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Keith Mc Loughlin

Having demonstrated its aptitude in helping to manage the war economy, Labour won a landslide victory in the 1945 general election on the platform that, having won the war, Britain was ‘preparing to win the peace’. But the same government that founded the National Health Service was the same one that commenced a rearmament programme when relations between the capitalist West and communism deteriorated in the late 1940s. When a £4.7 billion rearmament package was announced by Labour’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Hugh Gaitskell, in 1951, three ministers resigned in protest, dividing the party for decades thereafter.

After a decade of bitter infighting, the election of Harold Wilson as Labour’s leader in 1963 granted the party a renewed sense of unity. But although the Wilson’s 1964-70 governments reduced defence spending not inconsiderably, his time in office was considered a failure. The promise of his ‘white heat of the technological revolution’ was not realised as Labour’s ambitious plans for economic expansion were undone by the objective of holding up value of the pound while the defence economy was sustained with costly military projects.

As global capitalism descended into crisis while a more peaceful détente characterised Cold War relations in the 1970s, the left felt that the state needed to overhaul industry by converting the defence economy to socially useful production. Within the 1970s’ ‘marketplace of ideas’ to reverse Britain’s economic decline, the left set its sights on the undoing of the military-industrial complex to achieve a socialist anti-militaristic economy.

in The British left and the defence economy
Keith Mc Loughlin

In the early 1970s the peace movement in Britain was a shadow of its former self. To ensure its own survival and adapt to the evolving climate of 1970s Britain, the peace movement gravitated towards political economy. Influenced by the Labour left and workers in the defence industry, disarmament activists focused on the military-industrial complex.

CND and the Campaign against Arms Trade (CAAT) focused on the defence economy and on the everyday worker forced either to facilitate the arms industry or to join the dole queue. By the late 1970s there was a vibrant network of activists, politicians and workers who generated a vision for an alternative future free of military commitments.

But the return of Cold War tensions, and with it the nuclear threat, restored much of the peace movement back to its more ‘traditional’ campaign issues of unilateral disarmament and opposition to American military influence in Western Europe, as the ‘single issue’ of banning ‘the bomb’ returned to the forefront of its narrative. Despite the deepening unemployment crisis, the peace movement was preoccupied with the placement of cruise missiles on British territory and the confrontational posturing on either side of the Iron Curtain. A unique opportunity to fuse materialist and moral arguments was lost.

in The British left and the defence economy
Keith Mc Loughlin

By 1975 the economic situation had not greatly improved, and another sterling crisis a year later led to an intervention by the International Monetary Fund which demanded further cuts to the social services. With domestic economy in crisis, the left felt that an alternative defence review, one much more radical than the government’s, was required to alleviate the strain on the economy and convert weapons systems into equipment for hospitals and housing in meeting the needs of society’s most vulnerable people. This chapter demonstrates how the left took on the defence economy for the remainder of the Labour government. In December 1974 the party’s international committee set up a study group to examine the economic and social implications of Britain’s defence industry.

However, just as it had during the government’s review, the defence economy survived. Labour ministers projected the defence economy as an example of sound economic management with the added bonuses of its upskilling workers, many of whom had left school at an early age, technological ‘spin-off’ to the commercial sector, a profitable arms trade and deterring the Soviet Union. This chapter shows how defence was a matter of political economy and an expression of moderate social democracy, one that sought to work within the capitalist system rather than break with it. For all its endeavour, the political left had failed to change the Labour government’s policy.

in The British left and the defence economy
The case of Lucas Aerospace
Keith Mc Loughlin

Since the late 1960s the workers at Lucas Aerospace had advocated for ‘socially useful production’, rather than the company’s reliance on civil and military aviation. The ‘Lucas plan’, announced in 1976, provided a comprehensive blueprint for military-industrial conversion, with the workers even making prototypes of kidney machines assembled from the same technology used for defence purposes. The Lucas Aerospace workers embodied the idea of socially useful production and contributed to its definition as a term in political economy.

However, the workers were rejected by the company management, the Labour government and the trade unions. Situated in the context of the defence economy, the Lucas workers and their struggle to achieve socially useful production demonstrated how entrenched the military-industrial complex was in 1970s Britain. At every step of the way, the workers were impeded by the company management, the sectional interest of certain trade unions and a Labour government that considered the workers a threat to a most valuable industrial sector. Distinct from the academic and political spheres already discussed, here was an example of factory workers challenging the profit motive from within, risking their own jobs in the process.

Availing of detailed archival resources, this case study demonstrates that despite the Labour government’s professed support for ‘industrial democracy’, the corporatist settlement of business, politics and mainstream trade unionism shielded the arms industry from an irritating intrusion.

in The British left and the defence economy
Abstract only
Lucia Ardovini

The Conclusion presents a summary of the main points covered in the book, putting the emphasis on the defining characteristics of the post-2013 context. These are the fact that the Brotherhood has grown increasingly fragmented along strategic, ideological and organisational lines. The movement faces several challenges while trying to rebuild in exile, yet, some of the main questions that it needs to address are what kind of organisation it wants to be moving forward, and whether or not its leaders are willing to renegotiate the relationship between the movement and its members in order to maximise survival and resilience.

in Surviving repression
Abstract only
Lucia Ardovini

Chapter 5 looks at the main demands that members are advancing in the post-2013 era and outlines the current splits that are dividing the Brotherhood. It shows that, while there is a collective commitment to the movement’s survival, there is a growing disconnect between those who aspire to just that and those who instead want the movement to thrive despite the current circumstances. It traces ongoing debates over what kind of organisation the Brotherhood should be, moving forward, showing that questions regarding the balance of political and preaching activities have once again taken centre stage. It also offers an initial assessment of the current factions that have formed within the movement in exile. Overall, while the Historical Leadership remains in control of the movement, the vocal demands for new inclusive and democratic values are definitely growing among members in exile. While it is too early to speculate on whether or not real ideological and structural changes will be achieved, some degree of internal change is already underway.

in Surviving repression
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Lucia Ardovini

Chapter 2 examines the Brotherhood’s fall from power, reporting first-hand accounts of the quick turn of events that unfolded in July 2013. It relies on members’ personal experiences to tell the story of the brutality that followed Morsi’s removal and begins by outlining the Brotherhood’s descent into deeply unchartered territory. The chapter traces the movement’s scattering abroad and outlines the unprecedented challenges that come with the dimension of forced exile, showing how the disintegration of established lines of command led to emergence of individual responses to repression. It takes a close look at the relationship between the Brotherhood and its members, focusing on the resurfacing of old grievances and the emergence of new ones. The chapter shows how the traumatic experience of renewed repression and exile accentuated the pre-existing divisions between the movement and its members, further aggravated by the lack of a cohesive response to repression. It concludes by showing how the challenges posed by reuniting in exile allowed members the unprecedented opportunity to reconsider their terms of belonging to the movement, outlining how their individual experiences of repression began to dismantle the collective identity that the Brotherhood historically relied on.

in Surviving repression
Lucia Ardovini

Chapter 1 outlines the early history of the Brotherhood, from its founding by Hassan al Banna in 1928 to the outbreak of the 2011 Arab Uprisings. It does so to provide a necessary background to the movement’s quick politicisation process that followed Hosni Mubarak’s removal, and to set the bases for the analysis of its political behaviour. It offers an account of the Brotherhood’s participation in the uprisings and examines its implication for the movement’s internal debates, identifying the schisms that emerged over the foundation of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the members’ grievances that were brought back to the surface. The chapter shows that the Brotherhood was already deeply divided before entering the political arena, as would be reflected in the running of the FJP. It then examines the FJP’s time in government, highlighting the contradictory political choices that fuelled popular discontent against the Brotherhood’s rule and revealed the lack of a concrete political project. It concludes by identifying four main factors that contributed to Morsi’s untimely demise. These are: the lack of a coherent vision of an ‘Islamist project’; the fact that the Brotherhood severely miscalculated the amount of support and legitimacy it actually had; its refusal to adapt to the changing circumstances, which then accelerated internal discontent; and the failure to successfully address the permanence of the deep state across state institutions.

in Surviving repression
Abstract only
Lucia Ardovini

The Introduction reviews the recent history of the Brotherhood, providing the necessary background to understand the significance of the new wave of repression and forced exile that the movement has been facing since 2013. It identifies the post 2013 coup period as a new era in the troubled history of the Brotherhood, arguing that a new analytical approach is needed to fully understand the internal transformations dividing the movement. In order to do so, it engages with the seminal works on social movements, repression and political Islam, arguing that to get a more complete picture of the various forces at play within the Brotherhood after 2013 one needs to shift the analysis to the level of individual members. Doing so allows it to identify the main points of contention that are driving organisational renewal – these being questions around organisational identity, ideology, and the emergence of members’ individual agency.

in Surviving repression
Lucia Ardovini

Chapter 4 expands on the internal debates dividing the movement to focus on the ongoing polarisation around different responses to repression and on competing strategies to move past the current crisis. It shows that a significant novelty of the post-2013 context is represented by the fact that dissenting members, along with those who do not align with the Brotherhood’s official narrative, remain an active part of the movement. These behaviours were punished with expulsion prior to 2011, but the necessity to maintain unity and safety in numbers after the coup mean that the Brotherhood is characterised by an unprecedented diversity of voices and opinions. The chapter traces the development of two main trends to fight against repression: stagnation and adaptation strategies. It shows that the Historical Leadership takes a generally passive approach, treating the current crisis as yet another time of hardship and calling for unity in the face of oppression. This faction remains faithful to the Brotherhood’s historical strategies and refuses to answer the call for internal reforms that would allow the movement to better adapt to exile. On the contrary, the adaptation trend encompasses a wide diversity of voices and competing strategies that argue for a more proactive response to the current crisis. These are informed by the members’ increased agency and by the development of independent thinking against the Brotherhood’s official stance. By providing first-hand accounts of these strategies, the chapter outlines what the main future directions for the movement might be.

in Surviving repression