|Issue 13 - June 1973|
|With land such
a scarce commodity, the British Armed Forces have been finding it increasingly
difficult to find enough field corners in which to bury its heroes,
failures and other unfortunate members. Instead it's had to resort
to shipping them back home to the family where they can be buried in
their local cemetery. Not surprisingly, most of these special deliveries
have been finding their way into the more unsavoury areas of Britain
- the council estates. Not surprising because, after all, most of the
'defenders of the realm' originated and lived the early part of their
youth in such dowdy quarters before finding that, on leaving school,
they were faced with only two alternatives in which to pursue life
- the dole (penniless and bored) or the armed forces (where apprenticeships
are two a penny and a life of happiness, fulfilment and 'adventure'
the norm). Large numbers opted for the second of the two.
Now, South Shields Trades Union Council has mounted a campaign against recruitment to the armed forces. They say that because of the high levels of unemployment in this area, the armed forces intensive recruitment campaigns directed at the local lads subject them to unfair pressure to sign up. For many lads the social pressure to get jobs they are subjected to, drives them to what they see as the only alternative to the dole.
As a protest, the Trades Council is organising picketing of local recruitment offices by trade unionists and it's also calling for the banning of recruitment campaigns in the towns and schools of the north-east.
The Trades Council is very concerned with the Army's role in Northern Ireland. What happens in Belfast today could happen here tomorrow. It could. Rumours have it that certain high ranking members of Her Majesty's Service have been voicing disapproval of the planning of many new towns and estates as they say they would be almost, if not totally, undefendable should the populations wake up and revolt. Too many approaches and exits; high rise blocks offering good sniping positions to activists; curved streets making it difficult to access crowd strengths and offering better chances of escape to the urban guerrilla etc. If only town planners would design with defence in mind, the Army would be a much safer place to be when it happens etc.
Malcolm Campbell, President of the South Shields Trades Union Council, summed up the Council's feelings when he said: "Young people from this area are being used as cannon fodder for the armed forces. For years the north-east and other areas of high unemployment have provided the bulk of rank and file recruitment. Young working class lads are being exploited before they really know what it's all about. They are being used in situations like Northern Ireland to suppress members of their own working class.
"The advertisements for the forces show a life of beer, birds and bingo. They never mention that you will be ordered to kill - and risk being killed. We will point this out to this year's school leavers. We will point out that the weapons and tactics they will be ordered to use and develop could be used against their own family and friends, workers, and trade unionists in this country. The Army Chiefs - Brigadier Michael Calvert and Brigadier Frank Ritson - are already preaching a policy of training of the armed forces to be used against strikers, students and other 'trouble makers'. The Tory party pamphlet 'In Defence of Peace' says that "the techniques of political terrorism must now be an integral part of every first line soldier's career".
"We will ask young potential recruits the question - 'when your officers order you to fire on your own people - in what direction will you point your rifle?"
The anti-recruitment campaign will be directed to school leavers, students and young unemployed persons over the summer months. All trade unionists and other sections of the labour movement are asked to join the campaign.