European peace protesters, buoyed by weekend marches, aim to keep momentum
Buoyed by the success of their weekend demonstrations, leaders of West Germany's self-styled ''peace movement'' plan to maintain the momentum of their antimissile protests until at least the middle of December.Skip to next paragraph
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The leaders admit that a majority of the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, probably will support the deployment of United States Pershing II and cruise missiles when the assembly votes on the issue on Nov. 21.
But protest leaders want to make it impossible for the 497 deputies to claim they had to submit to party discipline. Instead, they plan to hold each ''personally responsible'' for his or her vote.
They called for another ''national day of protest'' on Nov. 21, and for the picketing of the offices of deputies until then. Protests will continue, they said, even after deployment begins, and they suggested that Dec. 12, the anniversary of the 1979 NATO decision to deploy, be treated as ''a day of national resistance.''
The antimissile movement both lost and gained points during the last week. It lost points when attempts to blockade the huge US Air Force base at Ramstein and the West German Ministry of Defense in Bonn failed because too few participated.
But the movement gained tremendous prestige on Saturday, when some 1 million men and women took part in central antimissile rallies in West Berlin, Hamburg, Bonn, Neu Ulm, and Stuttgart, all timed to coincide with similar rallies in London, Rome, Paris, Vienna, Stockholm, the United States, and Canada.
(Reuters reports that crowds in London were estimated at 200,000 to 400,000. Organizers claimed the biggest-ever turnout for a British peace march.)
Except for an incident in Hamburg after the main rally there ended, all of those in West Germany were peaceful, although official spokesmen had earlier made dire predictions of serious violence.
Author Heinrich Boll, winner of the Nobel prize for literature in 1972, opened the rally in Bonn's central park, which some 300,000 persons attended. He recalled that only two years ago, participants at a similar rally in the same place had been considered ''a suspicious and contemptible minority.''
But since then, the antimissile movement has elected its own party - the environmentalist Greens - to parliament with 5 percent of the national vote.
The question now is whether the leaders can keep the antimissile movement going peacefully after Nov. 21. Some fear the movement could turn violent, since radical, autonomous groups have insisted that only spontaneous, unannounced, and violent protests have a chance of effecting a policy change.
But last weekend, except for Hamburg, such ''autonomous groups'' were nowhere to be seen.
Monitor contributor Janet Stobart reports from Rome: By the time half a million peace protesters had dispersed from Rome's peace demonstration Saturday evening, they left a global view of Italy's myriad peace movements.
Pluralism, so characteristic of Italian life and politics, is also present when it comes to Italian stands on peace. Participants ranged from the major organizing force, the Communist Party, to pacifist groups in the Roman Catholic Church.
As the three-mile-long army of peace marchers snaked through central Rome, protest groups formed outside the United States and Soviet embassies.
But the march was notable for those who did not participate. All five parties in Italy's coalition government officially abstained from supporting the march. ''The left is here, the only one missing is the PSI (the Italian Socialist Party),'' a Communist slogan proclaimed.
Also absent was the vociferous noncommunist leftist group, the Radical Party, which abandoned the Rome march in favor of an unsuccessful attempt to conduct its own peace march in Czechoslovakia. The Radicals advocate disarmament in the East as well as the West.
On winding up his recent official visit to the US, Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi alluded to the ''certain dissidence and complexity'' of the Italian peace movements, whose activities have so far not hindered the installation of missile bases in Comiso, Sicily.
While a group of peace marchers from Comiso headed Saturday's march with a warning banner: ''Comiso does not want to become another Hiroshima,'' the mayor of Comiso stayed home. He is aware of the jobs and income the influx of American families and missiles may give Comiso's underemployed population.
Thus despite the growing antagonism of Italians against installation of missile bases - 58 percent are against them, according to an opinion poll carried out by the weekly magazine Panorama - there seems to be as yet no satisfactory organized outlet.
The Communist Party is the major organizer, which makes the rest of noncommunist Italy suspicious or unwilling to associate with peace movements. Catholic groups lack the support of the Catholic Church hierarchy for that very reason.