Labour backs Thatcher’s war

As we go to press British troops have begun the final assault on Port Stanley. The British imperialist war in the Malvinas/Falklands has claimed a death toll nearing 1,000 with thousands more injured. All communists and democrats must totally oppose Britain’s reactionary war to conquer territory belonging to another nation. The working class and oppressed in Britain have nothing to gain from Britain’s imperialist aggression. On the contrary, this war has strengthened the most reactionary and anti-democratic forces in British society. A victory for British imperialism will immeasurably strengthen the hand of Thatcher and her government, of the British military establishment, and of the British ruling class as a whole. Thatcher’s ability to step up attacks on the working class and to further build up the repressive police/military apparatus of the state against the oppressed will receive an unparalleled boost from such a victory. The recent local elections in which the Tories did better than any government in mid-term elections since the war is a sign of what could come.

FRFI has no hesitation in placing full responsibility for these reactionary developments on the Labour Party. At every crucial moment the Labour Party has offered unstinting support for the British imperialist war drive. Labour and its decrepit leader Foot applauded and supported: the sending of the taskforce; the establishment of an exclusion zone round the Malvinas/Falklands; the cold-blooded and calculated torpedoing of the General Belgrano which was outside the exclusion zone – this act claimed 368 lives and was aimed at sabotaging any peace plans; the occupation of South Georgia; the relentless air and naval bombardment of Argentine positions and the 20 May landing of thousands of British troops on the East Falklands.

CND veteran and Labour leader Foot summed up Labour’s prostrations before British imperialism when he said of the landing:

‘our first concern in the Labour Party as in the country as a whole must be for their safety and their success.’ (emphasis added)

Let us look at the monstrosity to which Foot and the Labour Party have given their blessing.

The price of imperialist war in the Malvinas

To prosecute this reactionary war of colonial repossession the British government is not only prepared to casually sacrifice thousands of Argentine and British lives but is also spending literally billions of pounds to achieve its ends. Whilst throughout the world millions die for want of food and while poverty is growing fast in Britain itself, the British ruling class has so far spent around £1 billion on this venture. The cost of maintaining the task force for 21/2 months’ service is £256m. The cost of the Type 42 destroyer, two of which have been sunk, is £125m each; the cost of each Sea Harrier jet is £5m. The cost of each Skyhawk helicopter is £2m. The end total depends on how long and bloody the war is but the British state is willing and able to spend up to £15bn whereas it spends only £2bn on unemployment benefit.

Censorship, lies and secret diplomacy

By blessing this imperialist expedition Foot and Co are also giving support to an apparatus of censorship, jingoism, secret diplomacy, lies and deception. The British public have not been allowed – even for one moment – to hear the truth. Whilst TV crews are present on the Canberra and Hermes – no film is allowed back. Whilst reporters throng the decks of the task force ships they are not allowed to submit reports unless vetted first by the Ministry of Defence press officers on board and then (just in case they accidentally let a shred of truth through) a Major. And the lies told by the press and the MoD are beyond the imaginings of normal human beings. The Atlantic Conveyor is hit – first news of this is suppressed, then it is said to be carrying ‘supplies’, then finally it leaks out – the Conveyor was packed with helicopters! And BBC reporters are told not to discuss this fact! By and large the British government has had little cause to complain about the British press coverage of this war. British journalists have plunged to new depths of sycophantic jingoism. The fascist Sun’s headlines like ‘GO GET ‘EM LADS’ says it all. (Except to say that Sun executives got a £2,000 bonus for this good work – that should keep them in alcohol for at least a month). Even so Thatcher and Co complained bitterly when the BBC dared use the term ‘British’ instead of ‘our’ soldiers and interviewed some rather tame opponents of the conduct of this war. If sections of the ruling class merely questioning the wisdom of Thatcher’s tactical moves are thus attacked imagine what will be the response to working class and revolutionary opposition. No wonder the police have felt free to swamp the small marches that have taken place in London and arrest scores of protesters.

Imperialists back Britain

A web of imperialist alliances and secret wheeling and dealing is being spun by the British government. Whilst loudly proclaiming her opposition to the ‘fascist junta’ in Argentina (which before this conflict was a firm and well supplied ally) Thatcher is secretly consolidating links with the fascist junta in Chile! Were the British press not so servile many questions could be asked about the British helicopter so mysteriously found burnt out in Chile. Clearly Chile’s junta is giving some form of strategic and military support to Britain. Tales of three crewmen ‘taking to the hills’, having crashed they knew not where are merely for the gullible.

And while Thatcher bleats about ‘self-determination’ the British government has won military and political backing from the imperialist USA which itself is responsible for massive oppression of the peoples of Central America and elsewhere. Britain also has support from French imperialism which has 10,000 troops in Africa sustaining reactionary regimes. On Monday 24 May the EEC also voted for indefinite sanctions against Argentina although this does not mean that all is peace and fraternity between the imperialist powers. Thieves that they are they frequently fall out amongst themselves and are not above extracting payment for their support for British imperialism – hence their vote to increase farm prices throughout the EEC against strong British objections.

The Labour Movement and the War

The thoroughgoing bankruptcy and corruption of the British Labour Movement stands starkly revealed. The leaders are nothing more than imperialist hirelings. Not for one minute has the Thatcher government had to worry about opposition ‘at home’. On the contrary it has been able to rely 100% on Foot, Healey, Shore and Co in the House of Commons. The disgusting hypocrisy and criminal treachery of these labour imperialists is best summed up in the following statement:

‘I don’t think it right we should give in to a damnable military junta and condemn these Falkland islanders to an oppressive regime that has put thousands of people in jail and suppressed all forms of freedom.’

Who speaks thus about ‘oppression’ and ‘thousands jailed’ in order to justify the imperialist British war in the Malvinas/Falklands? The man is Roy Mason who from August 1977 to March 1979 was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the prime architect of the systematic jailing and torturing of thousands of Irish people in the Six Counties. Nobody knows more about oppression and suppression of freedom than Roy Mason who is remembered with bitterness and hatred by the Irish people.

Nor have the British trade unions given the Tories any cause for concern. No word of condemnation of the war has come from the TUC. It has been content to express ‘deep concern’ that there might be all-out war before the possibility of a ceasefire has been exhausted. This after over 500 people have already died. Moreover, the British TUC supports British imperialism’s claim of sovereignty over the Malvinas/Falklands and calls for the withdrawal – not of the British task force – but of Argentina!

The racism and pro-imperialism that rests deep in the British trade unions is best shown by the National Union of Seamen. At their conference the NUS voted full backing for a British invasion of the Malvinas/Falklands. Assistant General Secretary Sam McCluskie (also a Labour NEC member) told the conference that the executive was saying ‘Let’s
get in there!’  and added that he would not shed a tear for any dead Argentinians. So much for working class internationalism of the British trade union movement! The NUS took its filthy support for British imperialism to its logical conclusion – outright racism. It agreed to force 600 Asian (and low paid) crewmen off the Canberra and Uganda and replace them with English NUS members.

The Labour Lefts – shamefaced imperialists

The Labour left has found itself in disarray. It cannot afford to be seen to fully back the Thatcher government. But the fact is that the Labour left does not oppose British claims of sovereignty to the Malvinas/Falklands islands. They merely object to the means of pursuing the claim. Hence Benn said:

‘There is unanimity in the House on the question of opposing the aggression of the Junta. There is also unanimity on the right of self-defence against aggression.’

Benn merely wants to use effective economic sanctions rather than military force to ‘strangle Galtieri’ and force negotiations with all cards in British imperialist hands. Under all the left’s talk of ‘fascist juntas’ hides a shamefaced refusal to fight the real enemy of British workers and the oppressed – the British imperialist ruling class. The Benn who today poses as a man of peace is the same Benn who supports British troops occupying the Six Counties of north east Ireland. It is the same Benn who in 1968 signed the contract with RTZ for the illegal importation of Namibian uranium into Britain. The Benn who today wants to ‘strangle Galtieri’ sat in the Labour government Cabinet which colluded with the apartheid regime and set its face against sanctions to ‘strangle’ the racist apartheid regime. It is the Benn who never raised his voice when ten Irish hunger strikers were being murdered by British imperialism.

With such spokesmen and leaders, who have never opposed British imperialist oppression of the Irish people, of the people of South Africa and elsewhere, it is small wonder that only an insignificant movement of opposition to the imperialist war in the Malvinas/Falklands has emerged. Whilst many who have marched sincerely desire an end to the war they must realise that the Labour lefts, the trade union leaders and the Communist Party figures who lead this movement are incapable and unwilling to mobilise a genuine anti-imperialist and anti-war movement. Those who will not fight, and indeed support British imperialist oppression of the Irish people, are incapable of building an anti-war movement on the Malvinas/Falklands.

This was starkly exposed on the 23 May anti-war march in London. The organisers – the Labour Party, Communist Party and assorted allies – stood back while thousands of police swamped the march. At Hyde Park police circled it and announced that any marchers using slogans not approved of by the police would be arrested. At least 21 people were subsequently arrested. This serious attack on democratic rights amounts to police dictating what slogans can be used on working class demonstrations. Yet no protest whatsoever came from the organisers. Indeed they colluded with the police and Dame Judith Hart was heard agreeing with an inspector that no ‘offensive’ slogans should be used.

After the march no protest was made about the heavy arrests and thus the organisers have helped to make it ‘acceptable’ that the police should play an openly political role, arresting people just for shouting anti-war slogans. Indeed the organisers were so terrified of any opposition to the real enemy – the British imperialist state and its police – developing, that they called off the next march. Thus, with their assistance, the state and police achieved the desired goal – no protests were held in the very week that Britain’s war drive was massively escalating. These shamefaced imperialists gave British imperialism invaluable assistance and stopped anti-war protests when they were most vitally needed.

If you want peace fight imperialism

There is only one way of stopping the British imperialist war machine. A movement must be built which recognises that peace, democracy, freedom and justice are incompatible with the existence of British imperialism. Such a movement will not only oppose the Thatcher government but will also fight the dangerous agencies of imperialism within the British working class movement. The Labour Party and trade union leadership have once again proved where they stand – with British imperialism against the oppressed. Those who today cling to the hope of a socialist anti-war movement coming from the Labour and trade union movement are at best fools and at worst sowers of illusions.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 20 June 1982

 

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