[Marxism] Leon Trotsky and ecology

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Mar 16 12:19:11 MDT 2009

In the latest issue of What Next?, an online socialist magazine based in 
Great Britain, there’s an article titled The Prophet Misarmed: Trotsky, 
Ecology and Sustainability by Sandy Irvine. The gist of Irvine’s 
criticism is that Leon Trotsky was clueless on the environment based on 
a passage in “Literature and Revolution” that includes the following:

"The present distribution of mountains and rivers, of fields, of 
meadows, of steppes, of forests, and of seashores, cannot be considered 
final. Man has already made changes in the map of nature that are not 
few nor insignificant. But they are mere pupils’ practice in comparison 
with what is coming. Faith merely promises to move mountains; but 
technology, which takes nothing ‘on faith’, is actually able to cut down 
mountains and move them. Up to now this was done for industrial purposes 
(mines) or for railways (tunnels); in the future this will be done on an 
immeasurably larger scale, according to a general industrial and 
artistic plan. Man will occupy himself with re-registering mountains and 
rivers, and will earnestly and repeatedly make improvements in nature. 
In the end, he will have rebuilt the earth, if not in his own image, at 
least according to his own taste. We have not the slightest fear that 
this taste will be bad…"

According to Irvine, this kind of Promethean hubris can be found across 
the ideological spectrum, something undoubtedly true. Keep in mind that 
the broad cultural context for the Russian Revolution was futurism, 
which lent itself to all sorts of grandiose schemes about mechanizing 
the entire world. It was also the context for Italian fascism and it 
would be difficult to distinguish between futurist art in Soviet Russia 
and Mussolini’s Italy in the early 1920s.

full: http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2009/03/16/leon-trotsky-and-ecology/

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