Monday, April 02, 2012
30 years ago Argentina invaded the Falkland/Malvinas Islands. The Socialist Party responded that “despite the wave of jingoistic hysteria in the press and its endorsement by Labour and Tory politicians alike, no working class interests in Britain, Argentina or the Falklands can be served by war”
At the time, we wrote:
"The hysteria and deception on both sides ensure that it will take a long time to purge the Falklands crisis of historical myth. It will be written up as an affair of honour; the Argentinians will describe it as a blow against foreign imperialism and the British as a defence of human rights. But the wars of capitalism have never protected human rights; in truth they have damaged those rights, at times destroyed them. Diplomacy—one of the practised arts of the capitalist system—cannot be an affair of honour; it must function by double-cross, concealment, treachery and lies. British and Argentinian servicemen went across the ocean to do battle with each other in their masters' cause. It was another doleful example of ignorant workers being easily duped by the empty jingoism of desperate politicians." Socialist Standard May 1982
Later, we wrote:
"This victory in a far away place was remarkable for its effect on the British political scene. Since the end of the war British armed forces had not enjoyed a string of unqualified successes; among their most stressful experiences was the Suez campaign in 1956, which was little short of humiliation for British interests in the Middle East. At home the 1970s were notable as a time of economic decline, with unemployment reaching three million. In this situation the effects of a British military victory reached far beyond the battle zone, encouraging workers to believe that although they were on the dole there was still something to be said for being able to call themselves British. In 1982 this particular delusion was called the “Falklands Factor”. According to Thatcher, “it is no exaggeration to say that the outcome of the Falklands War transformed the British political scene… but the so-called Falklands Factor was real enough. I could feel the impact of the victory wherever I went”. One of the places she went to was Cheltenham Racecourse, to address a Tory party rally, where she exulted that after the Falklands victory “…we rejoice that Britain has re-kindled that spirit which has fired her for generations past and which today has begun to burn as brightly as before”. To encourage the mood and flavour it with a bit of Battle of Britain memories, Vera Lynn was recruited to sing The White Cliffs of Dover at the victory parade."
Socialist Standard November 2006
For Thatcher it was crucial; if the British Task Force had failed to re-take the islands she would probably have gone down as well. After defeating “the enemy without” (the Argentine forces) she could then turn her attention to what she called “the enemy within” (the trade unions and particularly the National Union of Mineworkers.)
For the Labour Party opposition leader, Michael Foot, who has presented himself as “an incessant and inveterate peacemonger”, changed the course of the emergency debate in the Commons with a passionately belligerent speech demanding that there was “...a moral duty and political duty and every other kind of duty” to send in the task force to eject the Argentinian occupiers and who later, in the controversy over the torpedoing of the Argentinian cruiser Belgrano when it was sailing away from the battle zone, Foot was in favour of the attack, even if it did cost hundreds of lives. The murder of the mostly conscript crew of the Belgrano will no doubt be conveniently unmentioned in the patriotic reminiscences.
Such sentiments for liberty and human rights were never expressed for the 2000 Chagos Islanders who were "re-located" to make way for an American air-base on Diego Garcia and refused permission to return in defiance of the islanders repeated legal victories in the British courts. compare and contrast the forced removal of these British citizens (compensation of about £1,000 per person) with Britain’s resistance to the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands (also with a population of about 2,000) in 1982 at a cost of £2 billion pounds is poetic irony; an order-in-council agreed by the Queen in 2004 to ban the islanders from ever returning home for one population, and for the other, politicians promises of self-determination.
Our peace policy
The Socialist Party is unequivocally opposed to the world-wide capitalists system. We are opposed to it in Britain, Africa or in the South Atlantic. The rivalry over profits, trade routes, markets and raw materials which is generated by capitalism makes war inevitable. It follows from this that you cannot simply oppose war unless you are out to end capitalism. Sadly, all too many workers, who are sincere in their belief that war is an outrage, nevertheless unwittingly support capitalism's conflicts by simply voting for capitalist politicians at election time, by remaining within political parties which are out to defend the capitalist system in its various forms and guises. It is futile to try to remove an effect without removing its cause. Thus campaigning against war now, whilst not objecting to capitalism, simply means that you will be out again protesting when the next war breaks out. Workers have no country. Nationalism is based on the lie that workers have their own country; that the British have an obligation to Britain and likewise with the workers of Argentina. Workers who do not own or control Britain have no obligation to the bosses who do own and control it. Our sole interest is in co-operating with our fellow workers across the world who similarly have no country. Why should we die defending what is not ours and which we will never benefit from? On the contrary, our object is to obtain what is not now the possession of our class - the Earth and its resources. The only war that need concern us is the class war between the parasites who possess and the workers who produce.
What we advocate is a war on war to be waged on the battlefield of ideas—for the hearts and minds of the world's people. And once we unite there will be no force that will stop us taking the Earth into our common possession. There will be no socialism without socialists to bring it about, just as there will be no capitalism or war without workers to support such insanity.