Manchester highlights death merchants

IssueNovember 2009
Feature by Andrea Needham

Brimar – a Manchester-based weapons manufacturer – is the latest armaments firm to feel the heat from campaigners. 17 October saw the launch of a new campaign “Target Brimar” with a colourful procession and Critical Mass bike ride to the company’s factory in Chadderton, where there were speeches, music, food and a children’s playspace.

Two of the EDO “decommissioners” – on bail for damaging equipment at the Brighton EDO weapons factory last January, during the Israeli attack on Gaza – were arrested for “associating” with each other, in breach of their bail conditions (in spite of taking great care to stay apart). They were released two days later.

Brimar makes components for weapons targeting and firing systems, systems used in Israeli and British Apache helicopters, US tanks, and US attack aircraft. So there is a direct link between the factory in Chadderton and the horrific attacks on civilians in Gaza, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The people behind Target Brimar have clearly done their homework, producing a well-researched dossier detailing Brimar’s activities, covering not only the use of Brimar systems around the world, but also the company’s history and current owners.

The dossier also takes apart the popular notion that weapons manufacturing is good for the UK economy, pointing out that the arms industry receives vast subsidies from the taxpayer (the equivalent of £13,000 per job per year) and diverts resources from other forms of manufacturing that could generate far greater employment and benefits to the economy.

This kind of detailed research forms a solid base for campaigning, and makes it much harder for opponents to beat activists with the usual “if we didn’t do it, someone else would” or “jobs, jobs, jobs” sticks.

Target Brimar follows in the well-trodden footsteps of other campaigns against arms manufacturers. (See the Smash EDO article inside for one example.)

The UK’s largest weapons maker, BAE Systems, has been targeted on many occasions, in large part for its sale of Hawk jets to Indonesia during the bloody occupation of East Timor.

There is also a proud history of nonviolent disarmament actions springing from such campaigns: British Aerospace ploughshares, Seeds of Hope ploughshares, and the EDO decommissioners have all taken direct action at factories to stop this immoral trade.

That the public often agrees with such actions when presented with all the facts – as shown by the acquittal of the Seeds of Hope women in 1996 – will bring no comfort to those in charge at the Brimar premises, who will certainly have studied these earlier campaigns.

Even now they may be double-checking their locks and reviewing their insurance policies.