Book Review from the February 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard
One Man's Falklands by Tam Dalyell (Woolf £1.95 Paperback; £5.50 Hardback.)
Those workers who are still looking for a satisfactory explanation of the causes of the Falklands war will find few answers in this book. Apart from a couple of brief references in the first chapter to " . . . external land ownership—just under half the land (46%) and a quarter of the farms—the best farms . . . ", and to the MP for Newbury who in a parliamentary debate put forward the case of one of his constituents, a John Matthews, who owns 200,000 acres in the Falklands, there is no real analysis made of the reasons behind the conflict.
Although Dalyell does not share the bogus argument advanced by most Tory, Labour and Liberal politicians that the sending of the task force was to safeguard "high principles, such as the right of self-determination or making sure that aggression does not pay . . . " he holds an equally questionable view, namely, that "255 young British lives were lost, more than 770 were maimed and will carry awful scars of mind and body until the end of their days . . ." (no concern here for the Argentinian workers killed and wounded) and that "£1600 million, excluding the recurring annual burden of garrisoning the islands", were wasted as the result of ignorance, misjudgment and the injured pride of of politicians in Britain and Argentina.
Dalyell is a Labour politician, concerned with the running of British capitalism, so it is understandable that he is troubled by the financial burden incurred by war; but the stakes in terms of raw materials, trade routes and spheres of influence are high: the estimated cost of a couple of billion pounds is a drop in the South Atlantic ocean as far as the capitalist class is concerned. It is the cost in working-class lives and suffering, both British and Argentinian, that socialists regret. We look forward to the day when workers are no longer prepared to give up their lives fighting in capitalist wars which can never serve their own interests. Workers have to learn that socialism alone will guarantee them full, useful and secure lives. Reading books like One Man's Falklands will not provide them with the necessary knowledge.