The Peace Summit in Madrid, a Pacifist and Internationalist Alternative to a “Criminal” NATO

Pacifist groups organised under the State Platform for Peace – NATO, NO umbrella brought together three workshops and eleven panels for debate on 24/25 June in Madrid. The goal: promoting another global security model to oppose the Atlantic Alliance before the leaders of NATO member states meet in Madrid (29/30 June).

On the 40th anniversary of Spain joining the NATO, the Spanish capital will be home to the summit of the military alliance led by the United States. This is happening against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that occurred after the decision to organise the meeting in Spain, and the expansion of a revived NATO with the admissions process of Sweden and Finland, after French President Emmanuel Macron having categorised it as “brain dead” in 2019. Despite, or perhaps specifically because of this militarised international situation, the CCOO’s Marcelino Camacho Auditorium has welcomed the Peace Summit Madrid 2022.

NATO alternative models

On the question of why this event at this time, the pacifist spokesperson pointed out that “NATO has been an obstacle to peace since it went against international law and attacked Yugoslavia in 1999. Then came Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya…”. The alternative to the Atlantic-based organisation is collective security for all nations, former Izquierda Unida MEP Willy Meyer said, going back to the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 and the 1990 Paris Charter, “where the basis for a shared security system was laid”. Meyer opined that the transition towards complete disarmament and reaching an international treaty on all nuclear arms and weapons of mass destruction would allow for a step forward against the true causes of insecurity in the world: malnutrition, hunger, and poverty.

“It is quite difficult to be a pacifist in times of war and break the narrative of ‘with me or against me’. We defend peace because we defend human beings”, said Marga Ferré from transform! europe in her presentation.

Paloma Trapero from the People’s Assembly against War called NATO “criminal” for “contributing to conflict between peoples, spilling blood, and militarising our societies”. Diplomacy, negotiation, and education for equality are the only possible paths towards peace, she said.

During the events, we were reminded of the death of at last 37 migrants in Melilla, or the process of Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States for having denounced the "crimes of NATO". The current war against the Kurds in Turkey, a member of the militarist organisation, was also denounced.

Unidas Podemos participation

The parties in the government that are preparing the militarist summit have been criticised by some speakers for increasing military spending. At the same time, minority partner of the coalition government Unidas Podemos had elected officials at the pacifist event. Even a member of the government, 2030 Agenda Secretary of State Enrique Santiago, participated in a round table on the new international order in his role as Secretary-General of the Communist Party in Spain. He is also planned to attend the anti-NATO protest on Sunday.

The summit enjoyed the presence of international attendees such as Italian activist Ada Donno from the Women’s International Democratic Federation, Ukrainian Yuri Sheliazhenkoe from the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, and Venezuelan delegate from Nicolas Maduro’s party and São Paulo Forum member Roy Daza. All of the debates were streamed in both Spanish and English, and benefited from simultaneous translation.

On Saturday morning, Centre Delàs organised a workshop dedicated to the campaign against lethal automated weapons known as robot assassins. In addition, the links between the patriarchy and militarism were highlighted, and a debate was held on the perspectives and strategies of the international peace movement. All of this was framed by the first militarised invasion in Europe since the Second World War, and an increase in military spending among numerous armies around the world.

Anti-militarist memory and feminist focus

One of the first conscientious military objectors, Ovidio Bustillo, has shared his experience at a discussion panel on anti-militarist resistance to war. In this conversation with other activists such as Koldobi Velasco and Itziar Ruiz-Jiménez Arrieta, Bustillo pointed to the importance of a culture of non-violence.

In less than 24 hours, numerous perspectives on militarism were addressed, such as the effect of imperialist policy on everyday life, military spending, and the role of women in war and peace. The war in Ukraine itself, NATO’s role in it, and the consequences that it has had were not overlooked during sessions where Russian imperialism was also criticised with the presence of a Ukrainian pacifist and a former American solider.

The convention closed with a reading of the declaration against NATO and for peace, with a concert from the Malvaloca women’s choir and a poetry recital. A call was also made to join the protest on Sunday leaving from nearby Atocha at noon and heading towards Plaza de España. This will occur in the middle of the largest police deployment in the history of Spanish democracy to protect a military summit with world leaders: nearly 9,000 Military and National Police agents.

A pacifist mobilisation surrounded by police to protect a military summit. Security specifically was one of the arguments used by the Government Delegation in Madrid to ban anti-militarist protests on the first day of the Atlanticist caucus. The human rights so frequently mentioned in the peace summit, limited in peaceful territory for a meeting of military bigwigs.

by Fermín Grodira

Originally published in Público (Spanish)