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Remembrance degenerated

A sea of red poppies and imperial propaganda is distorting the original post-war message of peace, SYMON HILL of the Peace Pledge Union tells the Morning Star

REMEMBRANCE Day is important for learning from the past, the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) believes. But the current government’s approach is not about remembering, but “about forgetting” PPU’s Symon Hill warns.

“The day is almost entirely about British and allied army forces — and any suggestions that wars might not have been justified or the deaths were futile, or that people were exploited by the rich and powerful, is greeted by accusations of dishonouring the dead.

“Pretending that the deaths were worthwhile and sanitising wars is what is really dishonouring their deaths.”

What instead should we be expecting from the government on Remembrance Day?

“Looking war in the face, recognising that it only meets the ends of the rich, and a call for ending war…

“The government’s approach is to use it as a euphemism to encourage people to forget and to go along with militarism today.

“Militarism is a way in which the ruling class encourages the rest of us to do what we are told.

“What we want to see is a Remembrance that remembers all victims of war, whether military or civilian and of all nationalities — seeing the real horrors of war, and not used as an excuse for nationalism.

“Rather than nationalism, it should build international commitment to peace and unity.”

The PPU campaigns to spread a message of peace and encourages people to wear white poppies either alongside or as an alternative to red poppies.

White poppies were founded in 1933 after peace campaigners realised that Britain was moving away from the original post-World War One message of “Never again.”

Today, dozens of alternative events take place across Britain ranging from vigils to religious ceremonies, all honouring all victims of war as well as committing to peace.

But peace campaigning has a long way to go, says Hill.

“Boris Johnson on Sunday will be laying his wreath to remember the dead while British troops are actively training Saudi Arabian troops for an offensive in Yemen. He will talk about remembering death at the same time that children are dying.

“Militarist policies do not solve problems of poverty and climate change, nor do we reduce terrorism and hate and division by sending in men with guns to other nations. You cannot solve deep-seated problems by bombing people.

“Those in power are using the armed forces in the interests of the rich and powerful. Weapons do not make us safe.

“’National-security’ claims are just another way for the powerful to protect their own interests. Working-class people really need the security of decent homes, enough to eat, a decent welfare state and the tackling of the root causes of climate change.”

The PPU does not have any party-political allegiance, but Hill believes there is a need for a real stand for peace during election campaigns, with opposition parties like Labour making the link between peace and economics.

He said: “Economics is not an abstract issue from peace. The government is spending £200 billion on renewing Trident, which could instead be spent on tackling the causes of climate change.

“Militarism is a class issue, and the majority of people recruited into the armed forces are the poorest in society. It is an institution where working-class people salute the rich.

“War fuels poverty around the world, but poverty needs to be tackled.

“Arms companies and military leaders have enormous influence on the government’s decisions on war. Labour, and any other party calling itself progressive, must take a firm stand against militarism, just like it has done with arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

“Labour must stand against Trident and the power of the arms industry and must carry out policies that make sure the armed forces will not be above the law, police and try their own, or hand 16-year-olds contracts that they cannot legally sign elsewhere.

“If there is a Labour government, some of the biggest opposition it will face will be from the arms industry, and it must be ready to tackle it. Labour must be prepared not to give in to such a powerful lobby.

“Jeremy Corbyn used to wear both a white and red poppy, but seems to have been pressured into wearing just the red. It would be delightful if he would wear both again on Sunday and send a message that he will not be intimidated by militarists who do not represent all people.

“Candidates in the general election from both Green and Labour have been wearing white poppies in the last few days.”

Alternative Remembrance Sunday ceremonies are being held across Britain. One event will be held at Tavistock Square in London at 12pm, where a letter from Yemeni people will be read and a minute’s silence will be held.

A full list of events can be found on the PPU website, www.ppu.org.uk

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