The Malvinas War and the Dirty War
- TWO ANNIVERSARIES COMMEMORATED IN ARGENTINA
MALVINAS: 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE WAR WITH BRITAIN
By Frontlines Correspondents
Today, Argentina commemorates the 20th Anniversary of war with Britain
over the Malvinas Islands. Unleashed by a provocation by British Royal
Navy that pushed out a number of Argentinean workers and trampled over
the Argentinean flag they had at their compound in the Georgias'
Islands, the war took the lives of over 1,000 soldiers from both sides.
Thousands were wounded, the military Junta governing Argentina was
thrown out of power and Margaret Thatcher, and then British PM, saved
her government - in the midst of a crisis - during the chauvinistic wave
that shook Britain.
Constantino Davidoff, an Argentinean entrepreneur that is suspected of
working for the British intelligence, struck a deal with British
authorities to remove tons of scrap metal from the Georgias' Islands.
After the British Royal Navy declined to rent him a ship, he obtained
the collaboration of the Argentinean Navy to transport the scrap metal
from Georgias to continental Argentina.
After a number of incidents involving Davidoff's workers and British
soldiers, the Argentina military government - who saw the conflict as an
easy one and characterized that the US will stay out of the fray -
disembarked commandos, in the Georgias and Malvinas Islands and took
over the installations there. The Argentinean dictatorship headed by
General Galtieri also saw the conflict as a way to distract the
attention of the Argentinean mass movement that was starting to resist
the military government. Few days before the invasion, a first powerful
demonstration of workers occurred in the streets of Buenos Aires.
Britain defeated Argentina after more than two months of military
conflict. Thousands of Argentinean soldiers were captured. In spite the
fact that Britain counted with the full support of the US and Chilean's
military dictatorship of General Pinochet, there were two instances in
which the Argentinean had the upper hand. The first was when they took
over the Islands capturing most of the British military and the governor
of the Islands. The second, during the war, when Argentineans almost
succeeded in their attempts to sink the core of the British Armada.
The war helped develop the mass movement in Argentina and a powerful
anti-imperialist movement also developed in Latin America which stills
persists in most of the continent. Massive demonstrations took place
daily against the British both in Argentina and most Latin American
The Argentinean working class and youth did not have any confidence in
the military Junta and their demands for an anti-imperialist strategy
were coupled with fierce criticisms of the military's handling of the
The Argentinean military, surprised by the military mobilization of
Britain (which they did not expect) and the full support they received
from the US - contrary to the opinion of Argentinean generals and signed
treaties between the US and Latin American countries notwithstanding -
was overwhelmed by the military might of British imperialism, but also
by the incompetence and cowardice of the officers on the ground.
There are many chronicles of Argentinean soldiers and non-commissioner
officers pointing guns against officers who wanted to retreat.
British and the US imperialism falsely accused Argentina of trampling on
the rights of "self-determination" of the Malvinas "people", a claim
that still maintain today, when most of the 2,000 British there are
directly or indirectly employed by a British corporation that
practically owns the Islands. In fact, Britain took over the Malvinas
Islands in the mid-1800s murdering the local Argentinean population.
The British endured guerrilla warfare for years organized by "Gaucho
Rivero", an anti-imperialist guerrilla fighter that was eventually
captured and transported to die in a British prison.
This and the assertion that the war was a war between European
"democracy" and Third World tyranny confused many leftists in Europe
that bought the line of "self-determination" and "democracy" from
Margaret Thatcher. In Latin America nobody was fooled. While
criticizing fiercely the military government, the mass movement in a
dozen countries resolutely opposed British and US imperialism on the
The anti-British and anti-imperialist sentiments run high in Argentina
historically. Britain invaded Buenos Aires twice (1806 and 1807) and
were smashed by popular uprisings. But, starting in the 1830s and until
after the Second World War, Britain dominated so much Argentinean
economy that a British Minister considered it "part and parcel of the
British Empire." Britain was replaced as the dominant imperialist power
in Argentina by the US in the postwar period.
The Argentinean military government was overthrown shortly after the end
of the war and elections were held the following year. During the war,
the Argentinean mass movement gained the confidence and strength to take
on the military which was until then feared for its bloody "Dirty War"
(1976-1982) waged against labor unions and the left that resulted in the
murdering of over 30,000 people.
The cowardice of the government that refused to heed to the demands of
the mass movement to move against British and American economic
interests in Argentina as part of an effective war effort and the
cowardice of the military officers in the battleground marked the end,
and the almost complete present decadence, of the Argentinean armed
forces. It also developed the mass movement independently of the
government that finally buried it.
The return of thousands of rank and file soldiers from the Islands
resulted in many uprisings and protests in military barracks and a
complete loss of control of the government over the population. A vast
movement for the punishment of the military officers involved in the
"Dirty war" developed after the war.
Demonstrations and commemorations are scheduled to take place throughout
the country today.
By Frontlines Correspondents
Over 30,000 people demonstrated last March 24 in Plaza de Mayo and in
front of the National Congress with thousands more in each major city
across Argentina. "Never Again!" and "All Must Go!" were the most
popular slogans of the demonstrations held to commemorate the end of the
military dictatorship (1976-82) and its "Dirty War" that resulted in the
killing of over 30,000 labor and left activists and the imprisonment and
"disappearance" of tens of thousands more.
Organized by civil rights, left organizations and some unions, the
massive demonstrations were a powerful reminder that the Armed Forces
will not be accepted as an alternative to the mainstream ruling class
parties now in crisis. The fact that demonstrators fused the protest
against the murderous military with slogans against the present civilian
government is a clear indication of the awareness that the mass movement
will not allow quietly a repetition of the past.
Since December 19-20, 2001, five governments were forced out of power by
massive demonstrations triggered by 42 months of economic recession and
the lingering effects of economic, social and political crisis that many
believe started with the rule of the military in the mid and late 70s.
In the past, such movements were met with military forces and tanks on
the streets. This time around, that work was left to the police and the
border patrol since the military still cannot openly intervene on behalf
of the ruling class because its defeat in the early 80s.
An interesting debate took place during the celebrations, with the Madre
of Plaza de Mayo and other left organizations, refusing to accept in the
demonstration, members of the government or the mainstream political
parties. Finally, two demonstrations took place simultaneously because
these differences. But government officials were not slated to speak at
any one of the rallies and while some of the mainstream parties
participated in the event, they kept a low profile to avoid angering the
crowd, obviously anti-government.