The Krefeld Appeal, which was presented to the public on 16 November 1980, was a call for the then Federal Government to withdraw its approval to deploy new medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe – the key word: NATO double decision – and to press for an end to the nuclear arms race within NATO.
It was signed by nearly five million people. It is the largest appeal for peace in German history.
The Krefeld appeal was something like the founding document and the unifying demand of the peace movement, which brought millions to the streets in the 1980s and finally achieved its goal of “no new nuclear weapons in Europe” at the end of the 1980s with the INF Treaty (Treaty for the Abolition of All Medium-Range Nuclear Missiles). It was the response to many people’s concerns and fears of a nuclear war in Europe, as envisaged in the Pentagon and NATO plans.
The Krefeld appeal certainly contributed to the fact that the majority in Germany is still “unwilling to war”, even pacifist.
This is perhaps the greatest long-term effect of the Krefeld appeal and the peace actions of the 1980s. The rulers were not able to “shoot” the German population" ready for war, i.e. a large part of the population still rejects war as a means of politics and armament, despite massive ideological campaigns, lies and incitement.
The campaign for the Krefeld Appeal shows that successes are possible, changes can be achieved through the long breath of the actions of the peace movement.
The comprehensive infrastructure of the peace movement, which still exists today, was substantially created by and with the Krefeld appeal.
Even if the world political situation has changed fundamentally after the end of the bloc confrontation with the current, often belligerent struggle for a new world order under capitalist dominance, political findings of the conflicts of that time are burningly topical.
The danger of nuclear war destroying humanity and planet Earth is more topical than ever, as is the opinion of many Nobel laureates who presented the Doomsdale clock to 100 seconds before noon. They want to make it clear that the threat of nuclear war has never been so great, especially in view of the new pinpoint nuclear weapons, the plans for regional nuclear warfare, the dangers of nuclear war by mistake, the further proliferation of nuclear weapons and the terrorist threats.
Defending the humanitarian catastrophe by using a few nuclear weapons remains one, if not the central challenge for the peace movements worldwide – especially now that the Non-Proliferation Treaty will enter into legal force in less than 90 days. However, this treaty will certainly only have its full political effect if the nuclear-weapon states, the so-called countries under the US nuclear umbrella such as Japan or South Korea, or countries with nuclear participation such as Germany or Italy and important emerging countries (Argentina, Brazil, philippines) are able to sign.
Above all, a peace movement is needed, which also deserves the name “peace” and “movement”. On the one hand, a clear rejection of all forms of war, armament and intervention, and on the other hand, a real broad-based, diversely supported movement. The rejection of war is up to parts of the party Die LINKE. controversial, not to mention the Greens at all. The peace movement has yet to achieve a comprehensive capacity for mobilization through a comprehensive reorientation and reorganization, as well as through a significant rejuvenation. A central starting point is certainly the demand for disarmament of the unbelievably high global defense spending of almost 2 trillion US dollars or more than 50 billion euros in Germany, as demanded by the social disarmament initiative “disarm rather than upgrade”.
Let us not forget, at the time of the Krefeld Appeal, the peace movement was young and strongly influenced by students, trainees and students. The close cooperation with the women’s movement and the environmental movement gave it many impulses in the 1980s. It can also be a starting point for today if the activities of Fridays for Future and the peace movement can be made clearer than two sides of the same coin and the actors are persuaded to act together more.
These and wider goals can only be achieved by orienting the peace movement – then as now – towards gaining support from the majority of the population or, to say gramsci, in achieving cultural hegemony.
The basic findings remain: Peace needs movement, as is now the case with the planned nationwide day of action on 5.12.2020 and diverse broad coalitions.
So it is no nostalgia to recall the Krefeld appeal, even if it is true: the Krefeld appeal is not repeatable. We can always learn from the experiences we have. So it’s worth remembering.