Why The Poppy Could Be Construed As Insulting Those Who Died In WW1

Kevin Morley thinks there are significant differences between the First and Second World Wars that need factored into the poppy discussion.

The poppy, we are constantly informed, is in memory of those who gave their lives "for our liberty". While this may be true of WW2 it is not the case of the first conflict. The only liberty achieved in that war was that of the bourgeoisie safeguarding their profits. Working-class people from many countries were sent out to slaughter each other in the name of indigenous capitalism relevant to whichever belligerent country they hailed from. German industry was surpassing that of Britain in many, not every, areas. German naval power was beginning to question that of Britain's and Germany was now, along with Britain, an imperialist country.

Working-class people were lied to, conned, and cajoled into volunteering to fight for their lords and masters under the guise of defending "poor little Belgium". There is no questioning the bravery of these combatants, none at all, but the reason for this bravery is at best questionable. They were used, abused and murdered by the monarchy, aristocracy and bourgeoisie of Britain, Germany, France (no monarchy there) Russia - till Lenin spoilt their party - and other belligerent countries.

In the case of Ireland, what became known as the National Volunteers, were conned by their own, John Remond, who was in turn lied to by Brit PM, Herbert Asquith about Home Rule. As James Connolly mocked Redmond:

full steam ahead 
John Redmond said
that all is well chum
home rule will come
when we are dead and buried
out in Belgium.

A very true assessment. Asquith and his cabinet knew they had promised Carson and the Ulster Volunteers something different: probably why that band were allowed their own officers and were incorporated as the 36th Ulster Rifles into the regular British Army. The National Volunteers had British officers, suggesting they could not be trusted.

Today we are asked to wear a poppy to remember these brave souls, which could be said to be rubbing salt into the families' wounds. The men, in many cases, were forced into fighting for something which was, at best, an incidental: giving their lives for Monarch, aristocracy and bourgeois benefits. In the case of Ireland, Redmond's betrayal on genuine liberation.

Kevin Morley is a Dublin based Marxist. 

He is author of Striking Similarities.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

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