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An Expelled East German Dissident Explains the Peace Movement (July 21, 1983)

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What role does the call for unilateral disarmament play for [all of] you in the GDR?

There are different opinions. I personally think that disarmament has to occur on both sides, but you have to set an example at each step along the way; you have to take measures that make the other side follow suit.

Would you make this demand in the GDR? Even though you have a very clear position on NATO’s attempt to catch up in the arms race?

Yes, you have to take steps that set an example. All the calculations about weapons potential is nonsense; that’s why I don’t pay too much attention to balancing one side against the other. I don’t regard the talks in Geneva as senseless but rather as fruitless. For that reason, disarmament that cuts across blocs and proceeds from the bottom up is becoming more and more important, and ways to achieve this need to be found. That’s where the exchange of ideas is important, as is the willingness of individuals to adopt a stance of resistance. Those in power in the East and West have no interest in disarmament. The one earns his profits in the armaments industry; the other needs militarism and armaments to maintain the power structures. Not only power for power’s sake in a psychological sense, but also in a concrete, material sense, since everyone here is anchored in this military system. The officers or those who have good positions in the arms industry are earning well. They’re making profits – in a different way than in capitalism, namely, through their position in the hierarchy of the system. The officer, the general who carries the sword, golden and gleaming, and who has a good life – he’s not eager to pull a ploughshare and sweat. That’s why he won’t support the slogan: swords to ploughshares.

This is why the peace movement always has to be driven forward from the grass roots. People have to refuse to go along with the system. Put in a totally naïve way: there won’t be any missiles if no missiles are produced. And who produces them? Workers. That’s where we have to start, and there I think the question of unilateral disarmament is good. To start unilaterally with yourself: don’t go to the army, don’t produce armaments or [war] toys, contribute to teaching peace, starting with very simple things. Wars cannot be prevented by preparing for them, but rather by teaching peace.

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