Letter to Weekly Worker: The Malvinas and Ukraine wars

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20/06/2022 by socialistfight

Arthur Bough defends Matgamna’s dual defeatist line in the Malvinas war and applies the same to the Ukraine-Russia conflict today, whilst claiming the AWL has collapsed to the right since then. The Socialist Organiser 1982 position of dual defeatism – that is, of neutrality – between British imperialism and a semi-colonial country and its ‘self-determination for the Falkland Islanders’ policy was a clear, straightforward repudiation of the anti-imperialist Trotskyist programme. As it is today in relation to Ukraine; again, Russia is not an imperialist country but an advanced semi-colony. In SO 83 1982 they claimed that Argentina was also imperialist, or “nearly” imperialist, not a “typical” third world oppressed country, and that Galtieri has “mini-colonialist” motives. The first mooting of the theory of ‘sub-imperialism’ with which they have since degenerated into mere apologists for global imperialism.

In the current issue even those RCG/FRFI anti-imperialist stalwarts view Russia as imperialist by rejecting Lenin’s definition, and those of us who defend it today, as “essentially ticking boxes” putting forward other boxes to tick and then telling us in the same issue how imperialism robbed the Congo/Burkina Faso and murdered Thomas Sankara in 1987 because he repudiated the rule of the IMF foreign debts extortion and urged all of Africa to do the same. Neither Russia nor China can do that stuff, they are not Lenin’s imperialisms, just the imperialisms of the Mail, Express and Sun.   

Alan Thornett’s WSL back then, like many groups today in relation to Ukraine, fail(ed) to distinguish between what was objectively progressive about the invasion directed against an imperialist power, or its proxy, despite the subjectively reactionary motivation of Galtieri then and Putin today.

There were three, and at times four sides in that 1982 conflict. The SO and old WSL would accuse each other of capitulating to Ted Grant’s line which was, “Victory of a socialist government in Britain would immediately transform the situation in relation to the Falklands. The Junta would no longer be able to claim to be fighting British imperialism … A socialist government would make a class appeal to the Argentinean workers. A Labour government could not just abandon the Falklanders and let Galtieri get on with it. But it would continue the war on socialist lines”. Ted Grant was more pro-imperialist than Margaret Thatcher back in 1982!

And Sean Matgamna and Alan Thornett were cautiously vying with him. AT condemned the invasion as reactionary and only became Argentinian defencist when the fleet set sail. There were strong opposition from within the old WSL, notably Chris and Sue Erswell, Mike Jones, Pete Flack, and Aly M, the latter 3 inconsistently. Also, internationally the US, Danish and Italian groups in the Trotskyist International Liaison Committee fought the collapse to the right and emergence of national Trotskyism by both the SO and WSL.  

As Tony Gard explained Alan Thornett spent the whole conflict attempting to compromise with Matgamna and repudiating his own left wing domestically and internationally. Though he moved away from Sean M’s dual defeatism, he never adopted a consistently anti-imperialist position. For SO the real problem with Thatcher’s war was that it didn’t benefit the islanders (and cost human life). Therefore, it becomes necessary to write about the right of self-determination; “Supporting rights does not mean supporting every action that is supposed to defend those rights”. And “By the very nature of the British state Thatcher’s fleet acts in the interests of Tory and the British ruling class prestige”. “Any benefit to the islanders is doubtful and strictly incidental”. Therefore, according to SO, a class struggle against Thatcher’s war must be waged in Britain. But SO knew as well as we that it is a question of settlers in the Malvinas. Since when has it been Trotskyist policy to support imperialism’s settlers? Nevertheless, when British imperialism didn’t defend these settlers effectively SO was for mobilising the working class to do the work of imperialism as was Ted Grant’s Militant Tendency.

The TILC group, the TAF (Denmark) make the following points with which we strongly agree:

 With self-determination as the axis, SM and MT’s claimed class struggle viewpoint becomes an empty shell raised above the class struggle. It is detached from the real task of leading the class in Argentina in an anti-imperialist struggle, to strike a blow against imperialism, the Bonapartist junta, and the Argentine bourgeoisie all at once. The main orientation in Argentina must be: “COUNTER-ATTACK IMPERIALISM ON ALL FRONTS”; Support for the re-conquest of the Malvinas, and the war against British imperialism; Expropriation of all imperialist property without compensation; Stop the payment of the debt to the imperialist banks and governments; The burden of the crisis must be paid by the imperialists. In this manner the masses can be prepared for overthrowing the junta and bourgeoisie in Argentina.

Gerry Downing Socialist Fight.

British Royal Navy Type 21 frigate HMS Antelope explodes in San Carlos Water, off East Falkland, after attacks by the Argentine Air Force during the Falklands War, 24th May 1982. (Photo by Martin Cleaver/Pool/Getty Images)

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