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Rights of the Environment: Ecology and Eco-Fascism

"Eco-fascism means the spread of eugenic and racist positions through seemingly ecological arguments. Biologism means transferring alleged laws from the animal- and plant-worlds to human society... The supposed overpopulation is made responsible for the destructionof nature, not capitalist exploitation." Crisis is also opportunity. Let us resist the rightwing nullification of the rights of the environment!
Rights of the Environment: Ecology and Eco-Fascism

Eco-Fascism arose out of Care for Nature and People

By Lasse Koch

[This article originally published July 15, 2003 in Forum Recht is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,

Whoever wants to keep blood pure begins with cleansing the soil. "Whoever urges opening the borders for all asylum-seekers or political refugees and all other foreigners undermines environmental goals [... ] and destroys the ecological chance implicit in the stagnation or decline of population growth. [... ] Foreigners streaming into Germany certainly don't have an existential interest in bringing our country to an ecologically acceptable state." Thus the former comrade-in-arms of the national-democratic university alliance Dietrich Murswieck formulated his environmental views in "CRITICON", a journalistic organ of the New Right. (1) Today the University of Freiburg allows the professor of public law to make his statements into environmental law. Murswieck is not an isolated case. The ecology theme is important in right-wing ideologies. Anti-fascists have developed the term "eco-fascism".

Both scientific ecology and the ecology movement in Germany are part of conservative and fascist tradition even though the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s and the Greens in their leftwing phase in the 1980s defined the term ecology from the left wing by connecting environmental protection and the social question. For example, important elements of nation-socialist ideology can be found in the ideas of Ernst Haeckel. In introducing the term ecology as a discipline in 1866, Haeckel propagated the social Darwinian "right of the stronger" in the "blood-and-soil" worldview and supported "racial hygiene" and "selective breeding". A large part of the life-reform and conservation-movement with its several million members and supporters influenced by the life philosophy of Oswald Spengler and Ludwig Klages could be classified in National Socialism. As a second example, the ideology of National Socialism could be easily joined to an organic German "ethnic community" allied with a magical nature consciousness that was often anti-Semitic and opposed to industrialization and city life.

An increasingly esoteric-racist definition of the term ecology was manifest with the failure of the leftwing forces and the Green at the end of the 1980s. This development was analyzed within the left with the term "eco-fascism". The focus of the groups and authors grappling with this theme complex was not only the increasingly direct influence of rightwing radical organizations or persons in the ecology movement. The social turn to irrational and anti-emancipatory ideologies corresponded to the rightwing development within the ecology movement.

Biologist Worldview

In this context, eco-fascism means the spread of eugenic and racist positions through seemingly ecological arguments. A biologist worldview existing in all areas of society underlies eco-fascist positions. Biologism means transferring alleged laws from the animal- and plant worlds to human society. The person is not seen as a social being but as biologically and genetically determined. The assumption of the inequality of people, the impossibility of emancipation, the legitimation of rule and elites and the distinction of high-quality and inferior-quality life are already assumed in the subordination of persons and society under "eternal natural laws".

In eco-fascist positions, biologism is joined with the notion that the person faces the environment as a hostile "parasite". The supposed "over-population" in the Third World is made responsible for the destruction of nature, not capitalist exploitation. (2) A false analysis of the causes of environmental destruction underlies the thesis of the supposed "over-population" spread across the rightwing spectrum. This thesis appears in all its brutality in the ecologized form of racist ideologies combined with a biologist worldview... The leftwing within the Greens first prevailed in connecting ecology with the social question... At the beginning of the 1990s, racism was clearly reflected in the form of the over-population thesis and ethno-pluralism.

"Human Flood"

The rightwing ecologist Siegfried Kilchberger wrote on the theme "over-population": "For us, human over-population damages the ecological balance on this planet in its biosphere and must be corrected." All economic assistance is absolute madness as long as the states of the Third World refuse to protect the ecological foundations of our planet and enforce rigid measures against the proliferation of their populations. All help in feeding their surplus populations should be refused when certain states appear ignorant toward nature and continue their exploitation of the environment more brutally and uncritically than the former colonial rulers." (3)

Kilchberger follows Gruhl's line here. In his 1975 bestseller "A Planet is Plundered", Gruhl railed against aid for the Third World. The "natural" birth control urged by Gruhl in his idea of a dictatorship to master the ecological crisis relies on hunger catastrophes, the exposure of sick children or the "killing" of children or frail persons. (4) Gruhl even considered using an atom bomb to solve "over-population" under the watchword "extinction or cautious reduction with all means". In a racist way, Gruhl agitated against the "human flood" and "human avalanches" and urged a ban on immigration for ecological reasons.

According to Gruhl, the local society must submit to the natural laws. The social security systems stood in the way of his social selection. "The web of charitable human institutions described today as a `social net' cushions the one who is responsible for his situation. This is the great seduction: everyone is deluded in a security that is entirely unnatural". (5)

Life Philosophy and Life Protection

References to the extreme anti-enlightened and anti-emancipatory "life philosophy" of Oswald Spengler can be found in parts of the radical-right and neo-fascist scene. In his main work "The Decline and Fall of the West" published after the First World War, Spengler invented a difference in rank of different "human races". The person was not understood in the first place as an individual but as an organic ingredient of nations and cultures that in turn are organic elements of their natural environment. (6)

In the tradition of this life philosophy, the so-called life protectors include people in their ecology term as "natural facts". They contrast a complex of reductionist, sick, inorganic, rational and democratic perspectives to their understanding of life as holistic, healthy, organic, intuitive and corporative. (7) Thus more than environmental protection is hidden behind the term life protection. As the former SA-member Werner George Haverbeck said, "Life protection is human protection and national protection". (8) What haunts the so-called life protectors is fear for the health of Germans. Themes like environmental destruction, nuclear energy, nuclear weapons and abortion are seen in the first place in their effects on the inheritance of the German people." (9) The goal of many life defenders is the preservation and increase of their own "people" who are stylized as superior.

The WSL whose German section was founded in 1960 by former NSDAP members is a classic example for the connection of ecological themes with racism and racist ideology. In its groups and through indoctrination and events, rightwing ecologists allied with rightwing extremist groups, historical revisionists and militant neo-nazis. (10)

Free Economy Theory

Many followers of the "free economy theory" of the Swiss merchant Silvio Gesell (1862-1930) in the rightwing extremist German Free Social Union were part of the environs of the WSL.

Gesell, the ideological founder of the free economy theory, conjured a market economy without capitalism as an economic alternative to capitalism and communism in the tradition of the French anarchist and anti-Semite Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Like Proudhon, Gesell located the exploitation in capitalism in the exchange of goods between owners of goods and owners of money and not in the production process itself like Karl Marx.

According to Gesell, the owners of money are in a privileged position in relation to suppliers of goods. Since money doesn't rot unlike commodities, they could keep it back from the market and extort interests from the owners of goods. Gesell demonized interest and made it responsible for economic crises and stagnation. His theory has a structural affinity to anti-Semitism since the alleged "parasitic" interest capital is separated from "productive" industrial and commercial capital and dominates this capital. Thus a position is found here that is economically wrong and very compatible with the national socialist ideology in which Jews as the personified "accumulating: interest- and bank capital were opposed to "good" German, "creating" industrial capital. Like the Nazis, Gesell imagined an ethnic community of workers with industrial- and commercial capital that should turn against "evil usurers".

Gesell's social utopia of a free market economy without capitalism is a horror scenario penetrated by social Darwinism and selective breeding ideas. Economic competition for Gesell is the form of biological competition. The man successful in this struggle could reproduce more strongly on account of his better genetic material. By means of this "natural selection", the person would be nurtured or selectively bred into the strong beautiful and healthy person. Women contributed to this selective human breeding by avoiding "reproduction of defective or sick and disabled persons". Gesell grants to them a "breeding right" and starts from the assumption that women would only choose strong men as fathers of their children."

Individual representatives of free economic theory can be found within the Greens, rightwing anarchist circles, the youth world movement and the anti-globalization movement. Their criticism of capitalism and concentration on the struggle against speculation and the world financial system come close to Gesell's economic ideas.

"Carcinoma Person"

These examples are only a small section of the rightwing ecological currents analyzed under the term eco-fascism. What unites the ideologies of different persons and groups amid all their differences within this spectrum is the total devaluation of the person as a social being. The metaphor of the "carcinoma person" often used in the so-called animal rights- and earth liberation scenes brutally expresses this misanthropic logic. That "euthanasia" propagandists within these groups like the bio-ethicist Peter Singer are held in great esteem is no accident. The comparison of chicken hatcheries with Nazi German concentration camps relativizing Auschwitz and widespread in these circles is particularly disgusting.

Whoever is not equal to the supposed "natural" competition falls by the wayside in the social Darwinian intellectual world of the eco-fascists. Either death from starvation or the killing methods implicit in a eugenic population policy threatens. In their opinion, humanity is not divided in social classes but in nations growing organically from nature. As in the contrast of so-called bioregionalism, racism is frequently disguised behind the argument that the nature of a certain region is indissolubly connected with the people living there...

The term eco-fascism as applied within the left is very helpful in identifying and combating the current development, that is, the increasing spread of reactionary and fascist ideologies through seemingly ecological arguments. However eco-fascism is very questionable for characterizing a possible future fascist formation of society. As already intimated, the ideology of national socialists hearkens back to alleged ecological explanations though National Socialism need not be described as "eco-fascism".

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