Saturday, 4 January 2014

Let's let the dead of 1914-18 lie in peace

As we will become all too aware, this year commemorates the 100th anniversary of what has become euphemistically known as the ‘Great’ War (1914-1918). A conflict that eventually became global being fought across three continents; and involving armed forces from five continents, from over 40 countries. A conflict so horrific as to create around 37 million casualties, 20 million of whom were wounded while a massive 16 million paid with their lives.

While it is not wrong to respect the memory of the dead of wars. It is quite another thing to glory in those deaths. Many on the right, including this current government will do precisely this. They will use 2014 as a time to celebrate the ‘blood sacrifice’ made by millions of men from the Entente armies; a sacrifice necessary to save the world from tyranny. A tyranny created by their kind of people; their class.

Michael Gove, education secretary has already begun banging the martial drum accusing the Left of propagating myths “…designed to belittle Britain and its leaders.”  

In the Daily Mail (now there’s a surprise) he writes:"Our understanding of the war has been overlaid by misunderstandings, and misrepresentations which reflect an, at best, ambiguous attitude to this country and, at worst, an unhappy compulsion on the part of some to denigrate virtues such as patriotism, honour and courage,"

My understanding of that particular war is of young men instilled with a sense of patriotic duty being shot, blown to pieces, maimed, blinded, gassed, driven insane by the incessant noise of heavy artillery bombardments, suffering inhuman deprivations in waterlogged trenches, going over the top only to be mown down by enemy machine-gun fire, wounded and drowning  in the liquid mud of no-man's-land and generally treated as cannon fodder by an uncaring inhumane hierarchy more interested in perfecting the mechanisation and industrialisation of warfare.

Troops marching through poisonous gas to their deaths;
if the gas doesn't get them the deadly rake of machine-gun fire will

There was, and still isn't anything ambiguous about this country's attitude to its working classes. No, working class men were treated as mere fuel to feed the insatiable appetite of people in power. The working classes were back in 1914 used to protect the Empire and the dizzying wealth it afforded the ruling classes. Things haven't changed over the past century. Working class men and women are still sent out to die in remote corners of the world at the behest of capital and neo-liberalism.

So Gove, your take on honour, courage and patriotism are high flown; they are hollow platitudes bestowed upon those deceived into doing your bidding against enemies you and your kind create in order that your class can justify its bellicose raping and pillaging of this planet's resources.

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