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Opinion piece by Owen McShane
9 February 2008
the Dark Greens
We may all
be Environmentalists now – but we must beware of the Dark
the last few decades most of us have learned to be feminists,
and are generally comfortable with our conversion. But most of
us have also learned to identify and avoid being grouped with
the dark side of the feminist movement that remains deeply
Marxist in its roots and intentions.
most of us are now environmentalists. We take some pride in
our efforts to care for our surroundings, and to ensure that
we enjoy the world around us without despoiling it for others.
However, we also need to be conscious of the motives of the
“dark greens” who threaten our democracy and many
institutions and attitudes we hold equally dear.
election year moves into full gear our MMP system means the
voters will want to know how post-election coalitions might
emerge and just who might end up in Government. The Green
Party has managed to present itself as a group of kindly folk
who want to keep New Zealand clean and green but are
essentially harmless – and many of them are.
we need to be aware that, around the world, the Dark Side of
the Green movement is becoming more vocal in its declaration
that we must move beyond democracy if we are to save the
planet from humanity’s blight. In early December, Mayer
Hillman, in an interview in “Local Transport Today” said
among other things ... “When the chips are down I think
democracy is a less important goal than is the protection of
the planet from the death of life, the end of life on it. This
has got to be imposed on people whether they like it or
on Australia’s On Line Opinion, David Shearman, in “Climate
Change, is democracy enough?” favourably compares the
Chinese government’s ability to ban plastic shopping bags
with the dithering of the liberal democracies, and writes:
democracy is sweet and addictive and indeed in the most
extreme case, the USA, unbridled individual liberty overwhelms
many of the collective needs of the citizens. The subject is
almost sacrosanct and those who indulge in criticism are
labeled as Marxists, socialists, fundamentalists and worse.
These labels are used because alternatives to democracy cannot
be perceived! ….
Reform must involve the adoption of structures to act quickly
regardless of some perceived liberties.
need to know who we are dealing with, and where they might
people characterize these Dark Greens as socialists –
“watermelons” who are green on the outside but red on the
inside. I suggest we have got our colours mixed.
my essay, “The
Rise of the Urban Romantics – the new Road to Serfdom”
I argue that socialism is the dark side of the Enlightenment
tradition while Fascism is the dark side of the Romantic
Movement. 20th Century communism brought together certain
elements of both – e.g. Communism was socialism, combined
with fascism's Charismatic leader.
people are vaguely aware that the Green Movement had its
origins in Nazi Germany and the ideologies and campaigns
leading up to it. (The Nazi boy scouts were called Green shirts).
However, many seem unaware of how strong the “green”
movement was in developing the most shameful politics of the
Third Reich. In particular I wonder how many would refer to
ecology so frequently if they were aware of its place in the
development of Fascist thought and practice.
the most concise guide to the role of Green thought in fascism
Ideology: the "Green Wing" of the Nazi Party and
its Historical Antecedents by Peter Staudenmaier:
opening quote, which sets the tone of his essay, is from Ernst
Lehmann, a professor of botany who, in 1930, characterized
National Socialism as “politically applied biology”. It
recognize that separating humanity from nature, from the whole
of life, leads to humankind’s own destruction and to the
death of nations. Only through a re-integration of humanity
into the whole of nature can our people be made stronger. ....
Humankind alone is no longer the focus of thought, but rather
life as a whole . . . This striving toward connectedness
with the totality of life, with nature itself, a nature into
which we are born, this is the deepest meaning and the true
essence of National Socialist thought.
the chapter headed “The Roots of the Blood and Soil
Mystique” Staudenmaier writes:
is not only the birthplace of the science of ecology and the
site of Green politics’ rise to prominence; it has also been
home to a peculiar synthesis of naturalism and nationalism
forged under the influence of the Romantic tradition’s
anti-Enlightenment irrationalism. Two nineteenth century
figures exemplify this ominous conjunction: Ernst Moritz Arndt
and Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl.
remarkable 1815 article “On
the Care and Conservation of Forests”,
written at the dawn of
industrialization in Central Europe, rails against
shortsighted exploitation of woodlands and soil, condemning
deforestation and its economic causes. At times he wrote in
terms strikingly similar to those of contemporary biocentrism:
“When one sees nature in a necessary connectedness and
interrelationship, then all things are equally important –
shrub, worm, plant, human, stone, nothing first or last, but
all one single unity.”
is at the heart of much environmental thought but is not
necessarily linked to fascism as such. However, Arndt’s
biocentricism was inextricably bound up with virulently
xenophobic nationalism. His appeals for ecological sensitivity
were always couched in terms of the well-being of the German
soil and the German
people. This rampant nationalism soon led him to rail against
miscegenation, and to demand that teutonic racial purity be
protected from ‘mongrelisation’ by French, Slavs, and
the beginning of the nineteenth century the connection between
love of the German land and Germany’s emergent militant and
racist nationalism was firmly set in place and ready to
dominate political thought and action.
then explains how Ludwig Klarge’s Man
and Earth underpinned the German Youth Movement, and as
early as 1913 had proclaimed most current themes including the
evils of urban sprawl:
and Earth" anticipated just about all of the themes of
the contemporary ecology movement. It decried the accelerating
extinction of species, disturbance of global ecosystemic
balance, deforestation, destruction of aboriginal peoples and
of wild habitats, urban sprawl, and the increasing alienation
of people from nature. In emphatic terms it disparaged
Christianity, capitalism, economic utilitarianism,
hyperconsumption and the ideology of 'progress.' It even
condemned the environmental destructiveness of rampant tourism
and the slaughter of whales, and displayed a clear recognition
of the planet as an ecological totality. All of this in 1913 !
Klarge was a vicious anti-semite, in 1980 Man and Earth was republished to accompany the birth of the new
party of the dark “German Greens”.
explains that many such ‘ecological’ authors and their
ideas helped develop the Nazi ideology which combined the
mystical notions of Blood
1923 recruitment pitch for a woodlands preservation group
demonstrates the truly Romantic environmental rhetoric of the
every German breast the German forest quivers with its caverns
and ravines, crags and boulders, waters and winds, legends and
fairy tales, with its songs and its melodies, and awakens a
powerful yearning and a longing for home; in all German souls
the German forest lives and weaves with its depth and breadth,
its stillness and strength, its might and dignity, its riches
and its beauty – it is the source of German inwardness, of
the German soul, of German freedom. Therefore protect and care
for the German forest for the sake of the elders and the
youth, and join the new German “League for the Protection
and Consecration of the German Forest.”
mantra-like repetition of the word ‘German’ and the
mystical depiction of the sacred forest fuse nationalism and
naturalism into a unified “holistic” package of thought.
Our West Coast logging was doomed from then on.
people “owe their higher existence, not to the ideas of
a few crazy ideologists, but to the knowledge and ruthless
application of Nature's stern and rigid laws.”
Hitler’s found his “anthropomorphized nature” had some
convenient truths to guide his Third Reich. For example, he
wrote: “Nature usually makes certain corrective
decisions with regard to the racial purity of earthly
creatures. She has little love for bastards.”
am always stunned by the ease with which local Councils, with
a wonderful lack of awareness of history, write into their
district plans rules against the “mongrelisation” of
plants and the need to eco-source native plants to maintain
the “genetic purity” of the species.
the whole mantra of “native plants good – exotic plants
bad” is an uncomfortable reminder of how strongly the
preference for “purity” remains entrenched today.
explains that Hitler was highly committed to all manner of
Green ideas, including some of the nuttier ones:
and Himmler were both strict vegetarians and animal lovers,
attracted to nature mysticism and homeopathic cures, and
staunchly opposed to vivisection and cruelty to animals.
Himmler even established experimental organic farms to grow
herbs for SS medicinal purposes. And Hitler, at times, could
sound like a veritable Green utopian, discussing
authoritatively and in detail various renewable energy sources
(including environmentally appropriate hydropower and
producing natural gas from sludge) as alternatives to coal,
and declaring “water, winds and tides" as the energy
path of the future.
I do not wish to suggest that any and every green thought is a
fascist thought. When I erected a windmill on my 20 acre
country block I was not making a statement about my fascist
leanings. When my wife and I planted over 80,000 trees and
plants on the same block we were not declaring our allegiance
to the NZ Nazi Party.
we need to be aware that many of the beliefs which appealed to
Hitler and his cronies appealed because were based on a
philosophy which was anti-science, anti-reason,
anti-intellectual and “anti” the Enlightenment and all it
also need to be mindful of Karl Popper’s reminder that
science and democracy are two sides of the one coin and that
an attack on one is an attack on the other.
legitimate environmental issues and attitudes were perverted
by the Nazis and we need to learn from this history if we are
not to repeat it. Staudenmaier’s final paragraph reads:
the substitution of ecomysticism for clear-sighted
social-ecological inquiry has catastrophic political
repercussions, as the complexity of the society-nature
dialectic is collapsed into a purified Oneness. An
ideologically charged 'natural order' does not leave room for
compromise; its claims are absolute. For all of these reasons,
the slogan advanced by many contemporary Greens, "We are
neither right nor left but up front," is historically
naive and politically fatal. The necessary project of creating
an emancipatory ecological politics demands an acute awareness
and understanding of the legacy of classical eco-fascism and
its conceptual continuities with present-day environmental
discourse. An 'ecological' orientation alone, outside of a
critical social framework, is dangerously unstable. The record
of fascist ecology shows that under the right conditions such
an orientation can quickly lead to barbarism.
have been warned.
greens are still a powerful force in German politics today –
Herbert Gruhl’s “Ecological Democratic Party”
(founded in 1982) keeps the old beliefs alive.
the autumn of 1991, Monika Greifahn, the Environment Minister
of Lower Saxony shocked many observers by awarding Gruhl
a highly prestigious state honor for his international
best-seller A Planet Is
Plundered. She explained that Gruhl had
“placed ideas of environmental protection and care at
the forefront of public political
not hard to see why some Germans were shocked. Janet Beil, in Ecology
and the Modernisation of Fascism in the German Ultra-right,
explains one of Gruhl’s nicer ideas:
'laws of nature’, for Gruhl, offer a solution to Third World
immigration, especially the 'law' that "the only
acceptable currency with which violations of natural law can
be paid for is death. Death brings the equalization; it
cuts back all life that has overgrown on this planet, so
that the planet can once again come into equilibrium.”
Fortunately, in his view, Third World people will accept this
lethal solution since their lives "rest on a
completely different basic outlook on life from our own: their
own death, like that of their children, is accepted as
here we have the retro version of the “final solution”,
but this time wrapped in Greenspeak.
any party contemplating the Green Party as a coalition partner
should not look too benignly on all these “green young
things” and should press hard to establish the party’s
attitudes to the principles of liberal democracy and the role
of science in modern society.
certainly no one should look at the link between Green
Politics and the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany and console
ourselves that “It could not happen here”.
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