[Marxism] From Lenin to Earth Day
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 22 07:03:03 MDT 2004
RWRAINEY5 at aol.com wrote:
> Just recalling an article a few years ago on the internet (forget which list
> or site) which detailed the founding of Earth Day in 1970 as a counterweight
> to the centenary of Lenin's birth.
Silly me. I always thought it had something to do with fears about
nuclear energy, toxins in the food, water and air, etc.
Ecology in the former Soviet Union
Polluted rivers, deforestation, noxious smokestack emissions and
Chernobyl. That is what comes to mind when we think of the former Soviet
Union. Like much of the history of the former Soviet Union, there is
another side to the story. Just as there were political alternatives to
Stalin, there were alternative possibilities to the way that the planned
economy dealt with nature. Douglas R. Weiner's "Models of Nature:
Ecology, Conservation, and Cultural Revolution in Soviet Union" (Indiana
Univ., 1988) is, as far as I know, the most detailed account of the
efforts of the Russian government to implement a "green" policy.
This story starts, as you would expect, with the Bolshevik revolution.
While Lenin has the reputation of being a crude "productivist," the
actual record was quite the opposite. Although Lenin wanted to increase
Soviet Russia's productive power, he thought that nature had to be
The Communist Party issued a decree "On Land" in 1918. It declared all
forests, waters, and minerals to be the property of the state, a
prerequisite to rational use. When the journal "Forests of the Republic"
complained that trees were being chopped down wantonly, the Soviet
government issued a stern decree "On Forests" at a meeting chaired by
Lenin in May of 1918. From then on, forests would be divided into an
exploitable sector and a protected one. The purpose of the protected
zones would specifically be to control erosion, protect water basins and
the "preservation of monuments of nature." This last stipulation is very
interesting when you compare it to the damage that is about to take
place in China as a result of the Yangtze dam. The beautiful landscapes
which inspired Chinese artists and poets for millennia is about to
disappear, all in the name of heightened "productiveness."
What's surprising is that the Soviet government was just as protective
of game animals as the forests, this despite the revenue-earning
possibilities of fur. The decree "On Hunting Seasons and the Right to
Possess Hunting Weapons" was approved by Lenin in May 1919. It banned
the hunting of moose and wild goats and brought the open seasons in
spring and summer to an end. These were some of the main demands of the
conservationists prior to the revolution and the Communists satisfied
them completely. The rules over hunting were considered so important to
Lenin that he took time out from deliberations over how to stop the
White Armies in order to meet with the agronomist Podiapolski.
Podialpolski urged the creation of "zapovedniki", roughly translatable
as "nature preserves." Russian conservationists had pressed this long
before the revolution. In such places, there would be no shooting,
clearing, harvesting, mowing, sowing or even the gathering of fruit. The
argument was that nature must be left alone. These were not even
intended to be tourist meccas. They were intended as ecological havens
where all species, flora and fauna would maintain the "natural
equilibrium [that] is a crucial factor in the life of nature."
Podiapolski recalls the outcome of the meeting with Lenin:
"Having asked me some questions about the military and political
situation in the Astrakhan' region, Vladimir Ilich expressed his
approval for all of our initiatives and in particular the one concerning
the project for the zapovednik. He stated that the cause of conservation
was important not only for the Astrakhan krai, but for the whole
republic as well."
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