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What do White Poppies stand for?

White Poppies are worn in the run-up to Remembrance Day every year by thousands of people in the UK and beyond. White Poppies have been worn in this way for over eighty years. They are distributed by the Peace Pledge Union (PPU).

There are three elements to the meaning of White Poppies: they represent remembrance for all victims of war, a commitment to peace and a challenge to attempts to glamourise or celebrate war.

Remember all the victims of war

White Poppies recall all victims of all wars, including victims of wars that are still being fought. This includes people of all nationalities. It includes both civilians and members of armed forces. Today, over 90% of people killed in warfare are civilians.

In wearing White Poppies, we remember all those killed in war, all those wounded in body or mind, the millions who have been made sick or homeless by war and the families and communities torn apart. We also remember those killed or imprisoned for refusing to fight and for resisting war.
Alternative remembrance day
We differ from the Royal British Legion, who produce Red Poppies. The Legion says that Red Poppies are to remember only British armed forces and those who fought alongside them.

We want to remember British military dead, but they are not the only victims of war. We also remember, for example, civilians killed in the bombings of London, Coventry and Belfast, and in the bombings of Dresden, Hiroshima, Baghdad and Kabul.

Stand up for peace

White Poppies symbolise the conviction that there are better ways to resolve conflict than through the use of violence. They embody values that reject killing fellow human beings for whatever reason. Nearly 100 years after the end of the “war to end all wars” we still have a long way to go to put an end to a social institution that even in the last decade has contributed to the killing of millions.

From economic reliance on arms sales to renewing and updating all types of weapons, the UK government contributes significantly to international instability. The outcome of recent military adventures highlights their ineffectiveness and grim consequences.

The best way to respect the victims of war is to work to prevent war in the present and future. Violence only begets more violence. We need to tackle the underlying causes of warfare, such as poverty, inequality and competition over resources. A temporary absence of violence is not enough. Peace is much deeper and broader than that, requiring major social changes to allow us to live more co-operatively.

Challenge militarism

A message originally associated with Remembrance Day, after the first world war, was “never again”. This message slipped away. In response, White Poppies were developed in 1933 by the Co-operative Women's Guild to affirm the message of “no more war”.

Many of the activities around Remembrance Day are detached from any meaningful attempt to learn the lessons of war. Arms companies allow their staff to pause work for the two minutes' silence. Politicians who plough billions into nuclear weapons lay wreaths at the cenotaph. Arms dealers sponsor Remembrance events even while their work makes war more likely.

In 2014 for example, the Britispoppy Rocks Ballh Legion Young Professionals' ball was sponsored by Lockheed Martin, one of the world's largest arms companies. Lockheed Martin plays a major role in manufacturing the Trident nuclear weapons system. Each Trident missile is capable of killing far more people than the 888,000 people represented by the Red Poppies that were displayed at the Tower of London at the time.

Working for peace is the natural consequence of remembering the victims of war. If, for example, we were remembering the victims of road accidents, we might well do so by working to prevent further road accidents. This logic, which would apply in other areas of life, is rejected by those who seek to misuse Remembrance Day to promote militarist values that only make war more likely.

 

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