in: Peace News 2447 June - August 2002

Antimilitarism in the (new) German peace and anti-war movement after 11 September

von: Tobias Pflueger | Veröffentlicht am: 1. Juni 2002


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As in other European countries, a new peace and anti-war movement emerged in Germany after the brutal terror attacks on New York and Washington and particularly after the start of the war on Afghanistan by US troops, supported by the British military, in October 2001.

And after the German government joined the war and provided troops, the activities of the anti-war and peace movement became a bit stronger again .

Reformism or opposing the system?

Most peace and anti-war groups have addressed their demands almost exclusively to the US and German governments. Some petitions began which were essentially appeals demanding that the German federal government „Does not take part in this (US) war“. Appeals like this and demonstrations are frequently preferred over taking direct action.

The approach within the peace movement is essentially reformist – especially within the large member-based groups such as the IPPNW or most extensively the DFG-VK. But within the anti-war movement, there are groups that are critical of the entire capitalist-militarist system.

However among those groups – and also within the peace and especially the anti-war movement in general – there are still positive references to counter-violent „liberation movements“ or the „progressive nationalism“ of „oppressed peoples“. (Analytical) criticism of the constructs „peoples“ or „nation“, or criticism of the counter-violence of opponents of the war politics of the western governments, is rarely found. This counter-populism, which can be seen in campaigns in support of Slobodan Milosevic or Hugo Chavez organised by parts of the anti-imperialist and the peace and anti-war movements, is referred to positively, as they represent opposition to the dominant US policy – in spite of all the differences in their respective policies. The fundamentally wrong statement „the enemy of my enemy is my friend“ can, unfortunately, frequently be found here.

Antimilitarist approaches

Since 11 September, people advocating such approaches focussing on the fundamental criticism of the military have been in a difficult position within the general spectrum of the peace and anti-war movement. In their peace and anti-war work, many people never reach a criticism of the dynamics intrinsic to the military, nor to a fundamental criticism of the military.

But the difficult position of people advocating these antimilitarist approaches within the German peace and anti-war movement is partly due to the actions of some of the groups within the general movement. For example, declarations which do not explicitly demand the abolition of the military are not supported by some antimilitarists. Broad alliances („unity in diversity“), with different approaches, are, however, a basic requirement for the effectiveness of the peace and anti-war movement.

A central approach within the peace and anti-war movement should be, working from a concrete criticism of the war policy of those in power, to ask more fundamental questions: about the military and war as instruments of domination; about war as a necessary part of the present formation of western industrial societies (since 11 September western societies have been in a permanent state of war and are therefore war societies); and about military and civil interventions as two sides of a cultural-imperialist model etc.


Before 11 September, some coordinates had positively shifted towards the oppositional, even towards opposing the capitalist-militarist system. The protests of Genoa, the emerging „anti-globalisation“ movement and the debate around the German armys role in the „Essential Harvest“ intervention in Macedonia are a few examples.

At talks I gave at that time I could recognise more and more readiness to offer resistance to the dominant politics. At that time many people were open even to fundamental criticisms of power and capitalism. But after 11 September, many people had a brief or medium-term paralysis, and some drifted away completely because of the attacks. Fortunately, the anti-globalisation movement wasn’t broken because of 11 September and the peace movement attracted new people, although not as many as one could have expected considering the „epochal“ events: the authorisation to go to war and the active participation of Germany.

Only a part of the peace movement is explicitly anti-capitalist or antimilitarist. But readiness to criticise the dominant policy more fundamentally has grown. For myself I hope for mutual learning and reinforced collaboration between the „anti-globalisation“ and the peace movements. Peace activists can learn, for example, from the critique of the influence of money and capital in the world as articulated by the „anti-globalisation“ movement. And activists from the anti-globalisation movement can learn from the peace movement, for example from critiques of the military, war-politics, and their effects.

Other opposition movements in Germany must grasp that all other issues are linked to the issue of war: internal rearmament, asylum politics, anti-fascism, etc. Fundamental opposition to the politics of war must be a central issue. In a change to the saying by Willy Brandt, as it now applies to Gerhard Schroder: war is not all – however without war all is nothing. For total opposition to be valid: anti-war work is not all, but without anti-war work, everything is nothing.

Tobias Pfluger is a political scientist and a director of the Informationsstelle Militarisierung.

IMI, Hechingerstrasse 203, 72072 Tubingen, Germany (+49 7071 49154; fax 49159; email:; (with information about the IMI-Mailinglist)).


Thanks to Andreas Speck for translation

A longer version in german: