Since the end of the First World War, Remembrance Day has been an occasion to commemorate the members of the Armed Forces who have lost their lives. Initially, it was those who died in World War I who were remembered, but now Remembrance Day encompasses World War II and subsequent conflicts. When we wear a poppy, it is principally these people we remember, and their families and colleagues we support.
And we should remember what they died for. World War II was a struggle against fascism; and it was also a struggle for a better world.
In the middle of World War II, in 1942, the National Government of Great Britain commissioned Sir William Beveridge to produce a report on the reconstruction of Britain after the war ended. His report aimed to create a better, fairer, more prosperous society, and to reward the nation for the shared sacrifices during the war.
Specifically, Beveridge aimed to free Britain from what he called Five Giants: Want [poverty], Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness [unemployment]. The report was published in November 1942, and was overwhelmingly popular with the public.
After the war, the report was implemented – leading to the creation of the welfare state and the birth of the NHS – and a new social contract was established. The post-war period saw, in many countries, an economic miracle – in the US and the UK, we called it the Golden Age of Capitalism – in which not only did the economy thrive, but the typical member of the population fared far better than ever before. Or, unfortunately, since.
So when we celebrate the lives of those who sacrificed them, we should remember what they fought for, and determine not to lose that fight.
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