Peace groups view summit. European groups hope to reclaim lost identity
(Page 2 of 2)
``The new understanding throughout this country about the links between poverty and deprivation at home and abroad and the arms race is opening up all kinds of new perspectives,'' says Monseigneur Bruce Kent of Britain's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Many peace movement leaders believe that the movement has lost its way because it concentrated on the missile issue, while not paying enough attention to influencing national foreign policy or opposing membership in NATO.
Joy Hurcombe, a vice-chairman of the British peace group, has been quoted as saying that there is a limit to how much people are willing to be frightened by nuclear weapons. ``You have to raise arguments about NATO,'' she said.
Many peace activists have also been trying to focus public attention on the role European countries, caught in the firing-line between the two superpowers, can play in influencing American and Soviet leaders -- but haven't so far.
``The smaller countries, especially, have not done enough,'' says Pierre Galand, president of the Belgian National Action Committee for for Peace and Development. Last month the committee organized a demonstration in Brussels using the slogan, ``Disarm in order to develop.''
Also last month, the British disarmament campaign organized an antinuclear march through downtown London (attended by about 100,000) emphasizing, in their words, ``Britain's crucial role in leading the world back from the brink of nuclear destruction.'' Campaign leaders have said that this role could be their country's ``post-colonial mission in life.''
Not surprisingly, among the new targets of the pacifists in recent months has been the Reagan administration's multi-billion dollar research program into a space-based defense system -- the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), commonly known as ``star wars.''
A British group, the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Advertising Campaign, took out at full-page advertisement in the Guardian newspaper earlier this month, arguing that SDI ``proposes a further immense increment of weaponry -- not, as Mr. Reagan originally claimed, to remove the nuclear threat, but to strengthen it.''
And in Belgium, the committee for peace and development is actively campaigning against the government's expected decision to support Belgian participation in the US program.
But there does not appear to be any pan-European strategy aimed at capitalizing on the SDI question as a way of reenergizing the European peace movement -- at least for the time being.
Similarly, there has been no coordinated, or even uncoordinated, attempt by the movement to become involved in the presummit arms control parrying undertaken by the US and the Soviet Union with such flair in recent weeks. This stems in part from the movement's deep-seated cynicism about superpower sincerity, and also from a refusal to become entangled in what one leader called ``the numbers game.''
What is certain is that the peace movement will have to begin to define more precisely its aims and strategy in the ``post-missile'' era in order to avoid losing public opinion to pro-NATO opinion-makers, particularly those who argue that the arms race is not the fault of the West but of the Soviet Union.
In fact, Belgian and Dutch prime ministers Wilfried Martens and Ruud Lubbers were so confident that opinion had already swung in that direction, they both insisted earlier this year that their thinking on missile deployment would not be affected by public opinion.
Even Lord Carrington, the NATO secretary-general, has seen fit to try to exploit the rudderless image the peace movement is projecting.
``I find that antinuclear campaigners are rather better at publicizing what everyone knows, than at explaining precisely what their policy is, and why we should assume it to involve less risk than the overall policy we have,'' he said recently. ``We need to consider what is likely to help the negotiating process [in Geneva] and what is not.''
No one believes, however, that the European peace movement, while dazed, is out for the count.
Said Mr. Faber of the Dutch peace group, conceding the movement had suffered a defeat in the deployment of the NATO missiles in Western Europe: ``It's the end of a chapter in a long book. But it's not the end of the book.''