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April 17, 2000


An Historical Perspective on Ecofascism


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The following is a remarkable survey of ecological movements
in the past. It's not only illuminating, it amounts to a
cautionary tale.


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(ise-l) Ecofascism: Lesson from the German Experience - Introduction

ALINK="#00FF40"> - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

(ise-l) Ecofascism: Lesson from the German Experience - Introduction


Institute For Social Ecology <ise@rootmedia.org>


Fri, 7 Aug 1998 01:48:26 +0000 (GMT)

Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience


For most compassionate and humane people today, the ecological crisis is a
source of major concern. Not only do many ecological activists struggle to
eliminate toxic wastes, to preserve tropical rainforests and old-growth
redwoods, and to roll back the destruction of the biosphere, but many
ordinary people in all walks of life are intensely concerned about the
nature of the planet that their children will grow up to inhabit. In
Europe as in the United States, most ecological activists think of
themselves as socially progressive. That is, they also support demands of
oppressed peoples for social justice and believe that the needs of human
beings living in poverty, illness, warfare, and famine also require our
most serious attention.

For many such people, it may come as a surprise to learn that the history
of ecological politics has not always been inherently and necessarily
progressive and benign. In fact, ecological ideas have a history of being
distorted and placed in the service of highly regressive ends--even of
fascism itself. As Peter Staudenmaier shows in the first essay in this
pamphlet, important tendencies in German "ecologism," which has long roots
in nineteenth-century nature mysticism, fed into the rise of Nazism in the
twentieth century. During the Third Reich, Staudenmaier goes on to show,
Nazi "ecologists" even made organic farming, vegetarianism, nature
worship, and related themes into key elements not only in their ideology
but in their governmental policies. Moreover, Nazi "ecological" ideology
was used to justify the destruction of European Jewry. Yet some of the
themes that Nazi ideologists articulated bear an uncomfortably close
resemblance to themes familiar to ecologically concerned people today.

As social ecologists, it is not our intention to deprecate the
all-important efforts that environmentalists and ecologists are making to
rescue the biosphere from destruction. Quite to the contrary: It is our
deepest concern to preserve the integrity of serious ecological movements
from ugly reactionary tendencies that seek to exploit the widespread
popular concern about ecological problems for regressive agendas. But we
find that the "ecological scene" of our time--with its growing mysticism
and antihumanism--poses serious problems about the direction in which the
ecology movement will go.

In most Western nations in the late twentieth century, expressions of
racism and anti-immigrant sentiments are not only increasingly voiced but
increasingly tolerated. Equally disconcertingly, fascist ideologists and
political groups are experiencing a resurgence as well. Updating their
ideology and speaking the new language of ecology, these movements are
once again invoking ecological themes to serve social reaction. In ways
that sometimes approximate beliefs of progressive-minded ecologists, these
reactionary and outright fascist ecologists emphasize the supremacy of the
"Earth" over people; evoke "feelings" and intuition at the expense of
reason; and uphold a crude sociobiologistic and even Malthusian biologism.
Tenets of "New Age" eco-ideology that seem benign to most people in
England and the United States--specifically, its mystical and antirational
strains--are being intertwined with ecofascism in Germany today. Janet
Biehls essay explores this hijacking of ecology for racist, nationalistic,
and fascist ends.

Taken together, these essays examine aspects of German fascism, past and
present, in order to draw lessons from them for ecology movements both in
Germany and elsewhere. Despite its singularities, the German experience
offers a clear warning against the misuse of ecology, in a world that
seems ever more willing to tolerate movements and ideologies once regarded
as despicable and obsolete. Political ecology thinkers have yet to fully
examine the political implications of these ideas in the English-speaking
world as well as in Germany.

What prevents ecological politics from yielding reaction or fascism with
an ecological patina is an ecology movement that maintains a broad social
emphasis, one that places the ecological crisis in a social context. As
social ecologists, we see the roots of the present ecological crisis in an
irrational society--not in the biological makeup of human beings, nor in a
particular religion, nor in reason, science, or technology. On the
contrary, we uphold the importance of reason, science, and technology in
creating both a progressive ecological movement and an ecological society.
It is a specific set of social relations--above all, the competitive
market economy--that is presently destroying the biosphere. Mysticism and
biologism, at the very least, deflect public attention away from such
social causes. In presenting these essays, we are trying to preserve the
all-important progressive and emancipatory implications of ecological
politics. More than ever, an ecological commitment requires people today
to avoid repeating the errors of the past, lest the ecology movement
become absorbed in the mystical and antihumanistic trends that abound


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Institute for Social Ecology

P.O. Box 89

Plainfield, Vermont 05667 USA

(802) 454-8493