During the last 25 years many peace organization have lost track and seem to have by-passed their collective memory. Let us therefore remember now: Peace is still the most wanted issue:

Peace and Butter , Bread and Roses – this is what we need, and we want it now!

  • Bertha von Suttner’s Call „Lay down your arms!“ is a more burning issue today than it was at the beginning of the last century.
  • Instruments for a lasting peace are wanted and no more arms.
  • Educating for peace is another demand of the day!
  • Women need peace for equality and development. Women need peace to overcome gender barriers in their every day lives.
  • Peace is a women’s issue.

 

The quest to overcome inbuilt obstacles to peace and the search for guarantees to make sure that future generations be spared from the scourge of war, these have been the objectives of many peace workers for more than a century. Our elders have sacrificed their time, their fortunes, their wellbeing and sometimes even their lives for this nobel goal. ‚Bread, Butter and Peace‘ was not only forward looking slogan but a mobilizing strategy in the past.

In the midst of a major war over one thousand, then well to do, women have crossed frontiers. They had managed to come together in war ridden Europe at the Hague in 1915. They assembled in order to help stop the slaughtering. They helped out with their fortune. Some lost their homeland. Some payed with their lives as fascism crawled along and diverted more funds for an even more ravaging war.

Now is the time for crossing frontiers again. Now its the moment to act united against the arms build up and against the brutalizing brainwashing for more wars once more.

World War I trauma had once galvanized great individuals and huge masses. The war had consequently led to major changes in societal structures. After heavy bloodshed women and men began to understand the root causes of war. They could see now that an economy functioning on the principal of profit making, necessarily has to neglect human needs. It bears the potential to even pave its way on human bodies.

‚Gender‘ was not an issue in the post traumatic period after two world wars. War and fascism had enforced such tragedies on women, children and men alike, that masses of citizens gathered in antiwar movements. Millions came out and joined hands. As Germany underwent remilitarization, the slogan „Without Me This Time“ was created. In many countries people began building new social orders, orders not based on profit making and exploitation.

But those profiting from the war machine would not have this development. In order to stop the momentum, they invented new treacherous methods to infiltrate and divert associations small and large. Their ways were refined. They cheated the people, they blinded them. Well paid agents, public relations companies disposed of rich means and created ever more subtle ways to destroy the peoples movements after having gotten rid of their leaders.

Even well developed, peace loving countries were crushed, eventually.

Whereas in 1915 a good part of the women’s suffragette movement had felt that this was a particular moment in history this seems not to be like that now. The memory of those days got almost lost. The anti-war stance that had once split the women’s movement has more or less vanished altogether.
The issue of war and peace that had also split the enormous social democratic movement of those days and with dire consequences, seems to have entirely disappeared. This is the more fatal as new wars are on the horizon in the 21st century. Gradually anti-war movements have lost all momentum and disappeared while still carrying the ancient titles.

This unfortunate history was to be repeated after World War II and once again after 1989, when the „end of history“ was declared, only to open up the doors for more wars.
We are now experiencing an epoch of war without even being aware if it.

Awareness is a keystone to comprehension and to overcoming the present disaster.

When evaluating 100 years of history, every peace organization must analyze the situation anew and offer adequate political orientation for the next years in order to develop programs of actions. In order to overcome the neglect of women’s needs, their depravation, their exploitation as slave workers, their every day humiliation the war machine must be brought to a halt.
War and military interference in sovereign nations must be stopped. Arms export must be halted. In order to take care of our everyday needs, peace is still the demand of the day.

Women must especially help raise awareness by challenging the ZEITGEIST. Let us therefore act appropriately, as our fore-sisters did. Let us recall Bertha von Suttner, Clara Zetkin, Rosa Luxemburg, Jane Addams and Emily Green Balch, Anita Augspurg, Lyda Gustava Heymann and Anna Seghers and many less wellknown courageous women. Wether they were Bourgeois women, Democrats or Aristocrats, Socialists or Communists, they all spoke out and acted against war and later against fascism. None of them was blinded by sentimental pacifism.

Today, as we live in times of seemingly never-ending wars, more courage is needed. Fascism and war come along softly this time, on doves feet. The process of militarizing our societies is eating up funds dearly wanted otherwise for civil infrastructure. Women suffer more dearly than their male counterparts from civil services being privatized and by tax money almost exclusively spent on military purposes. Women and men suffer long before war has started. We all suffer under the so called „news wars“. Wars have only changed their names, their results are even more catastrophic nowadays with more lethal weapons available. The destructive results of „humanitarian interventions“ are to be studied in Ex-Jugoslavia, in Afghanistan, in Irak, in Libya, in Africa, in Asia.

Wars come along more often now through endless acts of terror and through the brutalization of what used to be culture. This shift in outer appearance does in no way smoothen the effects of war, on the contrary.

Today, in the 21st century, women’s needs the world over are met even less than before. While women do have the full right to be equally represented everywhere, opportunities are not at all the same. ‚Gender equality‘ is often used as pretext to divert our attention from more burning issues. While women seem to be more and in the forefront, they have not the power to better the female plight substantially. They must often function to serve the interests of others. Without being even aware of this, they might follow agendas, not defined by themselves.

Women’s needs cannot met on a broad scale by ladies like Mrs. Merkel or Mrs. von der Leyen, to name only two. These women who side with power, who are part of the power apparatus and who have chosen to opt for war, these women help aggrevate the situation of women.

While a tiny majority of women climb up the ladder to success others are left behind for ever.

Concepts like „gender equality“, „plans of action“, „UNSC – resolution 1325“ and the like might cure symptoms for a moment while the disease gets worse. These concepts might even serve to dupe women away from the real issues. We have therefore to do away with the disease itself. Healing means struggling for real progress. This is a social task. In order to be successful in this endeavor, we need to stick with principles. Such principles are lied down in the UN-Charter that denounces the recourse to violence and war. Such principles are lied down in the International Convention on Human Rights of 1948 and the follow up Covenants. These principles must be referred to as an entity and not used selectively to single out certain groups or countries in the Southern Hemisphere or on their way to development.

Let us repeat it, even if the wording may sound like ashes in our mouth: War is the greatest plague and the greatest violater of women’s rights.

Human Rights and women’s rights must not be misused as an instrument to reintroduce the right to war. The recourse to military defense is legally limited to selfdefense and rightfully so. Questionable concepts like the „Responsibility to Protect“ serve as pretext to intervene militarily in the affairs of sovereign nations. Let us no longer accept such misuse of human feelings.

Commemorating the legacy of 100 years of warfare, we must recall the spirit and the text of the UN-Charter in its entity. We must not be sidetracked on minor issues, designed to confuse us and to split our hearts and minds.

Let us build programs for an enduring peace. Let us organize to overcome the profit based system eventually.

  • Lets us work together and defend international law, beginning with the UN Charter.
  • Lets us cooperate for regional zones of peace stripped of WMDS
  • Let us say no to military interventions under what pretext there might be
  • Let us reject terrorism no matter under what label it might come along
  • Let us make use of good old slogans such as „FEED THE CITIES NOT THE PENTAGON“
  • Let us develop WOMEN’S BUDGET again
  • Let us „Listen to Women for a Change“
  • Let us work hand in hand, women and men united for Peace
  • Let us educate each other and dig deep into historical research in order to understand why the war machine has not been stopped yet.

 

Suggestions from Irene Eckert, board member of „Working Circle for Peace Policy – Nuclear Free Europe.r.a.“, Member of WILPF/Germany, retired teacher of history and political science.
February 18th 2014

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