Monday, 31 July 2017

For Democratic Internationalism

Recently while surfing the Twittersphere I came across an incredibly moronic tweet by the everlasting twit that is Mark Ames, who likes to make alot of noise about "Russophobia" that is supposedly rampant in the media. Though I have occasionally retweeted him as he does produce the odd good tweet.

You really have to wonder in amazement, and a slight tinge of disgust, at the implication Ames and his co-'thinkers' are trying to push here. The implication is obviously that to have criticisms of the increasing authoritarianism of the Maduro regime in Venezuela and to refuse to ignore and throw under the buse the victims of Baathist totalitarianism in Syria is to be a neoconservative (I know, makes no sense either).

Supporting popular revolutions against tyrants was practically Leftism 101. Now, according to some, this position makes you a 'neocon', even if you are against Western intervention and, in the case of Venezuela, criticise opportunistic, power craving rightist forces you're still a 'neocon'. How can Mark Ames (and others, Ames wasn't the only one) with a straight face and a clear conscience chuck buckets of slime at those who have temerity to hold an opinion that does not step in line completely with stultifying orthodoxy?
Seriously, if a leftist can't support, or at the very least engage with, democratic revolutions worldwide then what is there to being a leftist? I do not consider any ideology that is not interested in supporting democratic movements worldwide as 'left'. Nor could I call anything 'left' that is provincialist, not internationalist, that believes in 'socialism at home but fascism and counter-revolution abroad'. Democracy is the soul of socialism, without it it means nothing. Which is why the struggle for socialism should always be married with the struggle for democracy.

During the war on terror, there were a number of leftists in the argument with the neoconservatives and their liberal interventionist fellow travellers like Michael Ignatieff, Christopher Hitchens and David Aaronovitch who argued that instead of invading other countries to 'export democracy', we should support and encourage grassroots pro-democracy movements within these societies who will eventually emancipate themselves. As Frantz Fanon once explained when writing about political education, there is no such thing as a "grand liberator", the people liberate themselves:

"To educate the masses politically does not mean, cannot mean making a political speech. What it means is to try, relentlessly and passionately, to teach the masses that everything depends on them; that if we stagnate it is their responsibility, and that if we go forward it is due to them too, that there is no such thing as a hero that will save them with his magic hands, that there is no famous man who will take the responsibility for everything, but that the hero is the people themselves and the magic hands are finally only the hands of the people."

This was basically what Tariq Ali said to Christopher Hitchens when they debated the war in Afghanistan in 2002. Noam Chomsky also argued this position:

"If we want to overthrow the regime of Uzebekistan, now a great favourite, but it happens to be not very different to the Taliban, the way to do it would not be to bomb Uzbekistan, but to support internal democratic forces and let them do it. And that generalises around the world"

I completely agree with this. This should be the left's response to neoconservatives and the liberal hawks. The idea that the United States is an 'Empire of Liberty' has always struck me as oxymoronic nonsense. It should be axiomatic that liberty and imperialism cannot co-exist, given the long history of blood stained dictatorships America has sponsored and, in a few instances, directly imposed upon free peoples.

Problem is when a popular revolution actually did happen in Syria as part of the Arab Spring, both Chomsky and Ali after some ambivalent support, engaged in relativising Assad's atrocities and those of his sponsors, Russia and Iran; churning out a simplistic and false narrative that puts the blame for the conflict on the United States for pursuing an aggressive "regime change" policy a la Iraq. Even going as far, in the case of Ali, as defaming the revolution's advocates as "Al-Qaeda supporters", even when they support unarmed groups like the White Helmets. That I guess the real difference between us is not whether we acknowledge the existence of these movements, but whether we truly value them or not.

I have grown extremely irritated to the point of tedium at this false dichotomy that has developed on the Left where you are either against Western crimes but apologise for any tyrannical regime that so happens to be anti-Western in the name of a morally vaccuous "anti-imperialism". Or you rightfully condemn the crimes of these regimes but relativise, and in some cases support, the crimes of the Western powers simply because 'we' committed them not the other guy. These two positions are untenable for anyone who cares about socialist internationalism or a genuine anti-imperialism that is based on solidarity with people struggling for emancipation not protecting oppressive states.

We should refuse the nasty distinction of 'worthy' and 'unworthy' victims based on who is the one holding the whip over them. We should be against both the Western sponsored Saudi bombings in Yemen and Russia's bombings in Syria. We should simultaneously support the overthrow of Assad in Syria and support the overthrow of the Western backed Sisi dictatorship in Egypt. We should call for the ouster of the regressive and barbaric Wahabbi theocracy of Saudi Arabia and the no less regressive and barbaric Shia theocracy of Iran.

One can strive to arrive at this morally consistent internationalism without becoming a 'cruise missile liberal' or a 'state department socialist'. If criticising the authoritarianism and the complete abjectness of Maduro, and if expressing solidarity with the popular forces hanging on for their lives in Syria, against the double counter-revolutions of Russia and Iran and Al-Qaeda and ISIS,  makes me a neoconservative (which is laughable) then so be it. I would rather be called a name I don't like than compromise my principles. And you should either.

Damn! They're onto us.

Friday, 21 July 2017

The Value of Alexander Cockburn

 "The first rule of journalism: to confirm existing prejudice, rather than contradict it."-Alexander Cockburn

It is really hard to believe it will be five years since the unfortunate passing of Alexander Cockburn, one of the most infamous radical journalists of his generation, after a two year long battle with cancer in July 2012.

I have a bizarre hate/respect relationship with Alexander Cockburn, editor and co-founder of Counterpunch and former columnist at Village Voice and The Nation. When I became politically conscious as a blooming 15 year old; interested in politics, especially radical politics, I regularly read, almost religiously, Cockburn's articles on the Counterpunch website.

For a young and impressionable person like me, reading Cockburn was truly a wonder and a delight. He made me repeatedly think to myself when reading his articles, with my dictionary at hand: "I want to write like that". He was initially one of my inspirations because he was never afraid to tell it like it is on issues such as capitalism, imperialism, liberal cowardice and hypocrisy, the war on drugs, the growth of the national security state and American vanity, even if it meant upsetting people.

You see, Cockburn wasn't one of those 'serious' commentators who occupy the centre of respectable American political commentary. Serious commentators don't make too big a fuss about class. It’s too divisive and ideological. Nor do they indulge in careless talk about American "imperialism" - you know that far left concoction. That is just gross and irresponsible. Sure, America makes mistakes and blunders abroad, sometimes murderous ones, but always with good intentions in its noble heart.

Cockburn truly did not give a damn about being 'politically correct' or towing the conventional line, if this meant offending people then so be it. He was ruthless, uncompromising and extremely witty in his criticism of the establishment with a vocabulary and fluency that was unrivalled, perhaps, dare I utter, almost immaculate.

To give you an example:

"Tedium in a pundit is inevitable and, in its own way, soothing. In the days of C L Sulzberger, [Thomas] Friedman's remote predecessor on the "foreign affairs" beat on the Times' op-ed page, I used to look forward to C L's narcotic musings as eagerly as Coleridge to his opium pipe. As I wrote once years ago, C L was the summation, the Platonic ideal of what foreign commentary is all about, namely to fire volley after volley of cliché into the densely packed prejudices of his readers. He never deviated into paradox, never shunned the obvious when he had a chance to grapple with it. His work was a constant affirmation of received beliefs.

 "But Sulzberger had the graces of an older world, the decorum of the chancery or the embassy dinner. He slipped over the side quietly one day and was gone. I miss him, and sometimes, nodding over the Times op-ed with eyes half closed, I fancy I can hear him still."

Then he hilariously pawns New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman:

"[Thomas] Friedman's is an industrial, implacable noise, like having a generator running under the next table in a restaurant. The only sensible thing to do is leave."

To give you some more examples of him laying into pundits with his trademark ferocious and entertaining turn of phrase. In a 2003 article exposing the falsehoods Jeffrey Goldberg (now editor of The Atlantic) produced as part of the justifications for the Iraq war, he refers to David Remnick of The New Yorker as a "third-tier talent who has always got ahead by singing the correct career-enhancing tunes". Or for instance, referring to Christopher Hitchens as "Hitcheypoo". In his obituary to Hitchens he snipes at him for "trumpeting about Islamo-Fascism like a Cheltenham colonel in one of those ancient Punch cartoons" - that one weirdly gets me every time. There is a lot of this muck racking where that came from with Cockburn.

The main problem of being an oppositionist who lives in the West and other relatively free, democratic and prosperous countries, has not been political repression, though we should always be vigilant for attempts by the state to violate our liberties, or getting fired from a university or a media outlet for having unpopular ideas that go against the prevailing ideology of that institution. The main problem has been refusing to surrender your mind to the soft yet very powerful pressure of the intellectual and ideological orthodoxy of the ruling class. It is so easy to get that cushy, comfortable job in academia or in the mainstream press where all you do is just play along, writing page after page of mindless clichés and consensus ridden drivel that has little relevance to what is actually going on in the world.

To his credit, Cockburn never gave into this pressure, and always remained a radical even when it became fashionable make your peace with the status quo. He always put his ideas on the line, and was unrepentant in doing so. I'll admit that in my own makeshift and rather pathetic fashion I have tried to write like him. Though I don't think I could quite match his elite education at Oxford, but at least I am encouraged by his example to be firm in your beliefs, speak your mind and as he would always say "keep your hatred pure".

Inevitably when Alexander Cockburn is discussed, comparisons with Christopher Hitchens will almost always be brought up. For good reason. They were in some ways similar. Both were of the 1960s British New Left (Cockburn was Anglo-Irish, Hitchens was English) who made the journey across the pond for pastures new in America. Both were extremely articulate and witty. Both were among the most fearless and brilliant radical writers of their generation. Both were even close friends, for a time.

However, they had their obvious differences. Hitchens always held a very high opinion of George Orwell, while Cockburn despised Orwell who he thought was a snitch and a right wing thug. Hitchens hated Mother Teresa, while Cockburn oddly had a soft spot for her. Cockburn never took seriously Hitchens' later polemics against religion, he felt the argument over religion was settled in the 18th century and it was of little use to keep banging on about what in his view were relatively innocuous beliefs. Hitchens always had that liberal interventionist streak in him even before he 'left the left' after 9/11, Cockburn was an absolute refusenik on liberal interventionism- even in its "humanitarian" forms- which he regarded as the litmus test for whether you were a true radical or just another pathetic liberal apologist for empire.

I may be at risk of provoking the ire of some Hitchens fans but in my opinion Cockburn was a better writer, even if marginally (I'm talking about style not necessarily the content of their views). Both men were living and breathing thesauruses and were extremely well read which one could easily tell if you read their works. But Cockburn understood something that Hitchens didn't: that sometimes less is more. A sneaky quote from Balzac or Trollope, or a sly reference to Conrad, would do for Cockburn, while Hitchens at times tried too much to show off how much a literary officiando he was. Which is why reading Hitchens sometimes felt like you were having your mouth stuffed with chocolate creams. We all love chocolate creams, but we all feel a little sick if you have too much.

Nevertheless, despite all my praise for Cockburn for his intellect, wit and fearless contrarianism, he had some tremendous failings. Failings that have gravely dampened my view of him. To give you a few: his flirtations with the militia movement and the paleocon right, his climate change denialism, his lack lustre attitude towards anti-Semitism and his crypto Stalinism, best demonstrated by his soft apologia for the Soviet Union.

Take a look at his comments cheering the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in 1980:

"We all have to go one day, but pray God let it not be over Afghanistan. An unspeakable country filled with unspeakable people, sheepshaggers and smugglers, who have furnished in their leisure hours some of the worst arts and crafts ever to penetrate the occidental world. I yield to none in my sympathy to those prostrate beneath the Russian jackboot, but if ever a country deserved rape its Afghanistan."       

This is just unconscionable. It’s indefensible, disgusting and racist. There is a slight irony in him condemning Hitchens for being a "flag waver" and "cheerleader of empire" when Cockburn was very euphoric about Soviet imperialism in Afghanistan. Though I will say, as wrong as Hitchens was about Iraq (and he was very wrong, dare I say criminally so), I don't think he would've ever thought, let alone pen something as vile and inhuman as this in regards to Iraq.

Those comments have always troubled me but they, combined with his petty and rather tiresome sniping of Orwell, republishing his father, Claud Cockburn, Stalinoid lies about the Spanish civil war on Counterpunch and his squalid attempts to sanitise Stalin's crimes made things very clear to me where he stood on the question of the Soviet empire. I guess I should've paid more attention.

Of course, he was no plain vanilla Stalinist. He was not a full on supporter of the Soviet Union, as he recognised its obvious deficiencies. But he was never that opposed to it either. In Cockburn's mind the Soviet Union was an imperfect but dearly missed counter hegemonic power to American hegemony and its global capitalist form that still despite its ghastly flaws had admirable achievements.

As he writes in his 1996 book The Golden Age is in Us:

“The Soviet Union defeated Hitler and fascism. Without it, the Cuban Revolution would never have survived, nor the Vietnamese. In the post-war years it was the counterweight to US imperialism and the terminal savageries of the old European colonial powers. It gave support to any country trying to follow an independent line. Without it, just such a relatively independent country as India could instead have taken a far more rightward course. Despite Stalin’s suggestion to Mao that he and his comrades settle for only half a country, the Chinese Revolution probably would not have survived either."

This is such a conservative, indeed reactionary, view to hold of the Soviet Union, reminiscing with nostalgia about its various achievements. Nevertheless, it’s the typical logic of the fellow traveller.

William Keach gives a good critique of this view:

"Every sentence of this paragraph belies Cockburn’s political intelligence and represents a barrier to his asking the most important political questions. In what sense had either the Cuban or the Vietnamese revolutions survived by 1991? Was the Soviet Union a ‘counterweight to US imperialism’ or a rival imperialist power in its own right, imposing its own regimes of repression? Did the Soviet Union encourage or block the development of genuine socialist politics in India? Caught up in the terminal crisis of Stalinist Russia, and obviously appalled by a world increasingly dominated by US style market capitalism, Cockburn retreats to a backward looking defence of mythical Russian accomplishments."

He goes on:

"Cockburn clearly felt in August of 1991 that the world had entered the era of ‘post-communism’. Just where this left him politically is indicated by his quoting a from Vietnamese intellectual Nguyen Khac Vien: ‘If a world front of capital is being founded, its counterweight, the democratic popular front on a world scale, is also in formation’. This is where Cockburn was left by the collapse of the Soviet Union, with a nebulous global popular frontism."

This "nebulous popular frontism" was probably why Cockburn entered into 'coalition building' (his phrase) with paleo-libertarians in opposing the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. I have always found very problematic that many sections of the anti-war and anti-imperialist left enter into various alliances of convenience with all sorts of reactionary groupings just for the sake of opposing American power.

One could accuse me of ideological tribalism on this point but the fact is I have very different reasons in opposing American imperialism to a paleo-libertarian. They oppose American imperialism from an 'America first' isolationist perspective, the ultimate form of conservatism, desiring America retreat from the world to become a 'shining city on the hill'. While a leftist ought to oppose American imperialism (or any other form of imperialism for that matter) from an internationalist perspective. The only anti-imperialism that is worth anything is one that is progressive and internationalist, not one that is reactionary and provincial.

One problems with this reactionary, narrow and doctrinal form of "anti-imperialism" is that it has eroded the politics of solidarity and doesn't say much about the struggle for democracy. Which is why Cockburn was more concerned about defending 'Yugoslavia' from intervention yet was ambivalent towards the Bosnian and Kosovar victims of Milosevic, who in his eyes barely existed. Moreover, this is why he poured scorn on the Libyan and Syrian revolutions in their early days, defaming them as basically Islamist insurgencies with Western patronage. In the end, his version of 'solidarity' was objectively protecting oppressive governments rather than helping oppressed peoples.

Being a radical, an oppositionist, insisting on thinking for yourself (at least aspiring to those things), will mean confronting the views of those who you admire, admitting to yourself that they are flawed creatures, just like you. Dropping the rose tinted view, you eventually realise that what may have been a difference of opinion was actually a difference of principle.

When dealing with polarising figures like Cockburn, it is very easy to say that you can separate out a writers virtues and vices, to say that he was good on this, bad on that, and this and that have nothing to do with each other. This is rarely true about any writer, but it was absolutely not true about Cockburn, whose insights and blindspots were so coalesced with one another that he wouldn't be the same person if you tried to make that distinction. So on the one hand he was an entertaining polemicist and a fierce critic of empire and inequality, on the other hand he was a bloody Stalinist.

I realise much of the liberal reaction to Cockburn's death in 2012 could be summed up as "good riddance". This is not surprising given Cockburn's intense hatred for liberals, so much so that he even wrote some columns for The Wall Street Journal - the editors managed to find a leftist who hated liberals and liberalism as much as they did.

However, for all my disagreements with him, for all his low points and in spite of the fact that he was essentially neo-Stalinist scum, I don't think he is completely worthless. Many of his articles, whether on The Nation or even on Counterpunch are still very agreeable and very entertaining with his trademark humour and wit. And I still can't help but see him as an inspiration, though more in style than in actual content, as someone who was unafraid to go against any party line. Even when he was frustratingly wrong on issues like climate change, I quietly respected the fact that he had the courage of his conviction and really did not give a shit that he was in a minority of one, against the entire left. With so much groupthink on the left, we need people who will not be afraid to go against the grain and scrutinize the smelly little orthodoxies that infest so much of the left.

It's not an easy task, to adopt a two-eyed approach and simultaneously critique the existing order and the failings of your own side. You'll find that you may feel politically out of place, but the task is still necessary for those with an independent mind, who still believe in the fruits of justice, enlightenment and progress.

Alexander Cockburn tried to sincerely undertake this task. But the problem was he went after some of the wrong dogmas, which weren't actually dogmas, and played a part in erecting a few dogmas himself. Thus, my reaction to him not being with us anymore is not "good riddance" but "what a waste".

Additonal resources:

This excellent blog by BobFromBrockley on Cockburn's family background and his ideological triangulations 

Touching tribute to him by his niece, Olivia Wilde (yes that Olivia Wilde), celebrating his life. 

A gathering at the Frontline club in London  from 2013, among the panelists his brother, Patrick Cockburn, remembering Alexander's life and celebrating his achievements. 

Monday, 5 June 2017

On the Importance of Voting

On this Thursday, 8th of June 2017, millions of people will be going to polling stations throughout the United Kingdom in order to cast their vote in the upcoming election. The British people will deciding who their next prime minister will be, choosing between Theresa May of the Conservative party or Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, a decision that will have a drastic influence over the future of our country. It will affect all our lives, and in a post-Brexit world, will ultimately determine the United Kingdom's place in the world.

The opportunity we as citizens have to vote in this election should not be underestimated or dismissed as irrelevant, not only because of the power each of us holds -however small it actually is- in our own hands, but because the right to vote is a value that we should all hold dear. We should'nt forget that back in the 18th century, only a tiny minority of people were allowed to vote. That minority was, of course, made up of wealthy, propertied, white protestant males who thought that only they should have the right to decide the future of their country. A dictatorship of the rich and the privileged you might say.

We should also take a moment to remember that there are still many of our brothers and sisters all around the world who are denied the right to vote or whose votes are abused and degraded in rigged and fradulent elections. Even though universal suffrage is a key element of our democracy, we are still incredibly lucky to have it. In countries like Syria, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea and Zimbabwe, where human rights are absolutely negated, people do not have this right and virtually have no say, no control over how their own society is run.

For many people throughout the world, the idea that a genuinely free and fair election would take place, and the government would peacefully give up power to the opposition if they lost, seems like an idealistic dream. However, flawed our bourgeoise form of democracy is, however limited it is, however rusty its institutions are, however much we want to enhance it, improve it and deepen it -which we should continue to demand. We all have to admit that that we, in the UK, and in other free nations, are among the lucky few in this world that are living this dream of democracy.

But we shouldn’t just feel fortunate that we have this right to democratically choose our governments. We should also feel grateful. I’m not saying we should be thanking the establishment or worshipping  the monarchy for granting us this right to vote. After all, the right of universal suffrage was not given to the citizens of the UK out of good will or kindness from our benevolent and 'enlightened' masters. It was fought for and taken from them. As Fredrick Douglass once put it, "Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will".
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
Read more at:
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
Read more at:
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
Read more at:

We should remember those who struggled so that we could go to the polling stations on Thursday. We should remember Thomas Paine, one of my heroes and one of the great revolutionaries in history, whose book The Rights of Man called for an expansion of suffrage beyond wealthy elites. We should feel grateful to the 11 martyrs killed at the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, amongst them the great radical speaker and champion of working class emancipation Henry Hunt, attacked by local yeomanry for campaigning for their right to vote.

Then there are the Chartists, the 19th Century radical working class campaigners for parliamentary reform. Their six-point programme included demands for universal suffrage and voting by secret ballot - both of which we really do take for granted. All of these revolutionaries struggled to give us what we have today, and we should commemorate their struggle by casting our votes on June 8th.

But these groups were only the beginning of this battle. When we vote, we must also feel indebted to the feminist movement and their legendary exemplars such as suffragettes like Emily Davison, Annie Kenney, Emmeline Pankhurst, Sylvia Pankhurst, Sophia Duleep Singh and many others. They suffered persecution, imprisonment, defamation and abuse so that women could have equal voting rights to men.

It is thanks to the sacrifices of these radicals and revolutionaries that we have the right to vote and many other liberties that mak us a free people living in a free society.

I perfectly recognise that the bourgeoise, representative democracy we live under is limited and not as I would like it in an ideal world. It is basically, as Noam Chomsky would put it, a "ratification process", where both sides offer you, the voter, their positions -often with little difference between them- and you ratify them at the voting booth depending on which position you want. This is a limited form of democracy. Still a democracy nontheless. A more radical and meaningful form of democracy would be that I, and of course everyone else, would play some role in forming and creating these positions that affect our lives. And power isn't concerntrated in the hands of a distant and self-interested elite but is devolved amongst the people.

Anyways, that, I suppose, demonstrates the importance of voting. Not just because we are voting in an incredibly important election that will shape our futures, but because we are lucky that we can vote at all. It hasn’t always been this way. We haven’t always had this precious democratic right. So, when we put our slips in the ballot box on Thursday, whatever our gender, ethnicity, skin colour, religion, class, we should remember those who gave their lives so that every one of us could have this right.

When the election arrives, I urge you to go to the ballot box and vote. If you feel alienated and disenfranchised from politics, I don’t blame you, it often feels like you have a choice between tweedle dum and tweedle dumber. Alot of things are rotten in British politics and desperately need radical reform. But I would still advise you to vote in this election as it would be the start of your political engagement and you will find out that small differences within a power system can have relatively significant consequences and one cannot be completely neutral about this, even for those of us who ultimately seek to create a more radical alternative.

I would also advise you to try your best to become politically engaged, increase your democratic consciousness and become more actively engaged. It may seem pointless, but it ensures you won’t be dismissed as entirely apathetic.

Turning out to vote on Thursday is the least we can do for all those who struggled for the rights we enjoy today.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The One Thing I Agree With The Iron Lady On

As a leftist, it is virtually an article of faith to axiomatically hate and despise Margaret Thatcher, for good reason I would wager.

She was the Godmother of what we now call neoliberalism, an economic doctrine that has wreaked much havoc across the world, especially in the global south. She smashed the workers and trade union movement in Britain. She was very friendly with dictators like Augusto Pinochet, Zia Ul-Haq and Suharto. In addition, she was an ally of Saddam Hussein, an admirer of the Saudi royal family and very soft on the apartheid regime in South Africa. And is responsible for so many other iniquities.

Her acolytes and supporters repeatedly described her, in the totally vacuous and fawning tributes and obituaries in the aftermath of her death in 2013, as a "fearless champion of freedom, democracy and rule of law" when she was anything but the opposite. If I had things my way she would've been described as a champion of despotism and tyranny and an enemy of liberty and democracy.

Anyways, enough of my vitriol. I'll save that for another day to get it out of my system.

Despite my criticisms of her, there is one issue where the 'Iron Lady' and I would see eye to eye, somewhat: The Falklands War.

The reason why I feel the Falklands war, and more importantly the defeat of Galtieri, was on balance a good thing was because of its biggest collateral benefit, which was, the utter embarrassment and discrediting of Galtieri's murderous, fascist junta, and its eventual overthrow.

It was also a bloody nose for the United States, who were uncomfortably made to choose between their British allies or their Argentine junta clients. What many people don't know is far from standing side by side with Britain all the way, Reagan pleaded with Thatcher not to completely retake the islands which would lead to "Argentine humiliation" and tried to produce a compromise between Argentina and Britain, as recent revelations have subsequently revealed. It was only when it was clear that Britain had the upper hand that the US gave firm support to Britain.

The neo-fascist regime of Galtieri and his junta was a favourite of the Reagan administration and the neoconservative apologists like Jeanne Kirkpatrick who viewed the regime as a "bulwark against Communism" in Latin America. Presumably because the "Majestic General's" death squads would stamp out any movement that was not in total subordination to American interests in South America (like the democratic socialist government of Salvador Allende inconveniently elected in Chile in 1970). Moreover, the junta also helped to train and arm the CIA backed homicidal Contra mercenaries in its war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

During the reign of the Argentine Junta, as part of its "Dirty war", (a policy green lighted by the then US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger- why he is still on the outside is beyond me!) anyone who fit the bill of a "subversive" which included leftists, trade unionists, intellectuals, students and journalists simply "disappeared" and was never seen or heard of again.

Any tin pot dictatorship can throw a dissident in jail, and censor their publications because they dislike their opinion, but it is often the most appalling and filthy totalitarian regimes that just make people "disappear". It has that psychological effect of sending a warning to an already terrorised population that if they fall out of line then they or their loved one will be next.

"Los desparecidos" was the name given to an estimated 30,000 people who met this unfortunate fate. Calling them "the disappeared" gives you the impression that there was an air of mystery as to what happened to them. The reality is that most were horrifically tortured, sexually violated, and then murdered.

If you read Jacobo Timerman's, Prisoner Without a Name, about what this hideous regime did to prisoners (especially female ones) in the notorious torture centre of the Navy Petty-Officers School of Mechanics, you will encounter horrific accounts that will curl your hair:

"The entire affective world, constructed over the years with utmost

difficulty, collapses with a kick in the father's genitals, a smack on

the mother's face, an obscene insult to the sister, or the sexual vio-

lation of a daughter. Suddenly an entire culture based on familial

love, devotion, the capacity for mutual sacrifice collapses. Nothing

is possible in such a universe, and that is precisely what torturers

know...From my cell, I'd hear the whispered voices of children

trying to learn what was happening to their parents, and I'd witness

the efforts of daughters to win over a guard, to arouse a feeling of

tenderness in him, to incite hope of some lovely future relationship

between them in order to learn what was happening to her mother,

to get an orange sent to her, to get permission for her to go

to the bathroom."

This was the reality that the people of Falklands Islands woke up to in May 1982, and would eventually have had to face. It simply could not be allowed that an anti-Semitic, fascist dictatorship run by professional murderers, rapists and torturers could invade an island it had no right to, and trample on the right to self-determination of the inhabitants; it had to be expelled.

Now, in having this opinion, I am to a certain degree in a minority amongst the left- not that I mind that much.

Some on the left, out of a very synthetic and dogmatic pseudo-"anti-imperialism", not merely opposed Thatcher's war to retake the Falklands (that's one thing) but sided with the Galtieri junta. It is so bizarre to me that some of them were delighted that the 'Malvinas' had been 'liberated' from British imperialism when it was clearly the case that the Argentine junta were the ones acting like imperialists and were the naked aggressors.

However, it must be said that most of the left certainly did not like Galtieri because of its suppression of leftists and trade unions and the support it received from the United States, but opposed the war mainly because of discomfort at the flag waving, bloodthirsty, "Argie bashing" jingoism and the ridiculous "Rule Britannia" imperial nostalgia that surrounded that war.  And the belief that Mrs. Thatcher would manipulate this reservoir of patriotism to boost her popularity for the 1983 election.

I can understand the aversion to aggressive British chauvinism, especially when it veered in to xenophobia. I don't like it either. The infantile, puerile nonsense makes me want to puke out food that I've forgotten ever eating.

 The infamous headline from The Sun

 after the controversial sinking of the Belgrano

Nonetheless, despite all this, and despite the fact it helped Thatcher get re-elected I think the war was a good thing, not because of "British pride" but because it’s collateral effect meant the downfall of the fascist junta and the re-establishment of Argentinian democracy.

Because of my internationalism, my love of liberty and a fundamental and visceral antipathy towards tyranny of any sort (especially Fascist tyranny), I simply cannot regret the defeat of Galtieri at the hands of Thatcher or delude myself into thinking the end of the regime was insignificant because it might be a convenient point of credit for Mrs. Thatcher. In my view, a free and democratic Argentina, emancipated from the dark days of fascist oppression and tyranny is the greater good to come out of this whole episode.

There is a very simple principle at stake with the Falklands/Malvinas question: the right to self-determination of the people who live there. If they wish to remain British, which clearly they do, then that is what their status should be. If they still of a sudden want to be part of Argentina or wish to do what the Americans did in 1776 and declare independence from Britain then I would support that right too. But the fact of matter, as the 2013 referendum demonstrated quite clearly, the islanders wish to remain British. So, this is a non-issue for me, and the Argentines are simply punching air.

Hopefully at some point this question that derives from a petty 19th century imperial quarrel will be buried once and for all.