Amidst all the patriotic furor this centenary, the real history of the war is all too easily forgotten. The government and the opposition alike cry crocodile tears for the fallen and mouth “Never again!”, while daisy cutters are dropped on Afghanistan and the history books are (re)re-written.
In high-school classrooms and history-books, we are taught a version of the war in which a well-fed, well-bred (and mostly white) nation proudly sacrifices its sons for the lofty ideals of “God, King and Country”. The little mention made of wartime dissent is limited to a few footnotes about ‘conscientious objectors’ who are presented as a tiny minority of isolated idealists, and perhaps a few comments on the rising cost of living.
This version of history was written by the ruling class, for the working class, to create a placid and pliant society that allows the prosecution of future wars. The real history of the war is somewhat different. In New Zealand, there was a great movement against the continued prosecution of the war, and for peace. It wasn’t a minority, and it wasn’t isolated. Hundreds were jailed, and thousands condemned the war in public meetings, in their workplaces, and on the streets. This article tells just part of that story, the fight against conscription. [Read more…]