Falklands “anti-colonial” arrogance and lies

April 4, 2007 at 9:59 pm (Human rights, Jim D, left, SWP)

The anniversary of the Falklands war has brought forth all manner of slimy and distasteful creatures from the undersides of the moist, foetid swamplands where they have hibernated for the past twenty five years.

First and foremost amongst these degenerates is the pantomime “agent of influence” and self-hater Richard Gott, who provided Monday’s Guardian with an article that horribly summed up big-power, semi-racist contempt for ‘little people’ (aka ‘sheep-shaggers’):

“At some stage, sovereignty and lease-back will have to be on the agenda again, regardless of the wishes of the islanders”.

Can you imagine an ‘anti imperialist’ / ‘anti-colonialist’ like Gott dismissing the rights of any other people in such a high-handed manner? (Come to think of it, yes I can: Israeli Jews)

And Gott’s dismissal of the islanders’ rights is based upon what? Well, it’s obvious isn’t it: “The Falklands belong to Argentina. They just happen to have been seized, occupied, populated and defended by Britain. Because Argentina’s claim is perfectly valid, its dispute with Britain will never go away…”.

So that’s Gott’s argument: Las Malvinas are Argentina’s, because Britain seized them in 1833, so fuck the Kelpers who happen to live there now.

This utterly reactionary argument was demolished by one John Roberts of Littlehampton, whose letter appeared the next day (April 3):

(Excerpt) “The war for the Falklands was nasty but brief and had the happy result of getting rid of one South American dictator. It would have been cheaper to have given each Falklands family £250,000 and a sheep-farm in Wales. But if the Islanders really want to stay in such a blighted spot, then perhaps it is best to respect their wishes. History is not a very sound basis for allocating soveriegnty; popular choice is probably better. But pious nonsense about colonialism does not help”.

Contemptible and reactionary as Gott’s crude “my enemy’s enemy” position may be, you can at least give him credit for consistency: that’s exactly what he was arguing when he was playing at being a KGB “agent of influence” (ha, ha, ha!) in 1982: The (British) SWP are a lot more dishonest.

The present edition of their rag, Socialist Worker (4 April 2007), carries the following editorial comment :

“Today taking a clear anti-war position might not seem unusual, but in 1982 we wre one of the few voices even of the left, to oppose Thatcher’s war (a straightforward lie – JD).

“Tony Blair did criticise the decision to dispatch the task force, but the reaction to his words seems to have made him a fervent convert to the cause of war.

“Twenty five years ago the war in the South Atlantic seemed a throwback to a bygone imperial age. In hindsight it was part of a process where war became more and more central to the global capitalist system.

“The justification for war offered by Thatcher and Labour’s then leader Michael Foot compared the Argentinian military regime to Hitler (I don’t remember that: chapter and verse, please! – JD)  and attacked opponents of the war for appeasing fascism. The same arguments have been paraded for each of the five wars Tony Blair has taken us into since coming into office.

“The Falklands are a colonial possession, seized and re-won by force of arms. They should be returned to Argentina”.

Now, compare that rant with what the SWP’s leading theorist Duncan Hallas had to say at the time (Socialist Review, May 1982):

“Socialism and war

“We are not pacifists, we detest the Galtieri dictatorship, we dismiss the notion that the Argentinian seizure of the Falklands is progressive on anti-colonialist grounds. Nevertheless we believe that, in a war between Britain and Argentina, the defeat of British imperialism is the lesser evil. The main enemy is at home”.

A rather different starting point, I think you’ll agree: indeed, a classic “Third Camp” position. I don’t agree with everything in the Hallas article, but it certainly makes refreshing reading in comparison with the third-worldist nonsense spouted by today’s SWP.

Note also this from Hallas in the same article: “…because wars cannot be abolished unless classes are abolished and socialism is established, the anti-war “in principle” position, if widely adopted by workers, guarantees the inevitability of future wars”.

Read The entire article here, SWP’ers…and weep.


  1. solid said,

    You can always rely on Colonel Blimp Denham to fulminate and throth at the mouth whenever anyone questions the superiority of imperialism over ghastly Third World nationalisms. Jim, is there any war where you would have supported the side killing British troops?

  2. voltaires_priest said,

    So you think Galtieri’s quasi-fascist junta represented progressive politics, do you?

  3. Jim Denham said,

    Solid: would you describe the late Comrade Hallas as a “Colonel Blimp”?

  4. twp77 said,

    Jim if you could clarify something for me – the statement by Hallas about “the defeat of British imperialism is the lesser evil” – is this really a “classic Third Camp position”? I ask because my understanding was that the Third Camp view was that neither side was the “lesser evil” but perhaps I have misunderstood the term.

    Also I think Hallas’s comment about the “anti-war ‘in principle’ position” being a stance which makes future war inevitable is a bit odd. Surely there’s a case of the chicken and the egg so to speak here. If capitalism was abolished there presumably wouldn’t be a need for an anti-war position. He’s attacking a straw man in this case.

  5. Igor Belanov said,

    I do think that it is a good idea to review the status of the Falklands now that Argentina is a democratic state, and you can always bind local autonomy with Argentine sovereignty, possibly in an international convention or something? The whole situation in the Falklands is an anomaly and I don’t see why their ‘right’ to self-determination should be automatically upheld by a country thousands of miles away.

  6. chjh said,

    Just in case anyone thinks from Jim’s introduction that Duncan Hallas was in any way defending the Falkland Islanders’ rights:

    The claim on the British side that Thatcher is motivated by concern for the people of the islands, that “the interests of the Falkland Islanders must be paramount”, is a masterpiece of impudent hypocrisy.

    Under British rule, the inhabitants of the Falklands have never even been allowed a freely elected local government with the powers of a town council, let alone “self determination”. Many of them are not even allowed security of tenure of their houses but are forced to accept the tied cottage system operated by the British Falklands Company which owns most of the useful grazing land. No serious consideration to the interests of the Falklanders had been given by any British government until the Argentinian invasion. Moreover, both Thatcher’s government and Callaghan’s before it have had secret negotiations with successive Argentinian governments about the future of the islands without any reference to the inhabitants, let alone the referendum now bruited about.

    In any case, the self determination argument is spurious to the core. A declining population of less than would make a respectable turnout at a fourth division football match [now Division 2] on an off day, and lacking any social, ethnic, linguistic, cultural or historical features of its own, cannot be seriously regarded as a “national” entity. A far more plausible case could be made for national self determination for the Western Isles or the Isle of Man. And these more plausible cases would also be absurd and reactionary.

    And his conclusion? As to the Labour leaders as a whole, left, right and centre, we have been fortunate to have a foretaste of their conduct in any fixture Labour government – cowardly, mean, chauvinist, grovelling before the ruling class.

    The only thing I find to weep about is that he’s no longer with us.

  7. Jim Denham said,

    TWP: Yes, “third-campists” did (and *do*) in general take a “main enemy is at home position” on inter-imperialist wars. The AWL, for instance, carried the slogan on the front page of its paper throughout the Falklands war. That does *not* mean, however, positive support for the other side. The situation is complicated in conflicts between bourgeois democracies and fascist (or similar) states, where the “main enemy” may not, in fact be “at home”. Despite the ultra-reactionary nature of the Galtieri regime, I believe that “the main enemy is at home” was a correct slogan to raise: that, and a refusal to positively support Argentina, was the common ground between the AWL and the SWP at the time.
    chjh: Hallas was simply wrong (and un-Leninist) in his apoproach to the Islanders’ right to self-determination; that’s why, in my posting I do not pretend that I agree with his piece in its entirety: however, his “third campist” position is a million times preferable to the grovelling before reactionary regime and movement that the SWP engages in today. Come on, be honest: the Hallas piece is simply not compatable with the SW editorial I quoted, or with *any* of the SWP’s present positions on international questions.
    Having jettisoned its “third camp” origins, the SWP is now, effectively, a sort of degenerate, Stalinist organisation whose day-to-day approach to politics in general can be summed up with the slogan “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”.

  8. Gregg said,

    The claim on the British side that Thatcher is motivated by concern for the people of the islands, that “the interests of the Falkland Islanders must be paramount”, is a masterpiece of impudent hypocrisy.

    Hellas, doing a good impersonation of a stopped clock there.

  9. Igor Belanov said,

    I think Hallas is exactly right on the Falklands and self-determination. Lenin’s own ideas on self-determination were somewhat muddied in practice.

  10. Jim Denham said,

    Igor: we’ll just have to agree to differ. I take the view that the wishes of living human beings (however small in number) are *always* to be prioritised over historic (and in the case of Argentina’s claim to the Falklands, dubious) legal arguments about “sovereignty”: I think Hallas deals with this aspect of the argument very well. On reflection, twp, I think you’re right that Hallas’s words “the defeat of British imperialism is the lesser evil” , mean that the article is not fully “third camp”: but it’s still a lot closer to revolutionary Marxism than the third worldist voyeurism and anti-working class grovelling to tyrants that today’s SWP goes in for. I been told that the “line” on the Falklands was retrospectively changed ( by Alex Collinicos) at the time of the Iraq/Iran war, when the SWP, having been neutral, overnight declared for an Iranian victory.

  11. chris y said,

    Nevertheless we believe that, in a war between Britain and Argentina, the defeat of British imperialism is the lesser evil. The main enemy is at home”.

    Sorry, that isn’t classic 3rd campism, which tends to lead people to retreating to the mountaintops, shouting “a plague on both your houses” as they go. Hallas was advocating classic revolutionary defeatism, as elaborated by Lenin and Trotsky, not to be confused with the silly, class treacherous “my enemy’s enemy” nonsense spouted by his successors. I never had much time for the SWP, but Hallas was right on the money on that occasion.

  12. johng said,

    For Gods sake. The Falkland islanders wishes are paramount!! How could the left forget Thatchers moving speech. Stand up for Britain. Why oh why are the AWL the only people on the left who really care about this great nation. It makes me weep. I tell you what. If the SWP had its way we’d all be eating Argentine steak and drinking nice cocktails and listening to the tango.

    Come to think of it….

  13. Clive said,

    Heaven help you if you are a small community invaded by a dictatorship, then.

    Not paramount, John, if you mean overriding any other consideration: we opposed Thatcher’s war. But even if Thatcher says you have rights, well, maybe you do.

  14. TWP said,

    Per usual JohnG dismisses a political discussion with his sardonic wit….. I think that the question of the Falklands is a very important one for today. I’ve just been discussing this with comrades over on the PR website: http://www.permanentrevolution.net

    They’ve posted a few articles from the old WP from 82/83, one of which was very uncritical of the Galtieri regime. In any case, the question of “critical but unconditional support” has been something that comrades on Shiraz and yes even the SWP have been discussing as of late with regards to the Iraqi “resistance”. In addition, there is another discussion to be had around settler states as it relates to not only the Falklands but Northern Ireland and Israel.

    Although JohnG may think these questions aren’t worth discussing, the politically reality and questions of the day seem to suggest that they are.

  15. voltaires_priest said,

    It’s because JohnG thinks that by yelling “racist” and “imperialist” at the top of his lungs, he gets to avoid having a political argument. Bit like having the really cool car in Top Trumps.

    Unfortunately the real world doesn’t work like that.

  16. Daggi said,

    What do you mean: “fourth division [now division 2]”?

    I know the first devision of old is now the Premiership, but what happened to division 1? Is it now called “Premiership 2”, or what? Don’t tell me that Dagenham & Redbridge getting into the Football League actually only means they’ve reached what used to be the bottom end of the GM-Vauxhall Conference?

    And are the SWP to blame?

  17. johng said,

    “a small community” invaded by a dictatorship. For Chrisssakes. Do you guys not ever get tired of accepting the establishment view of a crisis (imagining that this makes you ‘honest’) and then putting a left wing spin on it? Britain has no right to sovereignty in the south atlantic, nor does it have a right to decide the frontier between Iraq and Iran, and its troops should not be allowed to go abroad. End of.

  18. El Gringo said,

    If there were 200 000 people of British origin on the Islands, I wouldn’t even consider negotiating with the Argentines about sovereignty, but why get worked up about 2000?

    We could and should have created a replica of Stanley in the Outer Hebrides and moved the Islanders there. Or maybe the South Island of New Zealand, meaning that the Islanders could still enjoy Christmas in the sun.

    If they had been as black as the ace of spades nobody in the UK would have given a monkey’s – just ask the Chagos Islanders. At least the Falklands aren’t as ridiculous as Pitcairn, with a population of fifty, most of whom inbred kiddy-fiddlers.

    In Argentina, many people live in huge gated communities, which are so self-contained, they’re called ‘countries’ – maybe that’s how the Falklands would end up. Why would Argentines want to live there anyway? (By the way, Hong Kong may be part of China, but mainland Chinese still need visas.)

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