What it is and what it means
The First World War was an abattoir for working class men. The death toll from WWI is estimated at 40M, over a million of those from Britain (not exclusively working class men, of course). They were sent to their deaths for nothing. European empires were scrabbling for dominance over Africa and Asia, where their rule was astonishingly oppressive and inhumane for ordinary people. Britain’s aristocratic ruling class already had a series of genocides on their track record. During the First World War these ‘donkeys’ wantonly had their own conscripted troops (‘lions’) slaughtered in mass suicidal attacks on entrenched enemy artillery. They essentially ordered masses of young men to run headfirst into a hail of bullets, for zero strategic gain.
As you can imagine, this caused some consternation domestically. A wave of discontent swept across the country, returning soldiers refused to take part in victory parades and protested the degradation of their living conditions. Troops were sent into Glasgow to impose martial law. Movements for liberation were growing in Britain’s colonies – in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, in India – and the European working class was showing how they could organise and fight their respective ruling classes: the Kiel Mutiny and Spartacist uprising in Germany, the Hungarian Soviet Republic, and most frightening for ruling classes across the world, the successful Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Never had the British bourgeoisie been so uneasy about maintaining control.
In this context, the Royal British Legion (RBL) chose the poppy as a symbol to co-opt widespread grief over slain family members and friends and convert it into a positive feelings towards the viciously murderous ruling class who were responsible for their grief. It was an effective weapon to ‘unite’ the oppressed class with their oppressors.
The poppy had approval from Field Marshall Haig, the Butcher of the Somme, and was chosen based on a poem by a Canadian soldier (Colonel John Macrae) who explicitly called for vengeance on behalf of his dead colleagues and stated that refusing to continue to fight was an insult to those who died – ‘take up the quarrel with the foe… if ye break faith with us who die we shall not sleep, though poppies grow’. So much for being ‘hope for a peaceful future’ (as the RBL claim on their website) and some sort of anti-war symbol, which some people still sincerely believe it is.
The RBL state that they ‘advocate a specific type of Remembrance connected to the British Armed Forces, those who were killed, those who fought with them and alongside them’. The red poppy™ doesn’t even commemorate all the British dead, let alone all those who died in wars. Civilians simply don’t count, according to them. Furthermore, it’s not just about commemorating the dead; the RBL asserts that poppies™ are ‘a show of support for the Armed Forces community, those currently serving, ex-serving personnel and their families’ (my italics). It honours all Crown Forces past and present, not just the world wars. Moreover, the money donated funds current and ex-military personnel and thus eases the budget of Britain’s enormous death machine. Poppies™ are even made using prison labour (inmates earn £10 a WEEK for making them).
To further confirm the meaning of the red poppy™, let’s examine the lyrics of typical recitations at Remembrance Day services. O Valiant Hearts glorifies the sacrifice of soldiers on the altar of British imperialism –
‘O valiant hearts who to your glory came through dust of conflict… Proudly you gathered… to war as who had heard God’s message… yourselves you scorned to save… in glorious hope their proud and sorrowing land commits her children to Thy gracious hand’.
The con trick here should be obvious: it equates the land with the band of criminals who rule and glory with workers allowing themselves to be used as cannon fodder in the service of imperialist military aggression and capitalist profits. And war for aristocratic power and profit is portrayed as religious duty, sanctified by God.
Then I Vow to Thee, My Country says ‘I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above, entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love; the love that asks no questions, the love that stands the test, that lays upon the altar the dearest and the best; the love that never falters, the love that pays the price, the love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice’. A brazen call for brainwashed nationalism and militarism, an explicit injunction not to think for yourselves because to consider what it means for a split-second is to realise what a cheap swindle it is.
It’s clear that the poppy™ promotes gratitude towards those who commissioned the slaughter of masses of British working class men and pride in Britain’s war aggressions. It quells rage for those who benefit from perpetual war. On the first day of the Battle of the Somme 57,000 troops out of 120,000 were killed or wounded. Haig continued to order more attacks with it being clear there was no hope of a breakthrough, because he estimated success by how many of his own soldiers were killed. Despite protestations to the contrary, the poppy™ glorifies this horror and promotes subservience to those who profit from it. But this isn’t all.
Opposition to Poppy Fascism
The truth of the red poppy™ is exposed by how the white poppy has been treated. The white poppy campaign has been to commemorate all who have died in war. Now, in my view, it’s totally perverse to equate perpetrators of war and war crimes (the British military) with their victims and show sympathy for both in the same symbol. However, even this compromise is given short shrift. Thatcher’s attitude to the white poppy was one of ‘deep distaste’, it had numerous attacks directed against it in Britain’s national media (e.g. the Daily Star), Tory MP Johnny Mercer dismissed them as ‘attention-seeking rubbish’, and white poppy wreaths are regularly removed from memorials by disgruntled nationalists, unhappy to share any of their memorialising with victims of their beloved hitmen.
It’s like holding a memorial for victims of road accidents and being jeered by people demanding that only drivers should be remembered, not innocent casualties, and drunk drivers and road ragers should be honoured the most.
And yes, you can actually get arrested for opposing the poppy cult™. ‘Muslims Against Crusades’ protested a Remembrance Day ceremony in London in 2010 and were arrested for chanting during the 2-minute silence. Their protest was pre-emptively banned the following year – Minority Report style. Pictures on Facebook of poppies being burned have led to arrests, for example in Britain’s colony in Ireland and in Canterbury, and a homeless man in Swindon was fined and imprisoned for 2 months for merely throwing poppies off a cenotaph – ‘outraging public decency’. So much for these puce-faced gammons sneering about how ‘you should be grateful for your freedom to protest’.
They even send death threats to those who don’t mindlessly follow their obsession. Irish footballer James McClean has regularly been threatened with death and suffered anti-Irish abuse for refusing to wear this symbol of support for British soldiers, including those who murdered 14 innocent civilians from his hometown of Derry on Bloody Sunday. Same has applied to Nemanja Matic, whose village was bombed by NATO in 1999. Not only will Britain come to your country and kill your people, they’ll wear red poppies™ to commemorate the soldiers who died killing your people.
WWI and WWII
The First World War was not a war for ‘our freedom’. It was a falling out among thieves – thieves who had divided up Africa and Asia between them and were now quarrelling over their ‘fair’ share of the loot. The peace treaties showed this very well – Germany had to hand over African and Asian colonies to Britain, while Britain also seized Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Palestine from the Ottomans.
And freedom? Britain didn’t even have universal suffrage at this point – women could not vote at all and 40% of men could not vote, while hundreds of millions of colonised people not only could not participate in any democratic process, but were suffering the brutality of colonialism. Even Germany had universal male suffrage by this point.
And they cannot hide the racism inherent in this memorialisation. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission had to issue a formal apology after it discovered up to 350,000 predominantly African and West Asian First World War casualties were not commemorated by name, or at all. Moreover, the poppy appeal claims to be paying homage to Indian soldiers who died fighting for Britain, including hundreds of Indian soldiers who had mustard gas tested on them in the Rawalpindi Experiments of WWII.
Britain’s involvement in WWII was categorically not to oppose fascism. Again, it was to preserve its empire. The British Empire was a successful version of what the Nazis failed to achieve. The Nazis emulated British genocide of Aboriginal people and of British Canada’s genocide of First Nations people. In fact, their relationship was rather cosy in the 1930s; Britain’s Royal Family and much of its aristocracy not only had ties to family in the upper ranks of the Nazis, they actively supported them, and the RBL met with Hitler, Goering and Himmler on their trip to Germany in 1935 (see pic below). They even toured Dachau concentration camp.
Appeasement was less a case of weakness and compromise, and more an attempt to sic the Wehrmacht on the world’s first workers’ government in the USSR[i]. When the Nazis became too much like rivals for Britain’s colonies in Africa and the Blitz began, they became enemies for real. But far from fighting for freedom, Britain indulged in sickening war crimes like the firebombing of Dresden (which held no strategic advantage[ii]) and committed its own genocide in Bengal by forcing millions of Indians to starve to death.
When victory was assured, Britain’s number 1 target shifted to liberation movements – guns were put back into the hands of fascists and Nazi collaborators who proved useful allies to help with this new goal in Greece, Korea etc. Churchill, far from being the champion of ‘freedom’, had a hand in both this and the Bengal Famine, held much the same views as Hitler on non-white people and expressed admiration for Mussolini.
Some argue that it’s just some soldiers we’re commemorating, not their colleagues who committed war crimes. Whether a soldier undertook any of these actions directly or not is moot – if they didn’t, then they facilitated and collaborated in these crimes. It’s called ‘joint enterprise’. No-one is exempt from guilt. Conscripts, I would argue, can plead some mitigating circumstances, but volunteers, in whatever capacity, hold full culpability. What’s more, the perpetrators have almost never faced justice, and some have been honoured with medals and awards.
Then they say you can’t blame squaddies because they’re just escaping poverty… by collaborating in mass murder? No. That doesn’t cut it. Others point out British Crown Forces’ contribution to aid work and emergency relief – how this can excuse the unprecedented crimes against humanity they’ve committed, I don’t know. They are mere PR campaigns for genocide.
The truth is, Britain has barely fought a war for defence of its homeland since the Napoleonic Wars. The Blitz is the only exception. Conversely, independence from Britain is celebrated somewhere around the world on a weekly basis. So, what are people commemorating these troops for doing? It isn’t ‘defending’ the island of Britain, that’s for certain. It’s for attacking others. It glorifies terrorism, not heroism. And the RBL and its acolytes revere this gang of butchers, mass murderers, torturers, terrorists, rapists, and looters known as the British Armed Forces.
David Cameron even insisted on wearing his poppy™ in China, where he was informed how offensive it was in the context of the Opium Wars, where Britain used gunboats in the 1840s to force China to import its opium and cause a devastating epidemic of addiction. To produce the opium, Britain forced its Indian colony to grow it, instead of rather useful things like crops for food, and caused millions to starve. A double whammy. In some ways, the poppy™ is a perfectly apt symbol for Britain, but the irony is lost on such a profoundly historically-ignorant population.
Britain’s Death Cult
In 2020 the BBC implemented new ‘impartiality’ guidance warning against ‘virtue-signalling’ support for BLM and LGBT+ rights, while insisting that everyone wear a poppy™. It’s useless to point out the hypocrisy, because they just blink in oblivious confusion.
Britain’s poppy cult™ is impossible to parody. It’s an obsession on an unimaginable scale. It’s like that clichéd scene from fiction where the walls inside someone’s house are covered floor to ceiling with the stalker’s fixation. For Brits, it’s poppies, and it’s not someone’s bedroom, it’s an entire country. There are giant poppies on buses, trains, planes, lamp-posts, billboards, public buildings, landmarks, newspaper front pages, football kits and 888,246 ceramic ones installed in the moat of the Tower of London. In 2011 6,000 poppies were dropped on the town of Yeovil in some bizarre WWII re-enactment. It’s an inescapable mindless worship of death.
There are even night vigils at cenotaphs – these weirdos literally stay up all night in town centres enduring the freezing cold, or force their credulous children to. I imagine unlucky kids who have birthdays around this time are forbidden from celebrating, have their parties cancelled and are kept from falling asleep with a cattle prod (with poppies painted on it, of course). There are oh-so-solemn wreath-laying ceremonies at war memorials across the country, with a sacred 2 minutes of silence, and marked by firing of field artillery guns. The poppy frenzy will, I’m sure, one day escalate to hauling noise-makers (merely guilty of an inadvertent cough or burp) in front of the artillery and re-enact the callous slaughter of Tommies at the Somme. With poppy-covered bullets.
The whole thing is a nightmarish sick joke on those slaughtered in WWI and WWII, let alone an insult added to the injury to those oppressed by colonialism.
And yet these poppy freaks™ have the gall to shriek with self-righteousness at those who question the narrative. Apoplectic with indignation that their sadistic fantasy is not shared by all, spluttering with venom, spittle crusting around their mouths, tears of spite squeezed out of their eyes, champing at the bit to inflict vengeance on unbelievers, throwing hateful tantrums that some people wish for an end to mass death and destruction. High on bigotry and delirious with malice. Defending their comprehensive ignorance with all their energy. Horrified at the thought of learning actual facts about the reality of the British Empire.
And they call us ‘snowflakes’.
Potted History of Britain’s Crimes since WWI
When reading the following, far from comprehensive, potted list of Britain’s crimes, just remember, 59% of Brits are apparently proud of this, #LestWeForget:
1916 – Ireland – Executed leaders of Easter Rising and went door-to-door bayoneting 15 civilians to death in North King Street Massacre, Dublin.
1918-20 – USSR – Invaded to help Tsarist forces strangle the birth of worker’s power in its cradle.
1919 – India – Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of over 1,000 unarmed civilians in India.
1920 – Ireland – Burning of Cork and the Croke Park Massacre.
1920 – Iraq – RAF dropped 97 tons of bombs and poison, killing 9,000.
1925 – China – Massacred 52 in Guangzhou and over 1,000 the following year in the Wanhsien Incident, plus 1,000 buildings destroyed.
1936-48 – Palestine – Demolished entire villages and towns in Palestine, committed the Al-Bassa Massacre in 1938, and oversaw displacement of 400,000 Palestinians.
1939-45 – WWII – RAF firebombed Dresden killing 20,000 civilians. Collaborated with fascists in Athens to kill 28 civilians in 1944.
1948-60 – Malaya – 4,500 airstrikes on the indigenous liberation movement against colonialism, cut off hands, ears and heads of suspected communists to confirm kills, committed Batang Kali Massacre in 1948, and sprayed crops with Agent Orange.
1950-53 – Korea – Deployed 80,000 troops to help the US level the north and murder millions (20+% of the population).
1952-60 – Kenya – Murdered many thousands and put up to 1.5 million in concentration camps, where they used electrocution, castration and rape to terrorise the people.
1955-59 – Cyprus – Used brutal torture methods on Cypriots, including children.
1963-67 – Yemen (the Aden Emergency) – Hundreds killed and thousands wounded, including use of torture.
1969-88 – Ireland – Dozens of Irish children shot dead by Brits.
1981 – Argentina – Sunk the retreating ship the Belgrano in Las Malvinas.
2000s – Afghanistan and Iraq – Torture, murder, destruction of infrastructure on a horrifying scale.
[i] Pauwels, Jacques The Myth of the Good War p56
[ii] Ibid p171