By Tord Björk, World BEYOND War, May 10, 2022
From the notes of a speech held at Arbis, the Swedish speaking worker’s institute in Helsinki 7 may 2022 at the meeting “Secure Finland without NATO and nuclear weapons”
“How to secure a world without military alliances and nuclear weapons”
How to secure a world without military alliances and nuclear weapons as well as find ways to end the war in Ukraine and obtain peace in Europe? We will address this issue at a meeting called “Together for Peace and Environment” in Stockholm 13-14 May at the Solidarity Movement House. The first panel will discuss the New Helsinki accord and consider the alternatives of economic justice or humanity’s suicide.
The answer on how to end the war lies in the efforts to renew the quest for peace and human rights which was once expressed at the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe that took place in Helsinki 1975. In spite of the strong tensions due to the invasion of Ukraine, diplomatic discussions are taking place and a solution must be found leading away from continued escalation. Other pressing matters such as environmental, economic, health, and food issues, all of which are intertwined with the Ukrainian conflict make this an urgent and demanding task.
We had some discussion concerning the title for the panel discussion in Stockholm. Are we, the human species, really on our way to commit suicide? After some considerations we said yes, it is as we all know by now fully possible that we face such large scale global environmental destruction that if changes do not take place we will die. Facts are clear. Species extinction, global warming or a nuclear war can result in the disappearance of human beings on this planet.
To cut it short the situation is in other words simple. We have to face the problem that all of humanity has created for itself. It is not only military alliances and nuclear weapons that are the problem, it is far more than that. And above all the central issue is not peace in Europe but rather peace on Earth and peace with Earth.
Why then talk about economic justice when the environmental threat is what can cause humanity to destroy itself? The answer to that is that rather than looking upon ourselves as victims of external threats we need to look upon ourselves as historical subjects. We are actors in this world, not citizens within national boxes or professionals performing what the job market demands from us. We are actors within the material limits of the biosphere in which we and coming generations can thrive as free human beings if we choose to take responsibility for our situation.
At the core of the problem is, in other words, social relations, relations formed by economic realities. This was clearly understood once by popular movements a hundred and more years ago fighting for social and economic justice. With the interplay between revolutions and reforms societies in countries like Finland and Sweden managed to establish more equality.
Today a backlash has taken place. The proportion of GNP owned by billionaires in Sweden is the second highest in the world, only surpassed by Russia when it comes to the proportion of the wealth of the richest owners of capital. And we all know that to sustain the way of life in Finland and Sweden 3 to 4 times more planets are needed than the one we have.
So the only way forward is to start here and now to build popular alliances across the East-West and South-North divide. That is what was initiated at the International Peace Bureau (IPB) World Peace congresses in Berlin 2016 and Barcelona in 2021 when both Friends of the International (FOEI) and International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) were invited to discuss Climate Justice transition. That is also what takes place in The World Social Forum process when European social forum activists have taken the lead to unite all movements under the slogan disarmament for a social and ecological just transition. This is also at the centre of the Peoples forum taking place in Stockholm 50 years after the first UN Conference on environment and development in June 1972.
Within such a global context, we can provide a solid base for everyone exploited by the rich in all parts of the world by putting both domestic and international economic justice at the centre of our efforts. In such a global context it is fully possible to abolish all military alliances and systematically create the conditions for peace everywhere including in Europe.
It may sound unrealistic but at least in Sweden many are standing up locally while networking across the country and internationally for a social and ecological just transition, enabling at the same time a safer Sweden and a safer world. When launching the new Palme report on Common security promoted by ITUC and IPB 40 years after the first was issued in 1982 Jan Eliasson, former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations stated that it was the Helsinki accord that paved the way for the good results achieved in the 1980s. The detente promoted by the Palme commission would never have been possible without the Finnish efforts to bring about international Security and Co-operation, and one could add the mass peace movement on the streets.
Now the Finnish politicians turn their back against the historic achievement made in 1975 and in practice close the door for a new conference in Helsinki. The Swedish politicians have not yet done so. As a country that initiated UN environmental conferences, Sweden also has an historic environmental achievement to stand up for. But Swedish NATO membership threatens the capacity to continue what was once started. NATO tries to expand globally and gives less and less space for non-aligned countries where peace conferences can best be held. NATO also tries to define climate, health and other environmental issues as within the realm of NATOs security concerns preferably in close cooperation with corporations. Thus, Sweden as well as Finland is on its way to become unfit for housing conferences where historical achievements of importance for mankind can be made. NATO, billionaires gathered in Davos and international institutions controlled by the West are trying, more and more, to marginalize the democratic UN system. We the popular movements regret that Sweden and Finland seem willing to give up their historical achievements and will do our best to cooperate across borders, support a democratic UN, and insist that, more than ever, the world needs countries that keep a neutral and non-aligned position.