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Pamphlet Review ‘Think global, act local’ is still an important slogan

JAN WOOLF recommends a new post-Brexit analysis of how Britain can rejuvenate its manufacturing sector

Rebuild British Manufacturing — A Strategy for Revival

JUST launched is this latest pamphlet from Rebuild Britain, an organisation which emerged from Trades Unionist Against the EU (TUAEU) and which was a key element of the Leave campaign. 

Now that Britain has left, we’re no longer the island of designated financial services (Germany got industry, France agriculture in the EU super-state) and a domesticated working class with a compromised democracy. 

Yes, this is very broad brush, but the pamphlet records in well-researched detail the facts of Britain’s savage manufacturing decline during recent decades, and the causes — proposing a series of radical measures to promote sustainable manufacturing revival. 

This would involve a major expansion of the role of the state, and an empowerment of the working class, neither of which the neoliberal order want. There is no Leave/Remain divide here — but literally “common sense.”

The disappearance of so much of Britain’s historic manufacturing base has been devastating for communities. Look at how many families rely on foodbanks in Britain. 

We are almost back to the days of Hogarth’s urban poverty, and the level of homelessness is a human rights disgrace.  

There are hard economics here. Britain has persistently failed to invest, with the lowest level of investment in industry in the developed nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 

Countries make things to enrich their economies, sustain their people (both materially and emotionally) and to trade. 

They always have, and to “think global, act local” is still an important slogan. 

Local, by the way, isn’t just the corner shop or pub, but in this context a country whose progress is defined by the people who live there — however they got there. Anyone remember Lenin’s writing on The National Question?

The pamphlet argues that a primary cause of Britain’s chronic industrial weakness has been the long-term overvaluation of sterling, making exports expensive and imports cheap; and that managing the sterling exchange rate down to an economically appropriate level is necessary to underpin recovery in manufacturing.

A “Buy British” public procurement strategy is recommended — not from John Bull jingoism, but from enrichment of an economy that would benefit working people — in fact create working people, getting them off benefits, with all the indignity that entails. 

Other recommendations are:

• On-shoring of manufacturing production, especially of supply chains
• Effective government role in driving up domestic investment
• Legislation to ensure expansion in the national skills base
• State aids to sustainable, green industry and regional industrial support
• Expansion of public ownership, including nationalisation of the steel industry
• A commission for sustainable industry involving government, employers and trade unions
• Investment in skills and technical training. 

The pamphlet is also well designed and illustrated. Cost £2. Rebuild Britain is a broad, non-sectarian, independent organisation and welcomes input from others (rebuildbritain.org.uk)

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