Protest as democratic practice: peace movements in southern Europe, 1975-1990

Principal Investigator: Dr Eirini Karamouzi (Department of History) Co-Investigators: Dr Maria Grasso (Department of Politics) and Prof Benjamin Ziemann (Department of History) Max Batley Peace Studies Postdoctoral Fellow: Dr Giulia Quaggio.

The mobilisation against the deployment of US Pershing and Cruise Missile atomic warheads in the wake of the NATO Dual Track Solution in 1979 was a watershed moment in the recent political history of Western Europe. The anti-nuclear protests of the 1980s activated civil society, renegotiated the parameters of political participation and redefined the understanding of (international and domestic) security. The contours and implications of the 1980s anti-nuclear protests are well researched for key western European countries. Developments on the southern European periphery, however, have not yet been substantially studied. The key objective of the project is to analyse anti-nuclear and anti-militarist peace protests in selected southern European countries during the late 1970s and 1980s. The focus will be on Greece, Spain and Italy, three countries that were involved in the 1980s mobilisation cycle in different ways. Italy had been selected for the deployment of Pershing missiles and was thus a key battleground of conflicts over the Dual Track Decision. But the country had also seen a wave of left and right-wing terrorism during the 1970s and a concomitant crisis of parliamentary democracy. Spain and Greece had just returned to parliamentary democracy from military dictatorship in 1975 and 1974, respectively. They were not directly involved in the conflict over the Dual Track Decision, but experienced intensive protests against the presence of US military bases or against NATO membership more generally. Thus, all three countries were involved in conflicts over security that entailed a complex renegotiation of democratic practices in the widest sense. The project will investigate these developments through the lens of peace movement mobilisation.

As the walkers were passing through the remote rural area outside Seltso in Leningrad Oblast (County), American and Soviet flags leading the way, the villagers waved a friendly welcome. Photo from the Our Moves Archives and copyrighted to Jeff Share.

As the walkers were passing through the remote rural area outside Seltso in Leningrad Oblast (County), American and Soviet flags leading the way, the villagers waved a friendly welcome. Photo from the Our Moves Archives and copyrighted to Jeff Share. (Segal, F. & Basten, F. (1988). “The American Soviet Walk: Taking Steps to End the Nuclear Arms Race,” p. 32)

Considering both national peculiarities and the shared framework of a difficult transition to a renewed democratic practice, the project will consider the following research questions: How did the protest movements of the 1980s differ from previous (Italian and Greek) peace protests of the 1960s? What mobilised the peace activists of the 1980s, and which shared perceptions and collective symbols – such as anti-Americanism, a sense of national victimhood or socialist anti-militarism – framed their protests? How did the state and key parties respond to the protests? And, ultimately: to what extent were these peace protests a crucial element of the transition to and transformation of democratic practices in southern European countries?

The project is generously funded by an award in the context of the Max Batley Peace Studies Post Doctoral Fellowships. Starting in February 2017, the project will conduct empirical research with regard to Italy, Spain and Greece, prepare an international conference on the topic, and write-up the findings of the project in articles for peer-reviewed journals.

For further information, please contact members of the team Dr Eirini KaramouziDr Maria GrassoProf Benjamin Ziemann and Dr Giulia Quaggio.