This is a guest post by Marxist Lennonist
Voters in this week’s Falkland Islands sovreignty referendum should vote No to maintaining the diplomatically untenable, colonial and actually undignified status quo. Even if there was no territorial dispute, to be a polity separate from the United Kingdom, yet having its defence and foreign policy set by Whitehall, would be absurdly anachronistic, anomalous and, yes, colonialist – even if reaffirmed in a referendum. In the actual situation, in which this village sized polity stands in stark contention with the entire continent of South America in which it is situated, Cameron’s high handed refusal to engage with Argentina’s demand for peaceful talks, which this referendum is meant to rubberstamp, becomes increasingly absurd.
A No vote would not mean immediate Argentine annexation, and certainly wouldn’t mean the return of Galtieri’s brutal rule. How could it – now that the Galtieri junta have not only lost power but have been imprisoned for their many crimes on the initiative of Argentina’s current progressive, leftist, pro-human rights government. This same democratic government has ruled out war and aggression in pursuit of the Argentine claim to the Islands.
Instead it is demanding talks on the sovreignty issue, out of which, if entered into in good faith by all parties, any number of outcomes could conceivably emerge. None would involve denying the human rights of the Islanders, driving you from your homes or forcing you to forswear your British heritage, as nobody serious and certainly not the Argentine government are demanding that. But the constitutional status quo is not necessary for those legitimate rights to be protected; and the massively expensive garrison David Cameron continues to maintain is not only a burden that Britain as a whole can scarce afford in a time of austerity but a perverse and utterly unnecessary means of relating to the rest of the continent, while by sending a nuclear vessel, Britain has violated the long-standing Latin American status as a nuclear-arms-free region under the Tlatelolco Treaty.
For a settlement of 3,000 people to maintain a hostile relationship with the rest of its continent backed up by such overweening military hardware, and for oil to be prospected for in contested waters in the interests of British business, will not suddenly become acceptable to South America, including the rising world power Brazil, and the wider ex-colonial world, just because of a Yes vote in the referendum. The status quo would endure a little longer, but nothing else would change either, including the hostile relationship with the Islanders neighbours. The whole exercise will be dismissed as a stunt – all the more so given that even as the vote was called Falklands’ politicians said they already knew the result!
3,000 people – every man, woman and child of the Falklands population – is just a third of George Galloway and the RESPECT Party’s parliamentary majority over the nearest runner-up in Bradford West, a single constituency out of 650 in Britain. To expect that a settlement this small, smaller than the average English village, has the right to indefinitely direct such military resources as are currently garrisoned in the South Atlantic, when there is no threat to their basic human rights and a peaceful democratic government in Argentina asking only for talks as the alternative to this militarisation, is to make an unwise bet on the indefinite continuance of a policy of post-imperial hubris.
In fact, it would be in Islanders’ own real interests to vote No, to reject an outdated status quo and the militarisation that goes into sustaining it, and instead begin to bring the long running dispute to a beneficial conclusion both for the Islanders and the people of mainland South America.
And perhaps it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to associate more closely with the mainland – while Europe is mired in failed, brutal austerity and continuing recession, and Britain’s position as a military power continues to decline, Latin America has become the most hopeful, happening region in the world, where huge progress is being made to deepen democracy and lift millions upon millions out of poverty, and a more humane world is being proven to be possible. The tidal wave of grief, across national borders and indeed beyond the region all over the world, for the tragic passing this week of the leading figure in this process, Hugo Chavez, is powerful proof of that. Argentina itself has become a major part of this process; President Cristina Fernandez and her government have taken an international lead against the crooked bankers that continue to cause such chaos and misery around the world, including in Britain, and have recently won several major battles with the vulture funds of international finance. And alongside this rejection of financial criminality and striving for social uplift, the deepening of human rights and minority rights is central to the programmes of left governments both in Argentina and the left across the continent.
Therefore is nothing to lose or to fear in rejecting a status quo that will be untenable in the long run in any case, and everything to gain in starting a new and friendlier relationship with the up and coming neighbourhood of which the Islands are fortunate to be part. Vote No in the referendum to reject militarisation and reach out to a region at the forefront of building a better world for humanity.