Why is the Smash EDO campaign still growing after four years? - Chloe Marsh

Chloe Marsh talks about the politics of the Smash EDO campaign, a campaign to shut down an arms factory in Brighton.

Well, starting at the beginning on our doorstep is an arms company that supports arms and is profiting from organised global terror. This factory, EDO-MBM, recently bought for a song by ITT Corp, is conveniently located halfway between Brighton town centre and Sussex University, on Home Farm Road Industrial Estate. For those who don’t already know the factory makes bomb release mechanisms, triggers essentially, for the smart and not-so-smart weapons that our government (and its allies) have been littering the world with over the last decade. I have heard people say “but they don’t actually make the bombs there” which is, technically, true. But, for bombs the same as guns- they’re no use without the trigger.

The campaign has gone from strength to strength even as resistance to and mobilisation against the war has been on the wane. For all good intentions, a campaign needs more than just outrage to sustain it. A campaign needs focus and drive, and we’ve managed that by a successful (if not so original) combo of regular demonstrations (every Wednesday for two hours for the last four years) and diverse direct actions. The regular demos provide a backbone to the campaign, and the actions give us the oxygen of publicity, as well as buoying up the spirits of people in and around the campaign.

A lock-on, or a demo in town or to the factory, gets EDO, the arms trade and the Smash EDO campaign into the ether of popular consciousness. From the news (mainstream and alternative) people get interested, and then find us via Indymedia, or by seeing our flyers & posters. From there some people take the logical next step and come along to the weekly noise demos, where they meet other activists, get on the megaphone, hold a banner and, possibly, join us afterwards at the pub.

As the campaign has gone on for so long now it has generated its own history- its personalities and key events. The SchMovies film ‘On the Verge’ has caught a lot of the best and most memorable moments on film. With this and various friends & supporters putting on benefit nights, the campaign has become a real focus for a lot of people- a movement of sorts.

The videos have really helped, especially ‘On The Verge’, which really helped bring Smash EDO to national attention. Thanks in no small way to the sterling efforts of Sussex Police, whose cack-handed attempts to ban the film led to major interest from the broadsheets. EDOs’ (failed) injunction case back in 2004/5 had a similar effect also.

Over the years EDO has been plagued by a scourge of Pixies- strange, obscure night time creatures who have at various times smashed windows and air-conditioning vents, splattered paint over the factory and trashed company cars during the dead of night. No-one knows who the EDO pixies are but they none the less continue to be active when no-one’s looking. But, beyond these things, the key factor underpinning the campaign is its sheer stubbornness. Many of the same people who where with the campaign at its inception in 2004 are still with it today; still banging pots and pans, still making banners, handing out flyers, writing press statements and generally giving up large chunks of their spare time. Alongside this, new people are joining all the time, bringing with them new ideas and creativity to Smash EDO.

This year Smash EDO has held two hugely successful street demonstrations in Brighton. At the first of these events, dubbed the ‘Carnival Against the Arms Trade’, over 800 people marched to the factory, broke police lines, smashed the company windows and trashed cars. At the Shut ITT demo in October, despite a huge show of force from Sussex and Hampshire police, demonstrators took to the woods and hurled bottles of paint at the factory from Wild Park. These demonstrations were pulled off despite police repression, one reason this succeeded was the tactic of wearing masks and of sabotaging the efforts of police Forward Intelligence Teams.

Although we haven’t shut them down yet, we’ve got quite a few tangible successes under our belt. We’ve helped them reduce their profits, directors have resigned, workers have quit (some of them didn’t even know they were making arms until we showed up!), and we’ve cost them hundreds of working hours over the course of the campaign. For a long time there was a debate inside the Smash EDO campaign about
whether we should encourage people around the country to set up their own local anti-militarism/arms/war campaign or whether we should instead get them to join us down in Brighton against EDO.

As it turns out, it’s proved a bit of a false argument really. What we’ve seen is that there’s been a whole lot of cross-fertilisation between us and other similar groups around the country. The people in Nottingham, for example, who protest against H&K arms, are the same people who are willing to travel to Brighton for our demos, and vice-versa. It’s really what’s needed to re-vitalise the whole anti-war movement: A network of local but mobile anti-war groups that plug away week after week in their part of the country, against their arms factory, military facility or whatever, but are able to rely on support from like-minded (and motivated) individuals and campaigns from around the country.

"Chloe Marsh is a Smash EDO campaigner and professional trouble maker. The next big demo will be a Mayday action on 4th May. For more info see www.smashedo.org.uk."