WeeklyWorker

20.06.2019
Casper David Friedrich: ‘Wanderer above the sea of fog’

Drawn to the flame

Jack Conrad shows why primitivists and other such deep greens are more than predisposed to the lures of ecofascism

Greenism likes to imagine itself as appealing to the “ecologically aware” and going beyond antiquated modes of “debate” such as “left/right, poor/rich, north/south”.1 While green intellectuals were doubtlessly in the forefront of those warning of an ecological crisis, they fail - and miserably too - when it comes to offering a realistic social agent capable of carrying out the complete social transformation needed to achieve a sustainable balance between nature and human society.

As we saw in the second part of this series of articles, faced with the challenge of ecological degradation, greenism can easily slip over into neo-Malthusianism.2 People, especially poor people, become the problem. Population numbers must be cut, if necessary using coercive legislation. Worse, from first-hand experience, Derek Wall, joint principal speaker of the Green Party in England and Wales, 2006-08, warns that greenism is “ripe for reappropriation by softly-spoken Nazis who articulate a rhetoric of decentralisation, justice and the rural, while seeking to build insular authoritarian communities based on atavistic notions of blood and soil and anti-Semitic hatred”.3 Presumably, in immediate terms, he had David Icke in mind - until 1991 one of four Green Party spokespersons. Nowadays Icke insanely babbles on about planetary alignments, shape-shifting reptiles and a global Jewish conspiracy.

Leave aside the sad, delusional, pitiful, David Icke. Wall’s statement might appear strange. Even very strange. After all, today the Green Party of England and Wales preaches from the fluffy book of fairness and equality, wants to abolish the standing army in the name of global peace and calls for a Green New Deal to put an end to the horrors of austerity. But, in terms of ideological background, specific history, class location and latent tendencies, there are innumerable connections between greenism and pulls towards the right and far right.

Primitives

Let us begin our discussion with the green primitivists. A worldview which probably finds its highest expression in the writings of John Zerzan. Drawing on Theodor Adorno (1903-69), amongst many others, he depicts human society as following a negative dialectic downwards to ever greater degrees of alienation.

Nonetheless, basing himself on solid anthropological evidence, Zerzan depicts life before the domestication of animals and sedentary agriculture as being “largely one of leisure, intimacy with nature, sensual wisdom, sexual equality and health”. Abundance ruled. “This,” he says - and I agree - “was our human nature, for a couple of million years prior to enslavement by priests, kings and bosses”.4 Living fossils provide ample confirmation. Studies of the !Kung in Namibia and the Mbuti in the Congo reveal “economic, political and gender egalitarianism”.5 Nor is there organised violence. Before, the Upper Palaeolithic societies were, in all probability, “warless”.6 It is the domestication of animals, the growing of crops and the resulting social hierarchy which brings about territorial conflict, slavery and mass killings.

A Maoist student radical in the 1960s, Zerzan arrived at anarchism in the 1970s. While he does not dismiss Marx entirely, Zerzan has no liking for “liberals, Marxists, members of left parties, Noam Chomsky, the anarchist left, the syndicalists, the Wobblies, all those people who think technology is fine and it just depends on how you use it; and that there’s nothing wrong with development and the industrial system - it just depends who’s running it”.7

Zerzan is one of quite a range of deep greens who refuse to condemn Theodore Kaczynski, the notorious Unabomber. The two regularly correspond. Not that Zerzan approves of Kaczynski’s violence against fellow living beings. Between 1978 and 1995 this Harvard graduate and mathematical protégé was responsible for a campaign of letterbombs targeting people involved in high tech. Three died and another 23 were injured. Kaczynski thought he was about to trigger a revolution against industrialisation and ecological destruction. He issued a 35,000-word manifesto, Industrial society and its future (1995). Politically naive, it goes without saying. He has no time for “leftists”, dismissed as “oversocialised” and suffering from “low self-esteem”.8 Quite rightly though, Kaczynski refused to plead insanity. He took full responsibility for his actions. I do not know what sort of public danger he now represents. But, if that danger is minimal, as I would expect, we can only but side with those urging his release … albeit on parole. He was sentenced, in 1998, to life imprisonment … without the possibility of parole. We believe in redemption.

Zerzan shot to fame in the aftermath of the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organisation protests. He is now widely read, is sought after by mainstream journalists and even does international speaking tours (otherwise he lives simply - he does not own a car, a credit card or a computer). Not that he relies upon fleeting protest demonstrations to usher in radical change. Amongst his models of how to ‘crack the system’ are the Cynics of classical Greece and Rome. They ate discarded or begged food, slept in the open and defecated in public. Other inspirations include the pantheistic Brothers and Sisters of the Free Spirit of the 12th-15th century, the 17th century Levellers and Diggers and the 19th century Luddites.9

Recoiling from wage-slavery, the dehumanising kitsch of commercialism and capitalism’s drive to ecocide, Zerzan, together with other green primitives, seeks salvation in a return to prehistory. This is part an echo of Martin Heidegger and his critique of technocratic reason, part a lamentation for a lost golden age, part a ghastly future threat.

The promised land of deep greens is the endless wilderness. Suitably humbled, a repentant humanity returns to the Palaeolithic ways of our ancestors and lives in perfect harmony with nature. The goal is a near zero ecological footprint. Industry and even peasant agriculture are damned as unsustainable and unnatural.

To achieve their future, deep greens concoct various plans for a stage-by-stage escape from the “10,000 years of darkness and captivity”.10 Zerzan proposes abandonments. The international trade in food gives way to local production; urban centres to living in the countryside; cold northern zones to migrating to warmer southern climes; ending the division of labour to self-reliant individualism; agriculture back to hunter-gathering.

Purportedly, humanity’s fall from grace began with “symbolic culture” - language, art, religion, mathematics, etc.11 So one madcap schema is to get back to when our species was not human - ie, cultural - but animal. Implementing such a complete evacuation from the modern human condition, in anything like a meaningful time frame, would, however, necessitate a reduction of the global population not by a half or two-thirds - pale green timidity. Rather what the green primitivists appear to have in mind is more like a 99.9% cull. Estimates, when it comes to the distant past, can only but be heroic guesses. That said, it is estimated that in the Palaeolithic there were no more than between 100,000 and 300,000 individuals globally.12

Undaunted, green primitives ask us to open our minds to vistas of the past and make it our future. Air without a hint or trace of industrial pollution; seas teeming with plankton, squid, fish, whale, dolphin, seal and turtle. Forests once again covering vast tracts of Eurasia and North America - home to abundant deer, elk, wild pig, bear and, at the top of the feeding chain, packs of wolves, prowling tigers and other big cats. In the African Savannah, grasslands are roamed by millions of elephants, rhino, hyena and lion and packed full of zebra, wildebeest and antelope. In the lowland areas of Eurasia, stretching as far as the eye can see, reedy marshlands and, each spring and autumn, huge flocks of migrating birds turning the sky black with their uncountable numbers.

Wandering through this earthly paradise, organised in little tribal bands, are the descendants of the primitives. Maybe 10 million, maybe 20 million of them. Living in tune with their environment, they are physically fit, consume a tremendous variety of different plants and animals and know none of our modern ailments, such as measles, smallpox or the common cold (in order to spread and therefore survive, the pathogens responsible for such diseases require a host population that is sufficiently numerous and sufficiently concentrated13).

Hunting and gathering occupy the band only for comparatively brief periods of time. Most of the day is taken up with eating, relaxing, sleeping and playing. Numerous dangers confront them. While life is on average relatively short, the pleasures and compensations are many.

However, what about those billions of missing human beings? The unchosen. Suddenly, it is not idyllic images that come to mind. Instead it is Dachau, Belsen and Auschwitz. Attempting to impose a primitivist solution on the unchosen, retracing even the first steps back to “Edenic beginnings”, require hell.14 A strong state would have to be made or captured, a fanatical cadre recruited. Forced sterilisation and surely mass extermination follows. All the crimes of the murderous 20th century pale into utter insignificance. Without such a concentrated moment of horror, the utopian dreams of the primitives will, after all, forever stay unrealised.

What can usefully be added here is that some 73,000 years ago we humans would surely have qualified for inclusion on a World Wildlife Fund list of endangered species. The Mount Toba volcanic mega-eruption, in Sumatra, sent 10 billion tons of ash pluming into the upper atmosphere. That is 40 times bigger than the 1815 Tambora eruption, the largest recorded in historic times, and perhaps the “second largest explosion eruption over the last 450 million years”.15 Across the whole planet sunlight was either blotted out altogether or substantially dimmed. Temperatures plummeted for some six or seven years. Because of the dank, chillingly cold and bleak years of volcanic winter that followed, almost all life forms suffered decimation. Our species, which might have reached some 100,000-300,000 globally, was brought to the brink of extinction. After Toba, it is reckoned that there were only 10,000 Homo sapiens remaining alive. We teetered on a knife’s edge.

In other words, nature can turn deadly and produce an altogether precarious ‘natural’ population figure. Such fragility, precisely because humanity belongs to and relies upon nature, is why Marxists argue that we must strive to enhance - not lessen, let alone abandon - our ability to alter nature. By that we mean working alongside nature, understanding the laws of nature, enhancing the riches of nature. Not conquering, dominating or robbing nature.

Barry Commoner (1917-2012), a deep green, famously said, “Nature knows best.”16 But without human beings nature knows nothing. Humans are nature taken to the level of consciousness. Hence what we surely want is a ‘good Anthropocene’.17

Of course, what is required, is not a desperate clutching at technological Prometheanism - a new generation of nuclear power stations, artificial bees, CO2 sequestration, satellites blocking the sun’s rays, giving up on Earth for Mars colonisation, etc. That would be a tragedy. What is required is the revolutionary Prometheanism of total social transformation.

Fascism

According to orthodox Marxism, especially in the seminal writings of Leon Trotsky, the category ‘fascism’ specifically defines those parties or movements which recruit, or actively aspire to recruiting, a desperate, enraged and disorientated plebeian mass - crucially in order to fashion them into a counterrevolutionary battering ram; the overriding strategic target being the organised working class. A social madness paid for and directed by “big capitalist powers”.18

Other usages are more casual - far too casual. Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, the Vlaams Blok in Belgium, Australia’s One Nation, Alternative für Deutschland, the Folkeparti in Denmark - all are routinely labelled fascist. Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is just as stupidly attacked as fascist by overwrought leftists. Along the same slippery slope even the police and leftwing opponents become fascist. The raw emotion, the desire to shock and gain attention - all that is unmistakable. But it hardly counts as Marxism.

In my considered opinion, as a category fascism needs to be put back onto a proper, scientific footing. Fascism can well involve standing and doing well in elections. But - and this is vital - fascism carries with it the threat, and perhaps the reality, of non-state violence, with the objective aim of destroying the organised working class. Towards that end there can be all manner of surrogate targets: Jews, Freemasons, Muslims, etc.

So, looking around the world today, it is hardly controversial to categorise Golden Dawn, the Grey Wolves, the English Defence League, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and similar such organisations under the term ‘fascist’. But what of the suggestion that greenism can evolve into ecofascism?

Derek Wall has already been quoted. Then there is Kevin Smith, former editor of Green Pepper in the USA. According to him, the chauvinist right in Europe is in the process of greening itself. He worriedly notes that these movements are “invoking ecological themes” to update their ideology and now “speak” the “new language of ecology”. Hence we find that some “fascist groups emphasise the supremacy of the Earth over people and evoke ‘feelings’ and intuition at the expense of reason”.19 It is a two-way street: fascists can embrace green ideas and greens can embrace fascist ideas.

In particular Smith singles out what he calls ‘Deep Ecology’ (or what I call deep greenism). Subjectivism is the main narrative. The origins of the ecological crisis facing the planet lie in human belief systems, be they religious, philosophical or scientific. Deep greens picture the Judeo-Christian worldview, Cartesian philosophy and western science as “fostering a mindset that seeks to dominate nature”. Having located the origins of the ecological crisis in the sphere of ideology, deep greens dismiss the possibility of social causes as being the result of “shallow” analysis.

Deep greenism is deeply anti-human. Population control must go from contraception to calculated neglect, fostering a “permissible” degree of famine. Albeit with a heavy heart, starvation - even Aids - is welcomed: supposedly nature’s way of counteracting human overpopulation.

Deep greenism, in the form of Earth First and Deep Green Resistance, seeks to dismantle industrial civilisation. There can be no slow or soft shift to a sustainable future. Mainstream ecological activism is dismissed as largely ineffective. Instead there is an emphasis on direct action. Blowing up pipelines, disrupting logging companies, taking out generator stations and hitting industrial projects.

What about fascism itself? There is, of course, a long history of feudal and conservative greenism tipping over into the politics of counterrevolution, including overt fascism. The Soil Association in Britain counted Jorian Jenks amongst it founding members. He edited its journal Mother Earth until his death in 1963. Indeed he is considered something of a founding figure of the green movement in Britain. However, in the mid-1930s he became a regular contributor to The Blackshirt and stood as a candidate for the British Union of Fascists. He served as the BUF’s advisor on agriculture: “fascism alone could make agriculture prosperous again”.20 Jenks advocated autarchy and import controls. Owners who misused the land would find it subject to compulsory purchase. And throughout the rest of his life Jenks remained a disciple of Oswald Mosley.

Arthur Kenneth Chesterton was likewise closely associated with far-right environmentalism during the 1930s. However, he concluded that Mosley had gone soft on the Jews and decided to go his own way. In 1938 he helped found the National Socialist League. Fittingly he was elected chair of the National Front on its foundation. His uncle, Gilbert Keith Chesterton - a Catholic convert and author of the Father Brown books - invented the theory of distributionism along with Hilaire Belloc. They claimed to offer a third way between capitalism and communism, and upheld the ‘green’ panacea of ‘three acres and a cow’.

As for today’s far-right Britain First, it experiences not the least trouble in presenting a green face. It declares that it is “committed to the revitalisation of our farming and fishing sectors and supports policies geared at maximum agricultural self-sufficiency”. Britain First goes on to demand “resolute action to protect, nurture and preserve our native environment, countryside and areas of natural beauty”.21 The British National Party even claims to be:

this nation’s only true green party, which has policies that will actually save the environment … Unlike the fake ‘greens’, who are merely a front for the far left of the Labour regime, the BNP is the only party to recognise that overpopulation - whose primary driver is immigration, as revealed by the government’s own figures - is the cause of the destruction of our environment.22

Wandervögel

Not surprisingly, the example of Germany is instructive. In the late 19th century the country underwent a process of rapid industrialisation. That resulted in massive social dislocation and the ruination of a whole layer of the petty bourgeoisie: farmers, tradesmen, small businesses. One response was a ‘back to nature’ movement - anti-capitalism melded with nature worship, rightwing Volk politics and even ideas of a revived paganism.

Young men, particularly students, joined the German Youth Movement, the Wandervögel (roughly ‘free spirits’ or ‘rovers’), which had its origins in the 1890s. Membership rapidly grew and soon reached the tens of thousands. Trekking through forests and climbing hills and mountains, these petty bourgeois rebels sought deliverance in a mystical oneness with nature. Camping under the stars, they linked arms and sang old German songs. There was a strong undercurrent of homoeroticism. In this spirit they instituted the custom of greeting each other by proclaiming ‘Heil’.

All in all, a hopeless attempt to escape from the alienation of urban life; a protest against capitalism, but also a protest against society itself. The stress was on individual transformation. No wonder some wags have characterised supporters of the Wandervögel movement as ‘rightwing hippies’.

Wandervögel was “a hodgepodge of counter-cultural elements, blending neo-romanticism, eastern philosophies, nature mysticism, hostility to reason and a ... search for authentic, non-alienated social relations”. That said, on the positive side, its ‘back to the land’ cult “spurred a passionate sensitivity to the natural world and the damage it suffered”.23

Many contemporary concerns were anticipated by the movement’s theoreticians - Ludwig Klages being particularly notable. The extinction of species, upsetting the global ecological balance, deforestation, the destruction of natural habitats, urban sprawl, the increasing alienation of people from nature and how ‘civilisation’ was finishing off aboriginal people in Australia, Polynesia and Africa were all condemned. He even rounded on the “destruction” wrought by the “tourist trade”.24 All of this before 1914.

But, as already hinted, there was another, much darker side to Wandervögel. Most were overt racists and many viciously anti-Semitic. Klages’s outrage against capitalism’s degradation of nature certainly ran alongside an obnoxious anti-Semitism. Not without justification, he has been credited with being the intellectual precursor of the Third Reich. Like the Nazis Klages philosophically rejected reason and rational thought itself.

Peter Staudenmaier - along with Janet Biehl, author of the Bookchinite Ecofascism: lessons from the German experience - argues that such a “wholesale indictment of reason cannot help but have savage political implications”.25 By definition the door is slammed on democracy and any prospect of consciously reconstructing society and its relationship with nature. At the same time such irrationalism is prone to the most brutal anti-humanism.

Naturally, once World War I began, patriotic youth flocked to the colours and what they saw as a glorious national crusade. Wandervögel fragmented - along religious and political lines - but continued after the cataclysm. A few strands gravitated towards Marxism. There were social democratic and communist youth movements in the 1920s. However, most were stranded on the hard right and eventually fell within the orbit of Nazism. Nature worship combined with Führer worship.

Wandervögel left a deep ideological imprint in the collective imagination, which Adolf Hitler both psychologically internalised and successfully harnessed. He too spoke in the language of conservative greenism. The German Volk had to subordinate itself to the iron laws of nature, which alone guides us “on the path of progress”. Hitler argued that it was necessary to know these laws - in order to obey them. To act otherwise “would be to rise in revolt against heaven”.26

Nazi greens

Hitler took it for granted that humanity was biologically divided and destined to an eternal struggle of race against race. Biological categories blurred over into social categories. History thereby became part of the “eternal struggle for existence”. Logically then, politics has to be based on the direct application of nature’s laws - only the strongest survive; the weak must perish or be exterminated. For Hitler, that is the inescapable “law” which unites humanity and society with nature. As soon as the human mind is fooled into believing that it is “superior to nature and its laws, then it destroys the real substance, which is the bearer of the mind”.27

The ethnocide perpetuated against the Jews was also justified through biological determinism. Supposedly, the Jews were uniquely adaptable wherever they settled and were ideologically equated with bacteria. Once a people rids themselves of the Jews, then it can “return spontaneously to the natural order”.28

Let us note that in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th, there was, especially in Europe, a pernicious and widespread scapegoating of Jews. They were charged with exploiting the ‘proletarian’ nations through the banks and held responsible for the retrogression of civilisation - the former being a distorted form of the class struggle; the latter a distorted recognition of capitalist decline.

Undoubtedly the most sophisticated exponent of rightwing greenism was the philosopher, Martin Heidegger (1889-1976). He is widely celebrated as a precursor of modern ecological thinking. On the basis of his rejection of the cult of technology as an index of progress and denial of anthropocentric humanism, deep greens in particular have placed Heidegger on the pantheon of their greats.

A jaundiced critic of the enlightenment, Heidegger preached the virtues of ‘authentic being’. His critique of humanism, his call to “let things be”, his notion that humanity is involved in a ‘play’ or ‘dance’ with earth, sky, and gods, his contemplative thoughts on the authentic modes of dwelling, his protest against industrial degradation of the planet, his stress on the importance of the local and the ‘homeland’, his call for humanity to protect and preserve nature, instead of dominating it - all these aspects of Heidegger’s thought have been used to support the claim that he is a foundational deep green.

That despite the fact that in 1933 he became a card-carrying member of the Nazi Party! No calculated avenue designed to further an academic career. Tom Rockmore damningly points out that Heidegger stands absolutely alone “amongst the major thinkers of the 20th century” in being a “voluntary adherent of Nazism”.29 He insists that Heidegger’s philosophy and his Nazism were “inseparable”.30

Hitler both fuelled and fed off such rightwing philosophising. He claimed that western civilisation obscured the true relationship between humanity and nature. Somewhere in the course of history, our knowledge and understanding of nature had supposedly gone astray. In Hitler’s mind the culprit was located in Christianity (and by inference, of course, Jews and Marxism). He viewed the last two millennia as a denial of nature and the irrefutable fact that humanity is part of nature.

Privately Hitler railed against - often during one of his tedious vegetarian dinner parties - the evils of Christianity and expressed his longing for a new religion rooted in nature. He fervently believed that humanity - authentic Aryan humanity, that is - must eventually break with Christianity and fully merge with nature. His alternative religion would at last realise the unity between nature and the master race: “From now on in, one may consider that there is no gap between the organic and the inorganic world.” Hence salvation was to be found in the close study of nature and a religious veneration of all its manifestations and beauties. It is only “possible”, insisted Hitler, “to satisfy the needs of the inner life by an intimate communion with nature”.31

Hitler’s agricultural expert, and later a Reichsminister, Walther Darré, was also a nature worshipper. No ignorant Nazi bonehead, Darré was a highly qualified agronomist and in that capacity he advocated organic farming and a balanced relationship with nature. A kernel of rationality. After 1933 he initiated a widespread campaign to introduce organic farming techniques, which involved both big estates and many tens of thousands of smallholdings.

Under circumstances of a pending war and the urgent need to boost food production, this experiment met with some stiff resistance from other members of the Nazi hierarchy. Inevitably there existed a tension between the ‘battle for production’ and ‘keeping the soil healthy’. Significantly, Darré, with the backing of Rudolf Hess and others, was able to maintain his policy until 1942, when he resigned as Reich agriculture minister (ostensibly for private reasons; in reality because he dared question Hitler’s order to further reduce rations to labour camps).

Darré packaged the Nazi agrarian programme with propaganda around the theme ‘Blut und Boden’ (blood and soil). A slogan which implied the unity of the race, the Volk and its natural environment. Anti-working class, anti-liberal and anti-modern, Darré was, though, decidedly pro-nature. Anna Bramwell perceptively writes of Hitler’s “Green Party”, but her biographical account is marred by a general downplaying of Darré’s Nazism - she sees him as a misguided green. Revealingly she has even referred to him as the “father of the greens”.32 He was, of course, an ecofascist - or, put another way, a Nazi green.

Darré came to Hitler’s attention after writing The peasantry as the life source of the Nordic race (1928) - a book which combined social-Darwinist racial theories with an idealisation of rural life. Darré advocated an organised exodus from the swollen, heaving, suffocating cities, which were “destroying” the “organic link” between the Volk and nature. Other neo-pagan figures in the Nazi leadership, such as Heinrich Himmler, Rudolf Hess, Fritz Todt and Alfred Rosenberg, depicted cities in similarly negative terms. Urban life meant rootlessness, the intermixing of races and the fostering of class struggle. Hence for Darré there had to be a systematic return to the countryside. The Nazis envisaged a re-agarianisation of greater Germany and their European empire.

Peasants were lauded as the backbone of the German race. Hitler actively sought to resuscitate this historically doomed class. Agricultural prices were fixed. Aryan farms were decreed as unalienable. Then there was Hitler’s policy of territorial expansionism.

In December 1942 the Nazi regime issued a characteristic decree: ‘On the treatment of the land in the eastern territories’ - a reference to the newly annexed portions of Poland. It read in part: “The peasant of our racial stock has always carefully endeavoured to increase the natural powers of the soil, plants and animals, and to preserve the balance of the whole of nature.” For him, respect for divine creation is the “measure of all culture”. Unwilling to break up the great Junker estates in Prussia, Hitler promised still further Lebensraum (living space) in the east. This would extend Germany deep into Russia (Germany’s India, according to Hitler).

Conquered lands would be cleared of Slavic Untermenschen and seeded with a new generation of Aryan farmers. According to Nazi ideology, this would guarantee the naturalism and racial regeneration of the German nation.

Left, centre or right

The experience of Germany amply illustrates the volatility of ecological politics. It is not that concerns for the environment inevitably result in rightwing or fascist conclusions. There is a long history of leftwingers and progressives stressing the vital importance of nature for humanity. Eg, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, William Morris, Peter Kropotkin, Murray Bookchin, John Bellamy Foster. Nevertheless, without the grounding provided by working class politics, even progressive greens can suddenly find themselves yanked to the right.

Even if they naively claim to eschew the standard categories of left, centre and right, green philosophies, pressure group campaigns and political organisations which put nature first, which paint humanity as the problem, are drawn to the flame of coercion and ecofascism.

From ‘objectively’ or ‘commonsensically’ prescribing population reduction and demanding an immediate end to immigration to taking up the methods of compulsion is but the next logical step. Here is the programmatic stairway which leads from feudal, conservative and primitive greenism to ecofascism. It is also a logical next step from compulsion to mass sterilisation and extermination.

As the effects of global warming and ecological degradation become more and more marked, it would be foolish in the extreme to dismiss the possibility that even mainstream greens cannot be drawn to the most horrible solutions.

Deep greenism is certainly predisposed to absorption by the far right in a similar way that the Wandervögel movement was absorbed by the Nazis. This, of course, is not inevitable. But those movements which claim to have transcended left and right, which reject the class struggle as the means of achieving a sustainable society and venerate, not simply respect, nature, are more than prone to anti-human conclusions. Dave Foreman, once a leading spokesperson of Earth First!, springs to mind. He is one of those who gleefully welcomed the Ethiopian famine as a means of limiting the human population. Similar statements have been issued by deep greens vis-à-vis the Aids pandemic. Humans are deemed no more important than any other species.

Protests against the degradation of nature can be led from the left, centre or right. But no protest takes place within a vacuum. There is always a political and social context. Ecology as a thing in itself is an illusion. Refusal to recognise this elementary fact is, as Peter Staudenmaier says, “the hallmark of reactionary ecology”.33

Those who propose to change society, so that it is brought into line with the eternal laws of nature, or the natural order - often based on pseudo-scientific gobbledegook - actually demand that humanity undergo retrogression. As with Thatcherism and the market, all contrary agreements are a priori ruled out of order. There is no alternative. Supposedly no-one can buck the iron laws of nature. Complexity is flattened out. Such wilful ignorance discounts the fact that all conceptions of nature are socially constructed.

Meanwhile, the real causes of ecological degradation go undiagnosed.


  1. G Talshir The political ideology of green parties New York NY 2002, p137.

  2. Weekly Worker June 13 2019.

  3. D Wall, ‘Darker shades of green’ Red Pepper August 23 2000 (my emphasis).

  4. J Zerzan Future primitive revisited Port Townsend WA 2012, p2.

  5. RR Grinker, SC Lubkermann and CB Steiner (eds) Perspectives on Africa: a reader in culture, history and representation Chichester 2010, p169.

  6. RC Kelly Warless societies and the origin of war Ann Arbor MI 2000, p51.

  7. The Guardian April 18 2001.

  8. T Kaczynski Industrial society and its future Olympia WA 2016 (editions-hache.com/essais/pdf/kaczynski2.pdf).

  9. See J Zinzan Future primitive revisited Port Townsend WA 2012, pxxvii, note 1.

  10. www.primitivism.com/transition.htm.

  11. J Zerzan Future primitive revisited Port Townsend WA 2012, pp1-25.

  12. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population_estimates#Deep_prehistory.

  13. See AP Dobson and ER Carper, ‘Infectious diseases and human population history’ Bioscience Vol 46, No2, January 1996, pp115-26.

  14. J Zerzan Why hope?: the stand against civilization Townsend WA 2015, p4.

  15. SH Ambrose, ‘Late Pleistocene human population bottlenecks, volcanic winter, and differentiation of modern humans’ Journal of Human Evolution Vol 34, No6, June 1998, pp623-51.

  16. In his best seller The closing circle (1974) Commoner posited four laws of ecology: “everything is connected”, “everything must go somewhere”; “nature knows best” and “there is no such thing as a free lunch”.

  17. See WB Meyer The progressive environmental Prometheans: leftwing heralds of a ‘good Anthropocene’ Hamilton NY 2016.

  18. L Trotsky Fascism: what it is and how to fight it New York NY 1972, p5.

  19. K Smith Synthesising/Regeneration No32, fall 2003.

  20. Quoted in PM Coupland Farming, fascism and ecology: a life of Jorian Jenks London 2017, p95.

  21. www.britainfirst.org/principles.

  22. bnp.org.uk/policies/environment.

  23. www.spunk.org/library/places/germany/sp001630/peter.html.

  24. L Klages The biocentrist worldview London 2013, p33.

  25. See J Biehl and P Staudenmaier Ecofascism: lessons from the German experience Chicago CA 2011.

  26. Quoted in D Gasman The scientific origins of National Socialism London 2007, p163.

  27. Ibid.

  28. Quoted in ibid p165.

  29. T Rockmore On Heidegger’s Nazism and philosophy Hemel Hempstead 1992, p25.

  30. Ibid p283.

  31. Quoted in D Gasman Scientific origins of National Socialism London 2007, p169.

  32. See A Bramwell Blood and soil: Walther Darré and Hitler’s ‘Green Party’ Bourne End 1985, pv.

  33. www.spunk.org/library/places/germany/sp001630/peter.html.