Polish crisis foils German peace groups
The martial law clampdown in Poland has pulled the rug out from under West Germany's peace movement.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The peace movement's campaign against the stationing of new US nuclear missiles in Europe may, as a result, have suffered a setback (at least temporarily).
''There's no doubt that the Polish situation has created a crisis in the peace movement, especially for those groups which launched one-sided attacks on Western rearmament,'' said Christoph Bickmann of the ecologist movement, the Green Party.
Polish events have robbed the coalition of pacifists, leftists, ecologists, and neutralists of some of its most appealing arguments. The coalition had argued that the peace campaign is a pan-European disarmament and ''emancipation'' movement against the superpowers. Solidarity and pacifist stirrings in the East German Lutheran Church were cited as signs of this.
The peace movement had also claimed that the greatest danger to peace comes from the hawks in Washington, not from the careful, gray old men in the Kremlin.
NATO diplomats said the Polish events were the last of three blows against the peace movement that have come in rapid succession: 1. President Reagan's Nov. 18 speech, adopting the European idea of a zero option solution whereby NATO would forego the stationing of cruise and Pershing II missiles if the Soviets scrapped their SS-20 missiles.
2. The start of the US-Soviet talks in Geneva on curbs on medium-range nuclear arms.
3. Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski's martial law.
Though the Polish crisis has weakened the peace movement, making it look more like a single-issue lobby group and less like a catch-all movement for the politically disaffected, diplomats warn it is far too early to write the campaigners off.
''It is always assumed that a Soviet invasion of Poland would sink the peace movement and guarantee deployment of the missiles. But it's still a long time till the first missiles go in late 1983 and people have short memories,'' said one Western defense expert.
He noted that Washington had opened the first SALT talks with the Soviet Union within a year of Warsaw Pact troops marching into Czechoslovakia in August 1968 to crush Alexander Dubcek's experiment in ''socialism with a human face.''
If the situation in Poland returns to a semblance of normality, the effects of the present crisis could soon wear off and the peace campaigners return to the stridency of last year, when they rallied almost 300,000 people in Bonn for West Germany's biggest postwar demonstration, the diplomats say.
Analysts add that the peace campaigners could recover some of their appeal if the United States steps up arm-twisting on European allies to punish Moscow and Warsaw with tough sanctions. West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt's stubborn resistance of such moves seems to have won him grudging respect in the grass roots of the peace movement.
Other Reagan administration decisions, possibly on chemical weapons or in renewed pressure on hard-pressed Europeans to carry more of the cost of Western defense, could also spur new pacifist feeling.
At the same time German public attention has shifted from the tough tones of the Reagan administration to the tough tones of Polish Prime Minister Jaruzelski.
Nobel laureate Heinrich Boll, the peace movement's literary conscience, was quick to denounce Army rule in Warsaw. He aimed some of his sharpest barbs at the weak-kneed response of much of the West German left, saying they had failed to ''recognize the moral issues at stake.''
But other spokesmen of the peace movement, notably Social Democrat Erhard Eppler, the political guru of unilateral disarmament here, have sought to play down the Polish crisis and even use it to press their themes with greater urgency. They propound three main arguments:
* Martial law in Poland is no worse than military rule in NATO-partner Turkey , let alone what they see as US-backed barbarism in El Salvador or Guatemala.
* The Reagan administration is trying to exploit the Polish crisis to fuel a new cold war with sanctions and threats designed not to help suffering Poles but to whip reluctant European allies into line.
* Preventing a new escalation of the East-West arms race is more important now, in this time of renewed European tension, than ever before.
Some of the peace movement's supporters in the news media have gone further still. Henri Nannen, publisher of Stern magazine, wrote in an editorial denouncing the alleged ''hypocrisy'' of conservative passions over Poland, that Solidarity had forced the crisis on an unwilling Polish government by trying to seize power.
If the same thing happened in West Germany, Nannen declared, the United States would intervene militarily, using its powers as a victorious World War II ally.
And Rudolf Augstein, the editor of the influential weekly Der Spiegel, raised the suspicion that Mr. Reagan secretly hoped the Russians would march into Poland so that Bonn's carefully nurtured detente policy could be laid to rest once and for all.
Pacifists are now in a dilemma as to whether to join arch-conservatives like Franz Josef Strauss, the Bavarian premier, in torchlight parades for Solidarity, or whether to stay home and wait for the crisis to pass.
Meanwhile, resistance to the 108 Pershing II and 96 cruise missiles West Germany is due to deploy is so fanatical in some leftist groups that the first signs of stationing could lead to civil disobedience and possibly violence.
But Poland will continue to haunt the peace movement for the foreseeable future. ''It hangs over our heads like a sword of Damocles,'' Mr. Bickmann said.