June 14 2012 is the 30th anniversary of Argentine surrender in the Falklands War of April-June 1982. This month Finds is reissuing Iron Britannia by Anthony Barnett, originally published between covers in 1982 and deriving from writings Barnett first published in the New Left Review. Iron Britannia is a swingeing polemic against the Falklands War, to which Barnett has now added previously unpublished material and a brand new 10,000-word preface in which he examines Britain’s foreign policy and military engagements overseas in the 30 years since the Falklands. That preface is now posted at Barnett’s Open Democracy website.
Even in a heavy news month of what has been a heavy news year, I doubt any of our readers have failed to notice revived tensions between the UK and Argentina’s Kirchner government over the status and future of the Falkland Islands. Anthony Barnett has been foresquarely involved in this renewed public debate, and also at Open Democracy you can read a fascinating transcript of his appearance last February on BBC Radio Five’s Stephen Nolan Show, where he exchanged views with Jan Cheek of the Falkland Islands’ Legislative Assembly.
Need we pique your interest any further? If so, just take a look at the following selection of responses to Iron Britannia‘s original publication. The reviewers in question require no introduction, as the saying goes.
‘The most impressively sustained polemic against the government’s policy on the Falklands yet to appear.’ Sean French, Sunday Times
‘One of the liveliest pieces of expert polemic this country has seen for many years, and done with almost Swiftian vigour. I warmly recommend it.’ John Fowles, Guardian
‘A furious, sometimes gleeful and often witty polemic against the decaying British political system which the conflict revealed… the Churchillism idea remains the best thing in this essay. Another hit is Barnett’s joyous savaging of the British press: the gloating screams of the Sun, the surging moral orgasms of the Times.’ Neal Ascherson, London Review of Books
‘A blistering polemic from the outside left written in the heat of anger (and incidentally in limpid English). Anthony Barnett makes a variety of telling points in his attack on Mrs. Thatcher and the English parliamentary hegemony. Most tellingly of all, the concept he puts forward of ‘Churchillism’, the rhetoric of national unity which overrides party and class considerations.’ Geoffrey Wheatcroft, Times Literary Supplement
‘Brings some sense into the strange episode of the Falklands war.’ A. J. P. Taylor, Observer (Books of the Year)
‘A sharp intelligently argued case … his examination of the mythological factors at work in the British political situation is brilliant.’ Robert Kee
‘In the most honourable tradition of left-wing journalism, it is also very funny.’ Angela Carter
‘Without belittling those who served, it exposes the rhetoric heaped on their efforts by the Government and the media.’ Andrew Wilson, Observer
‘A welcome antidote to the current wave of Falkland porn, and the author poses the right questions.’ Ben Pimlott, New Society
‘The only interesting analysis of the war I’ve read.’ David Hare
‘Barnett makes a devastating case to show Thatcher’s attempt to utilize the war for political purposes.’ Tam Dalyell, Tribune