50 Years Ago: Our Boys in Aden

What are British troops doing in Aden, apart from putting the boot in and expressing a willingness to accept a massive punch-up?

The newspapers tell us they are keeping the peace, which avoids the question of why the peace is threatened.

Aden was annexed (a diplomat’s word for stolen) by Britain in 1839, and used as a base to guard the trade route to India. (It is still the only fortified point between Egypt and Bombay).

When the British left India in 1948 it could have been the end of their interest in Aden, had it not been for the rich oil fields which had been discovered in the Middle East.

Aden now stands guard on the Persian Gulf, where two-thirds of the oil resources of Western capitalism lie. Britain gets more than half its oil from the countries around the Persian Gulf and British oil companies own about one third of the Gulf’s production.

It is to protect these interests that Our Boys in Aden are being killed—and are themselves doing a bit of killing. Sir William Luce, who was Governor of Aden 1959-60, made it clear in an article in the Daily Telegraph on April 12 last:

‘We did not undertake the “policing” of the Gulf for some vague, altruistic purpose; we went there, and have remained there, because it has suited us to do so.’

By ‘we’ and ‘us’ Sir William is really talking about the East India Company in the old days and the oil companies today. These are the interests which need working class bodies to protect them, interests which are threatened today by claims from Persia, Iraq and Saudi Arabia and by the opposing Aden nationalists.

British capitalism’s only hope is to stay in Aden until some sort of order has been imposed in this conflict. A withdrawal now could well plunge the place into a Congo-like war, with serious results for the oilmen of the Persian Gulf.

So it looks as if Our Boys in Aden will have to carry on keeping the peace for a while, even if they have to kill half the population to do it.

(From “Review”, Socialist Standard, May 1967)

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