A military presence is becoming more visible in towns and cities around the UK
Recently, we have seen the expansion of military power into civilian life through government plans to use the military to break strikes and to carry out certain police functions. Not only do such plans fail to address the root cause of the deficiencies in our public services, i.e. years of government cuts, they are also a clear example of everyday militarism and a threat to civilian democracy in the UK.
A key militarist event in the calendar is Armed Forces Day, which was introduced in the UK in 2009. In response to widespread public opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the day was designed to promote a positive image of the armed forces, while also acting as recruitment tool.
By promoting “respect” for the armed forces, events such as Armed Forces Day encourage support for war by the back door. They normalise and encourage violence, nationalism and unquestioning obedience.
The vast majority of events for Armed Forces Day have no restriction on the age at which a child can be invited to handle real weapons. In previous years, the day has seen children as young as 6 or 7 invited to sit at the controls of artillery pieces, tanks and military aircraft.
Thankfully, there have been protests against Armed Forces Day ever since it began, including most recently against the 2023 event in Falmouth, Cornwall. In 2018 and 2019, there were protests and alternative events in more places than in any previous year.
Resistance to Armed Forces Day can be effective. In 2017, Glasgow City Council cancelled a so-called “Armed Forces Fun Day” following local protests. In 2018, the Mayor of Leicester backed calls by Leicester Against War for a ban on armed forces' inviting people under 16 to handle weapons. As a result, no children were invited to handle weapons at Armed Forces Day in Leicester in 2019.
Local communities have been further militarised by so-called "military covenants", which have now been signed by every local council in England, Scotland and Wales. These commit councils to policies that support the armed forces and facilitate their activities. They are based on the myth that there has always existed a "covenant" between the armed forces and the country as a whole (in fact, the term "military covenant" was coined by the army in the year 2000).
Some councils have gone so far as to subsidise military recruitment. In 2016, PPU member Ed Bridges, then a councillor on Cardiff City Council, discovered that the Council was not charging the armed forces for recruitment stalls on council property, when other employers were expected to pay.
We continue to support people around the UK in challenging everyday militarism in their own communities, including by planning our demonstrations against the next Armed Forces Day in 2024 in Antrim & Newtownabbey.
You can read more about militarism in local communities and how people are resisting it. If you would like support in challenging militarism in your own community, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 020 7424 9444.