This rs21 pamphlet was published in 2017 as a successor to our previous publication, Unite Against Trident. It sets out the case for industrial diversification away from the arms trade and towards green jobs and socially beneficial production. It demonstrates that trade union leaders’ current willingness to lend support the arms industry not only feeds into a vicious global cycle of war and destruction, but has also failed on its own terms as a tactic to defend employment, pay and conditions.
Of around 3 million workers in UK manufacturing, some 400,000 will at some stage of their working year be dependent on the arms trade and its extended supply chain. The UK is the second-biggest arms exporters in trade value after the United States.
While many trade union leaders identify in a loose sense with the labour movement and its historic commitment to peace and internationalism, these attachments are continually sacrificed – supposedly for the protection of defence workers’ jobs. Rather than demand the redeployment of Britain’s industrial capacity in socially beneficial areas such as renewable energy generation, trade union leaders have lined up behind the government in its search for export markets for weaponry. The vicious Saudi assault on Yemen is only one of the conflicts raging around the world in which exported UK arms are used to slaughter civilians and impose the dominance of one state upon another.
But support for the arms trade is not only a flouting of trade unions’ nominal commitment to socialist internationalism. It is also a busted flush by the narrow, short-term criteria used by trade union leaders themselves – above all, the need to protect existing employment. In recent years, promised orders for further military hardware have repeatedly failed to materialise; workers who were encouraged to view arms production as a source of stable permanent employment are rapidly tossed upon the scrapheap as demand dries up.
That said, the push for a change in UK industrial output is, fundamentally, a matter of class power and class struggle. Only a determined, systematic campaign, waged by a combative working class in defence of both its own interests and those of workers in other countries, can achieve a real, systematic redeployment of the UK’s significant industrial capacities.
Purchase your copy of Diversify or Die today to read more about how socialists can begin that struggle!
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