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Campaign of the Month: “We don’t buy Mercedes: Boycott Cluster Bombs!”

The thorn in the flesh of the armaments giant Daimler/EADS is the organisation of Critical Shareholders and with them the activists of the DFG-VK (German Peace Society – United Conscientious Objectors). An armaments producing business which is a corporation offers an efficient basis for their peace work: according to the shareholders’ law, they have the right of speech, the right to obtain information and the right to make motions at the general assembly. The protest of corporation critics doesn’t have to stop at the entrance to the assembly – it can be carried into the assembly.

We founded the “Critical Shareholders of Daimler-Benz in 1990 with the Motto “Disarm Daimler” and renamed ourselves 2007 to become the “Critical Shareholders of Daimler” (KAD). The yearly climax of the debate is usually the general assembly, because the president and the supervisory board are held accountable by the shareholders – the owners of the corporation. Before each General Assembly, we publish our alternative report entitled “In the Shadow of the Star”, in which we describe the dark sides of the Daimler business politics, which are ignored in the official business reports and shiny pamphlets.

We organise activities directly before the entrance to the Berlin Fairgrounds ICC where the general assemblies have been taking place for years. These include the distribution of the alternative reports as well as offering the “Daimler Bloodcocktail” – KAD members are dressed as waiters and serve a symbolic blood-red juice to draw attention to the immoral armaments production and the inhuman Daimler/EADS arms exports.

The emphasis of our resistance lies in the campaign “We don’t buy Mercedes: Boycott cluster bombs!” In October 2007 activists from numerous peace organisations demonstrated at Mercedes establishments in ten cities. At the beginning of November 2007, the BUND youth organisation of Baden-Württemberg (Organisation for Nature and Environment Protection of Germany) laid out a gigantic cluster bomb field in the EADS city of Ulm.

At the General Assembly on April 9, 2008 we demanded in Berlin with a motion, that the executive board not be exonerated. The justification: “The executive board supports the participation of Daimler/EADS in the inhuman production of cluster bomb launchers and armaments exports.” We justified our motion for refusal of exoneration before thousands of shareholders in several speeches – much to the disapproval of the executive board and the supervisory board.

The number of supporters is growing on the website www.wir-kaufen-keinen-mercedes.de, which is administered by the DFG-VK. There it is possible to inform oneself thoroughly about the activities and the background of the campaign and to make contact with the experts. From the viewpoint of the corporation, the danger is great that consumers consider moral and ethical aspects when deciding about a purchase. An intensification arises because customers of the top car class definitely have the possibility of buying cars from corporations, which do not participate in armaments production. Our viewpoint is that in any case, ecological means of transportation are appropriate and recommendable.

A first big success can already be recorded by the corporation critics: After receiving information about the involvement of the car and armaments producer in the weapons business, Unicef, the Children's Help Fund of the United Nations, refused to put DaimlerChrysler on the list of sponsors in the business year 2005. And Belgium was the first country to completely ban cluster bombs in February 2006. This positive development led to a forced discussion in Germany and put Daimler/EADS as a producer of cluster bombs in the middle of that public discussion.

The activities against cluster bombs throughout the nation can be considered to be a successful step towards increasing pressure on the corporations to stop the production of cluster bombs. Next year the Daimler General Assembly will take place on April 8 in Berlin and the EADS General Assembly in May in Amsterdam. To become active in Amsterdam, we need the support of pacifists from Holland and from many other countries.

Whoever wants to convince the Daimler executive board to stop participation in cluster bombs or finally to convert the production within EADS must exert a tremendous amount of pressure. This is where the common image campaign “We buy no Mercedes: Boycott Cluster Bombs!” of the Critical Shareholders, the DFG-VK and other peace and human rights organisations begins – with respectable success.

Jürgen Grässlin is a national speaker of the DFG-VK and Speaker of the Critical Shareholders Daimler (KAD). He is the publisher of many books about weapons exports, car and armaments corporations, for example “The Daimler-Disaster with extensive information about the arms production and exports of Daimler/EADS. (www.juergengraesslin.com, Key word: “English Texts”)

Translation by Virginia Edwards-Menz,

Armaments-Informations-Office (RüstungsInformationsBüro RIB e.V.)