Class struggle in the arms industry?

As workers at a nuclear weaponry facility go into struggle with their management, a WCA supporter looks at some of the issues.

(This article is written as a contribution to debate and does not necessarily reflect the views of WCA as a whole.)

Workers at Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston are set to take strike action over pay. A lunchtime protest on 23rd November was believed to be the first industrial action taken by workers in the company’s 50 year history.

Obviously this particular group of workers deserve to be viewed with a healthy degree of contempt by the rest of the labour movement. Their role in building the weapons of apocalyptic power is something many of us would struggle to live with. However, we should rise above our distaste for their job and extend our solidarity to a group of fellow workers in struggle against their management. We welcome their action and recognise that many workers, including workers in the atomic weapons industry itself, oppose such heinous instruments.

However they justify their work, the reality is that we will not stop making nuclear bombs simply through a individual acts of conscience. If we had a working-class movement capable of imposing a workers’ boycott on nuclear weapons, then that movement would also possess the power to create far more reaching social change.

As working-class activists and trade unionists we see that the most progressive and enlightened politics are made in the democratic forums of our trade union movement.  Despite all the political positioning and rows at union conferences (which are all very necessary) the trade union movement stands alone in society as a beacon for internationalism, peace, environmental sustainability, democratic freedoms and equality. We believe that if our movement grew, extended that level of democracy to wider layers of our class and eventually took power, that the causes of war and the divisions of nationality could be overcome.

Workers around the world do all sorts of unpleasant jobs when they take the bosses’ money. This strike at Aldermaston is the first time in 50 years that substantial numbers of nuclear weapons workers have defied their bosses and refused to follow orders. We hope that they enjoy that experience and repeat it in times to come.

Workers’ Climate Action is an organisation that argues for workers in polluting industries to take control of their workplaces and demand a just transition to environmentally sustainable work. We think that decisions about what we make at work are too important to be left to the rich. We look to the example of the militant workers at Lucas Aerospace in the 1970s who drew up Workers Plans for how to use their machinery for socially useful production. Instead of making components for fighter jets these workers took control of their factories and started making medical equipment and some of the first prototypes of renewable energy generation. Decisions about what we produce should be under the democratic control of workers and the communities that they serve.

We urge the workers at Aldermaston to follow in the footsteps of Lucas Aerospace, to organise and fight for a world were our workplaces are run on the basis of human need.

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