IN AUSTRALIA, Anzac Day is a means to promote militarism and nationalism. It marks the day when Australian forces invaded Turkey in 1915, entering World War I.
Sixty thousand Australians were killed in that war and nearly 16 million people died worldwide. It was no event over which to rejoice.
Anzac Day was initially used during the war to recruit people to fight on the other side of the world. In 1916 and 1917, Anzac Day became a means of supporting conscription.
After 1918, there was a long period when people were fed up with what they had exprienced during the war. Economic conditions were not good due to the numerous strikes caused by an increasingly militant workforce. During that time, Anzac Day was hardly celebrated.
Once the league for returned servicemen was formed, the government started supporting it and handed over control of Anzac Day to the league. During the great depression, the league grew in number as it offered unemployment relief.
Class tensions were rife at this time and Anzac Day marchers were told not to march according to rank. This created some kind of a covering of class differences and Anzac Day was promoted as a means of unifying the nation. But as the nation’s anti-war sentiment grew during the Vietnam War, so too did the popularity of Anzac Day.
Bob Hawke and Paul Keating began the current revival of Anzac Day as a nationalist celebration. Social spending was falling and Anzac Day was used as a poultice to project the spirit of nationalism and to hide class distinctions. Hawke brought back the pilgrimage to Gallipoli and Keating spoke long and loud about the sacrifice on the Kokoda Track.
John Howard took this to a new level, invoking Anzac Day and building up a spirit of militarism to justify Australia’s participation in wars in East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Anzac Day is meant to be a day that recognises the horrors of war. Instead, it has become a day that caters to militarism, imperialism and conservatism.
No soldier would want to glorify the events at Gallipoli. War is not a thing that those who fought in enjoyed. Sensible people should reject this celebration and boycott what happens because all it is doing is making a good and glorious event out of the misery of war.