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From The Socialist newspaper, 20 January 2016

Trident debate: socialist programme needed

Rob Williams

Just a month after the furore over the Syria bombing vote, Jeremy Corbyn is facing a new challenge as the debate about renewing Trident hots up. Cameron is expected to bring a vote as early as the spring.

However, an article in the New Statesman ('How worried should Jeremy Corbyn be about Len McCluskey?') raises that this time, as well as the Labour right, he will be met with opposition from some of the leaders of the affiliated unions -notably Unite and the GMB who have members in naval shipyards and the submarine bases.

The soon to be retired GMB general secretary Paul Kenny told the World at One on BBC Radio 4: "If anybody thinks that unions like the GMB are going to go quietly into the night while tens of thousands of our members' jobs are literally swannied away by rhetoric then they've got another shock coming."

Trade unions

The GMB under Kenny's leadership didn't nominate a candidate in the Labour leader contest.

But Unite did call for its members to support Jeremy Corbyn and committed resources both in terms of personnel and finance to the amount of over 110,000. Unison's Dave Prentis has also been quick to criticise Corbyn, saying: "Divisive rows over Trident or shoot to kill are distractions no one needs."

Many members of all three unions will be furious that their union is associated with another attack on Corbyn, particularly one that could be very serious to Jeremy's position, while they are far less vocal and public in calling for a serious fight against council cuts, for example.

Already right-wingers are calling for a 'free vote' on Trident renewal, opening up the prospect of a repeat of the treachery over Syria which saw 66 Labour MPs vote against Corbyn and for the bombing.

Some of these Blairite MPs are attempting to falsely contrast themselves with the Corbynistas by setting out their credentials as being in the 'real world'.

Class position

That's why it is essential that Corbyn has a class position on Trident, which is used by British capitalism to justify its place in the world imperialist elite.

In an interview on the Andrew Marr show, though he correctly emphasised the importance of defending jobs, Corbyn also floated the idea that the submarines could continue without nuclear weapons.

This will only confuse workers. It is similar to the position taken by Michael Foot in the Falklands War of supporting the dispatch of the taskforce but not its use!

Corbyn should stand for a refusal to renew Trident (at an immediate estimated cost of 35 billion to a lifetime of 100 billion).

But this has to be posed as part of an anti-austerity programme that refuses to implement any more cuts and stands for investment in the NHS, public services and education. Making a stand against Trident would do away with the 30 billion funding gap in the NHS at a stroke.

But it would have to go much further. A socialist programme would also involve the nationalisation of the arms companies as part of a rational plan of production that would include protecting jobs and the full re-training of the workers in the bases and shipyards and the arms industry generally.


The workers themselves should be central to devising such a programme, just as the Lucas Aerospace shop stewards did in the mid-1970s when faced with closures and mass redundancies.

Jeremy has said in the past that part of any savings would be used to prevent any redundancies and loss of pay. This must be really spelt out now.

This would lift the sights of these workers and their communities who are now concerned that refusing to renew Trident would be a catastrophe for them and their families.

The affiliated unions should be at the forefront of a campaign that strikes a blow against the British capitalist establishment and their supporters in all parties but also ensures a real sustainable future for the workforce.

Stop Trident demo

27 February, central London

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In The Socialist 20 January 2016:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Unite the fightback: Coordinated strikes needed

United workers' action can save NHS

Water firms' 1.2bn in profit off human need

Political policing: Met spy targeted socialists

Trident debate: socialist programme needed

Housing crisis reaches level of 1960s

Civil service: 1bn on consultants

Outrageous attacks on Corbyn for 'sexism'

Them & Us

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1986 Wapping strike - Defeat of the print unions

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

People's Budget meeting success

Carmarthenshire Unison campaigns against council cuts

Unite the Union local government committee votes for no-cuts budgets

Preparing a no-cuts people's budget

Momentum and democracy in Hackney and beyond

Angry Labour meeting puts councillors under fire

Gateshead carers oppose respite centre closures

Celebrating Eleanor Marx's birthday

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Nationalise Tata to save steel jobs!

Tube workers to strike again to defend jobs and conditions

Reinstatement victory for John Vasey

Shop workers lobby council against Sunday opening

Workplace news in brief

International socialist news and analysis

USA: Fight the billionaire class!

China: Financial turmoil spreads fear across global markets

Northern Ireland: Defy anti-abortion laws

Socialist Party comments and reviews

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