International Antimilitarist marches

Back to table of content

By Milan

The International Nonviolent March for Demilitarisation (International March) was an annual event in Europe from 1976 until 1987 that helped spread the idea of organising through affinity groups, with nonviolence training and consensus decision-making.

I attended four of the marches and was involved in organising three of them: 1983 in Brussels against the IDEE (electronic defence exhibition), 1984 Grebenhain, (Fulda-Gap, blocking military maneouvres) and 1985 in Denmark (against Nuclear Arms).

My first blockade was in 1979 at Ramstein when already we were organising in affinity groups, making decisions by consensus and with a speakers' council (that is one 'speaker' from each group). Nearly all the International Marches (or camps) and bigger actions were organised in that way. So it looks to me as if this idea of non-hierarchical ways of organising nvda was being spread at least in part thanks to the International March - but it might be simply that those were the kind of events I chose to attend.

In 1982 I attended my first "Training for Trainers" where we learnt more about the affinity group system and consensus decision making. During the 1980s, there was a big demand for nonviolent trainings and one of the regular topics was "non-hierarchical ways of organising nvda".

I found the intercultural profile of the International March very empowering, and suppose that many participants were enthused to go home to spread the ideas and forms of organising. Also, we could use the attraction of an international event to draw in more and different people into the action than would have happened with a purely locally organised event.

On these marches we also made connections with related themes. For instance, I learnt about gestalt therapy as a way of confronting personal patterns that restrict our creativity. This is happening with the G8 actions / camps today. One reporter commented "perhaps the biggest political impact of these days will happen when these young men and women go home, back to their 'normal' life - changed by this experience, empowered and nurtured by the actions they did, and by the support they have given and received".

A good experience is like a seed which rests for a while in fertile ground and then grows, becoming perhaps a pretty fly or a nourishing vegetable. For me - and I think for many others - the International March planted such seeds.