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The Falklands Again

They are back in the news following the recent disclosure, in documents released at the end of December under the thirty year rule, that Thatcher was taken by surprise, but this changes nothing and vindicates nobody. Opponents of Britain are encouraged by Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s renewed call on 3 January for the Falklands to become part of Argentina.

The Falklands (in Spanish, Islas Malvinas) are a group of small islands in the South Atlantic off the coast of Argentina. The present population can be traced back to European settlement in the nineteenth century, primarily the British approval in 1840 to form a colony there. Britain aside, many other countries have claimed them over time, but Argentina has the longest standing claim to these islands as their own territory.

In 1982, the Socialist Standard at the time described the country ‘in the grip of a severe recession. At the end of March a trade union demonstration against the effects of unemployment and rising prices brought some of the worst civil disorder … But the move against the Falklands brought a miraculous change; patriotic frenzy swamped the reality of the workers' parlous condition’ (Doing the Bulldog Thing, May 1982). This was a description of Argentina, but one that in many respects might have equally applied to Britain at the time.

Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, then, just short of a thousand workers dead, over two thousand wounded and two months later the islands were retaken by British forces. A few days later the Argentine junta collapsed. American support was absent, the President, Ronald Reagan, had been advised the military junta led by the dictator General Galtieri was a bulwark against ‘communism’. We asked of Britain, ‘If the government was so disgusted by the Argentine junta's record of repressively anti-working class dictatorship, why was it a major arms supplier to the Junta up until the invasion of the Falklands?’ (The War in the South Atlantic, July 1982.)  The famous left-winger Michael Foot, then Leader of the Labour Party, made a powerful speech in favour of the taskforce sent to retake the islands.

If you want to see how sincerely Britain or any ruling class protects the wishes of the islanders, look at what Britain did to the similarly populated Chagos islanders in Diego Garcia some years earlier.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.