As a working-class family with many surnames and ethnic strands, we have been proud of our ancestors who served in the British Armed Forces and the People’s Militia in Hong Kong (1941-1945). As working-class people we are proud not because of the racist and imperialist behaviour of the bourgeois British State, far from it, we do not relate to any of that nonsense, but rather because our working-class ancestors ‘had no choice’ when they were ‘called-up’ or were made to ‘volunteer’ for military service. In the case of our Chinese family in Hong Kong – the British Army was defeated in 1941 leaving the Chinese people to fend for themselves (Winston Churchill would not allow the native Chinese people to be armed in-case they used those arms to free themselves from British imperialist domination)!
An individual working-class person having to enter the military of a Bourgeois State requires a certain strength of character even before meeting any designated external enemy! The point often not understood is that the bourgeoisie is the eternal enemy of the proletariat but continuously uses the bodies of that proletariat to fight its wars! What is admirable about our working-class ancestors is that they generally exercised very good class consciousness when knowing where and how to ‘join-up’, survived the brutal discipline and the training, and then quite often survived actual combat!
It is this bravery under fire from the external enemy – whilst under continuous pressure from the internal enemy that I admire and respect – but this working-class adaptability in the face of bourgeois oppression is not what the Bourgeois State admires. This is because the Bourgeois State admires warfare as a means to further its own self-interests and to preserve and extend the status quo.
Although WWII was an anti-fascist war (at least from 1941-1945 when Hitler made the destruction of the Soviet Union his main priority and Britain aligned itself as an ‘ally’ with the USSR as a consequence), it must be remembered that thousands of working-class British people were killed by the Nazi German bombing of the British Mainland between 1939-1940 – with large swathes of East London flattened (including our former family home in Lewisham).
Furthermore, thousands of British and American working-class men and women had ‘volunteered’ for the Communist-led ‘International Brigades’ active against Franco’s fascism in Spain (1936-1939) – whilst the Communist Party of China had been fighting Japanese fascism since 1931, as well as US backed Nationalism since 1921.
WWII and the circumstances leading up to it, represents a special time in human history which saw a straightforward dichotomy between ‘fascism’ on the one-hand (preferred by the middle and upper-classes as it supported their claims to power and domination), and Socialism on the other (preferred by the working-class) as it promised a re-distribution of wealth and a fairer distribution of political power amongst the ordinary people. My British ancestors were all members of a left-wing Labour Party (which openly supported the USSR) and my ancestors in China were part of a militia armed and supported in Hong Kong by a cell of the CPC operating out of Guangdong.
We make no apologies for any of this, and indeed confirm our belief that our ancestors (like millions of others at the time) were and remain staunch ‘anti-fascist’ heroes! It is that we strive to remember in print for future generations. The major problem I have encountered when interfacing with the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the various Veteran and Historical Associations, is that without exception, they all adopt a highly ‘conservative’ attitude that does not represent the attitudes of the bulk of the working-class men that filled the ranks of the Royal Navy Air Service (WWI), the Royal Airforce (WWII), the British Army (WWII), the Royal Navy (WWII) and the MOD Medal Office, etc.
All appear stand-offish and reluctant to ‘share’ the historical knowledge they might possess (even though I have proven some of their supposed facts ‘wrong’), with most acting as ‘private clubs’ for Officers and their descendants – ignoring or down-playing the significance of the working-class contribution.
This is nothing short of a betrayal of the memories of our working-class ancestors and reiterates the fact that the British Establishment (for which we are forced to sacrifice ourselves) cannot be trusted with the respectful memory of that sacrifice. This is why – as families of Veterans – we must steer clear of relying on these self-appointed Veteran Associations that openly align themselves with the very conservative and right-wing politics our working-class ancestors fought so hard to put an end to! We continue their struggle against ‘fascism’ by openly exposing these Veteran and Historical Associations that court fascistic politics whilst hiding behind a thin veneer of ‘respectability’! All we have to say is that ‘we see you’!