Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience by Janet Biehl & Peter Staudenmaier (AK Press, Edinburgh & San Francisco 1995, £5.00)
Since the 1970s the Green movement world-wide has been dominated by anarchist and left-wing tendencies; but this has obscured the movement's more diverse ancestry. In Europe in the 1920s and 1930s there were right-wing expressions of concern for the environment, combining a mystical conception of nature with the myths of race and nation. The epitome of this outlook came with the Nazis, whose whole political ideology can be described as "ecofascist". (It is to be regretted, however, since this term blurs some important distinctions between Italian fascism and German “National Socialism".) Hitler was a vegetarian, opposed to vivisection and loved his dogs. He was an enthusiast for renewable energy sources. Himmler saw to it that the SS had it own supply of organic farm produce. The Nazis introduced the first nature reserve in Europe and began a programme of extensive reforestation.
That was then and this is now. But the resurgence of Nazism shows the futility of supposing that it (and environmental problems) could be reformed out of existence within capitalism. The darling of the left-wing of the German Greens in the 1970s and 1980s used to be Rudolf Bahro; but not any more, for he has revealed himself to be an ecofascist, calling for a new “Green Adolf'. What is important here is that Bahro claims that he is only making explicit what was always in his Green political thought. For instance, he is quoted in the early 1980s, as a leading member of the German Greens, stating that "if we want to build an ecological decentralised Germany, we have to first free German territory” (From Red to Green). Bahro is currently Professor of Social Ecology at Humboldt University in Berlin. Social Ecology is a concept usually associated with the American anarchist Murray Bookchin, and in November 1990 he was invited by Bahro to a seminar on the question: "Is the alternative to ecological destruction freedom from domination or an 'ecological' dictatorship?" Bahro argued that, because there is a "dark side” to human nature, we need a Nazi-style dictatorship to save the environment and ourselves. Bookchin replied that the “dark side" is to be found in the sort of society we live in; whereupon Bahro told him that he would not be invited again.
Any right thinking person (pun intended) should of course be concerned with what's happening to our environment. It really is a scandal. What the existence of ecofascism, shows, however, is that uninformed concern and “doing something” can have disastrous consequences. For this reason, anyone who has read of the Malthusians with the Green movement blaming overpopulation will have been uneasy about where their line of argument is taking them. We need to understand the social and economic causes of environmental degradation before we can take effective political action. This does not have to be difficult, but it can confound a professor.