Petra Kelly and Gert Bastian interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

The European Peace Movement: Conversation with Petra K. Kelly, Member of the Green Party and Member of the Bundestag, and General Gert Bastian, Retired General and Member of the Bundestag: 10/23/84 by Harry Kreisler

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Emergence of the Peace Movement

Ms. Kelly, you were a social worker at the EEC?

No, no, an administrator for social policy.

An administrator for social policy; not a nuclear strategist. Were you surprised at the reaction to your appeal and the movement that developed? We've had a military analysis, just now, of the problem with the weapons. Isn't is somewhat surprising that you were able to generate the response that was generated in Germany and Europe, to your appeal? The large numbers of people that would turn out for demonstrations?

First of all, it was very important in German society to get a broad base for this appeal. The fact that one military person on active duty [Gert Bastian] left the German army was a rallying point, that's clear, because it means it broke the tradition of militarism, and also with the tradition of us believing what the military says. We have many soldiers now, and many people and many other generals in Europe that, in fact, have helped the peace movement.

In our analysis, because we always had to become experts, we have become decapitation experts about the theory of decapitation, because Germany is the only country which gets Pershing IIs, and we must ask the question, why, of all places, only Germany? Why is it not shared with all the other countries? Germany is, of course, in the position where many people don't want any other war to start again from German soil. So there was a strong appeal by elderly people supporting us, and a strong appeal by many occupational groups -- doctors, lawyers, scientists, professors, academic people -- which also make up a big part of the Green Party. And, of course, it was [through] the appeal that we wanted to question not only the nuclear weapons -- Pershing and Cruise and MX and SS, etc. -- we wanted to question the new idea of deterrence, and that became the new position. That if you become a mass murderer yourself, you do not threaten the other side because they might be mass murderers. So there is a moral and ethical question.

I think in Germany there is a very democratic debate now. People get up and are experts over these weapons. They know what these weapons are. This, I think, has to be taken account of by politicians, that people no longer believe them. That was really the success of five million signatures under that appeal to ask Helmut Schmidt not to deploy these weapons. And that is why the SPD is now in the opposition. They made their switch too late, and that is why the Green [Party], in fact, has such a success, because they make no compromise on that question.

Why do you think the SPD, when it was in power, failed to see the implications of the decision? General Bastian was arguing that it was not thinking through the military implications. But they also seemed not to understand the base of support that would be eroded.

Grassroots in the SPD was, I think, totally on our side of the peace movement. But the leadership was a very [supportive of] Helmut Schmidt, and Helmut Schmidt, as you probably know, was much more akin to Ronald Reagan than to Mr. Carter. I think Helmut Schmidt had a very negative influence in that party because he, up to a very few months ago, had always upheld that decision. Then suddenly he signed the Freeze, and I'm wondering why he didn't sign it a few months earlier. It's a very surprising situation, because, once the Green [Party] became a threat in the [SPD] Party votes, in the taking away of votes, then the SPD began changing, because they realized they were never going to win any election any more. Last November, when they finally made their decision, I realized, had they made it earlier, we might not have gotten to the Parliament. But the SPD, I think, always misjudged the situation. And now, of all things, the Social Democrats have, under Mr. Bueller, recently produced a study which Gert Bastian wrote two or three years ago. At that time, they said that we were all crazy. We were crazy to say that NATO was stronger and had much more quality of weapons, much more possibilities.

Than the Warsaw Pact.

Yes, because this was a comparison of strength which Gert Bastian had made for the peace movement. And at that time the SPD criticized us, saying that we were completely manipulated by the KGB. Even our defense minister, Hans Appel, had said that the peace movement was manipulated by the KGB. Three years later, he says, "I am a friend of the peace movement." So the SPD has made a complete 180 degree change, and I criticize them to this day, because they did not consider their grassroots support. Their support was there for the peace movement, but only now it has become a different situation because there is a possibility also for coalition, one day, with the Green, I gather, which doesn't make me so happy. But the SPD has had to make a terrible internal change. Up to now, they are still a pro-NATO party, you can never forget that. They are still totally pro-NATO. They are only against certain weapon systems. And they are, in fact, now turning toward a "strong Europe," making themselves believe that a strong Europe as a new superpower could be critical to the United States. But we don't want a new European superpower. We are against that concept. To have a European nuclear deterrent, Helmut Schmidt's last speech in the Bundestag this summer, was to be part of the spiritual leadership of the French, And I think that is a rather embarrassing position to be in.

You've covered a number of points, which I want to go back to. But first I want to ask you, what is it that draws people in? Is it the fear of the use of these weapons and the repercussions as evidenced in movies like The Day After? What is it that resonates so much? I understand that your argument is logical, but there is also an emotional element in this. Is that what happened in Germany?

I think, first of all, you can say, as Gunther Anders once said, that there is a certain creative fear in people. Not fear that you manipulate, but a fear that Germany, which is already filled to the brim, East and West, by nuclear weapons, by chemical weapons, by conventional weapons, with an overkill on both sides of forty times, begins to say, "Why any more, what is this, for what reason?" And people begin questioning why, in fact, do they have no say-so over these decisions?

Then comes an important element that the citizen action movements in Germany have shown, that people want to become experts over their own lives. So there is a very emotional, of course (and I think very properly so), attitude of people saying, "We will not accept this anymore," because they are also tying this arms race to problems in the economy, to the social problems, and to the problems in the Third World. There is a war going on every day. There is mass destruction every single day of our lives. So this has become a real consciousness-raising effort that I think the peace movement has been successful at. People in Germany are now going to the second stage. They are now questioning, very slowly but surely, military alliances. Not quickly, but slowly; it is a new step, a new quality.

It is always said by government and the right-wing people in our country that the peace movement is a movement of fear. That is not true. This movement has not at first fear of the other side. Fear has our government, which is always requesting more weapons in the fear that we can be superior, that we can be attacked in Central Europe. We have not this fear. This movement is very rational thinking. More rational than our speakers for more armament, which are trustful in the effect of deterrence, that it works well, since the next hundred years. This trust we have not! I think a very high number of experts, a professor from Biotech, Professor Biedenkopf of the CDU also, have the same opinion: that deterrence is not [likely to] work for a long time. We came nearer to the end of the time in which deterrence was able to prevent war. And therefore it is necessary to develop another security system. And this is our [response] to this.

Next page: Peace Movements and Weapons Forces in the East and West

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