VE Day 75th Anniversary

A programme of events for VE Day 75, including Churchill's speech, and a nationwide singalong to We'll meet again

This year, the UK May Day Bank Holiday, usually held on the first Monday of the month as our May Day/Labour Day, has been put back to today, Friday 8th, to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe). 75 years ago there was a great deal to celebrate. The country had come together with allies from across Europe and North America to defeat Nazi tyranny. Often against all the odds, bravery, cunning, code-breaking, outstanding leadership and more had won. It’s worth reminding ourselves what the Nazis stood for, what ‘we’ were fighting. To quote Wikipedia

Nazism is a form of fascism, and showed that ideology's disdain for liberal democracy and the parliamentary system, but also incorporated fervent antisemitism, anti-communism, scientific racism, and eugenics into its creed.

So today is about remembering the sacrifices made by my parents and grandparents’ generation to defeat, among other things, disdain for liberal democracy and the parliamentary system.

And yet, that disdain for liberal democracy, that nationalism, that idea that the world would be better if only people would recognise how great the leader was and followed his diktats, is very strong today. Brexit cheerleader Johnson with his pernicious adviser Cummings (UK), Bolsonaro (Brazil), Trump (USA), Modi (India), Duterte (Philippines), Morawiecki (Poland), Orbán (Hungary), Putin (Russia), and more. None qualify as Nazis, but all of them show disdain for liberal democracy and the parliamentary system. They stand in stark contrast to the likes of Ardern (New Zealand), Rutte (Netherlands), and, most notable in this context, Merkel (Germany).

World War II was about fighting nationalism with rationalism. In the decades that followed, my parents’ generation built a world of cooperation and tolerance; a world that embraced diversity and difference as an enrichment to all our lives. That world is under greater threat today that at any time since the 1930s when intolerance was seen as the answer to a worldwide depression.

I remember the sacrifices of the war like anyone, and salute the men and women who made them. But I can’t wave a Union Flag and sing We’ll Meet Again to celebrate victory when the very force against which that victory was won is so prevalent in the world. Flag waving has never felt less comfortable. Sadly, nationalism is back with a VEngeance.