As both a Christian and a Socialist, I always have problems with the celebration of militarism otherwise known as Poppy Day. Whether or not I would have had sufficient strength of character to stand by my pacifist principles in extreme circumstances is something that used to cause me considerable concern but, there are also other issues involved.
Much soul searching was involved, even when I had attempted to renounce my Xtian faith and, subsequently joined a revolutionary socialist organization. Don't get me wrong, I was already a socialist when I became a Christian, and failed to see the apparent necessity of taking on the petty bourgeois pretensions & morality that seemed to be the norm for evangelicals those days and saw communism, in an idealistic sense, as being far more compatible with Christianity than capitalism.
I moved freely between and amongst various groupings of the left, dismayed by much of the ideological bickering; I did manage however to retain friendships, in spite of (doctrinal) difficulties with members of factional groupings other than the one for which I settled.Too many of my comrades seemed to revel in the prospect of a good rumble, one could almost sense them salivating at the prospect of a bloody uprising. I consoled myself with the thought that bloodshed, like class warfare, is generally instigated by the capitalist ruling class and therefore resistance to their unjust power structures, which could only be maintained by the use of force, became a moral imperative.
But what of turning the other cheek; to be honest that may be the only option when confronted with the combined might of military and police, should the true wealth creators, the working class, attempt to fight for a truly just and democratic society where real equality of opportunity for everyone in a society focussed on care for one's neighbour. Bear in mind that I use neighbour in the broadest sense, that of the parable of the good Samaritan not the cynicism of "charity begins at home". To turn the other cheek is an expression of disdain for the values of those who rule by force. I did decide,however, that if I was able to shake off the shackles of my religious faith I would be happy to take up arms in the cause of a workers revolution. At the same time I recognized that there was no way I could take up arms for Queen and country, the capitalist cause. A complex dilemma indeed; the message and life of Jesus had so firmly grasped me that I still felt guilty at my readiness. albeit hypothetical, to take up arms for a revolutionary cause.
I fully appreciate the preparedness of young people, often from socially deprived areas of the nation, to join the armed forces in order to learn a trade and earn a living. Since the politically wilful destruction of our industrial base other job opportunities are greatly restricted. Nor do I doubt that many military personnel are serving in support of deeply held principles, whether understandably honourable or misguided is here irrelevant. For me a major scandal of the Poppy Appeal is that the welfare of those who have served their nation, and it's capitalist cause, should be dependent in any way upon charitable donations. It is the responsibility of the state that recruits, employs and puts the lives of these young men at risk,for whatever ideological motivation, to look after them.
I regret the loss of life of civilians and military personnel equally; I abhor the slaughter of innocents on the imperialist whim of any ruling elite. Should there come a Remembrance Day with no uniformed military personnel or insignia on display, at Cenotaphs and commemorative church services, I would no longer see the commemorations as show of support for militarism but, rather an acknowledgement of the futility of war.
This post originally appeared here on 10 November 2010