Jeremy Corbyn is acting like a man on tigh trope balancing between the contending forces of the right and the left wings of the Labour Party. The advance Labour made in the first two years of Corbyn’s election is waning.
No one talks about rising membership anymore and the Labour Party continues in crisis over Brexit, and the splits over austerity. This explains why the combined efforts of the Party’s membership and the trade union bureaucracy did not win the increased vote that they were looking for in the recent local elections.
The great conundrum for workers is that to vote in local elections against Tory austerity means voting for Labour councils who implement Tory austerity, as Labour ‘left’ councillors are also voting for cuts. Corbyn instructed Labour councillors to make cuts budgets, while talking about how bad austerity is!
Labour councils oppose a needs budgets for the working class and support privatisation. So, while Corbyn praises one council for returning some services to public ownership he does not demand all Labour councils do the same.
The Labour Party leadership are anti-austerity in words only. To bring an end to austerity means to fight for the overturn of capitalism in order to build socialism. That means fighting for a programme and a party whose aim is a workers’ state under workers control, nationalisation and socialisation, a planned economy and control over foreign trade. This will have to involve mass combative actions of workers which Labour will not lead.
Banks and Labour
McDonnell has repeatedly said that he will work with the banks, now he says he wants them in the government. McDonnell said at Bloomberg’s new European headquarters, 19 April, “…when we go into government, we want you to come with us, alongside representatives from our manufacturers, our trade unions and wider civil society. There will be a seat at the policy making and policy delivery table for you.
“What we are offering is a new start in the relationship between Labour and the finance sector,”
“The right for our financial service companies to win business across Europe, and the reciprocal right for European companies to win business here, remains essential.”
What does this mean? It means that Labour’s leadership, however left they may appear, will incorporate the interests of finance capital into a Labour government, and they are preparing for that now.
As stated in the in-house journal of the ruling class, the Financial Times:
“Jonathan Reynolds, the Shadow City minister has been preparing the ground for some time, engaging with banks, insurers and asset managers, and earning praise for his open-minded approach…Having met StanChart and the LSE, McDonnell is now set to take tea with Goldman Sachs, the epitome of all he disdains, and international head Richard Gnodde.”
For the avoidance of doubt, John McDonnell has repeated on radio, “let me be clear, we are not going to nationalise the banks” he explained recently to the HSBC bank.
Here McDonnell reveals the essence of Labour’s programme – protect financial capital whatever the cost. Money laundering, front-running on foreign exchange, LIBOR fixing etc, offshore banking and the international tax havens are run by and for the super-rich and will remain so under a Labour government.
Socialist Party & Labour
In the local elections Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) stood 100 candidates, far fewer than in previous years. The Socialist Party stood in order to argue for the implementation of Corbyn’s anti-austerity message by Labour councils. They say, that people, “voted Labour enthusiastically last year for Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity manifesto. But they haven’t seen any of that implemented in our borough [Waltham Forest]. The opposite – from councillors who backed the coup against Corbyn.”
The ISL asks the SP do they really think that Labour’s manifesto will overcome the austerity plans of the government of the banks and big business? And how can minor reforms, only some of which may be implemented by Labour if elected, be called an anti-austerity programme? That’s why they call it a Corbyn ‘message’ and not a programme. Labour, if elected in a general election, will not turn councils into bastions of socialism.
Mass strikes not called for by Labour
Corbyn does not call for mass mobilisation of the working class and strikes, against council cuts, he is quiet on this matter. But the Socialist Party, in the 1000th issue of their paper asks Corbyn to call national strikes to fight for the NHS. They say:
“Rather than spending their time reassuring mega-rich business leaders, Corbyn and McDonnell should instead be preparing working class people to fight to defend their anti-austerity stand and go further. Ultimately to meet the demands and aspirations of working class people, that means being prepared to carry through the socialist transformation of society.”
But they do not warn that Corbyn will never carry out a socialist transformation. Although this is ABC for revolutionary socialists.
The demand the SP makes is for Corbyn’s victory in 2020. They are even talking of snap election that could lead Corbyn to power if the Tories call it. But parliamentary socialism has been a failure in every country where it was presented as a way out for the working class. It will also be a failure here.
The quote we have used also shows the SP think that Labour’s “anti-austerity stand” is adequate as a basis to develop a struggle for socialism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Corbyn’s anti-austerity programme is just words.
They “call for Corbyn to adopt a socialist internationalist approach to the negotiations” with the EU. However, in the article, they do not call for a common European workers’ struggle to bring down and destroy the EU, as part of the struggle for workers’ socialism in the UK and Europe. This is the only way to approach the EU from a revolutionary socialist standpoint, rather than sowing illusions in reformism.
Rather than standing on principle in order to win the best elements to prepare a fighting leadership for the working class the SP follow Labour’s ‘lead’ who are balancing on a wire and appeal to the basest attitudes held amongst some sections of the working class.
The NHS demonstration in London, hospital strikes and campaigns throughout the UK aim to stop private care firms running the NHS, PFI contracts and outsourcing low paid NHS workers. However, since 2012 doors were wide open for private firms to run the NHS (Health and Social Care Act) and privatisation has been accelerated under Labour governments before that.
Teresa May promises to put more money in the NHS. Repeating earlier false promises she said in June there would be another £400m windfall from Brexit within five years. Few thought it wise to pretend to accept her prophecy apart from Boris Johnson (Foreign Secretary).
In typical double speak, part of the increase in ‘cash’ will come from £22bn “efficiency savings” the government is demanding from the NHS. However, making patients and workers pay for the lack of funding will not be enough for them. In 2017/18 about 44% of NHS trusts were in the red as were 65% of acute hospitals which make up the bulk of NHS trusts in England.1
Private finance initiatives take about £2bn of the NHS national budget, which is paying for 105 PFI projects, and will continue to pay until 2050 if PFIs are not reversed. Payments to PFIs will increase until 2028.
Privatisation of NHS health care is rising, of the 2015/16 budget 7.6% was spent on private providers, including private ambulances, cancer and end of life cover. Since 2012 all health service contracts could be bid for under the Any Qualified Provider scheme and over 100 out of the 183 Clinical Commissioning Groups are using private companies.
Care service on the cheap
The NHS provides around 110 million urgent same day patient contacts each year. Around 85 million of these are urgent GP appointments and the rest are A&E or minor injury-type visits. To cut this service the new Integrated Urgent Care Service will be largely phone-based.
This is a cheap urgent care service without any continuity of care for patients, and relying largely on phone consultations followed by self-care. It restricts patient access to A&E and also to their own primary and community health services.
An international offensive
Outlines for these various privatisation plans were presented at the World Economic Forum in 2012 and 2013 by McKinsey, a US management consultant company and Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, CEOs of NHS trusts, Liz Kendal Labour MP, Lord Darzi Labour Party, and many health multinationals from the US and Europe.
Optum, US United Health’s name in England, has already secured many NHS contracts and United Health is represented on all the privatised NHS Commissioning Support Units (the body that hands out contracts) except one.
Conning the users
Such titles as Integrated Care Systems (ICS), which started life as Accountable Care Systems (rebranded by NHS England) and Sustainability and Transformation Plans/Partnerships are names given to plans to divide the NHS service and break up national care into local or regional privatisations.
Privatisation of workers jobs
Unison and Unite union members decided to organise strike action when Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Trust took the decision to create WWL Solutions and use it to privatise 900 staff including porters, cleaners, caterers and switchboard operators with the assets, buildings and land.
We fully support the strike action, but the attack is driven by government policy and plan. It means it is necessary to link all the strikes actions to build a plan of national strikes led by the unions alongside all the campaigning groups to defend all NHS services and trusts against outsourcing of NHS and the rest of the care sector. Only the membership of the unions can force their leaderships to do that.
There are many campaigning groups including Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), #OurNHS, Health Campaigns Together. We agree with these KONP demands:
-stop the privatisation and commercialisation of our NHS;
-reinstatement of a comprehensive, universal, publicly funded, publicly owned, publicly provided and publicly accountable, national health service – free at the point of use;
-defend the NHS from cuts and closures and to campaign for the resources needed to provide excellent health care for all on a long-term, sustainable basis
But KONP and other campaigns do not speak about the role of organised labour, and so many focus on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, while Corbyn focuses on the next general election.
All the main hospital unions were on the NHS demonstration on 30 June. But union leaders have to do more than march. To wait for a general election will weaken the struggle to defend the NHS. Every effort must be made to mobilise workers in strike actions and to demand that union leaders and Corbyn call for national strike action now.
As KONP say “We are now standing at a precipice: the NHS has been severely damaged by underfunding and privatisation.”
The centre of the campaign for the NHS must be ever increasing community campaigns, support from all unions for any action that develops from these campaigns and linking on-going strike action across the country to build for national action. Rail workers (RMT), college and university workers UCU and bus drivers (Unite) have shown sustained strike action is necessary and is the only way to win against a government determined to privatise the NHS.
1 – https://fullfact.org/health/spending-english-nhs