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Blockading Britain's warhead factory
IT IS 7am on 9 April. We are walking towards the Aldermaston base where Britain manufactures its nuclear warheads. The entire area is crawling with police, and we try to look casual as the squad cars and vans roll past slowly. One has already stopped a hundred yards behind us.
Hugh Thompson, Southampton
A well-publicised blockade like this entails good planning and playing games with the police, who have been photographing and following vehicles since yesterday.
Suddenly, part of our group step into the road with banners and placards, blocking off traffic, and we seize some hidden 'lock-on tubes' hidden the night before in the undergrowth on either side of the road.
The police start running but soon we are clipped together, arms in the tubes. The police start radioing for cutting teams and the essential cups of sugary tea.
The lock-on tubes obscure where our arms are linked, so blockaders must be cleared with care and heavy duty cutting gear. We close off this major road into Aldermaston for over two hours, and together with four other groups, we disrupt work at the base for about three hours.
Those who blockade are usually arrested and released later in the day, with a caution for first-time offenders.
Blockading weapons facilities at Aldermaston and Faslane in Scotland is the main form of direct action campaigners use to protest at Britain's production and maintenance of genocidal nuclear weapons. These weapons cost billions, create global insecurity and line the pockets of powerful corporations like BAe Systems. Aldermaston itself is almost entirely privatised, with the work contracted and subcontracted out to numerous companies.
I took part in these blockades as a socialist but the anti-nuclear direct action movement includes anarchists, greens and many others who repeatedly face prosecution to make a stand against Britain's WMDs. One contradiction in blockading a base like Aldermaston is that the most effective actions are often not given much publicity because they don't initially attract a big police presence. But larger events with non-violent direct action and involving participants in political discussion are essential to attract new people to the movement.
Direct action can be an important tool in raising awareness and carrying out struggle. But mass participation is essential to achieve success, such as mass non-payment during the battle against Thatcher's poll tax. Direct action needs to be linked to a national campaign that publicises the action and draws in more people.
As part of a clear way forward for the anti-war, anti-Trident movement, well co-ordinated blockades by thousands of young people could shut down the bases for days and help to reinvigorate the anti-war movement.
It will also be essential to build on current efforts to contact workers at these facilities and show our commitment to guaranteeing jobs, on nuclear decommissioning and jobs outside the nuclear industry. We oppose the capitalist warmongers, not ordinary people who must work to survive.
From 28 June to 3 July there will be a mass student blockade of the Faslane nuclear base in Scotland as part of the Faslane365 campaign to blockade the base for a whole year. You do not have to risk being arrested, just come along to discuss ideas and show your support for blockaders at the 'Strident' camp nearby.
ISR will also be organising protests and campaigning stalls around the country to coincide with the Faslane blockade. To get involved in events in your area contact us on 020 8558 7947 or
firstname.lastname@example.org, or see www.anticapitalism.org.uk
In The Socialist 19 April 2007:
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party editorial
Campaign for a New Workers Party
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis