Citizen pressure to stop wars and promote non-violent civil resistance

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Dani Sorolla
  • One of the actions of the campaign Stop the Wars in Lleida.
    One of the actions of the campaign Stop the Wars in Lleida. Source: CoordONGs Twitter.
  • The initiative is composed by various movements for peace and wants to raise its voice to say no to all wars.
    The initiative is composed by various movements for peace and wants to raise its voice to say no to all wars. Source: CoordONGs Twitter.
  • The initiative has spread like an oil slick throughout Catalonia.
    The initiative has spread like an oil slick throughout Catalonia. Source: CoordONGs Twitter.

The 'Stop the wars' campaign organizes demonstrations in front of government offices to say no to war escalation and militarism, while proposing alternatives such as non-violent struggle.

"If the governments don't stop the wars against the people and the land, the people will stop the governments!" The call has been resounding in front of town halls and government offices throughout Catalonia for weeks. This is the demand raised by 'Stop the wars', a campaign promoted by various entities and people who have joined to say enough to war as a solution to all conflicts and put a stop to the escalation of warmongering and militarism .

Martí Olivella, historical activist, member of the first group of conscientious objectors to military service and one of the promoters of pacifism and non-violence in Catalonia, is one of the visible heads of the initiative and explains that it was created as a response to the lack of actions and mobilizations to protest against the war in Ukraine and the nuclear threat it poses.

"A group of people decided that at noon, instead of having a leisurely lunch, we would stand in front of the headquarters of City Councils, defense delegations, governments and institutions to say no to all wars," he explains in conversation with Xarxanet.

The initiative has spread like wildfire and collectives and people from all over Catalonia have joined the actions of the campaign, which has also joined pacifist movements that were already mobilizing such as Wheel of Peace (Sabadell), Feminists against the wars (Barcelona) or the Banyoles Group for Peace, among others.

Thus, the promoters of the campaign undertake not to give any support or justification to the wars; to meet in front of governments, and if necessary, "obstructing their operation" until the wars stop; as well as consider how not to contribute to armed conflicts through strategies such as fiscal objection, among others, and establish the foundations of non-violent territorial defense groups. The idea is for everyone to question whether they are contributing directly or indirectly to the escalation of structural and armed violence, and act to fix it.

"The time has come to respond forcefully to the emergency of war and the atomic threat," they say on the initiative's website, while asking themselves: "If we are not active today, will we be radioactive tomorrow?"

Non-violent civil defense as an alternative to war

Beyond the concrete and current situation represented by the war in Ukraine, if we approach it from a broad perspective, the initiative seeks to resume the legacy of historical movements such as that of the insubordinates against compulsory military service, of which Olivella was prominently part of, and which put the State on the ropes through civil disobedience and non-violent action.

“Our goal was not to save the military or even to liquidate compulsory military service, but to end all wars and armies; everything was pretty much stopped over the years, except for a few exceptions, and above all there was a topic that had not been resumed, despite the fact that we had worked on it at a theoretical level, which is non-violent civil defense", says Olivella.

The non-violent strategy is not new and has successful precedents, such as Denmark in response to the Nazi occupation during the Second World War, in Prague in 1968 before the Soviet invasion, in Ukraine itself, or the example of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo movement, in Argentina, cites Olivella, who believes that one of the obstacles to mobilizing the population in this direction lies in the fact that "we associate the concept of legitimate defense with armed defense".

However, the activist claims the right and duty to self-defense, as long as this does not involve killing and causing a violent escalation that only leads to more death and more destruction, as is currently happening in Ukraine.

For this reason, "in the same way that armed defense is prepared in times of peace, non-violent defense must also be built in times of peace". On the other hand, society has delegated defense to the States, which have a monopoly on violence, and exercise it in relation to their interests and those of others such as the armaments or energy industry, "while citizens it contributes with our taxes and our silence", he adds.

Break the inaction against all wars

In this context, the 'Stop wars' initiative has a clear message: say no to all wars, including defensive ones, in order not to legitimize war as a means of resolving conflicts, and aims to lay the foundations of non-violent defense .

"We have the background, the experience and the motivation, so let's do it, let's start sowing this seed", says Olivella, who has been critical of the inaction of the peace movement regarding this matter for half a century. "We find ourselves defenseless because we ourselves have denied our capacity for self-defense," he says.

However, pacifism should not be confused with inaction, because it is not the same. "We have reached a point where people think that life is only transformed thanks to weapons and wars, and between passivity and weapons, which are the worst solutions, there are alternatives such as non-violent struggle, but the "we have to start", adds the activist.

To combat passivity, not only in the face of war, but of many injustices that cross us as a society, the 'Stop the wars' campaign calls for action: "We must mobilize against the aggressions we suffer in our territory, which may not be military, but they are ecological, social, sexist, racist... let's get ready to respond", concludes Olivella.

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