1980s >> 1985 >> no-969-may-1985

Glorious Aldershot

“Welcome to Aldershot — Home of the British Army” — so says the large sign on the side of the main A325 Aldershot by-pass. The town has been the “Home of the British Army” for the past century and a half and, as a native, I am supposed to be proud of this distinction.

Aldershot and the surrounding area can be described at best as plain, and at worst as a shoddy haven for the capitalist property developers whose architectural eye-sores spring up like noxious fungi in a town which has one of the worst housing problems in Hampshire. Many of the shanty housing estates are owned by the Ministry of Defence (there is not a great deal in Aldershot which is not owned or controlled by the MoD) and it is here that Our Boys and their families are expected to exist. Naturally, if and when an occupier of one of these salubrious shoeboxes is discharged from Her Majesty’s Armed Forces he is unceremoniously discharged from the house — and while he is homeless the house is often left empty.

Apart from the squalid housing, Aldershot has another unique distinction, indeed attraction: it has more monuments, plaques, memorials and obelisks commemorating and glorifying war and death than any other town of comparable insignificance. Rarely does a week go by without the army-barmy Colonel Blimp reminiscing in the pages of the local rags about the glory days of mass slaughter, and how Our Boys sorted out Johnny Gaucho in the Falklands.

The jingoistic hysteria whipped up over the Falklands three years ago certainly had the desired effect in Aldershot; many young soldiers based in the town sacrificed their lives in order to protect the interests of capitalism and to advance the political prowess of Thatcher and her battalion of yes-men. Even today the patriotic drivel still abounds in Aldershot with all the reactionary gusto of 1982. A story in the Aldershot News (29 March) told of a group of ex-servicemen who bought some plots of land on East Falkland from the Coalite Group to sell them to the soldiers who fought in the war as ” . . .  a perfect patriotic souvenir of a great moment in British history”. On payment of just £12.00 the purchaser ”  . . . will be allowed to plant trees, raise the Union Flag, place a plaque or wander freely on the site”. Just in case the unwitting buyer cannot afford to travel 10,000 miles to admire his tree, flag and plaque he is compensated with a nice gold certificate, confirming his acquisition of a piece of wind-swept, sheep-shit-covered rock.

But what really stuck in my throat was the following quote from a soldier:

. . . we feel there are hundreds of soldiers who fought in the Falklands who will want some tangible memory of their war. (my emphasis)

Whose war? All wars are fought, not in the interests of those conscripted to do the fighting but of those who own and control the means of living. Workers from various countries are merely used by their masters as expendable pawns in their campaigns to secure profitable  trade routes, natural resources and markets. When the majority wealth producers — the working class — understand and want socialism we can then abolish war by abolishing its cause — capitalism. In a socialist society there will be nothing to fight over because everything produced will be freely accessible; disputes over natural resources, trade routes and markets which lead to war in capitalist society will not arise.

The resources currently squandered in the pursuit of fighting and preparing for war would, in a socialist world, be diverted into the production of socially useful things such as houses, food, hospitals and medicines. Aldershot will certainly be a very different place — no barracks, no slums, no more monuments glorifying mass slaughter and no more silly road signs.

John Armstrong