Transforming arms manufacture into socially useful jobs: the Lucas Plan revisited

7 November 2016 - 11:45am

War on Want is supporting the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Lucas Plan and the opportunity to debate socially useful work and ending the arms trade.

The Lucas Plan was a pioneering proposal by workers at the arms company Lucas Aerospace to retain jobs by proposing alternative, socially-useful applications of the company’s technology and their own skills. Created in 1976, it remains one of the most radical and forward thinking attempts ever made by workers to take the initiative directly to change the direction of travel for their industry. The Plan showed that with political will and support, disarmament did not have to mean thousands of workers losing their jobs. One of the inspired aspects of their initiative was involving workers and the local communities in coming up with ideas, technologies, markets and products. This also created space for building solidarity and also for political debate and mobilisation.

Wars on Want’s origins are rooted in the idea that resources should be used to fight poverty and injustice not wars. Ending the deadly arms trade and the private military and security industry that fuels conflicts remains a core objective today. The Lucas Plan ideals are as relevant to our work as ever.

The Lucas Plan was ahead of its time. The Financial Times described the Lucas Plan as, ‘one of the most radical alternative plans ever drawn up by workers for their company’ (Financial Times, 23 January 1976). Yet the Thatcher era that followed swiftly put an end to it.  Concern for social purpose was replaced by neoliberal ideology in the national discourse and the space and resources for discussion and creating new ideas were weakened by the loss of Union power and the dismantling of the Greater London Council .

Forty years on and the role of corporations in driving technological developments in ways which can be harmful remains strong. The UK arms trade is one of the largest in the world. We must remain vigilant against corporate greed leading to conflict.  War on Want’s position against nuclear (Trident) renewal and our campaigns to Stop Arming Israel and to end the unchecked growth of private military and security companies are vital in this.

There will be a Lucas Plan Anniversary Conference on the 26 November in Birmingham to mark the 40th anniversary and look at the relevance of the plan today. Book tickets here. The conference will focus on 5 key themes:

•             The Lucas Plan and socially useful production.

•             Arms conversion and peace.

•             Climate change and a socially just transition to sustainability.

•             The threat to skills and livelihoods from automation.

•             Local/community economic and industrial planning.

We must fightback against corporate control of technology in the arms and security industry that fuel conflict and create poverty worldwide. 


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