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The debate inside Die Linke around concrete peace policies



Jan van Aken,

Peace flag with the inscription "PACE no to nato"
IMAGO / U. J. Alexander

And now even Finland is joining NATO. Finland remained neutral for over 70 years, but then came 24 February 2022 and — naturally — the country felt threatened by its proximity to the war in Ukraine. Finland and Russia share a 1,300-kilometre border. When your neighbour shows you in word and deed that they do not regard international law or peaceful conflict resolution as being of even the slightest importance, going looking for more security is understandable.

Jan van Aken served as an MP for Die Linke in the German parliament from 2009 to 2017. He currently works for the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation on peace and security policy.

Translated by Eve Richens and Sam Langer for Gegensatz Translation Collective.

It is also understandable despite the fact that NATO is the least suitable choice. NATO was never a “community of shared values”, dedicated to the protection of human rights and democracy. It is a military alliance for the assertion of the economic and geopolitical interests of its member countries. The oft-invoked “values” quickly fall by the wayside when individual NATO members seek to advance their interests with the help of wars of aggression that contravene international law, like the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, or most recently Turkey’s actions in the north of Syria. The latter has provoked no outcry from NATO — instead, the German foreign minister still works hand in hand with the regime in Ankara.

Clearly there are plenty of good reasons to say no to joining NATO. But what then? The threat to Finland, Georgia, and Moldavia is quite real, as is Russian aggression. To simply watch and hope that this aggression never comes your way is not an option for an internationalist left. What alternatives are there, then, that could offer security to vulnerable countries without immediately falling into militarism or NATO mania?

This is just one of the more fundamental questions facing the peace movement and the left more broadly since the 24 February. How can a stable positive peace be achieved, and what could a path to cooperative security policy look like in the face of aggressive imperialist neighbours and global power struggles?

Die Linke has also taken up these questions, and at its federal congress in June 2022, the party initiated a comprehensive discussion process to generate concrete foreign and peace policy responses. This is not a debate about policy programmes. Instead, the congress resolution insists that Die Linke’s founding consensus vis-à-vis peace policy should be upheld throughout the discussion process. Therefore, it is not a matter of creating new principles, but rather of creating new policy approaches from the existing principles. The four following questions will be discussed in detail over the next 12 months:

  • Which kinds of general and/or targeted sanctions are appropriate or worthy of support in particular contexts?
  • What measures are reasonable in terms of providing effective security, even without NATO, for countries like Moldovia or Georgia, which are under real military threat from an aggressive neighbour?
  • How could a system of collective security function in a multipolar world, and what might the first steps towards it look like? What do we propose for the EU and its member states? From our point of view, should the EU play a role in the security architecture?
  • What left-wing approaches for the democratization and strengthening of the UN should we support?

This should not be a merely internal party debate, but rather a broader process of discussion that engages with the peace movement, the Left at large, and with researchers, think tanks, and universities. Everyone is invited to bring their questions, answers, and proposals to this discussion. The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation for its part will support and accompany the debate by providing studies and background information.