Dry and Brown GreensEcofascism: Lessons from the German Experience by Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier. AK Press, 22 Luton Place, Edinburgh Scotland pp 73 ISBN 1-873176-73-2
I FIRST HEARD of the imminent release of this small but overpriced volume from an employee of the AK Press whom I met at a large book trade convention in America. Not knowing the exact slant of the book I politely asked if he were familiar with Anna Bramwell's Blood and Soil: Walther Darri and Hitler's Green Party (reviewed in Scorpion 11) which is certainly relevant to the topic. "She's a Fascist," he exclaimed indignantly, as if this, in and of itself, meant that her book was irrelevant and unworthy of the slightest consideration. I countered that her thesis (Claiming the still unsurpassed progressive agricultural and ecological policies advanced by Darri and others during the Third Reich were a logical and inevitable result of long-standing V”lkisch trends) were soundly rooted in historical fact, but the fellow I was speaking to merely repeated his mantra "she's a fascist", by which time he obviously considered me quite suspicious. However, when I mentioned that I had quite a number of original books published by Darri's office in the thirties he suddenly became much more friendly and suggested that I lend AK Press some material as they still had no artwork for the book jacket!
A double-standard was clearly at work, a typically confused one, which is on par for the course with a publisher like AK Press. While they generally maintain a strict, doctrinaire agenda of anarcho-socialist publications, there is one very odd item on their roster: a book-length compendium of the first three issues of the controversial Answer Me! magazine. This hefty and venomously misanthropic volume, which has been labelled a "Bible of Hate", certainly appears at odds with the rest of the AK canon. Why would they support such a work, let alone involve themselves in distributing it? Quite simply, because they knew it guaranteed them sales upwards of 10,000 copies, in all likelihood five times that of their average title. So much for idealism.
What does all this have to do with Ecofascism? The same shaky logic and wishy-washy tactics permeate this volume. Arguably the most compelling feature of this slim book is the red/white/black design of the cover and evocative Fidus image that adorns it. Certainly the illustration conveys considerably more emotion and substance than do the dry and contradictory words contained within.
Comprised of two essays, the first half of the book, by Staudenmaier, about the "Green Wing" of the Nazi Party and its historical antecedents, is heavily indebted to Mrs Bramwell's research and is basically a synopsis of her two major books, Blood and Soil and Ecology in the Twentieth Century: a History. While pillaging from her work, Staudenmaier arrogantly dismisses Mrs Bramwell as having succumbed to "an alarming intellectual affinity with <her> subject" in his second footnote and does not mention her name again. But he reiterates her contention that the modern ecological movement owes the greater part of its foundation to thinkers of an illiberal, if not racialist, outlook: witness Ernst H‘ckel, who coined the word "ecology" in its original German form and was a strong proponent of "Monist" eugenics, nationalism and anti-Semitism. Still, Staudenmaier tries to make a garbled argument for rescuing the green movement from such tendencies, assuming the high moral ground and invoking the benevolent "emancipatory" nature of his own personal vehicle, the "social ecology" viewpoint. He castigates the Green slogan, "We are neither right nor left but up front" as "historically naive and politically fatal", offering no reason for doing so beyond his equation of fascism=evil.
What clearly frightens the "social ecologists" is not so much the racialism of some environmentalists but rather a general growing attitude among those concerned with the future of the earth (and part of the philosophy of Deep Ecology), that human life is not inherently sacred and deserves no more and no less than a balanced position within the vast spectrum of our planet's now vulnerable organic eco-systems.
The second half of the book, by the co-editor of Green Perspectives, Janet Biehl, presents a muddled continuation of Staudenmaier's text, updating it to the present day and informing us that no, the Nazis and fascists still have not surrendered the ecology movement to the humanitarians. The original danger of their involvement therefore still looms and unless environmentalism is saved from the pernicious influence of would-be barbarians, the world may once again lapse into a totalitarian nightmare. Mrs. Biehl bemoans the insidious efforts of the "New Right", which "explicitly draws its ideas from classical fascism". So both authors are mortified at the alleged highjacking of ecology by the "fascist right" as a means to gain recruits, influence and support. The only problem with this position is that both Staudenmeier and Mrs. Biehl have admitted that the modern ecology movement was, at root, founded by the ancestors of the "fascists" they despise. The question any rational person will then ask is: how can fascists highjack what they themselves started ?
Anyone concerned with the links between fascism and ecology would do better to read Mrs. Bramwell's two books or any of the writings by Earth First founders Edward Abbey and David Foreman, than to bother with Ecofascism whose authors seem not to care about ecology at all. For them, the earth and its vast abundance of unique life forms, are merely commodities to entertain or provide employment for a multitude of swarming humanoids who contribute nothing of value but are somehow "sacred" all the same. It all smacks of the Christian idea: "I am not of the earth, merely on it", according to which the earth is only some kind of amusement park or testing ground, where every human, but not animal, can be expected to be treated decently. Happily, the earth could not care less for the hand-wringing philosophies of such humanists as Biehl and Staudenmeier, although if their anthropocentric ideas continue unabated, they and their ilk may take credit for its eventual downfall.