely opposed to military intervention, the profiteering of the arms manufacturers and all war preparations, and which takes the stand of opposition to the use of force to settle international relations and pursue dangerous, adventurist and criminal interventions.
The North East Political Forum on the Future of Society was held at the Miners Hall, Redhills, Durham, on January 28.
Redhills itself is significant venue for the miners as well as for the working class and people for the whole of the north-east. It was built in 1915 by the Durham Miners Association which was originally set up in 1869. It has played an important role for the miners and their struggles over the years but it continues now to play a very important role in the community, for instance in the recent struggle of the Durham Teaching Assistants. This shows the important role it still plays in the struggles of the working class. Davey Hopper, who was the General Secretary of the Durham Miners Association till his tragic death last year after one of the most successful Durham Miners Galas in history, made sure that Redhills was put in the service of the workers' movement both locally and nationally.
RCPB(ML) considers it timely to be holding this series of Political Forums not only because of the degree of the assault on society and on the people's movements, but also because of the opposition to these assaults, the great resistance struggles of the people. It is very necessary to work for a change in the direction of society and the economy. One of the crucial things about the Forums is that they represent the New, they represent something in opposition to the Old, represent something that is coming out of the independent thinking and development of the working class movement and the people's forces.
There is the necessity for the people themselves to look to a situation where they are the decision-makers in society, and not always having to put pressure on some other force, but to develop the independence from the capitalist status quo. The question of who decides therefore is also on the agenda, who makes the decisions, who is in control, is one of the foremost questions. Looking at things in this way, it can be seen that the struggle is not simply one of reversing this history of the assaults on the people, the anti-social offensive as a whole, but is actually one of fighting to safeguard the future of society, that it is ordinary working people who are going to determine that future. The Political Forums are a form for developing the discussion, developing coherence in the independent people's movements themselves. Our aim is to join together to affirm the necessity for change, change which empowers the people to gain control over their lives and their work, and to establish that kind of future, that kind of society which is fit for human beings, in which their well-being is the highest concern of all.
Four papers were presented at the North East Political Forum in three sessions, each followed by serious discussion.
The first session was devoted to the subject of "Claims on society", and two papers were given. The first was titled The Battle for a New Direction in Health Care.
The speaker pointed out that every aspect of society which is for the public good, or that has generally served the well-being of the people is being systematically wrecked by successive governments. Social programmes are being singled out for sabotage and wrecking in pursuit of denying the claims of people. The health and well-being needs are being attacked in favour of directly serving the demands and interests of the rich and this wrecking activity of what is for public good is most openly reflected in the accelerated drive to privatise the NHS.
The paper reviewed the present neo-liberal direction that the ruling elite are trying to impose, and detailed the arrangements that had developed since the founding of the NHS in 1948. Even in 1948 the conception of the NHS was never fully recognised as a right of all human beings. Society requires modern arrangements empowering the whole population to chart a new direction for society and its economy where health and social care is a right.
Concentrating on questions that are fundamental to this new direction, the speaker said that the first is that health care is a right. The second is how is this right is to be guaranteed by the society and its economy. The speaker went on to detail how these issues had been raised in the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign. He described how the campaign had affirmed the right to health care and put that in the forefront of their programmes. The campaign had asserted that the alternative direction for the health service must be based on the right to health care being guaranteed so that the people's claim is satisfied.
A strong economy is only possible if those that live and work in the society and the economy have their needs fully satisfied including health care for themselves and their families. It must be discussed, said the speaker, how a modern health service should be funded and the claims of the people met. The paper elaborated in some detail how the consumers of the value worked up in a healthy workforce - that is, primarily the big companies in the social economy - should pay for this value, rather than the issue being one of either raising taxation or demanding that the health service make savings by various means. At the same time, the completely bogus internal market in health care with its purchaser/provider split should be ended.
Instead, what we are witnessing at this time, the speaker said, is the contraction of the public sector, expansion of the claim of the owners of enterprises in exchange for the use of their social property and other wealth and the reduction of the claim on the added value of the workers available for the NHS and social programmes. The necessity of the times, he concluded, is to deprive the ruling elite of the power to deprive us of power and take the road of democratic renewal and bring the working class and people to political power and a new future for society.
The contribution from the Co-ordinator of the SSTHC is published separately in this Workers' Weekly Internet Edition.
In the discussion which followed, the issue of the necessity to fund the NHS and how to do so was further developed. It is common knowledge that there is a lack of resources in the health service, as well as in social care. What was emphasised in the discussion is that the value in society is created at the work place and that health workers teachers and other public service workers add value.
The issue of the effect and the aims of the STPs were also elaborated. The resistance to these aims and effects is often in terms of the painstaking work locally, as well as nationally, Campaigners and concerned people regularly attend Clinical Commissioning Group board meetings, the major provider acute Trust board meetings, and also the overview and scrutiny committees and the Health and Wellbeing Board which is joint between the council and health. This is putting blocks in the way of the attempt by the government to roll out these disastrous programmes in the face of the myths that are propagated. This influences CCG and council decisions not to sign up to the STP on the basis of quite in-depth work. Among the implications of STPs are the ending of night surgery, the closure and downgrading of A&Es, and other assaults on the provision of health care under the cloak of improving efficiency or concentrating specialist services, thereby obscuring the concrete reality.
The issue of that education is a right was also touched on. Social programmes massively add value to the social economy, but capital-centred ideology is insisting that these services are on the contrary a drain on the economy. The sphere of education is quite similar to that of health and social care, in that the workers and professionals are the ones who are intimately concerned with their direction and care about their future, but are deprived of the crucial participation of being the decision-makers and indeed see the good work they have achieved being ignored and actually undone. In opposition, the people as a whole have to set an aim for society and fight for it, defending the rights of all.
After lunch, a presentation was given For an Anti-War Government.
The speaker pointed out that the anti-war movement in the North East has stood a number of candidates in General Elections on the basis of fighting for an anti-war government in Britain, including in 2005 and 2010 in South Shields against the then Foreign Secretary David Miliband. At the beginning of last year the Stop the War movement in Newcastle rightly concluded at their AGM: "We face an even more dangerous situation in which the only solution coming from the warmongers at the head of the Anglo-US world is to step up their war on terror, and their rivalry with the other big powers in the world. The danger of even greater crimes against the people looms large." They said: "We must redouble our efforts to bring about an anti-war government in Britain."
Not only is that still the case but the dangers have become even more marked and the world more unpredictable at the hands of the warmongers at the head of the so-called western democracies. Any idea that the US post-Trump, or NATO, or the EU of the monopolies, or Britain's ruling elite post-Brexit represent any less of a threat to world peace must be countered.
Firstly, it is the Anglo-US imperialists' efforts to decide the future of countries and their peoples, so as to serve their own empire-building, whether in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Haiti, Cuba, DPRK or any other country, which is precisely what has resulted in the most heinous and gross violations of human rights of the peoples of the world.
Secondly, under Obama we have seen the peoples of the US and the world saddled with a US government of unfettered police powers, the use of military forces in the form of police shootings of citizens in the US, violating the sovereignty of whole countries with extra-judicial killings by drone warfare and military intervention and bombing abroad especially in West Asia and Africa. This shows that the old forms given rise to in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries no longer function to deceive the people that the ruling elite are legitimate. And this enforcing of police powers is taking place internationally.
The task that presents itself for the working class and democratic people in Britain is that the anti-war movement must consciously take up the work and build the movement to bring about an anti-war government in Britain. That is why it is so crucial that the movement aims its blow against the British government, which is a pro-war government. It is vital for the people to bring all their organised forces to bear to settle scores with our own warmongers in Britain.
To end the cycle of the ruling elite moving from one war project to another and to bring about an anti-war government does not simply mean replacing one political party with another in government. Rather it is bringing about a government that stands against the permanent war economy and the war government that serves it. It is one that addresses the problem of how to have the anti-war stand of the majority implemented on a permanent basis so its citizens are not constantly being lined up for one military adventure after another with the government using one excuse after another. It is about bringing about the social forms and electoral process needed for this direction. It is about putting forward the features of a new constitution where government is constituted on an anti-war basis. It is about a society that defends the rights of all and is constituted on that basis recognising the rights of all people and harmonising their interests peacefully instead of the present state that deliberately organises for division and even violent attacks on the people. It is about changing the direction of the economy so that instead of a parasitic economy based on money lending, finance capital and war industries we have a new economy based on meeting the needs of the interests of the people.
The movement must be built on the outlook of settling scores with the warmongering of those in power in Britain. This is a major contribution that the working class and people can make to averting further catastrophes and securing peace and stability in Britain and the world.
In the following discussion on the topic of building the movement for an anti-war government, several important questions were dealt with. The consistency of building the movement was emphasised, with discussion and analysis, deciding on the direction of the movement, empowering participants to make decisions, and discussing crucial conceptions like that of sovereignty. The anti-war movement is not just a pressure group. Rather the crucial work is organising, empowering people to take the initiative in themselves in setting the agenda and making decisions, and take action with the orientation of realising a new form of governance. It is a salient point that we do not have the right to determine the future of other nations, but must defend their right to determine their own futures. The movement must settle scores with our own government, and block them from interfering in the rest of the world. These conclusions are based on our own experience, our own thinking.
The final paper was titled Democratic Renewal and the Question of What Kind of Party?
The speaker pointed out that over the past few years, particularly since the 2010 General Election, the crisis of the party-dominated system of representative democracy has deepened considerably.
In this context, the paper delineated the history of the development of political parties, which has culminated in the cartel-party system, and even an assault on the very conception of a political party. The paper spoke of this cartel-party system, under which a set of big parties monopolise the political process and guard the gates to political power. They have a mutual interest in maintaining the status quo and collude to dominate the political process while viciously competing to come to power themselves. While the mass parties linked the state to the polity, the cartel parties have become divorced from the polity as essential parts of the state itself, the managers of the affairs of state, and have the finance, media backing and privileged status to almost entirely set the political agenda and terms of debate around a consensus from which it is very difficult to break. This consensus is the outlook of neoliberalism, an ideological standpoint that serves the interests of the most powerful monopolies. However, the cartel-party system is now itself in decay. The power of prediction is diminishing; polls have ceased to be reliable predictors and are now used more as another tool to manipulate the electorate.
Within this situation, the questions of democratic renewal and of "What kind of party?" are starting to take centre-stage. There is an emerging consciousness of the people themselves to be masters of the affairs of state in a human-centred society. The question also arises as to what kind of party is needed for the working class and broad masses of people to assist it in actually ending its state of disempowerment and being able to set the agenda in their interests. A new type of party has to be consistent, not with a form of democracy, representative democracy, that is out of step with the times, but with the struggle to bring into being a new form of democracy in which sovereignty lies with the people.
After this presentation, there followed a lengthy discussion in which the conceptions raised were questioned and examined. It was emphasised that we need to develop the forms which meet the needs of our times, not seeing the old forms as written in stone. One could speak about winning the battle of democracy. How can the mechanism be organised, the arrangements so that the people are the decision makers. It could be considered that the discussions which were taking place at the Political Forum with everyone's participation could be considered a form of mass democracy. Our optimism comes from the fact that the sentiment of the people is for democracy, for the people to be the decision makers, for the people themselves to be in control of society. The issue is a modern way of running society so that it favours the peoples' interests.
There was a feeling, it was said, that we are on the brink of something really exciting: a future society where people are liberated to be articulate about what they know and to contribute, therefore, to the forming of a new society based on rights for all, based on a common conception of the way forward and the type of society we want, the birth of the New.
It was assessed that the big victory of this and other Political Forums is the potential which they are exhibiting in developing a social consciousness which activates us as human beings to change the world, to change the direction of society.
The following remarks were given at the North East Political Forum on the Future of Society by invited guest speaker Gemma Taylor, Co-ordinator of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign (SSTHC). She is an area organiser for Unison in South Tyneside.
Since the formation of the SSTHC, this work has brought people together from trade unions in the hospital, people in the community, MPs, councillors and political parties into a campaign where the people decide, working out their aims and actions regardless of political views. Those who lead, lead on the basis of working to keep the initiative in the hands of those who are fighting to save the hospital and dealing with uniting people in a very careful way, all from the point of view of releasing the initiative of the people to take action in defence of their hospital acute services and safeguarding the future of the NHS.
The campaign in South Tyneside has reached the stage that 30 or so people meet every two weeks and this where we agree to take important actions to try and engage with members of the public around what is happening in the NHS - we have had stalls and petitions and leaflets. Our petition has now well over 15,000 signatures. This shows the work that has been done in South Tyneside which has moved on to Sunderland to try and engage people around any consultation that might take place so that they might have a say in what happens to the future of their hospital and their NHS. We had a first march and rally last October through the town where hundreds took part showing that it is a very organised force comprising of all the forces I mentioned working together. How to release the initiative of the people and make this movement unstoppable is very much the problem we are all grappling with and how such discussions as today can assist the movement if only in presenting the right questions and posing the problems that need to be solved.
The question of making the movement unstoppable in achieving its aims for a new future for society cannot just be reduced, as it does get reduced, to one of just pressurising those in power to back down on their acute hospital closure programme and so on. Important as those things are, we think that the most important question we should never lose sight of is being part of the people's movement to change the direction of society and doing everything to try and keep the initiative in the hands of the most progressive forces of the health workers, clinicians and most importantly the working class movement. The issue is building pro-social movements along with others in many parts of the country. It is this tapping into new forces such as clinicians, and expanding the influence of the alternative programme of the working class movement right across society, that will ultimately determine the outcome of the aims of our movement.
Put another way, making the movement unstoppable is about mobilising the people to change the things they can change, seizing what is in their grasp with the approach of the necessity to change society. It is about maximum political mobilisation around that. In other words, how can we develop so that we end up as a powerful movement that deprives the government and the big corporations they represent of the power to deprive the people of what belongs to them by right, the right to health care!
There are some examples of this. For example, is this not what Lewisham did when the whole of the people of Lewisham took Hunt to court and won. That deprived him of that power to take away their A&E and acute services against their will. Of course he and the government then changed the law so they could do this again but their direction became even further exposed in doing so. However, the question it raises shows that this is something very important to sum up, not in terms that we can all take court cases against Hunt and win. We cannot. We can only control what we can control within our circumstances; but the issue is how to uphold the principle of developing a mass movement with this approach. For example, at this time there are government NHS national and local leaders that represent this direction to deprive us of our NHS and our hospital. We are organising ourselves with this perspective to deprive them of the power to deprive us of our hospital and its services by building a campaign to save South Tyneside Hospital.
We want to concentrate on the approach that is fundamental to changing the direction of society that is reflected in movements of the people to safeguard the NHS. We are building that movement which has this potential today, the potential to shape a new future for society that reflects what is new in our hospitals, our NHS and our workplaces based on our outlook for a modern society where health care is a right and that right is guaranteed.
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