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(en) Britain, anarchistcommunist.org: Collective Action* place - The Malvinas (Falklands) - what's at stake?

Date Thu, 24 Jan 2013 15:49:36 +0200


At the heart of the re-emerging conflict concerning sovereignty over the Malvinas is old fashioned mercantile capitalism with the potential to be an electoral boon for political elites on both sides of the Atlantic. ---- An ICM poll released on 21st January 2013[1] put Labour's lead over the Tories down to five points. Cameron's vision of the "big society" is ringing increasingly hollow in the face of persistent negative press coverage, which has highlighted his government's attacks on the most poor and vulnerable sections of British society. As cuts begin to bite, the line that austerity is the only way out is also undermined by the news of staggering profits amongst the county's billionaires[2]. This is while politicians call for a 32% salary increase (to £86,250)[3] at a time when workers take real-terms cuts[4]. This is beginning to be reflected in the polls.

Foreign affairs issues, however, always benefit the party in power and a combination of posturing over the EU, the Algerian hostage crisis and the dispute over the Malvinas could see Cameron claw back his support.

The real prize in the conflict is, of course, the islands' oil (which triples UK reserves[5]). Sovereignty over the islands also encompasses territorial claims over Antarctica (British and Argentinian claims overlap). The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty currently bans all mineral resource activity in Antarctica. However, since the 1970s the UK has expressed an interest in commercial exploration into the oil, coal and mineral deposits below the Southern Ocean[6]. Should the energy crisis deepen, it's likely that this issue will be opened again (with disastrous environmental consequences). This is what lies behind these territorial conflicts over large swathes of ice.

In spite of the anti-imperialist rhetoric of Argentinian premier Cristina Fernandez the conflict over the islands is fundamentally a dispute between two colonial states. Both used the (initially uninhabited) island primarily as a penal colony and for periodic, largely unsuccessful, settlements. The declaration of independence that claimed the Malvinas for Argentina was made by the colonial settlers and based on a European liberal model. Indigenous populations in Argentina have been consistent losers in this state and subject to land grabs and extermination campaigns by the immigrant population throughout their history[7].

British victory in the 1982 conflict (neither side officially declared war) proved to be a huge electoral boost for an increasingly unpopular Conservative government in 1983. In Argentina, the invasion was launched by a beleaguered dictatorship hoping to utilise conscription and a populist irredentism to dampen increasing dissent to the regime. The unpopularity of the conflict and corruption within the professional military eventually proved to be their final undoing.

In contemporary terms both Cameron and Fernandez have been doing a fair bit of political posturing. The British government has been making big publicity of its intention to drill Malvinas' oil. It also recently named the disputed Antarctic land in honour of the Queen[8]. The conservative press in this country have also been ramping up the Jingoistic sentiment. Most notable was The Sun, which published a "hands off" letter in an Argentinian newspaper[9].

Meanwhile the Argentinian premier wrote a letter of protest to The Guardian and is utilising some pretty bombastic rhetoric on the international stage to condemn Cameron. This is clearly to curry the favour of her populist left base, particularly the youth movement, a key section of her support[10].

In both cases it is a distraction from the politics of austerity, increasingly unpopular cuts and draconian attitudes towards political opposition. Both Fernandez and Cameron are facing trade union opposition to their policies with threatened national strike days. Fernandez's term technically expires in 2015 but it is alleged that supporters hope to change the constitution to allow her to run again.

As anarchist communists our perspective is informed by a commitment to both anti-imperialism and opposition to capital and the state. The neoimperialist practices of the UK state and its accompanying capital interests should be criticised. We need to be clear that it is the old and familiar colonial interest of resource extraction that is behind the British state’s alleged concern for the fate of the islands' inhabitants. As a centre state the UK also plays a continuing role in keeping itself at a competitive advantage to peripheral states like Argentina by utilising the contemporary disciplining mechanisms of the international market and its institutions such as the IMF and World Bank. At the same time, we acknowledge the cynical way that elites on both sides are exploiting the dispute for their own ends. In both cases the politics of nationalism and irredentism present a distraction from social and political issues that bring class inequalities to the forefront.

- CW

[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/jan/21/labour-tories-five-points-poll

[2] http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/what-recession-how-britains-billionaires-1102537

[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20978487

[4] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20442666

[5] http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-19/britain-s-oil-grab-in-falkland-islands-seen-tripling-u-k-reserves-energy.html).

[6] http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/about_antarctica/geopolitical/environmental_issues/mining.php.

[7] http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-19/britain-s-oil-grab-in-falkland-islands-seen-tripling-u-k-reserves-energy.html

[8] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/mobileweb/2012/12/22/queen-elizabeth-land-arge_n_2350678.html

[9] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/falklandislands/9779772/The-Sun-tells-Argentina-to-keep-hands-off-the-Falklands.html

[10] http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/youth-movement-argentina-gives-de-kirchner-power
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* Collective Action is an association of anarchist communists based in the UK
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