by Don Franks

Dead soldiers, WW1. We need to organise against workers killing workers on behalf of our own exploiters

The government is set to mark the 2015 centenary of Gallipoli with a flash new $80 million dollar construction.Prime Minister John Key announced the project at the National War Memorial today, alongside the Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister, Veterans’ Affairs Minister and Green Wellington Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown.  The previous Labour government originally planned the park and local Labour MP Grant Robertson has been agitating for its early completion.The new National War Memorial Park will combine existing memorial precincts, including the Hall of Memories, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the National Carillion.These are currently divided by State Highway 1 and will be brought together in the park by undergrounding the state highway on Buckle Street between Tory and Taranaki Streets in Wellington.

The Labour/National park extension is based on an elaborate political lie.

John Key claims that the initiative “. . . will be an enduring reminder to our children and their children, so they can better understand our past.”

In military terms, “Our past” is one of shooting Maori to steal their land, supporting the armed struggle of British and American capitalism to dominate the globe and, more recently, supporting the advance of New Zealand capitalist interests in the Pacific.

Indelible facts, none of which, I venture, will be cut in stone anywhere near John and Grant’s new war park.

Instead, the place will sit as an enduring reminder of the Tennysonian ruling class injunction, “Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die”.  A distant echo from the Crimean war, but rulers demands for our unthinking political obedience remain as strong today.

Politically, the new park will serve as a platform to legitimise and launch future capitalist wars in which young workers will die.

War propaganda purposes aside, Wellington doesn’t need another park. Public parks in the capital are plentiful and well maintained.  If $80 million really is rolling around needing to be spent on something, there are other options.

For example, in March this year, the Wellington City council estimated 200 homeless people in Wellington city, a hundred up from last year.  Aro Valley Community Council member Barry Thomas reported “a dramatic increase in people sleeping in parks and garages, arriving at the community centre poor, hungry, dirty, tired, without a place to sleep”.  This increase is put down to continuing high unemployment and low wages.

If the powers that be have $80 million to toss about they could build and staff a pretty good functioning hostel for the homeless victims of capitalism.  Or, for that matter, the $80 million could be taken, in cash notes, up to the top of Mount Victoria and tossed into the wind, to be enjoyed by whoever chanced to pick them up.

Silly?  No sillier than funding the perpetuation of  a monstrous historical lie.

Further reading: Gallipoli invasion – a dirty and bloody business


  1. William says:

    But to house the homeless wouldn’t leave a MONUMENT to the kind politician, bureaucrat or Corporate entity now would it.

  2. Daphna says:

    The Green Party are supporting the National War Memorial Park too, objecting only to the cost. They think the Park “will be an appropriate way to mark the centenary of Gallipoli”. Not a peep of anti-imperialist sentiment evident. It should be a wake up to leftists who think the Greens are a radical alternative to National and Labour.

  3. The Green Party deserted its “anti-war and anti-imperialist” principles and openly embraced New Zealand’s militarist and imperial heritage when it threw its modest weight behind the historical revisionism of the “Tribute 08” campaign back in 2008. Now, it has joined with the defunct leftist “Alliance” of Jim Anderton and the not-quite defunct New Zealand Labour Party by throwing its modest weight behind the United States led war against Afghanistan.

    While the right cautiously tries to pick a middle way between the geopolitical ambitions of China and the US, the parliamentary left has become the only unequivocal flagbearer for US imperialism in this country.

    Throughout his “life before politics” as a UN bureaucrat, Labour Party leader David Shearer effectively functioned as an instrument of US government policy in the Middle East, and Green Party leader Russell Norman was sponsored into his present role by the US State Department. Norman’s shrill attacks on the People’s Republic of China and his partisan denunciation of Chinese investment in New Zealand are the quid pro quo for the financial assistance and support which he received from the US in his early days within the Green Party. For Shearer, serving the geopolitical interests of US capital is probably just the ingrained habit of decades spent working under the direction of US diplomats in the Middle East.

    The parliamentary left’s support for the war against Afghanistan goes deeper than the particular circumstances of their leadership of course. The New Zealand left as a whole has been committed to the defence of British imperialism since the first half of the twentieth century, and it remains deeply attached to both the British and American imperial systems.

    Imperialism and militarism go hand in hand – as the song says, you can’t have one without the other. So it is not surprising that the parliamentary left also supports the proposal for an Antipodean version of the Arlington National Cemetery in Wellington: a place to celebrate New Zealand’s militarist and imperial history.

    The stark reality however is that the colonial regime will never again be able to raise a citizen army to engage in such futile and despicable overseas military adventures. Moreover the regime has not been able to win a war anywhere or anytime in the past half-century, and the only reason it has not suffered serious casualties in the past half century is that has been unwilling to put its troops seriously in harms way. New Zealand soldiers stayed in the rear lines with the artillery during the Vietnam war, they hid behind the walls of the British garrison at Basra during the Iraq campaign, and for the past ten years they have cowered in “provincial reconstruction” camps in the “safe” province of Bamian in Afghanistan.

    The regime has attempted to gloss over this reality with the usual sanctimonious speeches at Anzac day parades and a succession of medals and citations for military valour. But the soldiers who return from overseas service know the truth. As one group of New Zealand soldiers told me on their return from Afghanistan “The kids throw stones at us and their parents give us the evil eye”. Even the hero of the Afghan campaign, Willie Apiata, has now resigned from the New Zealand army in disgust.

    All is turning to custard for this ineffectual, cowardly, corrupt and contemptible colonial regime. “Extended patrols” will not stave off defeat in Afghanistan, and extravagant shrines to those New Zealanders whose lives the regime sacrificed in imperial wars will not win the hearts and minds of our people. John Key, David Shearer and Russell Norman are right to pull out all stops to have their project completed by April 2015. Any later and their regime may not be around to orchestrate the commemorations.