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Sunday, 11 November 2012

Brighton Seafront, Remembrance Sunday, 11 November 2012

It's a wonderfully sunny day here in Brighton, not a cloud in the clear blue sky. After breakfast I set off for a walk along the seafront and back. It was very busy and I must have passed hundreds of other walkers - all generations,both sexes, mostly white. Maybe ten percent of them - perhaps less - were wearing poppies. I was a bit surprised: this is Remembrance Sunday itself.

But I don't any more wear a poppy myself and, if others don't, their reasons may overlap with mine.

The poppy has become a badge of the London political establishment. Their Club sends round a circular telling them when to start wearing their poppies - every year, a day earlier so it seems. It's a way of showing each other that they are all in it together. And I think they think it will ward off criticism. A few of them will be hoping you will forget they once got temporarily suspended from  the Club for corruption, fraud, perjury ...

As a young leftie, I wore my poppy. I felt I owed it. If Hitler had won, there wouldn't have been any young Lefties. (But ditto if Stalin had won).

Now I feel that the two Wars were very different and that it is wrong to join them together in this way.

In the Second World War, the United Kingdom played the main supporting role with the USA and the Soviet Union taking the brunt - the USA financially; the Soviet Union in body count. It was a just war, and we are lucky that so many were willing to fight and die to defeat Hitler.

In the First World War, Britain was one of  six Empires which got themselves embroiled in prolonged, senseless slaughter which only showed their contempt for ordinary human life. Austria-Hungary, France,Germany, the Ottoman Empire, Russia, England all sent young men to senseless and often horrible deaths - their fate sealed by terrifying levels of political and bureaucratic incompetence and inhumanity.

The only interesting question about World War One is Why, at the end of it, so few Emperors, Kings, Ministers and Generals got strung up from the lamp posts. It would have been a crude but justified holding to account.

As is often the case, the really top people  got off very lightly. Only Nicholas II was put up against a wall and shot. The Kaiser was allowed to totter off into exile and in England - well, the Establishment carried on much as before -  though the Military did decide that trench warfare should be replaced by bombing civilians from great heights. Arthur "Bomber" Harris began developing the technique in 1920s Iraq (click on the "Bombing civilians" label below to read more about this).

Well, that was my Remembrance Sunday walk.

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