We need socially useful production, not manufacturing of destruction

In her latest climate blog for Labour CND, Sam Mason takes issue with the GMB composite at the forthcoming Trades Union Congress arguing true solidarity with our sisters and brothers across the world means public investment in socially useful production not more weapons of mass destruction

In 2007, Nicholas Stern made this much referenced quote:
“Climate change is a result of the greatest market failure the world has seen. The evidence on the seriousness of the risks from inaction or delayed action is now overwhelming. We risk damages on a scale larger than the two world wars of the last century. The problem is global and the response must be a collaboration on a global scale.”

THIS DEFINITION of “market failure” is said to stem from free markets failing to maximise society’s welfare.  Something which we are witnessing to catastrophic ends in the respective energy and climate crises. Evidence if it was ever needed, free market economics and the privatisation it walks hand in hand with are not the best way to address the global challenges facing us. This includes climate change but also increasing inequality, public health, diminishing social protections, decent unionised work and threats of war and nuclear conflict.

One area which remains free of the market mantra is defence spending, however.  Of course, private sector companies benefit from this but it is through the investment of public money, and for ends that do nothing to meet the needs of workers and people, here in the UK or globally. Something well understood by the former Lucas Aerospace Shop Stewards committee in developing their Alternative Corporate plan for socially useful production in the 1970’s.

The GMB notion, misleadingly entitled economic recovery and manufacturing jobs, is an agenda for warmongering and nuclear weapons

WHILE THE IDEAS of worker’s plans as espoused by the Lucas shop stewards have gained some traction in recent times across the labour and climate movements, unfortunately some industrial unions are still pinning job creation plans to the mast of defence spending. The GMB motion to be debated at the postponed TUC Congress in October under the misleading title of “economic recovery and manufacturing jobs”, is an agenda for warmongering and nuclear weapons, taking us in completely the wrong direction.

Contrary to what the motion says, a lack of investment in defence spending is not the reason for our lack of funding in our public services. The proposals in this motion would further reduce vital monies for these as well as investment in renewable energy, urgently needed retrofit and insulation of our homes and, essentially the creation of many more jobs including in the defence ‘company’ towns of Barrow.

WE HAVE JUST SEEN devastating of floods in Pakistan, said to be one of the “worst climate change-induced catastrophes ever recorded globally”. Pakistan contributes less than 1% to global greenhouse gas emissions, and rightly this ‘event’ has refocused debate on the responsibility of the global north around reparations and loss and damage.

However, Pakistan is also a heavy IMF indebted nation and nuclear weapons state.  None of which helped avert this recent catastrophe or will assist in the post flooding crisis of food shortages, displacement, destruction of livelihoods and health risks.

IF THE GMB MOTION PASSES at the TUC, this will be a catastrophic failure of the labour movement towards the global south. To show true solidarity with our sisters and brothers across the world, it’s time we reassessed our own transition. This includes support for debt cancellation, and a programme of global public investment in socially useful production, rather than collaborating in more weapons of mass destruction.

NET report gets a mention from TUC General Council

TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak’s attendance at the Nuclear Education Trust’s recent launch of a report on defence diversification is highlighted in the General Council’s report to the 2018 Congress which takes place in Manchester, 9-12 September.

The report says:

‘In line with resolution 17, which called on the TUC to lobby the Labour Party to establish a shadow defence diversification agency, the TUC has met regularly with unions with an industrial interest in the sector, and with the Labour Party.

‘We have made the case for the development of a long-term strategy for defence jobs that can respond to future changes in government policy, within the context of a broad industrial strategy aimed at delivering good-quality jobs across the UK.

‘Paul Nowak, deputy general secretary of the TUC, spoke at the launch of a report on defence diversification by the Nuclear Education Trust to stress the importance of engaging workers in the defence industry in discussions about the future of the sector.

‘The TUC also welcomed the commitment by the Labour Party to build the next generation of Royal Navy ships in the UK, in order to ensure that UK government defence spending supports jobs and skills within the UK.’

TUC, Unite backs Corbyn’s Defence Diversification Agency

The defence industry is increasingly automated, and skilled employment is in long-term decline. No surprise then to learn trade union attitudes to defence diversification are finally shifting.

In his 2015 leadership campaign Jeremy Corbyn ‘set out a clear commitment to establishing a Defence Diversification Agency’ (DDA) so that ‘engineering and scientific skills are transferred into more socially productive industries’ should a decision be taken to decommission the Trident nuclear weapons system.

Two years later, at its 2017 Congress, the TUC backed a DDA. Motion 17 recalled the ground-breaking plan for socially useful work pioneered by the Lucas Aerospace workers in 1976, and agreed to ‘lobby the Labour Party to establish before the next general election a ‘shadow’ Defence Diversification Agency, to work closely with the Shadow Department for Industry in developing an overall national industrial strategy including the possibility of conversion of ‘defence’ capacity’.

In July 2018, Unite took a step forward when the 2018 policy conference backed Executive Statement 1 which welcomed the ‘renewed focus Jeremy Corbyn has placed on defence diversification, in the context of the priority he rightly places on world disarmament’. Whilst reiterating the union’s first priority remains the protection of members jobs, the statement calls for ‘a serious government approach to defence diversification’ and ‘urges the Labour Party to give the highest priority to this on taking office’.

TUC Congress calls for Shadow Defence Diversification Agency

Labour CND welcomes the decision of the TUC Congress 2017 to lobby the Labour Party to set up a Shadow Defence Diversification Agency before the next general election, and work to develop a national industrial strategy which includes the possibility of arms conversion.

Motion 17, Defence, jobs and diversification, from the Artists Union England, recalled the ground-breaking plan for alternative, socially useful work pioneered by the Lucas Aerospace workers in 1976. It highlighted ‘a convergence of crises – militarism and nuclear weapons, climate chaos, and the destruction of jobs by automation’, and acknowledged that defence workers ‘are rightly concerned about the potential loss of jobs, for example if Trident replacement is cancelled’.

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