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ecofascism

Against Deep Green Resistance

By Michelle Renée Matisons and Alexander Reid Ross - Institute for Anarchist Studies, August 9, 2015

The Radical Turn?

For a book that advertises itself as a “shift in strategy and tactics,” Deep Green Resistance (DGR) has an overwhelmingly dispiriting tone, and is riddled with contradictions.[1] While DGR provocatively addresses many pressing social and ecological issues, its opportunistic, loose-cannon theoretical approach and highly controversial tactics leaves it emulating right-wing militia rhetoric, with the accompanying hierarchical vanguardism, personality cultism, and reactionary moralism. By providing a negative example, DGR does us the service of compounding issues into one book. Take it as a warning. As we grasp for solutions to multiple and compounding social and ecological crises, quick fixes, dogmatism, and power grabbing may grow as temptations. By reviewing DGR, we are also defending necessary minimal criteria for movements today: inclusivity, democracy, honesty, and (dare we suggest) even humility in the face of the complex problems we collectively face. None of these criteria can be found in DGR, and its own shortcomings are a telling lesson for us all.

It is instructive that the group based on DGR has become geared almost exclusively to outreach, not unlike a book club. At certain times, they claim to forbid their members from participating in illegal activity after having attempted a short-lived attempt to generate a grassroots, direct action network. At other times, DGR members claim to be involved in nonviolent civil disobedience. The ambiguity of their attempt at organization stems from the muddled ideas of two of the book’s authors, Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith, who forced out the main organizer, Premadasi Amada, as well as their other co-author, Aric McBay, over the question of inclusive gender policies.[2]

DGR’s organizational body (distinct from the book, but modeled after it) leads us to agree that they have been rightly accused by former members of acting like a cult rather than as part of a larger movement. They seem much more interested in lionizing their leadership than in taking direct action.[3]

DGR’s approach is purely ideological; they intend not to form their own groups or cells to carry out direct action, but to teach the need for direct action to the supposedly ignorant masses. Such an attitude of approaching from above, rather than joining in solidarity, is degrading to peoples’ ability to self-organize. We must equally lead and be led by engaging in struggle, not standing outside of it. Our ultimate conclusion is that DGR’s goal of “civilization’s” destruction through “underground” attacks against infrastructure manifests both an ideological and strategic misdirection, foreclosing the potential for participatory democracy and direct action as it veers into intellectual dishonesty and irreconcilable political contradictions.

Fighting the Trojan Horse of Hipster-Fascism in Portland

By Sascha Reid Ross - Earth First! Newswire, November 14, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

“No one surrounds themselves with Runes, totenkopfs and neofolk and REALLY likes the jews. They just pretend they do because they are cowards.”

– James Porrazzo, former leader of the American Front

At first, I didn’t think that I was going to the protest against the controversial neo-folk band Death in June, but the stars seemed to align. Having just finished reading that 3,500 page tome of Jewish scripture, the Babylonian Talmud, I felt like I had some extra time on my hands and needed to celebrate. As it happened, the protest took place the day before the anniversary of Kristallnacht, which was the event that heralded the beginning of the Holocaust through the destruction of Jewish homes, synagogues, and businesses, and the sending of 30,000 Jews to concentration camps. The following day was Armistice Day (Veterans Day), celebrating the end of World War I. It seemed like a good day to fight fascism, and Death in June is famous for their openly fascist approach.

Some who join me in coming from an ecological background might wonder, why would you protest Death in June, a subcultural neo-folk band that doesn’t really make any ecological claims? Why act against a musical act unless their music sucks? Why not protest somebody more mainstream who is using fascist propaganda, like Nicki Minaj? Then again, why fight people who are literally hipster-fascists, instead of fighting hipsters who are perpetrating gentrification and forwarding state capitalism (which seems, with its prison industry complex, to be almost indistinguishable from fascism).

To be honest, I’ve never listened to Death in June, though I generally dislike what I know about the cultish aspects of neo-folk. It’s not that big of a deal, and I don’t intend to give the band more attention than they’re worth (not a lot). What I’m most worried about, in fact, is the mass politics of the ecology movement becoming fascistic, and DIJ’s politics provide one among many models through which the infiltration of fascist ideas becomes possible.

After researching the band, my concerns mounted, and after a discussion with the band’s promoter, I felt further validated. The promoter assured me that the music is supposed to make me uncomfortable. As someone who lost family to the Holocaust and whose grandfather helped liberate a concentration camp, I felt more enraged than uncomfortable with the perspective provided by DIJ and their attachment to “leftist” Nazi ideology. On the other side of my family, my father was shuttled out of Birmingham to the countryside by his mother and aunt at the age of four as the Nazi bombs fell. Uncomfortable is not the appropriate word for two generations of historic trauma, but I didn’t want to over-react (and I still don’t). The promoter apologized, but promptly reiterated her stance about intentionally making descendants of Holocaust victims and their families feel uncomfortable.

I reminded the promoter and the venue that the Alhambra Theater, where the event was planned to take place, is named after the historic scene of the Spanish Reconquista, where the Christians defeated the Muslims in that portentous year, 1492. The Alhambra is a symbol of Crusades, Islamophobia, and the ensuing expulsion of the Jews and Spanish Inquisition, and the music venue would be forever be associated with politically right-wing ideas by inviting a reactionary band to play when no other venue in Oregon would let them play (according to their own promoter). My post and the ensuing comment thread, which the band’s promoter assured me were very reasonable and levelheaded, have since been deleted by the page’s administrator.

This is not to say that I believe in excommunications; I have friends who like the neo-folk scene. Debate has significantly affected my community, but I believe that people in the ecology movement need to abandon sectarianism and allow for a degree of open and positive debate. Who doesn’t have Wiccan friends, neo-pagan associates who enjoy performing at Renaissance Fairs? At the same time, we must be ware of mass political positions that unite these ideas in some misguided “need to preserve European culture (from immigrants).”

The Dangers of Reactionary Ecology

By Out of the Woods - libcom.org, June 30, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Influential metaphors for understanding the environment serve as a bridge between traditional conservatism and outright ecofascism.

We have so far introduced the ideas of thinkers we find useful, such as Murray Bookchin’s philosophy of technology, and James O’Connor’s notion of the second contradiction. Here we want to look at how ecological ideas can be deployed to support deeply reactionary politics. We will do this with a critical introduction to the oft-cited, though less often read, biologist Garrett Hardin.

The tragedy of capital

Hardin’s most famous and influential concept is the tragedy of the commons, a collective action problem posited to lead all common resources to inevitable ruin. He first set the problem out in his 1968 essay of the same name:

The tragedy of the commons develops in this way. Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. (…)As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, "What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?" (…)the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another; and another.... But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit--in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.1

There are numerous lines of criticism here.2 First of all, despite being published in Science, Hardin doesn’t present any actual evidence, only a thought experiment. Subsequently, in 1990, Elinor Ostrom published ‘Governing the commons’, a work that won her a Nobel Prize in economics for showing that commons do not necessarily tend to mutual ruin.3 Hardin subsequently conceded his argument only applied to unmanaged commons rather than commons per se, significantly narrowing its scope.4 However, the tragedy of the commons is still a staple of environmental ethics and ecological economics. It is often cited uncritically in introductory climate science texts.

More importantly, Hardin’s argument presupposes the very relations it posits as the cure. Hardin assumes each herdsman seeks to keep as many cattle as possible. These herdsmen are therefore not subsistence producers, producing for their own consumption, but are producing for others. Furthermore, each of them is doing so competitively: these herdsmen are producing commodities for the market.5 These herdsmen are each rational utility-maximising agents, with no social bonds, norms, or relations with one another despite sharing a pastoral commons. Finally, for there to be a market for an ever-larger number of cattle, others elsewhere must lack access to commons from which they could provide themselves with cattle. In other words, Hardin’s commons presupposes a an isolated commons in a sea of enclosure.

So Hardin presupposes competitive production for the market under conditions of generalised commodity exchange and enclosure undertaken by rational utility-maximising agents. In other words, he presupposes the historically specific relations of capitalism, relations which were, in fact, only established following the widespread enclosure and privatisation of commons. Hardin’s tragedy would be better called the tragedy of capital, for it shows only how capitalist relations of competitive production, without limit, for the market tend to undermine the conditions of production.6 Thus Hardin’s argument is historically false, theoretically circular, and empirically dubious. It nonetheless plays an important ideological role in rationalising more privatisation, enclosure, and market competition as the solution to the problems caused by privatisation, enclosure, and market competition.7

Population is not the problem

Despite its influence on environmental economics, Hardin’s primary concern throughout his work was population growth, to counter which he promoted eugenics. His 1968 piece declared that “the freedom to breed is intolerable” and asked “how shall we deal with the family, the religion, the race, or the class (or indeed any distinguishable and cohesive group) that adopts overbreeding as a policy to secure its own aggrandizement?” His answer was coercion:

Coercion is a dirty word to most liberals now, but it need not forever be so. As with the four-letter words, its dirtiness can be cleansed away by exposure to the light, by saying it over and over without apology or embarrassment.

He cites Thomas Malthus, the 18th century moralist and Reverend, but little on contemporary demography. Malthus claimed that population would grow exponentially, while food production would only grow linearly. This would make hunger and misery permanent and insoluble features of human society, since population would always tend to outstrip available food.8 Hardin did his PhD in microbiology. Population studies of bacteria are a core part of any microbiologist’s training. Indeed, bacteria will reproduce near-exponentially, doubling in number each generation until their growth is checked by a limiting factor, such as exhaustion of nutrients.

Hardin seems to rely on Malthus’ morality tale and his microbiologist’s common sense, without bothering to check whether human populations actually grow until checked by famine. Fortunately, they do not. Today, the countries where the population is stable or declining are not ones where there is famine, and countries where there are famines often have growing populations. Furthermore, as Amartya Sen has shown, recent famines have not been caused by a lack of food, but a lack of purchasing power to buy food.9 Rather than growing exponentially until checked by famine, like bacteria, human population growth tends to follow a sigmoid (S-shaped) curve.

Human population is stable whenever the birth rate equals the death rate. If the stabilisation of population is caused by famine, it would mean the death rate rises to match the birth rate. In fact, both birth and death rates fall. Before the advent of modern medicine, birth rates and death rates were high, towns were disease-ridden population sinks, and the population was therefore predominantly young and rural. With the advent of modern understandings of disease, a series of changes lead to falling death rates, falling birth rates, urbanisation, and an aging population. This is known as the demographic transition.10

The seemingly exponential growth observed by Malthus was in fact the demographic transition between the high birth/death equilibrium to the low birth/death equilibrium. This transition seems to follow a more or less universal pattern, generating a chain of positive feedbacks once it begins.11 The most developed countries began this transition several centuries ago and are now mostly at the higher, older, urban equilibrium (population decline is even a concern in some places). Many less developed countries are not yet at the higher equilibrium, have younger, more rural populations, and are still experiencing rapid population growth. UN demographers expect the world population to stabilise somewhere in the 9 billion region.

Writing in 1798, Malthus mistook the rapid growth phase of a sigmoid curve for an exponential one. In fact, Malthus' main thrust was not to advance a theory of human ecology, but to make a political attack on the poor laws and the idea of raising workers' wages. Hardin, who reaffirmed his thesis as recently as 1998, is at least as conservative as Malthus, and either less smart or less intellectually honest. Once again, evidence for his central claim is in short supply, and in the 200 years since Malthus, much counter-evidence has accumulated.

Former ELF/Green Scare Prisoner “Exile” Now a Fascist

By Valdinoci - New York City Antifa, August 5, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

It’s been an open secret for months that Nathan Block (better known as “Exile”), a former Green Scare prisoner who served a number of years in prison for several Earth Liberation Front actions, has become a fascist. This has been known not just through numerous personal accounts from Olympia, but from copious postings on his tumblr blog Loyalty Is Mightier Than Fire (Exile has confirmed to local anti-fascists that the blog is his).

Do you believe Anarchism and Nazism are compatible? All the anarchists killed by fascists could not be reached for comment.

Do you believe Anarchism and Nazism are compatible? All the anarchists killed by fascists could not be reached for comment.

If you are unfamiliar with the more obscure references to Nazism and the postwar fascist movement, except a few decorated swastikas, Exile’s blog might look like a creepy spiritual goth kid’s elaborate art project. However, if you understand the references, it is immediately obvious that Exile is going out of his way to promote a slew of fascist writers and imagery, especially those influenced by Esoteric Nazism and other forms of mystical fascism.

The most prominent is Julius Evola, an Italian Traditionalist philosopher who attacked the “modern world” as decadent and corrupt. (Evola is the go-to guy for fascists who want a Situationist, Frankfurt School, or anarchist-style critique of capitalism and the consumer society.) Evola worked for the Nazi SS and was the main intellectual figure in Italy’s vibrant postwar fascist milieu. Third Positionism – an anti-capitalist, racial separatist, and ecological version of fascism – has its origins partly in Evola. The very title of Exile’s blog comes from a quotation in one of Evola’s most famous political books, Men Among the Ruins, and Evola quotes are found throughout the blog. Exile has told people that “Evola will show us the way.”

Exile also likes to quote Miguel Serrano, a postwar esoteric Nazi from Chile. Serrano, along with the better-known Savitri Devi, promoted worshiping Hitler as a deity. Serrano wrote numerous books about Hitler; these ideas have influenced the spiritual parts of the neo-Nazi movement such as the Hitler-worshipping New Order organization (formerly the American Nazi Party).

In addition to these obscure Nazi references, Exile’s blog contains a slew of other Nazi images, including swastikas, as well as black suns and runes used by the Nazis. Some of these images are reproduced below; they are taken both from his tumblr, as well as from his “Likes” on other tumblrs.

Read the entire article here

Apply the Brakes: Anti-Immigrant Co-Optation of the Environmental Movement

By Jenny Levison, Stephen Piggott, Rebecca Poswolsky, and Eric Ward - Center for New Community, 2010

From the Introduction: - This report is intended to explore how antiimmigrant forces have corrupted the dialogue on population and the environment, and will examine the anti-immigrant environmentalist network that has influenced the environmental movement for the last 14 years. In 2009, an article in the Population Special Issue of the Earth Island Journal1 mentioned a new organization and website named Apply the Brakes (ATB hereafter). A few months later, the Center for Immigration Studies2 — an anti-immigrant organization known to trade in racism — cited ATB in a memorandum denouncing Sierra Club leadership for not addressing the issue of immigration. At a time when more people of color, labor and human rights organizations are engaging in environmental concerns such as climate change and “green jobs,” ATB could very well threaten those fragile coalitions.

Read the entire report here (in PDF form).

What about the "Tragedy of the Commons"?

By "Anarchist Writers" - November 11, 2008

The term "Tragedy of the Commons" is a phrase which is used to describe why, according to some, commonly owned resources will be destructively overused. The term was first coined by Garret Hardin in December 1968. ["The Tragedy of the Commons", Science, Vol. 162, No. 3859, pp. 1243-1248] It quickly became popular with those arguing against any form of collective ownership or socialism and would be the basis for many arguments for privatisation.

Unsurprisingly, given its popularity with defenders of capitalism and neo-classical economists, Hardin's argument was a pure thought experiment with absolutely no empirical evidence to support it. He suggested a scenario in which commonly owned pasture was open to all local herdsmen to feed their cattle on. Hardin complemented this assumption with the standard ones of neo-classical economics, arguing that each herdsman would try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons to maximise their income. This would result in overgrazing and environmental destruction as the cost of each feeding additional animals is shouldered by all who use the commons while the benefits accrue to the individual herdsman. However, what is individually rational becomes collectively irrational when each herdsman, acting in isolation, does the same thing. The net result of the individual's actions is the ending of the livelihood of every herdsman as the land becomes overused.

His article was used to justify both nationalisation and privatisation of communal resources (the former often a precursor for the latter). As state ownership fell out of favour, the lesson of this experiment in logic was as uniform as it was simple: only privatisation of common resources could ensure their efficient use and stop them being overused and destroyed. Coming as it did before the rise of neo-liberalism in the 1970s, Hardin's essay was much referenced by those seeking to privatise nationalised industries and eliminate communal institutions in tribal societies in the Third World. That these resulted in wealth being concentrated in a few hands should come as no surprise.

Needless to say, there are numerous problems with Hardin's analysis. Most fundamentally, it was a pure thought experiment and, as such, was not informed by historical or current practice. In other words, it did not reflect the reality of the commons as a social institution. The so-called "Tragedy of the Commons" was no such thing. It is actually an imposition of the "tragedy of the free-for-all" to communally owned resources (in this case, land). In reality, commons were never "free for all" resources and while the latter may see overuse and destruction the former managed to survive thousands of years. So, unfortunately for the supporters of private property who so regularly invoke the "Tragedy of the Commons", they simply show their ignorance of what true commons are. As socialist Allan Engler points out:

"Supporters of capitalism cite what they call the tragedy of the commons to explain the wanton plundering of forests, fish and waterways, but common property is not the problem. When property was held in common by tribes, clans and villages, people took no more than their share and respected the rights of others. They cared for common property and when necessary acted together to protect it against those who would damage it. Under capitalism, there is no common property. (Public property is a form of private property, property owned by the government as a corporate person.) Capitalism recognises only private property and free-for-all property. Nobody is responsible for free-for-all property until someone claims it as his own. He then has a right to do as he pleases with it, a right that is uniquely capitalist. Unlike common or personal property, capitalist property is not valued for itself or for its utility. It is valued for the revenue it produces for its owner. If the capitalist owner can maximise his revenue by liquidating it, he has the right to do that." [Apostles of Greed, pp. 58-59]

Therefore, as Colin Ward argues, "[l]ocal, popular, control is the surest way of avoiding the tragedy of the commons." [Reflected in Water, p. 20] Given that a social anarchist society is a communal, decentralised one, it will have little to fear from irrational overuse or abuse of communally owned and used resources.

Earth First! The Underbelly Exposed

By Chris Shillock - Libertarian Labor Review (Anarcho Syndicalist Review) #6, Winter 1989

Several years ago the activist community was fired by news of a group of militant ecologists who called themselves Earth First!. Anarchists particularly felt a kinship. Earth First!’s uncompromising defense of the environment and their rejection of government stewardship of the wilderness echoed our own experience of the futility of working within the system. Their use of direct action was taken from our own history. Their full-blooded all-out enthusiasm for nature promised a robust, holistic radicalism.

Lately, as people learned more about the group, some truly disturbing facets of Earth First!’s ideology have come to light. By now it is clear that not only is Earth First! hostile to any meaningful social analysis, but it is freighted with so much nationalist and racist baggage as to make them obnoxious to any worker.

Earth First!’s philosophy, also known as Deep Ecology, is set out in a book of that name by Bill Devall and George Sessions (Peregrine Smith, Salt Lake City, 1985). It borrows from Zen Buddhism, Native American religions and from Heidegger, but is based on an immediate intuition of the “wilderness experience.” They urge us to go into the woods, to just feel. The result will be that feeling of the oneness of all creation which we have probably all known when we find ourselves alone under the stars.

Deep Ecologists go on to reason that “The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman Life on Earth have value in themselves…These values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes.” Deep Ecologists condemn other social and scientific views as “anthropocentric” in contrast to their “biocentric” outlook. This epithet is hurled throughout the pages of their journal, Earth First!, to clinch a point or to dismiss opponents.

So far, okay, aside from a few quibbles in logic. Earth First! has the potential to be a noble and passionate worldview. Instead their concept of “biocentric egalitarianism” turns the corner into a Malthusian blind alley shadowed with dark visions of a vengeful Earth lashing back at the species that uses her. Malthusianism has always been a pseudoscience serving the need of right wing ideology. In the Nineteenth Century, Social Darwinists used Malthus’ simplistic predictions of a dwindling food supply to justify doing nothing to alleviate the misery of the poor. Variations of this philosophy have been used in the Twentieth Century to buttress everything from eugenics to Third World starvation.

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