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Guest Post by Pink Panther

Travel anywhere in New Zealand and it is impossible to miss the war memorials. Even the smallest town of no more than a pub and garage will have a stone structure of some kind in memory of the war dead. The most moving one I’ve encountered is in Woodville (about 25km east of Palmerston North). What is moving is the lack of grandiose statues or jingoistic sentiments etched on it. It’s a humble and non-descript memorial with the names of various wars and the local people who died in them, carved on it.

Various governments and the Returned Servicemen’s Association (RSA) have at times used the combat dead to beat the war drums and to turn their deaths into a noble sacrifice for God, King/Queen, Flag and Country. Those who died in past wars went due to propagandists who used the language of patriotic slogans, heroism and fighting evil-doers. The result has often been the slaughter of so many young, idealistic and naïve men and women who set off on misguided adventures they didn’t return from. At the moment plans are being made to repeat this, with the government cynically using the memory of the ANZACs to suggest joint work between NZ and Australian troops in the fight against Isis in the Middle East.

Each name on a memorial is a relative, mate, or colleague, in short, a real human being. When they did not return home families grieved and often lost the main income provider in their households and communities lost vital workers and production. The memorials are a reminder that in war it is primarily working class people on both sides and the property built by the hands of those workers that is devastated.

Many will argue it’s sometimes right to take up arms. What about the class struggle at its fiercest stage? What about authoritarians imposing their will on a country? Is it wrong to take up arms then? There has always been a range of responses on the part of anarchists. Some take an absolutely pacifist stance while others are anti-militarist but not against fighting under certain circumstances. My own answer is not a simple “Yes” or “No”. Each struggle must be judged on a case by case basis. When anarchists believe that fighting is appropriate, let them do so. It will be history and their peers who will decide if their actions were just or not.

As anarchists we owe no allegiance to a state. Our only loyalty is to working people. They are the ones who create the wealth of the world but who rarely own nor enjoy the merits of their labours, whether intellectual or physical. Whatever enables the workers to enjoy the fruits of their labours is worth fighting for. That struggle takes various forms, sometimes it may be limited to peacefully spreading the message in difficult circumstances and sometimes a call to arms may be required.

Too often the lives of ordinary people have been sacrificed in the name of beliefs, institutions and states who’ve committed horrific acts while claiming to be doing the right thing. Every war has to be sold to us by those who either genuinely believe their own bullshit or know they are lying to us but just don’t care. History is full of examples, from Gallipoli to the Gulf of Tonkin, Iraq and Afghanistan. The state is one of the worst offenders but it doesn’t have a monopoly on tyranny or slaughter.

The war memorials spread around the country make you think. That’s what they were designed to do, but they can make you think in ways the state, the military and RSA probably don’t want us to. To me the memorial in Woodville and their like make it clear that the slogans that should be used are “The main enemy is at home”, “War is the health of the state” and “The class war is the real war”.