re-william morris

Michael Luftmensch MLuftmensch at
Thu Jun 13 19:47:35 MDT 1996

re-william morris

Louis Proyect

One of the questions that I have been preoccupied with over the last
several years is the possibility of a "red-green" synthesis. A
possible clue to such a synthesis can be found in the writings
of Bellamy and Morris, both of whom I am sympathetic to. Isn't it
entirely possible that a socialist vision for the 21st century will have to
incorporate as much Morris's approach as Bellamy's? Technology
should be seen as a means to an end: the unhurried enjoyment of life
in a context of natural beauty.

Michael Luftmensch

Lewis Mumford's history of technology and urban life is one synthesis of
Bellamy and Morris.

Mumford can both illuminate and obscure history. Many of the forecasts
he made in the thirties about the urbanization of the united states have
been borne out. In describing the workings of the megamachines of
antiquity - the technology of the pyramid builders who made their
machines out of human parts - he seems to me much more insightful
than many marxist historians of the ancient world. Free of notions of
unilinear progress, he can draw powerful parallels between the ancient
and 20th century worlds. That's Mumford at his best. At his worst,
he's a jungian obscurantist. That means, for example, that lacking a
materialist explanation for the resemblance between  the cities of the
 old world and the new, he falls back on genetic memory traces in migrant
minds - a transcendental city come down to two planets - to solve what
need not be a riddle. That is at his worst.

On a less theoretical plane, in British Columbia, the possibility of a
red-green synthesis is an ongoing social reality. There is a synthesis
on the everyday level - though more in terms of ritual than practical
activity - which incorporates elements of socialism and green politics -
and native beliefs (and many other  quite diverse, and even antagonistic
elements).  Now, this synthesis is a lot less than optimal, as any
regional - as distinguished from global - synthesis tends towards
parochialism. But it is not without interest.

In mainstream terms, the NDP has incorporated many elements of
the green agenda. In social terms, an abundance of public parks - areas
of natural beauty - are one very present context in which life could
be enjoyed more, if we had more time and less rain. Although Vancouver
is booming (owing to a choice location on the Pacific Rim which at present
makes it attractyive to capital) over 10 percent of the workforce is
unemployed. Plenty more are  underemployed or overemployed.

How this will work itself out politically is tied into the future of the
province inside Canada. How will the green left respond to the break-up
of Canada? Hopefully, by resisting the reconstitution of British Columbia's
borders in terms  favourable to capital and at the expense of working
people. But obviously, this struggle extends beyond the borders of British
Columbia or Canada.

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