An old year’s tale By William Bowles

29 December 2005

It’s true: the 20th century is yesterday’s story and unfortunately, most of us are still living in it. Especially, the left. As to the ruling elite, they don’t care what century it is, as long as they rule in it.

But it is the problem for most of us on the left, the real left that is. We still operate as though it’s 1945 and the left is on the ascendency. ‘We’ still behave as if the NHS actually does belong to us, when the reality is, that it never really did belong to us in the first place. Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t fight like hell to save it, it is, after all, the single most important achievement of the postwar Labour government. Even Thatcher couldn’t privatize it.

But why did the postwar Labour government invest so heavily in our first national health service that started in 1948?

See, that damn 20th century? None of us, or at least most of us, don’t want to remember or have no knowledge of, the pre-war England without the NHS. For many, life was unhealthy and short. But my folks and their generation, cut their political teeth in the 1930s. If the best they could achieve following the defeat of fascism was our postwar labour/capital contract, then so be it. There was to be no return prewar England (until now that is), the memories were still too fresh and raw. And the ruling elite knew that too, compromise was in order. The deal was struck, with the Labour Party as middle man, or broker.

But the downside of that contract was that it saved capitalism’s tired and sorry arse effectively, in exchange for a mess of pottage and of course, a broken contract once one of the signees, the organised working class, no longer effectively existed to enforce it.

 

 

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