[Marxism] Books on Vegetarianism (Not Just a Dietary Choice)

Calvin Broadbent calvinbroadbent at hotmail.com
Tue Dec 21 05:16:45 MST 2004


First of all, I found the discussion on the sustainability or otherwise of 
vegetarian diets very interesting. Not once did I come off with moralistic 
or preachy discourse about the evils of human carnivorousness (although I do 
indeed consider it a moral, as well as practical-political, question). I 
knew as soon as I had broached the subject of vegetarianism that I would be 
accused of self-righteousness- a standard barb aimed at vegetarians by proud 
meat-eaters. For the record, obviously being a vegetarian does not make you 
politically revolutionary. Many vegetarians are into not eating meat so as 
to increase their self-understanding as disciplined and ascetic 
*individuals*, rather like the old Victorian advocates of temperance. Such 
people are often holier than thou bigots, admittedly. Some aren't.  At any 
rate, wasn't it Engels (or maybe Marx) who castigated those who would use 
socialist forums as vehicles to promote such causes as vegetarianism?

I am neither an idealist nor, thankfully, a mystic. The German philosopher 
Schopenhauer formulated the old Chinese proverb, the 'golden rule' of 
morality, thus: 'harm no one, rather help as much as you can'. This is not 
the same as the ascetics' 'harm no one'. I am quite shocked to learn that 
the USSR 'stamped out vegetarianism' and that this was made (by whom, 
exactly? Pravda?) one of that State's greatest achievements. Do you have any 
references to support this statement, Suresh? If vegetarianism was 'stamped 
out', I have no doubt that this due to some pressing economic necessity. I 
would hesitate to make a virtue, still less a socialist virtue, of the 
slaughter of so many animals. Finally, my concern for other species stems 
considerably from my ability to relate to their pain and capacity for 
pleasure as a consequence of our each posessing a nervous system.



>Meanwhile, vegetarianism is also suited for idealists
>and mystics; to the Tolstoyean and Gandhian
>sensibility. The philosophy of asceticism and "do no
>harm" has apparently nothing to offer revolutionary
>politics. Because of this, and the implicit rather
>than explicit nature of Marxist ethics, it isn't so
>surprising that the stamping out of vegetarianism was
>made one of the achievements of the Soviet worker's
>state. I have to admit, however, that I find this
>history of antagonism between socialism and animal
>welfare to be quite unfortunate and unnecessary, and
>simply another example of the tendencies of a vulgar,
>reductionist Marxism, which can conceive of no
>conflict outside of class relations. A materialist and
>monist perspective, imbued with an understanding in
>the latest evolutionary and phylogenetic science,
>almost demands a concern for other species.

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