Sunday, May 4, 2014
No Glory in War
As the centennial of the First World draws near, more and more celebrations (yes, I have heard that word used) are beginning to rear their head. Under the snappy banner of WW100, events, projects, and cultural heritage institutions are revisiting the First World War—some to shed new light (such as tweets from the diary of farm labourer during the war), and some to propagate dated myths. It will be an interesting 4 years in terms of the narratives being told, and while there has already been the inclusion of the 'dissident' perspective in the form of a TV One movie, I am not holding my breath when it comes to discussions of the causes of the First World War (or its end for that matter, in the form of workers refusing to fight any further). At the NDF Conference I attended last year WW1 projects were talked about as 'honoring those who had died for freedom', as if the imperialist line sold to the public in 1914 was alive and well.
However there is one website that I've been trawling for interesting analysis, and that is noglory.org. No Glory in War is an UK initiative based on an open letter calling for the centennial to promote international co-operation. The website has a range of articles, videos and other resources and is well worth your time.
My own work on the IWW and anarchism in Aotearoa has flirted the edges of the First World War home front, and talks I gave last year were much more focused on this radical syndicalist opposition. It is an aspect of research I'd love to continue in the future (time permitting), especially the aftermath during the 1920s (the OBU, railway strikes, the homeboat strike, deportation, censorship etc). Although the conscientious objector is being re-framed in the public eye, I think it is also important to acknowledge the worker radicals, absentee 'defaulters' and army mutineers who fought their own kind of class war. And this war did not start in 1914, or end in 1918. Again, I doubt that the neat four year package we are about to consume will do this counter-narrative any justice. So pick your site of struggle and step into it—the record will be better off for it.