Remembrance Sunday this year is observed while Ukraine is gripped by one of the most vicious open wars seen in Europe in decades. The world stands closer to nuclear armageddon than at any time in living memory. Across the world imperialist aggression and occupations kill tens of thousands, make millions into refugees and scar the planet.
A new generation of Britain’s youth and the world are learning that capitalism means war.
For Britain’s ruling class and political establishment ‘Remembrance’ has become an ever more important ideological tool to justify past, present and future imperialist wars and to stir up militarism and jingoism.
Britain’s Communists condemn and reject the shameless and cynical abuse of the memory of the workers forced into the slaughter of the First World War by the ruling class. Their propaganda tarnishes and desecrates the entire legacy and ideal of remembrance, for the war that was supposed to end all wars.
The First World War is remembered with great poignancy across Britain. It goes without saying that the youth of Britain are still saddened by this crime, even now over a hundred years on. But what do the British Government tell the country that those men and women died for? For democracy in Europe? The vast majority of British people could not vote until 1918 – change only came after workers saw each other die pointlessly in the mud and came home organised and prepared to fight for change.
Lenin, leader of the October Revolution in Russia, who lived through that period identified the real nature of the war in Europe:
“The war of 1914-18 was imperialist (that is, an annexationist, predatory, war of plunder) on the part of both sides; it was a war for the division of the world, for the partition and repartition of colonies and spheres of influence of finance capital.”
The motivations of the British ruling class to enter the war were exactly the same as that of the French, German, Austrian or Russian ruling classes.
The YCL calls on the British youth to engage with Remembrance Day in a different way. We must take it as a poignant reminder of the futility of imperialist war. We can never forget that millions of working people all over Europe were betrayed into slaughtering each other in the interests of their respective ruling classes, their exploiters. The ‘land of heroes’ to which many soldiers returned was one of chronic unemployment, hardship and poverty.
It is equally important to remember the victims of British imperialism all over the world from past to present day. From civilians murdered in Ireland, to India and across the world, we cannot forget the imperialist actions of the British state and its armies. The British state attempts to whitewash its history but we cannot allow this to happen. For imperialism’s crimes to be swept under the carpet, is a crime in itself, and a discredit to those who fought against the actions of imperialism.
Our aim of a socialist society offers the only true solution for forever ending the scourge of war on this planet, which in the age of nuclear weapons threatens mankind’s very existence. Lenin explained:
“We say: our aim is to achieve a socialist system of society, which, by eliminating the division of mankind into classes, by eliminating all exploitation of man by man and nation by nation, will inevitably eliminate the very possibility of war.”
Ruling class politicians also seek to evoke the memory of World War II also. Our contribution to the victory over Nazi fascism is one of the proudest chapters in the history of Britain’s working class. Again, the attempt to utilise this antifascist struggle, to legitimise support for every war since 1945 is as crude as it is insulting.
We also condemn the shameless falsification of history and the role and legacy of the Soviet Union by Britain’s ruling class, state and political establishment and also the European Union and their anti-communist resolution on the ‘importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe’.
By working to equate Soviet Socialism with Nazi Fascism they seek to distort history to the extent of labelling the Soviet Union and Red Army, who sacrificed over 26 million lives in the struggle to crush Nazism, “as an ally and collaborator of Nazi Germany”. This desecrates the memory of those Soviet men and women who died side by side with British workers to defeat fascism in Europe and the Far East.
Today politicians and members of Britain’s establishment will gather at the Cenotaph in a cynical pantomime at the same time as they pump weapons into the war in Ukraine, stoke conflicts around the world and maintain a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying humanity. We call on Britain’s youth to join the fight for peace and strengthen the broad movements for peace and nuclear disarmament.
Remembrance should not become a vehicle to justify and legitimise past or future wars. It must be a potent reminder to the youth of today and future generations of the horrors of war. The best tribute that can be paid to Britain’s war dead is to join the struggle for Socialism in our lifetimes.
Young Communist League
13 November 2022