The British Left and the Defence Economy: Rockets, Guns and Kidney Machines, 1970-83
21 March 2022
by Keith McLoughlin
Forty years before COVID-19, socialists in Britain campaigned for workers to have the right to make 'socially useful' products, from hospital equipment to sustain the NHS to affordable heating systems for the impoverished elderly. This movement held one thing responsible above all else for the nation's problems: the burden of defence spending. In the middle of the Cold War, the left put a direct challenge to the defence industry, the Labour government and trade unions. The response it received revealed much about a military-industrial state that prioritised the making and exporting of arms for political favour and profit.
Looking at peace activism from the early 1970s to Labour's landslide defeat in the 1983 general election, this book examines the conflict over the cost of Britain's commitment to the Cold War and asserts that the wider left presented a comprehensive and implementable alternative to the stark choice between making weapons and joining the dole queue.
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