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The socialist case for scrapping Trident and defending jobs

By Matt Dobson

The Conservative Westminster government is likely to bring a vote on renewing the Trident nuclear missile system to Parliament in 2016.

The government has put the bill at between £15bn and £20bn, but campaign group Greenpeace claims it will run to at least £34bn. Jeremy Corbyn and CND quote a figure of £100bn.

The massive expense of Trident renewal will be another facet of the building anger at the massive inequality in society and endless austerity.

A new generation of young people became anti-nuclear weapons and rallied against Trident in the movement for independence.

The SNP, who call for the removal of Trident from Scotland, use Trident as an issue to prove their “anti-austerity” credentials and to continue to raise the profile of independence. However, the SNP are committed to remaining part of NATO, even under independence.

Being a member of NATO means committing to use military force and weapons of mass destruction to protect the interests of other members.

Trident was also a key issue in the mobilisation behind Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader.

The general secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, has come out in opposition to scrapping Trident “because it will cost jobs”, despite current Unite policy being opposed to the renewal program. The GMB have also said they are opposed.

economic alternatives

Workers and communities in the area around Faslane on the Clyde where Trident is based, and in the defence industry generally, have genuine concerns about mass redundancies. This is an issue that the trade unions, socialists and the anti – trident movement need to address.

The Clyde has become a producer of warships and a base for the maintenance of Britain’s nuclear weapons.

It is a far cry from when it produced 90% of the world’s commercial ships. Workers’ fears come from the ruthless way in which British governments and big business have destroyed the shipping and other heavy industries.

Socialists argue that the skilled workforce could be used for other work. Workers now employed in nuclear weapons systems, together with scientists and engineers, should be redeployed on projects that bring real benefit to society.

The economy requires raw materials and food to be brought in on ships, which could sustain merchant shipbuilders on the Clyde. The level of technology involved in nuclear weapons is amongst the most advanced in the world. The skills used to produce and maintain them could be used to make socially useful equipment for use in the NHS, transport and to enhance the lives of human beings.

The large scale resources squandered by investing in nuclear weapons could be used to develop tidal power and other renewable technologies.

At a time when brutal austerity is being implemented. There is no end to the ways in which the planned investment in Trident renewal could be better spent. What is clear is that the workforce employed in the defence and arms industry should play a key role in drawing up an alternative plan for the jobs. This can involve re-skilling where necessary and diversification into socially useful employment.   

Trade union leaders and Jeremy Corbyn should use their authority to popularise arguments against the retention of nuclear weapons and, alongside workers in these industries, develop an anti austerity socialist strategy of alternative work for those currently employed at Faslane and other sites.


Socialists are against all nuclear weapons and unsafe use of nuclear power. We cannot rely on capitalist institutions such as NATO or the UN that oversee the domination of the world by imperialism to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction and constant conflicts.

There are serious capitalist and big business interests at stake; profits from arms production and sales, geopolitical power and prestige. Under capitalism the major powers will always rather stockpile arms than co-operate for nuclear disarmament.

For this reason the eradication of nuclear weapons needs a fundamental change in the social system. A new and democratic society based on public ownership of industry and workers’ control and management would form the basis of a socialist planned economy.

One of its first tasks would be to end the wasteful expenditure on arms proliferation. The building of a socialist society would also have to be on an international basis.

Socialist Party Scotland says:

  • No to the renewal of Trident. Scrap the existing Trident system.
  • Radioactive material from warheads should be permanently disposed of as safely as possible, under trade union supervision.
  • Workers employed in production of weapons of mass destruction, together with scientists and engineers, should be redeployed on projects for real benefit to society.
  • The investment planned for the new nuclear weapons should be spent on socially useful mass investment into public services and infrastructure projects such as a mass building program of council housing, and giving a future to young people.
  • Public ownership of the major arms and defence corporations under the democratic control of the workforce. For the workers in the industry to play a lead-role in the drawing up of a diversification plan to provide alternative employment on a sustainable basis.
  • No to imperialist wars, bombing interventions and occupations. No to NATO and the high tech arms race!
  • For a socialist world and unity of workers and young people in a struggle against austerity, the profit system and war.