[Marxism] Ecofascism?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Apr 22 16:43:12 MDT 2006


I have been following with some interest a series of articles by Jack 
Conrad on Marxism and ecology in the pages of the Weekly Worker, the organ 
of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Despite its name, this group was 
never the official party recognized by the Kremlin but a new group launched 
by young people trying to "go back to Lenin", it would appear. The party 
has both good and some not so good aspects, in my opinion. While it makes 
frequent calls for unity on the left, it has engaged in strident attacks on 
its opponents--especially the SWP. Whatever else that may be said about it, 
the newspaper makes for a lively read.

I may have something more to say about his articles after they are 
concluded, but want to immediately respond to the latest installment which 
is titled "Darker Shades of Green" 
(http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/621/ecology.htm) which has the following 
lead: "Jack Conrad questions the romantic images presented by green 
primitives and cautions against the seductive lures of ecofascism." 
Whenever I hear a reference to the term "ecofascism," I fully expect to 
read something about Nazi ecology somewhere along the line. Conrad 
fulfilled my expectations, needless to say.

As somebody who has been reading and writing about Green issues for the 
past 15 years or so from a Marxist perspective, I tend to think of growing 
ties between "deep ecologists" and skinheads as unlikely at best. Let me 
explain why.

Conrad begins his analysis with a discussion of the role of anarchist John 
Zerzan, who achieved some notoriety for refusing to condemn the Unabomber. 
This current certainly has a misanthropic character but can it really be 
said that nostalgia for the pre-industrial world is tantamount to fascism? 
Conrad describes Zerzan and his co-thinkers' program in the following terms:

"Their promised land is the endless wilderness. A suitably humbled, 
repentant humanity must return to the Palaeolithic ways of the ancestors 
and live in perfect harmony with nature."

Whatever else one might say about such ideology, it is inconsistent with 
the futuristic aspirations of 20th century fascism. It rather evokes the 
"back to nature" leanings of many 19th century Utopian Socialist 
experiments, including the one that is the subject of Nathaniel Hawthorne's 
"Blithedale Romance" or even these sentiments:

"The nation itself, with all its so-called internal improvements, which, by 
the way are all external and superficial, is just such an unwieldy and 
overgrown establishment, cluttered with furniture and tripped up by its own 
traps, ruined by luxury and heedless expense, by want of calculation and a 
worthy aim, as the million households in the land; and the only cure for 
it, as for them, is in a rigid economy, a stern and more than Spartan 
simplicity of life and elevation of purpose. It lives too fast. Men think 
that it is essential that the Nation have commerce, and export ice, and 
talk through a telegraph, and ride thirty miles an hour, without a doubt, 
whether they do or not; but whether we should live like baboons or like 
men, is a little uncertain."

--Henry David Thoreau, "On Walden Pond"

After he is done with the deep ecologists, Conrad shifts his attention to a 
historical survey of rightwing appropriation of ecological themes. While 
the erudition is impressive, the logic is less so. He writes:

"The Soil Association in Britain counted Jorian Jenks amongst it founding 
members. He edited its journal Mother Earth till his death in 1963. In the 
1930s he was the agricultural advisor to the British Union of Fascists and 
remained throughout his life a close associate and disciple of Oswald Mosley."

Now Jorian Jenks did oppose the use of chemical fertilizers and urged 
organic farming. This makes perfect sense, of course. The fact that he 
hooked up with Mosley should not serve as a warning, however. Agronomists 
with exactly the same sort of outlook have worked with left parties as 
well. Indeed, the Mosley website states:

"His 'Green' views were not all fully shared by all his old comrades, 
understandably perhaps, at a time after the war when the pressing need was 
for food in greater quantities. The Editor of 'Union' and Secretary of 
Union Movement once told him wittily 'people can forgive one eccentricity, 
but not two.'"

Conrad next turns his attention to Germany, which in the eyes of 
anti-environmentalists like Anna Bramwell and Luc Ferry, is the spawning 
ground of ecofascism. Indeed, I was somewhat dismayed to discover a 
reference to Bramwell in Conrad's footnotes. Her work and Ferry's has had a 
confusing effect on some very well-meaning Marxists besides Jack Conrad, 
not the least of which is David Harvey who in recent years has backed off 
from an analysis that Conrad's echoes.

Conrad makes much of the "Wandervögel" movement of the late 19th century 
which was a revolt of sorts against industrialization and called for a 
return to nature. There was also, according to Conrad, "a strong 
undercurrent of homoeroticism." For Conrad, this might lead to fascism in 
the same way that marijuana leads to heroin. You start off on nature walks, 
graduate to gay sex and the next thing you know, you are beating up 
pawnbrokers.

Finally, Conrad gets around to the question of "Nazi Greens", a subject 
that has been of long-standing interest to me after first hearing it raised 
by Frank Furedi's posse over ten years ago. Somehow this never sat right 
with me, when I thought about the mad rush to development that 
characterized the Nazi regime with its uniquely anti-environmental 
autobahns, its feverish war preparations and its slave labor production. I 
guess the fact that Hitler was a vegetarian counts for a lot more.

I have addressed these questions in some detail in the past and would urge 
those who are interested to check:

<http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/ecology/nazi_ecology.htm>http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/ecology/nazi_ecology.htm

http://www.socialistviewpoint.org/mar_04/mar_04_19.html





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