opinion
Remembering the struggle and bravery of our forefathers of WW1 is not 'glorification'
By Guest Contributor
18th November 2018

by Red Turban Rebellion

In the recent debate over Sikhs who fought for the British Indian Army in the First World War, it's important to remember that the west, particularly the UK, has been having a similar discussion about remembrance vs glorification for a century.

In the British commemoration of the First World War dead, the traditional narrative emphasises tragedy and really mourns the slaughter of so many young men rather than revelling in victory.

Remember that many of these young men were not conscripts, many eagerly followed the bugles of war and were led to be slaughtered in the stead of men too old or cowardly to fight for themselves, defending a system that they owed nothing to in the name of emperors and princes.

I am of course speaking of both sides of the war here.

A war not ultimately started by lads from Germany or Austria or Russia, but by a rotten, crumbling international order designed and perpetuated to benefit the rich and landed at the expense of the common man.

The experience of Indian soldiers was of course unique, but it does not defy being understood in these same terms.

Called to arms by the ideological machinery of empire, thousands of Sikh men and boys were fed to the slaughter alongside lads from London, Berlin, Paris and Vienna.

Remembering the struggle of these brave fathers and uncles of ours simply to survive in the face of adversity should not be mistaken as glorification of the sickening violence of war, and our talk of sacrifice should not be confused for anything but the condemnation of conflict.

(Although if I were designing the statue to commemorate the sacrifice of these Sikh sons, brothers and uncles, I would have included a figure of a young boy in a top-knot instead to commemorate lost innocence and the grief of Sikh mothers.)

"Sacrifice" is really the most appropriate word for those killed in the name of imperialist wars, whether as conquered victims or as soldiers. It creates, at least in my mind, the image of a (grossly-caricatured) Aztec temple, blood running down its steps.

Thousands of captive victims taken from their homes by force or guile, dressed in the ritual garlands of their uniforms and then put to death for the glory of the false gods of capital, empire and the nation-state.

Why should anti-imperialists not remember these victims?





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