Next year is the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. The British government plans to spend £55 million marking this occasion (and the centenary of other stages of the war). Comments from David Cameron calling for a ‘truly national commemoration’ stressing our ‘national spirit’ suggest what he has in mind. He has even compared the government’s plans with last year’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
For the majority of people in Europe, whether directly involved or not, the war was one of the greatest disasters of the twentieth century. A war fought for the interests of the European ruling elites whose price was paid by ordinary people. Already historians like Max Hastings have begun to argue that this was a war that had to be fought against German militarism and the costs in human life and destruction were worth paying. In contrast, radical historians have begun to uncover a multitude of both individual and mass forms of resistance to the war on all sides of the national divides.
Nationally there are plans to ensure that attention is given to the real causes and effects of the war, rather than an opportunity for our government to re-habilitate this war in particular or war in general. Bristol has long radical traditions and we know there are groups and individuals across the city who will want to ensure that there are events locally remembering the reality of World War 1. We want to facilitate this. We want to encourage the widest possible range and number of events – meetings, music, theatre, film, exhibitions etc. What might be organised (and how) will largely be determined by the individuals and groups who get involved. The involvement of a wide spectrum of people and groups will ensure a greater cross-fertilisation of ideas; events can be publicised more widely; and they can reach a wider audience. So if you are interested in participating please come along to this meeting.
This meeting is jointly organised by Bristol Stop the War Coalition and Bristol Radical History Group.