Bombardier is a Canadian firm with a plant in Belfast that is building the wings for the company’s C-Series fighter jets. Responding to allegations from its US rival Boeing that its jets are being marketed at below cost price (thanks to state subsidies from the Canadian and British governments), the US government has threatened to impose punitive 300 percent tariffs.
Now, in a new twist to this trade dispute, it has been announced that Airbus is to be given, free of charge, a 50.01 percent controlling stake in the C-Series project. This extraordinary arrangement aims to let Bombardier get on with building the jets whilst Airbus uses its expertise in procurement and sales to help matters along.
Among other things, this means that the component parts of the jets are now to be assembled in an Airbus plant in Alabama, thus evading import tax altogether. Boeing is unamused by this latest wheeze, tweeting: “If Airbus and Bombardier think this deal will get them around the rules … think again”.
A company spokesman pointed out that the Airbus/Bombardier lash-up “looks like a questionable deal between two heavily state-subsidised competitors to skirt the recent findings of the US government”. (Bombardier to partner Airbus on C-Series jets, BBC, 17 October 2017)
The global market for fighter jets is no less saturated than is the global market for steel, cars, cocoa and every other commodity, thanks to the capitalist crisis of overproduction. All imperialist governments will employ every dirty trick in the book to beat their rivals, using subsidies, tariffs, sanctions, market-rigging and any other stick that comes to hand, all the while adopting a pious expression and preaching the virtues of a ‘level playing field’.
In this trade war that sets imperialist against imperialist, it is not in the interest of the British working class to support British imperialism against its economic rivals, but rather to wish a plague on both their houses.
Workers need to understand that increasingly cutthroat trade wars, with workers suffering on all sides, are an inevitable feature of imperialism in crisis and will end only when imperialism is overthrown. The last thing that workers need is to be turned into cannon fodder for imperialist wars, whether economic or military.
True to form, however, ‘left’ social democracy wraps itself in the flag – not the red flag but the Union Jack. Right on cue, Jeremy Corbyn popped up to urge the government to fight the trade war harder, accusing Theresa May of “foot-dragging” on the issue and telling her: “You must now act with strength of purpose in the national interest” and join the Canadian prime minister in summoning Boeing to demand that it drops its case. (Bombardier: Jeremy Corbyn urges PM to ‘summon’ Boeing, ]BBC, 2 October 2017)
If the Belfast factory closes, thanks to an overproduction crisis for which its workers bear no responsibility, those workers must demand full compensation, alternative employment and/or the opportunity to retrain – and insist that the real enemy is not ‘unfair foreign competition’ but capitalism itself.
The class interests of British workers will never be served by rallying behind the flag in the defence of decaying British imperialism, and least of all by championing the manufacture of British arms on Irish soil to be employed in imperialist wars.