Year XXVI, 1984, Number 2 - Page 142
THE THIRD EUROPEAN CONVENTION FOR NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT
The Third European Convention for Nuclear Disarmament met from July 17th to 21st 1984 in Perugia.
Even for those who actually attended, it is difficult to give a complete account of the debate for two reasons: firstly, the number of participants representing themselves or a myriad of movements, organizations, groups and, secondly, the paucity of working documents and written motions.
A number of characteristics did, however, emerge very clearly which have marked out the Peace Movement since its inception.
One such characteristic is an awareness that the problem of peace has become a world problem, and that mankind’s fate has become a common destiny. Yet this awareness has not yet been backed up either by adequate analysis or by an effective solution to the problem.
The basic premise for anybody wishing to affirm any value as a political objective is a clear definition of that value.
Only with federalism has a start been made to the work of developing radical thinking on the value of peace and the means to achieve it, thinking based on Kant’s philosophy of history and Hamilton’s constitutional thinking.
Federalist thinking conceives of peace as meaning the creation of a world state which, by taking away individual states’ monopoly of physical force, compels all states to manage their relationships with each other peacefully and lawfully.
The Peace Movement’s continued failure to recognize this has two consequences: firstly, an inability to consider peace as an independent value, and, secondly, an inability to overcome national confines.
As regards the first consequence, the Peace Movement has done nothing more than reflect the positions of traditional ideologies, which claim that war depends on a lack of freedom, equality and justice, and that it is enough to achieve these values for peace to be obtained at the same time.
Thus, for example, the religious components of the Peace Movement have stressed the need to affirm the evangelical principle of love towards one’s neighbour as a premise for mankind’s peaceful co-existence. Other components believe that this premise should be a respect for human rights.
The majority of the Peace Movement has, however, attributed the causes of war to the absence of justice and equality between peoples and, therefore, strives for the creation of a new world order based on these values. Although it is true that a profound gap exists between rich and poor countries and that this is one of the greatest problems of our age, it is also true that a «new world order» is an empty formula unless we define the political framework in which it can take shape, a framework that ensures peaceful settlement of international disputes.
By not adopting this outlook, the Peace Movement runs the risk of being a passive reflection of the current situation as regards power in the world, in which any attempt to escape from imperialism becomes acceptance of the opposite imperialism. Moreover, the unquestioned acceptance of the current world balance of power means that the Peace Movement is not even laying the bases for reducing international tension and the risk of war.
One section of the Peace Movement advocating the creation of a new world order does not, in fact, exclude recourse to war, to achieve this end. In a document presented to the Perugia Convention we read: «One way of helping potential victims of a nuclear war in Europe is to defeat the imperialist forces who victimize the Third World’s population today» and that to achieve this, «we must back the armed struggle of those who have been forced by hunger and injustice to take up arms».
Although in the past the use of violence and war to assert such values as liberty and equality was considered inevitable, in the nuclear age, and in particular after the introduction of tactical nuclear weapons, the danger that a limited conflict will degenerate into total nuclear war throws doubt on the wisdom of armed struggle as an instrument against oppression. In our age, there is no reason to set about trying to define exactly, really what a «just war» is. Rather we need to ask whether «just war», whatever its definition may be, is, in actual fact, at all possible.
The Peace Movement has not asked this decisive question because it does not entertain the prospect of eliminating war definitively through political institutions which make war impossible and which guarantee at the same time international justice and democracy.
International democracy means that citizens. clubbed together in a world federation, participate directly in the government of the world. By insisting on negotiations between states which maintain their full sovereignty, the Peace Movement is conning itself into believing war can be defeated for good by means of «good foreign policy». The real priority is eliminating foreign policy, at least in the long term.
I t is certainly true that in the current international scene, an end needs to be put to the increasing tension between the two Superpowers. Equally it is true that the creation of a climate of detente between them will be brought about by negotiation and agreement. But the premise making this possible is a change in the world distribution of Power.
Only the creation of a stable multipolar system which is more flexible than the current bipolar system, would give greater room for diplomacy and would halt the USA’s and the USSR’s tendency to give an armed or rearming response to every conflict that arises.
For this reason, the Peace Movement should concentrate its attention and energy on those processes of unification which exist in various parts of the world, the most advanced of which is the process of European unification, in the long term prospect of creating a world government.
If the Peace Movement remains chained to its deviating national outlook, many of its watchwords will remain merely affirmations of principle. Demanding total nuclear disarmament, heedless of the substantial changes in the international order, is mere utopia, because, as Jonathan Schell points out, «as long as nations can defend themselves with arms of any kind they will be fully sovereign, and as long as they are fully sovereign they will be at liberty to build nuclear weapons if they so choose».
The intermediate stages that the Peace Movement proposes in order to move towards total disarmament are a reflection of the Peace Movement’s difficulty in facing up to the problem of peace in political terms. The proposals for unilateral disarmament and the creation of nuclear-free zones, as well as entailing implicit acceptance of the domination by those who have not given up arms, are based on an illusion, the illusion that good will and example are enough to set off a process of progressive disarmament that will lead to universal disarmament.
We may, thus, conclude that the Peace Movement is certainly an attempted response to the new historical phase that we are in, typified by current institutions’ growing incapacity to peacefully manage a continually evolving society now possessing forms of co-existence that are not compatible with the structure and dimensions of existing powers, a society which, with the invention of nuclear arms, has even placed its own survival in doubt.
But this attempted response is still tied to categories of interpretation of history and reality that are obsolete, whose inadequacy is clear, both in theoretical terms and in terms of concrete proposals.
As Albert Einstein said: «Freedom from the power of the atom has changed everything, except our way of thinking».
Anybody wishing to become an active force in history must take his cue from this affirmation. We need to move towards the development of a peace culture which is no mere reflection of what actually exists, but which points to instruments of thinking and action which alter reality concretely.