5th September 2014
Louis and Paddy’s report from the Alternative Summit
An international panel addressed an audience of several hundred. Speakers from USA Russia Germany France England Wales and Ireland [see programme for names and credentials]
After being underwhelmed by the visible security outside the building- a few cheerful police persons in becoming pale blue caps and flak jackets-we arrived in the hall as the USA speaker was finishing – people wandered in and out – the foyer was filled with tables with literature for various peace/anti-war groups from UK and Europe in English French and German.
This diversity was addressed by many of the speakers, and while all groups were welcomed, the consensus seemed to be that it was time for an international, unified front for the peace movement. It was felt that the largely left leaning demographic needed to reach out to the ‘middle ground’ population, to young people, and that the diversity of groups and approaches were confusing and probably discouraged engagement. It was felt that the unions in the UK could be more pro-active, as they are in Germany and Japan. Japan has a strong anti-nuclear lobby [not surprisingly].
It was noted that opinion polls showed more people than ever before were anti-war, but that the peace movement was not gaining ground even so. There was a positive nostalgia for 2003, seen as the high point for the movement because of the sheer number of people who turned out for the march before the second Iraq war, and because they were not just the ‘usual suspects’, but a wide variety of people, many of whom had never protested before.
Maybe we lost ground in the peace movement because it seemed that world wide demonstrations had had no effect on the steam roller of the military industrial complex. But it was generally agreed that the world was becoming more dangerous than at any time since before WW1.
The history of NATO was explained, the way an alliance for defence had turned into a war machine. So now NATO is casting around for enemies to support the arms trade, while calling themselves partners for peace.
There is the proposal to invite in 33 countries as associate members, on the basis that if one is threatened NATO is obliged to wade in to the attack, to defend them…
We nee to look at the causes of war, to alleviate global poverty. We need a culture of peace. Austerity/global poverty and increasing spending on arms – absurdly large stockpiles – nuclear and otherwise will never make us secure’
We need to redefine ‘security’
We need to keep up the pressure on the streets or ‘they’ will put up even more steel fences. The peace movement, with all the fractures and failings large and small – unions not involved, young people not engaged, the ‘usual suspects’ turning up and getting ever better at in-fighting – is all we’ve got. WE MORE THAN EVER NEED A VISION – our voices need to be heard.
It was suggested a unified peace movement needed active local ‘cells’, well we have one in BEPJ. I found talking to people in Cardigan on Saturday less of a hiding to nothing than I expected; passers by were in the main receptive to the idea that everyone should be talking/thinking about the issues around NATO and war.
What I learnt at the alternative conference in Cardiff horrified me, and I’m already one of the converted. Facts and figures from the workshop I went to on science and militarism [which was actually about the extent to which military aims and financial control have infiltrated technological research and development in public institutions ] will be available shortly.
The other main event from me was sight of the steel barriers and armed police that our so-called ‘protectors’ need to keep them safe from the general public. The most ironic, in my view, was the huge steel fence around Cardiff castle; protection for protection – I thought hundred foot high, yards-thick stone walls with arrow slits were protective …oh well, what do I know? And Cardiff Bay is full of battle ships …further up the channel towards Newport, President Obama is staying on his battle ship, rather at than the Celtic Manor, all that security on land and he won’t even sleep there. Perhaps it’s just that American coffee is better, and he needs his grits for breakfast.