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Argentina vs. Britain: taking sides

Published Feb 27, 2012 9:29 PM

The Argentine government lodged a formal protest at the United Nations on Feb. 10 over Britain’s militarization of the Malvinas Islands — the territory in the South Atlantic that the British call the “Falklands.” The Argentine foreign minister said the British moved a modern warship, sophisticated fighter jets and a nuclear submarine into the region. The jets can reach South America without refueling.

That means another confrontation is brewing over the possession of those islands. The last one 30 years ago involved a two-month war between Britain and Argentina that cost the lives of 350 British and 650 Argentine troops. Today’s struggle involves not only nationalist pride but British plunder of oil in regional waters.

The Malvinas’ struggle has received little media coverage over the last 30 years outside of Argentina and Britain. It is worthwhile reviewing the issues to explain why it is important for anti-imperialists to take sides in the Malvinas dispute, both in 1982 and now.

Workers World supported claims of Argentina to the Malvinas in 1982, and we do today. Essentially this struggle is between Latin America on one side and British imperialism — a junior partner of U.S. imperialism — on the other.

All Latin American and Caribbean countries have supported Argentina’s rights in the Malvinas. Also the regional organizations of Mercosur, UNASUR, ALBA, CELAC, Group of 77 plus China, and the Non-Aligned Movement have made statements in support of Argentina.

It is important to make the nature of this confrontation clear. The perfidious British foreign office tries to disguise Britain’s seizure of claim to Latin American territory with the defense of “self-determination” of the 3,100 inhabitants of the Malvinas. Many of these settlers identify as British or at least as an extension of Britain.

The “Falklands,” as the imperialists call the island group, is one of the last remaining possessions of the infamous British Empire, which until World War II ruled over and plundered much of the world.

The British argument is roughly the same as the one U.S. imperialism used in Panama before 1979 — the U.S. had to keep possession of the Panama Canal Zone to defend the “self-determination” of the Zonians, that is, U.S. citizens who settled in U.S.-occupied Panamanian territory around the canal. Or the same as French imperialism’s argument that it must possess Kanaky (“New Caledonia”) in the South Pacific to defend the rights of French settlers against the Native Kanaks — and not to exploit that island’s nickel deposits.

“Self-determination” as used by the imperialists is not a principle for protecting the rights of the oppressed, but a pretext for extending imperialist rule.

It is instructive to review the events of 1982. The Argentine regime was a rotten military junta that had slaughtered a generation of revolutionary youth. Before the conflict, the junta had the full backing of U.S. imperialism, the connivance of the CIA, and the heartfelt support of vicious anti-communist Jeanne Kirkpatrick, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

Then, on April 2, 1982, the junta ordered Argentine armed forces to retake the Malvinas, which the British in January 1833 took from the newly independent Argentine government and have held ever since.

Britain attacked. After the slightest hesitation, the imperialist powers closed ranks behind Britain. Even Kirkpatrick had to renounce her past cozy relationship with the Argentine junta. U.S. intelligence and communications aided Britain. French imperialism, which had sold weapons to the junta, helped the British military.

Empowered by her victory in the South Atlantic, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher then opened fire on the British working class, especially the miners. The defeated junta, on the other hand, was soon pushed out by the Argentine people.

Progressive and revolutionary forces in the world, despite their hatred of the Argentine junta, supported Argentina’s claims to the Malvinas in 1982. They do again, and we join them.