Peace instead of NATO

By Oskar Lafontaine, Current Concerns, No. 2/2015

For the vast majority of the population of the former Federal Republic, NATO has been the guarantor of peace and freedom for a long time. Anti-communism, fuelled by the fear of the Soviet Union operated by the world revolution, the Berlin Blockade and the construction of the Berlin Wall left little room to think about alternatives to NATO. But in 1965 at the latest, when US President Lyndon B. Johnson bombed North Vietnam and deployed more and more ground troops to South Vietnam, a discussion about the policy and objectives of the Western power started especially in the universities. The military infrastructure of NATO, which has always been a US military structure in its core, brought about Germany’s involvement in every US war like that of other states’, which were integrated into it. That has not changed until today. In his book “The Grand Chessboard” former security adviser to Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, commented this dependence as follows: “The brutal fact is that Western Europe and increasingly also Central Europe, remains largely an American protectorate, with its allied states reminiscent of ancient vassals and tributaries.”

The prevailing view, according to which Gerhard Schröder did not participate in the Iraq war of George W. Bush is not the whole truth. This war was also fought from US facilities in Germany. If Saddam Hussein had been equipped with long range missiles, he would have been entitled to attack US facilities like the German Ramstein Air Base.

As in the 80s, the peace movement took a stance against the establishment of further nuclear missiles in East and West, the calls for a withdrawal from the military infrastructure of NATO became popular. Germany’s participation in the war in Afghanistan and NATO’s eastward enlargement as a major cause of the Ukraine crisis are meanwhile also discussed among politicians of the conservative spectrum and raise the question whether a longer stay of Germany in the NATO, may increasingly be setting the security of the Federal Republic of Germany at risk. The so-called war on terror led by the United States is a terrorist breeding programme and increases the risk of terrorist attacks in Germany, as the former CDU MP Jürgen Todenhöfer properly analysed the situation.

Already in 2007, former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt stated: “For the peace of the world, today there is much less risk emanating from Russia than from America. (!) Even if America’s hegemony will endure for a long future, the European nations have nevertheless to maintain their dignity. (!) The dignity is based on our adherence to the responsibility of our own conscience.”

On 13 December 2014, at the occasion of the demonstration called the “Friedenswinter” in Berlin, in front of the Federal President’s office, the theologian Eugen Drewermann said: “NATO is the most aggressive alliance of all times.”

So peace instead of NATO!

But if NATO will be resolved like the Warsaw Pact, then what? The Left Party knows that the change of military alliances is not a sufficient condition to keep peace. Foreign politics was and is fighting for resources and markets. Euphemistic speeches about human rights, democracy and free market economy cannot change this fact. The famous phrase of Jean Jaurès “Capitalism carries war within itself like a cloud carries rain” has been confirmed in recent decades over and over again. As the battle for raw materials and markets is also discharged by military action, such as the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have shown, Pope Francis comes to the conclusion: “We are in the middle of the third world war, but in a war of instalments. There are economies that must wage war in order to survive. Therefore, they produce and sell weapons.”

Since for the Left, capitalism and democracy are incompatible with each other, it knows that to build a democratic society with a different economic order is essential. Another democratic economic order would also change the present power structure of the world, in which the US global dominance has reached an unprecedented scale.

Interestingly, this basic policy approach of the Left concerning insurance for peacekeeping is also shared by US policy hardliners. Brzezinski writes in the above-mentioned book “The Grand Chessboard”:

“Never before has a populist democracy attained international supremacy. But the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public’s sense of domestic well-being. The economic self-denial (that is, defense spending) and the human sacrifice (casualties, even among professional soldiers) required in the effort are uncongenial to democratic instincts. Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization.”

This is the same idea that Immanuel Kant formulated in his essay about “Perpetual Peace”. He demanded a republican constitution for all states so that citizens would then be empowered to decide for themselves whether or not there was to be war. They would have to decide on “bringing all the calamities of war upon themselves”. Translated to the current situation, this means that we would not be involved in the Afghanistan war if the population had voted on it or if politicians and journalists favourable to wars of intervention had been exposed to the trials and tribulations of the war in Afghanistan themselves.

Prerequisite for a structurally peaceful world is the development of a truly democratic society, i.e. of an economic order that prevents large amounts of capital leading to an accumulation of power, because it leaves the capital to those who earn it by their labour.

But the Left cannot let itself be contented with this statement alone. Even in this day and age and given the current social and power structures, answers must be found. This brings a possible participation of the Left in a Federal Government into focus. The mainstream media and the regime parties SPD (Social Democrats) and The Greens look upon the willingness of the Left to engage in wars of intervention as a requirement for a common government. Should they hold on to this condition, there can be no red-red-green government.

The years of bombardment have led to a certain degree of discomfiture of several elected representatives of the Left and have caused them to pass some comments which have given rise to annoyances and confusion. Although the ban on arms exports had been a central promise of the Lefts’ last federal election campaign, some members of the Left called for arms sales to the Kurds to fight the IS. An elected representative working to abolish a key campaign promise behaves like the system parties and contributes to the continuous increase of abstentionism.

The political key mistake of this proposal, however, is that the demand for arms sales to the Kurds means to submit to the US imperialism’s logic of war. It is an open secret that US policy has the oil wells in the Kurdish region in mind, and by means of destabilization of the Middle East is working towards political structures that will guarantee the exploitation of oil reserves by Western corporations.

Of similar quality was the attempt made by some members of the Left to blue-pencil the call for Germany’s resignation from the military infrastructure of NATO, i.e. the US, from the Left Party’s programme for the European elections. Those who had made this proposal were disregarding the fact that with this, they are in favour of maintaining a US infrastructure on German soil, from where, amongst other things, the United States’ drone war with its thousands of dead is being controlled.

In the coming years the Left must make it absolutely clear that the condition sine qua non of their participation in a federal government is a foreign policy that withdraws from the military escalation for which US imperialism is responsible. In its basic programme, the Left calls for the conversion of NATO into a collective defense alliance involving Russia. This is a rejection of the unilateral eastward enlargement of NATO, which is a breach of the West’s promise and has led to the current crisis in Ukraine. The following requirements are a prerequisite for this security concept, which will overcome Cold War structures and which was also advocated by the SPD (the Social Democrats) for many years:

1. Merkel’s policy towards Russia must be replaced by an Eastern policy of détente which is based on Willy Brandt’s successful foreign policy.

2. A federal government in which the Left participates will not agree to Ukraine’s acceptance into NATO or any other states’ adjacent to Russia.

3. A federal government in which the Left participates will reject the stationing of NATO troop formations on the western border of Russia.

Moreover, our terms and conditions remain the same. The “Bundeswehr” (German army) must not participate in military interventions abroad, and arms exports to areas of tension are to be stopped immediately.

This list of demands is, of course, not exhaustive. So for instance we must set about the construction of a Willy-Brandtcorps for disaster relief and disease control.

It remains crucial that participation of The Left in a federal government is only justifiable if the German foreign policy undergoes a fundamental reorientation after the failures in Afghanistan, in Ukraine and in Europe.

Source: “Junge Welt” of 8 January 2015, www.jungewelt.de/2015/01-08/021.php

(Translation Current Concerns)

Oskar Lafontaine is a German politician who served in the government of Germany as Minister of Finance from 1998 to 1999. Previously he was Minister-President of the state of Saarland from 1985 to 1998, and he was also Chairman of the Social Democratic Party from 1995 to 1999. From 2007 to 2010, Lafontaine was co-chairman of The Left. He resigned from federal political functions in January 2010.