This report was carried in the latest issue of TML Weekly which had a whole section on the WWI Centenary
Never Again — Theme of Windsor Commemorations
The Windsor Peace Coalition convened a meeting on September 27 of all those interested in ensuring that the anti-war conscience of the working people of Windsor-Essex is affirmed in commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Attending the meeting were long-time activists from the Peace Coalition, Women in Black and the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada, veterans of the Canadian and U.S. Armed Forces, a local member of the Royal Canadian Legion, a number of active and retired teachers, artists and others.
The meeting opened with the reading of the Peace Coalition’s statement for Labour Day. It drew attention to how the Ford government in Ontario is attempting to invoke the memory of those who died in the Afghanistan war in this centenary year of the end of World War I, in keeping with subordinating Canada to the cause of U.S. wars of aggression today, which must be opposed. Everyone was invited to speak about why they had come and to give their views on how the centenary could be commemorated, which virtually everyone did. A common thread running through what participants said was that they wanted to see the anniversary marked in a way that affirms Canadians’ anti-war conscience rather than suppresses it. Various aspects of what Remembrance Day has become were raised during the discussion as well as what people felt should be remembered on such a day. Some recalled how the day had been used as an occasion to remind the youth of the horrors of war, to remember all its victims, not just those of Canada, and in keeping with the slogan Never Again, that war should not be the means for settling conflicts between nations.
A member of the Legion explained that veterans do not glorify war or their participation in it. They often just talk about their individual experiences with their comrades-in-arms but not about the war itself. She said it was important that we know that many veterans do not support a rendering of Remembrance Day that glorifies war or uses the sacrifice of those who have died to justify further wars.
Others raised important concerns about the threat of nuclear war being used by the U.S. president, attempting to reverse the long-held consciousness that with nuclear weapons all of humanity loses, not simply the country attacked. What is called modern warfare is not “surgical strikes” as it is presented, with few casualties, another person said; that way of talking is just how the aggressors cover up the true extent of the destruction and devastation they cause.
Others pointed out that the weapons in use today destroy the natural environment and make the world unlivable for future generations and on that basis wars cannot be permitted. The importance of discussion on what conditions are required for peace was also raised in terms of ensuring that people’s needs for such things as food, housing, education and health care are met, rather than settling for a narrow definition of peace as simply an end to hostilities. Questions were posed and opinions were expressed about how to ensure that the war in defence of humanity waged by peoples and countries during World War II is not equated with the war for empire of World War I or the new wars of conquest today. In this regard, the importance of taking a clear stand to oppose any attempts to present the war in Afghanistan as just or a war that brought peace was emphasized, as there is no peace and the situation has only become worse for the people there.
Others spoke about the poppy and how they felt it was used by some to promote war and militarism as opposed to what it actually stands for, and whether to consider wearing a white poppy as a symbol of peace instead of a red one.
Talk then shifted to possible actions and events that could be organized so the discussion begun at the meeting could be opened up to the public to make the remembrance and reflection a collective action. Everyone agreed that a commemoration of some kind would be held as part of the World War I centenary to affirm the stand Never Again as the basis of remembrance and that this be done in a very broad manner that opposes any attempt to construe it as being “against the soldiers” past or present, so as to dismiss it.
At a follow-up meeting a week later a number of events and activities were decided upon:
– A film night will be held on Friday, November 9 at which the movie Outskirts, set in a small town in Russia during the years 1914-17, will be shown.
– The Windsor Peace Coalition will hold its weekly picket on Saturday, November 10 on the theme of Remembrance based on Never Again.
– A wreath with a sash that says Never Again will be purchased to lay at the Windsor Cenotaph as part of the Legion’s Remembrance Day ceremony on Sunday, November 11.
– Circular black 1″ lapel pins with Never Again inscribed in white will be produced. They can be placed in the centre of red poppies for people to affirm their conscience for how they are commemorating the centenary. Proceeds from the sale of the pins will go towards covering the cost of the wreath and any other activities. The first order for pins came in right after they were announced at the October meeting of the Windsor and District Labour Council.
– An Open Studio reception will be hosted by the artists at One Ten Park following the Legion’s Remembrance Day ceremony. A window installation for the centenary will be unveiled and there will be poetry readings and other forms of remembrance.
To purchase a Never Again pin ($5 each plus mailing cost, if applicable) e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org