Each year we get questions about why white poppies are available in the GSU Shop and at reception, but not the more ubiquitous red poppies, as well as the question of why have we “banned” red poppies at Goldsmiths.
This post intends to dispel some of the myths and confusion around this topic.
- Red Poppies Are NOT Banned At Goldsmiths
The important distinction to draw here is that while we don’t stock the red poppies ourselves, we will not stop people who wish to wear them; it is the right of individuals to choose to remember in whatever way they see fit and we do not condone the wearing of red poppies.
Throughout the month of November, red poppies will readily and easily available in a vast range of convenient access places, including train stations, shopping areas, public streets. Our opting not to stock them ourselves is not a restriction on personal choice.
- The Reason We Stock White But Not Red
Regrettably, the meaning of the red poppy has shifted in the last decade; the rhetoric of remembrance of those lost in the First World War pre-Armistice Day has instead been replaced with the knowledge the money raised from red poppies goes to supporting service people and their families who take part in current wars and military intervention, regardless of the unjust motivations behind such current wars. Far removed from its original meaning, the wearing of the poppy shows support for these recent and current wars and is reflected very clearly in the British Legion’s “Who We Help” Page:
- We help serving members of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force
- We also help ex-Service men and women, their carers and families
- Millions of people in the UK and overseas are eligible to call on us for help
- We aim to help the 500,000 most in need
- Half the people we help are below retirement age
The red poppy appeal is thus specifically in relation to members of the armed forces while the lives of non-service people caught within the conflict are overlooked.
Thus we opt to offer white poppies as both a symbol of remembering all who died, but also as a call against warfare.
According to the Peace Pledge Union, in the late 1920s, “A member of the No More War Movement suggested that the British Legion should be asked to imprint ‘No More War’ in the centre of the red poppies instead of ‘Haig Fund’ and failing this pacifists should make their own flowers.” As a result, in the 1930s the first white poppies for peace and against conscription were created.
The white poppy was not intended as an insult to those who died in the First World War – a war in which many of the white poppy supporters lost husbands, brothers, sons and lovers – but a challenge to the continuing drive to war.
The reason we stock white poppies is not an insult to members of the armed forces and their families, but to offer an option to remember all lives lost, not just a selection, to show a dedication to preserving lives, and a dedication to anti-war and anti-imperialist rhetoric not the glorification and national justification of current unjust warfare and military intervention.