Fascist distortions

John Bayliss reviews 'Ecofascism' by Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier (AK Press, pp73, £5.00)

This book, although very short, is succinct and well documented. It demonstrates conclusively that almost all the ideas incorporated in the modern green movement were articulated previously by German National Socialists.

The book shows that the modern German Nazi and fascist organisations are still deeply committed to a variety of ‘green’ concepts. The purpose is to warn the greens against allowing themselves to be used as cat’s paws for extreme rightwing or fascistic movements. The authors point out that these ideas were not invented by the fascists, but sprang out of a reaction to the enlightenment in the mid and early 19th century.

The authors trace the intellectual development of anti-rationalism, while dealing simultaneously with the development of national socialism, particularly in a German context. They also show its connection to a number of other ideas, such as racial purity and animal rights. This anti-rationality is not necessarily opposed to technological development and in fact seeks to present itself as a science. It is, however, deeply opposed to urbanisation, seeking the solution in the domination of the countryside over the town. In this way ideas which contain a truth have been given a one-sided twist that makes them anti-universalist and anti-scientific.

The central intellectual flaw of the green/ecologist/animal rights movement is that it does not see humanity as both the destroyer and creator of the environment. Even when it accepts the notion of human beings as being central, it is partial about the kind of human beings that really count - the nice, polite middle classes. Human beings that are either black or working class are seen as pollution. This echoes the propositions of Malthus, using social-Darwinism as a second strand.

The purpose of the authors is to save general notions of protecting the environment from such changes that would damage humanity as a whole, therefore retaining the rational kernel of ideas that have been taken and distorted by fascist movements.

In my opinion, for all their brilliance in documenting the ideas, they actually fail in this respect. Although they are universalist humanitarians, they do not see a classless society as being the solution.

The book is, however, useful to Marxists in dealing with these questions.

John Bayliss