England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Book Review: Fighting from the Heart by Cormac Kelly

By Jack Moody, Socialist Alternative West Yorkshire

At a time where British healthcare has suffered decades of cuts, austerity and being sold off piecemeal to the highest bidder, it is of great importance to contemplate workers victories in this sector – not merely to bolster the fighting spirit to ‘soldier on’, but also to take away the important lessons that these victories can teach us.

For those unfamiliar with Huddersfield’s fight to save its hospital from closing, ‘Fighting from the Heart’ offers a much more thorough chronicle of events than merely covering the five-year campaign, beginning by outlining the precedent for downgrading health services in the area.

The book outlines the importance of readily available public services and care. Not only does it acknowledge the immediate and most obvious issue of patients having to travel longer distances (presenting potential health risks for those requiring urgent care), but outlines how the closure would also result in longer distances for the visitors of patients, the toll on public transit and the congestion of traffic on what was already West Yorkshires two busiest roads. Kelly also implores us to be ever vigilant, not just in the sense that these attempts on privatisation can be dated back decades, but that the profiteers will expect these things to be ‘done deals’. This was a frustrating attitude that the ‘powers that be’ openly had at the time of the campaign, but one that left them severely underestimating the town and its ability to mobilise.

Fighting from the Heart – a history of the Hands Off HRI campaign in Huddersfield

‘Fighting from the Heart’ is a joyful read, not simply due to its positive outcome, but also from remembering the atmosphere of camaraderie and tenacious fighting spirit that the campaign ignited in the public. It drew in organisers from all over Kirklees and beyond, some of which had never before been involved in collective action. ‘Hands Off HRI’, as it came to be known, was overwhelmingly supported by the majority of the residents of Huddersfield, which also pushed for support from trade unions, councillors, MPs and countless others. The sheer volume of names and organisations that supported the campaign over its lifetime shows exactly what an effective leadership the movement had from day one. The subtitle of the book is quick to remind us that a collective effort (‘A Town’s Resistance’) is what won the residents of Huddersfield their battle. When the people of Kirklees were told that the closure was a ‘done deal’, they responded with placards reading “It’s only a done deal if you do nowt!”, when the campaigners were referred to as “a bunch of bleating activists’” effigies of sheep were constructed and colourful Christmas cards were made in mockery, all lovingly captured in the many photographs and documents compiled in ‘Fighting from the Heart’.

So often are we as socialists faced with seemingly insurmountable tasks, uphill battles and even failures, the book not only offers an important moment of reflection on victory, but a blueprint for effective collective action, locally and nationally.

To order your copy of the book, send an email to cormackelly63@gmail.com £8+P&P

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