Imagining the World from the Perspective of Peace – Not War

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Heidi Meinzolt of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) criticises the massive rearmament at a national, European, and global level and sheds light on the downward spiral of war from the perspective of feminist causal research.

Almost imperceptibly, the war has been normalised. Politicians of all persuasions are turning into ‘experts on weapons’. We can hear a few words of caution from the churches, peace organisations, trade unions and even the military: an end to the neighbourhood policy that has shaped much of Europe. For Clara Zetkin, ‘armed peace’ was the ‘child of militarism’. War has to be ‘won’, the moralistic-bellicose media and politicians are saying. The massive national, European and global rearmament is due to the ‘turn of the times’.

Thus, the spiral of escalation up to the threat of the use of nuclear weapons represents an ‘inner inevitability’[1]. ‘War is the most extreme form of blackmail of the well-meaning by the violent,’ says Marlene Streeruwitz.

Advances and missed opportunities – from the perspective of feminist causal research

The tragic failures and mistakes of the past may explain many things – they do not, however, justify a war of aggression!

While men obsessed by war went off to WWI, French and German women intent on peace warned against the massive rearmament in preparation for war. They condemned the flourishing of nationalism and colonialism, justifying the need for an international arbitration institution, the League of Nations, as a precursor to the UN. Their demands for universal disarmament were not heard at Versailles. Fascism – which they risked their lives fighting against – plunged the continent into the next war. And today, we are very much reminded of the war crimes and traumas of the two world wars, which have only been dealt with in a fragmentary way.

The UN built a global society on the universal nature of rights on the basis of its Charter. It did not overcome the Cold War, but the latter returned to Europe in the 1990s. The narrative that credible threats of military force are a path to peace was negated in the intelligent analysis of “why the peace process failed in Bosnia and Herzegovina“. Peace in the Balkans is fragile and Europe feeds wars and conflicts worldwide with weapons, ammunition and expertise.

With the Helsinki Accords and the consequent establishment of the CSCE, later OSCE, the concept of ‘common security’ emerged, relaunched in 2022. It argues for the creation of a transformative peace agenda, to fight poverty, inequality, prevent human suffering, also in the fight against climate change and pandemics. The central challenge is confidence building, human security, dialogue and multilateral cooperation. However, the OSCE never succeeded in anchoring a new understanding of security in ‘realpolitik’. Building military blocs, especially on the part of NATO, took over the leading role in close cooperation with the EU, which for its part acquired a military arm and still received the Nobel Peace Prize.

For the feminist discourse, it remains central to break the fatal triangle of militarism, capitalism and patriarchy by promoting education for peace and equality, and fighting against gender-based violence and militarised masculinity. The Women’s Peace Security Agenda adopted in 2000 put this into a concept that tied together protection, participation and prevention. It now comes as a bitter surprise to hear a feminist foreign policy expert, of all people, talking about ‘waging war against Russia’ (editorial note: reference to German Foreign Minister.)

War economy – arms deliveries – profits

Arms deliveries to Ukraine from the USA amounted to 22.9 billion euros; the figure from Germany was 2.34 billion euros. In addition, Germany has a special fund of 100 billion euros for the Bundeswehr, which is estimated to increase massively. Through the ‘European Peace Facility’ (25% of the facility’s funds are paid by Germany), 3.1 billion euros were spent on weapons for Ukraine in 2022. The next tranche, consisting of a further 500 million euros, will soon be signed off.

‘On the stock exchange, the tank festivities are likely to continue for the time being’ (according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung of 28/29 January 2023), with an additional turnover of up to 350 million euros per year for Rheinmetall according to Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs. Since 24 February 2022, the share price has shot up from 97 euros to 290 euros within one year. The programme of the new defence minister Pistorius promises ‘more Leopards, more large-calibre ammunition, more arms industry in Germany and, perhaps, the reintroduction of compulsory military service’. For this he is praised as a man of action. Armin Pappberger, the head of Rheinmetall, explains the boost with new war missions and new orders; also, the tanks in stockpile have meanwhile ‘gone mouldy’.

‘Who benefits from the war, but the manufacturers of shotguns and cannons…?’, asked Zetkin in her confidence in socialism as the future peace safeguarding mechanism. In 1915, Lida Gustava Heymann demanded that ‘the economy should serve the needs of the people and not profit and privilege’. ‘The globalised economy and globalised war produce contradictions that cannot be resolved in this system, we must therefore always ask the question: whom do these wars benefit and whom do they harm?’[2]

The same questions were asked again recently by retired Brigadier-General Erich Vad in an interview in Emma: ‘Do they want to achieve a willingness to negotiate by means of the tank deliveries? Do they want to reconquer the Donbass or the Crimea? Or do they want to defeat Russia altogether? There is no realistic end state definition. And without an overall political and strategic concept, arms deliveries are pure militarism.’

Diplomacy and dissidence – let’s get rid of the logic of war!

There is no real exit scenario, no explicit will to end the war quickly and to negotiate, too little serious effort to achieve a ceasefire – but instead an outbidding competition of the ‘willing’.

When pacifism is described as a ‘distant dream’ and balancing freedom and peace grinds us down, we are still left with the demand for disarmament, which includes the signing of the TPNW (Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons). With networks of ‘peace addicts’, we remain committed to supporting constructive proposals and feeding them into the political discourse as contributions to the dissolution of speechlessness and enemy stereotypes.

Only if we imagine the world more from the perspective of peace can we see that a much greater commitment is needed for civil conflict resolution, social defence, health, education, social security and climate justice – for our universal human right to peace. Refusal of military service, as well as protection and asylum for dissidents also have their place in this!

Peace is the victory we need!

[1] Bauriedl, Thea (1992): Wege aus Gewalt. Verlag Herder
[2] Mies, Maria; von Werlhof, Claudia (2004): Krieg ohne Grenzen. Die neue Kolonisierung der Welt, Pappyrossa Verlag.

Image: Bertha von Suttner, 1906, by photographer Carl Pietzner (transformed)