November’s solemn ceremonies of remembrance seem like faded echoes of distant things. 1914-18, The War to End War. 1939-45, The War Against Fascism. So why have the USA-UK allies been attacking some country or another for decades? To be clear, these nations haven’t declared war. We’re attacking them. Yes, we should respect the bravery of forces who risk their lives, but we can still ask questions. What’s it for? Defeating the existence of ‘terror’? Total dominance by the USA? All that failed, and many countries are left in an ungovernable mess. Afghanistan, Iraq. What was the plan? A peaceful world?

In 2003 I marched against the Iraq war, as so many people did, including an obscure figure called Jeremy Corbyn. It was a huge moment, and probably the biggest demonstration ever seen in London. But Tony Blair, whether convinced or pressured, took us to war. Yet Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were smoke and mirrors. More lies have been revealed since, most recently a leaked White House memo indicating that Blair backed military action a year before seeking a vote in parliament, and more can be expected once the Chilcot Inquiry sees the light of day.

Sheffield’s not a military town, despite the big army recruitment office near where the Jobcentre used to be. We don’t really want to be making weapons, but it’s no secret that ‘defence’ has long been a big customer of the steel mills. The arms industry distributes production of parts, so it’s a certainty that many of Sheffield’s high-tech manufacturers have contracts. Workers may not even know what they’re producing – just more components, identified only by numbers.

Two years ago this month, University of Sheffield students were injured as they were dragged from a protest in the Octagon Centre. They were objecting to the involvement of weapons manufacturers in the engineering careers fair. They knew that their pain was nothing compared to that caused by drones, for example, which indiscriminately kill whole families. That same year, the University announced its part in the futuristic Factory 2050 project. Funders include ‘defence’ companies.

Weapons making is not a productive industry. It doesn’t even make sustainable employment. On the contrary, despite exports partly subsidising it, each arms industry job drains taxpayers of over £12,000, according to a 2011 report. And it’s a dirty business. Family-run dictatorship Saudi Arabia is a insatiable customer, estimated to be the UK’s third biggest customer, after the US and Italy. Defence sales account for 40% of global corruption, by one estimate. That’s quite a boast, considering it’s up against things like extortion, drugs and people smuggling.

At least we have (up to now) the democratic freedom to express our disgust. For example, a comment on the University’s Facebook page: “How completely fucked up must our university be to boast about the government using our money to bribe weapons dealers into exploiting students for their murderous ends?”

Jeremy Corbyn could have been a Sheffielder. He’d be welcome here. He packed out supportive meetings in his recent visit to the area. He led the Stop The War campaign, until stepping down due to the Labour leadership. His credentials are excellent. Perhaps he will get a chance to lead the country in a wiser, kinder direction. Perhaps one day, remembrance of wars past will mean exactly that.

alt-sheff.org
Sheffield CND: crippskath@gmail.com


GHANA FARMERS VS GLOBAL CORPORATIONS

18 November | 7pm | Central United Reformed Church
Heidi Chow, Global Justice Now campaigner, visits Sheffield to talk about farmers in Ghana campaigning to stop pro-corporate legislation. Pressure from US AID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is pushing sales of patented seeds. The event includes two short films, with encouraging examples of ecologically beneficial farming. Refreshments from 6:45pm.
groups.globaljustice.org.uk/sheffield

CRITICAL MASS
27 November 2015 | 6pm | Meet outside Town Hall
Cyclists around the world choose the last Friday of each month to ride together in celebration of the bicycle as the most efficient and peaceful mode of transport. Get on yer bike for a musical wander around the rush-hour madness for an hour or so, then off to a backstreet pub for a friendly chat.
sites.google.com/site/criticalmasssheffield/home 

Hosted by Alt Sheff