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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