Translated from GegenStandpunkt 2-23
On the ‘Manifesto for Peace’ by A. Schwarzer and S. Wagenknecht
Why the call for peace is no good
Sahra Wagenknecht, Alice Schwarzer and others called for a demonstration in Berlin on February 25, 2023:
Today, February 10th, 2023, is the 352nd day of the war in Ukraine. Over 200,000 soldiers and 50,000 civilians have been killed so far. Women were raped, children frightened and an entire people traumatized. If the fighting continues like this, Ukraine will soon be a depopulated, devastated country. And many people across Europe are also afraid of an escalation of the war. They fear for their and their children’s future.
The Ukrainian population brutally attacked by Russia needs our solidarity. But what would be solidarity now? How much longer will there be fighting and dying on the battlefield of Ukraine? And now, a year later, what is actually the goal of this war? The German Foreign Minister recently said that “we” are waging a “war against Russia”. Seriously?
President Zelenskyj makes no secret of his goal. After the promised tanks, he is now also demanding fighter jets, long-range missiles and warships – to defeat Russia across the board? The German chancellor still assures that he does not want to send fighter jets or “ground troops”. But how many “red lines” have already been crossed in recent months?
It is to be feared that Putin will launch a maximum counter-attack if Crimea is attacked at latest. Will we then inexorably slide towards world war and nuclear war? It wouldn’t be the first major war that started like this. But it might be the last.
Supported by the West, Ukraine can win individual battles. But it cannot win a war against the world’s largest nuclear power. That’s what the highest military in the United States, General Milley, says. He speaks of a stalemate, where neither side can win militarily and the war can only be ended at the negotiating table. Then why not now? Immediately!
Negotiating does not mean surrendering. Negotiating means making compromises on both sides. With the aim of preventing hundreds of thousands more deaths and worse. That’s what we think too, and that’s what half of the German population thinks. It’s time to listen to us!
We citizens of Germany cannot directly influence America and Russia or our European neighbors. But we can and must hold our government and the chancellor to account and remind him of his oath: “Avert damage to the German people”.
We call on the Chancellor to stop the escalation of arms deliveries. Immediately! He should lead a strong alliance for a ceasefire and peace negotiations at both German and European level.
Immediately! Because every lost day costs up to 1,000 more human lives – and brings us closer to a 3rd World War.
The authors begin by condemning the war in Ukraine in the name of its victims. They demand that it be ended immediately because it is destroying more and more lives and livelihoods and might spread to all of Europe. This is humanely meant. Politically, it is willfully blind.
After all, they are confronted with three warring parties who know the casualty figures even better than they do and who are all pursuing war aims that make the corpses seem absolutely worthwhile to them. However, the authors of the manifesto do not make the war aims of Russia, the Ukrainian leadership and the united NATO-West the object of their criticism; they don’t start an argument with them. Their rejection is directed solely at the war that follows from these aims.
In the next paragraph, they take up the definition of the situation with which the German government justifies its ever-increasing arms deliveries. They agree with the official assignment of war guilt, albeit with a slight shift toward the purely moral-humane: They see the war over the Ukrainian state’s allegiance to East or West as a Russian “attack on the Ukrainian population.” The solidarity that the government is constantly talking about should be with them – and it would have to look different than the armed official one. Since it’s clear to the authors of the manifesto that solidarity with the people of Ukraine means ending the slaughter, and that the war can’t be in their interest, they play dumb and ask, referring to its long duration, what it should be good for at all.
It’s no help that the warring parties tell them their conditions for peace – and these are their war goals – on a daily basis. Because in light of the victims there can be basically no good reason for this war, Wagenknecht and Schwarzer refuse any understanding of the goals and reasons that are obviously held by the war waging states. With rhetorical questions “How much longer ...” and “What is actually the goal ...” they take as self-evident the not at all self-evident step in thinking: even as defined by the state powers that are fighting the war, there can be no real reason for it. Against Mrs. Baerbock, who carelessly says that we are at war with Russia, the two insist: We are against Russia – she surely can’t seriously mean that!
In the Ukrainian Zelensky they then nevertheless find someone they believe capable of a will to war and a war goal – an absolutely unattainable, megalomaniacal one, which in this respect is not really to be taken seriously: He wants to “defeat” “the largest nuclear power” “across the board.” The fact that this – in their view – is not at all possible is considered by these critics to suitably support their humanitarian rejection. By this, they are not really arguing at the level of the war calculations of the government in Kiev; but they act as if they have caught it in a strategic contradiction: A war that can’t be won is senseless – senseless not in the sense of the victims, i.e. not because people are being sent to the slaughter for the sovereignty and reach of the Ukrainian state power, but because it is damaging itself, perhaps ruining itself. The argument of the peace activists becomes strongest when they can cite an expert on war as a key witness: the highest US military officer Milley has talked about the fact that the war is deadlocked, has ended in a stalemate, and so, according to the critics, there is no prospect of success for either side: Peace – because war no longer achieves anything! Really now?
What’s more: continuing it poses an even greater, incalculable danger. For whom? For “us” – states that wage war and the governed who are threatened by it, who might possibly die, are now no longer even distinguished. And this is what the danger looks like: If Putin, attacked in the heartland, lashes out for the maximum counterstrike, “we then inexorably slide towards world war.” The authors conjure up an automatism of escalation, of attack and counter-attack by the major nuclear powers, which in the end the warring powers themselves will no longer be able to control – world war as an unintended disaster which the peace activists want to save the world from.
To those who, even in the face of this perspective, take the slogan “Peace now!” as a demand for a Ukrainian surrender and accuse it of a willingness to accept Russian annexations, the Manifesto assures them that such things are far from its mind: “Negotiating does not mean surrendering.” If the war, according to the competent information of the US Chief of Staff, must be ended with negotiations at some point anyway, why, the call asks, don’t we start compromising immediately? That the mutually exclusive claims to power are capable of compromise at all is simply postulated by the peace activists – against the experience they are currently having. Their protest demonstrates the unshakably state-loyal belief that even for the political leaders here and there the great “aim of preventing hundreds of thousands more deaths and worse” must certainly rank higher than all national interests. They are so much of the belief that the state subjects of violence are the agents and the protective power of the lives of the governed, so identical with “the people,” that they simply do not believe that they, and of course their state in particular, have a will and a reason for violently destroying a foreign power, even in the midst of a war they keep waging with weapons and the training of operating crews.
At the same time, they are aware, or at least they assume, that their pacifist warnings have no effect in themselves; but then they believe all the more firmly, as “citizens of Germany” educated in democracy, in the pressure that the electorate is capable of exerting pressure on their rulers. They lie to themselves about the power they wish for – “half of the German population” would share their view – and appeal as concerned Germans to their Chancellor as the unfortunately unreliable, but the only somehow reachable preventer of Germany’s participation in the butchery, who has already not kept to many red stop lines, but still might stop before the next one. They remind him, someone who wants to reposition Germany in Europe and the world through this war, of his oath of office to “avert damage to the German people.”
So Schwarzer and Wagenknecht campaign for a scare amid the war – amid what the policies of the “Turning Point,” supported by almost all the people’s representatives in the Bundestag, reveals about the officially determined “use of the German people,” they are not scared.