Saturday, August 15, 2009

much ado about nothing

The media in the UK froths at the mouth as it reports on the health-care debate in the US and defends the NHS from attacks from certain Americans.
What we have have said previously here at SOYMB.

Although socialists recognise the benefits the NHS brings to workers who otherwise would not have access to healthcare, they are far from the ardent uncritical supporters that the membership of the Labour Party and the other Leftist parties tend to be. We see that although the NHS suggests possibilities for how a service free at the point of use and based on needs could be organised, fundamentally, it is not free from the market system and a long way from being the fount of joy NHS supporters proclaim it to be.

To some extent , socialists have to acknowledge that NHS made the living standards for some sections of the working class better than they had been under rampant capitalism and its early ideology of laissez faire ( although these ends should never be confused with socialism ). But Socialists also argue that all reformist activity is subject to the changing nature of capitalism. To fight the same old welfare reform battles over several decades is demoralising enough, but when previous reforms are put into reverse the case against the system which puts profits before needs is stronger than ever. The NHS decline would support the argument that capitalism cannot sustain meaningful reform.

Contrary to popular belief, the NHS is not dedicated to satisfying the human need for health care, or the eradication of disease. Medical practice and research in capitalist society is strongly influenced by its role in maintaining a healthy labour force, and in socialising and controlling people in a class-divided society. The NHS keeps us fit for work so we can produce profits for our bosses. It is an integrative mechanism that helps hold class-divided society together.The need of individual bosses to make as much profit as they can from us has to give way, to a certain extent, to the long-term needs of capitalist society as a whole.

In Marxist terms, medical care is important for the reproduction of the forces and relations of production. The reproduction of labour power is provided for through the payment of wages - which enables us to feed, clothe and house ourselves at a historically and culturally specific level - but also through the state, which has, to an extent, taken responsibility for the collective reproduction of labour power by providing education, social security, and other welfare services. The development of the NHS was in part a recognition that a shift away from unskilled manual work to other forms of employment would require a healthier workforce and a more stable and qualitatively superior one. To put it more plainly, the NHS helps keep us fit for work so that we are forced to keep on selling the only thing of real value we own - our creative abilities - to our employers.

But to read more ,however ,see Socialist Standard article Who Pays For Health Care ,written on the 60th anniversary of the NHS creation

The proponents of the NHS are sincere (for the most part) in believing that it brings a massive benefit to society. Certainly, it helps the Labour Party by being a threatened cherished item to rally their supporters around and with which to beat the Tories. The wages system, though, which will only return to the workers the price the market will bear for sustaining their ability to work can snatch with one hand what the state gives with another. Our health and well being only matters so far as it enables employers to use us for profit, as can be seen in those parts of the world where surplus population is left to rot...It is clear that the effects of poverty, and the associated lifestyle are deleterious to health, and that simply having the services available of the NHS isn't sufficient to stop the theft of years from the working and unemployed poor.

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