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Groups Are Coming Together To Resist This Year’s Armed Forces Day

Armed Forces Day’s grotesque display of militarism gets more nauseating each year.

But campaigners in Cornwall won’t take it lying down.

This year’s Armed Forces Day is on Saturday 24 June. The main “public show” (perhaps the most grotesque uses of the phrase imaginable) will be in Cornwall. However, local and national campaigners are not taking this display of militarism lying down. In fact, they’re planning a counter-event to show the public’s resistance.

Armed Forces Day: State-Sanctioned Propaganda

Armed Forces Day is a state-sanctioned event. As the Soldiers’ Charity noted, it was the brainchild of Tony Blair’s Labour Party:

Plans for the event were announced in February 2006 by Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the aim of ensuring that the contribution of our Armed Forces was never forgotten. First known as Veterans’ Day, the first event was held on Saturday 27th June 2006. The date was chosen as it came the day after the anniversary of the first investiture of the Victoria Cross in Hyde Park, London, in 1857.

The event became Armed Forces Day in 2009, and is now held annually on the last Saturday in June.Canary

Naturally, the day is less about the public showing support for vets, and more about the state pushing creeping militarism. As the Canary previously wrote, campaign group ForcesWatch published a report in 2019. It detailed how the state uses Armed Forces Day to push the idea that war is normal to the public – and that we should support both it and continued militarisation:

Warrior Nation: War, militarisation and British democracypublished by ForcesWatch, details a “militarisation offensive” launched against the British public by the military, political and media establishments. Warrior Nation argues that events like Armed Forces Day are part and parcel of a creeping militarism and militarisation of British society, designed to suppress dissent and ensure long-term support for war.

The report finds that engineering widespread support for military action among the British public has not been very successful. But militarism has nonetheless had an incredibly corrosive effect upon social norms and liberties. Attempting to create a society that accepts a state of permanent war, the establishment has sought to suppress multiculturalism, freedom of speech, and the right to dissent.

Of course, the current authoritarian Tory government is making all this worse. However, people are resisting across the UK. And specifically, for Armed Forces Day’s national event in Falmouth, groups are coming together to push back.

Cornwall Will Resist

The official Armed Forces Day website states that Falmouth:

will play proud host to a packed programme of events and activities including a military parade, marching bands, military displays, live music, flying displays and fireworks.

If you think that sounds insidious and nauseating, then you can join in a counter-event. Campaign Against The Arms Trade (CAAT) said in a press release that:

Local and national organisations are uniting to show their opposition to Armed Forces Day, due to be held in Falmouth on 24th June. Groups involved include Campaign Against Arms Trade, the Peace Pledge Union, ForcesWatch, Demilitarise Education, Cornwall Resists and local and national Quaker organisations. All groups say that we should be giving peace a chance rather than glorifying the military. Events planned include talks, stalls, street theatre, banners, protests and more.

CAAT has various concerns about Armed Forces Day. For example, it said in a press release that:

Armed Forces Day has cost Cornwall Council at least £300,000 during a cost of living crisis. Local groups are appalled that this money has been spent promoting militarism when local services have been cut to the bone.

It also added that:

The day is also taking place at the same time the Bibby Stockholm refugee prison ship is likely to still be in Falmouth. It is currently in the dry docks to double its capacity to house 500 refugees and asylum seekers in accommodation the size of parking spaces. This ship is a wider manifestation of the border violence that is enacted on people seeking sanctuary, many of whom are fleeing conflicts either caused by the British military, or the devastation caused by bombs made by British arms companies such as BAE.

Furthermore, one of its major concerns is over what the day’s objectives are.

The UK State: Recruiting Kids To Kill

As the Canary reported in 2019, the state actively encourages kids to participate in events. This includes even pushing Armed Forces Day onto toddlers:

a British soldier encouraged children to wear military gear in a nursery school in Lincolnshire. The nursery celebrated the event on Facebook and published 18 photos of very young children wearing body armour and helmets.

At the time:

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) released a statement blasting the “shocking” example of “everyday militarism”. It also pointed out that other Armed Forces Day events “have seen primary school aged children invited to handle real weapons”. In 2018 The Canary also published an article about Armed Forces Day targeting children by letting them handle weapons.

So, as CAAT said in a press release:

The UK is one of only 17 countries, and the only one in Europe, which allows for the military recruitment of children [under 18 years]. The United Nations Child Rights Committee recently called on the UK government to raise the age of recruitment to 18 and prohibit the targeting of children in military advertising. Since 2008, there has been a concerted push by the armed forces to engage with school children, especially those in deprived areas, with visits to 10,000 schools a year.

Pushing Back Against Capitalist Militarism

On top of all of this, weapons manufacturer BAE Systems is sponsoring some of this year’s events. Of course, it suits the company to promote things like this. The more the public support the state’s militarism, the more government contracts companies like BAE Systems will get. However, as the Canary‘s Joe Glenton previously wrote:

The ultimate winners when it comes to defence spending are not the public, in whose name these vast sums are lavished on war. It’s the arms firms and defence firms who making a killing. In the case of the UK, our vast spending comes amid a cost of living crisis.

So, Cornwall will resist on 24 June. ForcesWatch coordinator Luke Starr said in a press release:

While presented as a celebration of veterans and service personnel, Armed Forces Day is also a huge opportunity to normalise military action and run recruitment activities.

A spokesperson for Quakers in Britain said:

Quakers believe that all life is precious. We have always tried to ‘live in that life and power which takes away the occasion of all wars.’

Instead of pretending that Armed Forces Day is a family-friendly celebration of their peace-keeping work, the British government should stop recruiting children into the military and stop recruiting the wider society to be war ready. We should be investing in education for peace, not war.

With the Labour Party under Keir Starmer renewing their engagement with Armed Forces Day, it’s down to campaign groups like CAAT to resist. The perpetual militarisation of societies across the planet is one of the mainstays of corporate capitalism – where people’s lives are treated as profit margins, and wholly expendable.

Armed Forces Day is a sick reflection of this, dressed up as a patriotic celebration. However, theres nothing patriotic about celebrating death, maiming, and the destruction of people’s lives and the planet.

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