Press Release (March 18th 2003)
Last weekend, the World Congress of Freethinkers convened in Prague. The congress last took place in Prague in 1936, shortly before the immediate build-up to the Second World War began with the suppression of Czechoslovakia by the German fascists. The International Council of the World Union elected a new Executive Board with Prof. Dr. Jaques Prépin (Versailles, France) as President and Klaus Hartmann (Offenbach, Germany) as Vice President.
Under the motto “Fundamentalism and Irrationalism – Threat to Peace, Laicity and Democracy” different religious and secular varieties of the destruction of reason were examined. Prof. Dr. Hans-Günter Eschke (Jena) spoke at first for the German Freethinkers Association about the sense and tasks of freethought in view of ideological attempts to give meaning to “neoliberalism” and “post-modern age”. Lorenz Knorr (Frankfurt/Main) had, as a young anti-fascist from Cheb, himself experienced the pro-fascist activities of the “Sudentenland Germans” and took a look at the revisionism of history by the so-called “exiles” and their revanchist political advocates today.
Under the impression of the immediate threat of war from the USA, the question of peace was the central topic of the congress. Klaus Hartmann in his opening speech and Dr. Stanislav Pateijdl (Prague) from the Czech peace association stressed that with so-called “humanitarian” wars or those “against terror” international law was being eroded, the beginning of which had already been seen in the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999, which had brazenly been described as an “anti-fascist” act.
The discussion about an anti-war declaration was at first marked by the efforts, widespread within the peace movement, not to appear as “friends of Saddam Hussein” by dissociating from the Iraqi “regime”. An argument against this was that an equidistance between aggressor and victim was in itself morally unacceptable and worked towards the central war motive of the USA, namely a “change of regime”, with which the war in the end, although “against will”, was being legitimized. In the struggle against the destruction of international law, the Iraqi government was in any case objectively on the side of the peace forces. In the end a declaration was unanimously passed without “dissociation”, but with the support for sovereignty and the right to self-determination.
“The World Union of Freethinkers, which convened in Prague on 15th and 16th March 2003 for its congress, condemns emphatically the attacks and threats of war against the people of Iraq.
It defends the authority of the UN, the ban on war in the UN charter and the equality of all states as the foundation of international law.
It is convinced that it is the exclusive right of the people of Iraq – as it is of every other people – to decide on their own government without the intervention from abroad and to determine their political and economic order themselves.
The absence of a military threat and of economic want is an indispensable requirement for democratic and laicistic development and for the realization of human rights.
The World Union of Freethinkers condemns the religious and nationalistic prejudices which fan the flames of hatred between nations and peoples and thus aggravate the dangers of war.
It calls resolutely for peace to be kept throughout the whole world in particular as those responsible for wars are themselves never the victims of the violence released and of the mass murder which ensues.”
After the end of the international freethinkers congress Klaus Hartmann said: “Bush’s promise that ‘the tyrant will soon be a part of the past’ is probably an empty promise as the author has got it wrong and namely not referred to himself. Out of the mouth of a pathological criminal, the words ‘May God continue to save America’ sound particularly appropriate. If the war-mongerers cannot be stopped by millions of people, then for humanitarian reasons the aggressors’ share among the number of victims should be possibly high.”