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Owen McShane

Beware the dark greens

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We may all be environmentalists now.

However, just as, over the last several decades, most of us have learned to be feminists, most of us have also learned to reject the dark side of the feminist movement that remains deeply Marxist in its roots and intentions.

Similarly, most of us 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.

As 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 representing a group of kindly folk who want to keep New Zealand clean and green, but are essentially harmless – and many of them are.

However, we need to be aware that 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 2002, 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 not.”

And, 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

Many 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.

Many people are vaguely aware that the Green Movement had its origins in NaziGermany. (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.

IN 1930, Ernst Lehmann, a professor of botany, in 1930, characterized National Socialism as “politically applied biology”. He wrote:

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.

As early as 1815, Ernst Arnds’ prescient “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.

Logging of our West Coast forests was long doomed.

Biocentrism is at the heart of much environmental thought but is not necessarily linked to fascism as such. However, by 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.

Peter Staudenmaier points out that, as early as 1913, LudwigKlarge’s Man and Earth proclaimed many of today’s Green themes, including the evils of urban sprawl.

Man 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

All of this in 1913!

Hitlerwrote in Mein Kampf that people “owe their higher existence, not to theideas of a few crazy ideologists, but to the knowledge and ruthless application ofNature’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 certaincorrective decisions with regard to the racial purity of earthly creatures. She has littlelove for bastards.”

I 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.

Indeed the whole mantra of “native plants good – exotic plants bad” is an uncomfortable reminder of how strongly the preference for “purity” remains entrenched today.

Staudenmaier explains that Hitler was highly committed to all manner of Green ideas, including some of the nuttier ones:

Hitler 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.

Now, 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.

But we need to be aware that many of the beliefs which appealed to Hitler and his cronies appealed because they were based on a philosophy that was anti-science, anti-reason, anti-intellectual and “anti” the Enlightenment and all it stood for.

We 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.

Perfectly 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:

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.

We have been warned.

Nazi-sympathising greens are still a powerful force in German politics today – Herbert Gruhl’s “Ecological DemocraticParty” (founded in 1982) keeps the old beliefs alive.

Janet Beil, in Ecology and the Modernisation of Fascism in the German Ultra-right, explains one of Gruhl’s nicer ideas:

The ‘laws of nature’, for Gruhl, offer a solution to Third Wor

ld immigration, especiallythe ‘law’ that the only acceptable currency with which violations of natural law can bepaid for is death. Death brings the equalization; it cuts back all life that hasovergrown on this planet, so that the planet can once again come into equilibrium.”

So here we have the retro version of the “final solution”, but this time wrapped in Greenspeak.

So any party contemplating the Green Party as a coalition partner should press hard to establish the party’s attitudes to the principles of liberal democracy and the role of science in modern society.

Fascism emerged from the economic hardship of the Great Depression.

In these turbulent times 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”.