Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1002/27586
Thousands march against NHS cuts and privatisation
Thousands of NHS campaigners and workers marched through central London in defence of our health service on 30 June. Carrying Socialist Party NHS SOS placards, local campaign banners and others, they chanted 'save our NHS!'
The most lively and biggest contingents were the Save Our NHS Leicestershire campaign - built out of the successful fight to save Glenfield Heart Unit led by Socialist Party members - a group of striking NHS workers fighting privatisation in Wigan, and the Refugee Rights campaign which demands free healthcare for all.
Mike Forster, Socialist Party member and chair of another successful NHS campaign at the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary hospital, spoke at the opening rally.
He said: "The reason Jeremy Hunt has stepped in to stop the closure is due to the pressure our mass campaign has exerted. Mass pressure will win the fight to save our health service. Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) are strangling the NHS and our campaign says it's time to kick out all the privatisers!"
Jeremy Corbyn also attacked privatisation saying: "Think it through, you and I pay our taxes because we want a health service for everybody, I don't pay my taxes for someone to rip off the public and squirrel the profits away."
Corbyn needs to be clear that Labour would end all PFI deals and other privatisations - which means fighting to build a mass movement to get the Tories out and clearing out the pro-privatisation Blairites from the Labour Party.
More speeches greeted marchers at the end on Whitehall. NHS worker after NHS worker outlined the problems facing the health service.
One former NHS mental health nurse and Socialist Party member Helen O'Connor, speaking on behalf of the GMB union, outlined how NHS workers can fight back - by striking against the pay cap. GMB is the only health union to reject the current NHS pay offer and is balloting for action.
The celebratory mood for the 70th anniversary of the NHS and the obvious care for the service was enthusing to see. However, the demo was only a fraction of what it could have been - in terms of size and impact.
Even on the day of the demonstration Socialist Party members met countless people passing through central London who said they would have participated if they had known in advance.
As we pointed out in last week's editorial, the TUC, which officially backed the demonstration, didn't even have the event on its website. None of the eleven unions that backed it had done enough to mobilise and spread the word to their members.
And the political message from the demonstration was not sufficiently clear or bold. The speeches were dominated by cheering for the NHS and recounting personal stories rather than putting forward a plan for action.
Without such a strategy, the huge anger and determination to fight for the NHS by both health workers and working class people in general - which was so clear on the march - could dissipate.
In The Socialist 4 July 2018:
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