This Saturday, campaigners in Liverpool will be protesting against plans to host the Electronic Arms Fair in the city. The local council is complicit in this scandal. The labour movement must mobilise to stop this display of destruction.

This Saturday, campaigners in Liverpool will be protesting against plans to host the Electronic Arms Fair in the city. The local council is complicit in this scandal. The labour movement must mobilise to stop this display of destruction.

Last month, on Sunday 29 August, ten people – including seven children – were murdered by a US drone in Kabul as they were waiting to be evacuated from the airport. This can only described as American state terrorism. 

The US claimed they were targeting the perpetrators of the IS-K atrocity, whose bombing of Kabul airport claimed 170 lives. Once again, the Afghan people were reminded that the actions of the imperialists can only add to their misery. 

And what misery! After a quarter of a million deaths, and many more injured, the attack on Kabul airport shows that the imperialists’ so-called ‘war to end terrorism’ was an abject failure. In reality, however, the war was always about securing the interests of US and British imperialism in the region.

Bonanza

Afghanistan war

The imperialists have suffered a crushing humiliation in Afghanistan. But the biggest price has been borne by the Afghan people, who have suffered not 20 but 40 years of western-backed war.

However, some in the West have done very well from the war – the maker of that murderous drone for one! Afghanistan has of course been a bonanza for the arms manufacturers, those dealers in death. 

A Brown University report put the total US arms spending in Afghanistan at $978bn. Wherever there is the misery of war the imperialists see only the potential for profits. As Lenin remarked, imperialist war is not just a terrible thing – it is “terribly profitable”.

The business of war can be very lucrative indeed. In 2018, MBDA UK made £82.3m profit after taxes. This is just the British subsidiary of MBDA Systems, which in 2020 reported it took €3.6bn in revenue and had a €16.6bn backlog of orders.

Stop the fair

The Liverpool Electronic Arms Fair planned for October is a gathering of the leading arms manufacturers whose products have been used in atrocity after atrocity. 

The fair will showcase Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest private weapons manufacturer maker of 85% of Israel’s drones; Raytheon, whose Paveway bomb is used with devastating effect by Saudi Arabia in Yemen; and MBDA, a conglomerate of Airbus (EU), BAE Systems, and Leonardo (Italy), makers of the Brimstone and Storm Shadow missiles used by Saudi Arabia.

In response, a vigorous campaign – Liverpool Against the Electronic Arms Fair – has been fighting to stop the event taking place for over a year. 

This should have been a relatively straightforward campaign, since the event is due to take place at the Arena Convention Centre, which is owned by the Labour-controlled Liverpool City Council. This is the venue used for many trade union conferences, as well as the Labour Party conference when it is hosted in Liverpool.

Excuses

Most Labour councillors and the Mayor, Joanne Anderson have signed up to a statement saying they “oppose the arms fair”. Yet despite this, the Mayor and council are saying they cannot actually stop this vile gathering because the centre is operated by a management company with its own directors! 

The campaign does not accept this excuse, and is challenging the council politically and legally. A letter sent by the campaign to councillors points out that they can – and should – sack the directors, and replace them with ones prepared to stop the event.

In a phrase that reveals the lack of democracy in Liverpool, the council CEO Tony Reeves, who was a director of the management company when the arms fair was booked, wrote that he “cannot allow” the council to cancel the booking as it would be unlawful. 

An old adage of the labour movement has been that it is better to break the law, than break the poor. Presumably in the view of the council establishment it is better to kill the poor than break the law! 

Incredibly, the CEO of the management company claims the arms fair is about making the world ‘safe’. Safe for whom we must ask – the workers and poor of the world, or those who profit from death and destruction?

Jobs not bombs!

JobsNotBombs

The Liverpool Arms Fair must be stopped by the council, which should sack the directors responsible. 

If it is not cancelled, the trade unions and the Labour Party must organise a mass mobilisation to physically blockade the fair and prevent the event from taking place; and pledge to refuse to hold future labour movement conferences at a venue that enables the arms trade. Already the joint general secretaries of the NEU have agreed to put a boycott to the union’s NEC.

The arms industry must be nationalised under workers’ control. Only then could its advanced factories and technologies be repurposed towards producing socially useful goods, such as those needed in the fight against climate change and to improve healthcare.

This is what was advocated in the famous Lucas Plan, drawn up by workers in the arms industry over 40 years ago. These demands are as relevant now as they were then.

This is one battle in one front in the war on capitalism. Imperialism is the cause of the wars fuelled by the arms trade. Until it is defeated through revolution, then the cycle of misery and suffering will continue. 

This is one more example where the words of Rosa Luxembourg ring true: that the choice facing humanity is between “socialism or barbarism”.