This WWI Centennial, Give Way to Anti-War Ideals

John Maclean and Douglas Haig

The centenary celebration for the First World War is fast approaching — in 2014. And contradictory to what its detractors believe that it will just rain accolades about the war as camouflaged patriotism, the coming celebration will actually have featured memorials for those who opposed it – anti-war ceremonies – some of which have received government funding.

Jimmy Reid Foundation and the “No Glory” Campaign

Just this summer, the Scotland-based left-wing advocacy group Jimmy Reid Foundation had asked Glasgow’s council to build a monument the purpose of which is to rewrite in history the pacifists and socialists who opposed the war dismissing it as an imperialist and capitalist conflict. These men had earned death, jail time and infamy because of their stand.

Peace Pledge Union, a British non-government pacifist group, had also made a surprising announcement saying that the Heritage Lottery Fund had donated 95,800 pounds for its cause — a campaign dubbed “No Glory” which aims to honor the 16,000 individuals who faithfully opposed WWI. This campaign is backed by popular personalities like actors Jude Law and Alan Rickman, composer/musician Brian Eno and poet laureate  Carol Ann Duffy. “No Glory” will hold concerts and release books in time of the WWI centennial celebration that will remind the world how the First World War was a ‘total disaster’ that should never have happened again.

“What those of us involved in this are concerned about is that the war will be presented as something glorious and part of our national heritage, when it isn’t really. It was a total disaster that was unnecessary and destroyed a generation,” Brian Eno stated.

But Isn’t This Too Late?

Jimmy Reid Foundation and the organizers of “No Glory” further assert that they want to counter the ‘official narrative’ of the disastrous war which, in their thinking, would just push British victory in military glory.

However, the popular, and what could be called ‘official’, narrative about WWI is not about winged success or military bands. It was the stories of mud, useless killings and poetry that had gripped the population as early as the 1960s. Most of the present generation already view the war as ill-fated, all thanks to years of propaganda that had caricatured the war’s military heroes like Field Marshal Douglas Haig as a close-minded and callous individual.

Maclean and Haig

There are two personalities that best describe the two poles of stance when it comes to World War I – that of revolutionary socialist John Maclean and military officer Douglas Haig.

Maclean is quite known for his outspoken opposition against the Great War. In fact, he is part of the queue the Jimmy Reid Foundation wants to commend. Maclean’s life pursuit showed that there was a group of men, that though they were a minority, who had taken a political stand to oppose the war and that their ideals need to be examined and understood in a better light.

Field Marshal Haig, on the other hand, represents a side that has been ridiculed for years. Because of this ‘ridicule’, Haig’s reputation as a well-known military leader had been tarnished. He is seen as a person who succeeded in winning the war because of his narrow-mindedness and callousness.

What once was the “glorious official” narrative of war WWI critics are so afraid about — it had already crumpled long ago, its demise can never be undone.

-Article based on The Guardian


Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE