15 June 2007
The Falklands War and the lessons for today.
Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the Argentinian surrender on the Falkland Islands. Many people at that time argued that the Falklanders were British and had to be defended. That may very well be true, but there was another important reason why an Argentinian defeat was so important. Had they won, and remained in control of the Islands, then military aggression would have received a dangerous boost. Most of the countries in South America - including Argentina - have border disputes with one another. It is not too fanciful to say that had the government in Buenos Aires been victorious, then other conflicts would have broken out in the region. This is what the government of Chile understood, which is why they supported Britain during the war.
One argument that anti-war leftists put forward then was that the enemy is at home. That happens to be true, but it does not alter the fact that the original aggression had to be opposed. As it happened the so-called Falklands Effect that was supposed to boost the British regime's electoral chances never materialised. I remember campaigning for Labour during the May 1982 local elections and the war only came up once on the doorstep. That was from a woman who was worried that the Argentinian air force might suddenly decide to bomb our part of East Manchester. I pointed out to her that if they did she could blame Thatcher for failing to properly defend the Falklands, and thus to deter the aggression. Thus mollified the woman agreed to vote Labour.
The only other incident of note that I can recall from that election was being told by one fool that he had voted Tory in 1979 because he wanted to buy his council house. However, he went on, he had then lost his job and was worried about paying his mortgage. His plan was to switch back to Labour.
So I told him that this wasn't allowed... That he was part of the property owning class and should carry on voting bastard Tory... I reminded him that Prince Andrew was getting married and enquired if his invitation had arrived?
I turned to leave and found that the knob was following me down the street. I will never forget the look of sheer panic on his idiot face because he really believed that I could stop him from voting whichever way he wanted. Eventually, because you can only have so many laughs in a day, I agreed that he could vote Labour on condition that he put a poster up in his window. This he did, and he then stuck one up at every election that came around during the whole decade.
In this way we rallied our tribe, sang the Red Flag as a raucous chorus on the night of the count and watched the Tories slink off like the middle class scum they are. Falklands Effect? What Falklands Effect?
Today we are in the middle of another conflict, but one far more serious than the events of twenty-five years ago. Today, not only is Britain the aggressor, but it is an aggression based on a vile, neo-liberal ideology that has now held Britain in thrall for three decades. When the Iraqis finally win their war of liberation, they will not only have freed their own country, but they will have created political chaos in Britain. Out of chaos comes opportunity, and the left needs to be prepared to offer the people of Britain its collectivist, socially planned vision of the future.
Those of us who opposed the war from the beginning are about to be vindicated. Aggression cannot be supported under any circumstances; and yes, the enemy is at home. Unlike twenty-five years ago, the left is now united on these two basic themes. We are united also in confident expectation of the final defeat for the enemy of ordinary people all over the globe.