VE Day: Don’t Let the Nostalgia-Fest Distract From the Horrors of War

Two small girls waving their flags in the rubble of Battersea.
Two small girls waving their flags in the rubble of Battersea.

By Lindsey German, May 7, 2020

From Stop The War Coalition

Prepare for a mass patriotic nostalgia-fest. This Friday marks the anniversary of VE day, when the Second World War ended in Europe. We are promised an address by the queen, a speech from Winston Churchill, a Vera Lynn singalong and hours of endless BBC nostalgia.

Let me make it clear that I have no trouble with people marking this anniversary. It was a terrible sacrifice for so many – in Britain but also much more so in many other European countries which were occupied. I come from the generation brought up by those who fought in the war. My mother celebrated in the West End on VE day, and often became tearful when listening to Vera Lynn. I am full of respect for that generation.

However, I find the way in which this anniversary is used to promote the policies which disrespect that generation absolutely sickening. Two months after VE day Britain voted Churchill out and ushered in a landslide Labour government which nationalised industry, created the NHS and built council houses.

We have to assume that many of those dancing in Trafalgar Square were already fed up not just with war but with the Tories. None of this will be touched on in establishment narratives on Friday, because it will challenge the theme park view of the Second World War which Johnson trades on with his ridiculous Churchillian references.

This is a government which has slashed funding for the NHS, privatised everything in sight, presided over the worst housing crisis since the war, and will continue to do so. Its callous disregard for that generation – many of those still alive now in care homes where they have been put in danger through lack of testing and PPE – is palpable.

Rather than indulge in nostalgia we should use this VE Day as a day to acknowledge the horrors of war and recommit to fighting against them. Off the back of this awful pandemic Stop the War are calling for significant cuts to military spending, an end to foreign occupations and firm protections of our civil liberties. No longer can we allow our government to devastate lives abroad when it fails so markedly to protect them at home.

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