Toronto Lectures

By Anabell Cathrall | 1987-04-01 12:00:00

Mary Kaldor's "Détente from Below"

The past forty years of supposed peace have been no imaginary war" which has served to maintain the social postures of the superpowers and control the populations they dominate, said Mary Kaldor on February 4. Dr. Kaldor is a member of the European Nuclear Disarmament coordinating committee and the editor of END Journal. She is a Fellow of the Science Policy Research Unit at Sussex University, near Brighton, England. She has served at the Swedish International Peace Research Institute and has written several books, including: The Disintegrating West, The Baroque Arsenal, and Arms Trade with the Third World.

"The idea of the conflict is a kind of collusion between the superpowers to maintain their spheres of influence," she said. But the "imaginary" or "Cold War" concept of world order and the international institutions that prop it up are out of kilter with the present world economy, she added. "We are at a moment of major geopolitical shift... the challenge is to find ways to change these institutions without world war."

There have been two distinct cold war eras since the Second World War, the first apparently more successful than the second, she noted. The first provided the impetus for the development of two opposing superpower blocs and the political, military, economic, and cultural hegemony that supports them.. That era came to an end in the late sixties when the U.S. found it difficult to manage the global system it had created, she said.

Dr. Kaldor described détente, which followed, as a cheaper and safer form of superpower collusion, based on the mutual recognition of spheres of influence. Détente, she pointed out, fostered arms control agreements which were meant to manage the arms race, not to stop it. But these agreements also called into question the very need for an arms race. This questioning made it difficult to maintain internal cohesion in both blocs and led to more East-West communication, Third World liberation movements, and the emergence of Solidarity, she said.

Thus the new nuclear-based cold or "imaginary" war saw the development of Reagonomics and U.S. protectionism (the U.S. managing not in the global interest, but its own), and crushing of Solidarity, and the invasion of Afghanistan, but it lacked the persuasiveness of the first. In Europe, Green and human rights groups and mass peace movements grew and East-West communication was maintained because Europe had taken détente to heart, she said.

A new détente must therefore be different, according to Dr. Kaldor. And it will develop with or without a superpower accord. It will promote the demilitarization of Europe and, finally, it will call into question the basis of the "imaginary war." In other words, it will see the end of the political blackmailing of the populations of both blocs.

Terrorism: Crime or State Policy?

Professor John McMurtry, a philosophy professor at Guelph University, spoke provocatively on January 14 on the topic of terrorism. Many in the audience expected him to propose theoretical explanations for terrorism, and were surprised by McMurtry's approach to the subject. Sophisticated observers, he said, may be inclined to dismiss the term as a mere propaganda ploy by the U.S. and its client states to discredit resistance to their military occupations of indigenous peoples' lands. The concept can also be used as a scare tactic to justify expenditures on military build-ups and to distract us from our real problems -- poverty, pollution, corruption, and disease.

Governments controlled by military and business interests, said McMurtry, use terrorism to control the labor and resources of the Third World, and then blame those who resist such control as "terrorists." Thus, investigators of the Berlin Disco and Vienna airport bombings found no evidence implicating Libya, yet Libya was bombed as a terrorist state. In an Orwellian reversal of meaning, we hear only of terrorism against governments, not by governments.

The Reagan administration puts terrorism on the agenda as a priority, but who is really practicing it? Some 60,000 people were killed in each of El Salvador and Guatemala last year. John Stockwell, former CIA Task Force Commander, estimated that since 1945, the U.S. and its clients have murdered between 4 and 6 million people. Only the U.S. has threatened unilateral use of nuclear weapons and, according to McMurtry, it has done so over twenty times. Of military interventions around the world since 1945, the U.S. made over 70 percent, the USSR less than 20 per cent. "low intensity warfare" (i.e. death squads) were introduced by U.S.-backed regimes in Argentina, Chile, Philippines, Indonesia, Paraguay, Guatemala, Nicaragua, South Africa, and the numbers killed correlated with the level of U.S. aid, McMurtry argued..

Disinventing War

Professor Everett Mendelsohn, of Harvard University, spoke on January 21 in the Toronto series, which on that occasion was co-sponsored by University College. War, he said, is a major social system which we must now disinvent. We must transform moral repugnance into political action. To do so, we need a new definition of security. Security must use means which do not destroy the objectives being sought. True security will be common security. What would such common security look like?

Mendelsohn proposed eight principles:

  1. . No wars of empire and no intervention. Liberation struggles, self-determination and nonalignment must he respected.
  2. . Shared access to natural resources.
  3. . Economic and social health. (The Third World has adopted the East-West paradigms about security, at their peril and ours.)
  4. . Stabilization of U.S./USSR relationship, with each following rules of political behavior.
  5. . Elimination of nuclear weapons.
  6. . Nonoffensive patterns of conventional weapons.
  7. . A system of legal restraints.
  8. . Reduction of Third World armaments.

Improvising a Nuclear Theatre

SPONTE, a Toronto acting company, offered an evening of improvisational theatre on January 28. The program began with a humorous "nuclear" song-and-dance. Then the troupe offered to play opposite members of the audience, as they explored difficulties they had experienced in communicating with people who oppose disarmament.

One by one, several people took turns sitting "onstage" and describing a parent, a colleague, or a friend who supported nuclear weaponry. The professional actors then played the role that had been described, as the participants tried various ways of convincing them. Then they switched roles, and the SPONTE performers invented alternative means of persuasion. Any of the audience who had a new approach was invited to try it out on the resistant character being portrayed. The biggest challenge was "Tommy," an elderly British gentleman who insisted, despite appeals by his Canadian peacenik son, that Margaret Thatcher's defence policies are wonderful. Still, the son acquired a few ideas to try out when he goes home for another visit.

The third "act" was improvised to illustrate a dilemma that the audience selected. This drama involved a peace activist wife at home, making a banner with a friend for a demonstration against a weapons plant, while her Eastern European refugee mother-in-law watched anxiously. Her husband enters (played by Barry Stevens), full of enthusiasm for the new contract he had just obtained with (naturally) the offending company. Shocked by his wife's opposition, he angrily pointed out the naiveté of her friend, who had never experienced Soviet repression as he had.

Suddenly the "director" ordered the performers to freeze in their positions. The audience was invited to stand beside the person with whom they most identified in the drama. Clusters of people gathered together, and took turns speaking for the character. There was a poignancy in the drama, for everyone could sympathize with the feelings behind the views everyone else expressed.

By Annabel Cathrall. These seminars, sponsored by Science for Peace, Canadian Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Lawyers for Social Responsibility, and Educators for Nuclear Disarmament. were given in January and February. They are held virtually every Wednesday at 8:00 pm in Room 179, University College, University of Toronto. See the Peace Calendar for upcoming events in the series.

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1987

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1987, page 43. Some rights reserved.

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