Saturday, October 30, 2010


For more information about White Poppies and the PPU please follow link

1 comment:

  1. A little late, but nevertheless summarises why I reject national chauvinism and militarism.

    Why the poppy is wrong

    The red poppy has been sold by the British Legion since its formation in 1921, but this was not the first veterans’ association. After the First World War, demobilised soldiers were promised “a land fit for heroes to live in” but instead found slums, unemployment and poverty. The physically disabled, and the hidden and
    forgotten masses of psychologically scarred, received scant support.

    The first veterans’ organisations were, at least vaguely, left wing. The Labour-aligned National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers was formed in 1917, campaigning for better war pensions and job opportunities and excluded officers from membership. At the same time, the left-Liberal organised National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers campaigned under the slogan “justice not charity”.

    In response to this the right set up their own veterans’organisation. The Comrades of the Great War was set up by the Lord Derby, a Conservative who was still Secretary of State for War, and by 1921 this group and the equally establishment Officers’ Association successfully absorbed the two more critical organisations, forming the British Legion in a deliberate attempt to render the veterans’ movement uncritically semi-official.

    The British Legion still sees itself as welfare provider to ex-servicemen and co-ordinates remembrance events in conjunction with the military, and although in recent years it has developed a clearer campaigning profile for the rights of ex-service personnel, this is swaddled in promoting the military (one recent
    campaign was called “doing your bit”). Often they demand not improvement, but priority: in 2008 they won their demand that injured service personnel
    be treated first in the NHS.

    While it is right that injured personnel should get compensated and treated, their needs and rights are no greater than an injured builder or any other worker.
    So if a red poppy is the outward symptom of inward national chauvinism, what of the white poppy of the pacifist Peace Pledge Union?

    The PPU originated in 1934 and, paralleling the more recent antics of George Galloway, tended to argue the justice of German claims to parts of Czechoslovakia and Poland. Although Germany had suffered a genuinely unjust peace after the FirstWorldWar, the PPU failed to recognise the direction of the march of the Third Reich. Worse still, a PPU pamphlet of 1938 stated there is “ reason why Germany should not have colonies”. The PPU also refused to take sides in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), refusing to oppose the Nazibacked forces of Franco as they crushed the working class and destroyed democracy in Spain for a generation.The policy of the PPU was exactly that of the British state.

    Ultimately the PPU were the product of the craving for peace that dominated British society in the 1930s, a reflexive but inadequate response to the horrors of the First World War. Similarly, the British Legion had undertaken a misguided trip to Germany in 1935 to meet German veterans, only to be drawn into Nazi propaganda, dining with Himmler, being photographed with Hitler and (most shockingly) visiting a concentration camp.

    While the British Legion has acted as ideologues for the use of British armed force, the PPU helped shape not even a political pacifist movement but an individualist one. The PPU originally sought pledges from men
    not to fight, and this led not to a movement against war but encouraged individual conscientious objectors doing nothing to stop war but opting out as isolated individuals.

    In the end the white poppy and the red poppy are reverse sides of the same coin—the red poppy suggesting that peace in a world of nationalistic rivalries can be achieved militarily, the white that by behaving in a “reasonable” way the causes of war under capitalism can be undermined.

    Workers Liberty 18.11.2010