The British left and the defence economy

Rockets, guns and kidney machines, 1970-83

By Keith Mc Loughlin

The British left and the defence economy


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4401-0
  • Pages: 232
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: March 2022
  • BIC Category: Society & social sciences / Political ideologies, Society & social sciences / Political parties, Modern History, British Politics, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / 20th Century, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / General, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Communism, Post-Communism & Socialism, Humanities / Postwar 20th century history, from c 1945 to c 2000


Forty years before COVID-19, socialists in Britain campaigned for workers to have the right to make 'socially useful' products, from hospital equipment to sustain the NHS to affordable heating systems for the impoverished elderly. This movement held one thing responsible above all else for the nation's problems: the burden of defence spending. In the middle of the Cold War, the left put a direct challenge to the defence industry, the Labour government and trade unions. The response it received revealed much about a military-industrial state that prioritised the making and exporting of arms for political favour and profit.

Looking at peace activism from the early 1970s to Labour's landslide defeat in the 1983 general election, this book examines the conflict over the cost of Britain's commitment to the Cold War and asserts that the wider left presented a comprehensive and implementable alternative to the stark choice between making weapons and joining the dole queue.


1 The left and the defence economy in the early Cold War
2 Guns before butter: Labour's defence review
3 Taking on the defence economy
4 Workers and the defence economy: the case of Lucas Aerospace
5 Post-material protest? Peace activism and the defence economy
6 The defence economy, the left and the 'second Cold War'


Keith Mc Loughlin is a Lecturer at the University of Bristol

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