Militarization is Not Solidarity!
How Disarm Rheinmetall´s action conference gets us ready for a hot, anti-militarist summer
By Ulrich Weber
On a sunny spring day, up to 150 activists from various structures and movements responded to the call of the Disarm Rheinmetall campaign for an action conference. Kassel is one of the many locations in Germany where war and crisis are hidden right behind the next concrete wall and NATO wire. Where behind the factory gates of Rheinmetall and KraussMaffei Wegmann their material conditions are created, yes, where on the other hand they do not rage, but merely flush money into the company account. That disarming Kassel is not art, as the call says in allusion to the citywide art exhibition "documenta" taking place in Kassel at the same time, the campaign showed quite impressively with its actions in the past. In various camps and blockade actions, the alliance succeeded several times in successfully blocking arms companies for hours and in educating people about German arms policy with creative actions and workshops in the camps. It should be clear that blockades are only a snapshot, whose material damage is manageable. On the other hand, such large-scale disruptive actions are also an expression of a discourse that is supposed to lead to disarmament and the cessation of arms deliveries and, through physical protest, provides tinder for the creation of a broad public. Especially in the tenth year of the revolution in North and East Syria, it is important to target the profiteers, who are also earning immeasurably from the war in Kurdistan, with determination and to drag the clean man image of these companies into the mud of the facts.
In this sense, the action conference is the prelude and paves the way for a big summer of action and a movement-wide organizing of resistance against the increasing militarization. For a successful resistance it needs in the sense of the alliance namely a consideration from most diverse points of view, in order to be able to express a comprehensive, action-oriented criticism of the armament industry. In the course of this, the speakers on the podium agreed that we are indeed in a phase of upheaval, but that this was not only heralded by the war in Ukraine. The evil spirits that are now obviously up to mischief were secretly never gone. This means that militarism and the now open declaration of will to enforce, by force of arms if necessary, economic interests that were otherwise fought out hundreds and thousands of kilometers away, always had their silent representatives, gray masters who are now moving into the light of day.
The `traffic light government` in Germany is currently talking about a "new reality" in which we supposedly find ourselves, as if the peaceful world had been torn from its slumber by Putin and would now find itself surrounded by newborn autocrats and dictators in the new reality. In contrast, it is clear: "The essence of the Disarm Rheinmetall campaign has not been changed by the war in Ukraine," as it is stated by people in the campaign, "because rather it makes the need for an anti-militarist stance grow." The voices raised against the newly adopted budget of the Bundeswehr, against arms deliveries and weapons increases, are rather quiet, but they are there. Influence from the highest level must not be allowed to take the field in public discourse, because an authentic concept of freedom is not related to security interests, for example, which are to be granted through more and more armaments. Nor is the purchase of shares in companies like Rheinmetall, Hensoldt and Heckler & Koch after the outbreak of war an act of moral integrity, as some corporate executives now want us to believe, but merely the desire to profit from geopolitical shifts. So nothing has changed.
War is the opposite of climate justice
In recent years, we have seen an ever-increasing relevance of the climate justice movement, which has managed to put pressure on politics and corporations through regular civil disobedience actions. It does not currently have a unified position on the domestic "turn of the times," but there has been a lot of movement on this issue in recent weeks, according to an activist from Fridays for Future and Ende Gelände. There is also a strong link between war on the one hand and fossil energy on the other. Today, more than ever, the timely phase-out of fossil fuels is becoming a dream of the future, green foreign policy is craving fossil energy from the philanthropist Quatar, and calls are being made to extend the use of coal power or even nuclear power. Within a very short time, this would destroy the gains of the climate justice movement and the prospect of a way out of the ecological crisis, which is why there is now talk of a "roll back." "But war is not only bad because it emits a lot of CO 2, such as the Leopard tank, which uses almost as much fuel as 1,000 cars," the activist says, "but also a disaster from the perspective of the social question, which is why we are not advocating for green tanks, but for no tanks at all." War is ergo the opposite of climate justice. Without climate justice, which prioritizes those affected by this crisis and anticipates future wars over resources, there can be no peace. The speakers at the panel said that it also makes sense from this perspective to target the arms industry. First and foremost, it is good for the destruction of natural resources. The question that must be asked from the perspective of the climate movement is therefore not only "Where does electricity come from?" but also "What is it used for?”. One thing seems certain, this roll back caused by war will occupy the climate justice movement for a long time and raise fundamental strategic questions.
The feminist perspective builds an ideological bridge
As an activist from Women Defend Rojava and a women's and lesbian group from Frankfurt argued during the panel discussion, "the critique of war and militarism should be about fundamentals, because it already has to start with people's everyday lives, which are militarized in the most diverse forms and shaped by the patriarchal normal state." In this sense, the feminist point of view builds an ideological bridge between masculinity, brutalization and war. If, according to the activist, rapes were not accepted in everyday life, then they would be unthinkable as a means of war.
Thus, to attack the status quo, this mentality must be understood in terms of its origins, as a basic ideological condition that exists in society. The now burgeoning nationalism and militarism were thus never gone from German society.
In the second moment of consideration, it must be noted from a feminist point of view that war primarily shatters social structures and thus massively narrows the scope of movement for women and other oppressed genders. This represents a further rapid deterioration of the normal state of affairs.
Rearmament is not international solidarity
It is precisely these points and fundamental social contradictions that help to understand why, on the one hand, hundreds of thousands take to the streets and get caught in the paradox between the demand for peace and, at the same time, the desire for rearmament and arms supplies. But it also shows that the statements of the German Foreign Minister Baerbock (Greens) and Chancellor Scholz (SPD), who recently spoke of a "turning point in time" that has occurred, deliberately create a mood of fear and disinform. After all, these wars are not new. What is new is only how close it is to Germany this time and how Russia appears in the global power ring. "So it can't be a turnaround, because it would have to be accompanied by a change of direction," said an activist from Disarm Rheinmetall, "what has changed is just the speed of change and the language used."
The current structure of the war in Ukraine is nothing shocking. What is shocking are the images of the people affected. According to a panelist from Disarm Rheinmetall, we should keep this clarity about the structure of war and crisis in order to define our policy and not to take one side or the other of imperialist states, but to say "The border is not between peoples, but between above and below".
Currently, as summed up at the action conference, there is still little organized protest against the roll back justified by security policy up to the expansion of nuclear sharing, the procurement of armed drones and the arming of Germany with new fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear warheads. However, the indignation over the fact that an arms budget of 100 billion euros is to be enshrined in the constitution is growing steadily. For Rheinmetall & Co. this means full order books and the chance of a polished reputation, not a redefinition of international solidarity, which is what people should be told.
Therefore, resistance has to be organized and, according to the panelist from Frankfurt, also the question has to be asked "How do we actually want to live and what alternative do we want to offer?". There are many places of resistance around the world, places where we must then also ask the question of legitimate self-defense, which must be distinguished from militarism. "In this sense," says the activist, "we point to the successful resistance of the Zapatistas and the construction of an alternative proposal in Rojava, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year."
"What is important for the hot summer is to break the new apparent consensus with actions in the places where we can, and not only on the days of action organized by the campaign," said an activist from Disarm Rheinmetall. Furthermore, it is in fact arms companies that should be the focus of attention of various movements, and this must be clarified and explained. The actions in the summer take it upon themselves to break with the German normal state and thus with the militarization of education, culture and sport now demanded by Baerbock and the slogan "Armament is the mother of all sustainability" now brought into the field of political approval by Rheinmetall. Wasn't it Rheinmetall that sued the German state for damages after the Crimea annexation because the construction of an army training center with state-of-the-art simulation technology for potential anti-guerrilla warfare was prohibited?
For these reasons, our role in the coming weeks and months must be to expose the trickery of Baerbock, Scholz & Co. and to turn the moving times into times full of movement, and if possible at the expense of the profiteers of war and crisis. The action conference and the intended plans are an important step to free ourselves from the prevailing rigidity of shock, to break the supposed consensus on war and crisis, to enable us as an antimilitarist movement to anticipate our next steps on the basis of coming developments and to intervene at the height of the times.
This article was first published in the May/June 2022 edition of the Kurdistan Report.