If some supreme being could give British leftists of my generation the power to go back and stop one historical event, I have no doubt that we would rewind the tape and wipe out the Falklands war. Before General Galtieri’s fascistic junta invaded the islands Margaret Thatcher had no “-ism” after her name. She seemed a doomed prime minister surrounded by enemies, whose party was third in the polls behind the SDP, a political force I suspect many young readers have never heard of. After Britain’s victory, nothing could stop her and by the time she had finished, British socialism was dead, and the prospects for British social democracy did not seem much healthier.
To the revolted minority who watched her brag that she had made Britain great again, the war was a bloody PR exercise that allowed her to surf a wave of jingoism. Victory in the South Atlantic bought off voters, who should have been worrying about mass unemployment and mass factory closures, with homecoming parades and tales of gallantry under fire. The Falklands were not worth dying for, we insisted. Britain and Argentina were “two bald men fighting over a comb”, snapped Gabriel García Márquez. “Falklanders who wish to remain inviolate and British citizens are on a hiding to nowhere. They are too few. They are too far away,” declared the Marxist historian EP Thompson in the Times, which in the hysterical atmosphere of 1982 provoked Tories to denounce him and the editor of the Times as virtual traitors.
As it turned out, anti-war protesters were on “a hiding to nowhere”.
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