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From The Socialist newspaper, 12 October 2011

NHS protesters occupy Westminster Bridge

Neil Cafferky

Hundreds of protesters blocked Westminster Bridge next to the Houses of Parliament on Sunday 9 October to demonstrate their support for a publicly owned National Health Service (NHS). This positive action was organised by UK Uncut in protest against the government's upcoming NHS Bill which is currently making its way through the House of Lords.

Among other changes, the Bill will remove the duty of the Health Secretary to provide health services and place the running of GP services in the hands of private consortia. It is a further step along the road to privately owned, American style, health care. This road was originally fashioned by the Thatcher and Major governments and then drastically accelerated by New Labour with the introduction of Foundation Trust hospitals and a huge increase in PFI privatisation schemes. The current Con-Dem government has simply picked up where New Labour left off.

Support for the 30 November strike action over pensions and cuts by public sector workers was prominent in many of the speeches at the blockade as well as solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests in the USA and the big social movements in Israel.

The comedian Mark Thomas made an appearance at one of the assemblies, performing a 15 minute set to cheers and laughter, which contributed to the carnival atmosphere on the bridge.

The main focus of the assembly seemed to be planning further actions, chiefly the Occupy the City protest on 15 October. If there was any weakness in this method of organisation it is that it is difficult to engage in a discussion about overall strategy of the movement beyond organising the next action.

UK Uncut also handed out a leaflet with the headline: "This is the last chance to save the NHS". Although the sentiment of urgency is understandable given the attacks the NHS faces, the phrasing is unfortunate as it could lead to demoralisation among the public.

Given the potential power of the working class, nothing is irreversible. Health unions will soon be balloted for strike action on 30 November against attacks on public sector pensions. This strike will give a taste of how action can be taken against the destruction of the NHS

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In The Socialist 12 October 2011:


Socialist Party youth and students

Interview with a Jarrow marcher

Marching in the footsteps of history

Low pay, no way!

Protest, demonstrate, occupy


International socialist news and analysis

US: Occupy Wall Street - Demanding jobs not cuts


Socialist Party workplace news

Strike on 30 November - no secret talks

'We have not gone away' say Southampton council workers

Construction electricians

60 printers sacked as bosses make a million

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party news and analysis

Sovereign debt crisis, recession... No way out under capitalism

Cameron's big 'them and us' society

Fox takes cronyism to new level

Wales Assembly budget: Labour piles on the misery

Kinnock's bigotry

Con-Dems' policies increase poverty

Fast news


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

NHS protesters occupy Westminster Bridge

Health campaigners take Ascot by storm

Coventry by-election helps build socialist alternative to cuts

London elections - more support for TU/anti-cuts stand


Socialist Party fundraising

Socialism 2011 finance appeal


Socialist history

Battle of Cable Street 1936 - When workers stopped the fascists


The Socialist - readers' comments

Portrait of a pension pilferer


 

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