Judging impact of peace movements
Mient Jan Faber, a giant of a man, is a spellbinder before an audience. He is the secretary-general of the nuclear pacifist Interchurch Peace Council (IKV) - and, quite a few Dutchmen think, a future leader of the Labor Party.Skip to next paragraph
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In a conversation in a cluttered IKV headquarters at Anna Paulowna Square, he considers why the Dutch peace movement has had the greatest political impact within its country of the European peace movements:
''It has something to do with the way we more or less succeed in combining moral issues and practical issues. . . . Many ordinary people judge the problems in particular in moral terms. They can take part in our campaign because their approach is seen [by us] as very valuable.
''But on the other hand, we also try to bring together parliamentarians, to hold [policy] discussions in the ministries and confront (officials) with what is going on on the popular level. So we have a fairly steady, ongoing way of trying to close the gap between what ordinary people say and their emotions and . . . strategic discussions.''
Mr. Faber continues: ''That has something to do with the kind of organization we are. We are in the middle of the church. We are in the middle of society. We have links with [officials].''
Despite these links, will the center-right government succeed next summer in its efforts to get parliamentary approval of initial preparations for new missile deployments in the Netherlands in 1986?
''You could say we have a 50 percent chance of stopping it,'' replies Nico van Arkel, a draft-age conscientious objector who is doing his alternative service at IKV. ''But even if they decide to deploy in June of next year, factual deployment is only in 1986 in the Netherlands. But just before that we have elections, in which the antimissile Labor Party is now expected to gain seats. The electoral process might thus still reject the missiles.''
The Netherlands is the one deploying country that might go back on the unanimous 1979 NATO decision to station new Euromissiles in the mid-'80s.
If the Netherlands reneges, the primary credit for the policy switch will have to go to IKV. The Dutch peace movement has had far more impact on public opinion than any of its fellow organizations in Western Europe, and it is far better integrated into existing institutions - the churches, trade unions, and political parties.
This has enabled IKV to block successive governments from pinning down parliamentary approval for the planned cruise missiles. Should the Labor Party again inherit the government in Holland's shifting coalitions, this absence of a final ''yes'' would become a final ''no.''
IKV's considerable influence results from several specifically Dutch factors, including a strong moral (or moralistic) tradition in public policy, the homogeneity of a small country, a left-leaning postwar consensus, the multiplicity of Dutch political parties, and a postwar democratization of foreign policy that has brought security decisions into the public marketplace.
When IKV turned from third-world concerns to stress nuclear pacifism in the late 1970s, it found the Dutch political system quite responsive.