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“You Poor Jew!”

Broken ribs and conspiracy theories at a municipal meeting


Statement by Palestine Speaks, Palastina Kampagne, and Judische Stimme

  1. Intimidation

On Wednesday, 13th September 2023, a supposedly open pro-Israel public meeting “The myth of Israel” took place in the well-known Szenebar Bajszel. It was sponsored by the Berliner Landeszentrale für politische Bildung (Berlin office for political education) and had Güner Balci, the integration commissioner for Neukölln, as one of the speakers. This meeting took place against an oppressive background – ID card checks, the limitation of press freedom and the filming of participants from close up without their permission intimidated criticism of the historical revisionism which was presented.

The meeting room – the back room of a bar with closed blinds – resembled more a private function than an open funded meeting. All these “security measures” were justified with the protection of Jewish people who have been exposed to antisemitic hostility at meetings on this subject. In fact, the only people in the public who openly identified themselves as Jewish were challenged by the meeting organisers and the audience.

  1. Physical Attacks

The Jewish-Israeli former soldier Yuval was removed from the meeting room after he expressed criticism of the meeting which offensively declared the apartheid status of Israel as a myth. He said that as a soldier he had seen apartheid with his own eyes. Although he did not put up a fight, Yuval was hit to the ground in the entrance area, and one of his ribs was broken.

People in the audience also joined in against people with a different opinion to theirs. The author Nicholas Potter tried to snatch away the notes of one of the participants. After she left the meeting room, the participant was detained by what can be presumed to be the security team. She could not free herself from their grip. Later she was followed by the security team, who continued to film her from behind.

  1. Verbal Attacks

Further Jewish voices came forward to criticise the lack of diversity of the podium, which contained neither Palestinian nor Jewish participants. This, at an event which announced itself as wanting to discuss “Israel-related antisemitism”. These contributions were instantly shouted down. People from the “antisemitism-critical” public shouted “You poor Jew!” and “Shut up!”

The Jewishness of Jews who spoke out against racism, historical revisionism and anti-scientific remarks was questioned. They and other critical voices were removed to derisive laughter from the audience, while their faces were filmed from close range.

  1. Anti-science

Rather than refuting myths, the meeting propagated them. The Nakba – one of the best documented crimes against humanity – was crudely played down by the podium. The legally proved apartheid status of the State of Israel was labelled a myth, while the credibility of international lawyers and UN human rights experts was questioned in an anti-scientific manner, as was the judicial consensus amongst the most recognised international human rights organisations. This is something recognisable from right-wing circles.

All this happened in the presence of Güner Balci, who sat on the podium as the integration commissioner for Neukölln.

How can the city of Berlin help to organise such anti-democratic, anti-scientific, escalatory meetings? We call on Frau Balci, the integration commissioner for Neukölln, to speak up and to pay compensation to those affected. Write to her at or and complain.

Translation from the German: Phil Butland. Reproduced with permission.

A history of theleftberlin Website

How we got here, where we want to go next, and how you can help


A number of people have contacted theleftberlin recently to express their interest in contributing to our website. As a result, we have recently expanded our editorial board and are still looking for writers, editors, translators and people who are active on social media platforms. Commissioning editor of theleftberlin Phil Butland explains where we started, and how we got to where we are now.

10 years ago, the LINKE Berlin internationals began as a group of mainly non-German activists living in Berlin to mobilise for the 2014 EU election. After the election was over, the group just kept on growing, and with it, its potential audience. In the decade since the group was formed, the percentage of Berliners without a German passport has increased from 10% to over 25%.

The LINKE Internationals are still active, and as the name suggests, receive some funding from die LINKE, the German Left party. It has set itself the dual aims of integrating non-Germans into German politics and making the German Left more aware of the wealth of talent and experience living on its doorstep. While the Berlin Internationals is a political project, theleftberlin – which is independent of parties but shares some members – is primarily a journalistic project.

Initially, the LINKE Internationals had their own website, which mainly contained events and activities in Berlin that could be of interest to an international Leftist audience. As the website developed, it started publishing more political articles. Some people who did not want to be connected to die LINKE were interested in being part of what we were doing with the website, so in October 2019, it was relaunched as

Since then, theleftberlin has had an independent editorial board. Although many of our journalists have strong opinions on all sorts of issues, we do not toe any “party line”. Instead, we aim to contribute to the discussion within the international Left in Berlin and beyond.

2020 Relaunch

In December 2020, we at theleftberlin relaunched the website with a new design and expanded our editorial board, many of whom were Berlin-based Leftists who wanted to stay active during the lockdown period of the pandemic. We decided that if there were few opportunities to take to the streets, we would at least take journalistic steps towards building the movement. It was around this time that our current structures started to emerge.

The original website tended to republish articles which had appeared elsewhere, as selected by the editorial board. Since our relaunch, however, we have concentrated on original material – most articles we publish have not appeared in English anywhere else with a few exceptions; most notably, calls to action from the Global South that have not reached a wide enough audience in Europe.

One of our first major projects was the series Rebellious Daughters of History – pen portraits of around 100 radical women by British socialist historian Judy Cox. Some of the women were well-known, others forgotten, but all helped change the course of history. The articles were later published by Bookmarks publications as a book.

Editorial board

We have a weekly editorial meeting which lasts between 30 minutes and an hour. We review the previous week’s articles and take decisions about which articles we would like to publish, and which possible writers and interview partners we could approach. Between meetings, we communicate on the online platform Mattermost.

We have a wish list of articles that we would like to publish, including those to which no one has committed yet. After each editorial meeting, we post a list of articles in search of an author on our Mattermost page, so that people who don’t have the time or inclination to take part in editorial meetings can see some possible subjects which they might address.

As we do not have a budget, the work is 100% voluntary, so we can only publish articles if we find a volunteer to write it or give us an interview. This has its benefits and disadvantages, but it does mean that everyone who works on the website is treated equally. Members of the editorial team write some of the articles, but we also invite people from campaigns and local activists to write about what they are doing.

Our collaborators and confederates

We maintain a close working relationship with the Berlin LINKE Internationals, whose activities we continue to publish on our Events page. If we are looking for an article about a certain part of the world, we usually reach out to Berlin-based exile organisations like Berlin for India or Sudan Uprising. We also have an agreement with Bloque Latinamericano that we will try to translate and publish each other’s articles.

Since the Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen (DWE) campaign to expropriate the big landlords hit Berlin, we have published a number of articles by Right2TheCity, DWE’s working group for non-Germans. Some of our editorial team are also active in Right2TheCity. We also publish regular articles by housing activist Nancy du Plessis.

We were recently approached by a journalist at the neues deutschland newspaper who is interested in working together, so we will see what comes out of this potential collaboration. We are also grateful for the countless individuals – some of whom have been professional journalists, others, people who just want an outlet for their thoughts – who have contributed articles. Our website is much stronger as a result.

What we publish

theleftberlin has gone through some changes over the years, but we have always attempted to provide quality left-wing journalism for an international audience. Although we concentrate on Berlin and Germany, we have a wider brief, with correspondents in cities like Paris, Athens and New York who regularly report on what’s happening in their country.

We do not have a strict editorial line and try instead to reflect the full range of debate on the Left. But there are some things that we will not publish. We oppose all forms of racism, sexism, transphobia, and imperialism. We are also aware that part of the Left and women’s movement have taken positions which are objectively transphobic. Such opinions have no place on our website. Similarly, a worrying part of the German Left supports Israeli settler colonialism. Those views would be better suited to other outlets, of which there are plenty.

We do not speak with one voice on all issues. If we are offered an article that reflects a point of view on the Left, we will usually publish it. But if individual editorial board members disagree with its contents, we may publish a reply offering an alternative point of view.

Every so often, people ask us why we haven’t covered a particular issue. The usual reason is not that we don’t want to, or that we have refused to cover something on principle, but that every published article needs someone to write it. So, if you think that theleftberlin should be doing more to cover a particular issue or viewpoint, please consider writing something yourself, or finding us someone who is acquainted with the subject matter.


One of our big successes is our weekly Newsletter, which we’ve been sending in different forms since early 2019. The Newsletter is now sent out every Thursday lunchtime to over 1,500 people. If you don’t receive it already, you can subscribe here. Like the website, the Newsletter has evolved over time.

The Newsletter currently contains a summary of (usually) five events and activities which will take place in Berlin in the coming week. We also list publications on theleftberlin that have been posted since the previous Newsletter, as well as occasional links to podcasts, videos, photo galleries and radio programmes. We also include the following features, which can also be found on the Website.

The Campaign of the Week (COTW) introduces an organisation or alliance in Berlin, usually one which is organising an event in the coming week. As well as being in the Newsletter, the COTW is linked from our homepage for one week. After that, it is stored in our COTW archive, which is now home to over 150 campaigns.

News from Berlin and Germany is a summary of 6-8 news stories from the previous week. There is a paragraph of information about each story, and a link to the original, which is usually a newspaper report in German. The News from Berlin and Germany item is published on the website every Wednesday. You can search for previous versions here.

Left journalism Day School

In November 2021, we organised our first Left Journalism Day School, in which members of our editorial board introduced parallel workshops on conducting interviews, creating videos for social media platforms, and producing a podcast episode. This was followed by a session by Tina Lee from Unbias the News on how to write for the web. Finally, Alice Lambert and Phil Butland from our editorial board introduced sessions on how people could concretely work on theleftberlin.

After very positive feedback from the 30 people who attended, we organised a second Day School in May 2022. The format was similar, but this time we also presented on Radio Berlin International (see below) and Tina returned to talk about Storytelling and Research. Once more, the emphasis was on collaboration, and giving everyone a voice, regardless of how much or little experience in journalism they had.

Originally, we had planned to offer the journalism Day Schools on a regular six-month rhythm, but people were too involved in other projects to be able to realise that aim. We do hope to be able another Day School in 2024 as we think that the experience of the first schools was a great benefit to both the attendees and the theleftberlin website.

Radio Berlin International

In December 2021, we launched Radio Berlin International, a radio programme that is broadcast every other Sunday on on 88.4 MHz in Berlin, 90.7 MHz in Potsdam, and “FR-BB & 24/3” on DAB+ Digital Radio in Berlin. is currently on summer break, but the next programme should go out on October 8th.

The shows last an hour in total and consist of two to three interviews or reports mixed with music chosen by the interviewees. The subject matter follows the aim of theleftberlin, namely, catering to the international Leftist audience based in Berlin. All past episodes can be accessed via our website.

Get involved

There are now roughly 30 people working in some capacity for theleftberlin, and we are always happy to welcome more helping hands. We prefer to give people small, regular tasks, and to allow them the ability to do as much or as little as their current situations allow.

We also welcome unsolicited articles on any subject which interests you. You can read some guidelines about the format of our articles here. If a subject is not urgent (or if it’s something which won’t go away, like climate disaster), we prefer not to set deadlines and wait until the author has something they are happy with.

Although most communication is online (either through Mattermost or in the weekly editorial meeting), we are planning to have occasional face-to-face meetings to discuss medium and long-term planning. This will be open both to the editorial team and to anyone who’s interested in what we are doing.

If any of this sounds interesting to you, or you just want to know more, you can contact us at Please help us not just to interpret the world, but also to try to change it.

Photo Gallery – Demonstrating against right-wing Fundamentalists, 16th September 2023

Demonstration from Brandenburger Tor to Bebelplatz organised by the Bündnis für Sexuelle Selbstbestimmung



Photos: Phil Butland, Antony Hamilton, Brian Janßen, Rosemarie Nünning

The European Union’s Favorite Hydrocarbon Dictatorship

Imperial powers are profiting from Azerbaijan’s offensive against Armenia

A party which has monopolized power for decades, a muzzled press, an army that regularly violates international law and commits war crimes, and a mafia clan that holds on to power thanks to its gas exports… You might think we’re talking about Vladimir Putin’s Russia, but we’re actually talking about Ilham Aliyev’s Azerbaijan. Far from being considered a rogue state by the European Union, the latter has steadily drawn closer to Azerbaijan since the start of the war in Ukraine. Ursula von der Leyen described Ilham Aliyev as a “reliable and dependable partner”  at a press conference in July 2022, only shortly after the Azeri regime re-started its campaign of brutal military aggression against its Armenian neighbor. Could the European Union once again offer up Armenia as a sacrifice to the appetites of Azerbaijan?

The 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020 did not draw special attention from Western journalists. Yet the intensity, brutality, and innovative military strategies of this invasion were anything but commonplace in the Caucasus region. The total war waged by the Aliyev clan’s regime took up old practices such as the bombing of civilian targets, extreme anti-Armenian hate campaigns, execution of prisoners, torture of civilians, and psychological warfare aimed at paralyzing the opposing side, among other tactics.

The conflict also took on the hallmarks of the 21st century. The use of drones became a central element of Azeri tactics, due to their noise – which sows panic among civilians and soldiers alike – and the difficulty in tracing them. Images of the torturing of civilians and prisoners were shared on Azeri Telegram feeds, showing soldiers laughing. At the same time, Azerbaijan’s army chief and president celebrated their victories by listing the capture of villages and towns, one by one, on Aliev’s Twitter account. The psychological effect on Armenians was significant – all in a context where no one contested the Azeri triumph.

Only a month after the war ended in November 2020, Ursula von der Leyen’s administration, through Josep Borrell (High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy), declared that “the EU wishes to conclude an ambitious new comprehensive agreement with Azerbaijan, based on democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms” after a meeting with Azeri representatives

Azerbaijan’s recent victory was built on the pillars that Aliyev’s father built after a military defeat in 1994, when the Armenian army penetrated Azeri territory to secure the borders of the newly self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh. The head of state used the military defeat and the hundreds of thousands of internal refugees to reinforce Armenophobia. Armenophobia has long been alive and well in the region – one need only recall the Armenian genocide for proof of that.

Reopening old scars

During the first years of independence in the 1920s, various massacres took place between the two ethnic groups before the formation of the Soviet Socialist Republics. As a result of these events, the Nagorno-Karabakh Oblast was founded as a quasi-independent territory in 1923.

Stalin decided that the territory would be Azeri, although its population was predominantly Armenian. However, oblast status implied a significant devolution of political power, and thus a certain degree of autonomy vis-à-vis the Soviet Socialist Republics. Throughout the Soviet era, both countries were emptied of their respective ethnic minorities, except in the Nagorno-Karabakh Oblast where 94% of the population was still Armenian in 1990. When the first war ended in 1994 with a ceasefire, the 2000-year-old Armenian population on the shores of the Caspian Sea disappeared, while the Muslim presence dating back to the Seljuk conquests suffered the same fate within the borders of present-day Armenia.

These disappearances are accompanied by the destruction of the respective heritages. When Heydar Aliyev signed the end of the conflict, he realized that this new country did not have the financial means to continue the war to regain its territorial integrity. He therefore decided to sign the first “contract of the century” to exploit the natural resources that had been coveted by the ruling forces for centuries. 13 companies from 8 countries (Azerbaijan, Turkey, the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Norway, Russia and Saudi Arabia) set out to exploit Azeri hydrocarbons. Heydar Aliyev died in 2003, succeeded by his son Ilham. He has continued his father’s energy policy by signing a new “contract of the century”. To regain full territoriality, the regime had to arm itself, and obtain a green light from the Western powers.

Baku began to make a name for itself in Europe through caviar diplomacy. Various members of parliament in different countries, including the European Parliament, received gifts and invitations to the Caucasian capital. These bribes help to extend the Aliyev regime’s influence abroad. The Western press is remarkably silent on the repeated human rights violations and fraudulent elections taking place in Azerbaijan – a simple comparison with the media’s treatment of the same crimes committed by Russia is enough to assess the extent of the omerta enjoyed by the Azeri regime.

Having bought the silence of European diplomats, Aliyev was able to build an army equipped with cutting-edge technology imported from the USA, Israel, Russia and, above all, Turkey. The Turkish-Azeri alliance goes back a long way. As far back as the 1920s, Turkey supported the inter-ethnic massacres committed by Azeris against Armenians – the latter being allies of the Russians. Heydar Aliyev is credited with popularizing the slogan “two states, one nation”, which is based on the shared language between Turks and Azeris, said to have emerged from the Seljuk conquests around the first millennium – though this account makes a few historical shortcuts.

This alliance was reactivated in 2020, when the Turkish army was authorized to deploy in the Nakhichevan enclave. Several thousand jihadists were transferred from Turkish-occupied northern Syria to support the Azeri army. Faced with the magnitude of the Azeri army and its intertwined international networks, Armenia was unable to fight on equal terms. Thus, in 44 days, the Armenian army was routed – and the Azeri advance turned into a massacre, before being halted by Russian military intervention. [1]

Pipelines, Armenophobia and NATO

The ceasefire agreement of November 10, 2020 led to the departure of Armenian troops from Azerbaijan and the maintenance of a corridor between what remains of the oblast and Armenia (the Lachin corridor). 2,000 Russian troops were deployed to maintain security, while all Armenian prisoners, as well as the wounded and remains of the deceased, were to be returned. In Armenia, point 8 of the agreement is a particularly bitter pill to swallow: “All economic and transport links in the region will be restored. The Republic of Armenia guarantees the security of transport links between the eastern regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan, in order to organize the free movement of citizens, vehicles and goods in both directions. Transport control will be exercised by border guards of the Russian Federal Security Service”. For the Azeri side, this is the equivalent of the Lachin corridor, which would provide continuity between the two Azeri territories separated by the Syunik region. A few weeks later, a pro-Erdogan newspaper revealed the plans between the two regimes.

A new gas pipeline is envisioned to double exports to the European Union by avoiding transit through Georgia [2]. New infrastructure – also mentioned in point 9 of the ceasefire agreement – would also be prepared to connect the Turkish market to Asia. This corridor, so ardently desired by the Ankara-Baku axis, has not yet seen the light of day – or at least one can say that it is still far removed from Panturkic aims.

At the same time, Armenophobia is reaching new heights. During an address to the nation in October 2020, Aliyev declared: “I said we would drive [Armenians] off our land like dogs, and we did it”. He went on to contest Armenian territory: “I said they had to leave our lands, or we would expel them by force. And it happened. The same will happen to the Zangezour corridor […] which was taken from us 101 years ago”. A “victory museum” opened in Baku, displaying vehicles taken from the enemy and the combat equipment of Armenians killed on battlefields. They were represented in the form of grotesque wax mannequins with distorted features.

The European Union’s leniency towards Aliyev raises questions. While Azerbaijan is in the “Western” camp and is keen to strengthen its cooperation with NATO, it is not aligned with Europe and the US in every respect. Numerous Russian companies are present in Azerbaijan through the intermediary of Lukoil, which holds a major stake in the country’s main gas field. As for the increase in Azeri gas exports since the Ukrainian conflict, it’s hard not to observe this as the consequence of increased gas imports from Russia.

Will the Europeans and Americans allow Aliyev to continue his war of conquest against Armenia, considered too close to Russia? Nothing is less certain. American leaders seem to have sensed an opportunity in the South Caucasus, which would enable them to increase their hold on the international gas market. Armenia occupies a strategic position in this region. Bordering Iran, its territory abounds in natural gas, and numerous development projects are underway to supply the European Union and the Asian market. In the south, as mentioned previously, new projects on the Baku-Ankara axis could achieve this. Similarly, from the south towards the north, an Iranian gas pipeline could reach Georgia, where the Azeri pipeline that exports gas to Europe is already located.

Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Armenia a few days after the Azeri offensive – again supported by Turkey – seems to indicate that a new energy era is dawning, and that new military alliances will be formed to protect the interests of the world’s former leading gas exporter. The United States could become the guarantor of Armenia’s security, putting Russia in an unprecedented position of weakness. Russia was absent during the Azeri incursion into Armenia, despite repeated requests for support from Yerevan. Russia and Armenia are both members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which is supposed to implicate its members in a defensive military alliance in case of an attack. Putin’s desire to weaken President Pachinian, who is too close to the West for his taste, is obvious. Weakened as well by the invasion of Ukraine, it is unlikely that Vladimir Putin’s Russia will multiply its fronts and engage in a costly proxy war with Azerbaijan – with which it incidentally enjoys cordial relations.

However, this does not mean that geopolitical blocs are being reconfigured. For the time being, the rapprochement between the United States and Armenia is largely symbolic, and Azerbaijan remains a privileged partner of Western states. Beyond the rhetoric, Azerbaijan continues to supply itself with the weapons of NATO and its allies, and supplies the European Union with gas. Once again, Europeans demonstrate their inability to deploy outside the zones of American influence and to defend an independent diplomatic approach.

This article first appeared in French on the LVSL website. Translation: Florent Marchais. Reproduced with permission.

Notes :

[1] In the territories inhabited by the 150,000 Armenians in what remains of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Oblast.

[2] A buffer state between the European Union and Azerbaijan, considered to be in Russia’s orbit.

The Future is Public!

Health is a human right, and the fight for it is international


Keep Our NHS Public is proud to have been invited to participate in a roundtable discussion at a three day meeting entitled ‘The Future is Public! Europe in movement for universal public Healthcare’ held online and in person in Fiesole, Italy, on the 8th September 2023. The discussion was moderated by Nicoletta Dentico, Head of the Health Justice Programme of the Society for International Development and author of “Banking on health: the surging pandemic of health financialization”. Nicoletta opened the meeting, and then invited speakers made contributions from the UK (John Puntis for KONP), Portugal, France, Germany, Greece and Italy – briefly summarised below.

Nicoletta reminded the audience that it is 75 years since the ‘right to health’ was declared by the Word Health Organization (WHO), seven months before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that also referred to health as part of the right to an adequate standard of living (article 25). The right to health was again recognized as a human right in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. She pointed out that the covid pandemic had taught important lessons with regard to public health, but that many of these were not being learned by governments. ‘The future is public’ meeting was intended as a challenge to increasing privatisation, commercialisation and financialization of health care. Governments have a responsibility to the public, not limited to health matters, and cannot limit their role simply to reacting to market failures. The World Health Organization is proposing that under the slogan ‘health for all’ (from the 1978 Alma Ata declaration), economies must be transformed in order to deliver what matters to the public. Mariana Mazzucato is chair of the WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All that has been working on how such transformation might be delivered. The human right to health must be central to this, but so too, wider consideration of global environmental health.

Financing ‘health for all’ requires public investment; the private sector will never make long term investment in health and is concerned primarily with making short term profit. Debt cancellation is an important health issue, for example, during the Covid-19 pandemic some African countries were prevented from spending more on health services because of their debt repayments. The WHO itself must be rescued from the influence of the private sector. We need to reshape the relationship between public and private, with the public sector being in the driving seat and defining what conditions should apply for involvement of the private sector. Global equity of access was sadly lacking in the pandemic, with unequal distribution of vaccine and rich countries sitting on vast stockpiles. Health workforces must be strengthened, within an appreciation of the wider meaning of ‘health’ and what that means for us all. The Ministry of Health should not be subservient to the Ministry of Finance; governments must be accountable for what they do; regulation and accountability are both essential.


I gave a brief overview of KONP’s objectives to restore fully public health and care services and how we work as a campaigning organisation to inform the public and build links with health workers, together with a picture of the current state of the NHS. Collaborative work with Independent SAGE in developing a charter for health and care, and with the 99% Organisation are examples of pushing for a much broader view of health and care as being fundamental to a healthy and more equal society and providing the basis for a healthy economy.


Portugal has a national health service (a good example when asked ‘why has no one followed the example of the NHS if it is so good’! – JP). All health care professionals are salaried public employees. The public service coexists with a private sector which people can choose to use if they so wish. The public health service was founded in 1979 following the ‘carnation revolution’ as a universal service free of charge. In 1986 co-payments were introduced but in 2019 private-public-partnerships were banned by law. In 2020 co-payments were abolished but the coming election may see a more right wing government take control presenting clear dangers to the public health service.


Until 1984 hospitals in Germany were forbidden to make profits and there were no private hospitals. Neoliberal policies have been very successful in changing this with a dramatic increase in the number of private hospitals driven by the introduction of market competition and pricing mechanisms. In 2002 a diagnostic-related group (DRG) framework was introduced by law, dictating a flat fee for reimbursement based on the diagnosis for each admitted patient. Competition between hospitals recasts patients as customers, while the law regulating staff/patient ratios was abolished, leading to much increased numbers of patients/nurse being imposed. The system triggered a marked increase in procedures not medically necessary but more profitable than conservative management (a phenomenon not confined to Germany of course – JP). It has also led to closure of paediatric and obstetric departments in many hospitals and insufficient paediatric intensive care facilities simply because these are areas that are unprofitable. Profit driven hospitals have increased the number of patients treated and reduced length of stay. The higher case load and poor staffing ratios have contributed to a staffing crisis that has further affected retention and recruitment as well as provoking push back from health workers.

In 2015 the fight by staff for a collective bargaining agreement that included safe staffing levels developed into a broader struggle against privatisation and the profit motive in health care (Unite is now focusing on safe staffing in current disputes in London – JP). Civic society groups began to form to support health workers in struggle and strikes took place in 2021 and  2022 with demands for defined staff/patient ratios not only for nurses but for each employee group in hospital, effectively challenging the DRG system. In 2023 there was a strike in a privately run university hospital in Marburg, fuelling recognition that market competition and privatisation have been a disaster for the health system and that health itself must be considered as a public good in its own right.


Legally, since 2016 anyone who works and resides in France is entitled to payment of health costs but use of the private sector is growing including in primary care, while health inequalities are also increasing. Whether e-health, artificial intelligence, ‘hospital at home’, etc. can meet the expectations of patients is an open question. All government health service reforms are justified by the objective of ‘saving the French social protection system’ but then involve reducing benefits.


The spending cap imposed upon Greece by the European Union forced a reduction in health care expenditure as a percentage of GDP from 6% to 4.6%. Unemployment increased to around 33% and one third of people had no health insurance to cover costs; 2015 saw many migrants arriving. Anti-austerity protests were supported by health care professionals. Solidarity efforts to provide free health care involved groups organising primary care services, free medicines, and mediation services to help people access care where available. The election of the Syriza left coalition led to an extension of access to care for the unemployed but excluded those migrants without papers. Lack of funds had an impact on the pandemic response, with severe shortage of hospital doctors, intensive care facilities and hospital beds. Health spending has remained low compared with the EU average.


Public health care in Italy has been subjected to a slow and protracted siege with increasing costs for providers and labour shortages. Inflation and economic slowdown can be expected to exacerbate problems further. Austerity policies have damaged staff morale. The assault on the public sector has not been conducted as a frontal attack but by slow attrition. It is clear that there is wasteful spending in the private sector, but tax reform, regional autonomy and government spending reviews prevent funding increases for public services. The NATO commitment to spend 2% of GDP on the military will inevitably adversely affect health spending and the ability to maintain services. Of course the Covid-19 pandemic has been an example of Naomi Klein’s observation that those opposed to the welfare state never waste a good crisis for furthering their own agenda.


Many of the observations presented from around Europe at this discussion will sound familiar to health and care campaigners in the UK. The right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health was first articulated in the 1946 Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO), whose preamble defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. It is further stated that “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition”.

The participants at the ‘The Future is Public!’ meeting argued strongly that we need a rights-based perspective in campaigning for publicly funded and provided health services. Health expenditure should be protected against fiscal tightening with a special rule that would permit financing through debt. Public money should be used to defend those under siege. Covid-19 was a consequence of a collective failure to heed warnings over pandemics and millions died unnecessarily as a result, with an estimated 100 million being pushed into poverty. 870 million doses of vaccine were hoarded by rich countries and knowledge was not shared as it should have been. The pandemic revealed huge societal inequality and emphasises the importance of reshaping the economy to prioritise ‘health for all’.

A coalition of trade unions, health activists, and organizations have now launched an all-European campaign against the commercialisation of health. In a joint effort to combat the growing marketization of health services in Europe, three organizations – the European Public Services Union (EPSU), the European Network Against Commercialization of Health and Social Protection, and the People’s Health Movement (PHM) Europe – have announced a renewed campaign aiming to bring health to the forefront of the European Union’s (EU) agenda.

Key priorities include ensuring adequate public funding to guarantee quality care and decent working conditions, improving the accessibility of health services across geographical, financial, and cultural boundaries, building democratic participation of health workers and patients in decision and policy-making, and adopting medicine policies that benefit both the people of Europe and of the Global South. One of the campaign’s central objectives is to develop strategies and mechanisms to address the shortage of health workers.

The campaign will culminate in a major protest in the week leading up to World Health Day 2024, a global health awareness day celebrated on April 7th every year and first established by the WHO in 1950 to raise awareness about the importance of health and well-being. Despite Brexit, European activists rightly see the UK as part of this struggle.