REPORT BY MARIO PEDRETTI ON THE PRESENT SITUATION OF MOVEMENTS COMBATTING MILITARISATION IN FRANCE
I do not like to speak of "anti-militarists" because this label is rejected by movements such as those which are reclaiming political nonviolence (Movement for a Nonviolent Alternative, MAN). On the other hand, all the movements I see arising here are struggling to a greater or lesser degree, each according to its own political and philosophical options, against the militarisation of French society. I propose to distinguish three main strands:
1. The Nonviolent Strand
This strand is itself divided into several tendencies, ranging from Gandhian nonviolence (Communauté de l'Arche - Community of the Ark - of which there are six in France, with around 200 members) through the French branch of the International FOR (MIR) or the Centre of Training for Nonviolence (CUN) at Le Larzac to the political nonviolence of MAN (350 members). MAN is the principal movement in terms of political influence. Its political orientation places it in the strand of the ecological left, a critic of the Socialist Party. Its current work is concerned with civilian intervention on an international level, that is how to intervene without weapons in an international conflict such as, for example, in Former Yugoslavia (Kosovo). MAN also works on problems more internal to France such as seeking a nonviolent solution to conflicts in certain French "hotspots" or on the question of armaments sales.
A word or two on Kosovo, because I took part in a mission in this region in 1995: it was a priority action for MAN because it is the only democratic mass struggle in Former Yugoslavia carried out by nonviolent means. This explains why the Balkan Peace Team became a recipient of diverted tax (see Thierry Gerard's report).
2. The Conscientious Objection Strand
This strand is itself troubled by divisions. The Movement of Conscientious Objectors (MOC) is the main representative of this movement, with 450 members, but it has been involved in lively debates since Chirac's announcement of the forthcoming abolition of National Service. However, there seems to be agreement that the movement should continue, perhaps in other forms, but still with the principal aim of informing, of resisting and of proposing alternatives to militarisation, particularly with regard to questions of defence. In parallel, groups inspired rather by concern for liberty are being formed, such as the Network of Information for Absolutist Conscientious Objectors (RIRE), which works mainly in the field of support for absolutist objectors who are being tried or imprisoned in France, publishing a bi-monthly newsletter. But basically the differences between RIRE and MOC are becoming increasingly insignificant.
At MOC there are tax resisters, and a great deal of work, as at MAN, on Kosovo and Former Yugoslavia: reception and support of deserters and conscientious objectors who are leaving their homeland. This work is important because these absolutists find very little toleration in the French State, suffering expulsion, a precarious stay in France, etc. I have worked quite a bit on this and could tell you more.
3. The Strand of Pacifism
Grouped around an old pacifist movement, the Pacifist Union of France (UPF) and some small and diverse movements, more or less independent of "large parties", this strand seems to be somewhat on the decline. Its actions relate to questions of arms sales (which they want to outlaw), to defence through the promotion of unilateral disarmament. The pacifist groups can be counted on also to support the absolutist conscientious objectors imprisoned in France, but they are far less active on international questions such as Kosovo.
It is obvious that these three strands intermingle. However, that does not lead to any real dynamism, as the number of tax resisters indicates. Even the recent campaign against nuclear weapons tests did not give these movements a new impetus. Two objectives are more necessary than ever: to limit as far as possible the often exaggerated divisions between movements; to find one or two areas of common ground to embark on actions to create a new dynamic of resistance to militarisation.
Mario Pedretti, member of MOC and MAN