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happy veterans day

November 11, 2015

In many ways, Veterans Day is a working-class holiday, albeit a somber one. Wars are supremely tragic events that take the lives of countless living beings, both soldiers and civilians alike; and it changes many of those who are lucky enough to come out on the other side. But today is primarily about honouring those who fight our wars, wars that the ruling class declares and that the working class and poor must fight. As Eugene Debs famously said in his 1918 Canton, Ohio, speech:

They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people. And here let me emphasize the fact—and it cannot be repeated too often—that the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace.

So for me, today isn’t just about celebrating military heroism. Rather, it’s about the sacrifice so many working people have made for the few at the top who, in their tangled web of geopolitics, treat human lives more like commodities in their lust for wealth and power. While every war is portrayed as a just war, they’re often the machinations of plutocrats whose primary concern is the protection of their own economic interests, not the best interests of those who fight them.

We should honour our veterans for the things they’ve had to do and give up, as well as for the physical and emotional scars they must now bear. And we should honour them further by working to subvert the imperialism that drives most wars.

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