Green Hopes

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Sun Nov 19 06:37:21 MST 1995


Professor Levy wrote:

>
> 2) Many greens are explicitly anti-capitalist and are also anti-Marxist.
> We're going to have to come up with a better answer than capitalism is
> responsible and socialism can solve environmental problems. In part,
> Marxists will have to explain why the level of environmental destruction
> occurred within the USSR and the "peoples democracies."
>

Louis: Professor Levy, green-reds have written thousands of pages on
exactly this topic. I recommend David Pepper's "Eco-Socialism", a book
that influenced my "Green-Red" dialectic article that is available on the
Marxism list archive. I also recommend John Bellamy Foster's "The
Vulnerable Planet", which I haven't read, but has been published by the
estimable Monthly Review press. I also recommend Loren Graham's "Ghost of
the Executed Engineer", a book on the Soviet engineer Palchinksy who fought
for an environmentally-sensitive approach to industrial development in the
USSR and was murdered by Stalin for his efforts. I have cited this book,
without exaggeration, perhaps 25 times on this list. (Doug Henwood has my
copy of the book and I will deliver it to Harry Magdoff as soon as I pick
it from him. Just a reminder, Doug.)

You are some kind of Trotskyist, as I understand it, so perhaps you can
utilize your Trotskyist intellectual tools to understand why the Soviet
bureaucracy was as cruel to nature as it was to humanity. This is really
not very difficult. Should Stalin have cared more about the lives of
salmon or pine trees than peasants or workers? They were all raw material
to be digested for the greater good of "socialism".

Marx and Engels should not be read as hostile to the environment. This
was a distortion introduced by intellectuals influenced by the Soviet
bureaucracy. A more correct understanding of their attitude can be
derived from this passage from Engel's "Dialectics of Nature":

"The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor, and elsewhere
destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that they
were laying the basis for the present devastated condition of these
countries, by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and
reservoirs of moisture. When on the southern slopes of the mountains, the
Italians of the Alps used up the pine forests so carefully cherished on
the northern slopes, they had no inkling by doing so they were cutting at
the roots of the dairy inustry in their region; they had less inkling
that they were thereby depriving their mountain springs of water for the
greater part of the year, with the effect that these would be able to
pour still more furious flood torrents on the plains during the rainy
season....Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule
over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing
outside nature-- but that we, with flesh, blood, and brain, belong to
nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists
in the fact that we have the advantage of all other beings of being able
to know and correctly apply its laws."


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