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March 8, 1978

Interchurch Peace Council (IKV), 'Concept Peace Week and Peace Paper 1977'

This document was made possible with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY)

This paper will be handed out at the IKV meeting on March 9th 1977,

it will be read, discussed, and collected again.

We have paid a price for carelessly distributing unripe papers.

Those are ready for the wrecking ball. And ... there are plenty of wreckers out there![1]





The Peace Paper of this year will be centered around two subjects, namely:

  1. The fight against nuclear armament
  2. The fight against the militarization of society


Why “the fight against nuclear armament” instead of “the problem of the nuclear armament”

The most simple motive that probably plays a major part for many, is that in the area of nuclear weapons they would finally like to see occur a visible change in the direction of  abolition. People in the Netherlands only talk about nuclear weapons and nuclear policy; not one noticeable decision has been made thus far against nuclear armament.

Of course, the Netherlands has signed the non-proliferation treaty and it does not produce atomic weapons, but these decisions were totally in line with their allies’ policy. A move that completely deviates from it has never been made, which means that the Dutch government just cooperates in the preparation and realization of a nuclear strategy.

The IKV in 1972 has decided to oppose participation in a nuclear war by Christians, following the 1962 decision of the Dutch Reformed Church. The effect of this decision until now has not been that Christians in the army are met with suspicion because their stance would disrupt deterrence.


In the meantime, two developments have continued unabatedly during the last couple of years: talking about nuclear weapons and the production of new nuclear weapons.

The IKV does not want to contend that the national and international discussion about nuclear weapons, whether in the context of negotiations about disarmament and non-proliferation or not, could not lead to significant results. The IKV does think, however, that this discussion has not yet led to anything remotely satisfactory. Totally insufficient in terms of the danger that threatens us. In recent years, the IKV has gotten the feeling that everything in this discussion has been said ten, twenty times. It looks like a railway yard. Everybody may shunt its train on the yard, but the possibilities to choose their way are entirely fixed. And the worst element of it is that there aren’t any connections with tracks leading somewhere. But, because nobody knows for certain, one just keeps maneuvering. One never knows if at the right time a track can’t be found that does continue.


The IKV has gotten the feeling a new element should be added to the negotiations and the discussion. This new element should be a striking, because strongly deviating from the joint policy, decision in the Netherlands concerning nuclear weapons. In other words, a concrete change on nuclear issues in the Netherlands, e.g. open removal of nuclear weapons from Dutch soil. What would be learned then, namely that the hellhounds do not immediately break loose, that the allies will respond less panicky than is often predicted, etc. etc. can perhaps also have a beneficial effect on talks between east and west.


We know, based on our experience and faith, that something that seems to be completely stuck or impossible to reach, can be put in motion. We should resolutely face up to the situation, not cover it up by only talking about it, and with all our might try to change one thing for the better.




The Peace Week and the Peace Paper thus must be the beginning of a structural and more concentrated campaign against nuclear weapons. They have to stimulate a renewed action against nuclear weapons—on a broader base than in the 1950s. This campaign must be founded on a stream of information about the consequences of nuclear weapons and the probability of a nuclear war and the ways it could become reality.

This information should be provided through oral as well as written methods, but the IKV should also track down audiovisual media for this campaign (movies, radio drama, plays, songs, fiction etc.) to communicate the message as penetratingly as possible.



The campaign must put forward one single demand centrally as action point: nuclear weapons out of Europe, beginning with the Netherlands.

There are many circumstances that make this demand a realistic political option.

  • In several political parties there is either full, majority, or minority support for this demand.
  • The problem of nuclear energy, the proliferation problem have put the danger of nuclear weapons more starkly into the foreground again.
  • The changing of the guard in the United States[2] seems to offer new possibilities.
  • The fundamental and endemic divisions among the elites debating and deciding the nuclear strategy, also offers chances for a broadly shared “action strategy.”
  • Some elements in the on-going debate about tactical nuclear weapons in Europe probably point to an ever more precarious status for them.
  • There has never been so much information available about nuclear armaments. At the same time, this information is unbelievably unfamiliar to people.


‘Editorial formula’ for the [Peace] Paper

This year’s Peace Paper will be written again by IKV people. Next year, it will the turn again of the lion and the lamb.[3] It will be substantially thinner (16 pages?) and more visual.

In the lead article we will again try to line up our best arguments and our feelings why do we want to renew and sharpen our resistance against the nuclear weapons. For this we orient ourselves by the very clear article by professor Joh. Blok: “Consequences of technical developments for thinking about war and peace” RO Congres 1976.

We do not consider this article, though, as a starting signal for another round of “shadow-boxing” with the foreign affairs-elite. That little game is over.

All dilemmas, all contradictions and inconsistencies, all uncertainties and risks in whatever direction, all ambivalent feelings accompanying whatever choice: we know them all. But also for our choice: Help rid Europe of nuclear weapons, beginning with the Netherlands, we can find excellent arguments. The very best ones we will (have) collect(ed)  and organize(d). That position and rationale we will broadcast and we will not let them go under in an endless, foggy debate, for which the rules have been formulated by the status quo thinkers.  

Again, the goal of this new campaign against nuclear weapons is not to provoke yet another debate with the foreign ministry elite. That is over. Our campaign is focused primarily on the population. We want to win people over for our vision: nuclear weapons out of the Netherlands. We know exactly what we want! We also talk about the accompanying risks. We do not pretend there aren’t any dangers connected to what we want. We point out that real change may not be possible without suffering, but we strongly emphasize the bigger risks of other options.


Four themes

To prevent this discussion turning into an expert debate once again, we reject the limited political-strategic discussion about nuclear weapons, and, next to our position against nuclear weapons and our plea for a Europe without nuclear weapons, beginning with the Netherlands, develop four themes that go beyond the usual scope of the debate over nuclear weapons:


  1. What do you do yourself for your own safety?

Safety is a human need.

For a very long time, human communities have met this need in a way people could understand, survey and influence. The defense of home and hearth or the attack on others’ home and hearth for gain or out of missionary zeal: you could consider it good or ugly, at least it was an entirely human business.

From the conduct of war and the preparation for war humankind recedes more and more.

In our society, the safety needs of people are being met through a system of organizations, institutions, procedures etc., from which humans have been totally alienated.

It does not concern them anymore, it goes totally over their heads, they don’t feel responsible for it. This extends into the war itself.

Only a carefully constructed system of extremely abstract symbols reaching back to primary experiences, maintains people’s support for defense. About the rest, silence dominates.

Our first theme is: how do we return to the people their ability to defend what is dear to them.

  1. by helping them to envisage parts of the defense system here and there (for example the storage depots of nuclear weapons in the Netherlands).
  2. by bringing the idea and practice of social defense closer to the people.


  1. The second theme deals with coercion

Two poisonous scorpions spy upon each other in a bottle. Motionless, the two control each other. When one moves, each simultaneously applies a lethal sting to the other.

That is the balance of deterrence.

The relations between states are the farthest removed from any humanization. In those relations, the principle of coercion based on fear dominates.

This situation could not continue if it wasn’t supported actively and minimally tolerated passively, if not countless relationships below the level of states, between persons and small groups, were not also regulated by the principle of coercion.

Our society is full of deterrence. When we train ourselves to discover and replace that, it must make us more suitable also to do without this deterrence between states.

There is one form of coercion from which we want to distance ourselves unconditionally during Peace Week (perhaps this must be all the way up-front). That is the coercion you get to conduct the debate about nuclear weapons according to the rules and themes of the professionals.

This time we draw up the themes. It is all about being more self-conscious. The insanity of the atomic armament is obvious. It is our most powerful ally. This insanity everybody can understand very well. Social pressure to be an acceptable conversation partner for the professionals must be resisted.


  1. The third theme is: the consequences of Hiroshima for our “feeling of life.”

Has our capacity to assign meaning been affected by slaughter committed in the Second World War? The murder of the Jews, the bombing of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Can the capacity to assign meaning be reconciled with the realization that reality, our reality, our past and our future could be destroyed in one single blow?

(Lifton theme, Living and dying(Ambo) )[4]


  1. A fourth theme concerns the enemy.

How immensely malicious an enemy has to be, to be threatened with total extermination within 24 hours.

Who is so malicious to deserve that.

Nobody after all, no people. Not even any system. So, in the system of deterrence, we threaten the incineration of millions of people, but they do not deserve it. Certainly not ordinary people, because they have the same notion of the system as we do. As soon as we really think about the reality of our enemy, a mixture of good and evil, we subvert the abstract approval of retaliation, on which the balance of deterrence is based.


Or is this reasoning not true at all and has the balance of deterrence become more and more enemy-independent? One would certainly say so.

But the image of the enemy does play a role. Out of what processes in our society does that enemy appear?


The militarization of society reveals itself in a succession of concrete developments (actions) in the country linked to these four themes, especially the theme of coercion. Developments and actions such as:

- nuclear energy - training grounds

- Berufsverbote -Almelo[5]

- etc.


The IKV campaign against nuclear weapons must be introduced through a sort of scenario in which the IKV in the present political/military situation in the Netherlands/Europe launches its campaign, which subsequently will nearly imperceptibly succeed via a process of a very gradual broadening. The dates for this scenario will be provided. Elaboration must be done by someone from the world of literature/radio theater.


In the paper there will also be a motivational article. By a theologian, a good one. We want to leave Egypt.






[1] The author first and foremost had in mind IKV allies, such as former minister and Christian Democratic prominent Marga Klompé, who were still wedded to the approach followed for the Peace Week of the previous year—giving lots of space to representatives of policymaking elites, such as Defense Minister Henk Vredeling—and who were opposed to the more confrontational methods proposed now. See for example the interview with the author of this paper, Ben ter Veer, in: Dion van den Berg, ed., IKV 1966–2006: veertig jaar mobiliseren voor vrede (The Hague: IKV, 2006), 172–173.

[2] Reference to the new Carter administration.

[3] In this context, this reference to the Bible verse, Isiaha 11:6, is a reference to the Peace Paper of the previous year, when the focus had been on contributions from policymakers and activists—the lion and the lamb together—rather than the mobilization of ordinary people agains the nuclear arms race.

[4] Reference to Robert Jay Lifton’s 1974 book.

[5] Reference to the URENCO nuclear centrifuge site.

This concept paper marks a shift toward a major anti-nuclear campaign for the IKV, planned to be launched during the Peace Week later in 1977. The Paper voices the need for unilateral action on the behalf of the Netherlands, and that the IKV will demand "the openly announced removal of all nuclear weapons from Dutch soil."

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International Institute for Social History, Amersterdam, Archief Interkerkelijk Vredesberaad, Secretariaat 1977, Box 44.


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