Sunday, 2 November 2014

The British Left is Janus-Faced on Remembering our War Dead

Having finished a stint of poppy selling at a local(ish) supermarket today I felt moved to approach a stall that had been set up by three young* lads (*it needs to be said that most people are young to me these days) in support of the Socialist Party. This of course is the socialist party which was once the Militant Tendency within the Labour Party, but is now a separate entity very much outside of same.

The trio were collecting a petition for a £10 minimum wage in London, as well as selling their newspaper "The Socialist".

Feeling cheerful after a fairly successful sale I signed the petition, bought a paper and made a small donation to the cause. One of the lads thanked me and engaged me in conversation, first about the petition he was collecting but then about the poppies he had watched me selling. Generally it was small talk, but he asked me how well I'd done and wished me luck. In a separate short conversation one of the others expressed his solidarity with those who had given their lives in the fight against fascism during the Second World War.

It struck me that probably not much more than half an hour earlier I had been finger-pointed and shouted at by another young chap of a roughly similar age who had seemed to assume from the fact that I was selling poppies that I was pro-war and ipso facto supportive of the military interventions instigated by recent Labour and ConDem governments. Something was said as he walked away to the effect that I was a murderer and a fascist.

The shouter had no connection to the Socialist Party activity but it occurred to me that he would probably have considered himself to occupy a roughly similar place on the political spectrum. And yet their respective views on the whole concept of remembrance could not have been more opposite. An interesting dilemma for the British left to try to resolve.

Incidentally, for the benefit of anybody who is interested my position is generally anti-war, although I am not a pacifist as I acknowledge the case for military action in self-defence. Only very tenuously can this card be played in respect of recent offensive actions in the various Middle Eastern theatres of war in which we've been engaged. My policy is to mourn the victims, respect the service personnel who risk and sometimes give their lives under orders and detest the financiers and politicians who send them to their deaths under sundry nefarious pretexts. Clearly not everybody shares my view.

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