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Commentary :: War and Militarism
"We Want Disarmament, not Social Cuts!"
29 Oct 2007
After 1 million Iraqi deaths and a war cost between $1 and $2.3 trillion, the horror and scourge of war must end. This speech by a German union leader could give us courage in resisting the irratioality of war and the confusion of offense and defense.

By Horst Schmitthenner

[Horst Schmitthenner is a German union leader with IG Metal. His address is translated from the German in “Sand im Getriebe,” October 10, 2007 on the World Wide Web,]

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We demonstrate here because we want the German army out of Afghanistan and an end to the foreign interventions of the German army.

People cannot be pacified with weapons of war. Wars solve no problems. Rather they are a reason for the increasing violence in the world.

We demonstrate here because we want to stop the reorganization of the German army from pure national defense to an intervention troop. The German army is not in Afghanistan because it believes it can bring peace and democracy to the land. I believe it will remain there to exercise its new practical function as an offensive army enforcing German interests.

We demonstrate here because we urgently need the money for social concerns instead of reorganizing the German army: for a labor market reform that creates jobs. Hartz IV must end because it is an unreasonable demand for the unemployed and is an exaction for the wage- and working conditions of employees. It pulls down the whole wage structure. 400 euro jobs and combined wages are not additional but substitutes for work on a wage scale that pays into social security.

Instead of money for armament, we should redevelop unemployment insurance into a caring institution. Paying benefits for only 12 months intensifies the insecurity of employees and the power of capital.

Whoever with a termination has the chance of landing in Hartz IV after 12 months, whoever must fight for his apartment and accept any work has more problems speaking his mind in the factory and championing employee rights than some one with the prospect of long benefits from AL)-insurance who is not subject to the exaction criteria of Hartz IV.

Instead of investing in armaments and reorganization of the German army, the money could be used in building a public jobs sector. There is enough to do in the infrastructure, in education, care of children, youth and seniors and creating meaningful social work for the many unemployed in job conditions that pay on a wage scale and contribute to social security.

Let us use the money to raise pensions to a level that ensures a decent standard of living. It is a scandal that a 65-year old after 45 insured years and average income will receive 750 euro a month in pensions after 2030. In the future, one will have to pay contributions for 39 years to receive a pension equal to income support. In this way, poverty will become a mass phenomenon and the division of society will deepen.

For a life in peace, every euro invested socially will be used more successfully than for military engagements.

We demonstrate because we want to stop the political class from arrogantly deciding what they want without regard to the interests and desires of the people. A large majority of the population oppose the military deployment in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world.

As with health care reform, pension reform and Hartz IV, the political class is not interested in us and says they do what they want to do.

We stand here to say no.

No government in the long run can govern against the majority in society.

We do not want your policy; we want disarmament, not social cuts.

We want an end to interventions of the German army abroad. We want to make peace without weapons.

Given the screening of the political class, we need a long breath for introducing a change of policy.

We will go forward, not you. The founding of a new leftist party is evidence of this as well as the majorities in society who reject your policy and urge another policy.

You will not be rid of us. The demonstration today is not the end of our involvement.

We will continue. We will convince members of parliament so there will not be a majority for extending the German army’s mandate in Afghanistan.

You can be certain of this.
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