Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 5, 2019

The Eco-Fascist Canard

Filed under: Ecology,Fascism — louisproyect @ 5:50 pm

From the latest New Statesman: a photo of Eva Braun exercising by a pristine lake as if that has something to do with Barry Commoner or Rachel Carson

Recently, a New Statesman article titled Nature writing’s fascist roots has been making the rounds on Facebook. It seeks to explain the troubling statement made by the New Zealand neo-Nazi mass murderer Brenton Tarrant that he was an “eco-fascist”.

One of the main problems with the article is that it blurs the lines between naturalists and ecologists. For example, it refers to a 1927 “nature book” titled Tarka the Otter that was written by Henry Williamson, a Nazi sympathizer. There’s also a confusion between ecology and “back to nature” movements that romanticized rural life in England, with the cities being regarded as overrun by immigrants and other “subhumans”. The same phenomenon existed in Germany.

“Nature, with all its violence and beauty, was the primary model for conceiving German history and identity in the Third Reich,” the scholars Robert G Lee and Sabine Wilke have argued. The anti-industrial German Romanticism of the 19th century fed a surge of feeling for the notion of German soil and German forest: “There was no escaping the imagery, and there still isn’t,” Paul Scraton writes in his book Ghosts on the Shore. “The German word for beech forest, a very normal descriptive word… now carries the weight of a very different meaning: Buchenwald. The name of the extermination camp at Auschwitz? Birkenau. Birch meadow.”

Over the years, I have seen repeated references to this sort of thing. My first exposure to this was 22 years ago when people connected to Frank Furedi’s Living Marxism sect produced a TV show called “Against Nature” that included this observation by Furedi:

What we today call “environmentalism” is … based on a fear of change. It’s based upon a fear of the outcome of human action. And therefore it’s not surprising that when you look at the more xenophobic right-wing movements in Europe in the 19th century, including German fascism, it quite often had a very strong environmentalist dynamic to it. The most notorious environmentalists in history were the German Nazis. The Nazis ordered soldiers to plant more trees. They were the first Europeans to establish nature reserves and order the protection of hedgerows and other wildlife habitats. And they were horrified at the idea of hydroelectric dams on the Rhine. Adolf Hitler and other leading Nazis were vegetarian and they passed numerous laws on animal rights.

I replied to this nonsense in an article titled “Nazi “Ecology” that offered a different take on Hitler’s actions. I argued they  had nothing to do with Green values. I wrote:

The Nazis promoted the view that the class-struggle in the city could be overcome by returning to the villages and developing artisan and agricultural economies based on cooperation. Aryans needed to get back to the soil and simple life.

The core of Nazi rural socialism was the idea that land-use must be planned. Gottfried Feder was a leading Nazi charged with the duty of formulating such policy. He made a speech in Berlin in 1934 in which he stated that the right to build homes or factories or to use land according to the personal interests of owners was to be abolished. The government instead would dictate how land was to be used and what would be constructed on it. Feder next began to build up elaborate administrative machinery to carry out his plans.

Not surprisingly, Feder earned the wrath of the construction industry. This segment of heavy industry had no tolerance for any kind of socialism, even if it was of the fake, nutty Nazi variety. Hitler had promised the captains of heavy industry that the “rabble-rousers” in his party would be curbed and Feder certainly fell into that category.

Hjalmar Schacht was a more reliable Nazi functionary who agreed with the need to curb Feder’s excesses. After Hitler named Schacht Minister of Economics on November 26, 1934, he gave Feder the boot and assured the construction magnates that business would be run as usual.

Consider also Walter Schoenichen, an aide to Herman Goering who in his capacity as Minister of the German Forests supervised the “Germanization” of forests in conquered territories. In 1941, the Nazis took control of the Bialowieza forest in Lithuania and they resolved to turn it into a hunting reserve for top officers. Open season was declared on the Jews, who made up 12 percent of the population in this region and who violated the ethnic purity of the proposed game farm. Five hundred and fifty Jews were rounded up and shot in the courtyard of a hunting palace operated by Battalion 332 of Von Bock’s army division. Goring decided that the purified forest should be altered into an extension of the East Prussian forests. An SS team led by Konrad Mayer, who had been Minister of Agriculture at Berlin University, planned a colonization program that would “Germanize” the forest. Poles, and any remaining Jews, were reduced to the status of barnyard animals to be penned up or slaughtered.

Schoenichen jumped at the opportunity to administer this program. This “total landscape plan” would first empty villages and then the unpopulated forest would be stocked with purely “Teutonic” species, including eagles, elk, and wolves. Since there was a painting of a bison on Goring’s wall, it was crucial to include this beast in the menagerie.

Read full article (http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/ecology/nazi_ecology.htm)

At the same time “Against Nature” aired, David Harvey came out with a book titled Justice, Nature & the Geography of Difference that warned against the idea of the “ecological Indian” and the susceptibility to eco-fascism in terms not that distant from Frank Furedi. The danger existed that well-meaning Green activists and Indians fighting for preservation of community rights can foster “nationalistic, exclusionary, and some cases violently fascistic” elements.

Harvey frets that things can go from bad to worse when the American Indian or their supporters abuse “militant particularism.” The next step, if one is not careful, is down the slippery slope into “nationalistic, exclusionary, and some cases violently fascistic” behavior. While it is very difficult to make the case that American Indian activists have actually ever joined skinheads or other fascist gangs, Luc Ferry does point out that the Nazis were enthusiastic about American Indian rights in “The New Ecological Order.” Ferry’s book, which Harvey cites uncritically, is a general assault on the environmental movement, which tries to draw out every reactionary tendency and place it in the foreground. An affinity between Nazis and the American Indian would be a very serious business indeed. Ferry states:

We have to be ignorant or prejudiced not to see it: Nazism contains within it, for reasons that are in no way accidental, the beginnings of an authentic concern for preserving “natural,” which is to say, here again, “original” peoples.

Turning Nazis into pro-ecology and pro-indigenous rights spokesman takes quite a bit of gumption on Luc Ferry’s part and a certain amount of fecklessness from Harvey to endorse his findings, especially in light of what John Toland wrote in his Adolf Hitler biography:

Hitler’s concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the Wild West; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America’s extermination–by starvation and uneven combat–of the ‘Red Savages’ who could not be tamed by captivity.

About a decade after “Against Nature” and Harvey’s book came out, the CPGB sect in England came up with the same warnings about eco-fascism in a series of articles in Weekly Worker by Jack Conrad.

A piece titled “Darker Shades of Green” had the following lead: “Jack Conrad questions the romantic images presented by green primitives and cautions against the seductive lures of ecofascism.” Like the New Statesman article, Conrad singles out Jorian Jenks as a prime example of eco-fascism:

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.”

And, also like the New Statesman article, 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 eco-fascism. 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 eventually backed off from an analysis that Conrad’s echoes.

Conrad made 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.

 

1 Comment »

  1. The queer-to-nazi meme was a staple of “advanced” and “progressive” thinking all through the Sixties and Seventies. The professedly Marxist poet Anne Winters, who may still be saying the things she used to say at UVa in the ’70s, is a prime example.

    She used to become livid on the subject of Gay male treachery, weakness, neuroticism, and political unreliability-and so did the far more stupid and unpolitical Diane Wakoski, most of the graduate students, including some gay ones, and a good many of the hetero pussy-bumpers on the faculty who were subsequently outed by Me Too. Visconti–himself, as they used to say, “notoriously gay,”–made this theme central in The Damned (which Pauline Kael BTW referred to in one of her better motsas “The Darned.”)

    It’s a fact that nazi erotism and actual nazi nostalgia were noticeable among gay men during this period–apart from the bareassed-in-chaps and motorcycle crowds, there were Cabaret parties featuring “tomorrow belongs” boys in brown shirts and swastika armbands–the whole thing continuing right up to the point where the promiscuous “underground” gay subculture, including the avant-garde cult of the fascist male hustler, suddenly purportedly vanished overnight. Now we have swarms of Pete Buttigiegs looking husbandly and “professional,” while other “husbands” smile at their sides like Rosalynn Carter.

    The last place a gay man or woman could expect to find trustworthy allies was the Marxist or near-Marxist left. Even the arts were a minefield. It isn’t surprising to see that this hasn’t changed as much as some like to think.

    That said, I’ve been wondering strictly BTW how it is that the Democrats can’t come up with attractive “moderate” man candidates without some odd sexual reference in their names–first there’s “Master Beto” O’Rourke, and now we have a thoroughly petty-bourgeois married Gay man with “butt” in his name.

    Who believes that either of these obvious stumbling-blocks can be overcome?

    This is America dammit–we’re stupid!

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — April 6, 2019 @ 3:58 pm


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