Protests against security conference: peace angels in munich

While international arms deals are being brokered at the Bayerischer Hof, the peace movement demonstrates outside.

Protests against the Siko 2017 Photo: Pascal Beucker

Lisa Fitz is in a hurry. Actually, she has no time at all, she says. A performance at the Dorfstadl Buttlerhof in Tutzing is still on the 61-year-old cabaret artist’s schedule today. But to the traditional demonstration against the Munich Security Conference (SiKo) she came then nevertheless. "It’s already important to show the flag here," she tells the taz on the sidelines of the kick-off rally. "The enemy is overpowering, but if you do nothing at all, it won’t get any better." The war profiteers and their henchmen must be shown the red card again and again.

Lisa Fitz is one of several thousand people demonstrating in downtown Munich on Saturday afternoon under the slogan "Frieden statt Nato – Nein zum Krieg!" ("Peace instead of NATO – No to war!"). The organizers speak of just under 4,000.

"The SiKo is neither about the peaceful resolution of conflicts, nor about security for the people of the globe," says Claus Schreer. Rather, he says, the conference is "a propaganda forum to justify NATO, its war missions and its billions spent on military rearmament." The 78-year-old is the spokesman for the "Action Alliance against the NATO Security Conference". Since 2002, he has organized the central demonstration against the spectacle in the Bayrischer Hof.

As a peacenik event, the SiKo actually cannot succeed. The Munich conference has been in existence since 1963, when it was still called the "International Military Science Meeting". Influenced by the Cold War since its early days, it has never been uncontroversial. As a semi-official forum for Western geopolitical grand narrators and arms lobbyists, it still meets with fierce criticism from peace movements today.

This year, in addition to more than 100 leading government representatives from all over the world, who dominate the media image of the conference, numerous high-ranking military officers and high-profile corporate managers are once again taking part in the conference. A lucrative gathering: For the arms industry, the security conference is always a good place to initiate business. And they are willing to pay for it: arms manufacturers such as Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, MBDA and Lockheed Martin are traditional sponsors.

The federal government pays

Although the SiKo calls itself "independent," a large part of the costs are borne by the German government. As can be seen from the Ministry of Defense’s answer to a small question from the Left Party, the Press and Information Office is sponsoring the supposed private conference, as it did last year, from a budget provided by the Ministry of Defense for "security policy public relations" with 500,000 euros – which is supposed to correspond to about 30 percent of the total costs.

Added to this are personnel support services provided by the Bundeswehr. Around 220 members of the Bundeswehr have been seconded as helpers – from transport organization and medical services to interpreting services. In addition, more than 50 military police are on duty to provide personal and escort protection.

Cabaret artist Lisa Fitz at the protests Photo: Pascal Beucker

The Left Party is sharply critical. "Supporting the Munich Security Conference with federal funds is a completely unjustified waste of taxpayers’ money," says Left Party member of parliament Ulla Jelpke, who calls the SiKo a "warriors’ meeting." "If the official organizers want to bring together NATO militaries and arms companies, they should also have their meeting financed by them."

Unlike the Greens, who for many years had also sharply criticized the major event, the Left Party has not yet made its peace with the SiKo. Admittedly, several members of its parliamentary group in the Bundestag have also been taking part in the conference for some time. At the same time, the Bavarian and Baden-Wurttemberg state associations of the Left Party as well as its youth organization ‘solid continue to be among the supporters of the action alliance’s counter-demonstration. "We have to stand up to the warmongers," says Sevim Dagdelen, a member of the Bundestag.

A number of protest events traditionally take place on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. Already on Friday at noon, several dozen Iranian opposition members from the ranks of the banned and persecuted People’s Mujahedin demonstrated on Marienplatz against the Tehran Mullah regime and the appearance of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Munich.

On Saturday, both a pro-Russian and a pro-Ukrainian rally also took place. And council communists planned to protest in front of the Turkish Consulate General. "Muslims for Peace" distributed flyers in the pedestrian zone. An hour before the large left-wing demonstration, moreover, about 80 people from the national Bolshevik and right-wing spectrum gathered on the Rindermarkt under the slogan "Out of NATO" – counting the counter-demonstrators "against anti-Semitism and conspiracy mania". The action alliance had already sharply distanced itself from the cross-front event in the run-up.

Theological prominence

As in previous years, the "International Munich Peace Conference" has been taking place parallel to the SiKo since Friday. According to the organizers, the conference is intended to "demonstrate the possibilities of civil politics and the successes of non-violent action. Speakers include the writer Daniela Dahn, the Pax Christi national chairwoman Wiltrud Rosch-Metzler and the local DGB chairwoman and SPD city councilor Simone Burger.

The sociologist Harald Welzer, who was originally announced in the program, is not taking part. The best-selling author, who is popular in the alternative milieu, canceled his participation at short notice. He fears that he does not share the positions and also the concern of the peace conference "in many places", Welzer informed the organizers. "I believe that in the current geopolitical situation, disarmament and a reduction in arms spending in Germany are out of the question," Welzer said. Of the demands on German politics, he therefore only shares the one to reduce arms exports.

Eugen Drewermann cannot understand this. The 76-year-old theologian is one of the speakers at the closing rally of the anti-SiKo demonstration. "Ever since I can remember, I have been against war and against rearmament," he tells the taz. He could "not understand that people still follow the superstition that you can produce peace with weapons."