Get Gandhi to Gothenburg


PressInfo # 117

 April 19, 2001 


By Jan Oberg, TFF director




Only two things are worse than violence: to criticise it without presenting alternatives and to fight it with violent means.

The turbo-militarisation of the European Union (EU) is the most important on the agenda of the EU Summit June 14-16 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Shall the EU commit itself to killing by weapons in the name of peace and intervene up to 6000 kilometres away from Brussels? If so, shall it be allowed to do so virtually without public debate and without referendums, irrespective of the fact that it will imply that young boys, one day, come home in body bags?

Major EU countries have nuclear weapons; others are NATO members. EU bureaucrats and diplomats work intensely to integrate the 'Peace' Forces of the EU with NATO. Do you want the EU to support the existence and possible use of nuclear weapons, or to be a force for common sense and humanity?

There are no threats to Europe, they say. Not true! The largest threat is EU militarisation and integration with a NATO dominated by the United States. We can still choose to make Europe a peaceful region with human security politics, genuine democracy and intelligent conflict-management.



War or peace, the fate of Europe and its future role in the world, must not be left to the military-industrial-bureaucratic complex with its contempt for democracy and peace. The EU Summit in Gothenburg is THE place to remind securo-crats of what democracy is and present them with alternatives. The next steps in this on-the-sly, step-by-step militarisation must be prevented there and then.

To help you deal with all this we have created a new Special Section "Fight EU Militarisation and Sweden's Zeal with Truth and Nonviolence with constructive alternatives and criticism, analyses, debate and links for the EU Gothenburg Summit at:



Protesters in the thousands are likely to convene. 5000 won't make a point, 50.000 or 100,000 will. They should make an early pledge to non-violence in thought, speech and action no matter what resistance they meet and inform the government, police, authorities and security companies about it. It's simple violence-prevention: you have nothing to fear, so don't put up all your barricades and water canons!

It is absurd to protest the development of EU war-fighting capabilities with violence. Better suffer and be harmed than harming anyone. Violence is the weapon of the weak, the coward, the desperado, the unprepared; non-violence requires knowledge, training and much courage. Those who fear that they may not be able to practise the latter should stay away from Gothenburg.

In contrast to violence, non-violence &endash; or ahimsa - permits dialogue, openness, and creative search for solutions and truth in respect for differences. Europe needs that. The civil society representatives and the tens of thousands of concerned citizens must remind themselves of the Gandhian rule that "we must be the change we wish to see."



Violence attracts the media. But creative non-violent actions could be far more effective. Imagine that 50.000 citizens each carry a few kilos of wheat with them to Gothenburg. It symbolises the bread that the world's hungry need instead of weapons; together with salt it is a welcoming gesture in many cultures, a sign of friendship. Wheat is about sowing seeds and it would remind us of the folly of EU agricultural policies and globalisation.

Soft and harmless, it could be poured all over the meeting places, streets and squares and become a happening as good as a the famous buildings wrapped by Christo. Should a VIP mingle with the people he/she should be informed that Tibetan Buddhists throw wheat up in the air as a wish for long life and that that is what we wish for VIPs. Compared with paint, water, tomatoes or stones, wheat is pure nonviolence…



Don't carry dolls, pictures or flags to be burnt. Carry pictures of Mandela, Mother Theresa, Luther King, Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Dag Hamarskjöld, Olof Palme and Willy Brandt to make the point that we need a general ethos of non-violence, disarmament and cultural globalisation. We want leaders who practise it with courage, without weapons. Invite peace activists whom the EU officially supports such as Aung San Suu Kyi and Kim Dae-Jung (physically or on huge screens).

The media will focus on the presence of VIPs like George W. Bush and European heads of state. The alternative summit should invite the world's real peace-makers (or put them on huge screens) to tell how they did or do it without weapons. For instance: The Dalai Lama, Voices in the Wilderness, Plougshares, Thich Nhat Hanh, Pastrana-FARK, Fox-Commandante Marcos, Jody Williams, Jose Ramos-Horta, Otpor, Daisaku Ikeda, Neelakanta Radhakrishnan, Peace Brigades International, Christian Peace Makers, or peacemaking professionals such as Elise Boulding, Gene Sharp, Johan Galtung and the Quakers. Invite pensioned UN peacekeeping and peacemaking officers and diplomats, the few outstanding OSCE mission leaders. (The list could be made much longer…)

Invite those women for peace who occupied bases, listen to the priests, human rights and other intellectuals who fought against European nuclear missiles (SS20, cruise and Pershing II) in the 1980s, together with Gorbachev. THEY made peace in Europe, they made the Berlin Wall crumble, they are the historical role models -- the ones today's EU leaders should learn from with humility.

In short, get the real, experienced people who have made peace, big and small, often outside the focus of the media-military-industrial complex to Gothenburg.

Let citizens compare them with Anna Lindh, Goran Persson, Javier Solana, Robin Cook and Nyrup Rasmussen, today's self-styled peacemakers who favoured bombing yesterday. Just give them equal media opportunity.

The audiences in Gothenburg and the world, the viewers on CNN and BBC, will be perfectly able to judge who has the knowledge, the ethics and the visions this world needs.



There should be no criticism without what Gandhi called the constructive program. People are tired of negative criticism, it's too easy. The real challenge is to churn out better ideas and and concrete proposals (not too easy!) and invite the elites to comment and be inspired. They seldom have a chance to meet ordinary people.

Again, dialogues through a multitude of channels is the only means that will succeed, but of course it takes a bit longer time than the pushing through of EU decisions or the smashing of a few windows.

So, before you come to Gothenburg, form a brainstorming group to come up with ideas and concrete proposals to the answer: what would we like to see instead of EU militarisation? Put them on various websites and newsgroups and print them on a single page and hand the lists to journalists, police and decision-makers. Share them with like-minded groups. For your inspiration TFF provides you with 32 such proposals here.



Insist that the meaning of 'democracy' is to have many options. Gandhi warned us many decades ago:

"My notion of democracy is that under it the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest…No country in the world today shows any but patronising regard for the weak. Western democracy, as it functions today, is diluted fascism…True democracy cannot be worked by twenty men sitting at the centre. It has to be worked from below by the people…"

As clear as true! Democracy is choice among goals and among means. Armed with weapons, the stronger always seek to reduce choice and patronises our votes.

We who will be voicing our concerns in Gothenburg are not against defending societies, we are not against helping ourselves and others to settle conflicts. We are against the blind belief in violence and the power of the strongest. We are for all the alternatives that human goodwill and creativity can mobilise. When we have many different European models and many different programs for defence, security and conflict-resolution, let citizens decide through referendum. Inviting citizens to vote yes or no to one alternative is to make a mockery of democracy: it is no choice to have one option!

Diluted fascism rears its ugly face in the fact that European countries that have or support nuclear weapons never dared ask their citizens whether they wanted them, whether they wanted to be "defended" by them. The militarisation of the EU is not about peacekeeping only, if at all. It is about EU as a future nuclear weapons-based actor. Whether you are for or against EU as such, this is a problem worth discussion.



You may not have had an opportunity to train yourself in non-violent principles action as no part of European educational system provides such a decent choice. But there are groups who can help you (see the Special Section). It is essential that there are trainers on the spot in Gothenburg so that everyone can get at least a couple of hours of instruction about the basics and build mutual support before engaging in "battles" and dialogues.

Until then, go to your bookstores and libraries and study the books of the leaders of nonviolent struggles throughout history. You may include "Lysistrate" by Aristophanes (411 BC), the story of how the women of Athens behaved seductively in front of the men but deny them satisfaction in a general love strike until they stop planning and fighting wars. Presumably it works both ways, so men married to women politicians, please report after Gothenburg!

In a similar vein, alternative summits in Gothenburg should make up one big feast, a feast of the intellectual together with spirituality: music, poetry, drama, happenings &endash; all to celebrate positive values, life and love. Thousands holding hands in chains, hugg- and kiss-ins may not be among the means advocated by Gandhi but it is foolish to treat him as a museum piece or leader of a puritan sect.



The meeting is held in Gothenburg but the rapid militarisation is taking place while Sweden chairs the EU. Sweden's complicity must be highlighted. Perhaps, therefore, civil society organisations and citizens should make themselves heard outside the government building Rosenbad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence well before the Gothenburg Summit, of course giving flowers and lists with alternatives to those who walk in and out, engaing them in debates.

A week or so before the event in Gothenburg a "Peaceful Europe Drive" with thousands of cars, buses, trucks, motorbikes and even bicycles slowly moving the 480 kilometres from Stockholm to Gothenburg could make a dramatic statement. Or it could be a special "European Peace Train" with thousands of people having seminars, brainstorms and ahimsa training on board and dialoguing with people at every station, or collecting signatures for a referendum or other important issues.



Here are some ideas of what you can do before June:

Study the EU and the documents which advocate militarisation, all on TFF's site. Chances are that you will be surprised how far it has developed while the media and your parliamentarians told you so little…

Study Gandhi and other classical peace activists. Do not say that you can do nothing because you can't be like Gandhi. Just be inspired and do what YOU can do! It's much better to do a little good than lean back and let others do a lot of bad! Here you will find a lot of inspiration about non-violence.

Plan to take a week of holiday before the summit. The surrounding nature, the coast and the nearby islands are just magnificent. And then you can also take some non-violent action training and participate in the planning of surprising events.

Go to TFF's Special EU militarisation site and get the contacts to organisers and networks so you can find out quickly where you can make a contribution.

Tell others that Gothenburg is the place to meet to promote peace in Europe this summer. Alert others through letters to the editor of your papers. 100.000 will make a point!

Build local idea and brainstorming groups and select the most political potent and humorous actions, happenings and your best political proposals. Disseminate them to the press, ministries, embassies, other NGOs -- and to your family and friends. Use email and Internet. Remember this is the most important issue for the future of Europe!

If you can do training in non-violence, speak on security and peace issues, do cultural events: send your name, address, phone, email to us and we put it on this EU militarisation Special Section for everyone to contact you back. Tell the organisations and write to the e-mail addresses there. In Sweden we need people in Umeå, Lund, Karasuando and Vaxjo etc.

Train yourself in positive thinking together with others. It's fine to be upset about the world's violence and injustices. But do not look at the world as it is and ask in despair : why? Develop beautiful images of the world and Europe as it could be and ask: why not? Say to yourself every day: "Of course, I/we can do it!"



Imbued with that energy, body and soul, 50.000 people can sweep violence disguised as "peace" out the door like a broom. We may not stop EU boot tramping in Gothenburg but we can raise it to the top of the public discourse.

The whole point is not to be anti-military but to be pro-democracy. Blow open the doors to the few men in the EU centres, bring all information to the people, let's turn it upside down and discuss all models, aspects and scenarios. Let's discuss what the word peace means to different people and cultures. Let all Europeans and those worldwide affected by EU policies participate. Only then the peoples of the EU are ready to decide and tell their elected representatives what they want them to work for. The EU leadership needs a mandate but doesn't know it!

If after such an transparent and lively process, the majority favours the language of the weapons, threats and killing, if they prefer an interventionist, militarist and nuclear-based EU that must be respected, however with due accommodation of the minority that may not. If so, it would be acceptable, one could even call it peace.

Diluted fascism is one road to war. True democracy the road to peace.



 © TFF 2001



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