- Created: Thursday, 12 February 2015 13:21
The impressionable Mr Clegg
I am not surprised to see Nick Clegg flaunting his recent visit to an acute mental health ward on Merseyside on his political blog, nor to see that the chief execs at Mersey Care NHS Trust are touting his visit as a major endorsement of the way they do business. However, as a lowly frontline member of NHS staff who happened to be working on the acute male in-patient ward that the deputy prime minister descended on that day, I can confidently state that Mr Clegg was afforded the least accurate picture of the state of mental health services in the Northwest imaginable.
Members of staff who work long hours on the ward in question, week in week out, would have been hard-pressed to recognise it during Mr Clegg’s visit – under 15 minutes in length, although the road outside the building was cordoned off for at least eight hours and between 10 and 20 security officers accompanied Mr Clegg into the low secure mental health premises. All but five of the patients had been temporarily removed from the ward and taken to another department or spirited out on leave with staff, including all those likely to cause any offence to Mr Clegg with their swearing, unpredictable behaviour, illicit drug use or poor personal hygiene. Or to put it another way, any patients displaying the sort of symptoms likely to lead to their admission to an acute mental health ward.
Even with just five of our more well-mannered patients on the ward for Mr Clegg’s visit, there were at least twice as many staff present as there would usually be, or indeed as there were a scant few hours after his departure, when all of our less palatable service users had been returned to the ward and the all-singing all-dancing team of managers and executives had departed after their brief and painstaking rare appearance.
A service user who was judged by management to be sufficiently non-abrasive to speak with Mr Clegg later told me he had felt embarrassed by the absence of patients and the abnormal glut of staff on the ward during the deputy PM’s visit. This member of staff shares in his mortification.
Socialist health care delivers
I enjoyed Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko at a film showing and discussion in Dundee. His comparison of the health systems of the United States and Cuba is powerful. Cuba’s recent achievement of the lowest infant mortality in the world at two per thousand in Oriente province and the deserved praise for its work against Ebola in Africa is more than proof that socialist health care delivers.
Meanwhile in Spain, thousands have marched to protest at the cutting back of medication for the treatment of Hepatitis C. NHS England has delayed the introduction of a highly effective but expensive drug that can save the lives of people infected with Hepatitis C. This is despite Sofosbuvir – which has been hailed internationally as a breakthrough – having the approval of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Capitalist health care is criminally negligent, internationally millions die for want of care and now the crisis means that while Hepatitis C affects 200 million people worldwide, the price tag means effective therapies are put beyond reach. There is no justification for this madness. Human beings not just can but actually have solved these problems through socialism. We must move forward.
Scottish independence: a Leninist analysis
One of the outstanding features of the RCG has been its persistent support for the right of oppressed nations to self-determination. Now that the RCG supports Scottish independence, an important question arises: why does the RCG – an organisation which is partly based in England – have branches in Scotland? A socialist organisation of an oppressor nation should not mobilise the oppressed of another nation; rather it should foster fraternal relations between the anti-imperialist organisations of both nations. The RCG has pursued this strategy successfully in the case of the Irish independence struggle.
If the RCG believes that Scotland is not an oppressed nation, why does it support the call for Scottish independence? Leninists are vehemently opposed to the right of oppressor nations to self-determination.
The RCG has repeatedly pointed to the existence of a deep and ongoing split in the British ruling class over its relationship with the EU and US. At the heart of this split, as David Yaffe and others have explained, is the issue of the City’s viability as an independent financial centre (see for example FRFI241, October/November 2014, p5). Is there any reason why the RCG has refrained from viewing the Scottish question in the light of this split, as a concrete manifestation of it?
While the RCG is correct to denounce the ‘unionists’ on the left as social chauvinists, it needs to bear in mind that Marxists never take sides in inter-imperialist disputes. This principle holds for intra-imperialist disputes as well.
Before workers can use Britain’s ‘constitutional’ crisis to their advantage, they must understand its nature and origins, otherwise they will become the unwitting accomplices of one faction of imperialists against another. The tendency towards the break-up of the United Kingdom is the result of the crisis which British usury imperialism has been experiencing for a number of years. RCG members have written at length and convincingly about this crisis. They have also written outstanding articles on the question of Irish independence. These comrades must now bring their insights to bear favourably on a Leninist analysis of the Scottish question.
Thanks, Alec, for your recognition of the RCG’s theoretical contributions to the struggle against British imperialism. These would of course mean nothing unless we also had a record of real practical effort to build a movement to that end. Understanding the relationship between theory and practice, ‘the flower and iron of the truth’, to quote Scots poet Hugh McDiarmid, is the essence of Leninism and the antidote to dogmatic phraseology and inaction.
So what then of this concrete situation today whereby the sustainability of British imperialism, already under critical economic pressure, was momentarily threatened by an overwhelmingly and massive working class expression of a democratic determination to secede from the United Kingdom? Suddenly the sun seemed to be about to set on British imperialism without too much of a bloody struggle. It occurred at a time when working class political consciousness, organisation and resistance was at an historically low level across Britain. What it did confirm was James Connolly’s point in Labour in Irish History, that ‘successful revolutions are not the product of our brains but of ripe material conditions.’ There is much work to be done.
This recent phenomenon and the points you make about the EU and splits in the ruling class do require serious analysis and engagement – all contributions are welcome, Alec. Leninism demands that the specific characteristics of each situation be examined. We have been at pains to point out that we do not regard Scotland as an oppressed nation and have described the formation of the alliance between the ruling classes of England and Scotland as the source of British imperialism’s formidable strength. The situation was therefore not analogous to Ireland’s struggle against British imperialism.
The mass of the Scottish working class saw the referendum as an opportunity to express their complete opposition to austerity and its supporters in Westminster who were also pro-Union. It was a sign of new and real political movement, and communists had to be there rather than sit on the sidelines speculating about intra-imperialist splits. A Yes victory would have resulted in a major political crisis for the British ruling class; equally importantly it would have shattered the grip of the reactionary British Labour movement over Scottish workers and created conditions which would allow a direct fight for socialism. Recognising the class content of a Yes vote, the British ruling class pulled out all the stops to defeat it. It very nearly failed.
Revolutionary new year greetings
Let me send revolutionary Red Season’s greetings to you all. Another year of struggle has come to an end. A new popular movement against government repression has arisen here in the US. So far it is sustaining and growing. Of course, the cops keep killing young men and boys – especially black people and other people of colour – so this is a very necessary and timely movement.
Keep doing the important and solid work you do. Many of us look forward to FRFI news and analysis. Keep checking out www.4strugglemag.org – we are beginning a new schedule. Only two hard copies a year, but more online material.
Jaan Laaman #10372-016
USP Tucson, PO Box 24550e,
MA 02071 Tucson, AZ85734, US
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 243 February/March 2015