Bad square day

Submitted by AWL on 15 August, 2004 - 9:54

Dan Nichols reviews 'Bad Lads Army', Thursday nights ITV1

'Bad Lads Army' is the follow-up to 'Lads Army', a 2002 programme which put a group of young men through 1950s-style National Service training.

This time, the 'lads' all have a criminal past of one sort or another.

The left's attitude to conscription has always been ambivalent. On the one hand we abhor the idea of young men and women being forced to go off and fight imperialist wars. On the other hand we feel a non-mercenary army would, perhaps, be less willing to be used for internal repression. Taking a longer view, come the revolution, it might not be a bad idea if more workers had some military training!

However, if we ever did have conscription and us lefties had to face the sort of treatment these 'recruits' have to face in this programme, I'm sure an anti-conscription campaign would be launched very quickly!

The methods used to motivate the lads are a strange mix of bullying and touchy-feely psychology. One minute one of the corporals will be yelling at a recruit and putting him through all manner of humiliating punishments, the next he will be talking quietly to him, telling him that he could be a good soldier and boosting his morale.

There's a high dropout/expulsion rate for the conscripts so far (two weeks into the programme), but most seem to be doing well. It seems to be the really violent characters who have either left or been kicked out - which puts a question mark over the idea that military service might reduce serious criminality.

There is a lot of 'schadenfreude' involved in watching shows such as this. Certainly people who have had to deal with unruly youths on buses or in the classroom will enjoy seeing them 'beasted' on national TV. However, if the point of an army is to fight wars, putting people through a few weeks of basic training can never accurately simulate the National Service experience. To do that the lads would have to go and risk their lives in somewhere like Iraq or East Timor. So while the programme may make entertaining viewing, it is of no real value as a 'social experiment'.

Of course, the army is an extreme expression of Britain's class society. Being bullied into submitting to the will of the officer class is supposed to be as much a lesson for the shop floor as it is for the drill square. When you think about this, you should certainly question the motives of those who scream for the return of conscription at every available opportunity, and maybe those of the programme makers.

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/09/2005 - 15:31

Perhaps we should have Bad Lads Commisar Class ? Turn the 30 odd lads with criminal pasts into commisars who shoot their own soldiers who dared to retreat in World War 2 Russia. Instead of learning how to smoke a pipe, we can teach the lads to raise morale by begging foreign powers for military hardware ( again Russia 1941-45)

Come your beloved "revolution" you will need people who will show leadership and initiative when push comes to shove. Those that can inspire and take decisions. So perhaps we should have the solidly middle class ex public school failiures who make up the vast majority of the membership of left wing parties going through some sort of "lad's army" style programme.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/10/2005 - 12:00

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

How can one take such a bourgeois attitude as this man. How dare he critisize the revolutionary heroism of such splendid folk as the commisars of WW2.
It is for the purpose of maintaining a revolution that would demand the needs for some sort of military service. Let us not fool ourselves that everyone will embrace the prospect of revolution with open arms. There are those that clearly will not and they need to be turned into revolutionaries. Surely a revolutionary army must serve 2 purposes, firstly to make men capable of defending the revolution and secondly of moulding suitable revolutionary character in those whose commitment is supect.
Revolution without firing squads is impossible - As said the Great VI Lenin. So rid yourselves of any ideas that everything will be hunky dory after the revolution. That wont happen until resistance has been eradicated and that will take time. Installing some sort of miltary service will play a factor in helping the revolution but more than that will be needed. We must change people's thinking - at the end of the barrel of a gun or via the the classroom.
Revolution or death !!!!

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