Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Monday, November 10, 2008


This week sees the 90th anniversary of the Armistice at the end of the First World War. That brutal slaughter imposed on the young and workers by brutal clashing imperialisms still holds the power to shock in the awesome numbers slaughtered, even if we only count actual combatants killed often in the truly hell-like conditions such as existed in the trenches and no-mans land of the Western Front.

My own maternal grandfather joined up early and found himself in the early slaughter at Ypres. Shot in the chest (he carried the bullet to his dying day in the 1970s) he was shipped back to England, patched up and sent out again, just in time to join Churchill and Kitchener's Dardanelles adventure that led to mass casualties amongst the fresh faced ANZAC forces supported by various redeployed and newly recruited British troops. Wounded again (this time in a place that caused some ribaldry in later years, though not within his earshot!) he survived a hospital ship before returning to England. I owe my existence to the couple of centimetres that was the difference between that first bullet killing him and survival.

We should never forget what massacres our ruling classes will lead us into (and does anyone, looking at the unmissed Tony Blair and lame duck George Bush, pugilistic Putin or xenophobic demagogue Berlusconi really believe that all current leaders are less stupid, brutal and careless with the lives of others than their WW1 predecessors?) Our struggles to create a better world should go on with this in mind when tempted by the siren songs of the mainstream media that the leopard has changed its spots and that nationalism, militarism and fascism, big power rivalry and demagogic adventurers are all a thing of the past. They will only really be things of the past if we, the organised workers, youth and ordinary people of the world make them so.

Here is Chumbawamba's version of the subversively sarcastic graveyard humour song sung by the "poor bloody infantry" of that conflict - Hanging On the Old Barbed Wire.
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At 5:04 pm, Anonymous European History said...

You're right Greenman, WW1 brought huge losses (6,500,000 dead etc) but one of the most horrible things is realising the seemingly complete mental inability of British Military command to change tack despite the huge losses even after Day 1 of the Battle of the Somme.

My own Grandfather was wounded there too and I still count myself lucky he got out at all seeing the colossal losses that were to follow.

Pete Jessup


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