Issue 192 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published December 1995 Copyright Socialist Review


Protect and survive

While Andrea Butcher (November SR) made the important point about the recent pill scare being no more than a cost cutting exercise, the article told me no more than I could have read in The Guardian or Independent.
Sex and contraception should never be mentioned without talking about safe sex. Heterosexual sex is still the greatest spreader of HIV and AIDS, yet women in Britain are discouraged from using condoms in favour of the cheaper pill which offers no such protection.
Condoms offer more protection against cervical cancer, are not affected by the taking of antibiotics or sickness, offer protection from pregnancy, HIV and AIDS, but they are more expensive.
Andrea was too soft on the pill, citing its protection against cancer and relative lower risk of thrombosis than pregnancy as facts in its favour. Because we defend the pill politically, it does not mean that we begin to accept that it is okay for a sexually active woman to be an automatic thrombosis risk.
I am for more choice, not less and will defend the pill against attacks from the right, and actively campaign for its availability in countries like Southern Ireland. But that doesn't mean I will pretend that the pill is not also a great health risk to women and is shoved down their throats because it is the cheapest and least time consuming method of contraception going.
As a 15 year old sexually active woman I was prescribed the pill by my busy and underfunded GP. Nobody talked to me about the possible side effects or the choices I had for alternative methods of contraception.
Today it is getting harder and harder to track down free condoms on the NHS.
As socialists we are for real choice, decent sex education and free condoms in every GP's surgery for all.
Beth Armstrong
North London

Health or wealth?

Paul Foot's article, 'Treated for Health or for Wealth?' (November SR) contained useful ammunition against the argument that we can't afford an NHS. Unfortunately the Tories' have already made significant steps towards a piecemeal privatisation of the NHS.
For several years the focus for health managers has been on contracts (between purchasers and providers of health) and the money associated with them, rather than on patients. NHS beds, wards, and even hospitals are closed if they aren't contributing enough income. On the other hand, private work is growing. In 1993-94 trusts were paid 115 million for treating private patients and by next year the NHS may be the largest single provider of private health care.
Stories abound of GIP fundholding practices being given preferential treatment. But even these changes are too slow for the government--it is now encouraging completely private GP services.
Another part of the government's strategy is the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). This means all new investment projects must be open to bids from the private sector. The government is encouraging bids which hand over everything to private consortia, right from the design to the running of the project. PFI projects being considered include new hospital buildings, computer systems, and services (clinical services have not been ruled out). The private companies put up the money and carry out these projects. In return the trust must pay the companies for their use. Since direct government funding for capital projects is being cut, whether a health investment is being made will depend increasingly on whether the private sector thinks there's enough profit in it, rather than on the needs of patients.
It is not just patients who are affected by the changes. In fact workers in the health service often see the effects first. Health managers are obsessed with increasing productivity--hence the attacks on national bargaining and the local disputes over pay and conditions. We need to be armed with the arguments to defend the health service, but also be ready with support for every fight against the government's attacks. The stand of the workers at Hillingdon Hospital shows the possibilities for stopping privatisation in its tracks.
Dave Allinson

Care and the community

I was somewhat annoyed at the article pertaining to the 'Million Man March' (November SR). Why is it that, every time blacks try to organise themselves, they are labelled anti-white?
I think it's apparent that whites for the most part are afraid of black unity, especially when the call doesn't come from the lips of some white person or black Uncle Tom.
I know there are many whites out there who are genuinely not trying to undermine the unification of black people, but these are far and few in number.
Don't Sharon Smith and all those other march bashers realise that the march wasn't for the purpose of addressing (all) the issues that are facing black people, but a call to address some issues facing our black men! We, as black men, are killing ourselves in great numbers.
Why don't those white folks move out of our way and allow us to do for ourselves and not be further dependants of their ever 'so generous' social programmes? Because in actuality, they don't want the blacks' real independence to materialise. Collectively blacks spend about $400 billion per year in this economy.
Yet the majority of this is spent outside of our communities. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realise that white Amerikkka's true fear lies in the loss of that revenue.
Black men must first get themselves together, then they will be capable of taking care of their kids, wives, families and the community overall. Everyone in opposition to the MMM actually fear one thing... black unity!!! I presume I'll get much debate from you in response to this letter. That's what I want.
Brian Roberson
No 886. Ellis No 1 Unit,
Huntsville, Texas

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