Japan Peace Conference 2003 International Symposium
French Peace Movement
will speak successively of the experiences acquired during the international campaign against the war in Iraq, of the mobilization in the framework of the 2005 NPT Conference and the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of the problem of foreign military bases.
Mobilisation against the war in Iraq
All over the world, the mobilisation of people against the war in Iraq took on very important proportions. For the first time in practically every country in the world, on February 15th, 2003, hundreds of thousands of people, up to several millions, gathered and demonstrated. This is why this date is truly historic and demonstrations are scheduled for its commemoration on February 15th in France and on March the 20th in many countries.
In Europe, organized pacifist movements exist, chiefly in Great Britain, Germany, Italy and France. In other countries, organizations are to be found without being strongly structured. On the other hand, in Italy, the demonstrations against the war in Iraq led to the creation of a coordination around the Tavola della Pace, which is gaining in scope. In each country, the actions were coordinated by an organization, pacifist or not: ATTAC in Germany, CND in the UK, French Peace Movement in France.
In France, the coordination ﾒNo to war against Iraq, Yes to a world of Justice, Peace and Democracyﾓ which includes over 100 organisations, goes on meeting once or twice a month in Paris. It has regular contacts with other national European coordinations. The name of the coordination reminds the refusal of war and provides a prospect of peace and development in the search for Peace Culture.
In Europe, the mobilisation happened on the basis of a text elaborated during the European Social Forum in Florence in November 2002. What is interesting about the text is that, before being adopted, it was debated for a long time by the representatives of numerous associations representing a large portion of the civil society of Europe.
The environment of the World Social Forums, of the European Social Forums (ESF) in Florence (2002) and Paris (2003) was very suited to the campaigns aiming at publicizing these themes among the greatest number of citizens and associations. Notably, the French Peace Movement sponsored an axis of peace at the Paris ESF with a permanent seminar being held in order to construct peace. An international meeting of young people took place, initiated by the Movement within the framework of the Paris ESF. The French Peace Movement helped delegations of young people from Maghreb and Eastern Europe to participate. The preparation of the ESF was also made through local social forums (LSF) in districts or regions in which the French Peace Movement took an active part. This activity will be continued next autumn through Peace Assises in several regions and towns. A number of events are being prepared.
In France, the involvement of the various associations was very uneven. Each of the decisions that were taken, and mainly about the demonstrations between November 2002 and April 2003, was discussed at length and in detail to guarantee both good practical organisation and good media coverage. Having the basis of the declaration of the Florence European Social Forum made it possible to overcome a number of diverging positions among associations. One of the difficulties which we had to face was not to allow anybody taking advantage of us, namely to prevent some organizations, whether they had signed the founding document or not, from using the demonstrations to propagate slogans that were not in line with the objectives of the demonstrations. The coordination was therefore forced to set up a kind of ﾒslogan control departmentﾓ to ask the groups who indulged in such activities to stop. For it seemed important to us that the slogans should be exclusively centered on the fight against the war in Iraq and the seeking of peace.
The lessons which we could draw from this experience are numerous:
ﾘ The reinforcement of the links with the various parts of civil society,
ﾘ Working in depth on the objectives and the means of presenting them to the public at large,
ﾘ Mutual enrichment through the dialogue promoted by working as a network,
ﾘ Better mutual understanding among various partner organizations that sometimes ignore each other or even consider others as their opponents or rivals. This better mutual understanding allowed other joint actions to be planned on subjects other than the war in Iraq.
ﾘ Some experience of working as a network within the French Peace movement,
ﾘ The assertion the concept of Peace Culture as being central and its better recognition within the European Social Forum in Paris.
Being the coordinator of the collective No to war in Iraq, Yes to a world of Justice, Peace and Democracy certainly added to our notoriety but above all obliged us to refine our analyses of events, to profit from the approaches developed by other organisations, to negotiate the elements of analysis of a situation, trying to reach a consensus without renouncing what is essential.
Being part of a coordination, one must respect the texts written in common, but apart from the actions decided within the coordination, each organization retains total freedom of tone, analysis and initiative.
Networking against the war in Iraq happened on the national and even European levels, but also on the various local levels: communes, districts, departments or regions. Local situations have their specificities to which we had to adapt ourselves. The French Peace Movement coordinated some of the local initiatives but, in other places, other organisations did. However, one of the results was the creation of new committees of the French Peace Movement and/or the development of existing committees.
In brief, three levels can be distinguished or three circles of partners surrounding the French Peace Movement:
- Pacifist movements (5 or 6),
- Other associations including, among others, trade unions and political parties,
- Foreign and international organisations.
Putting in common and sharing the diversity of each of these organisations enabled us to progress toward taking into account the 8 proposals made by the UNO and the UNESCO in the framework of the Decade of the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence. The situation was a sad illustration of the opposition between the Culture of War and the Culture of Peace; it also made it possible to stress the fact that it was not enough to be content with fighting against war but that this stage must be overcome to work for the implementing of Peace.
But the main lesson probably lies with the necessity of making as many components of civil society work together. Petitions to political representatives and political forces are certainly indispensable but they are really efficient only when they come from wide areas of the population expressing various ways of thinking and sensibilities.
I will say a few words about what is called, in a makeshift way, "the islamic veil affair". The basis of what the French mean by laity is the separation between the private, personal, individual sphere and the sphere of social and political organization. Everybody has a right to believe -or not to believe- in God, within the religion he has chosen and/or to adhere to any philosophical movement that suits him. Churches are not subsidized by the State and the State must not interfere in the field of individual freedom. The limitation is, of course, that there should be no conflict between these two tenets of social organization and this is precisely the aim of the law under discussion in the French Parliament about ostentatious religious signs at school. In fact, school is public, compulsory and independent from religion. In classes, children of various denominations may sit together, which compels them to mutual respect, especially concerning the way one dresses and behaves. Thus it is that laity, which is one of the bases of French society, is an important component of Peace Culture.
The French Peace Movement, which was born in the late forties in the wake of the Stockholm Appeal and of the activities of the great scientist Fr仕屍ic Joliot-Curie, today rediscovers what was of utmost importance when it was first created, namely deep involvement in the needs and aspirations of civil society, even though the environment has changed to a great extent.
At a time so close to the end of World War II and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the danger which should be averted was that of a atomic war between the USA and the USSR. Worldwide mobilization made it possible to launch and then to obtain the signing of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and then the Treaty of complete Nuclear Tests Ban. But, gradually, during the late eighties and the mid-nineties, the strength of the movement weakened, triggering the comparative lessening of pacifist activism. Increased specialisation could be observed in the remaining movements, particularly against nuclear weapons. Only a few countries, like Japan and France, could preserve peace movements with a general scope though in difficult circumstances. In 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union made people believe that an era of peace was going to settle at last. Some even spoke of, or wrote about "the end of history" through the triumph of capitalism.
Unfortunately, we know that it was nothing of the kind and that the last decade appears as one of the most deadly in the history of mankind. In a period when conflicts were mainly internal within a country or conflicts between communities with covered external interventions, we also witnessed the rise of fundamentalism, community feelings and terrorisms; we must also add the rise of liberal globalization under the leadership of the USA. The counter-attack of the peoples through the World and Regional Social Forums and the increasing weight of NGOs in the actions of the UNO have already enabled the peoples and the representatives of the civil society to make their voices heard and counter decisions taken in the secrecy of cabinets. Peace Culture has become one of the main axes in the response that an ever increasing number of citizens are bringing from all over the world. With the revival of strong social movements, we see a real leap in civilization.
During the last five years, we have seen new growing concern among citizens about nuclear arms. The main danger has become their proliferation. It is estimated that nearly 50 countries in the world actually possess the technologies that would enable them to manufacture nuclear weapons within few years. To this day, four countries only have not signed the NPT, but this is still too many!
Mobilization against nuclear weapons is at the heart of the Peace Movement's activities and will be so for the time to come. The Conference organized in October 2003 during the nuclear disarmament days tightened the links with other pacifist movements whose activities are focussed particularly on this campaign. Its success makes us forecast an important future activity on this score.
The actions of the peoples can make governments more active in fulfilling their pledge toward the NPT. To this effect, in the framework of Abolition 2000, common activities are being planned with British pacifist organisations to use their forces together and obtain from the two European nuclear countries that they should drive disarmament campaigns associated with the European Union. From the mid-nineties, France and the United Kingdom have already developed a common disarmament policy on the international level. If Paris and London officially took the pledge to give up their nuclear weapons in view of the construction of Europe, this would trigger off a dynamic international disarmament. At their behest and supporting the actions prompted by M.Tadatoshi Akiba, the mayor of Hiroshima, transmitted by the association of "Mayors for Peace", the European Union could decide to organize an International Conference of the same kind as Kyoto/Ottawa. The recent example of the pressure exercised by European countries to make Iran submit to inspections by the IAEA is extremely promising for the future. It is also the proof that progress in disarmament can come from diplomacy rather than force.
Pressure must certainly not be relaxed in order to obtain results before the NPT meeting in 2005. As far as nuclear weapons are concerned, the only possible alternative is their elimination. As for the French Peace Movement, our activity for the two years to come is thus:
- In the first place, to express our determination to prove that there are alternatives to war and that we must act toward disarmament. The observance of international law and the all-important role of the United Nations are the most urgent conditions that should be effected.
- To influence the decisions to be taken concerning the NPT review in 2005.
- To reassert the part taken by the peoples, the United Nations and multilateralism to reach these objectives.
To conduct a big campaign until November 2005, while trying to diversify the demonstrations and actions: marches, artists taking part, the magazine Combat pour la Paix (fighting for peace) and its website (www.mvtpaix.org) being involved, eventually creating a new specific site, multiplying the means of propaganda (tracts, petitions...), demonstrations on the various sites where work on nuclear weapons is being carried on. As we have been doing for many years, these activities will take place with our partners. Preparations for decisions along the lines defined above are in progress to begin in February 2004, informing all our committees, the medias and our partners.
April 2004: we are taking part in the work of the collective Abolition2000 and sending a delegation to the UNO in New York, including many young people for the NPT Prep Com.
May: work with the mayors and the local council members to support the appeal of the mayor of Hiroshima.
From May to August: Activities of the committees locally: tracts, petitions, in the various summer fairs, meetings, festivals, ...
September to October: actions on the sites of military nuclear laboratories, perhaps with a European scope.
May 2005: A large delegation to the UNO will be sent during the NPT debate.
August 2005:We will take part in a large delegation to Hiroshima.
Military bases in foreign countries
Fighting against the presence of armies in foreign countries has always been a central preoccupation of the Peace Movement from its origin. While a strong popular pressure in France made it possible for the government of General de Gaulle to demand the departure of American and NATO troops from its territory in the sixties, it is paradoxical that France maintain military bases in Africa, in 5 countries: Ivory Coast, Gabon, Senegal, Chad and Djibouti, with over 6000 men. The military "agreements" between these countries and France are the consequences of sheer neo-colonialism towards former colonies (until 1960-1961). France maintained troops on German territory until the mid-nineties. French barracks in Germany have been deserted since. Smaller units, of less than 200 men are stationed in practically every region of the world: French Guyana, the West Indies, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean (Society Islands, New Caledonia...).
The French Peace Movement that has always fought against colonial wars beside French progressive associations, trade unions and political parties can understand the feelings of the citizens of a country who must always live alongside foreign military forces on their soil and we declare we are in solidarity with them and cooperating in their struggle.
We must note that American soldiers are stationed not only in the countries beaten in the last world war 1939-1945 but also on the land of their allies of that time. The following table thus shows the massive presence of American troops in practically every European country. We should also add to this list the increased presence of Americans and NATO personnel in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe as well as in the Middle East.
US soldiers presence in the world
(statistical abstract of the USA : 2000 p.368)
Germany 60053 Belgium 1679
Japan 41257 Kuwait 1640
Korea 35663 Cuba (Guantanamo) 1527
Italy 11677 Portugal 1066
United Kingdom 11379 Croatia 866
Bosnia-Herz使ovina 8170 Bahre貧 748
Egypt 5846 Diego Garcia 705
Panama 5400 Netherlands 703
Hungary 4220 Macedonia 518
Spain 3575 Greece 498
Turkey 2864 Honduras 427
Iceland 1960 Australia 333
Saudi Arabia 1722 Ha付i 239
Total on board 40914 On the ground 218957
Through the will of peoples to govern themselves and to have the mastery of their political and economic destinies, we can find a historic rise of social activism in most countries in the world.
We have mentioned above the actual leap in civilization which is happening and in which we take part actively.
The emergence of a new kind of pacifism is part and parcel of this evolution and it is an honour for the pacifist movements of the whole world to have contributed to it and to continue to be part of it. In many fields and particularly during the world mobilization against the war in Iraq, the international pacifist movement contributed to making the populations aware of their strength so that their aspirations should be taken into account. In this way, the 15th of February 2003 demonstrations all over the world constitute a historic event in the history of mankind. The mobilisation did not stop after the war started in April 2003 as it was the case in 1991, during the first Gulf war.
Pacifist movements needed this renewal that matches international solidarities toward action. This is all the more important today as the tools such as Word Peace Council (WPC) and International Peace Bureau (IPB) are not wholly satisfactory in the way they work in a mode which is suited with the changed needs. New international structures should be studied based on the work which Japanese and French peace movements could carry on within WPC and IPB.
There is no third way between American unilateralism and multilateralism supported by international law and the UNO.
We want to thank heartily our friends of the Japanese Peace Council for enabling us to contribute, through taking part in this conference, to strengthening our relationship. We have just met again at the World Social Forum at Mumbai and we shall meet soon during the preparation for the NTP conference and the commemoration of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2005.
The French Peace Movement and the Japanese Peace Council have always been together to make the ideas for the implementation of peace on our planet progress concretely. What symbol could be more beautiful for the future than the friendship between pacifist movements which are situated at the two extremes of the Eurasian continent!
French Peace Movement
17 December 2004