JEREMY CORBYN’S decision to address today’s major Stop Trident demonstration in London is the correct call to make.
His entire political career has been based on opposition to weapons of mass destruction and it would have been hypocritical and devious were he to dodge the issue now that he is Labour Party leader.
Opposition to Trident and all nuclear weapons were at the heart of Corbyn’s election campaign. They are key reasons to explain why he polled 59.5 per cent and romped home in the first round.
Those in the party who disagree with him, whether just on nukes or more generally, point to the fact that Labour’s pro-Trident stance has not yet been reversed.
It was in the party’s manifesto for the general election that resulted in a major defeat, prompting much soul-searching among party members.
The best that any of the three pro-Trident candidates, Andy Burnham, could muster was 19 per cent.
Of course, this was not a single-issue campaign. Corbyn also campaigned strongly against overseas imperialist wars, privatisation and capitalist austerity and in favour of workers’ rights, affordable housing to buy and rent, welfare benefits and international solidarity.
But reducing the burden of military expenditure, especially the unusable Trident white elephant, was central to his approach.
Tens of thousands of well-paid, skilled jobs are currently dependent on the Trident submarines, as defence industry unions GMB and Unite have pointed out.
It is understandable that trade unions would not wish to see their members’ jobs disappear without some idea of what might replace them.
That was an unresolved problem that affected coal, shipbuilding, steel, docks, textiles, automotive, motorcycles and many other industries that were allowed to wither on the vine because of lack of investment and support.
The arms industry has been treated differently, with state backing through export credit guarantees that are denied to other manufacturing sectors.
But still there have been major staff reductions as the private arms manufacturers’ export markets have come under greater competition.
The sad reality is that a large part of Britain’s overseas sales of military and security materials goes to the absolutist sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf and other repressive regimes, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and Israel.
Corbyn wants a return to an “ethical foreign policy” once promised by Robin Cook before Tony Blair and his New Labour cronies chose the alternative of setting other countries ablaze in a disastrous turn that has led directly to the extremism of al-Qaida and Islamic State.
That will involve co-operation — or at least discussion — with other states and a reliance on international law rather than might-is-right bombing raids as the knee-jerk first reaction.
David Cameron’s Tories will welcome support from trade unionists for their post-imperial willy-waving nuclear symbol, just as the engineering employers applauded Labour deputy leader Tom Watson when he addressed them on the need to replace Trident with another nuclear system.
Bosses aren’t interested in workers’ jobs or living standards. The bottom line is their sole motivation.
Labour led by Corbyn is the only realistic alternative to whoever leads the Tories into the 2020 general election, by which time the party’s defence policy may well have become non-nuclear.
It is in the interest of engineers working on military projects to think outside the Trident box and seek alternatives to employment in the pursuit of ways to kill people in favour of more civilised alternatives.
Labour is more likely to be elected on a policy of high-tech production for peace and prosperity than being saddled with unaffordable weapons that belong to another age.