Disarmament Campaigns

By Disarmament Campaigns | 1986-10-01 12:00:00

West German Referendum Campaign: The Political Fallout

A West German coalition of fifty individuals representing a broad spectrum of political, environmental, and peace organizations, plus several scientists and artists, has launched a signature campaign. The coalition's demand reads: "I want all nuclear power plants to be stopped. To reach this aim, I want a national referendum to be carried out... .Every citizen must give his or her vote. This vote must be legally binding..." The initiative demands that the Bundestag (parliament) legalize the referendum process, as there is currently no law in the FRG which allows a referendum. There has been interest throughout West European peace movements in the possible uses of referenda.

Lukas Beckmann, a West German Green Party Board spokesman and a member of the coalition, explains in the following interview why the two issues have been linked, and the consequences the campaign's success could have.

The signature campaign not only links two demands, but also unites two movements. The construction of the Wackersdorf nuclear reprocessing plant is considered the keystone in the nuclearization of West Germany. After the Chernobyl disaster both the German environmental and peace movements have focused on opposing construction.

Numerous demonstrations in the past months have taken place at Wackersdorf, as well as other nuclear power plants. This interview was conducted by Disarmament Campaigns staff member Klemens Gutmann.

KG: This initiative demands the closing of all nuclear power plants in West Germany. At the same time, it urges the parliament to legalize a referendum. One signature in support of two totally different demands.

LB: The initiative "Referendum Against nuclear Plants" is a necessary consequence of the experiences of the peace and environmental movements in post-war history. Again and again the majority's opinions about peace and environmental issues have not been respected by the government. We have to find the political means to help articulate this resistance to the proliferation of the nuclear state. The referendum is one such democratic means. So we formed this coordinating group of people from a broad spectrum of non-parliamentarian movements.

KG: What are the details?

LB: The initiative urges the government to make a law which would enable the public to decide the fate of nuclear power plants. The choice of a referendum, or a petition for a referendum, does exist at the state level but not at the federal level. (There are eleven states within the ERG.) In the past two referendums, the Petition for a Referendum for Peace (see the Disarmament Campaigns No.50) and the petition against Wackersdorf were rejected by the courts. They said both issues were matters under federal authority. So we need a legal means, a referendum. This initiative is a real people's petition. A referendum is possible according to Article 20 of the Constitution, which states that the people can express their will directly by voting. We are urging the government to pass a law for a referendum as soon as one million signatures are collected.

KG: What was the main impetus for the initiative?

LB: It is the result of the last decade's experiences where there had been, especially in the new peace movement, intensive discussion about expanding democratic tools. For example, in February 1986 the peace movement's Action Conference decided to include in its campaign platform the demand for a referendum at the federal level.

Chernobyl has certainly caused a lot of discussion in the ERG which favors this initiative. The necessity for a referendum becomes clear when you look at the sometimes bloody fights between police and demonstrators at Wackersdorf and Brokdorf. It is totally absurd to believe that the conflict around nuclear power can be solved by hitting demonstrators.

KG: What are the possible consequences if there is a referendum? Do the Greens have in mind issues other than nuclear power?

LB: There would be discussions on issues like nuclear and chemical weapons and German cooperation in SDI,. There are also national issues like the security laws which are hurting civil rights, and the recent Paragraph 116 of the Labor Promotion Law which undermines the trade unions. These are all subjects of much public debate. They are all questions that are significant to many people in our society and could become referendum issues. There is an incredible chance for very active public debate on this.

KG: Do you think the attention and public enthusiasm around the referendum in Spain and the people's petition in the Netherlands, for example, will affect the issue?

LB: Certainly! Both drew many people's attention. It is absurd to have a referendum only at the state level, when almost every other West European country has it at the national level.

KG: How is the initiative being discussed among politicians? What kind of arguments are offered against it?

LB: It has now, for the first time, become a broadly discussed issue. It was widely discussed at the recent "Umwelttag" (main meeting of groups interested in environmental issues) in Wurzburg. There is some opposition among the Social Democrats, the Liberals, and the Christian Democrats, but no standard position. It's strange: almost every party has the demand for a referendum in its platform, but no one does anything in favor of it. Only the Social Democrats in their Congress on Law Enforcement Policy made this a point of political discussion. I think that is very positive.

There is also some opposition to it within the anti-nuclear power movement. For example, at a Frankfurt meeting some people said, "Anybody who wants more democracy can go to the political parties. We'd rather go to the fence of the construction site!"

KG: Thank you very much for the interview.

The Chernobyl disaster also initiated much discussion among independent activists in the GDR.

Four members of the independent peace movement sent a petition to the president of the Parliament, Horst Sindermann, asking a referendum on the country's nuclear power. The petition had several thousand signatures by the end of June. The East German Constitution gives the parliament the right to initiate a plebiscite.

An "Appeal from the Independent Peace and Environmental Movement and Other Concerned Citizens to the Government and People of the GDR," signed by several hundred, has also come out of the discussion. This petition points out the danger of nuclear power and criticizes the way news about Chernobyl was handled. The appeal discusses the role of nuclear energy in the struggle between socialism and capitalism, and urges that it be looked at as a contribution to the discussion about socialist society.

Comprehensive Test Ban: One Step Closer

A U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP PLACED seismic monitoring equipment near the Soviet nuclear test site of Semipalatinsk during the middle of July. It is the first time Western citizens have been allowed to install monitoring gear near a Soviet testing site. Three Soviet scientists will be allowed to set up similar equipment near the American nuclear test site in Nevada.

The exchange is part of an agreement signed May 28 between the nonprofit organization, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Soviet Academy of Sciences. The project is "the most important private sector arms control initiative ever undertaken," said NRDC chairman Adrian DeWind. the estimated cost of the first eighteen months of the project will be U.S. $1.2 million, which is being raised without government support.

SOVIET OPPOSITION TO ON-SITE MONITORING of nuclear testing sites has been, according to the U.S. government, a main obstacle to arms control agreements, as well as an obstacle to a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The project has received major media attention in the U.S. "It has enheartened the peace movement here," said Patricia Morgan of the Center for Defense Information (CDI), a Washington-based group that supports a Comprehensive Test Ban. "The exchange is really well-timed. Members of the House of Representatives will debate an amendment on the DOD (Department of Defense) Authorization Bill in mid-August. The amendment of the bill would cut off funds for nuclear tests as long as the Soviets don't resume testing. The exchange means a lot of support for this Congressional initiative. It shows we can work with the Soviets." [N.B. Such an amendment has, indeed, recently been passed by the House of Representatives as we go to press. Ed.]

THIE NDRC GROUP IS COMPOSED OF seismologists and geologists from the University of California. They have installed seismometers at three locations around the test site in Kazakhstan, about 2900 kilometres (1,800 miles) south of Moscow. One of the NRDC scientists, Dr. Thomas Cochrain, said the group had no assurance they would be allowed to monitor an actual Soviet test, but that "..we'd know a test occurred. What would be lost if we're not allowed to monitor a test would be additional interesting technical information that could be useful in further calibrating the site...this is a demonstration project to show that you can set up a station in the Soviet Union."

NRDC CHAIRMAN ADRIAN DE WIND agreed. "The acceptance of this demonstration-scale monitoring plan suggests that this program could be expanded to verify a Comprehensive Test Ban," he said. He also announced that the U.S. State Department had agreed to issue visas for the Soviet scientists. The data gathered by the NRDC scientists will be made available to the U.S. and the Soviet governments, as will the information the Soviet scientists gather at the Nevada test Site.

A SOVIET SCIENTIST WORKING ON THE project, Professor Mikhail Sodovsky of the Soviet Institute of Geophysics, said, "We believe that modern seismic methods make it possible to achieve verification...Our national systems can already verify the observance of any ban on testing. However, the U.S. Congress demands a kind of super guarantee. In our view, this is excessive, though we are ready to do extra work with American scientists."

Contact: National Resources Defence Council. 1350 New York Avenue NW, Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20005. Phone 202/783-7800.

Action at Nurrungar

Opposition to the U.S. military presence in Australia is mounting. There are at least twelve U.S. military installations in Australia and three of them are involved in tracking satellites and monitoring the American global communications network. The Anti-Bases Campaign is organizing actions to end the U.S. presence. One role of the Campaign will be to make sure the lease on Pine Gap (see related article), which expires October 1987, is not renewed.

People for Nuclear Disarmament (PND) held a peaceful protest outside Nurrungar base, 500 km. outside Adelaide, on 28 and 29 June. The protest was in support of a nuclear free Australia, and to put pressure on delegates to the Australian Labour Party's National Conference, held a week later. The action included charging a "departure tax" and a "visa check" from Australia for any one entering "U.S. territory" (Nurrungar); issuing an eviction notice to all foreign military bases in Australia to the American officer in charge of Nurrungar and calling for 18 September to be made a holiday in recognition of the U.N. Year of Peace.

PND, recently under attack by a parliamentary official as a "communist front organization," believes the Nurrungar facility is being prepared for a new role in the SDI/S tar Wars strategy. According to reports from U.S. Congress, $126 million is being spent to expand the tactical operations room for a new computer system. The federation of American Scientists has agreed that Nurrungar would play an important role in any Star Wars program. NDP has proposed that Nurrungar, and other U.S. communications bases in Australia, be turned into part of an International Satellite Monitoring Authority (ISMA) which could help monitor a comprehensive test ban.

The Nurrungar base, opened in 1971, is considered a "joint facility" by Australian Labour Party leaders. According to newspaper accounts, however, out of 478 employees, only 32 are Australian. PND says the base is run by four American organizations: the U.S. Air Force, the CIA, NASA, and the National Reconnaissance Agency.

Contact: People for Nuclear Disarmament, 155 Pine Street, Adelaide, AUSTRALIA.

Scientists' Peace Week

The first international Peace Week of Scientists will be held 10 to 16 November. The aim is to help reverse and stop the arms race by promoting discussions, by improving the links between concerned scientists and nonscientists, and by increasing awareness among scientists and the general public of the impact of scientific developments on international security.

Scientists from all fields are encouraged to work with nonscientists in organizing seminars, lectures, public meetings or other events concerning the different aspects of arms control and the arms race. Local programs should include discussion about a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which will be the unifying theme of Peace Week. Other topics could include the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars), economic aspects of the arms race, alternative defence and verification of arms control measures.

Endorsers of Peace Week include the Federation of American Scientists (USA) and Cultural Scientists for Peace and Disarmament in East and West (FRG). The U.N. Secretariat for the International Year of Peace (IYP) has included Peace Week in its IYP program. Nobel Laureates Hans Bethe, Sheldon Glashow, and David Hubel have also endorsed the event. Participants should be in contact with the coordinating committee. Press releases and press conferences should be on the same day all around the world.

Contact: Scientists' Peace Week, c/o Hendrik Bramboff, Dept. of Computer Science, University of Hamburg, Rothenbaumchaussee 67-69, 2000 Hamburg 13, FRG. Tel 40-1235677 or 40-786866. TELEX: 2 165 693

Peace Camp In Vienna

The Austrian peace organization Working Group of Independent Peace Initiatives (Arge UFI) is planning peace camp and related activities to parallel the official Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), the governmental review meeting on the Helsinki Accords. The Arge UFI program will take place 31 October to 4 November in the Jugendgastehaus der Stadt Wien, Friedrich Engelsplatz 24, 1200 Vienna. Peace groups everywhere are invited to attend.

The main theme for the activities is "Security and Cooperation of the European Peoples." Programs around four related topics are being organized by different Austrian groups. These topics include: conscientious objection in both East and West Europe, organized by SORG and Arge Zivildienst; human rights in East and West Europe, organized by Amnesty International and the Helsinki Watch Group; ecology in East and West Europe, organized by the Oekologisches Institut Wien; and peace initiatives by neutral countries, organized by the group Coordination of Neutral and Non-aligned Peace Initiatives (CONNPI).

A meeting is also planned for 3 November at 5 pm. at Wiener Hofburg on the slogan of "Peace, Security, and Co-operation Among the European Peoples-Act Now!."

Contact: Josef Iraschko, Arge UFI, Nestroyplatz 1-20a, 1020 Vienna, AUSTRIA. Tel. 0222-2430412.

Ten major Filipino organizations launched a campaign May 30 to gather one million signatures in support of a nuclear-free clause in the Philippines' new constitution. The campaign, which

will end in October, will organize a national network of groups and individuals to work for a nuclear-free Philippines, urge citizens and local government officials to declare their areas nuclear-free, and submit provisions for incorporation to the Constitutional Committee now drafting the new constitution.

"We want to generate popular massive support for a nuclear-free Philippines," said Cesar Taguba, international liaison officer for the Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom and Democracy. Taguba said that if the nuclear-free provision is not ratified with the constitution in September, the coalition would urge ratification of an alternative people's constitution in a popular referendum.

The National Organization Against Nuclear Power and Weapons (No Nukes), an alliance of 59 professional, trade, and peasants' groups that is spearheading the campaign, said the new constitution should contain the resolution:

"1. Nuclear arms, weapons, and warheads and nuclear-powered vessels and plants shall not be allowed inside Philippine territory, and

2. The Philippines shall never embark on any activity related to nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons production."

The campaign involves both anti-nuclear power and disarmament groups. The Anti-Bases Coalition, formed in 1983 to work for the removal of the more than twenty U.S. military installations in the Philippines, has joined the campaign.

"The presence of American bases is a threat to our survival and a danger to peace and security," said Taguba. "The U.S. wants free and unhampered use of the bases, and the military bases agreement expires in 1991."

Two of the largest U.S. bases in the Philippines, Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base, are believed to deploy air and sea-based cruise missiles. Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) units and C3I (command, control, communications, and intelligence) facilities at the bases also make them vital parts of the U.S. nuclear war strategy.

Contact: Komite ng Sambayanang Filipino (Filipino People's Committee), Admiral van Gentstraat 26 bis, 3572 XL, Utrecht, the Netherlands. Phone 030 71 92 26.

Filipinos Exclude U.S. Military in Draft

The Filipino Constitutional Commission, appointed by President Corazon Aquino, is now drafting the new constitution. Seventeen of the forty-eight delegates have filed a resolution in support of a nuclear-free Philippines, without U.S. military bases. Eight more delegates are needed to make a majority. The Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom, and Democracy (NAJFD) is asking peace groups around the world to endorse and support the nuclear-free constitution by writing letters to:

President Corazon Aquino, Republic of the Philippines, Malacanang, Manila, PHILIPPINES and to The Constitutional Commission, do Task force: Nuclear-Free Constitution. LIST, Room 100-C, Phil. Soc. Sc. Bldg., M. Marcos Avenue, U.P. Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES.

Groups are also asked to invite NAJFD speakers to seminars and conferences in order to discuss the issues, to organize demonstrations and delegations to Philippine embassies, and to organize fund raising events for a nuclear-free Philippines.

Contact: Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom and Democracy, S Rosal Street, Cubao, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES. Tel. 721~1-13.

For a Nuclear-Free Philippines

We strongly urge the Constitutional Commission to include the following nuclear-free provisions in the new Philippine Constitution:

  1. The Philippines shall not allow the deployment, storage, and transit of nuclear weapons and port calls by nuclear powered, nuclear-armed, and nuclear-capable vessels within its territory.
  2. The production of nuclear weapons and/or parts thereof is also prohibited.
  3. Nuclear power plants will not be established until a safe site and safe waste disposal system is found; construction and operation licenses are issued only after due legal hearings; the majority of residents living within an eighty kilometre radius of the site have consented to its establishment in a referendum, after the foregoing conditions have been fulfilled.
  4. The dumping of nuclear wastes and nuclear weapons testing within Philippine territory will not be allowed. The government will also prohibit the dumping of nuclear wastes and nuclear weapons testing in the seas surrounding the archipelago.
  5. The Philippines will work toward a nuclear weapons-free, nuclear waste-free, and independent Asia-Pacific region. It will support all international movements for nuclear disarmament and world peace.

Parliamentarians Push to Amend Partial Test Ban Treaty

Parliamentarians Global Action (PGA), a group of more than 600 legislators from 31 different countries, is proposing a public campaign in support of an amendment conference to the Partial Test Ban Treaty ~ They suggest that embassies be presented petitions in support of the conference, and that the results of the campaign regularly be brought to the attention of the nations involved. They are now soliciting ideas and reports of activities.

An amendment conference is seen as a way to push for a comprehensive test ban (CTB). The Danish Parliament passed a resolution on 24 April condemning nuclear tests and encouraged the Danish government to work for a conference that would extend the limited test ban to a total ban.

The Partial Test Ban Treaty was first signed in 1963. One third of the 38 countries that signed the PTBT can request a conference to amend the Treaty, which the depository countries-the U.S., USSR, and Great Britain-must then call. John Langmore, an Australian parliamentarian, stated that an amendment conference "would at least force them (the depository countries) to the negotiating table, and therefore put stronger pressure on them to accept a treaty."

Parliamentarians Global Action, formerly known as Parliamentarians for World Order, has also been working in support of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. PGA organized a summit meeting last January in New Delhi where leaders from Argentina, Greece, India, Mexico, Sweden, and Tanzania issued a declaration calling for "the nuclear weapon states to immediately halt the testing of all kinds of nuclear weapons, and to conclude, at an early date, a treaty on a nuclear weapon test ban." A follow-up meeting on this appeal will be held in Athens this December.

Contact: Parliamentarians Global Action, Research Director Aaron Tovish, 220 East 42nd Street, Suite 3301, New York, NY, 10017, USA.

Soviet Peace Activists After Chernobyl

The Moscow Trust Group (MTG), has continued its peace activities despite continued government repression. (See p.23.) Ten days after the Chernobyl accident the MTG made an appeal to the Soviet government requesting the immediate release of medical information on safety measures the public could take to lower the risk of radiation contamination. The appeal also demanded the shut down of all nuclear power plants with designs similar to Chernobyl and a reconsideration of the Soviet nuclear power policy. Another appeal repeating the last demand was sent to the government on 16 June.

The group also began a public lecture series on ecology. The lectures were read by Dr. Yury Medvedkov, a key MTG activist and a leading Soviet ecologist with an international reputation.

On 20 May the group held its first anti-nuclear demonstration at a Moscow theatre. It may have been the USSR's first public anti-nuclear demonstration. Twelve MTG members were arrested by the KGB on their way to the theatre. Three MTG activists were arrested by police at the theatre and released the next day, except Larisa Chukayeva. Their interest in nuclear power signifies a shift in focus.

Repression has not changed, however. Recent victims are Larisa Chukayeva, a MTG member since autumn 1985, who has received a prison sentence of two years in a correctional camp. On 11 April the court revoked her child custody rights by taking her three-year-old son Sasha. His location is unknown to Chukayeva, who had been warned by the KGB that he would be taken if she continued her peace activities.

The Moscow Trust Group is now launching the Trust Group Center Abroad in order to expand the scale of its international activity. The TGCA was organized by the founders of the MTG who have found themselves exiled to the West as a result of their peace activities in the USSR. They are planning to apply for a number of grants in order to finance some projects that were co-designed by MTG and TGCA. They include, in brief:

  1. Publication of the MTG Report: Five Years of Practicing Peace: a collection of key, unpublished materials (documents, proposals, articles, appeals, interviews, and photographs) reflecting five years of MTG experience.
  2. Publication of a bi-weekly update on the activities of the MTG in the USSR.
  3. Production of three MTG slideshow reports with synchronized soundtracks depicting: five years of MTG activity in the USSR; the dramatic experiences of MTG members; methods of developing dialogue between Soviet and Western rank-and-file citizens.
  4. Publication of an "Insider's Travel guide to the USSR" providing information for travellers to the USSR intended to make Western peace missions more meaningful and educational. Ways of finding ordinary citizens, methods of cooperation in joint projects and alternative places of interest will be among the topics discussed.
  5. Publication of peace materials printed in Russian for circulation in the USSR (including a quarterly by MTG).
  6. Publication of a Western peace address directory for circulation in the USSR with guidelines for communication. Also, a similar Soviet directory for use in the West.
  7. A question and answer brochure on the MTG, its philosophy and goals.
  8. An exhibit exchange program.
  9. A computer hook-up between the MTG and the Trust Group Center Abroad.
  10. Administrative needs; i.e. office space, employees.

Contact: Trust Group Center Abroad, Trust Line, P.O. Box 1073, New York NY 10040, USA.

Peace Magazine Oct-Nov 1986

Peace Magazine Oct-Nov 1986, page 8. Some rights reserved.

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