Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/885/22065
Trident debate: socialist programme needed
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."
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'.
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
In The Socialist 20 January 2016:
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