“Neither the war that destroys us, nor the peace that oppresses us.”
This historic anti-war slogan of the Spanish feminist movement holds one of the fundamental keys to building a horizon of peace. He claims that peace is not just a ceasefire, nor a surrender or silence to those who impose their wars on others. On the contrary, peace is the building of a basis for fostering relationships based on mutual respect and cooperation.
Such an idea is neither naive nor impossible. When we want we can.
Building a new path based on lasting peace is the only possible alternative for the sustainability of all peoples and the planet. The opposite means a people silenced, loss of life, a divided world, permanent war, living in constant fear of nuclear weapons and misery for those affected by war.
Those who claim to defend freedom do not want those who are not like them to enjoy it. We are faced with an ‘either with me or against me’ mentality – or, as Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, recently put it: ‘We will remember those who are not with us. ”
Freedom is therefore not only a choice between two options, but the possibility of creating one’s own option. This is why it is essential that, in the face of the dominant perception of the world which tries to deprive us of the ability to envisage a new alternative, we must articulate one where everyone can fit in – where war is not inevitable.
In the current context, with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, we are surrounded by a feeling of amnesia and the feeling of having returned to the 20th century. Again, there is war, hatred and the familiar rhetoric of dividing ‘us’ versus ‘others’.
It is shocking that in the face of war in Ukraine, Fortress Europe – which, in its response to refugees and migrants from war-torn and impoverished countries in the South, has turned the Mediterranean Sea into a mass grave; which illegally deports migrants; and locks asylum seekers in detention centers, with no access to lawyers – now finds it so easy to change policy and open its doors to blue-eyed white people.
The war in Ukraine has proven that the EU is perfectly capable of taking in refugees, but for those trapped in Libya – the country destroyed by NATO – there are no safe routes, no trains and no free buses. This shows us again: where there is a will, there is a way.
Everyone has the right to flee war and rebuild their lives, like Afghans, Kurds and Syrians who traveled to Moria, the overcrowded refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos that burned down during the pandemic in 2020, with nearly 13,000 people living in camps left homeless and where 10-year-olds attempted suicide due to violence, hunger and overcrowding.
The attitude of colonial European history has endured, reiterating that there are lives that matter and lives that don’t.
But not so long ago, thousands of Spanish families had to flee fascism, which also persecuted “others”, a categorization that included Roma, members of the LGBTQ community and supporters of the Spanish Republic. As Aimé Césaire wrote in his Discourse on Colonialism, “Europe is indefensible”.
The level of hypocrisy is already staggering and yet we continue on this path where we talk about peace while we send weapons to warring nations, we talk about democracy while we support censorship, we talk about human rights while as we dismantle the United Nations, we talk about freedom while we ignore the creep of fascism. And at the center of it all is NATO.
As if it were not enough to surrender our sovereignty to the capitalist market, we must also surrender it to the wars waged by the United States.
Julio Anguita Gonzalez, the late mayor of Cordoba and influential political leader of Spain’s left wing, said: “You can’t eat with dignity, but people without dignity get on their knees and end up without food.
These words ring in my head as I try to understand what is happening in Europe, or more importantly, what Europe is and how we can make it different.
But to understand what Europe is today, we must remember that the debates which built the consensus towards this European Union were posed in abstract and ambitious terms, associating modernity and neoliberalism.
While the people delighted in an empty European identity, the foundations of an economy separated from political and democratic power were laid.
Like the Little Mermaid in Hans Christian Andersen’s popular fairy tale, we sold our voices for a romantic idea of love — in our case, for a sense of belonging to a vague European identity.
While we were speechless, EU industrialists bridged the gap between economic and social structures with institutions that promote inequality and a European security project that responds to Washington.
The EU’s decisions in the face of the 2008 financial crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic or the war in Ukraine could not be further removed from the real and daily security needs of its people. The lesson we should have learned from The Little Mermaid, however, is that without our voices, there can be no true love.
Those of us who have struggled with historical amnesia know that we don’t need military alliances, because war is a terrible symptom, but it is not the disease that plagues the world.
To remove it, Europe urgently needs a heart transplant – an anti-fascist, anti-colonial heart, responsible for the world it is building and the people who live and come to it. So how to make Europe the opposite of what it is today?
First, on the basis that we can no longer wait to open our eyes, to see Europe as it is and to tackle the most difficult task: to forge our own path. With memory, we can undertake this task, for it has already been attempted. Let’s listen to the past and make the present better.
This journey ranges from anti-war activist Rosa Luxemburg to the Non-Aligned Movement, the Brics, Pan-Africanism and the struggle of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo. This whole story reminds us that the struggle to build an alternative path to peace is full of courage and that those who have fought for peace have learned along the way that their will matters too.
Because where there is a will, there is a way. More weapons won’t save us – we will.
Views are personal
Courtesy of the Morning Star