1980s >> 1982 >> no-931-march-1982

Pamphlet Review: The Future of British Aerospace

The Future of British Aerospace, AUEW-TASS, price 50p.

This pamphlet imparts a great deal of interesting information, in spite of the self-proclaimed bias of its standpoint. To quote the front cover, we have here “A policy statement by TASS, the Union that fights for British Engineering”, and the policy it enunciates is openly designed to increase the British Aerospace share of the market at the expense, inevitably, of its competitors and the livelihood of the workers employed by them. It is at least a relief that little or no attempt is made to deck this policy with garlands of confused and misleading names. TASS has had a bad track record in the past, and their use of political terms should be viewed with suspicion.

TASS is confused on a number of issues. For instance, it correctly points out that following “denationalisation” a year ago, employee shareholding is only just over 3 per cent of the share capital despite a free issue and some shares being sold at half price, the vast majority being held by City institutions. The latter are then condemned because their “raison d’etre is profit making”, as if capitalism could exist on any other basis. Even so-called “public” transport outfits which operate at a loss are allowed to do so only because their cheap services allow higher profits to be made elsewhere. And even if employee shareholding could be raised to a level to allow participation in policy making, the same capitalist pressures would force the same profit oriented decisions as at present. It is also clear that TASS remains wedded to nationalisation and Keynesian economic theories. Government money only differs from private investment in the aerospace industry in as much as it may not require such a quick return, but sooner or later the return must come or cancellations, closures and redundancies follow.

The pamphlet abounds with advice to the British Government on how to conduct its business. Some of this may be heeded, but governments have to consider on a broad base the interests of the capitalist class they represent. One issue has caused TASS considerable embarrassment. Two-thirds of the business of British Aerospace is on the military side, and TASS has had trouble in reconciling its aerospace policy with a long standing commitment to press for a reduction in arms expenditure. The pamphlet reminds us again of the historical role of military technology as the pace-setter for new developments, and it has largely been drafted by workers engaged on military aircraft whose idea of their own interests goes no further than trying to expand the area of their wage slavery.

The growth of multinational projects such as the Airbus and Tornado is supported by TASS, who could scarcely do otherwise in view of the industry’s cash flow problem. This stance, however, is scarcely consistent with their super-nationalistic tub-thumping, which demands withdrawal from the EEC in addition to its self-appointed fighting role on behalf of British industry.

E. C. Edge