The outcome of the General Election and the daunting prospect of continued austerity and increased cuts to public services has no doubt left many campaigners feeling deflated. There is no way around it- the next five years will be challenging and difficult.
While this isn’t clearly the political environment we hoped for (or expected), the election campaign showed how much main parties have in common when it comes to militarism and their approach to national security. In fact, Labour was the only party that explicitly advocated a growth in arms exports in their manifesto.
As countless articles and blogs have rightly pointed out, politics and democracy are not just about voting but about organising and creating together the conditions for wider cultural shifts. Now, more than ever, is a crucial time to make sure our message for better jobs and a safer world is heard loud and clear.
Lobbying MPs and the government can of course be valuable but substantial and long term change won’t start or end in the corridors of Westminster; the arms trade will continue to exist while it has public legitimacy and support to operate. We can take that away.
Build support in trade unions
Are you a member of a trade union? If so, your voice is crucial as we build consensus for a shift in public resources from supporting jobs in the arms industry to creating more and better jobs in the renewables industry. One action that you can take straight away is to get your union branch to pass our Arms to Renewables motion.
There are six million union members in this country – more than membership of all political parties combined – and their campaigning is needed if we want to build a wave of action to shift priorities. Equally, trade unions urgently need our support as the new government has already promised it will make striking virtually impossible.
If you are unsure about how to approach your union, please get in touch and we can help out!
More and better jobs
While many trade unionists oppose the sale of weapons to repressive regimes, there are also concerns about workers employed in the arms industry and replacement jobs. The reality is that there has been a long term decline in employment in the arms sector despite massive subsidies from taxpayers. We know most people who work in the arms industry have valuable engineering skills and these could be used for something more productive.
Our ground breaking research show how a move towards offshore wind and marine energy could produce more jobs than the entire arms industry.
By bringing our motion to your union branch you can encourage a positive debate about alternatives to the arms trade and build vital support for our campaign.
A bottom-up Just Transition
We’re talking about priorities which are deeply entrenched and getting trade unions that represent workers in the arms sector to support a shift in public resources will take time. However, in the last few years trade unions have started to seriously engage with climate change through new forms of environmental representation, anti-fracking policies and radical mobilisations. Most importantly, as it was mentioned at our National Gathering in March, change has to start from the workplace and local branches, not driven by a top down approach.
Just Transition has become popular in union circles as a way of protecting workers while also moving away from ecologically destructive industries. Let’s make sure that during this transition we also phase out the massive subsidies arms companies get, stop fuelling conflict and destruction and create more and better jobs.