Media · US

Thoughts on George Floyd Protests and Media Narratives

I have gained a lot of followers on twitter (Okay, ‘a lot’ by the standard of my small account) because of my scepticism regarding the Covid narrative which was very firm and clear from the start. In the case of the covid narrative, I felt very confident in my conclusions which I believe have been vindicated. In the case of the current protests, I feel a lot more uncertain as to what is actually going on (that is, to what extent is this manufactured) and what the agenda is.

So, here are some thoughts.

Police brutality in America is obviously a very real problem. Not denying that at all. And it is equally obviously, related to race to an extent (I say that because poor whites have also been brutalised & murdered by police, but there is a genuine disparity as to what extent it happens with different racial groups). Angry responses on the part of the American population to police brutality are also common and seem to flare up occasionally. I want to say that many of the people in the streets are people who have seen the video of the George Floyd murder and are horrified by it and are rightfully angry.

But I don’t think that the legitimate anger on the part of the population means that we can ignore deeper questions about what precisely is going on and what agenda is being pushed. Think back to a week ago. What were outlets like The Guardian saying (I know I slag the Guardian non stop, but it really is very handy once you stop reading it as a news outlet and start reading it as ‘what the liberal narrative managers want you to believe’)? They were promoting the idea of an ever harsher lockdown, criticising Boris Johnson for even weak measures ‘relaxing lockdown’, everything on the front page was ‘corona, corona, corona’ and you had to scroll for half-an-hour to read anything non-corona related. (It is very important to have a memory when it comes to the MSM. It’s one of the most vital factors when understanding how they function. They rely on you not remembering what they said last week because if you did, it would be a lot easier to expose them.)

So, 5 minutes ago we were all going to die of this virus and now the MSM is supporting mass protests against the killing of George Floyd. Hm. If there really was a killer virus on the loose, then surely all these protests would be spreading it about non stop. Protests for a cause you believe in don’t magically not spread viruses. The whiplash in the narrative is pretty shocking once you stop and think about it. Even a few weeks ago, the ‘End Lockdown’ protesters were called selfish, just wanting a haircut, wanting to cause murder of old people etc. ad nauseam. Heck there are even individuals promoting the protests AND pushing the corona fear porn at the same time without even seeing the obvious contradiction (or pretending not to see it). This is a random twitter account called ‘Tory Fibs’ (whom, shockingly, hasn’t blocked me yet):

(I just highlighted this because I found it amusing.)

So, why the whiplash here? Why, one minute, if you simply want to do ordinary activities you’re the worst monster in the world, and now the next minute you have to protest for black lives and even smashing stuff up is perfectly fine (I have thoughts on rioting but I won’t get into it here?)

Here’s two possible agendas:

  1. This is been put forward now as an alternative agenda to the covid19 pandemic narrative. The public are beginning to tire of the fear porn and want to ‘get back to normal’ in terms of their jobs and socialising. So there needs to be a new form of disorder to justify the martial law, cue agents provocateurs and the like creating/encouraging rioting;
  2. This has been put forward now and will soon operate in tandem with the covid19 pandemic narrative. The mass protests will be blamed for a manufactured ‘second wave’ of coronavirus deaths which will then justify more lockdowns, martial law, forced vaccines, or whatever else they want to justify.

Either could happen. Which I don’t know, but I think it depends on how hard the establishment are determined to push the biological aspects of the new normal at this particular stage, or whether they will wait for Pandemic II to push the immunity passports, forced vaccines, etc. Pandemic I could be used to try and push these things, but it also could be used as a seeding device – making the public get used to these ideas – for eventually pushing those things with Pandemic II. There may still be too much distrust among the public to accept forced vaccines, etc for now, so they are ditching covid and moving on, or maybe not, maybe they really want their immunity passports now. I don’t know, so I am raising the possibility of both options. [there may of course be other agendas].

I would also like to highlight one more aspect of these protests and that is a phenomenon I find rather strange – the proliferation of protests about the George Floyd killing in countries that have nothing to do with it. In the UK, for example, there have been protests in London and Manchester about his death. Generally Twitter has been saying that this is about ‘solidarity’ but I still find it an odd phenomenon worthy of at least asking questions about.

People in the UK throughout this whole lockdown saga have not really protested much against anything, and the protesters against lockdown have been arrested (most notably Piers Corbyn). No other protests that I have been aware of other than the sporadic anti-lockdown ones, except for the Assange court hearing protest with 12 people that got shut down by the police. Over the past few days before the George Floyd protests in the UK there was some random Extinction Rebellion stuff going on so maybe this time is when they are going to ‘allow us’ to protest things.

Before we get too off topic lets return to the Floyd protests. It is strange and almost absurd the way that people in the UK are sitting here protesting an example of American police brutality that we have no control over. Perhaps that is the point. The elite here in the UK can channel anger – and again, I understand people watching the video and being horrified – into something that is by definition harmless to them. Rather than the anger and energy going into something the UK government has played a role in such as the Julian Assange case or the Harry Dunn injustice.

Don’t get me wrong, I am glad people are going outside. Hopefully people will now begin seeing through lockdown. But we have to ask critical questions.

See also: “The George Floyd Protests – 20 unanswered questions” by offguardian.

Media · UK · US

Coronavirus is the Left’s 9/11

Think about this for a moment. Both of these events were used (created?) in order to destroy your civil liberties and take away your rights. But one side of the political spectrum was more influenced that another in both cases. In the 9/11 case it was generally ‘right wing patriots’ that agreed with Bush and in the case of corona its generally ‘left wing socialists’ that agreed with lockdown. [Yes I fully acknowledge this is an overgeneralisation.]

A quick glance at the logic.

If you don’t support taking away our freedoms you are letting the terrorists kill innocent people/letting the virus kill innocent people.

If you don’t support surveillance, it’s because you have something to hide/If you don’t support ‘contact tracing’ (mass surveillance) its because you don’t care about people.

If you don’t trust the government narrative on 9/11 and Iraq, you’re a conspiracy theorist’/if you don’t trust the government line on Covid, you’re a ‘conspiracy theorist’.

+

I’m sure there are more comparisons to be made here but I’m tired right now.

Media · US

Guardian posts Nonsense about Mayor Pete

So for the past week I have been spending pretty much all my time wound up about the Assange Show Trial and being really really pissed off as well as feeling the worst sense of dread, that we are now crossing the Rubicon.

So being as I need to think about something else to prevent myself from going loopy right now, I am going to have a rant about the Guardian being a terrible publication again, in particular, in relation to Pete Buttigieg (again).

I wrote a piece a while back about an article they wrote about Buttigieg. It was called ‘Guardian runs an article on Pete Buttigieg that Pretends Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders don’t exist’. This article was really a masterclass of Guardianism in that it criticised Buttigieg for being a coached and establishment candidate, without actually mentioning the existence of either Bernie Sanders or Tulsi Gabbard.

Anyway there’s a new Guardian article on Buttigieg out. He just dropped out of the presidential race. This is the title of the article:

Pete Buttigieg might be the most progressive candidate ever to run for president

How about No.

Okay, now you can say electoral politics is all bull shit and that’s pretty much true, but it is a fact that Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, and even Elizabeth Warren (to the extent she actually has a stance on anything, I suppose) are more progressive than Buttigieg. So why is Pete the most progressive according to this author?

…He’s a gay man and no-one really cares because acceptance of gay people has increased.

Okay, but that doesn’t make him progressive.

Of course this article also mentions the Rhodes scholarship (of course) and the languages shit (as someone who somewhat knows a foreign language, trust me, it doesn’t make you progressive. It just means you’re willing to pour hours into learning bloody verbs of motion) because that is like catnip to the Guardian crowd. Soooo accomplished etc.

Those of us who took the time to learn what Buttigieg actually stands for were delighted by how substantive he was. Partly because of his mixed record on racial issues – which included firing a black police chief in his first year as mayor, after the FBI told Buttigieg the chief was illegally wiretapping the phone calls of some white officers – the mayor produced the Douglass Plan, the most detailed project to end racial inequality in America any presidential candidate has ever produced. It includes everything from federal support of $25bn for historically black colleges to the restoration of eligibility for Pell grants for education – and Medicaid – for prison inmates.

Firstly, Pete literally said that the left was focusing too much on policy. Literally the opposite of Substantive.

Secondly, Buttigieg literally faked black endorsements for his Douglass plan.

Buttigieg also endorsed the Green New Deal and a bold idea to increase the supreme court to 15 members, with a new method of selection designed to make the court less political.

Endorsing the Green New Deal was also done by Bernie and in fact I don’t think I’ve ever heard Buttigieg talk about it.

The only big surprise of his campaign was also its biggest disappointment. While rightwing homophobes remained largely silent, Buttigieg’s angriest opponents turned out to be radical queers, who decided that the first male candidate to kiss his husband on national television just wasn’t gay enough.

As a lgbt woman who criticises Buttigeig, it is not to do with him being ‘not gay enough’. I literally do not care about his sexuality at all. I believe he is gay to the extent that a sociopath can have a sexual orientation.

While people my age who came out right after the Stonewall Riots of 1969 were sympathetic to many different paths to openness, some coastal thirtysomething gay men and lesbians decided Buttigieg’s failure to come out of the closet until he was 33 was a hopeless sign of cowardice.

I don’t give a fuck about when he came out. I give a fuck about the fact that he wants to keep Chelsea Manning in prison for ever.

The reaction of these critics to what they perceived as Buttigieg’s conservatism was so visceral that some pretended he was nothing more than an advocate of the status quo.

Buttigieg is literally a supporter of the status quo when it comes to healthcare and foreign policy and pretty much everything else of any real substance. Him marrying another man doesn’t change that.

“For us, this campaign was the greatest teaching moment LGBTQ people could ever have.”

Andy Tobias (quoted in the article)

Sorry but you don’t speak for me. Stop pretending to.

US

Is the Establishment putting their eggs in the Bloomberg basket given Iowa?

Let’s have another look at the results of the Iowa caucus. For the sake of this argument I won’t be discussing the rigging/manipulation etc. claims. To be clear I have no faith that these results are actually accurate to what went on in the caucus but I am using the ‘results’ as a barometer of that the establishment may be thinking, more than what they actually mean in terms of the voters’ choice.

So as it stands Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders are essentially basically tied, with Elizabeth Warren bringing up third place, and Joe Biden in fourth. What is significant about these results?

Well firstly, even given any manipulation, Sanders is a threat and very much NOT the candidate the establishment wants. They have to find someone that they can use to win (or ‘win’) the Democratic primary that is NOT Sanders.

Now the first thing that comes to mind is Pete Buttigieg, being as he won/’won’ this caucus. Now the establishment loves Buttigieg. If you look at it objectively it’s rather ridiculous that a small town mayor with 0 Washington experience and 0 foreign policy experience is even anywhere near close to being a viable candidate. However it seems that the CIA and all the other alphabet soup agencies love Buttigieg. which is one of the factors that has helped him become slightly viable.

There is however one problem for the establishment in backing Pete Buttigieg, and that is his lack of black support. In many states in America, getting at least some black support is necessary to win the state (not the case in the very white state of Iowa). Now, it’s possible that this ‘win’ for Buttigieg makes black voters more likely to choose him in future primaries, drawing away the support for Sanders (among a significant amount of younger Black & also Latino voters) and Biden (the choice of many older black voters). Or it may be possibly what the establishment hopes is the case (which doesn’t mean it will materialise).

Thus unless this happens or the Demoicratic establishment simply make up numbers rather than try to manipulate more subtly (lol) I still have to conclude that Buttigieg is not really viable.

One thing this primary does do is weaken the case for Biden, and to an extent as well Warren. Biden has been a reluctant establishment choice for a while. Many in the media establishment are not keen on a Biden candidacy, but recognise that up to this point he has had a solid base in the polls and thus is a reasonable choice to stop Sanders, the establishment’s key priority. The main problem for Biden has been how much of his support in the polls has been what Kyle Kulinski called ‘default support’ based on name recognition and being Obama’s VP rather than enthusiasm for his candidacy. Biden’s main argument has also been the rather elusive concept of ‘electability’ – the idea that he can beat Trump, and coming 4th in Iowa clearly weakens the case for Biden on that grounds. Even though Iowa was not Biden’s strongest state to begin with,

Warren’s position has been weakening for a while at this point, and in all honesty she is not really the establishment’s favourite candidate anyway. Sure they’d back her if it’s Warren v. Sanders, but even some of her weak liberal (in the American sense of the word) instincts, such as the wealth tax and bank regulation, are too much for them.

Which leaves Bloomberg as the main hypothetically viable candidate who isn’t Sanders. But Bloomberg has not entered the first four contests so we won’t see how much support/’support’ he has until later. But on thing is for sure: the establishment is very pleased he is there. If Buttigieg can’t get the black vote, or Biden’s position gets weaker and weaker, they have Bloomberg to turn to.

Media · US

Establishment Stooge Tries Identity Politicking Over the Iowa Caucus. It doesn’t work.

So as we are are all aware at this point, the Iowa Caucus has been an absolute shambles, probably on purpose – as let’s be honest, who trusts the DNC at this point? Anyway, the claim in the MSM is that Pete Buttigieg ‘won’ the caucus, even though at time of writing only 71% of ‘results’ have been declared (and who knows if these are even trustworthy)? If you look at the polls prior to the caucus Sanders was in the lead. Buttigieg doing fairly well is not unexpected since Iowa is one of the few states where he has a clear advantage because of the whiteness of the state – as anyone who follows American politics knows, Buttigieg had to fake endorsements from Black people because has about 2% support among that community (which makes him non-viable).

What the other 29% of the results are going to say we will have to wait and see. Maybe it’s just to deny Sanders good headlines by reporting the pro-Sanders districts last, or maybe the results have actually been tampered with (which is very plausible given the history of American ‘democracy’ in the Democratic party: see elections being rigged against Tim Canova).

In order to distract from this shambles and in order to try and shut down any ”conspiracy theories’ about rigging, one establishment character is using one of the favourite cards of the establishment. That’s right, Identity Politics.

Never heard of this person before, but here’s his twitter bio:

NOW: President of Petkanas Strategies & Director of http://ImpeachmentHQ.org FORMER: @HillaryClinton Sr Adviser; @HarryReid Comms Dir; DNC Sr Adviser #resist

So yeah, establishment stooge.

Of course the comments are full of gay and trans people saying they hate Buttigieg, or saying that they gay people they know hate him.

Of course, Petkanas assumed that all gay people actually care about electing a neoliberal bloke who happens to have sex with men instead of women – which they don’t. A very feeble establishment attempt to deflect from shambles at Iowa and real questions about the integrity of the result.

US

Joe Biden Pretends to Care about Trans Issues

So, there has been a furore on Twitter among the liberal twitterati regarding the ‘endorsement’ (not actually a real ‘endorsement’) by Joe Rogan of Bernie Sanders.

According to the liberal twitterati, this is bad because Joe Rogan has some beliefs that they consider to be ‘cancelable’ and they were annoyed at Sanders highlighting this ‘endorsement’.

To be clear, I don’t really care about Joe Rogan one way or another. I have never actually watched any episodes of his program. The only clip I really remember seeing from his show was the hilarious Bari Weiss clip where she called Gabbard an ‘Assad toady’. Nor do I endorse any particular opinion given by Joe Rogan.

The claim is that Rogan is transphobic. I don’t watch him so I don’t know if he is transphobic or not. Now the liberal establishment is basically trying to ‘cancel’ Sanders because of Joe Rogan’s views.

Sanders is clearly not responsible for what Joe Rogan says or what Rogan thinks of him personally. Now, you can prefer that Sanders did not flag up the ‘endorsement’ from Rogan if you personally object to Rogan. That’s okay. But what makes me laugh is the sheer hypocrisy of the establishment shaming Sanders for accepting this ‘endorsement’ when the establishment creams itself over actual endorsements from people who are far far morally worse than Rogan.

Any establishment candidate, for instance, would love an endorsement from Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. These are two people – as Secretary of State and President – are responsible for the destruction of Libya and the later devolution of that country into a failed state with slave markets.

What makes this situation even more ridiculous is that Joe Biden is now getting on his high horse about Trans rights:

Lets discuss the truth here for a second. Obama’s administration – of which Biden is so proud – is responsible for torturing a trans woman for revealing US war crimes. I find it hard to believe that he actually cares about trans people given this is the case. Trans people (along with every other minority group) are just a convenient stick with which he can try to beat Bernie Sanders (despite Biden himself’s own less-than glowing record on LGBT* rights).

Not to mention, is there any actual evidence that Sanders has ‘compromised’ on Trans issues given that he believes that Medicare for all includes healthcare related to gender reassignment?

It’s fine if you prefer that Sanders had not mentioned this ‘endorsement’ but the reaction from this establishment is, as usual, over the top nonsense that should be called out.

US

Christmas Day Message

anyone reading this blog have a nice time today!

This blog will return at some point in January.

Now before I go, just a reminder from Michael Tracey about the logic of Impeachment and why if you’re progressive and advocating this impeachment, you’re wrong!

US

Liberal Nonsense #9: Christmas Eve

For this edition, let’s have a look at someone who otherwise has some good stances who ais going all in on pro-impeachment and criticising Tulsi Gabbard for voting ‘Present’ on this farce. For what it’s worth I agree with Niko House & Michael Tracey among others who have defended her vote for ‘Present’ as a condemnation of the joke partisan impeachment.

This is just so silly. The MSM/Establishment are cheering on Impeachment – it’s not brave to agree with them! I mean, how much actual power does someone like Dore have? Maybe a bit since he has a fuck ton of subscribers, but not much and not as much as the narrative managers at the MSM for sure.

UK · US

Those who Want Medicare for All in the US need to Critically Assess the History of the NHS

Independent US media, and in this case referring to those outlets that are specifically progressive, desire the introduction of the ‘Medicare for All’ system in the United States. This is one of the main focal points of outlets such as Secular Talk, The Humanist Report, Jamarl Thomas, etc. In some cases they will invoke the UK National Health Service as an example of what they desire in the US.

The reason why they mention the UK healthcare system is obvious. Founded in 1948 by the Clement Attlee Labour Government, it has overall been a stunning success and one of the best healthcare systems in the world. It is not surprising that American independent journalists are green with envy over the quality and free nature1 of Britain’s healthcare. The NHS is, of course, massively superior to the disaster that is the American healthcare system. However when independent media outlets refer to the NHS, they usually invoke it only as an example that America could copy without taking into account both the historical context of its founding and the recent changes within the NHS that have seen it become increasingly privatised2. This article will only focus on the British case, but there are analogues with other countries as the rise and decline of social democracy has parallels in all western countries.

Historical Context

The NHS was founded in 1948 by Clement Attlee’s Labour government. The roots of the post-1945 welfare state, in conventional narratives, refer specifically to the Beveridge Report of 1943 as being an important spur to its creation. We do have to ask the critical question as to why at this particular junction in time this policy was implemented.

The creation of the NHS did not just happen because there happened to be a Labour government in power. Labour also formed a government in 1929 under Ramsay MacDonald but that government did not try any major reforms to help the working class. As noted in Richard Seymour’s book Corbyn:

Such nugatory reforms as [the MacDonald government] did offer included improvements to housing and welfare provision, and some tax cuts paid for by a budget surplus – including cutting taxes on corporate profits.

Richard Seymour, Corbyn, Verso, p. 99.

These kinds of reforms are similar to those of the Liberal government of 1906, which introduced old age pensions and national insurance, but without being a radical or working class government.

So why did it happen?

The factor that gets most underestimated in the creation of the Western welfare state, is in my opinion, the existence of a socialist alternative in the Soviet Union. The Russian Revolution of 1917 had led to the creation of a socialist government which was able to build systems that provided healthcare and education for its citizens. The Soviet Union had emerged from World War Two in very bad shape due to the devastating effects of the Nazi assault, but it had also gained tremendous prestige due to its role in smashing the fascist machine. While the capitalist system had endured the devastating effects of the great depression the Soviet Union’s industrial output was increasing and it was industrialising rapidly, one of the key factors in the Soviet victory over the fascists. Workers in the capitalist countries in the 1930s had had a terrible time due to high levels of unemployment. These factors had the potential to increase the attraction of the Soviet model – and if Western workers remained in the poor conditions they had been living in in the 1930’s there was always the possibility they might start listening to the ‘communist propaganda’.

A second factor was the fact that World War Two had been so incredibly destructive that the rebuilding of Western countries provided opportunities for growth. The world rate of profit was higher during the social democratic era than it would be later:

Image embedded from Michael Roberts blog thenextrecession.wordpress.com. If you are interested in capitalism and profitability over time this blog is an excellent source.

Here is a broader graph showing a longer period of history:

Also from the nextrecession.

As we can see the higher profitability alone cannot explain the introduction of a welfare state, since profitability was also high during other periods in history. But it did ensure that it was possible for the capitalist class to make some concessions to stave off a more radical approach.

It is also worth noting the areas in which the Attlee administration did not challenge the power structure. It did decolonise in some countries where it was necessary, but it tried to maintain empire in at least some countries. Britain – that was clearly losing any sort of ‘great power’ status that it maintained after WWI – also integrated into the imperialist US bloc of countries under Labour. This article discusses Labour’s foreign policy in the Attlee era:

In October 1944 Labour had supported British intervention against the popular forces of the Greek Communist resistance, ELAS, in favour of the pro-monarchist right wing Voulgaris government. […] The Greek action was designed to head off threats to Britain’s interests in the Middle East, since, in an early version of the domino theory, it was assumed that the fall of Greece would cut the empire in half and allow the USSR to fill the vacuum with consequences which would reverberate around the eastern Mediterranean and beyond. The imperialist requirements of oil, export markets and trade routes outweighed any consideration of the degree of popular support for the resistance which had rapidly established its control over the majority of Greek territory.

Adrian Budd, Nation and Empire Labour’s Foreign Policy 1945-51

The Greek situation is just one example among many that could be cited. The Malaysia policy is worth noting as is the fact that Britain took part in the Korean War. The refusal of the Labour Party under Attlee to reject imperialism ensured that Britain – even if enacting some reforms that were against the interests of some capitalists – did not at any point become a threat to the US world empire.

As Caitlin Johnstone has argued while discussing politics in the modern US context, anti-imperialism is a much more dangerous threat to capitalist hegemony than simply making a concession like universal healthcare:

The primary role US-led warmongering plays in maintaining existing power structures, which I first started to notice during the 2016 Democratic primaries, is on even clearer display during the 2020 Democratic primaries. You see candidates like Bernie Sanders being frowned upon by hardline centrists for promoting domestic policies which would hurt the profit margins of the oligarchs, but overall he’s being treated as a legitimate candidate and receiving reluctant coverage on mainstream media networks. Then you look at the treatment of a candidate like Tulsi Gabbard, who is campaigning on a major overhaul of US foreign policy, and she’s treated as a raving lunatic and a traitor.

Caitlin Johnstone

These factors meant that capitalist were more willing to accept somewhat radical concessions to the working class in order to stabilise the system.

Thatcher and Blair and Privatisation

As is well known, the 1980’s marked the beginning of the period of neoliberalism, sometimes in the UK also called ‘Thatcherism’. Margaret Thatcher was elected in 1979 and until she was forced out in 1990 managed to make drastic changes in the British economy that benefited capitalists and harmed workers. Thatcher attacked the unions and used brutality against the Miners’ Strike in 1984-5 – she was successful in drastically weakening union power. She instituted right to buy policies that allowed tenants to buy housing stock [which in reality has meant that more houses are no longer owned by the state but instead owned by landlords who charge ridiculous rents]. She did have a privatisation agenda.

However the real effect of privatization in the NHS happened under a Labour government – that of Tony Blair elected in 1997 [otherwise known as ‘New Labour’]. Blair had little faith in public servants and he introduced massive amounts of ‘private consultancy’ into government. David Craig (with Richard Brooks of Private Eye) wrote a damning book entitled ‘Plundering the Public Sector’, which outlines the colossal level of waste in private consulting under New Labour and how many consultancy projects have failed and created scandals for the government departments concerned. Private consultants tend to have a private sector based attitude to public services; this policy of relying on them also helped fuel privatisation and the introduction of market based mechanisms into the NHS.

We can also refer to Craig & Brooks’ book to get a clearer notion of exactly how the government has privatised parts of the NHS by stealth. The NHS has not been directly sold off in the same way as other privatised assets, such as being sold through floating shares (like Royal Mail for instance). I want to make clear that if a government directly tried to flog the NHS there would be uproar even from people in the population that classify themselves as right-wing. Instead the main mechanism of privatisation has been a mechanism called the Private Finance Initiative [hence PFI].

First announced by Tory chancellor Norman Lamott in his 1992 autumn statement […] the plan was for private companies rather than a cash-strapped public sector to pay for new schools, hospitals and other services. The companies would run them for up to fifty years, recouping their outlay through annual charges to the taxpayer. […] But the snag with PFI is that it costs private companies much more to borrow the money needed than it would the government, increasing the costs that are ultimately passed on to public services.

David Craig & Richard Brooks, Plundering the Public Sector, Constable and Robinson 2006, p. 133

Despite the fact that this was first floated under a Tory government, it was New Labour that really used this policy to privatise aspects of the NHS by stealth. This PFI method has been used to fund new hospitals in the UK.

By April 2000 [the government] had commissioned thirty-four privately financed hospital developments at a cost of £3.5bn. The six publicly funded developments it authorized in the same period will cost just £217m.

George Monbiot, Captive State, Pan 2000, p. 79.

The NHS has also outsourced much of its work to private companies. I am going to quote from Private Eye, a British publication that has covered the issue of privatisation in the NHS closely.

There is a clear underfunding and privatising trend in NHS and local authority services. Between April 2013 and April 2016, 45 percent of the community health services that were put out to tender went to non-NHS providers. Private operators now run GP and out-of-hours services, walk-in centres and minor injury units, district nursing, diabetes, musculoskeletal, audiology, dermatology, physiotherapy, podiatry, rheumatology, mental health and other chronic disease services, plus urgent care, plebotomy, anti-coagulation, sexual health, wheelchair services, prison healthcare, community hospitals, neuro-rehabilitation, frail and elderly care, health visiting, services for children with complex mental, physical and sensory learning difficulties, social care for adults and children, and end-of-life care.

M.D. Private Eye No. 1439 (10 March – 23 March 2017), p. 15.

These trends have happened despite the fact that privately funded healthcare is objectively worse for the taxpayer.

Why did this happen?

Again we have to ask the question of why this privatisation agenda began to emerge at this point in history. The 1970s in Britain saw economic problems and strikes, and the unions were blamed for the crises. This made people in Britain more willing to accept a right wing government. But the problems in the 1970s clearly go beyond Britain.

The profitability of capitalism had begun to slow down [as can be seen in the above graphs from Michael Roberts] and so it was necessary to remove concessions from the working class in order to increase profitability. The Soviet Union had also began to slow down in growth and stagnate somewhat (the mid 1970s -1985 in Russian is known as ‘zastoi’ [stagnation]) and the attraction of socialist models had decreased across the Western world in general. This is in part because of legitimate flaws in the Soviet socialist model, in part because of relentless anti-Soviet propaganda, and in part because of CIA/FBI etc undermining of Communist Parties in the US and Europe. We can add also the Deng Zhouping reforms in China which involved some degree of marketisation beginning in 1978. These trends bothe required and allowed a harsher capitalist regime which would weaken the position of workers in the developed countries.

Lessons to be Learned?

The main lessons from this historical analysis in my opinion amount to:

Concessions such as Medicare for all will only be given if there is a large amount of pressure on the state. The difficulty of introducing medicare for all at this juncture – as opposed to 1945 – is doubly compounded by the collapse of the USSR which had provided that pressure on the Western states from outside. This is why the NHS could be achieved simply through the election of a government – but this is a unique juncture and I do not believe the conditions can be repeated. Thus electing Bernie Sanders or another candidate that supports Medicare for all (e.g. Tulsi Gabbard) will not be enough to achieve the goal.

Trends such as neoliberalism are common in all countries of the west even in those that US independent media often tends to examine rather uncritically. Universal healthcare systems in other countries have been undermined by these changes – they just started off in a better position than the US system to begin with, so the effects of the underfunding and privatisation of the NHS are not as severe as the disastrous healthcare in the US case.

I say this not to discourage US commentators and activists from fighting for Medicare for all, but to simply highlight the difficulty of achieving it and to point in the direction of a strategy that would be required. This difficulty goes beyond merely the corruption of the Democratic Party and money in politics, and the lobbying power of the health insurance companies – the main two obstacles often highlighted by independent commentators such as Kyle Kulinski -though those things are certainly legitimate obstacles as well.

footnotes

  1. As a footnote it should be added that people in England and Wales do have to pay prescription costs and there are also dental costs (though you don’t have to pay if you are on certain benefits and there are no prescription costs for over-60s). Not everything in the UK healthcare system is free but you are not going to bankrupted by cancer treatment like you are in the US. There are also issues around the costs of social care (if you have Alzheimer’s etc) though that is an issue for another day and for someone with more expertise.

2. This also applies as well to the Scandinavian countries, who tend to be idolised by US commentators. This video should be referenced in the case of Finland, though I am not very knowledgeable on these Scandinavian systems so Scandinavian sources should be sought for those who desire further information.