Falkland crisis: oppose imperialist war

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! Number 19 May 1982

As we go to press the largest British imperialist naval fleet assembled for 25 years has started a war to retake the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. On 2 April, the fascist Argentinian junta, headed by General Galtieri, took over the islands in a patent manoeuvre to divert the growing class opposition to its rule. As a result, British imperialism is once again on the warpath to maintain one of the last outposts of British colonialism. It is using all the scientific techniques and weapons of modern warfare to destroy the Argentinian airforce and navy. In this murderous assault British imperialism now has the full backing of US imperialism.

The Thatcher government is justifying its military aggression by claims of British sovereignty over the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. The truth is that these islands were snatched from Argentina in 1833 when British imperialism settled them with sheep and a handful of British colonials. British imperialism has no just claims to sovereignty over the Malvinas/Falklands and its attempt to retake the islands is no more than a move to defend British imperialist interests in the region. They are also a warning that any challenge to British imperialism will be met with the full might of British arms. The government is trying to give its imperialist designs a democratic veneer. The Prime Minister had the nerve to claim that:

‘We have a long and proud history of recognising the right of others to determine their own destiny. Indeed, in that respect we have an experience unrivalled by any other nation.’

This is a disgusting lie from a ruling class which had the biggest colonial empire the world has ever seen. British imperialism has viciously subjugated and denied the right of self-determination to the peoples of India, Malaya, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Palestine, Jamaica, Burma, Ireland and many, many other nations. It has ruled these nations by the brutest force and suppressed uprisings for national self-determination with bullets and blood. Never once did it grant the right to self-determination, until the people took it, arms in hand. Still today, British imperialism engages in direct military occupation of Ireland to deny them the right of self-determination, using all the savagery and violence it has learnt oppressing other nations. It colludes with the racist Zionist state’s oppression of the Palestinian people who are fighting for the right to determine their own destiny. It is the staunchest supporter of the apartheid regime which denies the right of self-determination to the black people of Namibia and South Africa. And through its banks and companies it sucks the wealth of these nations, reducing their people to poverty. Britain’s experience is indeed unrivalled by any other nation – an experience of brutality and oppression.

In Parliament, Mr Pym the British Foreign Secretary had the gall to declare: ‘Britain does not appease dictators.’ Since the Argentinian takeover of the Malvinas/Falklands, British imperialists have suddenly discovered that Argentina is ruled by a vicious fascist dictatorship. Yet as long as the junta cooperated with British imperialism Mr Pym and his cronies had no complaints! They cared nothing for the brutal suppression of all democratic rights, for the daily torture and repression practised against millions of Argentinian workers. Both Labour and Tory governments have readily assisted the junta. They have sold it arms, including Argentina’s one aircraft carrier, 70 Seacat missiles, Shortland armoured cars, Canberra bombers and much radio and electronic equipment. British capitalists investing in Argentina with the full backing of British governments include ICI, Dunlop, GEC, Unilever, Shell, Pilkingtons and many others, while British banks have lent some $5bn. If this is not appeasement, what is?

The British government’s claim to be defending democracy and self-determination in the Malvinas/Falklands is nothing but rank imperialist hypocrisy. The truth is that British imperialism will pretend to support self-determination and democracy only when such pretence serves its own imperialist interests. Britain relies on fascist dictatorships and oppressive regimes to protect its investments not only in Argentina, but also in South Africa, El Salvador, the Middle East and elsewhere. It has never opposed the vicious South African raids into Angola and Mozambique and neither has it raised any protest at the Zionist annexation of Arab lands.

 

Labour imperialists rally round Union Jack

The Falklands crisis of British imperialism has united every parasitic element in society dependent on the robbery and plunder of British imperialism. Fascists, Jingoes, Liberals, SDP, the Labour Party and TUC have all rallied round the flag to the delighted applause of imperialist scribblers in Fleet Street.

That the Labour Party has lately manufactured a few differences between its stance and that of the Tory government should fool no-one. The Labour Party holds essentially the same warmongering imperialist position, they are just more shame-faced about it. When British troops invaded South Georgia, the Labour Party applauded it. When British jets bombed the airstrip on Malvinas/Falklands, the Labour Party applauded it. Now that a war has broken out the Labour Party shares complete responsibility with the Tory government for provoking that war.

Michael Foot, a CND figurehead who told the last Labour Conference ‘I am an inveterate peace-monger’, called for the use of force to protect the Falklanders:

‘They have been betrayed. The responsibility for the betrayal rests with the Government. The Government must now prove by deeds – they will never be able to do it by words – that they are not responsible for the betrayal.’

John Silkin, who ignored the fascist murder of 13 black people in his own constituency last year, loudly condemned what ‘the present bargain basement Mussolini’ (referring to General Galtieri, not Margaret Thatcher) might do to white Falkland Islanders 8,000 miles away. He complained that British imperialism was militarily too weak to defend its colonies:

‘We do not believe that the conventional forces and in particular the naval and air strength of our country are at the strength that they ought to be. There are other people who are also listening. There are other and nearer colonies that may suffer unless we take the necessary steps now.’

While the government spoke of the need to respect the wishes of the people in the Malvinas/Falklands; one Labour MP, Peter Hardy, thoughtfully pointed out that this might not be to the advantage of British imperialism:

‘given the minerals and oil which might be available, it would be highly undesirable to allow 1,800 people in the Falkland Islands to decide by referendum that territory in South Georgia or the South Sandwich Islands could be lightly taken away.’

Foot explained that opposition by the Labour Party might have undermined any international support for British imperialism:

‘If at the time the task force was dispatched, or subsequently, there was to be strong opposition in this country represented by the Labour Party, to the dispatch of that force, my fear is that one of the consequences would have been to injure at least the worldwide support that we have seen.’

Just as predictably, British trade union leaders have joined the pro-imperialist chorus. Moss Evans of the TGWU said:

‘We believe they should get off the Falkland Islands, and if we can’t do anything other than use force, then force will have to be used. I am not by any stretch of the imagination a pacifist.’

David Basnett, leader of the GMWU, said that the trade union movement supported Michael Foot. Racist Terry Duffy of the AUEW said Britain did not have enough non-nuclear weapons. He went on to support the use of British imperialist power against Argentina:

‘None of us wish to see bloodshed, but I have always believed that if we wish to retain democracy we should never succumb to bullying, and in particular to a dictatorship who wish to destroy free trade unionism.’

Once again the labour aristocracy has shown itself to be an enthusiastic guardian of British imperialism. Millions are unemployed, the racist police are tooling up for a massive assault on the black and white youth, the British army terrorise the Irish people. Yet the Labour Party goes to war not against the Thatcher government and the capitalist system but in support of British imperialism.

US imperialism takes sides

British politicians and the media repeatedly called for support from US imperialism. Haig, the US Secretary of State, tried to resolve the dispute without it coming to serious hostilities. Argentina is a major part of the US empire in South America; Britain is its staunchest ally in Europe. US imperialism was frightened to take sides because it risked either toppling the Thatcher government and weakening NATO; or the collapse of the Galtieri junta, and possibly the beginning of a proletarian revolution in Argentina with dramatic consequences throughout the whole of Latin America. The crisis has not only affected British imperialism, but threatens the web of alliance spun by US imperialism in Latin America and Europe. Now that the USA has taken the side of its imperialist ally we can be sure it has used the period of Haig’s shuttle diplomacy to find a suitable and more malleable replacement for Galtieri, should this prove necessary.

The RCG totally condemns this war to take over the Malvinas/Falklands. No British imperialist war can ever have any democratic aims. War by British imperialism is always waged to protect British profits and the British ruling class. The British working class has nothing to gain in this latest example of British imperialist aggression, and must completely oppose it.

Death to British imperialism!

Labour backs Thatcher’s war

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 20 June 1982

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.

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