ANZAC day should be opposed for at least two reasons. The first is the most obvious: rather than being a day to remember those who have died in various wars the New Zealand State has sent its soldiers to fight and kill in, rather than being a day to resolve “never again”, and far from acting as a stimulus that “lest we forget”, ANZAC day is instead a celebration of the New Zealand military.

You will never see the various wars New Zealand has fought in, and continues to fight in, condemned. The lists of those killed always excludes “the enemy”, for they don’t really count, they are an unpeople; indeed, to humanise “the enemy” would be to expose the murderous foundations upon which the military is premised. You will never see conscientious objectors celebrated as heroes after enduring imprisonment at the hands of the New Zealand State. ANZAC day is a celebration of a murderous and violent institution, the backbone of any State, and a symbolic gesture towards those either forced or duped into murdering at its behest. Nowhere else in society would such actions be celebrated, except, apparently, when perpetrated by the State.

ANZAC day cannot be allowed to pass once again as if there is some sort of social consensus over New Zealand’s history of State violence or over its current military operations in Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands.

Just as dangerously, however, is the second force at play on ANZAC day: an insidious and growing nationalism. ANZAC day, more and more, functions as a key ritual of nationalism. Nationalism is essentially the ideology of the State, it is the identity of a “people” that is constructed to unite very real divisions within any State, to legitimate its exclusive use of force and its claim to territory. The maintenance of New Zealand nationalist identity requires constant work against creeping divisions, and essential to this are national rituals and performances that cement this identity. Both Waitangi day (as part of official biculturalism policy) and ANZAC day are deployed in this way as government policy by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage alongside their plethora of websites.

This is all the more dangerous for anti-nationalists and anti-Statists considering the recent growth of New Zealand nationalism. Many believed ANZAC day would eventually die as ex-soliders went the same way, but instead, since about the mid-90s, there has been a growing youth presence at ANZAC ceremonies who are there not as part of Scouts or their associated groups, but out of a growing sense of national pride. Anybody who saw images of the Big Day Out would have noticed the growing presence of New Zealand flags being voluntarily brought along, some wearing them as items of dress (paralleled too, but far worse, at the Australian Big Day Out). And ‘New Zealander’, despite not being a recognised ethnic group, was submitted by 429,000 people at the recent 2006 census.

As part of an anti-nationalist and anti-Statist politics, ANZAC day should be recognised as a ritual cultivating nationalist identity and thus opposed.

It is a bizarre situation, then, that those on the left, even those claiming its radical margins, are unwilling to oppose in any meaningful way the ceremonies of ANZAC day. They fear offending those mercenaries of the State in attendance. They fear disrupting what is in fact a near-sacred national ritual. They, apparently, lack an ability to compare an act that merely offends with systematic and legitimised murder, armed patrols, nightly curfews, military checkpoints and all the other associated tactics of the New Zealand military.

ANZAC day must be opposed as part of a generalised anti-militarist, anti-State and anti-capitalist position.

Advertisements