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[from Remembering the Real World War 1 London group]
years later, millions of war dead later - on Saturday, June 28, Archduke Franz
Ferdinand of Austria and Sophie, Duchess of Hohenburg, were "assassinated" for a
second time, on Whitehall.
(and five hours) after the original assassination in Sarajevo triggered the
of World War 1, the ghost of Gavrilo Princip repeated his act. The opening
shots that set the defining course of the twentieth century – towards total
capitalist war. But also towards its opposition: the spirit of resistance to
class society, to national hatreds, to the power and profit of elites at the
expense of huge majorities. The spirit of refusal to fight, of desertion,
the ‘assassination’, a small group from the Remembering the Real World War 1
London group (costumed as Archduke, Archduchess, Princip, feminist-communist
war resister Sylvia Pankhurst, and several unknown soldiers of WW1) visited
various statues of politicians and generals around Parliament Square, Whitehall
and Horseguards Parade – bloodstained memorials to the guiding spirits of the
British franchise of the 1914-1918 abattoir. Some of the war crimes of Lloyd
George, Winston Churchill, Haig and co. were discussed; we also remembered some
of the army mutineers, draft-dodgers, the networks that opposed and resisted
the war effort. Unlike the official historians of the Great War we celebrated
the strikes, mutinies, revolutions that the conflict produced.
visited the cenotaph, to remember that the elites who sent millions to die were
forced into commemorating their victims by popular pressure. In Horseguards we
spoke up for the striking squaddies who demanded demobilization in January
1919, besieging the War office, refusing to be drafted into Britain’s intended
invasion of Soviet Russia refusing to continue to die and kill in the name of
were only a few of us… Like the lonely voices that spoke out against the tide
of patriotism and coercion in 1914. The heavy rain may have played a part… But
also such ‘ancient history’, especially that which challenges the official
themes, maybe seems unimportant to most folk at this time. There are more
urgent struggles, like survival, in the face of massive pressures… Most of our
rantings were likely only amusement for tourists. Still we did engage with some
people, positively and negatively.
run into the Gay Pride procession, in time to wave some placards at the lesbian
& gay soldiers contingent – probably futilely, but you have to try. (Still,
the Austro-Hungarian fetish gear went down well with some of the festive
marchers…) Some of us remember when Gay Pride had a more subversive social
meaning than celebrating the equality to sign up for the armed forces, equal
rights in the repressive rigmarole. Living in the past again?
A drive towards austerity, open class war against those with the least, vicious
hatred and blame leveled at ‘foreigners’, towards a militarized, rightwing
society? Sound familiar?
traders, warmongering politicians and unrelenting, jingoistic propaganda today,
go hand in hand with a blind reverence for the ‘dead’ of World War 1, a
‘respect’ that deliberately obscures the lies and profitable balance sheets
that millions died for. Capitalism gave birth to the Great War – the War that
never really ended.
world at war again in the Ukraine,
Syria and Iraq, we intended to conduct our theatrical reconstruction of these
events outside BAE systems, a small reminder of how little has changed today. In
the end we didn’t make it as the downpour drove us into the pub…
… But we carry on.
for our next action, outside the Imperial War Museum on July 19th, as it
re-opens its World War 1 exhibitions.
was set up in 1917 by the very same generals and politicians who helped start
the global conflagration. But it wasn’t victorious generals and politicians
that ended the conflict, it was striking workers and mutinying soldiers.
1918, many German soldiers became so disillusioned with the war that they
refused to fight. Earlier, there had been similar rebellions in the Russian and
French armies. And, by 1919, there were even mutinies in the British Army.
the IWM exhibition will cover these inspiring events in detail. But, in case
they need some help, we will be commemorating the real history of the war from
2pm, Saturday 19 July, near the museum entrance.
is on Lambeth Rd. SE1 6HZ,
near Waterloo and Lambeth North stations.)
information about the ‘Remembering the Real WW1’ project see: