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The Peace Movement and German Foreign Policy (October 19, 1981)

In the following essay, Alfred Grosser, a French political scientist and expert on German affairs, examines the origins and motivations of the West German peace movement, which he interprets as part of a broader “not with us” attitude that was evident in the country’s foreign policy. This article first appeared in the Paris daily Le Monde.

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“This Crisis is the Most Serious One of All”

French political science professor Alfred Grosser, 56, is among the most knowledgeable experts on Germany. The following article was taken from the Paris daily “Le Monde.”

It might well be that Helmut Schmidt remains chancellor until the 1984 elections. But it could also be that he soon falls – either to the right or to the left. To the left would mean that his liberal allies let him down because the government’s social policy was too lax and the budget policy not restrictive enough. To the right would mean that his own party let him down on account of military policy.

It cannot be ruled out that the pacifists and the CDU opposition will triumph at the same time; this would lead to an explosive situation. At the moment, though, most of the attention is being directed at the schism between the demonstrators in Bonn and the totality of the three parliamentary parties.

The most reliable ally of the United States within the alliance has become the country with the liveliest anti-Americanism. The country in which neither reunification nor Europe were primary concerns, but rather security, has become a country in which the “not with us” attitude and the refusal to view foreign policy from the perspective of defense seem to be triumphant. What a surprise!

Nevertheless, two constant factors, which could serve to explain the turnaround to a great extent, cannot be ignored.

First of all, the [West German] relationship to the past is very different from the French one. When François Mitterrand said at his press conference: “France does not confuse pacifism as a postulate with peace as a result,” hardly anyone contradicted him: this was because of 1938, when France and England capitulated in Munich because they were weak*; and because they were pacifists, they got war.

In the Federal Republic, the two comparisons are 1939, the start of the war, and 1945, the catastrophe, the dead and the ruins that resulted. If so many Germans are demonstrating now for the idea of peace, then it is partly because so many Germans had once been stirred to cheer the war.

Furthermore, there is the continuation of a movement that started in 1950 with the announcement of rearmament, an announcement that surprised an entire generation – a generation that was convinced that militarism must be atoned for with anti-militarism.

* In the Munich Agreement (September 1938), France and England allowed Germany to take the Sudetenland, in an attempt to avoid war with Hitler. Hitler violated the agreement the following March by seizing the rest of Czechoslovakia – trans.

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