Bedford Riverbank Ward car convoy

“If you want to privatise something and destroy it, a standard method is first to defund it, so it doesn’t work anymore, people get upset and accept privatisation. This is happening in the schools. They are defunded, so they don’t work well.” ~ Noam Chomsky.

The same could be said to be true of our NHS.

Bedford Hospitals pediatric unit at the Riverbank Ward has been subject to cuts and closures in recent weeks and the local community in Bedford have taken part in successive and successful demonstrations and protests to highlight their strength of feelings towards them. The most recent of which was a cavalcade procession from Bedford hospital to the Luton and Dunstable hospital (L&D), to highlight the journey that families will now face for their children aged up to 19.

The event was created by concerned residents of Luton from the Luton People’s Assembly, they said the drive behind mobilising to aid the Save Riverbank ward group was based on the fact that if a stand is not taken today for this ward, tomorrow it could be another ward and soon, the L&D. These cuts and closures have been part of a steady stream of attacks to undermine the NHS in the UK, perhaps the single most amazing thing this country has ever produced. The mainstream media (MSM) have been drip feeding horror stories regarding NHS trusts, nurses and doctors relentlessly for months now, trying to convince us that the NHS fire sale and privatisation proposed by Jeremy Hunt and his cohorts is not such a bad idea. This attack on the pediatric unit is just another part of that onerous plan.

The group met at 9am at Bedford Interchange retail park and before long were confronted by the police, concerned that the journey would be at an obstructive pace. Once they were assured that this would not be the case they decided to follow us in any event, but had to be away at 10:30am for another appointment. There were about 30 cars at the start, all decorated in a variety of creative ways and numerous trade union banners on display, the highlight of which was a trailer, complete with hospital bed, toy doll symbolising a sick child, with some doctors thrown into the mix.  People from all parts of society came together under one common goal which was refreshing to see.

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The route took the group through Bedford town past the hospital where the convoy stopped to make plenty of noise. This was met with waves from the windows as patients looked out in support of the people demonstrating. The convoy then slowly made its way down the A6 through Barton-le clay and into Luton town via the L&D before pulling up at Lewsey Park where a short rally was held. The main message was the need to keep up the pressure and reminding those in attendance of the recent decision to over turn the closure of Lewisham A&E because of the actions taken by the local community. There was also a presence from the new group of firefighters campaigning against austerity ‘We Save People Not Banks’ who reminded the crowd that the small actions of dedicated people can and do make change if they want it.

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What next for Riverbank Ward remains to be seen, rumour has it that there have been plans in place for a number of weeks designed to appease the campaign group to settle their dispute, but anything less than the full restoration and safe guarding of their NHS service will be acceptable. For the wider movement to defend our NHS there is the mass rally and demonstration called by the TUC on September 29th in Manchester looking to form a quarantine around the Tory party conference. The event is being supported by unions and activist groups from across the country and you are encouraged to attend and add your support to defend our NHS. For more info go to the People’s Assembly page.

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Marxism and all that other stuff we are discouraged from learning

“The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation.” ~ Vladimir Lenin

After three years trying I finally made it this week to Marxism, the International festival held in london where people gather from across the globe to debate, learn and discuss the socioeconomic ills of the world today.

As a student of history I had a brief introduction to the teachings of Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, whom I first came across when we covered Russia and it’s revolution back in 1917. I went on to read a great deal more about fascism, communism and the many other ‘isms’ that exist following this brief encounter to learn more about the world we live in today and how our history has shaped it. This week is an extension of that education and somewhere where I hope I will get to debate many of the topics being raised. Without debate information is only half the story.

Some of the issues being covered this year are:

  • the power of the media
  • fracking and the future of energy
  • apartheid
  • fascism
  • Palestine
  • Egypt
  • Brazil
  • Syria
  • human rights
  • Labour
  • and the issue of class

My first session was on the subject of the media and the question ‘Is it all powerful’ taken by Xanthe Whittaker. In a nut shell Whittaker argued that the answer was dependant on the presence of an alternative, a choice and the variation of the information they received. In the fast paced society we live in, the social media as an alternative, although it has its place, will struggle to compete with the established mainstream media (MSM) to break the cycle of those who are not already disenfranchised with the system and already disengaged from it. The problem with the social media as an alternative is the need to have to search through endless reams of it on the Internet. When you know you can suckle on the BBC news at six o’clock everyday, what would be your incentive to hear the views of someone not considered to be legitimate or an authority? We will not get into the semantics of whether the MSM repeats or reports news at this point.

As you may expect, ownership dictates content and with the MSM being monopolised by a small number of families and groups it is easy to see why certain views are overtly and sometimes covertly implied  by MSM. The Marx and Englels ‘The ideas of the ruling class’ explain this very well. Whittaker suggests that although people’s ideas are shaped by media, another key influence is their environment and this is something I have argued for quite some time now. When voting tendencies are looked at for say readers of Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper The Sun, it suggests that when compared to the population as a whole, Sun readers are a bit more Labour and a little bit less Tory or Lib Dem, yet this should not underestimate the power of influence Murdoch has over the views of the world’s population when you multiply the content of news with his other interests. Whittaker explained the paradox of people who vote Conservative but that will still take the decision to vote for industrial action on an issue that affects them, highlighting the fickle nature of the human species. Why for example would someone complain about Murdoch’s influence via papers such as The Sun or The Times in the UK but still subscribe to Sky?

MSM does not just include the newspapers and the comedy sketches over at FOX and Sky News or the impartiality of the BBC, but also the movie and television industry and of course the music industry. When these elements are combined it makes for a large source of global influence, manipulation, coercion and we get what is called manufactured consent. This has been discussed by Noam Chomsky by both a book and a documentary and makes for a fascinating learning. The media may not be telling you what to think but they are telling you what to think about and a lie when told often enough becomes the truth.

After the session I questioned Whittaker personally about the view that if you can kill the artist you can kill the protest, which is for a whole other debate. Hopefully over the next few days I will be able to sit down and get her view on this issue in more detail but as you know there are some of us who believe that part of the problem with the apathy in society today is the lack of advocates and protest music which dominated so much of our history. The protest music that does exist today is very much underground and not in any way likely to reach Radio 1 anytime soon.

My first ever workshop at Marxism was a storming one on media, manipulation, manufactured consent and how to break the cycle and was up there with the very best seminars I have been to. Another session on this subject is scheduled for Saturday morning, at 10am with Simon Assaf at the Institute for Education, London. Nearest tube station is found at Russell Square on the Piccadilly line.

Food for thought:

neil kinnock Sun sun won it

blair SunLabour lost it Sun Cameron Hope Sun