Yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of the Malvinas (Falklands) war, a war involving a tiny island with a population in 1982 of less than two thousand, but one which was to have a decisive effect.
That the Malvinas islands belong to Argentina is beyond doubt, even under international law, which in principle recognises the territorial ownership of the Islands by that country.
Certainly, this collection of rocks, stuck out in the depths of the South Atlantic, did not represent an imperial possession that anyone thought was worth fighting over.
What drove Thatcher to launch a murderous war over this far-flung outpost of British imperialism was down to the fact that she faced the very real prospect of her government being brought down at home by the working class.
Thatcher had won the leadership of the Tory party in 1978 as part of a right-wing determined to go to war on the working class.
She had experienced the power of the trade union movement at first hand, as a minister in the Tory government of Edward Heath which had been brought down by the miners’ strike of 1974.
She was determined that never again would a Tory government be thrown out of office, and had developed a strategy for taking on and inflicting a massive defeat on the miners union as a prelude to smashing the entire trade union movement.
But by 1982 her government was so hated that it faced defeat at the next general election.
In the three years of her Tory administration unemployment had reached record levels with three million on the dole, and her sole achievement being to give tax cuts to the rich and spending cuts to the working class.
As far as Thatcher was concerned, the ‘invasion’ of the Malvinas represented the last hope for clinging on to power.
Riding a wave of jingoistic patriotism in the bourgeois media, Thatcher and her military chiefs announced they would retake the Malvinas and ‘liberate’ the settlers and their sheep from foreign invaders.
In this the Tories had the full support of the Labour leadership, with Labour leader, Michael Foot, jumping up and down demanding that the government stop talking and ‘take action’.
It was only the Workers Revolutionary Party that from the outset urged workers to reject the hysterical patriotism being whipped up by the Tories and the press and warned that a victory for Thatcher in the Malvinas would result in the Thatcher regime, backed by the military, launching a war at home against the trade unions.
We declared openly that we stood for the defeat of British imperialism, for the victory of the Argentinians and for a socialist revolution at home.
The correctness of this position was demonstrated unequivocally by the events immediately following Thatcher’s narrow victory over the conscript forces of Argentina – a victory that only happened because of the military aid given by the US.
On a wave of nationalist hysteria, Thatcher won the 1983 general election and immediately launched her onslaught against the NUM in the year-long miners’ strike, followed closely by the full force of the state being mobilised in support of Murdoch’s battle to smash the print unions.
The lesson for the working class is clear – the enemy is always at home, every victory of imperialism strengthens the ruling class and, conversely, every defeat for imperialism strengthens and is a victory for the working class at home.
The working class must reject the nationalistic war hysteria that is being whipped up today against Iran and Syria and forge a unity between the working class at home and the workers of these countries in the common struggle to smash capitalism and imperialism and go forward to world socialism.