Posted by: rosa alba | August 4, 2014

Red Is The Colour: from War Graves to George Square to Glasgow 2014

Lest we forget… The purpose of Remembrance Day, established in the aftermath of the Great War with the aim that we never know such carnage again.  The battlefields of old have gone, of course, and war is fought in very different theatres with very different casualty tolls, often civilians despite the use of pinpoint target weaponry. 

And so because we do forget and war is waged it is meet to remember the lives of those died in war, and expose the myth that it is dulce et decorum pro patria mori, more than already exposed in the poetry of the likes of Wilfred Owen, or the commentry, finally, of the WWI survivor, Harry Patch.    Freedom fighters have their place, certainly but we must remember that nations can be (re)born, forged and sustained through election process, and civic disobedience: in this the Commonwealth may have on occasion sometthing to offer, and  Portugual for one, had a bloodless revolution (though the wars of Independence in Angola and Mozambique were not so bloodless).  The Great War, the Second War, and, it could be argued, the current engagements are not solely or not just about national identity but about Empire and expansionism, about international spheres of influence and often, energy sources.  The Great War was certainly about Empire, in many ways, more than the defence of plucky Belgium.

It is, thereforre,  questionnable to commemorate the start of a war as a celebration; what is particularly unseemly to big up with sabre rattling, drum rolling and pipes blasting, as a source of national pride “just like we did the Jubilee” as we are told David Cameron have it, a very bloody conflict which took away so many of a Generation. We must remember the dead as a salutory roll call that it never happen again – although as Eric Bogle  pointed out in song, it did, again and again and again.
I have seen the graves in France, from both wars.  Unfortunately many of the dead in today’s war have even less respect than an unmarked grave, and have not chosen, even as tragic – and morally unsound – underage volunteers of the Great War or the conflicts in Rwanda, to be a child soldier.  No one disputes women can be combattants, but heavily pregnant women close to term should not be within a battlefield.   And soldiers  not fit to fight emotionally should not just the right to disengage without being shot but their commanding officers, often not themselves at risk of direct injury should be obliged to excuse them.  Not shoot them, as readily as a stag or a grouse on a highland estate.

We are hearing with frequency the cry: not in my name. Not in my name the benefit cuts, the ATOS inquisitons, the selling of public recreation ground, the selling off of utilities and services,  the potential destruction of beauty spots not for energy sources (when have most of Europe’s wave and tidal power resources) but for the gain of poltiicians, the obfuscation of discovery of one of the world’s biggest oil and gas fields (though I reccomend we use it as an ersatz gold reserve), and not in my name not just the covering up of crimes of expenses and worse paedophilia in the corridors of power of Westminster by those elected by us to serve our needs, but the facilitation of such abuses..  And definitely not in my name the selling of weapons of war to a regime engaged in definitie war crimes, probably genocide and putative ethnic cleansing, however much Friends of Israel (Conservative or Labour) have contributed to fund either party. 
This is just Empire on a more insidious level where there is no pretense is of nationa good and national glory to hide the overt benefit to the pockets of the political elite.   This far exceeds Alistair Darling’s pocketing of thousands of pounds  a time to speak for Better Together, or Jim Murphy’s expense claims.   It is a little known fact, however, that Mr Salmond gives half his salary to charity.   A man for a’ that.
In my name, I  want a future where our bonny callants will not march to war when oor braggarts coorsely craw….I do not want Scotland the Brave cursed. I want to feel the pride in my country that I felt with their offer of financial aid, NHS services and refugee asylum to the dispossessed.  In our own quest for freedom, through the ballot box, on 18th September, when I hope there will be a Yes vote, we need to take tent of our own complicity in the crimes of Empire in the past and make amends.  The position of the Scottish Government  regarding Gaza, and the £5m donated at the Commonwealth Games to UNICEF is but a start.

In terms of the celebration of the war and the impending referendum would do well to remember that  the Westminster Government, under Lloyd George, sent tanks to George Square in January 1991 to quash – not so much an Easter 1916 Uprising – but the demand for a 40 hour week and honest wages on the soldiers who had returned to a “home fit for heroes: and their countrymen, workers who had worked out the war in shipyards or the mines of Lanarkshire. This was an event – like the Alien Act of 1705 – that I only found out  about till recently, at least  in terms all its gunship glory, although;  I knew there had been protests, and MacLean had been arrested and imprisoned for agitating. both during and after the War.…/72969-glasgow-remembers-battle-of…/  You can read more about the event here. 

It is this very specific period – of the suppression of popular protest and the imprisonment of Socialists, that both the Freedom Come All-ye and the John MacLean March reference: a period which called for an end to Empire and the the rights of the worker.   It was both a powerful moment when at the opening of the Commonwealth Games, the Freedome Come All-ye was sung by a black girl from Nyanga – Mandela himself was from Nyanga – and a poignant moment for we are still marching to the maisters’ tunes, not least in the BBC coverage of the Games, for all we stand in a parallel time: on the cusp of Independence, and can seize the opportunity to be all that the song embodies.  It remains seen whether the gay kiss sealed that resolve for voters.

The time paralleled a hundred years past – 1914 – when Home Rule had been promised but was put on hold due to the Great War (to end Wars).  It had not re-emerged with the end of the war, although in the light of the Easter Uprising, and with reference to George Square it could be debated as to whether Home Rule or Boshevism was more to be feared, or whether the two could, in fact, have been fully separated. We shall never know.
When the soldiers returned – those that did (for if you have read Vera Britten you realise how much of a generation failed to return, at least the working men) – and the promise of Home Rule eveporated, and athough home-owning women did eventually gain suffrage, the working men, many residually shell shocked or struggling with other ailments, had to pay of the war debts in form of long working hours and low wages.
In September 1921, MacLean suggested that rather than starve, a man should steal food to eat, a sentiment latter know to be echoed by Cardinal Winning in one of his essays at Seminary – justified by the dominant theological precept of preserving life.  MacLean was arrested for “sedition”.   Meanwhile now, in 2014,  we have more fooodbanks in Scotland than ever before while the government sup on champagne and one in five children in the fourteenth wealthiest nation live in food, fuel and other poverty; this is without addressing the issue of how global sustainable farming could actually meet the world’s food needs. 

The profits of the returning workers’ labour, however, continued to line the wallpapered halls of the West End and beyond, and the coffers of the more widely distributed upper class as far as Westminster,  empire at home where the returning heroes slave-labour to pay for the masters’ pleasures in the decadence of the Jazz Age. 

In this atmosphere of imminent Independence – it has come, for a’ that, whaur sense and worth might bear the gree – should we have the courage of our convictions of our worth, rather than kow-towing to the internalised message of imperial oppression that we are “not genetically programmed to make political decisions in Scotland” as claimed by the Leader of the Scottish Leader Party, Johann Lamont, as seen here.   The political decision her masters (whether Labour or Conservative is irrelevant, most are products of elitism and party choice is often arbitrary) fear us making is removing them from their last corner of Empire, and their access to amber and to black gold, as well as the other exports that, contrary to the propaganda of Scots Subsidy Junkies, actually holds up the UK Economy to a differential of 3% in terms of input versus receipt (in favour of what we contribute). We would be a wealthy and sustainable nation without oil.    You can find the figures online, easily I suggest Stephen Paton’s IndyRef Review: here is a link to Number One.

A final note –  although I am “genetically programmed” to support small locally devolved  Police Forces – the George Square event – and similar squashing of uppitiness –  is why I neither oppose the unification of the Police answerable (and we hope loyal) to Holyrood, and while I oppose it, can see rationale behind the increase in arming police, however much i hope I am wrong.

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