The brutal way in which the ruling elite are destroying public authority and civil society in favour of imposing direct control of the monopolies over public services, health, education and culture is also accompanied by their attacks on the rights of the people including those of women. The attempt by their monopoly-controlled media to distort the question of the oppression of women in society and reduce it to one of victimisation by men is part of this attempt to divide and disempower the working class and people’s movement and the women who are fighting to affirm their rights and the rights of all in society.
For example, in the NHS, the arrangements that suit the ruling elite have since its founding excluded women from leading positions. Whilst today progress of the women’s struggle in society has reduced this discrimination against women in occupying leading positions and closed the “gender gap”, it has not resulted in new arrangements that empower health workers and the vast majority of women who work in the NHS.
Today, women make up 77% of the NHS workforce and they are in the forefront of providing health care to the whole population as doctors, nurses and support workers, and they are also in the forefront of the struggle of health workers to safeguard the future of the NHS and the right to health care for all the people. Women in the health service are not only organised in the workplace, in trade unions and professional bodies to defend their rights, but many are realising from the struggles that they are waging that the most enlightened thinking is needed and this growing consciousness means that women are also at the forefront of solving the problems of society.
One of the most crucial questions in the fight to safeguard the future of the NHS is where decision-making power lies. Today, as NHS England and its Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) announce downgrading, cut-backs and closures of health services all over England, who the decision-makers are has become the vital question. For health workers and women in particular, the fight against the diktat of these decisions taken elsewhere with only the formality of “consultation” but without any involvement of clinical staff has reached a crisis point. Clinical staff are openly organising, and fighting these decisions and risking everything, even their own careers, to stand up for the rights of the people and to the health services that they provide.
In the health unions and professional bodies as well, the women are in the forefront of uniting health workers in the workplace with the whole community to take up the responsibility to safeguard the future of their health services. There is increasing recognition that the government and its commissioning bodies set up over the recent period are driving massive cut-backs and a direct takeover of the NHS by private corporations at the expense of public authority and public good. In this situation the women are in the forefront of uniting the people regardless of political views and to fight not just as “pressure groups”. They see themselves and these new movements of the people as a means to go all out to disempower those who are trying to marginalise them from power.
Although victories are not always won, the conviction of the women to fight for the new society is being strengthened in the NHS. They are increasingly recognising that a new direction is required for the NHS based on the right to health care and determined by the people.