English anti-World War I resistance on stage


This video says about itself:

ENGLAND ARISE! – PROMO

A brief promo film of Bent Architect’s research and development project exploring the true story of the Yorkshire Conscientious Objectors of the first world war, at Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield, December, 2013. We are aiming to launch the production in the autumn of 2014 as an alternative commemoration of the centenary.

By Bernadette Horton in Britain:

Theatre review: England, Arise!

Wednesday 19th November 2014

BERNADETTE HORTON highly recommends a powerful dramatisation of working-class resistance to the carnage of WWI

England, Arise!
People’s History Museum, Manchester/Touring
5 stars

FORGET ceramic poppies and sentimentalised dramas about the first world war.

Instead, go and see Bent Architect’s production of England, Arise! about the real lives of political activists Arthur Gardiner (Chris Lindon) and Percy Ellis (James Britton) who opposed the war.

Gardiner (Chris Lindon) and Ellis (James Britton) lived in Huddersfield in the early 1900s and were part of a vibrant socialist movement which gave them hope as young people that life was only going to get better.

They portray a strong friendship between the two men — in performances which occasionally veer almost into music hall routine — which shows how these young men were confident about the future, determined in their anti-war stance and inspired by the Suffrage movement which at that time was in its 60th year of campaigning for women’s right to vote.

The Suffragette campaign is forcefully represented in the character of Lillian Lenton (Stephanie Butler) who shows the eccentricity and tenacity of the real-life activist who was imprisoned and force-fed and turns up in Huddersfield on her escape from the police.

Local women Sis Timmins (Laura Bonnah) and Lavena Saltonstall (Stephanie Butler again) are shown as complex characters who are learning about being independent women as well as supporting their men when they refuse to serve in the war.

Gardiner and Ellis were both sentenced to military prison and brutalised in much the same way as the soldiers who volunteered to go to war.

Crucial to the power of the play is the use by playwright Mick Martin in Jude Wright’s production of Gardiner’s verbatim defence of his opposition to the war when facing a military tribunal.

Isolated and victimised by their military jailers, both men are inspirational in their determination to maintain their principled response to militarism, whether in refusing to call their warders “sir” or facing their fears as they are separated and put into isolation for long periods.

Outside the prison the campaign to support the two conscientious objectors carries on, spearheaded by the women, even though they face violence at meetings and are often seen as outcasts by sections of their community.

Though only 20,000 people refused to take part in WWI, this small number was seen as a major and direct threat by the government.

This play is thus a reminder of the importance of that courageous anti-war stance and the high price that working-class people have always paid in the war games of the ruling classes.

Next performances at the Rochdale Pioneer’s Museum on November 18 and 19, details: www.rochdalepioneersmuseum.org.

Syrian rebels destroy Armenian genocide monument


This video says about itself:

Jabhat al-Nusra attacks Syria’s ancient Aramaic village

5 September 2013

The Syrian village of Ma’loula in the mountains north of Damascus is a UNESCO world heritage site, it is one of the only villages in the world where ancient Aramaic is still spoken – that’s the language believed to have been spoken by Jesus Christ.

It has been overrun in an assault by al-Qaeda linked group Jabhat al-Nusra, who were fighting alongside opposition brigades from Baba Amr in Homs. A nun from a convent in Ma’loula has accused Jabhat al-Nusra of shelling the village and its inhabitants indiscriminately.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Jabhat al-Nusra blows up Armenian church in Deir el-Zour: A savage blow that echoes through Armenian history

Islamists’ destruction of a shrine to the victims of genocide marks the latest chapter in a tragic national history. Robert Fisk reports from Qamishli, north-eastern Syria

Monday 10 November 2014

In the most savage act of vandalism against Syria’s Christians, Islamists have blown up the great Armenian church in Deir el-Zour, built in dedication to the one and a half million Armenians slaughtered by the Turks during the 1915 genocide. All of the church archives, dating back to 1841 and containing thousands of documents on the Armenian holocaust, were burned to ashes, while the bones of hundreds of genocide victims, packed into the church’s crypt in memory of the mass killings 99 years ago, were thrown into the street beside the ruins.

This act of sacrilege will cause huge pain among the Armenians scattered across the world – as well as in the rump state of Armenia which emerged after the 1914-1918 war, not least because many hundreds of thousands of victims died in death camps around the very same city of Deir el-Zour. Jabhat al-Nusra rebels appear to have been the culprits this time, but since many Syrians believe that the group has received arms from Turkey, the destruction will be regarded by many Armenians as a further stage in their historical annihilation by the descendants of those who perpetrated the genocide 99 years ago.

Turkey, of course, miserably claims there was no genocide – the equivalent of modern day Germany denying the Jewish Holocaust – but hundreds of historians, including one prominent Turkish academic, have proved beyond any doubt that the Armenians were deliberately massacred on the orders of the Ottoman Turkish government across all of modern-day Turkey and inside the desert of what is now northern Syria – the very region where Isis and its kindred ideological armed groups now hold. Even Israelis refer to the Armenian genocide with the same Hebrew word they use for their own destruction by Nazi Germany: “Shoah”, which means “holocaust”.

The Armenian priest responsible for the Deir el-Zour district, Monsignor Antranik Ayvazian, revealed to me that before the explosions tore the church apart towards the end of September, he received a message from the Islamists promising to spare the church archives if he acknowledged them as the legislative authority in that part of Syria. “I refused,” he said. “And after I refused, they destroyed all our papers and endowments. The only genocide victims’ bones left were further north in the Murgada sanctuary and I buried them before I left. They destroyed the church there, but now if I could go back, I don’t even know if I could find where I put the bones.”

Msr Ayvazian later received a photograph taken in secret and smuggled to him from the Isis-controlled area, showing clearly that only part of the central tower of the Deir el-Zour church, built in 1846 and renovated 43 years later, remains. Every Armenian who has returned to the killing fields of the genocide has prayed at the church. Across these same lands, broken skulls and bones from 1915 still lie in the sand. When I investigated the death marches in this same region 22 years ago with a French photographer, we uncovered dozens of skeletons in the crevasse of a hill at a point where so many Armenian dead were thrown into the waters of the Khabur that the river changed its course forever. I gave some of the skulls and bones we found to an Armenian friend who placed them in the crypt of the Deir el-Zour church – the very same building which now lies in ruins.

“During the Armenian genocide, the Turks entered the church and killed its priest, Father Petrus Terzibashian, in front of the congregation,” Msr Ayvazian said. “Then they threw his body into the Euphrates. This time when the Islamists came, our priest there fled for his life.” Msr Ayvazian suffered his own personal loss in the Syrian war when Islamist fighters broke into the Mediterranean town of Qassab on 22 April this year. “They burned all my books and documents, many of them very old, and left my library with nothing but 60cm of ash on the floor.” Msr Ayvazian showed me a photograph of the Qassab church altar, upon which one of the Islamists had written in Arabic: “Thanks be to God for al-Qaeda, the Nusra Front and Bilal al-Sham” (another Islamist group). The town was retaken by Syrian government troops on 22 June.

Msr Ayvazian recounted his own extraordinary story of how he tried to prevent foreign Islamist fighters from taking over or destroying an Armenian-built hospital – how he drove to meet the Islamist gunmen and agreed to recover the corpses of some of their comrades killed in battle in return for a promise not to damage the hospital. “As I approached the hospital, a Syrian jet flew over me and dropped a bomb 40 metres from the building. I know the officer who sent the aircraft. He said it was his way of trying to warn the rebels not to harm me. They came out of the hospital like rats – but they did not harm me.”

I spoke later to the local Syrian military air force dispatcher and he confirmed that he had indeed sent a MiG fighter-bomber to attack waste ground near the building. Msr Ayvazian subsequently went to the old battlefield with Syrian government permission and recovered several bodies, all in a state of advanced decay and one with a leg eaten off by dogs. But he bravely set off with trucks carrying the dead and handed the remains to the Islamists. “They kept their word and later withdrew all their foreign fighters from the province of Hassake. I later received a letter from one of their emirs, very polite, telling me – and here the priest produced a copy of the note – that: “We vow to keep your property and your cherished possessions, which we also hold dear to us.” Msr Ayvazian looked scornfully at the letter. “Look, here at the start,” he said, “they have even made a mistake in their first quotation from the Koran! And then look what happened at Deir el-Zour. It was all for nothing.”

Each year, thousands of Armenians have gathered at their church in Deir el-Zour on 25 April – the date they commemorate the start of the genocide, when Armenian lawyers, teachers and doctors were arrested and later executed by the Turks outside Istanbul – to remember their million and a half dead. The 100th anniversary of the mass slaughter would have been a major event in Deir ez-Zour’s history. And although Syrian soldiers are still holding out in part of the town today, and Syrian authorities have promised to rebuild Armenian churches when their lands are retaken from the Islamists, there is little hope that any Armenians will be able to visit the ruins of their church in five months’ time.

Isis in Syria: In the shadow of death, a few thousand Christians remain to defy the militants: here.

There has been a “total collapse of international solidarity” when it comes to helping the ever-growing number of refugees from Syria’s civil war, humanitarian agencies said today: here.

Anti-World War I song censored for Royal British Legion


This music video is called Eric Bogle – The Green Fields of France. Also known as ‘No Man’s Land‘. The (complete, uncensored) lyrics are here.

By Richard Bagley in Britain:

Campaigners hit out at removal of song’s anti war message

Saturday 8th November 2014

Pop star Joss Stone was embroiled in a political row yesterday after releasing a “sanitised” version of a classic anti-war anthem for the Royal British Legion’s annual poppy appeal.

Peace campaigners have slammed the version of Eric Bogle’s ballad No Man’s Land, which hit the shops on Monday in advance of Remembrance Sunday.

The sentimental track by Ms Stone and guitarist Jeff Beck cuts two and a half verses from the original four, including lines declaiming “man’s blind indifference to his fellow man.”

Also missing is its poignant anti-war crescendo: “Did you really believe that this war would end wars?/Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame/The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain/For Willie McBride, it all happened again/And again, and again, and again, and again.”

Thousands have already bombarded the RBL with complaints over the release via an online petition demanding that it apologise.

But in a statement to the Morning Star yesterday the organisation hit back, saying it “rejects the premise of a campaign claiming that it has ‘sanitised’ the anti-war message.”

It suggested that the campaign was rooted in a “selective and misleading interpretation of a letter written by Eric Bogle.”

The original songwriter, who was not involved in the new version, gave his own take after being inundated with queries.

He said the Stone release “certainly doesn’t glorify it, but doesn’t condemn it either.

“Sentimentalising, perhaps, but not glorifying.”

He agreed that the “strong anti-war message” of the original had been diminished.

“Missing some crucial verses does not help.”

But musician Lisa Rigby branded the changes “a shameful omission.”

“All those lost to war are best commemorated by meaningful efforts to stop war entirely,” she said.

Joss Stone butchers No Mans Land: here.

The Royal British Legion, who run the Poppy Appeal, have in recent years shown a tendency to misuse the message of remembrance to encourage a pro-war, jingoistic agenda. They have now taken things a step further by using an anti-war song in a fundraising film – after taking the anti-war lyrics out: here.

See also here.

Legion Scotland has defended its decision to drop “Royal British” from its name after criticism from pro-union supporters. The veterans’ charity said the rebranding was not a political move, but “the day-to-day name” was adopted to differentiate it from the Royal British Legion south of the border: here.

Australian, Japanese militarists celebrate World War I


This video says about itself:

Australian comfort woman Jan Ruff-O’Herne

Jan Ruff-O’Herne told her shocking story on Australian Story in 2001 – a secret that took her 50 years to come to terms with before finally, she revealed it in a letter to her two daughters.

An idyllic childhood in Java was brought to an abrupt end by the Japanese occupation during Word War Two. Aged 21, she was taken from her family and repeatedly abused, beaten and raped – forced to be a sex slave for the Japanese military.

The term coined for this brutal sex slavery was ‘comfort woman‘.

But since revealing her ‘uncomfortable truth’ Jan Ruff-O’Herne’s suffering has been transformed into something affirmative.

In February this year, this 84-year-old Adelaide grandmother made the long journey to testify before Congress in Washington DC. The Congressional hearing was the pinnacle in her 15-year global campaign to seek justice for ‘comfort women’.

Now six years since Australian Story first aired her story, Jan Ruff-O’Herne feels she is one step closer to finally achieving her ultimate goal.

By Richard Phillips in Australia:

Australia’s WWI Albany commemoration: All about the future, not the past

7 November 2014

The former whaling port of Albany in Western Australia was the setting last weekend for the “Albany Convoy Commemoration.” It was part of the Australian government’s World War I centenary program—a multi-million dollar four-year campaign aimed at preparing the population for new wars.

In October 1914, King George’s Sound, just off Albany, was the assembly point for merchant ships carrying Australian and New Zealand troops, later known as Anzacs, before they set sail for the slaughter houses of WWI.

The first armada of 32 ships, carrying 30,000 troops and 8,000 horses, departed from Albany on November 1 under escort from three Australian navy vessels and HIJMS Ibuki, a navy cruiser from Japan, a British wartime ally. It was the first of two convoys that conveyed 41,000 troops from Albany that year. A third of these soldiers were killed in the attempted allied invasion of Turkey in 1915 or on the European battlefields.

Last weekend’s commemoration was attended by an estimated 40,000 people and senior government representatives from Japan, France and New Zealand. It was an occasion for government and military heads to wave the flag and issue proclamations about the birth of the “Anzac spirit,” while engaging in high-level discussions with military allies for new wars.

The three-day extravaganza, initiated by the former Rudd Labor government in 2008, featured a re-enactment of the convoy’s departure, involving four Australian warships and a submarine, a New Zealand navy vessel and a Japanese destroyer. A military march through the town was accompanied by low-flying Australian air force planes roaring overhead. Then came a commemorative service and the opening of the National Anzac Centre, a so-called interpretative museum.

More than 800 Australian Defence Force personnel were involved in the proceedings, along with soldiers from New Zealand and the French Pacific colony of New Caledonia. On Saturday night, WWI memorabilia were projected onto local buildings, alongside an outdoor “community concert.” Nearby Middleton Beach was covered with 30,000 hand-sewn red poppies.

No doubt many of those in attendance came to honour relatives who served in the war and were genuinely interested in trying to understand what produced the 1914–18 slaughter. That, however, was the last thing on the minds of the official speakers. Those in charge were preoccupied with obscuring the real reasons for WWI as they discussed, in private, preparations for new wars.

Australian Veteran Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson chaired the commemoration ceremony. Japanese officials in attendance included Kazuyuki Nakane, the vice-minister for foreign affairs and Hideshi Tokuchi, the vice-minister of defence. Tokuchi oversees all Japanese negotiations with US and international defence officials.

Disingenuous speeches were delivered by Australian and New Zealand prime ministers Tony Abbott and John Keys, pledging to “never forget” the “selfless sacrifices” of the war dead and the “spirit of Anzac.”

The so-called Anzac spirit—of mateship and unwavering devotion to the nation—is an entirely invented reality and one that denies the imperialist character of the war. The Australian and New Zealand troops on board the ships were mobilised in 1914 as part of the British Empire’s war efforts to retain its global dominance. The soldiers had never even heard the term Anzac.

Abbott called on those present to remember “the soldiers and sailors of the countries of the British Empire, of gallant France and of Japan—first an ally, then a foe, now the very best of friends.”

In 1914, the ruling elites in Australia, New Zealand and Japan were driven by long-held imperial ambitions in the region. The sacrifice of thousands of Australian and New Zealand troops was the human down-payment for the emergence of Australia and New Zealand as imperialist powers. As soon as the war began, all three countries seized German territories in the Asia-Pacific.

Japan had told the British government that it would only enter the war if it could take Germany’s Pacific territories. On 7 August 1914, Britain officially requested Japanese assistance to destroy German navy ships in and around Chinese waters. Japan declared war against Germany on 23 August and attacked the German settlement at China’s Tsingtao a week later.

Australian and New Zealand forces took over Germany’s South Pacific colonies, including German New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Nauru and Samoa, while the Japanese military seized the Mariana, Caroline and Marshall islands, north of the equator.

Japan, which expanded its influence in China at the expense of Germany and other European powers during the war, not only escorted Anzac troop convoys to Egypt and Europe in 1914. It was also involved in the bloody suppression of the Singapore Mutiny, an anti-colonial uprising against the British in Singapore six months after the outbreak of WWI. In February 1915, Japanese marines were mobilised to assist British forces crush the week-long rebellion by 850 Indian members of the British army stationed there.

While speakers last weekend shed crocodile tears over the death of Allied soldiers in WWI at the official ceremonies, Australian Defence Minister David Johnston met with his New Zealand, Japanese and French counterparts to discuss the current war in the Middle East and preparations for future conflicts.

Johnston and New Zealand Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee held the annual Australia-New Zealand defence ministers’ meeting, which covered “recent developments in Iraq, and shared perspectives on security issues in the South Pacific.” Johnston then met with the French minister for defence, Jean-Yves Le Drian, to further Australia’s “close cooperation with France in the South Pacific” and “shared interests” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Johnston also held extensive talks with Japanese officials Nakane and Tokuchi on Australian-Japanese involvement in the US-led “pivot to Asia,”—Washington’s diplomatic offensive and military build-up against China.

Over the past 18 months, the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has rapidly increased military spending, “reinterpreted” the Japanese constitution to end legal restraints on participation in US-led wars and increased Tokyo’s diplomatic and military pressure on Beijing.

As well as collaborating closely in Washington’s war preparations against China, the two countries are strengthening their own military ties. In July this year Abe, while visiting Australia, announced new defence agreements between Canberra and Tokyo which could pave the way for the Australian purchase of Japanese submarines.

This is another clear indication of increasing geo-political tensions, particularly between China and the US and its allies, and the danger of wider conflict in the region.

The author also recommends:

New warnings of war in Asia
[5 November 2014]