October 12, 2011

White vs Red Poppies?

By admin

What’s the difference between a red poppy and a white one?

Clearly enough of a difference to make a number of veterans very upset.  In reading the comments, I see that the central reason for the frustration is that the sales of the white poppy usually overlap sales with the Royal Canadian Legion, an organization that has been starved of funds by the federal government.

Understandably, this conflict in timing might be moderated by picking a different time to promote the idea, but the reality is that those who sell the poppies also want to draw attention to the date on which World War I was declared to be at an end.

Hence, the sale of these white poppies during October and early November is essential to reminding people that we have to stop celebrating war and start finding ways to end conflict without shooting strangers.

For those who don’t know the original story of the white poppy, here it is:

‘The Women’s League for the spread of co-operation has begun. All who wish to join should write their name and address to Mrs. Acland, Fyfield Road, Oxford.’

With this small ad in a corner of the Co-operative News of April 13th, 1883 began the Women’s Co-operative Guild.

From its beginnings the Guild policy has developed in response to the needs of working class homes. The pressures of economic circumstances on life and home which started the Co-operative movement also influenced the policies of the Guild – co-operation was looked on as a means of alleviating the social hardships which afflicted workers. The Guild soon realised, however, that a consumer co-operative movement was inadequate to correct what it saw as the evils of a competitive economic community and therefore a call for public actions through governments and local authorities took the place of previous appeals to the Co-operative movement.

In the early part of the century the Guild’s women began developing international contacts by travelling abroad (with a lantern show!) and, were, during this period, concerned with Minimum Wages campaigns, maternity benefits etc. These and other activities ‘obscured the threat of war’ but in April 1914 at a special International Women’s Congress at the Hague of which the Guild’s women were a part, a resolution totally opposing war was overwhelmingly passed.

‘That this Conference is of the opinion that the terrible method of war should never again be used to settle disputes between nations, and urges that a partnership of nations, with peace as its object, should be established and enforced by the people’s will.’

This was the beginning of the Guild’s active work for peace. After the 1914-1918 war the Guild became more actively concerned with the social, political and economic conditions which give rise to war.

By 1921 the Guild’s Congress called for the ‘cessation of the provocative competition in armaments… revision of the Peace Treaties… purging politics and education of militarism in all its forms…. abolishing force as a remedy for social unrest…. eliminating private profit-making from the industrial system.’

The essence of the white poppy campaign is a call to peace and an end to the military-industrial complex that sucks the life out of our schools, our hospitals and taxpayers.  Despite the provocative action, I recommend that people consider wearing the white poppy or possibly both to show solidarity for peace AND those who gave up their lives for our freedom.

Another idea is that people with the #occupywallstreet campaign / effort should wear white poppies.

I’ve contacted the Peace Pledge Union, the current organization that seems to be at the centre of the White Poppy campaign and will notify people as to locations in Canada where people can find the White Poppy.