With UK tied up with so many imperialist wars, November 11th, ‘Remembrance Day’ is pushed with ever greater official stridency.  Jon Snow has called this this  “poppy fascism”. We are posting this article  from the Irish-based Anti-Imperialist Action which looks at the use of the poppy from their point of view of those who have been oppressed by British state forces.

“No matter what anybody says to the contrary, while we have fists, hands, and boots to use and guns if necessary, there shall be no free speech for traitors” – Frank Ryan speaking at an eve of Poppy Day rally.

This Sunday will see various commemorations throughout Ireland to celebrate the history and current campaigns of the British Armed forces. As in the decades since the first Remembrance Day commemorations, Irish Republicans will once more oppose these events that glorify atrocities and British War crimes on Irish soil.

These events are hosted by The British Royal Legion, an organisation founded to support retired and serving members of the British armed forces, on 15th May 1921 when four ex-servicemen groups came together to form one organisation.

After the First World War returning British soldiers and their families were basically forgotten about by their own government. Half of whom were permanently disabled and 1.75 million had suffered some form of disability.

According to the British Royal Legion website, they have 235,000 members, 110,000 volunteers and a network of partners and charities, helping them to give support wherever and whenever it is needed to serving and ex-serving personnel and their families.

Their support starts after one day of service and continues through life, long after service is over. It is an important part of the British war machine.

The main focus of the British Royal Legion and fundraising efforts is the ‘Poppy Appeal’ where every November the British Royal Legion sell paper and metal Poppy badges to raise funds for former and serving British Military. This culminates in an annual commemoration held on the second Sunday in November known as ‘Remembrance Sunday’.

The symbol used of the Poppy comes from the poppy fields of France, where during the First World War thousands of young men were killed in a pointless inter-imperialist war.

Far from the sinister claims that the poppy is a non-political commemorative symbol, the funds from the Poppy Appeal go to British soldiers (retired and serving) who have taken part in ALL British ‘conflicts’ and wars including in Ireland.

For many reasons Irish Republicans oppose the selling of Poppies in Ireland, not least because the funds, which can be in the millions of pounds go to the generals and foot soldiers of the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972, the Ballymurphy Massacre and other countless atrocities committed by the British army in Ireland.

Since the US and British led invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 the Poppy Appeal has taken such a stranglehold on British life that it has been deemed “Poppy fascism”. TV presenters, football teams, private individuals and even inanimate objects such as puppets are being obliged to wear publicly a Poppy and contribute to the British Royal Legion and use the symbol of British imperialism.

Those who support the wearing of the Poppy in Ireland and England generally do so in a fanatical and extremist fashion, oftentimes abusing and calling out public figures for ridicule and on the more extreme end demanding they be sacked because they do not adhere to their ideological position.

While many Irish Celebrities on British television and politicians such as Leo Varadkar, Neale Richmond, Charlie Flanagan and others wear poppies or versions of it such as the laughable Shampoppy (a shamrock/poppy hybrid badge) in order to appease these extremists, there are still notable Irish public figures who have integrity.

The Irish footballer James McClean is a great example, who has for much of his football career been subjected to this racist and sectarian abuse because he refuses to wear a British Royal Legion poppy on his jersey, James McClean who hails from Derry which saw 14 unarmed civilians murdered by British armed forces.

Opposition to Armistice day and the wearing of the poppy in Ireland is far from a new phenomenon, since its inception Republicans have militantly opposed it.

In the 26 counties even after partition, Armistice day was a permanent fixture. In Dublin during the 20’s/30’s commemorations for British Soldiers ended with the singing of the English {British, editor} national anthem by Trinity college students on College Green.

The British Royal Legion would sometimes march in full military regalia and give orders. Members of the ‘British Fascisti’ (a British Fascist organisation) would be seen on these marches also. Interestingly the current chairman of the Dublin branch of the British Royal Legion in 2020 is Ken Geary who is a member of the fascist National Party.

During the 20’s/30’s Irish Republicans and Socialist Republicans under the banner of ‘the League Against Imperialism’ would oppose Armistice day celebrations in Dublin describing it as a “flagrant display of British Imperialism disguised as Armistice celebrations”.

In 1928 a Sinn Féin leaflet named Brown Thomas, Trinity College among others as persistent displayers of ‘imperialistic’ bunting. In 1930 over 5000 attended an anti-Poppy demonstration in Dublin. The speakers at the event were Mick Fitzpatrick (IRA), Helena Moloney, Women Workers’ Union, Alex Lynn BL (a prominent defender of IRA suspects), Sean Murray (Communist), Frank Ryan (editor of An Phoblacht), Seán MacBride (IRA), Jack O’Neill (described as ‘communist’ in the Garda report), Hanna Sheehy Skeffington (feminist), Peadar O’Donnell (IRA) and Éamon de Valera (Fianna Fáil) who had mobilised all Dublin cumainn to go to the rally.

Such was the public opposition, that same year Gardaí were forced to fire shots into the air after two individuals wearing Poppies were chased into a shop on O’Connell street by a group of anti-Poppy activists.

Republicans made it clear at the 1930 demonstration that they had no problem with Irishmen commemorating some of their fallen friends, but they opposed the promoting of these men for imperialist interests.

Mick Fitzpatrick told demonstrators “Irishmen had no objection to people keeping green the memory of their relatives who had been gulled into fighting and losing their lives for the supposed defence of small nationalities (sic), but they protested against such commemorations being made an annual excuse for the display of British imperialism in the streets of Dublin”.

Hanna Sheehy Skeffington stated she “grudged no honour to the dead but objected to the dead being used to carry on the traditions of imperialism’.

Frank Ryan used to organise ‘Poppy snatching’ where British Royal Legion poppy sellers and those donning poppies were challenged to hand over their symbols of Imperialism. In 1935 Ryan organised a march through Dublin with ex-servicemen in an ‘alternative Remembrance Day event’ under the banner “Remember the dead. Fight for the living”

Ryan stated “‘Generals…observe two minutes silence on one day for the dead. For the other 364 days they are silent about those who survived 1914-18 only to starve and rot in the slums”.

The tradition of Poppy patrols has continued to this very day with the annual and highly publicised “Poppy Patrol” organised by the Anti-Imperialist Action group (AIA)/

In a statement released explaining the purpose of the Patrol to media after British Media hysteria AIA said:

“The British Legion are not a benign charity. The funds raised by the British Legion are used to support serving members of Britain’s imperialist forces and the poppy shows support for Britain’s terrorists in all its wars of conquest, including the ongoing wars and secret conflicts Britain involves itself in today”

Speaking to Republic Media an AIA representative said:

Money given to poppy pushers funds the current British war machine, there has been an ongoing cultural revolution against British symbols of domination, AIA since its formation have taken up the mantle of previous generations in opposing British terrorism and all its facets, we seek to expose what lies behind the supposed respectable veneer of the British Royal Legion, it has never and never will have a place in Irish society

The patrol challenges Poppy sellers in Dublin while confiscating symbols of British imperialism and destroying them. Patrols have taken place in Dublin, Belfast, Wicklow and Mayo.

Current Freestaters and constitutional nationalists have reconciled themselves with symbols of British imperialism being a permanent fixture in Ireland, some alleged ‘Republicans’ have even laid poppy wreaths in an act of subservience to their British over lords. However traditional Republicans today, in the same vein as Frank Ryan and others continue to oppose all and every vestige of British Rule in Ireland and will do so until Ireland is free.

Anti-Imperialist Action, October, 2020
also see:


WHY WE DON’T WEAR A POPPY – Jim Slaven, James Connolly Society