2007 - 2020

Remember: Militarism is Murder, Colonialism is Theft

indexAfter a month of Poppy Fascism and hyper-nationalism, the BBC decided to mark Remembrance Sunday by giving prominence to French National Front leader Marine Le Pen. Glasgow activists instead chose to highlight statues in the city as symbols of colonial brutality. Here’s a statement from the group:

Activists have spray-painted counter-militarism graffiti on and around Glasgow monuments which celebrate British colonialism and empire. The graffiti which has appeared this week around the city is an image of a red remembrance poppy and the words ‘Remember: Militarism is Murder, Colonialism is Theft’.

The counter-militarism slogan can be seen at the 1888 ‘Doulton Fountain’ in Glasgow Green which elaborately depicts four colonies of Britain; Australia, Canada, South Africa, and India. Above these four scenes are four foot soldiers, representing the Black Watch, Grenadier Guards, Royal Navy and the Irish Fusiliers, above these are four female ‘water carriers’, and finally Queen Victoria stands on the apex. Plaques dedicated to soldiers of Great War surround the monument.

image9As well as other locations in the city, the graffiti can also be found at the Lord Roberts monument in Kelvingrove Park; a tribute to a man (1832-1914) who fought in many wars and battles of colonial conquest during Queen Victoria’s reign. Lord Roberts participated in the punitive British Expedition to Abyssinia in Ethiopia (1863, 1867-1868) the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880), and the Second Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa. There, he invented a strategy of control using a lethal combination of ‘scorched earth’ policy and concentration camps. This included the mass burning of farms and relocating local populations to concentration camps where 28,000 women and children died due to lack of sanitation and care. Lord Kitchener succeeded Roberts in this post and continued the use of concentration camps.

Roberts, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for being wounded while brutally quashing the Indian Mutiny of 1857, went on to become the commander-in-chief of the colonial Indian Army in 1894. The monument, which was unveiled 100 years ago in 1916, heralds military power as a symbol of Britain’s virtue and civility.

One of activists, ‘Asha’, said “These monuments glorify a shameful past of slavery, racism and militarism. Our act is one of remembrance for the people who suffered due to the violence of British imperialism, including civilians and soldiers. WW1 was a colonial war, and this fact has been hidden behind a veil of nationalism, jingoism and ‘Poppy memorabilia’. As Remembrance Sunday is approaching we feel it’s important to ask; what are we encouraged to remember? And in turn, when does remembrance itself normalise and conceal the brutality of the British war machine?”

Another of the activists, ‘Jo’, commented “There are statues like this all over the country. If we are unwilling to face up to Britain’s history of colonialism, murder and theft then we shouldn’t be surprised when the far right emerges, like it is now. We act with respect to the dead and want to challenge the imperial present.”

These monuments were erected before the ‘War to End All Wars’ had drawn to a close, and those who designed them would not know the horrors of industrialised killing of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. By highlighting how colonial violence overseas was transformed into legacies of glory and heroism at home during the Victorian era, these activists hope to encourage critical thinking around the use of memorialisation and the growing militarisation in today’s era.

Comments (23)

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  1. Wullie says:

    Aye very clever! the bill for cleaning this won’t be coming from the pockets of the so-called activists but from the tax-payer. Glasgow is an imperialist creation you might as well demolish the city.

  2. Mrs Hurtle says:

    Yes I hope it’s chalk not paint. “Vandalism” wiĺl obscure the message and distract the argument, sadly.

  3. Thrawn says:

    Awww bless…adolescent posturing is so adorable

  4. Jim Archibald says:

    Demolishing the statue might serve better, Wullie, No? The same message – more strongly worded and no bill for the tax-payer. I assume you are the tax-payer in question, else a shared contribution to this massive bill would be what? 0.0003 pence (recurring).
    Adolescence is it? Maybe we should be looking at the legions of adolescent dead. Distasteful doesn’t do it justice, Thrawn.

  5. Bill McLean says:

    Well said Jim. The horrors of the imperial past have yet to be fully exposed!

  6. Wullie says:

    Bill McLean seems to live in some kind of bubble, the British Empire killed countless millions, it aint no secret, doubtless your own ancestors contributed to the carnage. As for Jim Archibald’s trivialising the cleaning costs, it’ll be a few thousand pounds no doubt which could have stocked a food-bank. City Chambers next for the wrecking-ball.

  7. kailyard rules says:

    I would rather these protests against “empire” and its more negative aspects were done with that well acclaimed Glesca Humour. e.g. the pointy hat atop the equestrian Wellington in front of the GOMA. Much more effective agitprop to garner public approval.

    ps I always thought a big wellie boot stuck over his visage would have been even punnier.

  8. Vin Ashley says:

    Astonishing that the first thing some Bella Caledonia readers think of is the cleaning cost…I don’t believe that you can’t see the link between memorialised colonial war-heroes and the public’s acceptance of obsessive militarism by modern UK governments. How does the cost of cleaning a statue compare with the cost of running the UK’s current military? Nevermind all the other more important costs.

  9. Andimac says:

    “Activists”? – that’s what we need to change the world, to free the downtrodden, to feed the hungry, to fight the dictators, stop the wars – people with spray paint cans! “Long live the Revolution!” – “can we dae the word Revolution in a nice dayglo reddish colour? That’ll pit the fear o’ death intae a’ they tyrants,eh no?” Spay painting imperialistic monuments – Jesus wept!

    1. I Clark says:

      What point(s) are you trying to make? That if they really were activists they would, for example, be trying to blow up military targets in the warmongering UK state? That these activists are wasting their time because effective change can only come through political action? That any persons described as “activists” are only worthy of being mocked? It’s far from clear what you are objecting to.

  10. Maxwell says:

    So your theory is that all militarism is murder.hmm. How about Rwanda where eight hundred thousand were killed almost entirely by hand weapons in 100 days and there were so many rapes that there was a huge spike in HIV? Is there no situation where military intervention is acceptable, if those were your kids being axed with machetes in their primary school desks as so many thousands were, would you want to see some kind of military intervention

    1. I Clark says:

      You seem to have misunderstood the article. Militarism and military intervention are not the same thing. One is an ideology ; the other is a description of the nature of an action.

  11. Wullie says:

    These folk who think the British Empire was nothing to do with them,” it was thae folk on pedestals wot done it!” Well. reality check, unless they came from very strange families indeed, a trip to the census section, free at the Mitchell Library, a suberb imperialist-funded institution, will soon discover that their ancestors built the Empire’s ships & sailed them, dug its coal, made it’s iron & steel plus a million other things. They fought its battles, waved its flags & cheered its monarchs. They ate, drank & shat the British Empire, it couldn’t have existed without them. We/they are the living product of the British Empire, whether they like it or not.

    1. Pilrig says:

      Yes, the Scots were complicit in imperial crimes. Anyone who thinks the British Empire was a benevolent institution should, perhaps, read up on the history of Ireland.

    2. I Clark says:

      ‘These folk who think the British Empire was nothing to do with them …’ Perhaps I am missing something, but I can’t see anything in the article or in the comments so far which asserts this . But it should be asserted since people are not responsible for the actions of their predecessors. There is a moral case though for the idea that we incur an obligation if we benefit at the expense of others because of the prior actions of our family or state. The article touches lightly on this idea.

  12. Ramstam says:

    The British empire wis the biggest act of theft in history. My ain grandfaither focht in the boer war but haed sympathy wi the boers. ‘It wis thair country efter all’ he said. Today Wales Scotland and NI are nae mair than a part of a continuing Anglo British empire.

    1. Andimac says:

      Naw, it wisnae the Boers’ country – it wis the country o’ the indigenous folk and they were huvin’ tae fecht the Zulu fur it ’til the white folk, Dutch and British, decided it wis theirs tae fecht ower. Aye, an’ the Scots an’ Welsh wur happy tae dae their bit in the God-grantit coorse o’ Empire. It’s history – get ower it! We wur a’ part o’ the British Empire – it wisnae a’ doon tae the English. It didnae tak too lang tae forget Culloden, particularly fur the lowland Scots (Sassenachs) that liked tae dress up as Hielanders – jist like the Hielanders did. Awa’ an’ learn yir history.

      1. J Galt says:

        Weren’t the Zulus the original colonizers?

      2. Pilrig says:

        The war against the Boer republics was a commercial enterprise. Such was the British Empire. Nothing new here – Caesar conquered Gaul to boost his political status.

  13. Graeme McCormick says:

    The stupid self indulgent clowns who did this forget one thing: mostScots are Haves. They don’t appreciate such juvenile antics.

    If we are really serious about Independence we look to the future, create a model for Independence which appeals to sufficient Haves while not undermine the support of the Have-nots.

    Once we have Independence we can review our part in history.

    The goal is Independence not glorious defeat!

    1. I Clark says:

      Apart from happening in Glasgow, what evidence do you have that the graffiti was put there by supporters of Scottish independence? Neither Scotland nor Scottish independence are mentioned. There are plenty of left wingers throughout the UK who reject the militarism of the UK state. You may be correct, but not on the basis of the what’s written in the article.

  14. Ramstam says:

    Andimac keep a calm souch! I didna say I agreed wi ma Granfaither. The native peoples wur aye the victims an tho this is indeed history, we shuid mind that foreign policy the day husnae chynged much at aw an is the cause o racist attitudes that fire the flames o division in USA an the UK.

  15. SleepingDog says:

    Over the years, I have been increasingly uncomfortable about the UK official remembrance ceremonies, symbolisms, publications and broadcasts. Far from remembering, it seems that the idea is to forget.

    Lives lost by service people are remembered, but not lives taken, for example by the deliberate British terror bombing in World War 2 of German cities, civilians and refugees of orders of magnitude greater than the Luftwaffe’s Blitz.

    Also forgotten were the war crimes created by the Allies including the British in their advance in the 21st army group from Normandy to Germany in 1944-5. Some of these are recounted in Sean Longden’s book To The Victor the Spoils. My own grandfathers told me some (not all could be related to a child) of the horrors perpetrated by British soldiers on Germans, including British soldiers running amok in a captured German town “beating the heads of civilians to jelly with paving stones”. Looting and property destruction were endemic, and it appears that rape and other crimes against the person were much more common on the Western front than publicly acknowledged, in friendly occupied territory as well as in hostile. German children hiding with adults in cellars and shelters were apparently frequent victims of British flamethrowers and grenades.

    From 1945 onwards, there were mass killings and mistreatment of ordinary Germans, while apparently gangs of heavily armed Allied deserters terrorised cities like Paris, robbing banks and having shootouts with police.

    British war crimes remain uninvestigated or hidden in unreleased papers.

    Post-war British torture centres in the UK (like the London Cage), Germany (such as Bad Nenndorf) and elsewhere are not publicly acknowledged. See Ian Cobain’s Cruel Britannia book.

    I was, however, interested to see that the BBC’s new post-war drama Close to the Enemy deals with British abduction (and possibly “enhanced interrogation”) of German civilians for the purposes of recruiting them to a new war effort:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b082sy3q

    Maybe next year’s remembrance celebrations will have a lot more memories restored. And a lot less to celebrate.

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