Earlier this week I had a meeting with InSwindon – the Town Centre management company – about the possibility of Swindon Stop the War Coalition participating in a ceremony that they are organising for Wharf Green on Armistice day, 11th November.
Their desire is to have a ceremony to commemorate the dead of all wars, and those who die in service, and keep it “non-political”, and they are having exploratory talks with all possible stakeholders.
Obviously the Army are quite keen. InSwindon are also keen to include – for example – the Fire Brigade and Ambulance Service.
By coincidence, we had recently discussed at our Stop the War organising meeting what we were going to do to mark the milestone 300th British service death in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and the feeling of the meeting was that we need to be careful to keep some political edge, that we are not just commemorating the dead, we are also making a political point that the war is wrong.
On this basis, I said at the meeting with InSwindon, that if we were to participate it would be on the basis of representing the civilian deaths of war as well as the military, and also making it clear that we also commemorated the war deaths of Iraqis and Afghans, and all other nations. On this basis we could not participate in or endorse in any way a service that was built around the British armed forces and a bugler playing the Last Post, for example. I argued that this would be an inherently political ceremony that suggests rallying around the flag to support “our boys” uncritically.
It will be interesting to see what happens, because we do represent a significant tranche of public opinion, and the Swindon Advertiser will certainly ask out view of the event, so we may be able to shape the commemoration. If we do find a way of including in the event a commemoration of the Irai and Afghan war dead, that would be a significant achievement.
On the other hand I find it hard to imagine any form of ceremony that would be acceptable to both the Stop the War Coalition, and the British Army!
The photo shows the recent ceremony we had in Swindon to mark the 100th British casualty in Afghanistan, you can read more about it at Socialist Unity blog.