Nuclear weapons were suddenly back on the political agenda this week. They were in focus because of the determination of protesters at Faslane, and because the government is ready to do the bidding of the US and spend billions more on new missiles that could destroy the earth. The outcry against nuclear weaponry runs deep. At the Faslane protest police arrested over 370 people, including Scottish Socialist Party MSP Tommy Sheridan, Labour MP George Galloway and Green MEP Caroline Lucas. Nuclear weapons show Labour's priorities.
The government spends billions every year on the Trident nuclear programme while it squeezes welfare, education and the NHS. The lifetime cost of Trident, according to Sir Richard Mason, the former chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence, will be over £50 billion. The National Missile Defence project, which US president Bush wants Britain to be part of, will cost even more.
The Labour Party, which used to proclaim it was for disarmament and peace, is now an attack dog for the greatest military power in history. The fight against nuclear weapons is part of the struggle for a decent world, where people come before profit and nurses matter more than generals. It is a battle which needs to be taken into every workplace and community and be linked to other issues. They include the fight for jobs, against private business running our lives, and against the military power that stands behind the corporations.
Hoon gives help to his ally Bush
New Labour is ready to do what Bush wants, whatever the cost in global destruction and money, as these exchanges in the Commons show. Jeremy Corbyn (Labour):
'Does the secretary of state accept that the NMD 'Son of Star Wars' missile system is an extremely dangerous adventure, incredibly expensive for both the United States and any other country that participates in it, and completely at variance with the stated aim of the government that we were in favour of a non-nuclear world?' Geoffrey Hoon (defence secretary): 'No, I do not. As the United States is our closest ally, we would want to be helpful.'
House of Commons, Monday
Faslane has to go
Protesters stopped cars entering the north gate of the Faslane nuclear base on the Clyde on Monday. The organisers declared the blockade was the biggest, liveliest and most successful blockade since 1961.
Patricia O'Reilly from the Isle of Bute summed up the feeling of many young people when she said, 'This is just the start. The upcoming generation is not going to take it any more. Big business is getting richer, the poor getting poorer.'
There were delegations from all over the world. Groups represented included Trident Ploughshares, CND, Socialist Workers Party, Scottish Socialist Party, Green Party, SNP, various church organisations, People and Planet, Quakers for Peace, and Ninjas against Nukes. People sang and shouted, 'Say hey! Say ho! Faslane has got to go!' and, 'Nuclear weapons are insane-shut down Faslane!'
Nora Barnes, a student from Edinburgh, said, 'The government supports Trident against most people's opinion. The demo will not win straight away, but every bit of fightback counts. 'People are unhappy with the government. It's not doing what we want them to do.'
Morag Balfour, the SSP candidate in Glenrothes, was pulled from her wheelchair as she was arrested. She said that the protest against Trident is 'definitely growing. There's a groundswell of support.' Chris, a student from Newcastle, hitch-hiked up to Scotland to join the blockade. He'd also protested at the Hague climate conference.
Sheila, aged 75, had never been on a demonstration before. She said, 'I decided at the millennium I must do something. I've got grandchildren. What kind of world am I going to leave them?'
Haley and Rachael, two school students from Helensburgh, were on their first demo. Rachael's dad worked at Faslane, and Haley's left last year. John Harper, who was arrested on Monday, worked at Faslane for five years. 'I'm here protesting because I want to see Trident scrapped, and the money spent on hospitals and schools,' he said.
John knows from personal experience that accidents can happen. During manoeuvres a nuclear powered sub crashed into an undersea sand mountain in the Irish Sea. 'I've never been so scared in all my life,' he said. Further news came this week of Trident's dangers.
The Sunday Express reported, 'Defence chiefs are risking a nuclear disaster because a building at the Devonport base in Plymouth designed to refuel Britain's Trident submarines has serious safety flaws', and said that the navy was 'threatening every home'.
Latest socialist election success
Socialist candidates putting forward a clear left wing alternative to New Labour achieved excellent results in council by-elections last week. In Irvine North the Scottish Socialist Party's Jim Byrne won 300 votes, 28 percent of the total and just 85 short of the winning Labour candidate. The SSP vote was a crushing ten times as many as the Tories.
On the same day in Lewisham, south London, Socialist Alliance candidate Bob Gardiner took 18 percent of the vote, coming second and beating both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats. We are now just over ten weeks away from the expected date of the general election.
These two results show the possibilities of building a lively, energetic, campaigning opposition to New Labour It is time to get involved now, to get in touch with the local socialist election campaign, to plan what you can do, to talk to friends and workmates about the election, and to help raise money for the biggest possible left wing challenge to Blair.