Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
“We took the political struggle over the future of the NHS from the hospital gates into the city centres, targeting the companies directly profiting from the NHS sell-off”, said one participant in a day of action called Picket the Profiteers.
While the junior doctors were on strike on 26 April, eleven additional actions included an early morning blockade of a Virgin Care office and the picketing (and attempted storming) of a conference of CEOs of companies in London, plus flying pickets in other towns and cities across the UK which shut down Boots and Virgin stores.
For those watching the mainstream media coverage of the junior doctors’ strikes and the ongoing negotiations it may come as a surprise that the causes for industrial action go way beyond the issue of wages and working conditions alone. But if the working conditions of NHS staff are diminished the sector becomes more attractive to businesses aiming to make inroads into healthcare provision. Junior doctors have been very clear about the impact these changes would have on the care ultimately delivered. By stretching them thinner, it is more likely that Jeremy Hunt can claim the NHS is failing and use this to make a case for opening more of it up to private firms.
The private sector is already estimated to deliver 18% of elective surgery (non-urgent surgery) and this is a market that private healthcare companies are increasingly poised to dominate, if more changes in the NHS are implemented.
While the strikes have been greeted with massive support from the junior doctors themselves (98% of those balloted voted in favour) and the wider public, the government don’t seem too inclined to listen.
Although the strength of political arguments is important for attracting the support of the wider public and mobilising one’s own supporters, other forms of power are also needed to build the political leverage needed for victory. Caught within the confines of restrictive trade union laws, and the political challenges common to all care work – how to fight for better wages and conditions whilst looking after those in one’s care – the BMA will find it a challenge to escalate this dispute.
Picket the Profiteers allows those not directly involved in the dispute to show their solidarity, and further expand the struggle over the future direction of the NHS. By bringing this tactic – UK Uncut style decentralised action against private companies – into an existing industrial dispute we are attempting to further socialise this strike: bringing more people into the struggle and expanding its leverage in ways which the BMA can’t themselves.
We recognise that simply halting this wave of privatisation is not enough. We know that our vision for healthcare in the UK can’t be based on retuning to a mythical ‘golden age’ but needs to be grounded in critiques of the present state of healthcare currently being developed by workers and patients. So we wrote a series of demands which we hope will spark discussion and debate to help provide some orientation for the movement which is building around the NHS struggle.
Our mixture of short and long term demands includes the resignation of Jeremy Hunt and the ongoing development of a free, universal and democratic healthcare system.
The public, in general, were very supportive of our pickets and generally ‘got’ the connections we were trying to make between the doctors’ strike and a wider political perspective against privatisation and for community control of our common institutions.
The doctors that we spoke to, or organised with, were mainly on board – some expressing thanks that we were taking action they were legally forbidden to take. However, of course, on the day a small minority complained about #picketprofiteers being ‘overly-political’ by trying to broaden the discussion beyond wages, whilst for others direct action was a step too far.
Alongside my own organisation – Plan C – who called this action, groups such as Solidarity Federation, the Industrial Workers of the World, Disabled People Against the Cuts, and other groups of experienced organisers provided the logistical backbone and mobilising power to make the day a success. As time progresses we aim to build stronger alliances across the left whilst making the case for those not currently involved in political organising to hit the streets.
All our actions had some level of success and, potentially more importantly, our strategy has spread beyond the initial groups involved. We are excited to hear of discussions and plans being formed in other cities since. While this form of action will at some point lose its effectiveness, at the moment Picket the Profiteers is asking important questions about what is needed to win both the Junior Doctors Strike and to not only resist the current round of austerity programmes but, eventually, to get onto the offensive. If you wish to participate please get in touch.
Kevin is a member of Plan C and was actively involved in organising the Picket Profiteers action.
Louis Mendee explains the real human costs of climate change for the global south.
From climate change to automation to demographic shifts, Mathew Lawrence explains the challenges our economy will face in the coming decade.
Fifty years after the Abortion Act, women are still dying from being denied basic services, write activists from Feminist Fightback
We need to tackle the patronising ideology that lets Tory think-tanks sneer at social tenants, writes Emma Dent Coad
Acid Corbynism allows people to imagine a future beyond the paltry offerings of capitalism, writes Keir Milburn
'We wanted to use a shared love of the beautiful game to stand in solidarity with those living under occupation', writes Kate Hadley.
Priti Patel's shady deals are business as usual. Enough is enough, writes Eleanor Penny
Boris Johnson is a local disaster and a national embarrassment. He must go, writes James Clouting
The global elite have been stealing from society on an unprecedented scale, writes Tom Walker
Richard Murphy says that the appropriate political will and understanding of tax can put an end to offshore avoidance and evasion
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum
The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes