Visiting a local hospital in Oxford this afternoon, I had a look at a table covered in leaflets designed to be useful to the public. Among yellow ‘Oxfordshire Autism Alert Cards,’ warnings against flu and smoking, adverts for the NHS union, UNISON, and among these lay a red pile of leaflets clearly entitled in black, ‘Marxism 2015. Ideas For Revolution.’
It’s not against the law to be a Marxist of course, but I was surprised that the NHS, the biggest, most multicultural employer in the world, usually so intent on not causing offence to anyone, offers such directly politicical material to visitors. I can’t quite image they would allow such literature from the far right to go on display, or even from UKIP which is now a democratically elected party.
Inside the leaflet encourages NHS workers to join a ‘political festival’ 9-13 July, in central London, (lets hope they are taking this as holiday and it’s not a works outing) five days of meetings hosted by the Socialist Workers Party. They can spend their holiday attending over 150 meetings, or ‘activist forums’ including classes on Marxist theory, a chance to mug up on all that dialectical materialism many of us may have rather forgotten. On the second page of the shine leaflet, over a photo of Karl Marx’s hairy head they are offered and introduction to Das Kapital, and an analysis of ‘Racism, resistance and revolution,’ with an emphasis on, ‘Police, racism and resistance.’ When not tackling the evils of the Met they can find out how to combat ‘Islamaphobia’ the pernicious ‘othering of British Muslims.’
Sympathy with Islam is a large feature of the event. One of the meeting’s ‘key themes,’ because the brochure alleges, ‘mainstream politicians across Europe are trying to whip up Islamophobia and scapegoat immigrants.’
It doesn’t see there will be any forum analysing why the most racist, anti-immigrant countries in Europe belong to the former USSR and its satellites. No questions asked about how sixty years of enforced Marxism didn’t end racism at all. Russia itself doesn’t seem to be mentioned, not even as part of the evil Capitalist empire.
NHS employees can also choose a session on Syriza, the left wing government in Greece, which is currently being held up as an ideal on the rather romantic Left against the forces of austerity, and they will get the chance to debate such questions as, ‘Do we need violence to get change?’
There will also be some medical content, at least a lecture from retired Canadian doctor Susan Rosenthal entitled, ‘Mental illness: a disorder of capitalism?’
You can see many of her other papers on line, under the heading, ‘Solidarity is the best medicine,’ including one called, ‘Philanthropy; the Capitalist Art of Deception.’
There doesn’t seem to be much on what we used to call ‘Women’s Liberation,’ which is surprising, but Marxism always was very much a boy’s thing, with feminism unknown in communist Eastern Europe. Some of the usual people are expected such as Peter Hain and Darcus Howe, but present day Socialism also has some strange new bedfellows to accommodate.. Apart from the promised activism around ‘Islamaphobia’ some interesting speakers are coming; Hassan Mahamdallie, Senior Officer, Diversity, Arts Council England, who wants diversity to be ‘central to the arts and arts practice,’ where he helped devise the Arts and Islam programme that examines the links between religious practice, the arts and contemporary society. He also developed the Arts Council ‘England Arts and Islam’ website.
There will be many veiled socialist women such as Ala’a Shehabi, a British-born economics lecturer and ‘activist,’ extreme left wing refugees from the Middle East and elite representatives of what some have called, ‘Londonistan,’ such as Sami Ramadami, an employee of the London Metropolitan University and member of the steering committee of the ‘Stop the War Coalition,’
He recently wrote a letter to the Guardian with these ominous yet nebulous words: ‘The growing number of young Britons who are being recruited to commit atrocities in Syria and Iraq should be a wake-up call for British Muslims to rise against sectarian politics that only serves Islamophobia and the nefarious actions of the US and Israel.’
Any NHS employee who goes to the festival will certainly be well looked after. The Marxist Festival Organisation offers them free accommodation in London, with ‘special requirements’ of course catered for, a free professionally run crèche for children up to eleven, and all the Marxist literature you can carry home.
Perhaps I was shocked to see this pamphlet openly displayed in an NHS hospital because I still think of the NHS as a national rather than an international service, and from my childhood still tend to think of doctors as genial old Scots and Englishmen, benevolent well bred uncle figures in white coats. Of course it is no longer that, and is barely even British anymore. Many of the Marxists planning to go on that excursion to London are from the Middle East, and the imperialism they hope to fight is seen as a global force.
We wish them all a happy away day and good English summer weather in July. En mass they will prove that after a century of struggle, Marxism, c/o the British NHS, is now globalised and truly international as never before.
Postscript : Who makes up the NHS? Jane Kelly
Figures obtained by the Guardian in January 2014, with statistics produced by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, (HSCIC), show that 11% of all staff for whom data was available and who work for the NHS and in community health services are not British.
The proportion of foreign nationals increases for professionally qualified clinical staff (14%) and even more so for doctors (26%) India provided the highest number after Britain, with 18,424 out of a total of 1,052,404 workers whose identity was known.
India also provided the highest number of professionally qualified clinical staff, doctors and consultants, after Britain. The number of Indian consultants was 2,708, 7% of the total whose nationality was known.
The Philippines provided the highest number of qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff after Britain, with 8,094 out of a total of 309,529 for whom data was available, reflecting the fact that there was a recruitment drive in the country under Tony Blair’s government to attract people to such posts.The Philippines also provides the third highest number of NHS staff overall with 12,744. Ireland had the fourth highest number of staff in the NHS, followed by Poland, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Portugal, Pakistan, Spain and Germany. GPs were not included in the HSCIC figures because they are not employed by the NHS but by themselves.