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

Suresh borhyaenid at yahoo.com
Tue Dec 21 18:13:16 MST 2004

To reply to Mr. Broadbent about the statement
referring to the supposed "stamping out" of
vegetarianism in the Soviet Union, here are some
relevant links. As to how much of this is simply
liberal anti-communist excess, I cannot say, though it
isn't entirely surprising since the bohemian
avant-garde, as a whole, did fall out of favor by the
later 20's:

Russians say 'nyet' to meat and vodka

Kevin O'Flynn in Moscow

Sunday September 30, 2001

They were suppressed for 70 years and the name of
their philosophy was forbidden. Yet all they wanted
was the right to be vegetarians. Now, more than a
century after the first Russian vegetarian society was
founded, the meat-free life is flourishing again...

The Bolsheviks considered vegetarianism too close to
the fastings of the Church and an imperialist trait.
'Vegetarians didn't say they were vegetarians,' said
Nikolai Kalanov, director of The Vegetarian magazine
and president of the Eurasian Vegetarian Society. 'In
Soviet times, being vegetarian was like being a


In April 1913 in Moscow there took place the 1st
All-Russia Vegetarian Congress. By that time the
vegetarian societies of Russia carried out many
activities - they had opened cafes and restaurants in
24 cities of Russia, founded vegetarian hospitals,
published vegetarian newspapers and magazines etc. The
vegetarianism was widely spread in the country. Among
vegetarians were the writers Bunin and Leskov, the
composer Skryabin, the painter Levitan, the scientist
Rerikh, the academician Nesmeyanov and other famous
people. The famous Russian wrestler Ivan Poddubny also
followed the vegetarian diet.

     The revolution of 1917 has stopped the
development of the vegetarianism in Russia. The Soviet
State authorities considered the vegetarianism as a
pseudoscientific theory that reflected the bourgeois
ideology and therefore harmed to Soviet people. In
1929 the last vegetarian society in Moscow was closed.
The communist leaders scorned the principle idea of
the vegetarianism – non-violence, spirit of
independence, love to all the living and freedom of
thinking. The leaders of the vegetarian societies were
persecuted, many of them – arrested and sentenced.

     The Big Soviet Encyclopedia (1961) commented:
"The vegetarianism is based on false hypothesis and
ideas and has no followers in the Soviet Union!" The
word "vegetarian" was taken away from the dictionaries
of the Russian language.

     In 1989 at the time of perestroika in the USSR on
initiative of Y.S. Nikolaev, Doctor of medicine, T.N.
Pavlova (Center of esthetical attitude towards
animals) and I.L. Medkova (Medical Vegetarian Center)
at the Ecological Fund of the Soviet Union there was
established a vegetarian society (since 1992 – the
Interregional Public Organization " Society"). The
Vegetarian Society is headed by T.N. Pavlova. 



You might also be interested in this prime example of
an unabashedly productivist mindset expressed at the 
Northite World Socialist Website, in response to an
animal rights activist:

"...fundamentally, there is a vast difference between
our socialist, Marxist outlook and that of the animal
rights movement...

Our position... is that human society is a unique
phenomenon amongst all the animal species. Humans can
labour with their hands and brains, can plan and
develop productive techniques, and have amassed
centuries of culture and knowledge that have enabled
them to control and hold dominion over the rest of
nature. Moreover, we hold that humans have the ability
to change and develop not only the natural world in a
conscious and planned way, but also human society
itself-that, after all, is the central tenet of
socialism. In our view, therefore, humans have
infinitely more to them than the ability to experience
pleasure and pain on a biological level. We disagree
with the underlying conception of Singer, Tom Regan
and others that the essential nature of humans can be
found in their individual and biological
characteristics. In other words, we oppose the view of
human society that sees it as nothing more than a
collection of individuals with their own “human
nature” and interests.

Our position (i.e., the Marxist viewpoint) grew out of
the traditions of the eighteenth century Enlightenment
that championed the idea of using science and
technology to make social progress, against the
predominant feudal and religious conceptions that saw
the hierarchical society of the time as permanent. It
is true that such a viewpoint is now regarded as
untenable and wildly optimistic in many intellectual
and political circles.

Over the past 50 years, especially, following the
experience of two world wars and fascism, all sorts of
ideologies, including animal liberation, but also the
related positions such as that of the ecology
movement, have become fashionable. Based on very
one-sided interpretations of Darwinian biology (in
areas such as sociobiology and evolutionary
psychology), many now deem it unacceptable if not
impossible for human society to base itself on such an
ability to change the natural and social world...

What lies behind such pessimistic views is not,
fundamentally, a response to science and technology.
Above all, it was the development of Stalinism in the
Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China that gave rise
to the retrogressive outlook that became widespread in
the last few decades and characterises that of animal
liberation. The series of criminal betrayals of the
working class movement carried out under Stalin’s
leadership in the 1920s and 1930s, the murder of
hundreds of thousands of socialists and intellectuals
in the show trials and gulags, paved the way for the
victory of fascism, world war, and the Holocaust, and
created enormous ideological confusion that still
reverberates throughout intellectual life. If
Stalinism was the same as socialism, a view that many
(including Peter Singer) have uncritically accepted,
and this was the inevitable outcome of the Marxist
movement, then all theories of social progress and
even theories of human society become suspect..."

I'm afraid this is simply a dreadful case of elevating
the concept of modes of production to being synonymous
with humanity itself. Man the tool-maker becomes man
the tool; not a very modern or psychological brand of
Marxism I daresay. Almost makes me sympathetic to the
surrealists attempts to combine Freud and Marx, and to
the Marxist existentialism of the later Sartre -
almost, though not quite.

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