Antimilitarism in Action

In September 2012 an antimilitarist action week took place in Germany – an evaluation

The idea of the action week arose from a small group during the 'PAXX (Peace) Action Conference' - an open meeting of antimilitarists – in March 2012 in Mannheim, and was originally related to the sector 'Bundeswehr (the German army) in schools'. Because of the high interest and the request of initiatives of the civil clause movement, the topic was shortly afterwards completed with the sector 'Military and armament research in colleges'. All the proposals were taken up and from September 24 to 29 the action week 'Für militärfreie Bildung und Forschung' (For Military-Free Education and Research) took place. The coordination of the action week, i.e. organisation and dispatch of a nationwide leaflet and maintenance of the action webpage was concentrated in the state of Baden-Württemberg and was taken over by the campaign 'Schulfrei für die Bundeswehr Baden-Württemberg' (No school for the Bundeswehr Baden-Württemberg).

Shortly after the start of the mobilisation many groups around the country replied in order to support the decentralised action week. The week was supported by over one hundred groups and organisations, including peace groups, student representations, youth organisations of parties, the biggest German education trade union GEW (Trade Union of Education and Science) and the children’s rights organisation Terre des Hommes.

Actions

The individual groups were responsible for the actions – they were only supported with materials and action ideas found on the central network website for the action week (http://www.antimilaktionswoche.wordpress.com). So as well as many information lectures and podium discussions different creative actions also took place in many towns. Here are some examples:

In Sinsheim some activists visited the booth of the Bundeswehr at a job fair. There they drew attention to the dangers of the job of a soldier with leaflets, a banner and a 'die-in' in which they pretended to be dead and were covered by a sheet smeared with fake blood.

In Heilbronn some antimilitarists informed the public about the offensive publicity of the German army with an information desk and some notice boards in the city centre. Moreover the letters of the Bundeswehr on the floor were symbolically swept away.

In Cologne there were leaflets with a fictitous medication 'Antimilitarin' (chocolate balls) – handed out to pupils in front of a school in order to 'immunise' them against military propaganda. In addition, an antimilitarist cycle tour took place in the city.

In Stuttgart the building of the Ministry of Education was pasted with posters with the inscription 'Bundeswehr raus aus Bildungseinrichtungen' (Bundeswehr out of Education Institutions). The action was primarily directed against the cooperation agreement between the army and the Ministry of Education in Baden-Württemberg as well as in seven other German states which makes the access to schools easier for the Bundeswehr.

In Kaiserslautern some antimilitarists handed out leaflets at a publicity event of Bundeswehr reservists.

In Berlin nearly 4.000 leaflets were handed out to pupils in front of 19 schools during the action week. A small rally also took place.

In Hamburg already two days before the beginning of the action week some fake blood was poured onto the stairs in front of a job fair in which the Bundeswehr was campaigning. Moreover, some peace activists used a banner to express their call for military-free job fairs.

In Bochum, two weeks prior to the action week, some activists took the opportunity to use an army information desk at a job fair for extensive protests. With an information desk in front of the fair, banners and a coffin the young fair visitors were informed about the negative aspects of a career as a soldier.

By pure chance a public scandal about army publicity arose during the action week: the Bundeswehr has been organising holiday camps for young persons for years and cooperates for that with the biggest German youth magazine, BRAVO, which specifies its readership as ten years and older. The propagandistic Bundeswehr publicity for the camps on the internet sites of BRAVO led to an online protest action by Terre des Hommes which received a lot of public attention, including the evening news on television. Furthermore, some antimilitarists quickly established a Facebook group on which it was possible to get more information about the BRAVO-Bundeswehr collaborations, to discuss the issues, and to send protest emails to the Ministry of Defence and BRAVO.

Conclusion

In the view of the initiators, the action week, which at first was seen as an experiment for nationwide networking and cooperation, met all expectations. The long list of supporters and the quantity, variety and creativity of actions which took place demonstrated its success – although more actions would have been possible. Nevertheless the week gave a new impetus to the movement and encouraged small peace groups in particular to develop activities. It is true that the press work could have been better, but there was some resonance about the action week in the media – especially about the scandal concerning BRAVO.
The participants wish to repeat such an action week for military free education and research and maybe even to organise it regularly in order to put the politicians under more pressure and to problematise and discuss the topic again in public. For this to happen, more preparation time and better support for the groups on site would be required – e.g. materials and a pool of speakers. Any future action weeks would need to be held at a time suitable for schools and universities, i.e. not during holidays. Furthermore a coordination group with people from different areas nationwide would be useful.
The nationwide antimilitarist action week from 24-29 September 2012 was a success. However, it can only be one step on the road to military-free education and research – more must absolutely follow!

Lena Sachs and Michael Schulze von Glaßer

Translation: Achim Schmitz

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