[Marxism] The Prophet Misarmed: Trotsky, Ecology and Sustainability

Richard Fidler rfidler_8 at sympatico.ca
Fri Mar 13 11:21:56 MDT 2009

Louis posted the Irvine article to this list about a year and a half ago. At 
the time, I pointed out:

From: Richard Fidler <rfidler_8 <at> sympatico.ca>
Subject: More on the What Next? exchange on socialists and ecology
Newsgroups: gmane.politics.marxism.marxmail
Date: 2007-10-05 14:55:27 GMT (1 year, 22 weeks, 5 days, 20 hours and 23 
minutes ago)

Louis referred us yesterday to Sandy Irvine's "The Prophet Misarmed:
Trotsky, Ecology and Sustainability"
http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Latest/Misarmed.html. This is a
stimulating if somewhat overwrought critique of what the author terms a
"cornucopianism" - obsession with growth - that he argues is predominant not
just in the Trotskyist tradition but in all of Marxism.

Ian Birchall has written an intelligent response to Irvine, available at

and Irvine replies to Birchall at

In the latter article, Irvine focuses more clearly on his fundamental
contention: "that population growth is the most important factor in the
pressures undermining ecosystems" - in my view a mistaken, but hardly
original idea - while largely sidestepping Birchall's chief critique,
concerning the question of agency: "Any advocate of a radical programme of
social change that aspires to replace Marxism must offer some account of the
agency of social change. In these terms Irvine remains a Utopian."

Strangely, neither Irvine nor Birchall seems to be aware of the profoundly
ecological content in Marx's own thought, probed and explained so
successfully, for example, by John Bellamy Foster in his "Marx's Ecology".
However, Irvine's essay is worth reading if only for its value in indicating
how badly 20th century Marxism ignored this central theme, which must be
resurrected and developed by 21st century socialism.

But we will have to do better than Irvine, who favours some truly retrograde
nostrums, such as immigration controls in the imperialist countries. (In
fact, his analysis completely overlooks the phenomenon of imperialism.)


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