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Bundestag Debate on Nuclear Arms Buildup (October 10, 1981)

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The opposition leader continued that he found it almost inconceivable that Brandt tried to give the impression in his speech that the incompatibility resolution, prohibiting cooperation between Social Democrats and communists, did not apply to the demonstration on Saturday, although presumably ten thousand or more SPD members or supporters would be participating. One had to keep in mind that SPD presidium member [Erhard] Eppler and FDP executive committee member [William] Borm would be speaking at the demonstration and that the policies they were demanding would lead to freezing the military superiority of the Soviet Union. If the Federal Republic retracted the NATO dual-track decision, as demonstration organizers demanded, this would essentially target the basis of the Federal Republic’s membership in NATO and would question the very foundation of the Federal Republic that had been built up over the last thirty years. It would have been Brandt’s duty, Kohl said, in the spirit of Kurt Schumacher, to offer clarity here instead of dismissing the participation of the communists, in contrast to the federal chancellor, who issued clear words of condemnation.

“Goodwill is unfortunately not enough to change the world. If that’s what you want, then you have to bend over really far . . . , because the stones and obstacles that have to be moved in order to change the world are down there.” That’s how Schmidt quoted his deceased party colleague Carlo Schmid at the beginning of his talk. What Carlo Schmid said about the nuclear problematic in 1956 was still just as valid as ever, said Schmidt. He understands many people’s concern about peace and their search for “equations that divide exactly and leave no remainder.”

Being worried about peace is justified. He, too, had been afraid when talks between the two superpowers were discontinued after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But just having fear, he said, is not enough; it was also necessary to tackle the reasons behind it. This has been done; and when Moscow and Washington resumed negotiations today, the federal government did – “God knows” – its share. If he is prepared to take the youth seriously, Schmidt said, then he also expects the youth to take seriously the worries of “our generation” and its experiences, which include the disaster of the war. Fear could paralyze the ability of the Federal Republic to act, which is more necessary today than in the past. The federal chancellor let it be understood that he sees the demonstrators and their organization as endangering his ability to act as head of the government, because their actions threaten to crumble the foundation of his government’s domestic policy. “Is that the intention? Is that what the organizers want?” asked Schmidt. He said he had a hard time understanding that the demonstration’s organizers and speakers did not want to acknowledge the efforts of his government to secure peace. Without his efforts, he did not think the talks on intermediate-range weapons starting on November 30 would have come about.

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