Labour and the Health Charges

It is evident that the Labour Party see in the new health service charges a much needed political “shot in the arm” for themselves. Amid much hullabaloo and many late night sittings, the advocates of a “controlled economy” have let it be known that at last they have found something in the Conservative Party’s running of capitalism with which they disagree. The trouble the Labour Party now seem to be faced with is to get the different factions within the Party to recognise that a united Labour Party, “championing the cause of the poor and needy”, is likely to pay far better political dividends than anything in the nuclear armament or disarmament range. Hence the recent almost frantic attempts to patch up the differences that exist within the party on these issues.

More and more it becomes obvious that far from being the vehicle of socialist ideas, either now or ultimately, the Labour Party has no ideas on the running of capitalism that differ fundamentally from those of the more generally recognised parties of the system. Thus, instead of being able to make a concentrated attack on the government-imposed charges on the health service, Mr. Gaitskell and Co. have been forced to defend the last Labour Government who set the example by themselves imposing such charges.

The capitalist press, who regard a lively opposition party (so long as it does not oppose capitalism) as a necessity of “democracy”, rejoiced when for the first time since Suez the Labour Party found something in government policy about which to wax indignant.

Not satisfied with the impact of the “health” charges, the Daily Herald and later Mr. George Brown, Labour’ deputy leader, in a party political broadcast, have attempted to blow the affair up as the beginning of a major attack on what they call the social services. This view is given some support by the demand of a group of Conservatives for a charge to be put on State education. The debates which have followed the introduction of the “health” bills have been given wide coverage in the press and read like the script of a farce—though a farce with grim undertones for the working class. Once again Labour Party spokesmen exposed their pathetic lack of understanding of the economics of capitalism and the basic hypocrisy of a party which, while claiming working class sympathies, seeks to administer the system which enslaves them.

Using the Korean War as the excuse for the Labour government’s own health service charges, Mr. Brown merely demonstrated how the stresses and strains of capitalism’s economic and military rivalries always seem to thwart the upholders of the “planned economy” from easing the burden of wage slavery.

While the call for a curb on the profits of drug manufacturers may bring support to the Labour Party from any capitalists who see benefit to themselves from such a move, workers should remember that these profits have been made ever since the health service started. It was not noticeably Labour policy when in office to relate profit to the plight of workers in the way they now seek to do. Unfortunately for the Labour Party, workers are liable to remember Sir Stafford Cripps’ wage freezing policies, and the Labour government’s support of a “reasonable” rate of profit as necessary to the interests of the “controlled economy”.

Socialists have never supported these so-called social services, seeing in them nothing but an endeavour on the part of capitalism’s administrators to give the master class the cheapest and most efficient labour force possible, under the conditions prevailing at the time.

E. Coffey

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