We meet on the first Thursday of the month, 7.30pm, at the Seahorse Hotel, Fawcett Street.
We have a stall on the second Saturday of the month, 1-3pm, St Sampson’s Square, York
February 13th 2014
The Israeli Global Arms Industry and Consequent Need for Continuous Conflict
Professor Colin Green: Emeritus Professor of Surgery, University College, London School of Life and Medical Sciences
Venue to be confirmed
Saturday 1st November 2014
York First World War Day-school: The Anti-War Perspective
Priory Street Centre, 15 Priory Street, York, Y01 6ET
The Purpose of the day-school is to provide an alternative to Government plans for a ‘celebration of the national spirit’; to counter romantic, populist, & nationalist propaganda; to oppose history which serves to facilitate future wars; and to offer explanation in place of commemoration. Read more about our reasons for hosting this event below.
Organised by: York Against the War and York Alternative History
Timetable and admission: To be announced
Lindsey German………The Suffragettes and the War
John Rees………………Imperialism & WW1
Cyril Pearce……………The Anti-War Movement & the Great War
Donny Gluckstein ….. Revolution and the End of the War
Charles McGuire……..Ireland & WW1
Chris Fuller……………..Industrial Unrest, the Labour Movement &
Steve Cox………………WW1 in the Middle East: The Legacy
Owen Clayton…………A Critical Assessment of the War Poets
Martin Bashforth……..Official Commemoration, War Memorials
and Private Mourning in York
Why we are Hosting a First World War Day-school
The Government’s plans for the commemoration of the First World War were announced in October 2012. Although full details were not provided, it was apparent from David Cameron’s speech at the Imperial War Museum, and from the pronouncements of other members of the Government, that there will be an emphasis on ‘celebration of the national spirit’. Government-sponsored events will concentrate on the anniversaries of important battles with an emphasis on ‘sacrifice’ with all that that implies, i.e. an all-inclusive readiness to die for what will be presented as an undisputedly just cause. There are even those in the government who wish to celebrate victory! Otherwise the focus of public interest, according to Cameron’s aide-de-camp, David Murrison MP, will be on the ‘personal and parochial’. There are plans to send at least one student from every school in the country to visit the cemeteries and battle-fields of the Western Front ‘to see what really happened’ according to one MP. There will be a restaging of the football matches played between British and German soldiers on no-man’s land around Christmas 1914. There are even proposals to scatter poppy seeds randomly wherever we live.
All very ‘engaging’ no doubt, but engaging of the emotions not the critical faculties. Inanity will abound. Visiting Flanders, scattering poppy seeds and playing football will not reveal why the war happened. The overall effect of these proposals is to induce the public to identify with the war, and to concur with the official causes without enquiring too deeply into what those really were. We can expect no reference to the imperial competition which underpinned conflicts then, for the simple reason that it underpins them now. Equally unlikely, will be any mention of the private sectional interests, at odds with the genuinely common good, that drove the war then, because it drives wars now. We will hear much of ‘sacrifice’ but little of waste. We will be told of ‘national unity’ and nothing of opposition to the war, or of the real divisions which characterised British society then and still do today. We will learn nothing from Cameron’s projected four-year festival of banality.
The present situations in the Middle East, especially in Iraq, Syria and Palestine have their origins in the First World War when the area was fought over, divided and occupied by the imperial powers of the day. For the people of the countries then established over their heads there will be little to celebrate. It is paramount, therefore, that the real connections between then and now, and the part played by our government in the tragedies which followed, especially in Palestine, are brought to the fore.
There are elements of the Government programme which are, on the face of it, quite encouraging. There will be, perhaps for the first time, official acknowledgement of the contribution to the war effort made by imperial subjects recruited from India, Africa and the Caribbean. Of course we are not opposed to inclusivity per se. However, the moral validity of what the forebears of present-day ethnic minorities were induced and cajoled into participating in will not be examined. We should acknowledge the part played by everyone without celebrating a project which only worsened the suffering and prolonged the oppression of the mass of ordinary people in the British Empire overseas.
Secondly, there will be acts of commemoration undertaken jointly with Germany. However, in joining with the German government, both governments will fail to acknowledge how their respective ruling classes wasted the lives of hundreds and thousands of their populations, either in the case of Britain, to protect their ill-gotten gains, or, in the case of Germany, in pursuit of the same.
Thirdly, although the courage of conscientious objectors will be acknowledged and may even be equated to the bravery of those who actually fought the war, the political force of their objections, the real content of their opposition to the official narrative, will be overlooked.
York Against the War was established to oppose the war in Afghanistan and went on to oppose the war in Iraq and the so-called ‘War on Terror’, as well as military intervention in Libya. York Against the War continues to support British Muslims, detained at Guantánamo Bay without due process, and now opposes military intervention in Syria, and the proliferation and use of drones. It may be too late to oppose the First World War; however, it is already clear that the programme of commemoration proposed by the Government will tend to aid the promotion of the wars of today, and the conflicts of the future. It will also discourage the kind of critical thought which might militate against the Government’s free hand in determining when and where to engage in war over and above the heads of what they would hope was a compliant and uncritical public.
The York First World War Day-school, therefore, will offer an alternative to Government plans for a ‘celebration of the national spirit’; counter romantic, populist, nationalist propaganda; oppose versions of history which serve to facilitate future wars; and offer explanation in place of commemoration. There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions, to participate in discussion and to argue. We hope that everyone who is at least a little suspicious of the official programme of events and wary of its insidious effects will be there on the day. All are welcome.