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Posted on 24 August 2010 at 1:16 GMT

No to Trident nuclear weapons

Article from the Socialist, Scotland

The outgoing Blair/Brown New Labour government won parliamentary support for the modernisation of the Trident system with support from the Tories. The Con-Dem coalition, however, seems to be split on Trident's replacement, with Nick Clegg apparently opposed to the huge costs involved and defence secretary Liam Fox in favour.

Ronnie Stevenson, Socialist Party Scotland

The proposed new system, like the current version, will consist of US-made Trident missiles, based on four British-built submarines. The nuclear warheads will be manufactured at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE), Aldermaston. This nuke factory is already being modernised. The cost is secret, but estimated to be over 4 billion.

The bill for these weapons of mass destruction is likely to be around 25 billion for the system. But the total expenditure will be around 76 billion when running costs over 30 years are included.

There is little public support for the retention or modernisation of nuclear weapons. A clear majority in polls oppose the replacement of Trident. The Clyde has become a producer of warships and a base for the maintenance of Britain's nuclear weapons. It is a far cry from when it produced 90% of the world's commercial ships.

Despite claims that we need to retain nuclear weapons as an "insurance policy" in an uncertain and dangerous world, the reality is that they make our lives more dangerous.

What is Britain's independent nuclear deterrent meant to deter? Nuclear threats do not come out of the blue. A threat from Russia or China, or from North Korea (which may have one or two crude nuclear bombs) would only arise as part of an extreme global crisis.

British imperialism's deterrent is currently just under 200 warheads, which would be a minor factor compared to the US superpower's massive nuclear arsenal of over 10,000 warheads. In any case, can we imagine a British government acting independently? When was the last time Britain acted without the approval of US imperialism?

The massive US arsenal didn't deter the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. It hasn't enabled the Nato powers to serve their own interests by dominating Afghanistan or the US superpower to avoid defeat in Iraq. The existing Trident system did not deter the 7/7 London tube and bus attacks in 2005.

The uncertain and dangerous world has arisen partly as a result of the military intervention of US and British imperialism and other powers in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

Instead of fostering stability and security, the upgrading of nuclear arsenals will give a new twist to the nuclear arms race, making the world even more unstable and dangerous. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 killed over 100,000 - even one Trident warhead has eight times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb.

Workers and communities in the area around Faslane, and in the defence industry generally who rely on the defence industry for jobs, rightly fear for the future should Trident be removed from the Clyde. There is little wonder about that given the ruthless way in which the British government is setting about the destruction of whole areas of public services with no regard for the thousands who will lose their jobs. Similarly the private sector is laying off workers in their thousands.

But socialists argue that the skilled workforce could be used for other work. Workers now employed in nuclear weapons systems, together with scientists and engineers, should be redeployed on projects that bring real benefit to society.

Britain requires much raw materials and food to be brought in on ships and yet there are no competitive merchant shipbuilders on the Clyde.

The level of technology involved in nuclear weapons is amongst the most advanced in the world. The skills used to produce and maintain them could be used to make socially useful equipment for use in the NHS, transport and to enhance the lives of human beings.

The large scale resources could be used to develop tidal power technology to give but one example of a socially useful alternative.

There is no end to the ways in which the 76 billion could be better spent. We need to popularise the arguments against the retention of nuclear weapons and for the development of alternative work for all those currently deployed on the nuclear weapons programme.

As socialists we are against all nuclear weapons. So how can we build a world free from weapons of mass destruction? We certainly can't rely on capitalist institutions whether it's the UN, Nato or any other of the so-called international bodies that oversee the domination of the world by imperialism, to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. Their utter failure to stop the proliferation of such weapons shows that the major powers have no intention of carrying out nuclear disarmament.

That's because there are capitalist interests at stake; power, prestige, influence, markets and profits. The desire by the capitalist powers to build arms stockpiles are an inevitable extension of their economic interests, making wars and the squandering of billons on arms inevitable.

For this reason the eradication of nuclear weapons needs a change in the social system of capitalism. A new and democratic society based on public ownership of industry and workers' control and management would form the basis of a socialist planned economy. One of its first tasks would be to end the wasteful expenditure on arms proliferation.

Let's spend the 76 billion earmarked for Trident on defending public services, jobs, wages, health and education. And relegate the nuclear arms industry to where it belongs, the scrapyard of history.

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