A date with the dead

Saturday, 29th June, 1957, is a date arranged for yet one more posthumous ceremony to be held in honour of those members of the working class who lost their lives in World War II during the Dunkirk campaign. The Queen Mother, it is expected, will “unveil” a memorial at Dunkirk.

Quite apart from the propaganda value of these ceremonies to those who possess but do not produce, the capitalist class are indeed entitled to pay their “respects” to those members of the working class who sacrificed their very lives in their masters’ interests; the tragedy being that they erroneously identified working class interests with those of the master class. We repeat erroneously, because under this capitalistic system of society, wars arise through the seething rivalries of sections of the international class of capitalists over markets for their commodities, territory containing mineral wealth, oil, etc., and trade routes, of which the Suez Canal is a classical example.

For the working class to engage in a bloody struggle over which capitalist group is to control the largest slice of the social wealth filched from them as the producers via the medium of the wages system, is very much like a man who, being robbed of his wallet in a back alley by two assailants who fall out over the share, of the loot, helps one of them to take the lot! Whereupon he is “rewarded” with a copper coin as a “memorial” to his stupidity.

To revert to Dunkirk—these “unveilings” are performed with all the tricks and trappings of religious mumbo jumbo in order to perpetuate the idea of a supernatural power, an “Almighty God.” whose insatiable appetite for human sacrifice in “His” name (not capitalism’s, of course) will never be satisfied whilst there is a religious minded working class, ready to throw their lives away—for “God and country.” Workers whose intellects are dimmed with religious teachings inculcated at an early and impressionable age are more vulnerable to these “theatricals” and more easily duped with cheap metal medals and the like. There is a parallel with the “Bible and Bottle of Whisky” technique which paid such rich dividends in the building of the British Empire!

Whilst this primitive worship of the dead is being enacted for the purpose of stultifying non-Socialist workers’ mentalities, the urgent need for Socialism is pinpointed with news of ever greater lethal missiles, guaranteed to produce results paling into insignificance the sum total of “War Memorial Representation’’ to date!

Truly, “the customs and traditions of the past “do weigh like an alp on the brains of the living.” No doubt there will be medals galore on show during this bloodstained ritual at Dunkirk, and whilst there is a lot to be said for having one’s name on a medal in lieu of a war memorial (!), the writer has personal experience of contacts with many an ex-Serviceman who tried to sell him their medals for scrap silver, only to find they were made of base metal, and, to use a popular expression, “not worth a light.’’ This applies to medals issued in relation to World War II. The previous War I medals were at least made of silver, and many an old pensioner, eking out his remaining days on the “Plimsoll Line” of capitalism was glad to “take the cash and let the credit go.” The eagerness they displayed for the “ready” was matched by the chagrin of those who received the base metal “awards.”

Here we see the hollowness and hypocrisy of the state machinery of capitalism, attracting working class youth with glamour and ceremonial in the defence of vested interests—and discarding those who survive at the end of each blood bath with worthless metal discs—”For services rendered,” and in some cases a paltry pension, which may be whittled down each succeeding year of the recipient’s survival until a state of affairs exists, epitomised by one old pensioner, who declaimed, on unsuccessfully looking round his bare room for something or other to sell: “There’s now’t left but me, lad.” Is this what they mean, who loudly proclaim: “The Englishman’s home is his castle ”?

In conclusion, we, as Socialists, are concerned with “unveiling”—not the hunk of masonry at Dunkirk, but what lies behind it.


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