UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Friday, 6 June 2014

On D-Day – Remember why they fought

Watching the BBC broadcasting from Normandy, with Chuck, his Ma and her bidie-in, any socialist could almost be forgiven for disassociating themselves from the whole enterprise. Ceremonies like this always bring God, Queen and country to the fore. But the anniversary of D-Day deserves more respect, because we need to remember why they fought.

D-Day was the start of the liberation of Europe. From Northern France to North Africa, and across the USSR, millions were enslaved under a Nazi tyranny that deprived them of basic democratic freedoms, and denied their essential humanity.

Jews, Gypsies, Communists, Socialists, Trade Unionists, Gays and the Slavic nations were all treated as less than human beings and herded into concentration camps, never to emerge, looted of all possessions, then worked to death or sent to a gas chamber.

Millions died in the name of an ideology that saw some human beings as having power and authority over others, to the extent that some people were declared as sub human. Those who fought within the Third Reich as members of the Resistance met with torture, and then if they were lucky with death. Millions were forced into economic slavery to serve a war machine. Nine thousand died on D Day, millions more on the eastern front.

This was fought as a war of liberation, to restore the values of Liberte, Egalite and Fratenite, recognising that Nazi rule was incompatible with civilised values. Those who fought for the UK knew that, and believed that another world was possible, using their votes to secure that other world when they got the chance in the 1945 election.

That was the greatest ever victory for the forces of Socialism that we have ever seen and led to a country that had a National Health Service, decent housing and education, a commitment to full employment, and to industries that delivered for the good of the many not the shareholders through a progressive programme of nationalisation, a country where poverty and want were to be defeated.

We can see that they continued the fight when demobbed from the battle zone, battling for a better country. They said it was better to die on your feet than live on your knees. They wanted to also win the peace.

In a Europe where the forces of fascism are regrouping through the ballot box, where vile ideologies of racism are again gaining momentum, the D-Day commemorations should be an occasion to remember the fight that they fought.

Their sacrifices were not for the goals of imperialism but for a world where human rights were respected, where men and women were treated honourably and equally.

Watching the veterans marching slowly to remember their comrades, remember the values that they are representing, and realise that it is our turn to show respect for those values and more, stand up for them today.

Their parade is our wake up call to continue their fight.

As Eric Bogle memorably wrote, “Year by year their numbers get fewer, someday no one will march there at all”. But if we believe peace and socialism have a future, we cannot leave the battlefield against fascism and need to march beside them.

Jane Carolan