Effective Pacifism (Über wirkungsvollen Pazifismus)


Free. I suppose that means: set free. Ferdinand Hardekopf

The mother who, about twenty years from now, will cry over the curled up dead body of a little child, next to the tube of a useless oxygen bottle and an apologetic doctor, who says, “We are currently powerless against this poisonous gas, madam. Your child is not the only victim in this town.” This mother is surely entitled to ask, in reflective moments, where the notorious pacifism has been for the last twenty years. Didn’t we do anything? Is there no war against war? Pacifism is indeed absurdly overestimated by the murderous states. If it were half as dangerous and effective as its opponents believe, we would have reason to be proud. But where are we at the moment?

The historical and theoretical understanding of the anarchical relations between states is quite advanced. The peace associations of various countries, the inofficial teachers of the constitution, theorists of all levels, are working on the difficult task of showing where the real anarchy is located. The true state of the world is slowly being revealed. The state, until recently the subject and idol and the measure of all things, has now become the pitiful object of an embarrassing investigation. It has to put up with being called in question, right down to its foundations. The real causes of the war are becoming ever clearer, the economy and the dumb state of mind of the unenlightened and incited masses.

But what is completely absent, almost everywhere, is pacifist propaganda in everyday life, on the street, in the three-bedroomed house, in public places, pacifism as part of normality. We are present four or five times a year, at congresses, more often in meetings. And then everyone goes home, and life carries on. Life in this case is the official state ideology, which praises war, the cinema, which glorifies war, the newspapers, which dare not to tell the truth about war, the church, which calls men up to war (the protestant more than the cleverer catholic one), the school, which falsifies war into a bombastic panopticon, the university, which celebrates war. Everywhere, war.

The behaviour of those who suffered like beasts in the war, shows how far it goes. Nobody can accept that an entire phase of their existence was meaningless, He has to make sense of it. He can curse his suffering, or glorify it, try to suppress it, or keep it alive, but he cannot accept that it was meaningless. Pacifism missed the great opportunity which the end of the year 1918 gave it. We didn’t offer the millions who came home an emotional interpretation of their suffering. Had we acclaimed the cripples as victims of an idea, the vital element of human pride could have become a driving force for peace and the rejection of war. Our opponents have gathered up these born agents of pacifism.

The truly catholic cunning with which those whose health is severely damage, and the next lambs to the slaughter, are being worked upon, everywhere, for the next war, is astonishing, and the more so because nobody objects that the conclusion is hidden in the assumptions in this official propaganda. No doubt is ever uttered that war is useful, ethically good, to be affirmed, and altogether praiseworthy. Only the form in which one should submit to it is discussed. The scandal is the same everywhere: the militant American Legion, a nasty reactionary bunch of warmongers, parades in public places in America. In Germany, the Kyffhäuser[1] associations bask in the glory of the favour of defeated generals. In France they are now unveiling war memorials to atrocities which were correctly abhorred at the time. And however different the nuances are, the underlying attitude is the same. It is just one step from the hocus pocus of the gratitude which we owe to our dear, valued, blessed, and luckily mute, fallen heroes, to the next war. This is just a promotion campaign, and I think we should throw a spanner in the works

The one catholic church knows that one can only achieve great success through work at the grass-roots. The nationalists in all countries have got the message. Only we pacifists don’t get it. Mobilization is only possible when every puttee is within reach, on the shelf, and the mood is prepared such that a whistled up bunch of journalists can mobilize hearts and minds within four days. When all that one hears for twenty years is that one owes the state obedience, life, and taxes, although there is more to be said about those, one jumps obediently when the trumpet sounds. On 1st August 1914, it was too late for either pacifist or militarist propaganda. The militarists just reaped what they had sown in the previous two hundred years. We need to sow.

Every psychologist knows that it is hard to overcome the threshold of resistance which has been trained into the soul of an individual. Theoretical texts and discussions about the pacifist concept of the state are absolutely necessary, but they are completely ineffectual if they are not translated into the terminology, concepts and daily life of individuals. As there is no state for which it is worth dying, and certainly no question of prestige between these megalomaniac organizational units, they must be fought, conquered and put down, symbol for symbol, external sign for external sign, monument for monument. There is no pacifist war memorial, which would be the only way to commemorate the victims who were murdered for a piece of mud. There are only vague demands to follow the example of the involuntary members of this club, who were intoxicated and declared to be heroes. What the generals are doing today and have been doing, with their respectfully lowered swords, with flags and eternal gas flames, with uniforms and Hindenburg’s birthday celebrations, with regimental honours and films, is the worst poison. Let’s decontaminate.

But one can’t do that if one is always on the defensive, as most pacifists unfortunately are. „One must give the people time“, and, „We are also good citizens.” I believe that one makes more progress by telling the truth: that none of us wants to die, and certainly not for such a cause. That soldiers, those professional murderers, flee forwards. That nobody can be forced to obey the call-up, so we must first overcome the emotional obsession which makes people believe that they have no choice but to fall-in when the bugle sounds. One doesn’t have to at all. It is a simple, primitive, great truth that one can also stay at home. And one need not just stay at home. How much to sabotage is a practical group decision, depending on the moment and the circumstances, not a theoretical one, but that there is a right to resist, a right to sabotage against the most infamous kind of murder, that performed under duress, is beyond doubt, but, unfortunately, also beyond the scope of the so desperately needed pacificist propaganda. One makes no impression on the wolf by bleating with the patience of a lamb.

And we are not just too few fighters for peace, we are also much too abstract, much too superior, much too theoretical. We must focus on the smallest unit, the family, the women and the parish. The Locarno Treaties[2], the interparliamentary conferences, and the League of Nations were always regarded sceptically here, because the unveiling of a war memorial, the exploitation of school children to demonstrate immoral ideas, American war films, which are made for the whole world, and are applauded by the whole world, to different tunes, have more effect than any number of speeches in ceremonial halls. The goodwill of Herr Löbe[3], the lack of will of Herr Breitscheid[4] and the bad will of certain French socialists, have no effect. But a road block, pictures in magazines, films, sermons, and days off school, they have an effect. We are a long way from penetrating the only places where we can have an effect: into the farms, the workshops, the school classroom, the office, and the family. And why not? Because we don’t speak the language of the people.

To have one‘s propaganda understood, one must simplify and condense, accentuate and exaggerate. One must be clear and simple, and understandable by all. Here, and here only can peace be mobilized. We know the dominant state of mind in all countries in the first frenzy of war. One has to recall it, understand it exactly, and fight it. Prophesy: this is how it will be. You will be forced to perform your so-called patriotic duty, which is null and void, and damnable. Don’t obey. They will tell you that the enemy is over there, he’s not, he’s here. They will tell you that all Latvians, Swedes, Czechs or Frenchman are villains, but it’s those who say it who are. You don’t owe the state your life. You don’t owe the state your life. You don’t owe the state your life.

And the flag which is waving in the wind over there, is waving over a mutilated corpse. And if you lose an eye, you will get either nothing at all, or sixteen marks eighty per month. And every shot you have to fire adds to the profits of a corporation. And you struggle through the muddy streets and pull on your gas masks, but you don’t even harvest the fruit of your suffering. And the real bravery, the real manly courage, the decent idealism of good faith, they are wasted, and wither. One can put the most ethical virtues at the service of an unethical cause. One can make sacrifices, go without, starve, keep a stiff upper lip, have patience, persevere, all for an unethical cause. And the misled and lied to mobilize their most primitive traits, the barbaric ones.

Shall we advance? Shall we say that to the people? Shall we free them from the fixed idea of the state which has no right to dispose of them, but claims this right for itself by falsifying religion, ethics, history and legal principles? I consider grass-roots work, such as Das Andere Deutschland[5] in Hagen for more valuable, more effective, and more powerful than the activities of entire peace associations preaching to the converted. Who ‚has‘ the so-called ‚neutrals‘, the indifferent, the businessman, the clerk, the nobody? The others, not we. That is our mistake. What good is propaganda that always has a guilty conscience? But there are a few basic principles of pacifist activism which require no further discussion. They are:

Any commemoration of the fallen, or murdered, without a clear repudiation of the concept of war is a moral disgrace and a crime against the next generation. There is no national frontier which can prevent the fraternization with the like-minded. One would need to be an official German freemason, one of those who deny the existence of the a concept of humanity, one would need to be a priest or German university professor, to be able to believe that ethics stop in Saarbrücken[6] or Herbesthal[7]. That’s where they start! To shirk wherever you can in wartime, as I and hundreds of my friends did, is an individual right . Celebrating military pageants is advertizing for the next war. One either turns away from this stuff or actively opposes it. Even approving spectators are support. That’s how hundreds of thousands think, but they say nothing.

I remember how, in the pub after listening to a wild tirade by an upstanding lawyer who discharged his patriotism in the Reichsbanner[8], someone said, “Wrobel is right, isn’t he?” There was an embarrassed silence, and then everyone agreed that yes, but, „ One really can’t say so.” One can say so, in fact, one must say so. I neither discovered this attitude nor do I believe that its formulation is a particular intellectual achievement. But it is so bitterly necessary, and so little done, to say the simple truth, the most simple thing that any mother who is not full of hate should understand, to say what any child can grasp. The speeches of ministers have no national political significance for me if, while they are speaking, the war ministers are behaving like madmen, unceasingly dedicating their advertizing memorials, in which they endlessly honour the murdered murderers and appealing to the lowest of all human emotions, the herd instinct, which cries, “Me too! Me too! Me too!” when the columns march past.

This is where our propaganda has to start. Here is where we have to explain by all means, including, it goes without saying, forbidden ones, the real nature of the state, the structure of society, where the real borders are, in Europe and elsewhere, and how the life of even the last Field Marshall is too valuable to waste even a single bullet, blow of a sword or transgressing against an ancient law on it.

Published in:

WeltbühneReader Weltbühne Reader

[1] Nationalist student fraternity association, whose name refers to a national myth about Kaiser Friedrich Barbarossa. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyffh%C3%A4user_Monument.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locarno_Treaties

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_L%C3%B6be

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolf_Breitscheid

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Das_Andere_Deutschland

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saarbr%C3%BCcken

[7] Town on the border between Prussia and Belgium at the time of the First World War

[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reichsbanner_Schwarz-Rot-Gold

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