Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 48 Number 8, March 24, 2018 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Militarisation of the economy

Investigating the Scale of Military Production in Britain

People should resolutely oppose a military direction for Britain. Militarisation of the British economy undermines peace in the world and needs to be brought to an end as part of the aim of an anti-war government. The government and Westminster cartel-party system are so inextricably connected with the interests of the imperialist monopolies and the state that fundamentally new arrangements are required to represent the general, peace-loving interests of society.

The sheer quantity of companies involved in military production and trade in arms is a clear indication of how much dependence has been created on this sector of the economy. The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) in its latest survey, updated in 2017, has highlighted as many as 416 British-based companies involved in military production or contracted work [1].

It is estimated that just 10% of GDP is currently attributable to actual manufacturing. However, Britain is still one of the largest economies and its manufacturing output ranks ninth in the world [2]. Furthermore, the extent of militarisation is such that much of this manufacturing is connected with military production. Large multinational companies BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Smiths Group are listed in the FTSE 100 index [3] as well as finding themselves in the top ten military-connected companies listed by CAAT. There are also many well-known manufacturing companies listed by CAAT as major arms manufacturers that are not part of the FTSE 100.

An investigation carried out for Workers' Weekly in 2011 looked at Oxford as an example of the militarisation of the economy [4]. It was found that there is a deep permeation of the military into diverse sectors of the economy.

Oxford Science Park, a joint venture between Magdalen College, Oxford, and Prudential Plc, contained over 50 companies at that time. Thirteen of the 54 companies listed as based in the Science Park readily turned up military links when their websites were searched. This represented about a quarter of the Park's companies. Some were well-known, such as the defence technology company QinetiQ.

Others were less well-known, such as Oxford Technology Management, the manager of the Oxford Technology Enterprise Capital Fund and four Oxford Technology Venture Capital Trusts, which specialised in funding start-up and early-stage technology companies in the Britain. The company had various military links. For example, one of its Venture Capital Trusts funds was a company called Plasma Antennas, which supplied antennas for military use, the customer being "a large defence company".

According to a report in 2009 by students campaigning for arms divestment, published on the Oxford Anti-War Action website, the University invested over £6 million in arms companies in 2008. At the time of the report, the University had investments in a number of such companies, including: BAE Systems (£807,456), Cobham (£140,194), Rolls Royce (£328,602) and Smiths Group (£201,081).

It is apparent that all sorts of production, research and development, and other kinds of economic activity are engaged in areas that either are directly for military ends or are using potential military applications in their marketing strategies. A significant proportion of production is geared towards or is influenced by military aims through a myriad of direct and indirect connections.

Take the Isle of Wight as another example. Manufacturing on the IoW is dominated by two major companies, both top of the CAAT list: BAE and GKN, which are two companies situated near to each other in Cowes. Both are heavily involved in military production, with BAE are top of the pile. BAE systems has its Maritime Services on Newport Road, Cowes, which is linked closely to Maritime - Naval Ships at the Old Iron Foundry in Portsmouth Naval Base. Their head office is nearby Warwick House, Farnborough, in Hampshire. BAE Systems is the world's third largest arms producer. GKN is a supplier to BAE as well as a partner to Rolls Royce and the Isle of Wight is recognised as the leading factory for carbon composite aircraft parts. GKN is itself listed in the top twenty by volume FTSE-listed companies, and is number 34 on the CAAT list.


[1] Campaign against the Arms Trade. The list of 416 companies includes some foreign companies with a large presence in Britain. The top ten in the list are: BAE Systems, Chemring, Leonardo, Thales, Excelitas, Rolls-Royce, Smiths Group, Meggitt, Switchblade International Ltd and Accuracy International.

[2] ONS,; McKinsey Global Institute; House of Commons Library, briefing paper, Number 05809, 5 January 2018

[3] FTSE 100 listed by Hargreaves Lansdown as of Wednesday, 7th March, 2018,

[4] Workers Weekly, "The Linking of Military and Civilian Life in Oxfordshire",


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