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In defence of the NHS

The Four Myths the bourgeois “experts use to justify destroying our health service


It is common for the NHS to be attacked on a  spurious grounds, negative statements often repeated uncritically and ad nauseam by some sections of the media until they become ‘common knowledge’. This article considers some such statements and suggests counter arguments that may be useful to campaigners, particularly in the run up to the election when the NHS will figure among the most important concerns of the electorate.

If the NHS is so good, why has no one else copied it?”

This question implies that the NHS is outdated and that a social insurance model or other form of funding would lead to better outcomes. Nigel Edwards of the Nuffield Trust pointed out that if we look at countries that have health systems funded largely out of tax, that are mostly free, comprehensive and have a provider sector that is substantially publicly owned (i.e. like the NHS), there are actually quite a few. Scandinavian countries have systems where the majority of the revenue is collected by tax and providers are owned by local government. The current Portuguese Health Care System was created in 1979 and based on the Bevanite National Health Service model; Italy, Spain and Malta also have health systems in many ways similar to the NHS.

Of course, these countries do not replicate our NHS model in every detail but nevertheless have much in common with it, including now being the objects of ideological attack, and undermining of their public aspects through the growth of financialization and the promotion of the unfounded view that privatisation brings efficiency. On the contrary, recent evidence from England suggests that outsourcing clinical services is associated with increased mortality. Where profit hungry private equity firms have taken over hospitals in the US, there has been a 25% increase in complication rate (principally infections) observed among patients. The deficiencies of some social insurance based European and other high income country systems have been outlined by John Lister and include higher overall administration costs and transfer of cost of care to individuals, often disproportionately affecting those on lower incomes.

Enthusiastic introduction of market reforms in the New Zealand health service in 1993 is acknowledged to have led to neglect of both workforce and planning, and resulted in fiscal irresponsibility and excessive transaction costs. The legislation through which these reforms were imposed was eventually abolished while new laws re-established a National Health Service (first founded in 1938 and providing care ‘from cradle to grave’). Following this, through cooperation rather than in competition, patient care improved and demand on hospitals reduced. In a recent review providing an international perspective, the benefits of public versus private health care were noted to include that the former reduced overall healthcare and administrative costs, helped in standardising services and creating a healthier workforce, prevented future costs, and guided the population to make better choices.

We have given the NHS record funding”—so everything is alright

The NHS may indeed be reciepient to ‘record funding’—but this does not mean it is getting what it needs. More or less everyone (except those with overall responsibility for the service it seems) can see that the NHS is in crisis. The government consistently attempts to counter criticism of its appalling record with the claim it is providing record funding. This is, of course, a meaningless statement unless it is placed in the context of historical funding, current demand and is benchmarked against comparable countries. As Mark Thomas of the 99% Organisation pointed out, if his salary had increased £50 each year since starting work he would now have a record salary but would be living in poverty.

‘Record funding’ has in fact not taken into account increased demand from population growth over the last 13 years, an aging population and increases in those with chronic conditions such as diabetes together with a surge in the need for mental health care. After the creation of the NHS in 1948, spending increased every year by around 4% in order to help meet increasing demand. From 2010, growth in spending fell below this long-term average, meaning that by 2022 there was a £322 bn shortfall between what was actually provided and what would have been provided if historical increases had been maintained.

Health spending is often looked at as percentage of gross domestic product (GDP; this varies as the strength of the economy fluctuates) but more informatively, as per capita funding. The Financial Times published data shared from the Health Foundation examining health spending in the UK and Europe in the decade before Covid. Average day-to-day health spending in the UK between 2010 and 2019 was £3,005 per person – 18% below the EU14 average of £3,655. Matching spending per head to France or Germany would have meant an additional £40bn and £73bn (21% to 39% increase respectively) of total health spending each year in the UK. Similarly, analysis of Britain’s capital health spending on buildings, technology and equipment between 2010 and 2019 showed that an extra £33bn (a 55% increase) in cumulative UK investment would have been needed to match the EU14 average invested over the period.

John Burn-Murdoch is the Chief Data Reporter for the Financial Times and has engineered beautiful graphs illustrating how the so called ‘record funding’ of the Conservative government has caused immense damage. Among other things, the graphs demonstrate how waiting lists swelled under Major, shrunk under Labour as funding increased, then climbed again under Tory austerity. While avoidable deaths had been falling steadily, this plateaued under austerity and is now on the rise; improvement in life expectancy has also stalled. Austerity produced a fall in total government spending, together with falls in spending on health care as % of GDP, public sector investment, and investment in health care. Burn-Murdoch also shows how the current crisis in the NHS damages productivity and relates among other things to no longer having enough beds.

The reality that ‘record funding’ actually amounts to nothing more than considerable underinvestment is set out in a report by the 99% Organisation. While nominal spend has continued to rise over the past two decades, when taking into account inflation, population growth, aging and increasing burden of disease – real spend per unit healthcare demand clearly shows a steady decline over the past 13 years. Among the G10 countries, only Italy spends a lower proportion of its GDP on health than the UK. The bottom line, therefore, is that we spend less on healthcare than other developed countries; our spending has not kept pace with the combination of inflation, population growth, population aging and increase in chronic illness.

This underfunding (aka ‘record spending’) has led to the unavailability of resources (staff, hospital beds, technology, etc) and so to poorer performance. It is a lack of staff and resources that are damaging cancer survival rates in the UK. As the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development put it: “The United Kingdom’s health system delivers good health outcomes relative to the level of health expenditure…..”, and as Anita Charlesworth, Director of Research for the Health Foundation observed, there is a simple choice to be made: “Either we are going to have lower quality healthcare relative to other countries or we spend more”. With 2.6 million now unable to work because of sickness, it is clear that an effective health service is necessary for a healthy economy, which in turn is required to tackle the social inequality that drives long term ill health. If the NHS fails, the economy fails with it.

The NHS is unproductive and wastes money”

In responding to this point, there is an instructive analogy from the 99% Organisation report: ‘the UK government has been continually asking the NHS to do more with less. It has been acting like the experimental philosopher (described by Dickens) entrusted with the care of a champion race-horse, and attempting to show that it can live without eating. Now that the horse can no longer run, it blames the horse, not the diet!’. Similarly, politicians persist in calling for a stricter diet, rejecting the ‘magic money tree’ but enthusiastically embracing the ‘magic efficiency tree’.

Rather than examining the evidence and drawing the conclusion that lack of investment is damaging productivity, some commentators choose to point the finger at staff for being profligate with resources—a surprising many outside the healthcare field seem to be experts on wasteful practices in the NHS! It is much easier to blame managers and staff for perceived shortcomings, and to cite reports that have often come from clinicians themselves, who in the course of their work are forced to consider both waste and best use of limited funds. Standardising investigation processes and management of patients can save money and is very much central to what staff are doing on a day-to-day basis as part of their work as professionals. This is why, for example, the NHS no longer endorses use of homeopathy and why we have an advisory body like the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Claims such as, ‘the NHS wastes £2bn a year on unnecessary treatment and investigation’ therefore requires careful scrutiny. Unfortunately, much of medical practice rests on relatively shaky scientific foundations, continually raising legitimate questions (that are far from simple to answer) about the allocation of available resources. Theoretical savings through withholding treatments or tests are not always easy to realise in practice (e.g. reducing numbers of X-rays), and even when justified, may be persuasively challenged or require investment elsewhere (such as community pharmacists to reduce medication usage). What seems beyond doubt is that in a privatised rather than public healthcare system, the dominating profit motive is much more likely to contribute to expenditure through over investigation and treatment. This is one of the reasons we see staggeringly high costs in the US health care system.

Another common criticism regarding ‘waste’ is that the NHS has ‘too many managersget rid of these and use the salaries for patient care’. Any large and complex organisation needs managers. While 10% of people in the overall economy are categorised as managers, it is only 4% in the NHS. A strong case has been made that the NHS is undermanaged. The reliance on expensive external consultants also suggests the NHS does not have enough managers of its own. Whereas current lack of productivity is both a reflection of the whole system and a consequence of underfunding, we can see that with investment, NHS productivity rose 16.5% from 2004/5 – 2016/17 compared to growth of only 6.7% in the economy as a whole. In 2017, Office for National Statistics data showed NHS productivity in England grew by 3% versus only 0.8% in the wider economy.

Of course, there is always some spending excess to be found in large enterprises and this should be addressed. One area ripe for cuts is administration for the expensive, artificial ‘marketplace’ created by successive governments to allow both NHS and private ‘providers to compete with each other to offer services to NHS and other ‘purchasers’. In 2010 the Commons health select committee estimated that the ‘purchaser-provider split’ had pushed up costs of management and administration from 5% to 14% of total budget (£15.4bn/year). The current figure is unknown but with estimates falling between £4.5bn and £30bn. Although such savings are speculative, the cost of developing, awarding and monitoring contracts with private providers represents one area of wastefulness that receives very little attention from the ‘experts’.

Benchmarking the NHS

Though never perfect, we know the NHS has worked well in the past, not least from the evidence presented in detailed international comparisons. The Commonwealth Fund (based in the US) is a highly regarded source of independent research into different healthcare systems. For nearly 20 years, it has been compiling reports on eleven high income countries. These are based on international surveys carried out in each country and on administrative data from both the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Health Organisation. Other sources of benchmarking information include EUROSTAT, and the Rand Corporation, but these are less comprehensive.

The reports examine 71 measures of performance, grouped into five domains: access, care process, administrative efficiency, equity, and healthcare outcomes. Until 2017 the NHS was overall top performer, but by 2021 had slipped to fourth because of difficulty accessing care and treatment. This was the first time since 2004 that the NHS had not been ranked in the top three. Ideological critics respond to these very compelling endorsements of the NHS model with what they imagine to be a devastating argument by pointing out that the NHS is placed 10th out of 11 (the US being an outlier and very much bottom of the pack) for outcomes. However, a glance at the data (Exhibit 8 in the report for 2021) shows that the NHS is very close to New Zealand, Canada and Germany for outcomes. Top performing countries were characterised by investment in primary care and social services – both currently in a state of disarray in the UK.


The NHS is neither a shrine nor a religion as its right wing detractors sneeringly like to state. In truth, the fundamental business model of the NHS is better than those in the other high income countries with which it is compared. The founding model of the NHS is a winning formula and should not be changed unless there is overwhelming evidence for a better one. Those who advocate for major reform must, like the Commonwealth Fund, set out clearly just what they are proposing: the costs involved together with the expected effect on access, care process, administrative efficiency, equity, and healthcare outcomes.

Health and care must be acknowledged as tangible benefits fundamental to human wellbeing and a productive economy, maximising the ability of people to participate in society, and not seen only as a cost to be begrudgingly accepted. If the NHS was now properly funded it could deliver outcomes that excel even the current best. Most people from across regions, demographic lines and party political allegiances support a universal, comprehensive, free and tax-funded healthcare system. The NHS model has not failed, rather it has been failed by politicians. This election year is the time to set things right and campaign for a People’s NHS.

2023 on theleftberlin

Our most read articles last year


2023 was a busy year for theleftberlin. A number of new people joined our editorial team, and we received an unprecedented number of unsolicited articles. We welcome both! It is your contributions which help shape the website and weekly Newsletter (the number of subscribers roughly doubled to around 2,000 people).

The key stories, of course, were around Gaza. As Israel tried to bomb the small piece of land into the Stone Age, we shifted all our editorial capacities to provide coverage that was not being published in the German media (or that in most other countries). Here again, we are grateful for the various people who agreed to be interviewed or asked if we could publish their writings.

We saw this thirst for information in the Palestine Reading Groups which we set up at the end of last year. So far, 30-40 people have been coming every week to discuss different aspects of Israel/Palestine in an atmosphere which is unavailable to them elsewhere in Berlin. As promised when the group started, we will continue meeting as long as people want to come.

There follows a list of the 16 most read articles this year. Although Palestine understandably dominates, the articles cover a range of subjects – it was interesting to see that the three most read articles are about other subjects. Enjoy reading. If you would like to get more involved in 2024, either as a writer, editor, or just with a suggestion about what we should cover, please contact us at

Most read article: Dominick Fernow (Prurient) Releases Split Album with Neo-Nazi Band Genocide Organ

Every so often, we receive an unsolicited article by the ‘Antifascist Music Alliance’. These articles are always well-written, thoroughly researched and contain information which is hard to find elsewhere. This year, we published two articles by the AfA, one about German musicians who are showing solidarity with Palestine, and this one.

This article, published in June, highlighted the collaboration between known Nazi musician Dominick Fernow and the KKK-supporting band Genocide Organ. Despite protests within the Berlin music scene, and a ban from Discogs, Fernow and Genocide Organ have received support from Resident Advisor, Pitchfork, and Berghain/Ostgut.

#2 Germany hedges bets in changing international order

In March, Hari Kumar looked at German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s reaction to the relative decline in the economic power of the USA and the emergence of China as a global Player. Scholz’s response was to try and build his own power bloc, partly through trade deals with most of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, their role in this bloc building has been more ambiguous. But we are witnessing a challenge to US authority within what was thought to be a USA dominated monopolar world. The article was written before Israel’s assault on Gaza, with Biden’s uncritical support. Some of the precariats highlighted in Hari’s piece are now even more dangerous than when it was written.

#3 Prematurely condemned: The case of Lina E.

Our third most read article was actually published in 2021. Then Lina E was facing trial for fighting back against neo-Nazis in Saxony and Thüringen and pilloried in the press as being “Germany’s most dangerous left-wing extremist.” At the same time, the local police were turning a blind eye to Nazi violence and the press seemed more interested in demonstrations by the climate movement.

After spending 18 months in jail, Lina’s case finally went to court in May 2023, which presumably explains the renewed interest in the article. She was sentenced to over 5 years in jail, provoking a number of demos throughout Germany. Lina has been released and had her passport confiscated, pending appeal. She may have to wait a similar amount of time before her appeal is heard.

#4 “It is inaccurate to compare Israel with South Africa. What’s going on in Israel is much worse”

In March, we interviewed South African Jewish artist Adam Broomberg about living in Italy under a growing Fascist threat and Brexit Britain. Adam finally moved to Berlin, where Stefan Hensel, Hamburg’s “antisemitism Tsar” accused him of supporting anti-Jewish terrorism. Die Zeit newspaper provided Hensel with the platform to make a number of unsubstantiated claims about Adam.

As a result of these claims, Adam lost work both as an artist and a teacher. In the interview, Adam talks about growing up, and fighting against, Apartheid South Africa – which he compares to an Israel which he sees as being “beyond Apartheid”. Two months after we did the interview, Adam was brutally arrested at the Nakba Day protests.

#5 German – Anti-German – Syn-German?

The fifth most read article last year was first published in 2020, but is still regularly read, especially in the last 2 months. Berlin-based Israeli anti-Zionist, Yossi Bartal looks at the phenomenon of the “Antideutsche” – German ex-Maoists, punks and inhabitants of the Left and Antifa Scenes who unconditionally support Israel.

Yossi locates this phenomenon in the growth of nationalism in post-1989 Germany. The Antideutsche felt compelled to defend Israel against the “antisemitic Muslim world”, and, ultimately, to support Western imperialism in the Gulf wars. In the face of the German Left’s inability to adequately respond to Israel’s genocidal attacks of Gaza, Yossi’s article provides useful background.

#6 Why the Two State Solution for Palestine is Impossible

Our sixth most read article is another older article (this time from 2022), which has proved useful in the current discussion around Palestine. Phil Butland looks at the insistence of much of the German Left that a Two-State Solution is not just the best that the Palestinians can ask for, but all they are allowed to demand, then argues that the only viable solution lies with a single democratic state.

Phil argues that a Jewish State which gives one group extra privileges is inherently anti-democratic, that settlements and water apartheid means that One State is the only viable solution. Further, that without fundamental changes, a Two-State solution will be equivalent to South African Banthustans. He concludes by arguing that only a mass movement through the whole Middle East could implement the changes required.

#7 “Actions like this are a symbol for the liberation struggle. It’s an uprising against the right wing In Germany”

In October Israeli psychoanalyst and activist Iris Hefets staged a one-woman protest in Berlin-Hermannplatz, holding up a sign saying “As an Israeli and a Jew: Stop the genocide in Gaza” in English and German. She was promptly arrested, then released after the police realised that she hadn’t done anything illegal. Films of Iris’s protest went viral on social media.

Shortly after the action, we interviewed Iris, who located anti-Palestinian racism against the background of a more general drift to the right in Germany. She called on White Germans, who do not have residency problems, to actively support Palestinian rights. On New Years Eve, Iris was arrested again while holding her sign.

#8 Statement on the racist police violence and Repression against Palestinians and Palestine Solidarity in Berlin

For the first 2 weeks following Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, all demonstrations were banned. When public pressure finally forced the Berliner Senat to allow people to take to the streets, they met massive police violence, which was primarily targeted at Palestinians and Muslims. Police swat teams regularly patrolled Sonnenallee in Neukölln, arresting people for “wearing Palestinian symbols”.

As a response to this State-backed repression, four organisations – Palästina Spricht, Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost, Jewish Bund, and the Palestine Campaign, issued this statement. The statement was followed by much closer cooperation between the groups, which jointly organised some of the biggest demonstrations for Palestine in Berlin at the end of last year.

#9 Risky Allyship: Germans in Support of Palestine

In September, one month before the assault on Gaza, we spoke to Julia Schreiber, a doctoral student who was born in Germany, but is studying in the UK. The subject of Julia’s work is German attitudes to Israel and Palestine, and in particular the Germans who have chosen to support Palestinians.

Julia talked about her motivation – how she “unlearned” expected German attitudes towards Palestine, and how she finally felt able to ask critical questions. We discussed how much science and academia can or should be neutral. When we spoke to Julia, she had only interviewed 2 people. We hope to talk to her again about what she has learned from her research.

#10 We should not give up on Germany

In March, we spoke to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, one of the clearest and most reliable voices about what is happening in Israel. The interview was arranged to talk about the 75th anniversary of the formation of the State of Israel, and the resulting ethnic cleansing of Palestinians – the Nakba. We ended up discussing much more.

The interview was taken just after the election of Benjamin Netanyahu’s extreme right wing government, although Ilan did not see this as a qualitative shift. He attributed Netanyahu’s rise to the decline of Labour Zionism. He argued that only decolonisation could effect real change, and ended by calling on the younger German generation to finally take the right side and support Palestinian rights.

#11 “We are not enemies”

On 19th October, a journalist from Die Zeit contacted Udi Raz from the Jüdische Stimme, as part of a series of interviews giving different Jewish perspectives in Germany. The interview went well, and the journalist was eager to publish. The next day, the journalist contacted Udi again and told him that the editors of Die Zeit had rejected publication. So, we published it on theleftberlin instead.

Nothing in the short interview – where Udi talks about his understanding of Zionism and why he wears a Kuffiyeh – should be controversial. It was rejected because Udi is a support of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions). Since then, censorship of pro-Palestinian voices in Germany has intensified, particularly those of Palestinians themselves. But the censorship was always there.

#12 “We have to talk about Palestine in the context of anti-racism and anti-colonialism”

In October, Elisa Baş, Press Spokesperson of ‘Fridays for Future’ was the subject of a vicious attack by the Berliner Zeitung and Bild. The reason was that she shared an article attacking the Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism which has developed in Germany following the attacks of October 7th. ‘Friday for Future’s’ response was to suspend Elisa.

We spoke to Elisa about the racist idea of “imported antisemitism”, the use of terms like “pogrom” and “genocide”, and how the anti-colonial and environmental movements could and should work more together. Elisa also talked about Germany’s colonial past and the way in which the experience of Black Lives Matter show a way forward in the fight against all racism.

#13 When British pubs said black troops only

Our 13th most viewed article from 2023 was published in July 2022. British Socialist Historian Judy Cox responded to the then new film “The Railway Children Return”, which included scenes showing the racist segregation of US American troops when they were stationed in Britain during the Second World War.

In her article, Judy told the real-life story of the Battle of Bamber Bridge, Lancashire. In 1943, US commanders demanded that pubs in the village instigate a colour bar. All 3 pubs in the village responded by putting up signs saying “Black Troops Only.” Later, one Black soldier was shot dead by US military police and 32 were convicted of mutiny. The villagers supported the Black soldiers.

#14 We Still Need to Talk

2023 saw a crackdown on the German cultural sphere, particularly when it came to discussing Palestine. As a response, a collection of leftist Jews called a demonstration to protest this restriction, saying “We are tired of being silenced in the country that murdered our ancestors. We refuse to remain silent as peaceful Jewish and Palestinian voices are stigmatised and censored.”

To support the protest, we published the call to action, which also appeared on other websites and social media. Despite this, it was our 14th most read article of 2023. The demonstration took place on 10th November, as did other political and cultural interventions on social media.

#15 From the Bogside to Brexit

In January 1972, British troops opened fire on a demonstration in Derry, Northern Ireland, killing 13 people. One more died later in hospital. Before then, the IRA was a marginal force in politics. The “Bloody Sunday” massacre provided their most effective recruiting sergeant. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, we published this article, which was submitted by a reader.

The article gave a brief history of the subjugation of Catholics in the North of Ireland, usually by British soldiers, which means that the victims of Bloody Sunday are unlikely to find justice. Written when Brexit negotiations were threatening to provoke more violence, it looked at the increased support for a United Ireland. Two years on, the article is still being read.

#16 The art of protesting

In April, Palestinian photographer Rasha Al Jundi published “Cacti: A Visual Protest Against the Silencing of Palestinian Voices in Germany”. It included photos taken at the Berlin Wall and the Holocaust memorial, highlighting German hypocrisy and silence regarding the Apartheid Wall in Palestine.

Theleftberlin published Rasha’s photos, and she wrote this article about how German “Memory Culture” ignores Germany’s colonial past, and silences Palestinian voices. Germany’s racist asylum laws label Palestinians as “stateless” or with an “unknown” origin. Written around the Nakba Day ban, Rasha’s article anticipates some of the censorship which German Palestinians were to experience.

Racism and Exclusion in the German Art Scene

Despite its liberal reputation, the German Art Scene is rife with discriminatory practices against BIPoC artists.


Author’s note: this report is based on interviews taken in Summer 2023. Two important things have happened since then. Firstly, Israel’s genocidal bombing campaign of Gaza has meant that theleftberlin has been concentrating on more pressing issues and publication of this article has been delayed.

Secondly, Germany’s unquestioning support of Israel the systematic exclusion of artists who do not fit White Germany’s expected cultural norms. These include (among many other cases) the cancellation of Palestinian author Adania Shibli at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the closure of oyoun Cultural Centre because it hosted a Jewish organisation, and the cancellation of an exhibition in Saarland by the Jewish South African artist Candice Breitz.

I believe that the racist exclusion which occurred before October 7th is not separate to the artistic censorship which has happened since. On the contrary, it has helped create a climate in which it has become much easier for people holding power in the German Art world to exclude unwanted voices, including those calling for solidarity with Palestine.


The art world has a reputation – deserved or not – of being a haven of liberalism and internationalism. Some recent cases have shown that German art institutions function primarily as instruments of neoliberal capitalism, whose prejudices they reflect. This article will look at some of these cases and ask what they mean for the art scene as a whole, particularly regarding the inclusion of BIPoC artists.

Crossing Borders – Anomalie Art Club Berlin

On July 15th 2023, four visual artists – Michael Jabareen, Ramez Melhem, Salma El Shami, and Rasha Al Jundi – took part in an event “Crossing Borders: Artistic Narratives on Migration”. The event, at Anomalie Art Point, described itself as “an event showcasing the resilience, solidarity and creative talent of migrants in Berlin.”

The artists accuse the Anomalie Art Point scene of an extreme lack of professionalism and experience in handling any type of visual art materials. Artists were expected to wait 7 hours before anyone turned up to install their exhibitions. Two artists’ works were damaged, for which they are demanding compensation. Neither the participating artists not the curators received any payment for taking part in the event.

On the day of the event, artists report that they were told off for sitting on the “wrong table” and that people from their guest list were mistreated and insulted. One artist was told that they should just be grateful that Anomalie had provided space to show their art. When they complained, they were blocked and accused of sending “hate mail”.

The artists issued a statement aimed at “prevent[ing] this from happening again to other fellow artists of colour,” saying that “We cannot help but feel exploited and used as tokens by … a group of European organisers to maintain their reputation and image, as inclusive and diverse. They are neither one of those things.”

The statement also accused Syrian swimmer and refugee activist Sara Mardini of profiting from their work, saying that the organiser told them later that the event was organised to cover Mardini’s birthday costs by “selling more tickets through an art exhibition”. In reply, Mardini commented on the Instagram statement, saying that:

I was lied to by @anomalieartclub exactly like those artists and I was forced to do the event after I wanted to cancel it 3 times:)) i did already get in touch with anomalies and they’re not planning to help.

BIPoC Zelebrieren, Weimar

In 2021, artist Margarita Beltran created a project called BIPOC Zelebrieren (celebrating BIPoC, also known as Reclaiming Spaces). Together with F Hobein, Margarita applied for a scholarship at the Thüringen ministry for education, youth and sport. Because individual applications were not allowed, the scholarship was submitted in the name of WE UNITED, an organisation based in Weimar, which is affiliated with AWO (a German organisation for workers’ welfare).

WE UNITED says that its goals are “to raise awareness of social inequality and all kinds of discrimination in our society, to organise projects with and for people who are targeted by this discrimination, and to contribute and discourse about discrimination with everyone in the city.” Despite this, Beltran and Hobein’s experience was of imbalanced power dynamics, miscommunication, power struggles, and translation issues.

Margarita reports:

“I was presented with a contract for the photography work in German, a language in which I am not fluent. The contract was verbally translated to me, but this translation was inaccurate. While our conversations with WE UNITED’s contact person had established that I would retain ownership and rights to the images, the contract, which was not accurately translated, assigned usage rights to the organization without my knowledge.”

Although Margarita received the compensation that was assigned in the budget for the development of the project, she was not granted right of images. After a long delay, the printed images were returned to her, but because the dispute is unresolved and WE UNITED still claims that the pictures are theirs, she is stuck with them and is afraid to rent them or to sell them.

The emotional and mental toll was considerable; leaving her drained and unwell for months. Margarita attributes this damage to her mental health to having to face white supremacy within a project that she created herself. This damage is ongoing as the incapacity of resolving the issue means that she fears the consequences of what will happen if she uses her own images,

Looking back, Margarita says that she would have preferred to work with a smaller endeavour which acknowledges her value as a creative and felt itself to be invested in the issues which she was addressing. She recommends that any creative professional seek legal counsel before entering contracts with organizations and insist on translated written documents.

National German Jazz Prize

On 27th April 2023, the first German jazz prize was awarded in Bremen. As a response to the prize, around 50 musicians issued a statement. The statement identified “three highly problematic political aspects of the personnel selection in the advisory board, jury and German-wide nominations”. I will quote this part of their statement in full:

1. Jazz and history: Jazz has its roots in Black American culture. Its original practitioners lived and worked in a country where, to this day, racist violence is part of everyday life. This continues to develop in many forms in Germany as well. Therefore, White people who make their living playing, presenting, and writing about this music must educate themselves about structural racism and discrimination in our society and make every effort to dismantle the structures that uphold racism. Our foremost problem to address would be the exclusion of BPoC jazz practitioners from funding, awards and juries. The under-representation of BPoC board and jury members, as well as nominees on a national level shows a lack of care, solidarity and furthermore recognition for these communities. This enforces the narrative that to work and gain recognition within Germany’s jazz scene in 2021, you need to be White.

2. Cultural diversity: It is dishonest for a state institution to claim to honor cultural diversity but at the same time neglect to make intersectionality part of their so-called affirmative action. The gender diversity achieved at this year ́s German Jazz Prize is a very important step for the jazz scene, however it is just one small aspect of diversity – and by far not enough. Choosing a mostly White and academic personnel for the board, jury and German nominees, reflects the institutional racism, transphobia, ableism and classism inherent to Germany’s cultural funding structures. Therefore, the prize has failed to honor the very cultural plurality of the German jazz scene outlined in the statement by Prof. Monika Grütters MdB, Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.

3. George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, Hanau, and NSU: The past years’ events have made it impossible for anyone to fail to recognize the ongoing systematic exclusion, discrimination, exploitation and violence against Black people and People of Color in societies that prioritize White people. Being uninformed or unaware is no longer an excuse. A cultural award that honors Black music has a duty to address and counteract these issues by ensuring that Black people and People of Color are not excluded from leadership positions in the cultural sector. An important step toward this would be to appoint more BPoC members to advisory boards and juries. A change in structures must come from everyone involved – musicians, journalists, promoters, label owners and cultural politicians. To refrain from doing so is tantamount to accepting White supremacy. The fact that the majority of those in charge of this award – including the people who are nominated on a national level – are White shows a highly problematic dismissal of White society that is unjustifiable. We do not accept this.

The musicians demanded an explanation for the lack of intersectional representation and to discuss how BIPoC musicians can finally be properly included in awards for a music style which has its origins in the experience and oppression of BIPoC people.

Yaam, Berlin

Even venues which actively promote BIPoC artists are not immune. Yaam club in Berlin has a deserved reputation for its diverse cultural programme. A FLINTA BIPoC DJ from London reports the following:

“I recently attended an open decks session for which I was the host, and the aim of the workshop was to encourage FLINTA to feel comfortable coming to the venue. The treatment from the male staff members including security created the opposite environment.

I was physically assaulted by a male bouncer when I had asked them to call a manager to confirm that this event was actually going on, the bouncer refused, saying ‘ich arbeite nicht für dich’, refusing to speak English also (at a so called international and culture friendly venue) and ended up having to scream at him to get him off me.

Following this, the staff at the venue refused to acknowledge the issue, and other FLINTA hosts received intimidating comments and behaviour from male staff at the venue. We are no longer continuing the sessions and will look for another venue to host it, however the funding Yaam had for this had come from bodies such as ClubKultur and club commission to diversify spaces.

Instead of that funding going to FLINTA who are looking to start their own initiatives, they are going to problematic venues who continue to treat diversity like ticking a box, and then just perpetuate their systematic prejudice and aggression towards these groups.

This is problematic on so many levels especially when the majority of the people on the receiving end of this treatment are BIPoC too – showing the systematic culture of abuse towards marginalised communities time and time again in this city.”

What is happening and why?

Some people will dismiss each of the cases I’ve described as over-reactions by emotional artists. But they are the tip of the iceberg of a worrying trend. A number of things are happening here.

First, we should stop thinking about Art being pure and unaffected by the society in which we live. Art is Big Business, but artists still need to eat. Although a few artists make phenomenal amounts of money, most working artists struggle to survive and suffer from an imbalance of power. The relative isolation of their work makes them easier to exploit.

Secondly, the systemic racism which exists in the rest of society is reflected in the Art world. This means that a disproportionate amount of decisions are made by rich white males, or by faceless corporations which have “invested” in culture.

Thirdly, although quotas for BIPoC artists is a tragically necessary reaction to the relative lack of opportunity for artists who do not fit a certain profile, there are some problems which quotas do not solve. A number of BIPoC artists have been accepted to fulfil a quota and then systematically ignored.

When I spoke to Berlin-based Palestinian artist and film maker Pary El-Qalqili about this. Pary said: “It’s complex. Some PoC voices are wanted and needed to show how diverse the art scene in Germany now is. I am so tired of this “

Rasha Al-Jundi, one of the artists who exhibited at Crossing Borders, agrees: “we were viewed as less worthy by these organisers. This is just a fucked up reflection of the Art sector which takes advantage of artists from different backgrounds to tick the box for funding. Spaces that are not even equipped to handle art are promoting themselves as art spaces when they’re not.”-

Better Art requires better social conditions for Artists

We can draw different conclusions from this direct and indirect discrimination. Margarita Beltran from Weimar says: “this experience cemented my conviction to avoid collaborations with white institutions on matters of racism or intersectionality. I firmly believe that such topics should be managed within institutions led by individuals of colour.”

While I agree with Margarita that we need to improve the woeful BIPoC representation in cultural institutions, I believe that the combination of an Art which is driven by commerce and structural racism means that this is something which can be solved merely by having more Black faces at the top. While we fight for improvements in the Art world in the here and now, to grant full access to creative voices we need a different society.

In the German Ideology, Karl Marx criticised a society where “as long as a cleavage exists between the particular and the common interest, as long, therefore, as activity is not voluntarily, but naturally, divided, man’s own deed becomes an alien power opposed to him, which enslaves him instead of being controlled by him.

It is this enforced alienation which stunts art and means that artists – and in particular artists who suffer certain forms of oppression – are forced to spend time battling unhelpful authorities, challenging unfair contracts, and having to permanently battle disrespectful microagressions – time which could be spent producing great Art. They deserve our support in their various battles for justice.

In this article I have only mentioned a few cases, but have been told about many more. Many artists are reluctant to come forward as it is hard enough to show their works without courting trouble from people with more power than them. If you are an artist who has suffered discrimination, feel free to contact me on, so that we can write a follow-up article which exposes the breadth of everyday discrimination in the German cultural scene. We are particularly interest in the current repression of Palestinian voices.

Where does Die LINKE Stand? Interview with Christine Buchholz

Die LINKE is in a state between crisis and renewal. In November, the party had its national conference in Augsburg. The Initiative Sozialismus von Unten (Socialism from Below) spoke with Christine Buchholz about the crisis of the left-wing party, the departure of Sahra Wagenknecht and the war in Gaza.


Hello Christine. What is happening with Die LINKE?

Die LINKE is in a crisis. Sahra Wagenknecht has left, and created the Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance [Bündnis Sahra Wagenknecht, BSW], which will form a party at the end of January. As a result, the parliamentary fraction of die LINKE lost its status as a fraction and must sack 100 employees. The fraction will also lose many parliamentary rights.

At the same time, Die LINKE is currently experiencing a wave of new people joining. Just in the last 2 weeks of November, over 1,500 people joined the party via the national website. Even more joined on a local level.

It is too early to declare Die LINKE as dead. But the current developments indicate shifts in the political framework within the party. These affect the deep conflicts, in particularly considering the imperial role of the EU, and Germany as the strongest economy within the EU. These issues have largely paralysed Die LINKE as international conflicts have intensified.

At the moment Die LINKE is barely recognisable.

The party is currently failing to adequately respond to one of the central political conflicts – the protests against the war in Gaza and the ongoing disenfranchisement and dehumanisation of Palestinians by the State of Israel, with the German government at its side.

But it also remains toothless concerning subjects which are less controversial within the party, such as criticism of budget cuts and massive rearmament. This is because it does not combine its criticism with a perspective of resistance.

Let’s talk about the points one at a time. What is your assessment on how the departure of Sahra Wagenknecht will affect Die LINKE? Has this resolved a long-standing conflict?

Yes and no. On the one hand there was the conflict about migration. Sahra Wagenknecht never won majorities inside the party for her positions [translator: e.g. for stricter border controls], but that was an open conflict, as were her attacks on positions reflecting so-called “identity politics”.

At the same time, she was prepared to publicly and sharply criticise the German government, while the party leadership dithered. We saw this, for example, with the war in Ukraine, where she made clear statements against the delivery of weapons and government sanctions.

Moreover, the problem regarding migration policy did not just come from Wagenknecht and her supporters, but also from Die LINKE in government. In Thüringen [translator: where the president is a LINKE representative], the number of deportations has gone up in the past year.

But the key point for the future is that the departure of Wagenknecht and her followers has shifted the political balance within the party.

Who is joining Die LINKE at the moment?

It is too early to draw an exact balance. People are joining in different places. This is most noticeable in the large cities, but there is also a large number of new members in rural areas. Regarding this, it is worth looking at 2 different political actors.

First, there is a call from the post-autonomous spectrum of the Interventionistischen Linken (Interventionist Left). Some actors, who until now were mainly involved in extra-parliamentary movements, have said that they are joining Die LINKE (for example, Wir. Jetzt. Hier.).

On top of this, the team around Carola Rackete [translator: independent ship captain and refugee activist, who will be the lead candidate for die LINKE at the coming EU elections] is very involved in the renewal process. They are also playing a central role in the campaign Eine Linke für alle [one Left for everyone].

Politically, this means that the old conflicts are anything but over. Alina Lyapina, a campaigner from Carola Rackete’s sphere, has not tired of demanding that Die LINKE must change its foreign policy [translator: that is, become more NATO-friendly]. Other new members are bringing important anti-imperialist positions with them. Still more are being completely politicised for the first time.

In general, at the moment the position of the reformer wing [translator: the right wing of the party] is being strengthened. That corresponds to our experience in many areas, where local government fractions have generally shaped the political work while the party structures have been weak.

How was this expressed at the party conference in Augsburg?

For example, in the fact that the fundamental criticism of the EU was much weaker compared to earlier conferences. Since then, a position has asserted itself that doesn’t fundamentally criticise the EU, but wants to use it as a political room for discussion.

The draft Europe programme, which was already weak in many areas, was weakened further by a series of motions from the Progressiver Linke [Progressive Left], a group which comes out of the reform wing of the party. Now, a positive attitude towards the EU expansion eastwards has been decided.

The party’s position on sanctions, which was already wrong, was further extended to also include sanctions on the Russian nuclear sector. The party was not prepared to utter a single word about the reality that sanctions have so far failed, and future sanctions will fail when it comes to stopping the war in Ukraine.

That sounds as if the reformers won every argument.

We put forward several anti-war motions for the party programme. Some of them were accepted. A few won the vote, even though the party leadership opposed them. Above all, we won the motions which described the role of capital as profiting from militarism and robust imperialist competition.

We didn’t win motions where we argued, for example, that concrete criticism of sanctions or EU Eastern expansion should be built into the election programme. This is a fundamental problem in Die LINKE. As long as criticism of the conditions is expressed in abstract terms, it doesn’t hurt. It’s only if they are applied in a concrete situation that they have an effect.

Die LINKE was always split on the situation in Israel/Palestine. You could hear both pro- and anti-Zionist positions.

The current attack on the population of the Gaza strip eclipses everything that has happened since the 1948 Nakba. In such a situation, the current positioning of Die LINKE is absolutely inadequate, as it tries to maintain a balance between criticism of Israel and criticism of Hamas. This is why I also rejected the resolution of the party conference.

You also spoke in the debate.

In a contribution, I demanded that the attack of 7 October be put in the context of the occupation, and I rejected the criminalisation and delegitimisation of protest in Germany through demo bans and sweeping accusations of antisemitism. In a nutshell: solidarity, not Staatsräson [translator: reason of state – the catch-all label used to prevent any debate of Palestine in Germany].

An MEP, Martina Michels, accused me of using “the language of Alice Weidel” (AfD) and of relativising the massacre by Hamas. As I was not allowed the right to make a personal statement, 130 comrades who were at the conference issued a resolution of solidarity with me. Even the party leadership has recently rebutted the defamation against me.

How has the withdrawal of solidarity manifested itself?

In Berlin, the black-red Senate [CDU-SPD local government] has withdrawn financing from Oyoun, a left-wing and diverse cultural centre, under the pretext that the centre gave a space to antisemitic positions. This means that 32 people working for this important meeting place and cultural space are facing the sack.

There are local councillors in the parliamentary fraction of Die LINKE who support the attacks on Oyoun. But many party members are against them. Die LINKE would be much more effective if it explicitly stood behind Oyoun.

You brought your own motion to the party conference. What was that about?

The initiative Linke gegen Krieg [Left against war], which was formed around the positioning to the Ukraine war, put its own motion, which provided a basis with which Die LINKE could become able to intervene. We formed a grouping around this motion, which was broader than what we could organise around Palestine solidarity before. We should think how we can continue this debate inside Die LINKE.

After we published our motion, the party leadership formulated a motion which was to the right of ours. That was not enough for the so-called “progressive Left”, who put forward their own motion, which blamed Hamas for the escalation in Gaza. This would mean that DIE LINKE would have fully distanced itself from its international aspiration to be a party of peace.

What happened then?

Shortly before the party conference, a working group formulated a compromise.

As the vast majority of supporters of our motion agreed to this compromise – although some had reservations – I and others decided not to put our original motion to the vote.

However, those of us who didn’t accept the compromise have made it clear that we do not agree with the new text. The false orientation in the final motion means that Die LINKE is still no practical factor in solidarity with Palestine and is barely able to stand up against the criminalisation of Palestine solidarity.

This is happening although the party conference explicitly resolved to support demonstrations and other activities, and to initiate our own actions as Die LINKE. We are using this passage to actively mobilise within Die LINKE for demonstrations and public meetings.

At the same time, we have to operate independently in order to be able to act. We are doing this in the Initiative Sozialismus von Unten, by being part of the organisation and active supporters of protests against the war in Gaza.

You were part of the recent foundation the Initiative Sozialismus von Unten. Why do you feel this was necessary?

We do not want to wait on any decisions made by Die LINKE. This means that in many places we are active in the organisation of solidarity with Palestine. Similarly, in the question of war in Ukraine, we must not wait for die LINKE, which has not been able to intervene for at least 2 years. We are organising protests with other people and can then win different groups within Die LINKE to support these protests.

Despite everything, we also see that people are joining the party because they want to do something about government policy, against the deaths on European borders, and against social problems. We can address such people with positions of class struggle and internationalism and win them for activities. We also want to organise others, who have left Die LINKE out of disappointment.

With the Initiative Sozialismus von Unten, we want to build an organisation which formulates socialist positions for concrete conflicts, and uses them to intervene – in society, in extra-parliamentary movements, and in Die LINKE. We want to politically develop people, so that they can take on such conflicts.

The challenges are immense, and won’t become smaller with the continuing climate crisis, the expected attacks on the working class, and the increasing international rivalry.

Interviewer: Simo Dorn. This interview originally appeared in German on the Initiative Sozialismus von Unten website. Translation: Phil Butland. Reproduced with permission.

Silvester in Berlin: New Year Begins with Racist State Violence

We are told that Berlin’s New Year Celebrations were peaceful. But 390 arrests and police checkpoints are examples of racist state violence


Order Reigns in Berlin! As the sun came up on January 1, every bourgeois newspaper published some variation of this headline. Politicians declared victory against violent hordes of Ausländer*innen – the fire department said that it had been a »normal New Year’s«.

A normal New Year’s is not peaceful, though. At 7am, the Unfallkrankenhaus, an emergency hospital in Marzahn, reported that they had treated 27 people with serious injuries. Fingers had been severed, eyes destroyed, and entire hands ripped off.

This is the eternal strangeness of Silvester, German New Year’s Eve. 364 days a year, the state regulates our lives down to the smallest detail. On December 31, it lets us compensate for this paternalism by handing out kilotons of explosives.

In Texas, where I come from, you can walk into a store and buy an AR-15 with no questions asked. But the authorities won’t let you buy explosives, much less set them off in residential areas – that’s too dangerous!

One year ago, all of Germany was discussing the Silvester riots in Berlin’s migrant neighborhoods, particularly in Neukölln. There had supposedly been a »new dimension of violence«. Over the following week, however, the statistics had to be revised downwards. Now, Berlin police chief Barbara Slowik admitts that there had not been more attacks against police in 2022 than in the years before the pandemic: »There had been similar numbers of attacks in the past.«

But the right-wing discourse about »people refusing to integrate« took on a life of its own, propelling the nonchalant demagogue Kai Wegner into Berlin’s Red City Hall. This manufactured racist moral panic had served its purpose, and continues to reverberate. This year, Berlin’s police reported on fireworks-related crimes in Neukölln – and 7 of the 9 incidents they listed were in totally different neighborhoods.

The irony is that immigrants who set off fireworks are integrating perfectly into Germany’s bizarrely destructive Leitkultur.

When politicians condemn Gewalt (violence), they are only referring to very specific forms of violence. A headline might say that there was »less violence« but »more arrests« this year. 390 arrests means that 390 people were assaulted, with many thrown to the ground and injured by heavily armed, black-clad officers, many of whom hold barely concealed right-wing views.

There were 4.500 police on Berlin’s streets on New Year’s. Parts of Sonnenallee were blocked off with checkpoints, and residents were stopped and frisked before they could reach their homes. By some alchemy of bourgeois ideology, this orgy of violence somehow doesn’t count.

In 2023, Neukölln passed drastic budget cuts in schools and youth centers. Money is never lacking for police who terrorize non-German populations. The people of Neukölln are subject to all kinds of systematic violence – like when a poor family is forced out of their home with the help of the police because they can no longer afford the rent.

For bourgeois politicians, »order« is when their violence against poor people goes unchallenged – and »violence« is when poor people no longer tolerate their oppression in an orderly way.

Silvester in Berlin saw a ton of violence – but it was mostly violence by the cops. In this sense, yes, order did prevail in Berlin on New Year’s. But as Rosa Luxemburg liked to remind the ruling class, »your ›order‹ is built on sand!«

This is a mirror of Nathaniel’s Red Flag column which appears every fortnight