There are few industries with as much to be ashamed of as the arms trade. It is a trade that for generations has profiteered from grotesque human rights abuses and deadly wars and conflicts. Every year its weapons facilitate the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, as it hands over extortionate profits and dividends to rich businessmen that appear to care little for the damage done by their wars.
As the nation marks Remembrance Day you might expect that if there is one industry that should be keeping a low profile it’s the arms trade.
Unfortunately not. Despite its history of war profiteering it has only been too happy to exploit the legacy of those who have died in conflicts and to brazenly associate itself with the annual memorials.
One arms company that has a long and inglorious history of arming some of the world’s most brutal dictatorships, Thales, has taken the opportunity to brand the entrance of Westminster underground station with a poppy covered billboard.
Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest arms company, is the main sponsor of the British Legion Young Professionals’ Poppy Rocks event. Unfortunately this is far from the first time that the Legion has taken money from the arms trade. The UK’s biggest arms company, BAE Systems, has been a long-standing ‘supporter’. In the past it has sponsored national poppy appeals and donated to fund-raising drives. It’s influence is still there, but now it keep a lower profile. This year they will be sponsoring the annual Poppy Ball white tie dinner, and specific offices and arms factories will be hosting their own local events.
The Legion has been co-opted for the interests of the arms trade before. In 2012 a newspaper investigation forced the then president of the Legion, Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely, to resign over allegations that former commanders were using their connections to lobby on behalf of arms companies. Kiszely himself told an undercover reporter, who was pretending to work for a South Korean arms company, that the annual Remembrance Day ceremony was a ‘tremendous networking opportunity’ before boasting of the access it gave him to powerful people.
All of these companies would rather we ignored the role their industry has played in enabling war, both during World War One and in subsequent conflicts.
The Arming All Sides project exposes the hidden history of World War One. It tells of how a global network of arms companies fuelled war by selling a new generation of advanced weapons to anyone who would pay for them.
It was this drive for profits at all costs that led British arms companies, Armstrong and Vickers – which later merged to become BAE – to sell weapons to the Ottoman Empire that would soon be turned on British soldiers.
Moreover, as international tensions created new business opportunities, some arms companies purposely created war scares in order to increase the arms race. For example, Herbert Mulliner, director of Coventry Ordnance Works, persuaded the British government in 1909, with the support of the Daily Mail, that Germany was secretly accelerating its naval programme. The scare stimulated massive naval expenditure and created an atmosphere of mutual suspicion, making war more likely. Even Winston Churchill later accepted that the claims were entirely false.
World War One was shaped by weapons. It was the first global conflict since the industrial revolution, and the new generation of mechanised arms led to devastating casualties. Attempts had been made to ban Chemical Warfare as early as 1899, but the arms trade persevered, and gas killed 25,000 on the Western front alone.
It’s for this reason that the tragedies of the time should never be forgotten, let alone airbrushed over by an arms trade that is trying to give the impression of legitimacy.
It is not just Remembrance Day that arms companies seek to exploit, it’s also other major civic events. Only last month Guildford Borough Council took the unusual step of suspending its own ethical sponsorship policy in order to allow it to take money from arms companies for Armed Forced Day in 2015. Likewise, this year drone company Selex ES was among the main sponsors of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Arms companies have also been more than happy to associate themselves with some of the country’s best known museums and attractions. The last few years alone have seen the Science Museum, London Transport Museum, National Gallery and Edinburgh Science Festival among those that have taken money from the arms trade.
Arms companies do not do this because they care about the war dead, or because they want to promote art and culture. They do it because it is good for their business. By agreeing to take money from arms companies these organisations are giving practical support and a veneer of credibility to an industry that profits from the same war and repression that they seek to commemorate.
Andrew and Matt are spokespeople for Campaign Against Arms Trade. You can follow CAAT on Twitter at @wwwcaatorguk
Hilary Wainwright argues against reclaiming populism for the left and for a leadership that supports people’s capacity for self-government
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’