Lumpenpazifismus: Mendacity and hypocrisy of “peace movement” in Germany

Sahra Wagenknecht, Alice Schwarzer and like-minded people are calling for “peace” in Ukraine. They don’t have solid arguments, but plenty of flimsy ones. Says publicist Liane Bednarz.

Liane Bednarz visited Ukraine this year and after returning, she wrote for the t-online magazine about the German phenomenon called “Lumpenpazifismus” and why no other in the World wants peace more than Ukrainians itself.

Liane Bednarz: The publicist is committed to Ukraine. (Source: Horst Galuschka/imago-images-pictures)

Liane Bednarz, born in 1974, is a lawyer and publicist. In January 2023, she traveled to Ukraine. Together with the spokesman for the German writers’ association PEN Berlin, Deniz Yücel. She brought two fire trucks, power generators and other equipment to the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. 

Perhaps it is really a German phenomenon — letter-writing, i.e. writing open letters against Ukraine. And for now, three of such letters have already appeared: 

  • Starting with “The open letter to Chancellor Scholz” on April 29, 2022, which the magazine “Emma” initiated.
  • Appeal “Armistice now!”, which the writer and former judge Juli Zeh published in “die Zeit” on June 29, 2022.
  • “Manifesto for Peace” by Alice Schwarzer and Sahra Wagenknecht on February 10, 2023.

In any case, these appeals have had one result so far: they shape public discussion in Germany. 

Here’s a problem. 

Now, the letter-writers have a difficult issue: with the releasing of the international arrest warrant against Putin by the International Criminal Court (ICC)| in The Hague. Because from now on, they have to explain why they absolutely want to have negotiations with an officially wanted war criminal who is accused of abducting children to Russia.

Bizarrely, not one of the prominent “letter signers” was, so far at least, in a combat zone in Ukraine. If they traveled there, they would quickly realize that defending the country is not a territorial end in itself, nor is hatred of Putin driving Ukrainians. The Ukrainians only want to keep what is guaranteed in the comfortable life of “Lumpen-pacifists”: self-determination and freedom.

Unbearable idea

The idea of becoming a part of Putin’s dictatorship or “Russkiy mir” is unacceptable for Ukrainians. The daily horror in the occupied territories has made it clear to them what is lay in for people whose area of life is ceded to Russia as part of the “negotiated solution” or “compromises on both sides” dreamed of by the letter writers. I spoke to people in Bucha and a village near Kyiv who found neighbors and acquaintances shot dead during the occupation.

Obviously, the letter writers and other “peace activists” don’t care much. Instead, they have always settled into the same buzzwords and phrases, a kind of “bullshit bingo”, always to be expected. Basically, there are four phrases that are repeatedly used: “escalation dominance”, “you can’t defeat a country with nuclear weapons,” “the victims in Ukraine,” and “warlike behavior.” However, none of these statements have convinced anyone. 

The political scientist from Halle and signer of the Zeh letter, Johannes Varwick, is constantly referenced and invited to events or asked to write guest articles in newspapers. He frequently uses the term “escalation dominance” in his discussions. The Zeh letter also mentions a “clear risk of escalation,” and individuals like Wagenknecht and Schwarzer often instill fear by suggesting the possibility of a World War III  and “nuclear war” and call on the chancellor to “stop the escalation of arms deliveries” and to work for “peace negotiations” between Ukraine and Russia.

But does that correspond to reality? Putin has suffered defeat after defeat. The war is now primarily back where it started in 2014: in the Donbas. The defeated Kremlin despot had to withdraw from Kyiv, the regions in the north-east and even Kherson in the south. He was never able to take Kyiv and Odesa. Russia’s army and its amateurish warfare were mocked around the world almost from the start.

Only threats

Certainly, from those close to Putin there were threats after threats of using nuclear weapons. Just a few weeks ago, Medvedev started doing it again. On the other hand, the MFA of Russia already denied nuclear plans in May 2022. 

Above all, however, every step that the letter writers did not want, but which was then taken, evidently did not lead to the use of (tactical) nuclear weapons. Neither the delivery of armored personnel carriers nor the training of Ukrainian soldiers in the West on Western weapon systems nor the supply of 67 Leopard 2 main battle tanks. Using nuclear weapons makes no sense to Putin. He knows that for sure, or China and India will finally turn their backs on him. He cannot risk that economically. The only possible situation would be an extended suicide out of desperation over the disastrous course of the war.

But Putin does not decide that alone. Almost nobody around him is crazy enough to want that. Recent Putin’s announcement of stationing tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, experts classify as mere saber-rattling and an attempt to intimidate NATO, which will not lead him to military advance. The USA also reacted in a relaxed manner. But it is very likely that the “letter writers” will use this announcement to spread fears again and call for negotiations.

The second main argument of the “letter-writers”, a nuclear state cannot be defeated, has already been discussed, and examples have been given, such as Vietnam and the Soviet’s defeat in Afghanistan. Expressing empathy for the victims seems fake, manipulative, and patronizing because Ukrainians have to decide for themselves the price they want to pay for their freedom.

And to suggest with “warmonger” that Ukraine’s support would be like to go to war is nothing more than bottomless impertinence. In terms of motives, one must always ask whether flagrant anti-Americanism is behind the longing for peace with Russia. It doesn’t take long to find what you’re looking for. “Ami, it’s time to go” is the name of the new book by Oskar Lafontaine, Sahra Wagenknecht’s husband, who signed her appeal and also shared the stage with her.

Oskar Lafontaine: Wagenknecht’s husband was also present at the “Uprising for Peace” rally.

Nothing but nonsense

In it he claims, based on conspiracy theory, that the US “organized and financed a coup on the Maidan in 2014” in order to “install a puppet government”. I know Ukrainians who were active in the Maidan movement at the time. They fought for the western values out of an inner drive. Oskar Lafontaine simply tells nonsense. In general, Ukrainians look at you with shock when you tell them about the demands in German “letter writing”.

Zerstörtes Haus in der Ukraine: Es darf nicht vergessen werden, dass Russland der Aggressor ist, meint Bednarz.
Destroyed house in Ukraine: It must not be forgotten that Russia is the aggressor, says Bednarz. (Source: Pavlo Palamarchuk)

They are rightly sensitive to this colonial view of their country. The German publicist Sascha Lobo is also right about one thing: as early as April 2022, i.e. before the actual letter writing, he classified the entire peace milieu as egocentric “lumpen pacifism”. A peace milieu that does not want to deliver heavy weapons, but wants compromises with Putin and thus cedes territory to him. The “letter writers” depersonalize Ukraine and continue to practice the German colonial view of Ukraine.

They don’t want to see that a democratic civil society that has grown in independent Ukraine is defending itself against Russian aggression. They reduce the war to an alleged proxy war and turn Ukraine into a geopolitical marshalling yard. From the “never again”, which Chancellor Scholz also pointed out in his last government statement, the letter-writers make a simple “never again war”. It is crucially important “not to look up”, but to help and protect when another person is brutally attacked and murdered.

In the end, it is this wrong and egomaniacally understood “Never again” with which the descendants of the German perpetrators people will end up ingloriously in the history books. As the appeaser of a war criminal who deports children.

The opinions expressed in guest articles reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily correspond to the editorial team.

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