Report from Germany Trip
5-11 December, 2002
From Bruce Gagnon
In 1983 the U.S. deployed the Euromissiles (Pershing II and Cruise) in several European countries and a huge international movement grew out of that provocative action. At the same time the former Soviet Union expanded its intermediate range nuclear missiles in Eastern Europe.
During his period, in the spring of 1983, I organized a statewide demonstration in Orlando where the Pershing was being built by then Martin Marietta. From that action came the development of the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice where I worked for 15 years.
In Germany the Pershing nuclear missiles were deployed by the U.S. in a small town called Mutlangen, in southern Germany. From 1983-1987 the German peace movement organized a sustained non-violent campaign in Mutlangen to blockade the U.S. Pershing base to try to keep the missiles, which were driven around on truck launchers, from leaving the base for maneuvers.
In June of 1987 the peace community in Mutlangen organized an international conference, held in a community center very near the main gate of the U.S. Pershing base. I was invited to attend on behalf of the Florida Coalition.
While there I was able to participate in a blockade of a Pershing convoy that was leaving the base full loaded with missiles.
In December 1987, due largely to intense global pressure for peace, the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, sign the INF Treaty (Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces) that led to the elimination of all medium-range missiles on land and sea, including their launch devices.
The conference I just attend was held to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the INF Treaty and to recommit new energy to block current plans of the Bush administration to declare war on the world and to create a new arms race.
In order for the Pentagon to now expand testing and deployment of Theatre Missile Defense (TMD) systems, the Bush administration is being advised to pull out of the 1987 INF Treaty.
At the conference in Germany I participated in a four-person plenary panel discussion that included Angelika Beer, who has just been elected as the national leader of the Green Party in Germany. I had been hearing for some time about the enormous dissatisfaction with the Green Party among peace movement leaders due to the Greens support for the war in Kosovo and the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Now that the Greens share power with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) they have shown a tendency to compromise their core principles -- a situation similar to what we face in the U.S. with a corporate dominated Democratic Party.
During the question and answer period the German activists pressed Beer hard on the Greens position on the issue of a U.S. war with Iraq. She defensively maintained that while she was personally against a war with Iraq, Germany had to support NATO which seemed to imply that if NATO fully supported the war then the Greens might as well. It was a serious reminder to me that the peace movement should never turn itself fully over to any political party. All political parties, no matter how progressive, once in power need the independent pressure from grassroots movements to stay on track.
Just prior to the recent German federal election, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder stated that he was opposed to the war with Iraq. In a tight election, his opposition to the war is credited with his victory. Now German activists fear that Schroeder and the Greens will change positions to support the war and they are urging U.S. peace groups to write letters to Schroeder and Green Party Foreign Minister Jo Fischer urging them to stand firm.
While there I had the chance to spend time with my long time friend Gisela Gohrum, now in her 80's. Gisela was a Nazi youth and for the past 30 years or more has been active in the peace movement. She taught English after the war until retirement. Gisela and I went for a walk along the old narrow Roman Empire road that divided Germany during those days of occupation. The beautiful mountains, nearly covered in a cold mist as the sun set, were a sight to behold. Gisela and I talked alot about the U.S. and how she perceives it today. She recalled how Hitler had misled the German people by demanding their "obedience and trust of the leaders." She recalled how the media was used to "politically indoctrinate" the people. She worries that the U.S. is heading down the same path and that the American people do not see it.
Back at the conference I facilitated a four-hour workshop and was impressed by the organizing reports that were presented by the participants. One in particular I want to share. An organizer from the group called "For Mother Earth", based in Belgium, told the story about last October's protest at Kleine Brogel, an Air Force base where the U.S. stores nuclear weapons. Over 2,000 people turned out for the demonstration and over 1,100 went onto the base after the outer fence had been cut open, many of them making their way to the runway where they sat for several hours before their arrest. More recently in 35 towns in Belgium, activists had gone to their local police stations and individually swore out arrest complaints against the U.S. for having "weapons of mass destruction" in their country.
Upon my return to the U.S. I flew directly to Delray Beach, Florida where I spoke to eighty members of the Delray Citizens for Social Responsibility. I've known this group for many years and have spoken to them countless times over the years. Now in their 70-90's, these folks have some time ago retired to sunny Florida from the northeast where they were active in social and peace movements since the depression era. Their wealth of spirit and experience is an inspiration and their reception to my message opposing the Bush war at home and around the world was as strong as ever. They arranged for the Palm Beach Post to send a reporter who actually stayed for my whole speech as well as the question and answer period after. It will be interesting to see what the paper does with it.
I will close with the words of Gisela Gohrum. She said that in times when things seem so divided, when left and right are so at odds, we should look for a shared ethic. Maybe it is our children's future. Maybe it is the health of our planet. We must look for it and nurture it. As Gisela said, "Go and become light, go."