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From The Socialist newspaper, 25 June 2008

Britain: No.1 arms dealer

BRITISH CAPITALISM produces far fewer manufactured goods than in the past, but in one sphere it's a world leader. Last year, it was the world's largest exporter of arms.

UK companies won £10 billion worth of new armaments orders last year - a 33% share of the world market according to the Defence and Security Organisation, which promotes Britain's defence industry. Britain displaced the USA from the arms top spot for the first time in many decades.

The Labour government started its term of office in 1997 speaking of instigating an 'ethical foreign policy'. So who are our 'ethical' government authorising and encouraging sales to?

Number one importer from Britain was Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy whose reactionary politics and lack of allowing democratic rights give its élite phenomenal wealth. Last year the Saudi government placed an order for Typhoon aircraft valued at £4.3 billion.

Typhoons are made by a consortium headed by British arms manufacturer BAe Systems. BAe is accused of paying £1 billion in bribes to the Saudi ambassador to the US, in return for assistance in securing an earlier £43 billion deal. New Labour ministers stopped the Serious Fraud Office's investigation into BAe's Saudi dealings as "not in the national interest." Highly ethical.

Workers are getting jobs at these firms at present but recession is likely to hit here as well. Socialists argue for these factories to be democratically run by workers to manufacture socially useful goods instead of deadly weapons of mass destruction.

Roger Shrives

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