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John Charlton

Bombs and Boots

(Winter 1964/5)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.19, Winter 1964/5, pp.28-29.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

£60 a Second on Defence
Raymond Fletcher
MacGibbon & Kee, 15s.

This little book is well worth an hour or two of one’s time. In a very readable way it gives a comprehensive factual account of the farce of British defence policy since 1945. The writer has two main themes: firstly, the massive waste of funds and technical skill on project after project, which did not start with the return of the Tories in 1951 – although it has reached its most sublime with the Swift Aircraft (£22 millions) and Blue Streak (£84 millions) – but when the Labour Government in 1945 cheerfully entered the arms race and presented Parliament with a bill for £100 millions in 1951, for unspecified atomic research; secondly, the persistent government secrecy and duplicity regarding plans and accounts. A Labour Party firmly committed to a bi-partisan defence policy can make no fundamental criticism, with the result that, as Mr Fletcher points out, Russian intelligence knows more about British Defence than do the British people. In his brief analysis of the causes of mounting costs Mr Fletcher pays no attention to the theory that the arms race plays an indispensable part in modern capitalism’s struggle against the damaging effects of over-production.

However, this criticism apart, the book is worth reading for its collection of useful figures on the background to the subject. How many people know, for example, that a short time ago the Army paid out £1,600,000 for 1,250,000 pairs of boots (enough for 5 pairs per soldier) only to find them surplus to requirements, selling them for £576,000!?

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Last updated: 4.9.2007