Groups are coming together to resist this year’s Armed Forces Day in Cornwall

Armed Forces Day National Event Cornwall 2023 Militarism
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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.

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.

Read on...

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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.

Feature image via Cornwall Council – YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. The jingoism that goes along with Armed Forces Day under-writes support for the death and destruction that NATO’s campaign against Russia has unleashed in Europe.
      Fully-supported by a compliant media propaganda machine, European countries – with UK cheer-leading – are being impoverished, while billions of $ / £ / Euros are squandered in a murderous campaign led by neo-Nazis in Ukraine.
      NATO is the military arm of US foreign policy in Europe.
      Ukraine has been ruthlessly used as America’s proxy in Europe to confront Russia.
      On America’s behalf, Zelensky and the neo-Nazis that surround him have led his country to destruction –
      – – and we are paying the bill.
      That’s what Armed Forces Day is supporting.

      1. Here in Darlington, our council will be celebrating the military on Friday in the town centre. We have seven Green councillors, out of whom there has not been a single world, so far as I know, to protest this grotesque adoration of killing the poor. I wouldn’t expect Labour councillors, of course, to be opposed.

    2. This would be the armed forces that are currently training the Ukrainian army to fight the Russian invasion. That seems to me to a very good reason to turn out and support our brave men and women that have kept this country free. Freedom that allows The Canary to express it’s views, criticism of The Armed Forces is an inprisionable offence in Russia

      1. This would be the armed forces that, mostly in secret and unaccountable to the British people, are in Ukraine to train armed groups, many of whom are openly Nazi or fascistic such as the Azov Battalion. Perhaps you are happy to see the continuing rise of fascism in Ukraine, as it is in some parts of Russia too. Free speech has virtually vanished in Ukraine as well as in Russia: opposition parties and opposition media have been banned.

        1. They are accountable to the government and by extension, to parliament. Fascist, Communist or Lib Dem, there is no escaping the fact that Russia invaded Ukraine. For the past 14 months a Ukrainian refugee has lived with us, so scared are her parents they sleep in the corridor of their flat, whilst the dog hides in the bath. Would you want your daughter to be at home with the Russian army advancing on your city? Thought not!

          1. Perhaps you might like to practise solidarity with the Ukrainian citizens of the Donbass who for years endured shelling by the Ukrainian military since the US-led coup of 2014. Up to13,000 people were killed. Sadly, it is very difficult to obtain any information online about this because Google and other Western search engines do not return results about that war in Ukraine.

    3. The canary likes to call itself anti fascist.No group in the UK has ever done more to fight fascism than the Armed Forces.From saving us from a Nazi invasion in 1940 and playing a vital role in the defeat of The Axis powers,causing the downfall of the Argentine military Junta in 1982 ,helping stop genocide in the Balkans in the 1990s to give but a few examples nobody else has done half as much.All the canaryards do is take part in pathetic demos and call anybody who disagrees with them fascists.Reminds me of the 1980s sitcom character Rick in the Young Ones.A spotty student who was forever calling everyone else a “complete and utter fascist,”Steve Topple even looks like him,although to be fair his spots seem to have cleared up.

      1. The British military has long been a hotbed of far right activism. “The attractiveness of the armed forces for the far right is as old as British fascism’s earliest incarnations. During the extreme right’s periodic postwar resurgences, groups such as Oswald Mosley’s Union Movement and later the National Front also coveted recruits from the military’s ranks.

        Yet in an age of concern about a new far right – technologically literate and at its most extreme focused less on political activity than on violence – the continued threat is underlined by records revealing multiple investigations of military personnel under the UK’s counter-terrorism programme, Prevent.

        No fewer than 14 investigations were carried out in 2019, including 11 stemming from potential far-right concerns, while there were more this year and last. What’s missing is the number of referrals to Channel, the discrete de-radicalisation process under Prevent, which is voluntary.”

    4. Dear Airplane.What do you know about the army or military in general?Have you ever served,do you have lots of friends and relatives in the forces?I suspect not.I served 7 years as a regular soldier and a further 22 years in the reserves.If the army was a hotbed of far right extremism I would have noticed.My point about no organisation in the UK having done more to fight fascism than the Armed Forces is irrefutable.

    5. For those who support Ukraine, and its openly Nazi battalions of the Azov regiment, it must be pretty galling to see the Ukrainians used as proxies to be sacrificed in America’s proxy war with Russia.
      The Americans never fight their proxy wars on their own territory …… Vietnam, Balkans, Libya, Afghanistan …
      Ukraine is just the latest country to be slaughtered in support of America’s Hegemony of the “world order”.
      Who wins ?
      The Military-Industrial Complex.
      A very good reason for condemning Armed Forces Day in the UK.
      Flag-waving and jingoism while Ukrainians are slaughtered !
      Keep it up Boismalet and Shredni Vashtar.
      That’s what you are supporting.

    6. I’m sure that there are very many readers who are not fascists.
      What is so-sad is the number of socialists and anti-fascists who have been taken in by the 24/7 barrage of pro-NATO, pro-Ukraine lies and propaganda over the past 18 months.
      The propaganda machine is carefully co-ordinated and choreographed all over the world on a scale that has never been seen before..
      Lies – Lies – Lies ……. I’ll forgive anyone who believes that Ukraine has been winning.
      The Ukrainians have been fed to the meat-grinder on the front-line by NATO’s Nazi collaborators and they have been slaughtered.
      Europe (including UK) is being impoverished.
      Huge resources – financial and military – have been poured into a doomed campaign in Ukraine.
      The so-called super-sanctions have further hit the economies of EU countries and UK.
      Russia’s economy is actually stable while EU countries and UK are in deep trouble.
      So – Celebrate your “Armed Forces Day”.
      Wave a flag.
      Join in the jingoistic delusion.
      The Russians will be laughing at you …….. and so will USA/NATO.

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