The Western Socialist
Vol. 28 - No. 222
No. 4, 1961
There are some Canadians who feel personally affronted that Canada has no national flag. Patriots frequently write to the press on this matter — it is like an epidemic of measles which breaks out every now and again, when international tension seem somewhat eased and the expected nuclear war has not, as yet, busted out all over. In their visions of a flag, these Canadian Colonel Blimps go to great lengths to depict suitable colour and design, but as yet to no avail. One wag went so far as to suggest that a skunk (an animal that is unique to the North American Continent) might be depicted on a red background, with "LET US SPRAY" woven with love and kindness in gold lettering underneath. But this would hardly be expected to satisfy the patriots or the churches.
The British Union Jack is not acceptable to these all-out Canadians, but since the Government continually shelves the question, the flag of Great Britain still flutters in the breeze on government buildings and when parades are held for royalty and other "important personages." And of course the armed forces and the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides also salute it and use it when they march.
What does the Union Jack or any national flag, whether plain red or multi-coloured, represent? It means many things to many people. To a patriot, a national flag creates an emotional upsurge within the breast. How good he feels when it is unfurled! On Armistice and Armed Forces Days the old sweats straighten their backs, polish their medals and proudly walk behind it (if they have legs), and swing their arms (if they have arms). They lay wreaths on cenotaphs that represent their comrades who fell "that we might live" — in bloody battles that were completely divorced from their interests. The flag, to the patriot, means a blind faith and loyalty to the country of one's birth.
But the flag means something more. It is deeply rooted in the historical development of a country, and is associated with empires and colonial expansion — and the battles and conquests necessary to such a program. A conquered country has its flag torn down to be replaced by that of the victor. Armies in the past have rallied around the flag in desperate situations when all-out efforts had to be squeezed from them. It is a symbol in the defense of which many have died. But, to a socialist, there is nothing clever in this show of allegiance to a flag and to what it represents. There is, rather, something about it more disgusting.
Socialists see the flag as the embodiment of the might and power of the coercive forces of the ruling class; the police, the army, the navy, the air force, nuclear warheads — the lot! It represents the parasites, the royalty and their sycophants, the dukes and duchesses, the status quo and, of course, the national capitalist class.
And, on the other hand, the flag's historical significance is not always fully appreciated. Homer W. Smith in his "Man And His Gods" (p. 16), tells us:
"The king's umbilical cord — his twin spirit — was treasured in (Egypt's) predynastic times, and on gala occasions brought forth from its shrine and carried through the streets, gaily decorated with ribbons. It has been suggested that this custom was the origin of the standard, or flag, which ultimately came to serve as a substitute for the precious twin in promoting success in warfare by its supernatural power."
When the writer sees a flag he also sees an umbilical cord — a relief, in lighter vein, to the more serious implications of a national flag.
S. W. C.