5.11.2010

people saying no to war, 1917 edition

Last week while waiting for Question Period to begin, I happened to see a CPAC video about the Canadian federal election of 1917, also called the "Conscription Crisis of 1917".

As the Great War in Europe brought massive death tolls, people (rather understandably) stopped volunteering. I love how this Wikipedia article puts it: "After the Battle of the Somme, Canada was in desperate need to replenish its supply of soldiers; however, there were very few volunteers to replace them." Hmm yes, after more than a million lives are wasted in one freaking battle, it might be just a tad difficult to convince yet more living people to fall into formation. Britain and Canada needed to force young men to serve. The propaganda machine was cranked up, but Quebec wasn't buying.

If you're curious, you can go here and click on "the 1917 federal election".

Seen more from Quebec's point of view, we have this video on YouTube.

Both are relatively short and very interesting.

I've read a lot about World War I, not military history - not exactly my thing - but mostly historical novels. Many draw unmistakable parallels to our own time - nationalist propaganda, war profiteering, imperialism, the dehumanization of peoples to construct enemies. Also great resistance - to imperialism, to conscription, to nationalism, and to capitalism. I find myself returning to those examples again and again. Allan's book also takes place during World War I, and through his research, we both became interested in the political climate of that era.

The powers that be in Canada like to wave the flag around the Battle of Vimy Ridge, another bloodbath of unimaginable proportions that they claim forged Canadian national identity. It's useful to remember that - even then - not everyone played along.

(Thank you again, Howard Zinn.)

1 comment:

James said...

the Battle of Vimy Ridge, another bloodbath of unimaginable proportions that they claim forged Canadian national identity

Of course, one of the major pieces of the Canadian national identity it forged is a distaste for idiotic wars. It's thanks to thinks like Vimy Ridge that Canada's better known for its peacekeepers than its "warfighters", to use an inane term that's gaining in popularity lately.