Et is the seventh week of the Russian war against Ukraine. This is therefore the central theme of the upcoming traditional Easter marches for peace and disarmament. Organizers expect more responses than in previous years, according to the Peace Cooperation Network, more than 100 rallies are taking place.
However, it is unclear how many people will take part in the vigils, prayers and bike parades. Because there is turmoil in the peace movement – their fundamental demands for complete military disarmament and an end to arms deliveries seem outdated in view of the war. Slogans such as “Make peace without arms” seem far removed from the actual events of the war when compared to images of Russian atrocities.
Left-wing Green politicians, such as Bundestag member Anton Hofreiter, are now also in favor of delivering heavy weapons to Ukraine. Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has at least verbally announced a “turning point” in foreign policy. The Bundeswehr must be provided with a special fund of 100 billion euros – which the network’s peace cooperative denounces as “massive rearmament” which does not help the Ukrainian people.
Foreign FDP politician Alexander Graf Lambsdorff retorts: “When Easter marchers now call for disarmament and offer in interviews to ‘support Ukraine in a non-violent way’, they are spitting in the face of the defenders of Kyiv and Kharkiv “, he writes in a guest article in “Zeit”. The slogans of the Easter March movement are “out of touch with reality and dangerous”. The participants are “Vladimir Putin’s Fifth Column”.
A representation that the left-wing politician Sevim Dagdelen contradicts. She advocates participation in the Easter marches, where “the demand for an immediate end to the war and the Russian invasion is just as central as the demand for the cessation of arms deliveries to the war zone. Ukraine and an economic war that is hitting the Russian and German people,” said the chair of the WELT Foreign Affairs Committee.
Käßmann’s fear of Germany becoming a “war party”.
However, the subject of arms deliveries in particular is the subject of controversial discussions within the peace movement. Ambiguous signals come for example from the church, which traditionally accompanies Easter marches – although it is not involved in the organization.
The German Catholic Bishops’ Conference has declared that arms deliveries to Ukraine are fundamentally legitimate. Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD) council chairwoman Annette Kurschus has recently been sympathetic to this type of military aid. However, she remains convinced that weapons are not fundamentally a means of bringing peace.
Margot Käßmann, former president of the EKD, is still against arms deliveries. “I share the fear of many that more arms deliveries will end up turning Germany into a warring party,” says Käßmann WELT. Instead, all the power should be put in diplomatic negotiations and sanctions.
The peace movement is not only concerned with the question of the legitimacy of armed resistance. Something else is becoming abundantly clear: even after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which violated international law, some activists seem unwilling to question their friend-foe scheme – here empire provoked of Russia, there the alleged desire for expansion of the Western military Alliance NATO.
Political scientist Ulrich Kühn of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg considers a “hijacking” of the Easter marches by Putin supporters to be likely. He advises organizers and protesters to distance themselves from the Kremlin at an early stage when formulating their protest goals and to check carefully which other organizations are signing up for marches.
But not all initiatives are as consistent: The “Schwerin Peace Alliance”, which calls for the Easter March, is supported by the “Community of Initiative for the Protection of the Social Rights of Former Members of the Armed Corps and the GDR Customs Administration” according to their own statements. The association wrote in mid-March that the war was primarily benefiting the United States, but not the reputation of Russia, “which feels humiliated for good reason and betrayed by broken promises.” The conflict was “the result of decades of anti-Soviet and Russophobic ideological warfare”. Russia is discredited as a peacemaker in the world and gagged by sanctions.
Similar tones come from the initiative “Peace Coordination Berlin”, which organizes an Easter march in the capital. Western countries “should only get involved with reason and diplomacy instead of providing arms, sanctions and stirring up emotions,” their appeal says. “The war did not start on February 24, but ten to 15 years ago,” said one of the initiators, according to a report by “taz”.
NATO ignored Russia’s security concerns and broke disarmament treaties. National flags are not prohibited during the Easter march, it is said, if participants carry the Russian flag, no action will be taken. However, banners with inscriptions such as “Putin the Aggressor” are not desired – they do not correspond to the positions of the Easter march.
When Ukrainians are considered “nationalists” who commit “war crimes”.
A controversy has also died down in Hamburg. The “Hamburg Forum”, a longtime organizer of Easter marches, also focuses its criticism on what it sees as NATO’s expansive policy, calling Olaf Scholz (SPD) a “war chancellor”. The war of Russian aggression is not explicitly condemned.
A circular reads: “The federal government has positioned itself as a vassal alongside the United States, which wants to bring Russia to its knees in the fight to maintain its global hegemony with NATO’s eastward expansion.
The author of the letter, Markus Gunkel, told the “Hamburger Morgenpost” that he did not understand “how one could side with Ukraine”. “They are nationalists who commit war crimes.” Long-time supporters of the Easter March, including former left-wing politicians in the Hamburg parliament, are not taking part in the Easter March for the first time this year.
So are times like the 1980s over, when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets against NATO’s two-track decision? “I see the classic peace movement of the 1970s and 1980s, socialized in the 1970s and 1980s, anti-NATO protests largely influenced by West Germany,” says political scientist Kühn.
The Fridays for Future generation is much more focused on issues such as justice and diversity. “Demands for peaceful conflict resolution are by no means foreign to this generation – they just place them in different contexts and also have less trouble naming an aggressor like Putin.”
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