At the heart of the birth and development of our working class – and hence of the nation itself – is making things, “manufacturing”. The knowledge, skills and research that went into the development of industry have created a national working class and culture that can take us beyond the catastrophically failing capitalism we see today. Manufacturing, with the rich array of skills and social activities that flows from it, is our life blood. Revitalising it, reinvesting in it, is essential for the health and strength of both our class and nation. Such a boost could point a way out of the current economic crisis.
But capitalism is solely interested in its own survival now. Overseas conquest, wars, import of cheap, undercutting labour and divide-and-rule are among its armoury of techniques when profits are under pressure. It is in manufacturing, where skills are highest and awareness of this class struggle is most acute, that the capitalist class always attempts to act decisively against workers who resist.
Hence the long history of repression: the Combination Acts against the formation of trades unions in the 19th century, the Defence of the Realm Act in 1916 and Thatcher’s anti-union legislation (never repealed by Labour) in the 1980s. There was a protracted fight against Thatcher’s destruction of manufacturing. Yet following Thatcher, Labour presided over a blitzkrieg on manufacture, its skills and jobs. Big but shrinking unions responsible for resisting failed in the task, merged and dared not rock the Labour boat. It has taken the reality of capitalism in absolute decline to reawaken the spirit of resistance and a realisation that workers themselves could run the show much better in our own interests. Workers at Lindsey Oil Refinery have shown how to take the initiative.
And at the heart of that vision is manufacturing: Do we want a thriving island nation or a wasteland? Only a revitalised industry, with all the skill, research, standards and culture that go with it, can keep us alive. The potential is tremendous. The old Victorian infrastructure needs thorough renewing – the water and sewers, rail and waterways for example. That backbone of manufacture, steel, must be revived Britain, brought into our own hands again.
Underpinning the whole of manufacturing of course is the power needed to do the job. And that’s where having our own energy production – again, in our own hands – is vital. We have the ability to benefit massively from such technologies as safe nuclear energy production, deep ocean oil extraction, clean coal mining and other projects resulting from innovative research. All feeding into and in turn revitalising both school and higher education for future generations.
Let’s make a start in achieving all this – take the initiative.