This Saturday, 27th February, thousands of workers and youth will march in London for a national demonstration in opposition to Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapons system. Socialist Appeal supporters will be present, along with a bloc from the Marxist Student Federation, calling for a socialist alternative to this colossal waste.
See below also for a model resolution calling on Labour to oppose Trident and fight for socialist policies.
Since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, there has been one debate after another exposing the fault lines that exist within the party. Whether it is over the bombing of Syria, the vote over the fiscal charter, or a number of other questions, a battle has been taking place over the future direction of the party and in whose interests it will fight.
No more glaring are the contradictions within the party than when it comes to the current debate over Trident. As of yet, there is no unified position being put forward. This shows that there remains two irreconcilable poles within the party: that of the right wing, the Blairites, the representatives of big business and the Establishment within the Labour Party; and that of the rank-and-file, who are adamantly opposed to Trident and nuclear weapons, as vocalised by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
Corbyn, the vice-president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), has done his upmost to maintain the organisational unity of the party in spite of the political splits that clearly exist. He has even gone so far as to modify his own position, stating that he is firmly against nuclear weapons, whilst still being willing to support the continued use of submarines with nuclear capabilities…but without any missiles! Despite such compromises, the Blairites will never accept Corbyn’s leadership and will continue to do everything in their power to manoeuvre to get rid of him.
Above all else, therefore, the Labour Party needs MPs who represent the views of its membership, the lifeblood of the party. If there are elected representatives who are arguing for positions that are diametrically opposed to the majority of Labour members, then they should be told to either fight for the anti-austerity, anti-war, and anti-Trident policies that Labour’s rank-and-file want, or be willing to step aside and be replaced by representatives who will.
The Lucas Plan
There is a clear alternative to the future of WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) desired by the Blairites, the Tories, and the Establishment. By abandoning Trident, Britain would save tens of billions of pounds, which could be easily put to use to reverse Tory cuts and invest in jobs, housing, and public services. Combined with the public ownership and democratic control of the banks and major industries, skilled workers currently involved in the destructive task of arms manufacture could be freed and retrained to take up work in sectors beneficial to the needs of working people.
Such ideas are not without precedent. In January 1976, faced with the news from management that thousands would be losing their jobs, the workers of Lucas Aerospace argued the case for what they called “socially useful production”. The business was split evenly between the production of commodities for civilian consumption, as well as military hardware, but the vast bulk of finance used to fund both was from public sector contracts.
The workers of Lucas Aerospace put the case that since the money being invested for production at Lucas Aerospace came from taxpayers, the products manufactured by the company should be products that would benefit everyone within society. With the same skills and equipment that they already possessed, the workers argued, they could create and assemble vital, socially necessary products such as green energy, recycling tools, and healthcare machinery.
The Guardian reports that the union which drew up this plan “consulted their own members” and “over the course of a year they built up their plan on the basis of the knowledge, skills, experience and needs of workers and the communities in which they lived. The results included designs for over 150 alternative products. The plan included market analyses and economic argument; proposed employee training that enhanced and broadened skills; and suggested re-organising work into less hierarchical teams that bridged divisions between tacit knowledge on the shop floor and theoretical engineering knowledge in design shops.”
They then took this plan into their communities and amongst the wider working class to spread the word of what could be achieved. One of the leaders of the movement, Mike Cooley, said the Lucas workers wanted to, “inflame the imaginations of others” and “demonstrate in a very practical and direct way the creative power of ‘ordinary people’”.
Sadly, due to the industrial defeats of the 1980s and 90s, the ideas and example of the Lucas workers were not put into effect. But, nonetheless, their spirit lives on in the current debate.
Scrap Trident! Fight for socialism!
Some – including the leaders of the Unite and GMB unions who represent workers in the arms industry – have criticised Corbyn’s plans to scrap Trident, arguing that to do so would result in job losses; hence Corbyn’s attempted compromise of building nuclear submarines but without any missiles. However, as the example of the Lucas plan demonstrates, ending Trident does not have to result in job losses. It is the anarchy of the market that understandably creates such concerns amongst workers about the threat of unemployment, who only have to look at former mining areas to see the permanent scar that capitalism leaves behind in its wake as industries are mothballed.
In any case, we must be clear that the Blairites are crying crocodile tears over the question of job losses. Their real motivation is their desire to demonstrate their complete subservience and obedience to the wishes of the British ruling class and, in turn, to American imperialism.
For a plan such as that of the Lucas Aerospace workers to be put into action and reach its full potential, however, it would have to go beyond a single factory. Instead, the industry would have to be nationalised and placed under democratic workers control, so that production could be democratically planned and managed in the interests of society, and not for the profits of a few. These workers, knowledgeable and specialised in their field, would in turn perform better than under the rule of an exploitative and bureaucratic corporate management structure, and innovation and creativity could flourish.
To end militarism once and for all we must end the system that breeds it. Corbyn should demand more than just abolishing Trident. What we need is to fight for a socialist plan of production and workers control, to set about producing on the basis of the needs of the vast majority, and not the needs of capitalism and imperialism.
Such a programme would galvanise the rank-and-file of the labour movement in defence of Corbyn, marking a fundamental break with the crisis-ridden capitalist system and the beginning of a genuine transformation of society.
For a socialist alternative to Trident
Below is a model motion being proposed by Socialist Appeal supporters in the Labour Party. We encourage our readers to propose this motion at their Labour Party, student union, and trade union branches also.
This branch / GC notes that the replacement of the four Trident submarines has a price tag of £167 billion. The Tory government says that due to the financial crisis, social provision such as free education, a reliable NHS, quality housing and a decent welfare state are no longer affordable. According to CND this money would be enough to fully fund A&E services for 40 years, employ 150,000 new nurses, build 1.5 million affordable homes, build 30,000 new primary schools, or cover tuition fees for 4 million students.
A massive amount of money is planned to be spent on atomic weaponry which will never be used; and if it were to be used, has the potential to end all life on earth, humanity included. Many defence experts argue that the only reason why Britain should retain its nuclear weapons is international prestige and status. Those who own and control Britain, the 1%, still have dreams of restoring the imperial grandeur of what is now an economically second-rate country. When they talk of defending democracy with nuclear weapons, what they really mean is defending their right to amass more and more wealth in the hands of a tiny minority.
This £167bn represents value that has been created by the labour of working class people. It therefore belongs to the whole of society and should be spent meeting the needs of the whole of society.
Workers in the Trident related industry should not lose their jobs by the scrapping of Trident. Forty years ago when the Lucas Aerospace industry was threatened with closure, the Joint Shop Stewards Committee produced an alternative plan of production where the skills of all the workers could be used to produce socially necessary products, not weapons of death and destruction. Every worker employed by the nuclear arms industry has skills that should be of benefit to society. However, these skills can only be put to use by breaking with the arms industry and the giant corporations and monopolies, which have a vested interest in opening up and exploiting foreign markets from which they make massive profits for the 1%. That means fighting to end capitalism and create a socialist society to plan production to meet human need.
We resolve to oppose the renewal of Trident and call on the Labour Party to hold a vote on this issue as soon as possible, so that a full discussion can be had among the membership.
We also call on the Labour Party to bring together workers’ representatives from the Trident-related industries who will be tasked, together with the Labour Party and the trade union movement as a whole, in the drawing up of an alternative plan of production to defend jobs and utilise skills.
We also resolve to attend the Stop Trident demo in London on February 27th.