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Year 2005 No. 77, June 10, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

A Concert against Militarism

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A Concert against Militarism

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A Concert against Militarism

On Sunday, June 12, a concert is taking place in Yeovil against militarism. Sponsored by Change Charity, the recital is being given by the composer and pianist Dave Smith under the heading "Music for Peace Industries", and subtitled "Convert Westlands, BAE Systems, RNAS Yeovilton, into Peace Enterprises". The recital starts at 3.00 pm and the venue is: The Octagon Theatre, Hendford, Yeovil, Somerset BA20 1UX. Details of the programme.

Yeovil and the surrounding region is home to AgustaWestland helicopters and Honeywell (which owns the former Normalair Garrett), as well as 845 Royal Naval Air Squadron (RNAS). This squadron operates as part of the Joint Helicopter Force in Iraq, with six Sea King Mk IV Commando helicopters (made by Westland) under its control, and its commanding officer is in charge of the entire military helicopter fleet in the south east of Iraq, which includes Basra.

The former MP for Yeovil was Paddy Ashdown, then leader of the Liberal Democrats, who is now High Representative of the European Union in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Its present Lib Dem MP is David Laws.

Honeywell is the target of the ongoing High Court case of Richard "Nibby" David, who worked for Normalair Garrett and concerns personal injury from depleted uranium (DU) poisoning sustained while working for the company.

The future of Westland helicopters in the mid-1980s was the issue that highlighted the rift in the Conservative Party reflecting the allegiance of various sections of the big bourgeoisie in Britain to the EU and the US, and which led to the resignation of Michael Heseltine of the pro-EU camp. Westland was recently taken over by the Italian military systems and aeronautics company of Finmeccanica. In January, Finmeccanica signed a partnership agreements with the British military monopoly BAE Systems (EuroSystems) in military electronics and with France’s Alcatel in the space sector (Space Alliance).

The recent struggle at AgustaWestland was been over hundreds of compulsory job losses, connected with the takeover of the company. Within the last few months, contracts have been announced for a £300-million deal to support the MoD’s fleet of Sea King helicopters (teaming up with BAE Systems and Thales UK), and for the renewal of the US presidential helicopter fleet. The MoD has also recently announced that Westland Helicopters’ Future Lynx aircraft was the "preferred option" for a key element of its future helicopter policy (which has been challenged as being politically motivated over its timing to win votes in the South West of England, and the £1 bn contract has yet to be signed, and is said to be no "done deal").

The unions Amicus and TGWU have welcomed these developments as securing jobs and preserving crucial skills. The campaign to convert military industries into peace industries, on the other hand, questions the lack of challenge to the militarization of the economy and the contribution of such military industries to war and aggression. The campaign is based on the premise that the needs of society and the environment and the interests of the workers can best served by the peaceful harnessing of the productive power of the workers and the skills of the engineers and scientists involved, the end of the reckless use of radioactive materials. It also challenges the chauvinism and neo-colonialism which prompts the government and the leadership of the trade unions to push ahead with militarism without raising the end use of aggression for war and conquest, and harming the unity of humanity for a better world.

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