Ecology in the 20th Century: A History, by Anna Bramwell

Re: Ecology in the 20th Century: A History, by Anna Bramwell

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Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER SIX: Back To The Northland

Economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organisers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance fanatics, hole-in-corner reformers of every imaginable kind ...

-- Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto, p.113

In the late nineteenth century rural life became linked with physical and moral welfare in the minds of many. With the First World War the belief in the regenerative power of contact with the land took on even greater force. [1] It seemed that a new era had arrived in which the whey-faced poor in their rotting slums could be re-settled in suburban villages and garden cities. All over Europe, soldiers about to be demobilized were promised smallholdings. If the evils of urban living were avoided, physical and mental health would be improved. This belief focused on the fate of urban children, the seed-bed of the new world. What had been tentative and utopian pre-1914 ideas about reform through country life now seemed a practical possibility.

The 1930s saw the full development of the group of ideas we call ecologism today. It was characterized by that global perspective which is an integral part of ecological, as opposed to environmental thought. Calls for ecological awareness, the need to live according to ecological ideas and maintain ecological balances; these became widespread among a small, inter-knit group described here as High Tory.

Environmentalism and ecologism took different paths. Ecologists called for complete social and economic change worldwide. They prophesied erosion and total soil pollution if all countries did not follow their recommendations. And like all ideologues, they claimed that unless everyone played by their rules, the game was up.

On the other hand, organised environmental protection groups in Britain went in for specific problem-solving. The Council for the Protection of Rural England was established in 1928, with an active local branch structure. The first Town and Country Planning Act was passed in 1932, largely as a result of lobbying by the Council. (The first town planning act had been in 1909, but it did not include rural planning controls. [2]) The Ramblers Association was formed in 1935, and again had a strong local structure. [3] These manifestations of environmentalism implied the belief that local government, in its Fabian guise of benevolent Platonic Guardian, was the suitable means for reform. This cast of mind was to be labelled that of the 'new Jerusalemers'. [4] But a more total and radical social criticism carne from ecologists of the time. They rejected political lobbies as irrelevant to the real problems. These were seen as loss of fertility in the soil, soil erosion, loss of resources, such as the phosphates contained in human sewage, depopulation of the countryside, pollution of water and the spread of urbanism. The solution was to restructure society, especially its trade and economy.

High Tory ecologists were anti-capitalist and opposed to laissez-faire. Many were pro-German, and remained so throughout the inter-war period. But if there had ever been a moment when anti-capitalism, eugenics, racialism and rural values could have fused into an English version of National Socialism, deep differences now showed themselves. Ecological ideas in England split into two separate styles. The more radical edge of this cultural criticism was not politicized in the 1920s. D.H. Lawrence did not stand for Parliament. In the 1930s, some of his equivalents did, but the existence of the Third Reich, and its claim to support rural values, acted both as spur and bridle. It polarised the movement into admirers and abhorrers, and, eventually, as with the Chicago school of organic biologists, disheartened and silenced it. [5]


One pervasive manifestation of these Back-to-the-Land ideas in the 1920s was the growth of new scout movements, offsprings of Baden Powell's Scouts, which had been designed to teach children about the countryside and form responsible characters and leaders. The Woodcraft Folk was intended to give working-class children experience of the outdoor life. It was inspired by the Woodcraft Indians founded in America by emigre Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946) - he later became Chief Scout under Baden Powell. In 1916 a Quaker, Ernest Westlake (1856- 1922) started a breakaway scout movement, the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry. It wanted more emphasis on forestry and less on warfare. The Order maintained links after the war with the German Youth Movement, who admired its pro-mediaeval stance. Patrick Geddes was on the committee. It founded a forest school in 1928. The Order remained small and obscure, and by 1945 had faded away.

A breakaway scout group was led by John Hargrave (1894- 1982). He too was a Quaker, but one who was profoundly concerned that urban life and the First World War had produced a mentally and physically deficient race, while the elite failed to breed sufficiently. These fears about the degenerative effects of civilization and war were most common among socialist reformers. Hargrave found the Scouts too warlike and too conservative. He developed a collection of ideas which to-day sound oddly matched. He was a pantheist who was also interested in Eastern religions, but yet believed in an Anglo-Saxon nationalism, and wanted to go back to English roots. He was a socialist and a pacifist, and also had strong eugenic beliefs. He spent two years as a stretcher-bearer in the First World War, and was then invalided out, so that unlike the founder of the Woodcraft Folk, he belonged to the lost war generation.

Hargrave's mixture of folk roots and a craving for Oriental religion resembled the alternative, counter-culture developed in Germany between 1890 and 1933, as did his pacifism. Both the post-war German Youth Movement and the Kibbo Kift were inspired partly by a revulsion against war, and a desire to restructure society so that such horror could never happen again. Hargrave's books were translated into German during the 1920s, and extensively read. [6] Like Tolkien and the Scandinavian novelists, such as Selma Lagerlof, Hargrave wanted to create a national myth, a substitute folk-memory for that destroyed by those false gods laissez-faire and industrialisation.

He founded a movement which meant to do more than merely introduce children to open air life: it was to establish a counter-society, and especially a potential counter-government, in the form of the Kibbo Kift Kin. The Kin consisted of a network of leaders, regionally based. Geddes, again, was an advisor to the Kin, and so was H.G. Wells - Hargrave was apparently inspired by his 'New Samurai', and wanted the Kin to be a similar elite. [7] Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian mystic, Theosophist and poet who was received with rapture in Berlin in the 1920s, Julian Huxley, zoologist, Arctic explorer Vilhjalmar Stefansson, Havelock Ellis, and Frederick Soddy were also 'Kin'. [8] Rolf Gardiner, organic farmer and Nordic racialist, was briefly 'gleemaster'. Their annual council was called the Althing, and their uniform was a Saxon cowl and jerkin, and a Prussian army cloak.

The spiritual progenitors of the Kin were D.H. Lawrence and William Morris, but where Morris and other Nordicists were inspired by the ideal of 'Teutonic democracy', Hargrave sought a Teutonic elitism. Lawrence, through his wife, Frieda Weekley, (formerly von Richtofen) had come into contact with the 'counterculture' of the artists' colony of Ascona, where Hesse and other German intellectuals created a world of Eurythmics, pacifist Wandervogel, anarchy and green proto-Nazism. Through Lawrence's books, the distinctive German brand of serious nature-worship and sun-worship affected the English nature tradition. [9]

The presence of Tagore as patron demonstrates the 'soft' element in Hargrave's programme, and the confusing synthesis of political attitudes that existed in the 1920s where communard and idealist movements were concerned. Tagore, poet, millionaire, Nobel Prize winner in 1913, and agrarian reformer, developed village communes and agricultural schools in Bengal. He saw India's future as one of agricultural reform and supported the peasants. One of his pupil assistants, Leonard Elmhirst, the son of a Yorkshire missionary, married the radical American heiress, Dorothy Whitney Straight. They started Dartington Hall, a mixture of co-operative rural regeneration and experimental education, later a home for Communist activists, and refugees from all over Europe. It was Tagore who recommended the fertile and beautiful South Devon countryside to Elmhirst (the local Rector decided they had been sent by the Devil). [10] One of the founders of Ascona, Rudolph Laban, fled to Dartington in 1938 after managing theatres and operas under the Nazis. The circle of elite, alternative intellectuals embraced any alternative political creed. The Argentinian poetess, Victoria Ocampo, met Elmhirst and Tagore in Bengal; both become close friends with her and contributed to her journal, along with another close friend, Drieu la Rochelle. [11]

Hargrave's policies at first attracted other Quakers and cooperative socialists. However, his emphasis on Social Credit policies and Anglo-Saxon pageantry began to alienate Labour Party supporters. These dissidents began a Woodcraft Folk movement.  [12] Perhaps surprisingly for a movement that is still part of today's Labour Party, the Woodcraft Folk also shared a 'Volk' feeling with the German Youth Movement. The founder, Leslie Allen Paul (1905- ) was attracted to Nietzsche, Whitman, Jefferies and Thoreau. Their constitution was called the Folk Law. Like Hargrave, Paul wanted to improve the race by eugenics as well as by healthy exercise. None of these groups had any discernible anti-semitic element, but they were certainly consciously looking for Anglo-Saxon racial roots and methods of social organisation. Hargrave's ideas were to be imposed by an elite fired by mystic communion as well as by common ideals and comradeship: the Woodcraft Folk pursued policies such as a national health service, employment protection, subsidised childbearing and better nurseries and playing fields. Both groups adopted the theory of recapitulation, as it was called, derived from Haeckel's theory that 'ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny'. The American psychologist, G. Stanley Hall, argued that the developing adolescent recapitulated the history of man. Between the ages of ten and fourteen, the primitive hunter was dominant. [13] This formative phase should be used to educate and train the adolescent youth, - we encountered this idea as a rationale behind Seton in Chapter Five.

Hargrave absorbed his Social Credit ideas from Rolf Gardiner, who was briefly a member of the Kin and a friend of D.H. Lawrence. Hargrave and Major C.H. Douglas, (1879-1952) founder of Social Credit, both wrote for Gardiner's paper, Youth. Social Credit policies were similar to G.K. Chesterton's Distributism. They opposed the payment of interest, and wanted all credit to be issued by the state. If credit were a state monopoly, like currency, deflationary collapses would be averted, and malevolent financial interests controlled. The economic theory evolved by Douglas was a variant of criticisms of Say's Law. Jean Baptiste Say thought that supply must always equal demand, because the money that went into production remained in circulation to create purchasing power. Marx had implicitly attacked this theory through his model of surplus value. Keynes was to point out that depressions could develop because in times of deflation people preferred saving to expenditure (although he did not explain what happened to money saved that prevented it going into circulation via the banking system). Douglas saw the 'leakage' of purchasing power as caused by finance capitalism. His A+B theorem became famous. This argued that wages, salaries and dividends (A) paid by one firm, would be never enough for purchasing the firm's product (B). The B was money paid elsewhere as, for example, interest charges and bank charges. The state should issue credit to make up the difference, thus providing sufficient purchasing power to keep the economy going, and providing it to the productive worker. Finance capitalism was unproductive, because under it, interest left the productive sector. International finance damaged national economies (the term multinational was not then in use: probably, Douglas would have used it). Like today's green anti-trade, anti-finance-capitalist theories, Social Credit lent itself easily to a blanket condemnation of mercantilism, greed, materialism, and exploitation, although it emphasised the value of the productive craftsman, entrepreneur and farmer. Douglas argued that as long as there was spare capacity, state-issued credit would not be inflationary. [14]

Douglas spent most of his working life as an engineer in India, South America and other non-European areas. During the First World War, he was Assistant Director of the Royal Aircraft Works at Farnborough. [15] He had the simple but unconventional folk wisdom of the outsider. His followers included the Tory, anti- Whig lobby, but also appealed to those with a puritanical dislike for unrooted money, or who had suffered financial or emotional loss from modernization. Douglas, however, was an individualist, and believed in the value of technology. In fact, he saw existing financial institutions and bankers as obstacles to technological progress, as a dead hand. Here, as with Henry Williamsom, and many inter-war fascists, was the Wellsian vision of clean, efficient, unwasteful technology, hampered by traditionalists and vested interests, yearning to be set free by sensible engineers and trained bureaucrats. [16]

Social Creditors opposed usury and the banking system, and believed in the 'just price'. Support for this creed came from farming communities in the Dominions, as well as from fundamentalist Protestant groups and right-wing Catholics. Silvio Gesell, monetary reformist, inspirer of Keynes and member of the Munich Soviet, believed in a form of Social Credit, as did Gottfried Feder, the early Nazi. Social Creditors, once won over to the blinding simplicities of the A+B theorem, perceived themselves as the good, the sane, the normal, in opposition to the destructive and malevolent creators of 'the system'. It was a short step from opposing finance capitalism to opposing what were seen as the destructive effects of exploitative, utilitarian untramelled capitalism on the physical, valued world. Social Creditors cherished conservative values.

The Kin depended on Hargrave's dynamic and inspiring leadership, but he was too much of an individualist to keep such a group together, much less expand it. His increasing belief in occult forces, his slogan that' All is Energy' came to seem more and more irrelevant after the Depression began. In fact, Hargrave merged the Kibbo Kift with a group of unemployed workers in Coventry, formed in January 1931 into a 'Legion of Unemployed', with an inner ring known - ominously - as the Iron Guard. Later, the Legion was known as the Green Shirts. The similarity of names between the Legion, the Iron Guard and Green Shirts of Rumania is striking, and can hardly be coincidental, but whether Hargrave knew of or understood the implications is uncertain. The Legion also demanded a just price, a national dividend and national credit. When the groups merged, the Kibbo Kift adopted the green shirts and dropped some of their Anglo-Saxon archaisms, while in January 1933 it changed its name to the Green Shirt Movement for Social Credit. It saw itself as a populist but non-violent movement, which would reform society directly, not through parliamentary democracy. [17]

Hargrave's abilities as a propagandist and creator of pageantry kept the Green Shirts alive for a few more years. In 1935, inspired by the success of the Social Credit Party in Alberta, Canada, the Green Shirts changed their name again to the Social Credit Party of Great Britain. They put up a candidate in South Leeds who polled a respectable 11 per cent. After this Hargrave, thinking himself more powerful than he was, began to attack Sir Montagu Norman, Governor of the Bank of England. Major Douglas withdrew his support from the new party. It then came under the ban of the 1936 Public Order Act, which outlawed uniformed marches. Although the Social Credit Party still exists, the days of the Green Shirts were over. Like other pro-rural groups in Britain, they had suffered the constant jeers of the more fashionable intellectuals. By 1944 they were dismissed by the later notorious Tom Driberg, Socialist MP and representative of the new urban left, as a 'small, fantastic cult of nature-worshippers.' [18]

The Green Shirts saw themselves as a third factor in politics, neither communists nor fascists, neither capitalists nor socialists. Candidates stood against the British Union of Fascists; in Liverpool, Green Shirt candidates were attacked by a fascist activist after beating him in a local election. [19] Rhetoric about a Third Way was common to the radical Right and revolutionary conservatives in Europe at this time. However, the Green Shirts had an element of Quaker niceness, of world unity pacifism, that failed to attract a loyal constituency. Hargrave's book of oracular sayings has a positive and preaching tone and a vacuous and somewhat self-indulgent content. The group has been defined as occultist, or 'illuminated', in the sense of claiming a secret knowledge: although one ex-member of the Kibbo Kift Kin is quoted as fearing that it would eventually have led to a religious fascism, the group seems to have been in essence apolitical. [20] Apart from an urge to return to Saxon roots and revive the countryside, it had no policies. D.H. Lawrence's comment on Hargrave was:

I agree with him on the whole ... but he knows there's no hope ... so he's full of hate, underneath. But, for all that, on the whole, he's right. If it wasn't for his [Hargrave's] ambition and his lack of warmth, I'd go and Kibbo Kift along with him ... But by wanting to rope in all mankind it shows he wants to have his cake and eat it. [21]

'Kangaroo', the fascist leader in Lawrence's novel of that name, published in 1923, strangely parallels Hargrave. In the book Somers/Lawrence is drawn to the dictator, but rejects Kangaroo's embracing, comradely love in words similar to those used about Hargrave. Although it was not the inclusiveness but the intensity of Kangaroo's love which alienated the writer, the tone of the objection is very similar, as is the sympathy extended towards an existentialist criticism of hedonism.

'You see', he [Kangaroo] said, 'Christianity is a religion which preaches the despising of the material world. And I don't believe in that part of it ... I believe that the men with the real passion for life, for truth, for living and not for having, I feel they now must seize control of the material possessions, just to safeguard the world from all the masses who want to seize material possessions for themselves blindly, and with nothing else. The men with soul and with passionate truth in them must control the world's material riches and supplies; absolutely put possession out of the reach of the mass of mankind, and let life begin to live again, in place of this struggle for existence, or struggle for wealth.' [22]

The Kin's ideology of local cells and leadership excluded serious parliamentary efforts to gain political power, which was surely correct in a two-party system, but hardly left much lee-way for action, given the rejection of terrorism, violence or a coup (assuming for the sake of argument that these would have had any prospects of success). They were neither a special interest group nor a mass movement nor a powerful, behind-the-scenes clique. However, like the Woodcraft Folk, their hiking and camping activities inspired loyalty and comradeship. By providing a platform for 'alternative' financial ideas, and a network of luminaries who could be kept in touch with each other, the Kin possibly helped to keep alive and stimulate a belief in English rural roots. It is an interesting commentary on the differences between England and Germany that whereas in Germany such a movement only began to succeed following the Depression, in England, the Depression finished it off. Perhaps the British Union of Fascists picked up too much of its support. The Green Shirts are mentioned in police records as taking part in anti-B.U.F. marches and demonstrations, while the Woodcraft Folk occasionally supported Soviet Russia in the 1930s. Perhaps it fell between two stools: the aim of unpolitical propagation of Anglo-Saxon nationalism on the one hand, and the desire to organise a new social force on the other. A Quaker inspired by Indian Scouts, Nietzchean energistics and New Zealand Social Credit, was probably the nearest England had to a Hitler. His poems and slogans like 'All is Life. There is no Life but Life', came close to self-parody. Without an identifiable scapegoat figure, his movement was not likely to or designed to capture serious nationalist-cum-green support. Exclusivist nationalism does not work if you try to include everybody.


The group we shall look at now consisted of more specific exponents of ecological ideas, who had an understanding of the dangers of soil erosion. They supported whole food and organic farming decades before such matters became common currency. Two of them, Rolf Gardiner and Lord Lymington, were founder members of the Council of the Soil Association in 1945. These two also wanted closer links with Germany. What was the German connection? Among Haeckel's converts was D.H. Lawrence. According to the memoirs of a childhood friend, Lawrence as a boy was influenced by Haeckel's rationalism and nature-worship, which he read in one of Haeckel's popularized scientific works, Riddle of the Universe. It may seem strange that a writer associated with an irrational creed of 'blood' should have been so inspired by an evolutionist, but Haeckel believed will and beauty played a role in descent: Lawrence later rejected the idea of determinist evolution, but this was not necessarily a reaction against Haeckel, who supported the theory of mutation through 'cell irritation' (i.e., not slow selection via survival). Certainly, one author attributed to Haeckel a major role in Lawrence's best-known works, and to the development of his cosmology, especially his combination of 'causal evolution with Nature mysticism.' [23] Lawrence was not a programmatic ecologist, as I have defined it, but his intellectual background was saturated with a mixture of nature-worship and anti-anthropomorphism. He later came into contact with the sun-worshipping colony of artists and anarchists at Ascona, mentioned above. One author goes so far as to say that the Leavises' articles in praise of Lawrence, English village life and Richard Jefferies resemble the articles published in Die Tat, Diederichs' volkisch journal. [24] (Diederichs was a neo-Conservative, nationalist German who published many young National Socialist intellectuals, such as Ferdinand Fried, Ernst von Salomon and Giselher Wirsing.) Although Lawrence profoundly influenced the pro-Nordic Gardiner, this comparison appears to me problematical. It brings out the problems of the necessarily retrospective historian. It is possible to quarry Lawrence for exciting references to race, eugenics, blood, and so on, [25]while the famous end of The Rainbow expresses an anti-urban, and indeed, anti-mankind critique that approaches nihilism.

She saw ... the amorphous, brittle, hard edged new houses advancing from Beldover to meet the corrupt new houses from Lethley ... a dry, brittle, terrible corruption spreading over the face of the land, and she was sick with a nausea so deep that she perished as she sat ... And the rainbow stood upon the earth. She knew that the sordid people who crept hard-scaled and separate on the face of the earth's corruption were living still. [26]

Birkin's desire to see man destroyed, if only 'this beautiful evening with the luminous land and trees' is preserved, has the same illiberal, anti-human force. [27] Certainly, Lawrence's intuitive but detailed perceptions of landscape, and the people embedded in that landscape, have the total nature defined earlier as essential to the ecological package-deal and appear to resemble the language of proto-Nazis. However, the apolitical quality of Lawrence's vision, the puritan individual morality, his refusal to engage in domination or submission, removes his work from the world of political radicals and reformers. Ecologists wish to avert apocalypse. Lawrence did not.

Lawrence, though, was a powerful influence on the ideas and style of Rolf Gardiner (1902-1972). As Gardiner was an early ecologist, this is an example of continuity of ideas, but also of their mutation. Gardiner's active political career began early. He was born in London into a wealthy trading West Country family, which had estates in Malawi, and a family business in London. His father was an Egyptologist. His mother was half Swedish and half Austro-Hungarian Jewish. [28] He became a Guild Socialist while at Cambridge, where in 1923 he began to edit a magazine, Youth, to which he brought a strong leaning towards the German Youth Movement and Social Credit, and in which he attacked the philosophy of the Bloomsbury Group and Keynes. He was founder of the Cambridge Social Credit Study Circle. He was a founder member of the Soil Association, and member of its Council. Well after the Second World War, he was still active in promoting organic farming, and was engaged in a vigorous correspondence about Ronald Blythe's Akenfield in the Observer in 1969. [29] He later criticized his involvement in the Kibbo Kift, which he dismissed as 'mummery', a mixture of 'political idealism' borrowed from H.G. Wells and Major C.H. Douglas. [30]

Like several pro-Germanist ecologists between the wars, Gardiner leads a strange sort of double life in literature about the twentieth century. Readers of Griffith's Fellow Travellers of the Right will have come across him as a fervent supporter of Nazi rural policies and paganism, but those interested in ecology will have found warm-hearted support of Gardiner from John Stewart Collis, in The Worm Forgives the Plough, a description of his wartime experiences working on the land which includes admiring references to Gardiner as an employer and dedicated ecologist. Embarrassed academics still recall Gardiner - who loved music - singing a song to the corn spirit when his daughter married an Oxford don, but an expert on the nature tradition in English literature found Gardiner's contributions 'impressive'. [31] He was High Sheriff of Dorset between 1967 and 1968, while giving lectures to the Radionic Association. He bought an estate in Dorset in the 1920s and farmed it organically. He planned to start a rural university there. His children did not take up country life. However, the estate, Springhead, at Fontmell Magna, survives as a centre for rural studies and organic farming.

Gardiner's first work was a booklet, privately published in London, and published in Dresden by a German journal, Die Hellerau Blatter. It was written while he was still an undergraduate, after he took a folk-dancing troop to Germany in 1922. It described his love of folk-dancing and the spiritual importance it had for him. At a time when Morris dancing is seen as a precious folksy idea, tied up with every kind of absurdity, too stale to be a funny joke even in the days of the Ealing comedies, it is hard to realise the electric excitement that underlay the discovery of English folklore, music and dancing before the First World War. The movement soon split, with the English Folk Dance Society attacked by the more militant, for being fuddy-duddy. 'It has become respectable, and respectability in England is the death warrant of any vital enterprise ... and individual enterprise is the hall-mark of life, of creativeness.' [32] Gardiner's account restores some of the thrill of discovery and new meaning: it is not concerned so much with anthropology or the Folk as with a philosophy of life. He draws from the living dance lessons on man's attitude to nature, to the soil, to sex and to politics. His emphasis on life and creativity, on harmony and balance, included the suggestion that Folk Dance could bring back to us 'a liberty, a harmony of existence, for lack of which we are now most brutally suffering'. [33] He attacked 'the black soul of a selfish individualism' in favour of the 'naturalness, communality, and freedom' of the folk dance. [34] He yearns for a self-forgetfulness that will take the bearer above himself. 'The sword dance ... above all an emotional unity, [it] set in voltaic commotion every electron in the souls and bodies of the dancers, till they are consumed ... by one blind, electric, purging flame of ecstacy, an exaltation, a cathartic frenzy, ... ' [35]

He stressed the joy of fusion again in the Morris dance, the surging, electric fluid ... fusing the whole six of you ... yet at the same time each individual dancer is himself, distinct, apart.' [36] Dance and song as a purgative, regenerative mixture was, again, an Asconan cult. Rudolph Laban's mistress invented eurythmics at Ascona. The American Martha Graham and the Communist Margaret Barr were to pursue it at Dartington Hall. Gardiner's longing for a patterned communality might have led him to Marxist Socialism or the Christianity of C.S. Lewis, but the pull of the land was to be a stronger influence, towards dreams of a united and pagan England and Germany. In a later article, 'Meditations on the Future of Northern Europe', he wrote of man's need to search for 'the country of his heart, that place or region where he can ultimately take root and bear fruit like a tree, and which for him becomes symbolic of the unseen home whence he is sprung, and whither he will return.' [37] He produced that apparently omnipresent demand among right-wing rejecters of capitalism, a 'third way'.

The Christianisation of Europe has been the spirit-urge, the Christian urge, which in its later stages becomes the urge of Science ... The moot point is, whether human beings are going to reverse direction and switch back to the old, unconscious way of living, the way of peasants, of savages, or evolve a third way of life, a sort of synthesis of consciousness and unconsciousness, a living not from the blood nor from the intellect, but from some principle more central and more eternal than either. [38]

Describing the power of nature's laws, he wrote,

We live on a plane whose life marches to one dominant rhythm. Setting aside all disparities, we can discern a law governing our earth-existence, cyclical recurrence ... life ... ebbing and flowing in mysterious processes of contraction and expansion; even the human heart has its systole and diastole. [39]

The Lawrencian influence is obvious here, and Lawrencian ideas ran through Gardiner's semi-religious work, World Without End (London, 1932), which began, interestingly enough, with an epitaph from Kangaroo, and a dedication to Lawrence for freeing Gardiner and his generation from 'dead tradition'. This work attacked party politics, and the attempts to escape existing party structures which Gardiner called 'New Partyism'. He opposed this along with European fascist parties, as 'middle-class attempts at restoring male power, common, vulgar, mean, urban ... ' the 'pathetic attempt by suburbia to re-establish itself in the soil'. [40] The spirit of the age was so strong that one could escape it only by personal spiritual re-birth, a theme that was taken up recently by Rudolf Bahro, the German 'fundamentalist' Green, who saw any compromise with politics as damaging the ecological cause. Gardiner was to quote Lawrence again in 1943:

'We must plant ourselves again in the universe.' This, verily, is the need of a human race impoverished by abstraction, and living more and more like the machines it has invented. Here is our whole programme, the discipline of organic relationships and organic growth. The study of ecology, in this extended sense, now becomes our most imperative science. [41]

Lawrence had written to Gardiner in 1928 praising the more 'physical' German youth, and the creed of 'song, dance and labour'. [42]

Gardiner emphasised the organic metaphor: 'But it [living according to an ecological law] means the subjection of ourselves and our tools to a larger organic authority, the authority of the Natural Order, which is based on rhythmic laws.' [43] In this wartime book, Gardiner produced plans for a Back-to-the-Land programme, and farmers' co-operatives. He quoted from Richard Jefferies and Rudolf Steiner on the need to replenish a debilitated soil with decayed organic matter. 'The life-quality or vital essence of plants and animals are all important for the well-being of men.' [44]

Gardiner's pro-German politics continued alongside his interest in nature and organic farming. In 1928, he was co-editor of a symposium, Britain and Germany, published as Ein Neuer Weg, (A New Way Forward) in Germany by a Youth Movement publisher, the Bund der Wandervogel und Pfadfinder. It included a calendar of Youth Movement activities between 1922 and 1928, as well as discussions of Anglo-German relationships. Gardiner claimed a non-political and independent stance for the book, but he called for 'a new union of Celtic-Germanic peoples, from the Adriatic to the Arctic, the Vistula to the Atlantic.' [45] In World Without End he talked again of a Baltic union, of an England joined to Prussia, but not, at any cost, to places influenced by Latin culture, like Heidelberg and Munich. [46] Anyone who yearned for past imperial glories or the White Dominions, he continued, should realise that Europe was Britain's destiny. [47] This was an unusual stance, especially among conservatives, in a time when the Empire dominated British politics.

Essays in the 1928 symposium described a visit to Northumberland by German student groups from Hanover and Brandenburg; the programme included sing-songs and talks on 'The Order of Woodcraft Chivalry'. [48] Erich Obst wrote about the British character. He was Professor of geo-politics at Hanover, and Herbert Backe, responsible for German agriculture between 1942and 1945, studied under him in the 1920s. Kingsley Martin, later the pro-Soviet editor of the New Statesman, also contributed an essay. Gardiner rejected 'any nonsensical racial theory, such as a dogmatic belief in the 'Nordic Race' ... We restrict things to Northern Europe and a common Germanic sympathy ... the practical and spiritual possibilities are here, and not elsewhere.' [49] Despite this disavowal, Gardiner was enthusiastic about the Nazi takeover early in 1933.

A selection of Gardiner's writings published by the Springhead estate lists his tours and visits abroad with folk dancers and choirs, but omits any reference to Gardiner's visits to Walther Darre, or any mention of pro-German sympathies. Yet these were not accidental ornaments to his beliefs, but fundamental to them.

Gardiner became attached to the circle around Lord Lymington, later the Earl of Portsmouth, who, like Gardiner, visited Walther Darre, Nazi Minister for Agriculture, in the 1930s, although it was Gardiner who was Darre's house guest. (In 1943, he broadcast a kind of recantation of his acquaintance with Darre on the BBC, arguing that Darre's ideals had been betrayed by the Nazi Party.) Wyoming-born aristocrat and land-owner, Gerard Lymington was an Anglo-Saxon nationalist, although his inspiration was less recondite than that of Hargrave. In 1930, he became leader of a group formed to revive English customs and provide a network of similar-minded sympathisers, the English Mistery. He went on to form a similar but more activist group called the English Array in 1936 which, while it opposed war with Germany, also opposed disarmament. They held meetings at Gerard Lymington's country home, and, up to 1938, concentrated on soil fertility, erosion and pollution. [50] The Array was formed mainly from landowners and ex-army officers, - it included Reginald Dorman-Smith, Minister of Agriculture in 1939, and later to be Governor of Burma. Membership was especially strong in East Anglia.

In 1938, Gardiner became a contributor to a new journal called The New Pioneer, a magazine edited by Lymington and Beckett, ex-member of the National Socialist League. Members of the League believed that Mosley was in the pay of international financial interests and that the B.U.F. was too soft on the Jews. They wanted to rouse the masses to overthrow democracy. Unlike Mosley, who supported Mussolini, but believed in gaining power through Parliament, Beckett and his ally, William Joyce (later 'Lord Haw-Haw') were radical Nationalists. They had been members of the National Socialist League. Beckett resigned before joining Lymington. They were disillusioned with Mosley, who had expelled them from the British Union of Fascists, and were opposed to the foreign nature of fascism and its foreign funding. Presumably a pro-German sympathy was the link between these men - too extreme for Mosley - and the High Tory nationalists, two groups who were widely separated by education, class and style. Beckett had originally been an Independent Labour Party M.P., and shared a real socialist commitment with William Joyce. He does not seem to have had much influence on the New Pioneer. Contributors included A.K. Chesterton, who had recently resigned from the B.U.F., Major-General J.F.C. Fuller, the expert on tanks and other advanced military tactics, and various anti-war and B.U.F. supporters. However, Gardiner dominated the journal, which devoted much of its space to calls for a Back-to-the-Land programme.

In its attitude to Germany the journal took a fairly moderate tone at first and then became more strident. [51] However, its emphasis on healthy soil, healthy food and rural regeneration was constant. Although the existence of Nazi Germany's peasant ideology must have been known to the contributors, no overt link was made in the articles. Lymington himself had written Famine in England in 1938. It prophesied a future of soil erosion and degradation in an England unable to feed herself, or to buy in food. It aroused considerable interest, and led to the formation of his group Kinship in Husbandry. The Kinship included many organic farmers, followers of Steiner's bio-dynamic agricultural method, grass experts, seed-breeders and nutritional experts.

Nearly all the issues of New Pioneer dealt with these and similar ecological questions. In May 1939, the work of Seebohm Rowntree and Viscount Astor, who had written a typical Fabian tract on agricultural economics which opposed smallholdings as outdated and inefficient, was attacked for not mentioning humus. The edition of June 1939 talked about soil erosion and the need for land reform, which would allow 'responsible initiative in peasant ownership', while 'controlling the land in the interests of the nation'. [52] The issue of July, 1939 drew an analogy between farm and nation: 'like a farm, a country should be one organic whole', and talked about the deleterious environmental effects of imported food. [53] The New Pioneer was agriculturally nationalist. It called for more resources for British farmers. It complained that ten million pounds was given to re-settle Czech refugees, but that nothing was given to compensate Hampshire smallholders when their crops were ruined by storms. [58] There was a strong Fosterian note in this:

The New Pioneer is the man who faces inwards. His is not the new world to conquer, but the old world to redeem ... His are not the illimitable lands, forever beckoning, but his to find the pass across the lost horizon of our own purpose. Earth's perimeters will go to other races unless we are reborn at home. [40] Redemption ... will come by fanning the spark of flourishing life that survives in ourselves. [55]

England had to

Restore Health, which means wholeness to our people. Therefore health must be both physical and moral. For health and security we are concerned with the care and development of our soil. Without a healthy and productive soil we cannot have physical health, we cannot have economic security and we cannot have the sense of reality and real values that will give us spiritual health. [56]

Haeckel's teaching affected the English 'Youth Movement' in one specific way that seemed to contradict its strong racial element. His theory that phylogeny recapitulates ontogeny, that the child growing in the womb recapitulated all the stages of evolution, inspired positive, environmental health and education measures. It helped support a strong belief in the value of environmental improvement, especially pre-natal treatment. This interest, which had led to the formation of experimental preventative and total health groups such as the Peckham experimental 'Pioneer Health Centre', was part of the New Pioneer ethos; indeed, the founders of the Peckham experiment took part in Kinship in Husbandry meetings. [57] Recommendations for good pre-natal feeding included food grown in healthy soil, wholemeal bread, eggs and vegetables. Articles contrasted 'The England of to-day as symbolised by the mass-produced tins of the centralised milk factory; and the England we wish to see symbolised by the pigs bred in the cottage garden ... and the manure from the pigs returning to enrich the soil', while the erosion fears of the period were emphasised. [58] The fundamental history of civilisation was, they argued, the history of the soil. The collapse of civilisations was due to the soil becoming desert when cities 'forget the soil on which they fed'. 'Man, being an animal,' was 'bound to the soil'. The city-dweller, cut off 'from one side of his cosmic nature', lost wisdom. The decline of Rome was a favourite example. [59]

Erosion was a major issue for the ecologists of the 1930s. One of the first uses of the word in its normative sense was in a geographical survey of soil erosion world-wide, with particular reference to North America, The Rape of the Earth (1939). This influential work discussed the need for an ecological equilibrium which was further defined as the' ecological balance of the original flora and fauna.' [60] It was wrong for man to upset the equilibrium of animal ecology, while land reclamation by ecological methods, that is, enclosing and leaving alone, was the cure. Price support and price controls for agriculture, social security, action to prevent rural unemployment, were also part of the programme. But the emphasis remained on a healthy, organically nourished soil. The cycle of nutrients, from soil to vegetables to animal to soil, was seen as a wholeness we had lost, a chain whose most important link had been broken. Books by Dr G.T. Wrench received a sympathetic hearing in the New Pioneer, which shows, again, the emphasis on environmental rather than eugenic influences. Wrench argued that 'a mother of C3 class, if undiseased herself, may ensure a A1 baby', while the discovery of untouched Indian tribes in remote valleys had led to investigations to discover the causes of their superior teeth, health and longevity. [61] Indian village compost- making, the re-cycling of rotted animal and human wastes was the cause. Stone ground wheat meant that the whole grain, with all its nutrients, was ingested, and European rats were compared unfavourably by this writer with Indian rats which ate organic breadcrumbs. 'One feels that the [European] rat would sooner sit and work at a bench or at a desk than make his muscles glow with hard work upon the field.' [62]

Lord Lymington, in his autobiography A Knot of Roots, claimed that 'by 1928, I was probing into the problems of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, and leaping by instinct rather than knowledge towards some of her 1962 conclusions'. [63] During a visit to Germany in 1931, he visited one of the Kaiser Wilhelm agricultural stations. He was impressed by their phylloxera-free vines, sweet lupin for cattle fodder, and early ripening maize, but found that the only common language for discussion was Latin. Lymington knew Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, one of Rudolf Steiner's early agricultural lieutenants, and possibly acquired some of this ecological awareness from him. Although Pfeiffer's book on biodynamic farming was not translated into English until 1938, he ran two bio-dynamic farms in Wa1cheren, Holland, and Lymington went there each year from 1935 to 1939, once with Sir Albert Howard. [64]

The interlocking circles around Gardiner and Lymington spanned British National Socialists, men with ugly hair cuts and razor-scarred faces, researchers and experimenters like Sir George Stapledon, the grass breeding specialist at Aberystwyth, who helped form the revolution in farm productivity after the Second World War, and Sir Albert Howard, who ran an agricultural research institute in India. They included the pro-German writers described by Griffiths, such as Edmund Blunden, who typified the intellectual middle-class love affair with Germany, and who, when war broke out, expressed the sneaking desire to one of his pupils at Oxford that Goering might become Protector of England, because he would restore blacksmiths to every village. [65] There were country gentry who wanted peace with Germany, and rowdy baronets. The poet and playwright Ronald Duncan was another close friend of Lymington and Gardiner, as was Arthur Bryant, the historian.

Lymington entertained and corresponded with believers in wholeness, health and preventative medicine such as Ananda Coomaraswamy, author of a history of art and nature in India, China and mediaeval Europe. The Lymington circle included Dr Alexis Carrel, of the Rockefeller Institute. Carrel, of French origin, was a Nobel Prize winner who specialised in tissue transplants. His book, Man the Unknown, stressed the need for a holistic medicine, for seeing the human organism as a whole. Lymington believed that Carrel had lost his Rockefeller laboratory through his holistic message, but his Rockefeller file shows, apparently, that he retired to Vichy France and had an institute there. He died in 1944. Lymington was a Conservative M.P. between 1929 and 1934, and was part of a Young Tory group in 1930, based on himself, R.A. Butler, Harold Balfour and Michael Beaumont. [66] He resigned in 1934 over British agricultural policy, and admitted he was lucky not to be interned under Regulation 18B during the war, as happened to various members of the B.U.F. and the Anglo-German Fellowship. He became head of a local agricultural war board. The post-war welfare state and its grey atmosphere did not suit this extraordinary patriot and adventurer, and in 1950 he emigrated to Kenya.

Lymington also contributed to the Anglo-German Review. This was not concerned with rural problems or ecology, although there was one article on the German agricultural settlement programme, 'Escape from the Slums', which praised the cottage and allotment schemes. [67] Lymington supported a benevolent dictatorship and a united Europe; he appreciated the freemasonry of international aristocracy that he found on his visits abroad.
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Re: Ecology in the 20th Century: A History, by Anna Bramwell

Postby admin » Tue Jan 23, 2018 1:15 am

Part 2 of 2


In a recent edition of Kropotkin's call for intensive land settlement, the editor discussed the viability of Kropotkin's arguments, and traced their influence through Sir George Stapledon, Hugh Massingham, and the Rural Reconstruction Association started by Montagu Fordham. [68] The anarchist prince seems an odd source for a group that includes High Tories, but this cross-fertilisation between apparently disparate people is common among ecological thinkers.

The idea that the farmer or labourer should own the land was part of early twentieth-century ecologism. Because land reform meant redistributing the great estates it was seen as a left-oriented movement. Followers of Henry George had begun with the demand to nationalise rents; they proceeded to call for the nationalisation of property. Land reform groups had a professional and upper-middle-class membership; Alfred Wallace was one supporter, as was Cardinal Newman's brother.

But to support the peasant, the yeoman or the agricultural labourer in England was an emotionally conservative position, usually backed by a deep sense of specifically English patriotism. Ecologists tend to be international, because of the global vision of their ideas. However, they also have a local sense of place, a feeling for the village or for a tribal patriotism. In pre-First World War England, to be an English nationalist was to opt for a localised patriotism, just as to be a Welsh nationalist would be today. Normal nationalism was located in the Empire, especially the White Dominions.

An example of this English patriotism is to be found in Maurice Hewlett, lawyer and best-selling novelist of his time. After writing several historical novels, Hewlett wrote two romances in the first of which the hero gave away his money, forsook an ordered, normal life, and wandered the earth collecting plants and living off the land. In the second, published in 1912, he returns to Sussex and lives a self-sufficient and vegetarian life in a goatherd's hut, eventually establishing a rural school for the local children. [69] So far this seemed merely an unconventional Edwardian romance that caught the popular fancy, but in 1916 Hewlett emerged as a surprisingly radical, 'blood and soil' nationalist. He published a verse chronicle of the English labourer, a work meditated for ten years. It was a Puck of Pook's Hill-like survey of key moments in English history, seen through the eyes of the dispossessed English farm labourer. Hewlett commented that decorum forbade him to call his poem The Hodgiad, thus revealing his debt to Richard Jefferies' portrayal of the long-suffering farm worker. The Chronicle was dedicated 'To England'. It attacked the Norman Conquest, the Normans and the landowners, and argued that the sufferings of the English 'Peasantry' during the war entitled them to free land and government support when they returned. The Introduction stated,

A certain man, being in bondage to a proud Conqueror, maintained his customs, nourisht his virtues, obeyed his tyrants, and at the end of a thousand years found himself worse off than he was at the beginning of his servitude. He then lifted his head, lookt his master in the face, and his chains fell off him. [70]

The poem ended with the declaration, 'Thus Hodge at last shall win his land.' [71]

This post-colonial emphasis sounded odd from a man so much a part of the established order as Hewlett. He was later to be a member of the Kibbo Kift Kin. [72] H.N. Dickinson was another novelist who sought Tory justice for the labourer. In The Business of a Gentleman (London, 1914), the sporty, land-owning hero has to take over a factory owned by his wife. He finds it run on Manchester Liberal lines, with strikes fomented by socialist do-gooders. Inspired by his experience of running an estate, he turns the factory into something similar. Under paternalist leadership, inspired by loyalty, duty and higher wages, the workforce makes the factory profitable. Dickinson's book attributes every social evil to urbanism.

Montagu Fordham shows how hard it is to classify ecologists. They sit stubbornly in their pro-nature box while political categories swirl around them. His main interest was the rural reconstruction of England's agriculture. He perceived it as derelict, and thought that the answer was to reconstruct it on a smallholder basis. His writings spanned thirty-eight years, from Mother Earth in 1907 to The Restoration of Agriculture in 1945. A Quaker, he began with an agrarian programme acceptable to the pre-First World War Liberal Party. His second book was published by the Labour Publishing Company in 1924. [73] He formed the Rural Reconstruction Association, and one of its last works incorporated articles by ex-Mosleyites. One was Jorian Jenks, agricultural adviser to the British Union of Fascists, and editor of the Soil Association's journal after 1944. Fordham scrapes into the ecologist category through his pro-peasant programme. His support of the peasantry had mystical dimensions. He stressed their instinctive knowledge of God's and nature's laws, their direct wisdom and their 'strong and vital faith in spiritual things'. [74] He opposed any trade in food, and believed that nations should be self-sufficient. He spoke of 'the devastation of the fertility of the land in countries that had been concerned in providing us with food', complaining that the international food trade caused unemployment and poverty 'in newly developed countries'. [75]

In the early 1920s Fordham worked on a Society of Friends relief mission to Cossack refugees and peasant villages devastated by the Soviet-Polish war. He was to write surprisingly favourably about Stalin, describing his policy as 'devastating common sense.' [76] He praised Rolf Gardiner and Lord Lymington, as well as the then moderate centrist, Harold Macmillan.76 He attacked laissez-faire economics, and regarded the Guild Socialists, Tawney, Penty, Sidney Webb and especially Frederick Soddy as exponents of the 'new economics and sociology' which should be taught in village schools. [77]

The Rural Reconstruction Association was founded in 1926. It called for 'the restoration of agriculture to its rightful place in our national life.'78 Despite Fordham's earlier mysticism about Mother Earth, its arguments were kept on a level of practical policy. It called for farm price support, and attributed the Wheat Act of 1932 to its agitation. [79] By 1945 its board included Sir George Stapledon and Lord Lymington, and it was chaired by Michael Beaumont, ex-member of the English Mistery and Conservative M.P. for Aylesbury between 1929 and 1938. Thus, between 1907 and 1955, the Rural Reconstruction Association and its founder had received support from the Liberals, the Labour Party, ex- members of the B.U.F. and High Tories, as well as from apolitical agrarian economists.


Hugh J. Massingham (1888-1952) was one of the Kinship in Husbandry circle. His books on the English countryside and rural crafts are still read, and much loved. He saw himself as a Cobbettian democrat. In his autobiography, Massingham discussed the political inspiration that led him to turn to rural values. [80] He had adopted a theory known as Diffusionism from W.J. Perry, an anthropologist who deduced from his studies of primitive man that man was bi' nature innocent and non-predatory, 'an entirely pacific being'. [81] This view of man's relationship to nature was sketched in the introduction to this book, where I suggested that it was possible to draw many different political conclusions from the idea that man was a natural being. Massingham argued that nature was benevolent, and that man, as part of nature, in his natural state, was unaggressive and co-operative. We had misinterpreted nature by seeing her as red in tooth and claw: there was sudden death in nature, all animals preyed on each other or on plant life, but this was something to be accepted and even appreciated as a moral duty. It was the inherent burden of existence that energy was recycled in this way, that life lived on life, that life must have an end. Death in nature was, indeed, more merciful, quicker and easier, than the conscious cruelty of civilized man [82]. It was the attempt to avoid the natural course of life that led to grief. Darwin's theory of evolution assumed constant progress, which Massingham thought absurd and undesirable. Huxley and others who talked of cruel nature were sentimentalists. H.G. Wells was typical of those who wanted to escape from nature into a hateful Utopia, where man would be so remote from his real nature that he would lose his desire to live. He disagreed with Hobbes' natural state of conflict theory, and believed in 'the psychic unity of mankind', inherent in Diffusionism. This creed attributed all the ills of civilized humanity to man's social background and institutional environment. His nature was sound at the core: 'It was not in our stars but in ourselves that we were underlings, slaves to the machines and the ideas that it generated ... but ... in the organised institutions of civilized society.' [83] Massingham wanted a Europe based on small regional groupings, and blamed Germany's lack of greatness and aggressiveness on her 'unnatural unification'. In his memoirs, he stressed culture, rather than race, as the determinant factor in human history, and while this may have been in part a reaction to Nazi racial theories, it was also inherent in his Diffusionist beliefs, as well as in his High Anglicanism (he converted to Catholicism in 1940).

Looking back on his childhood, Massingham observed a deep unhappiness that had no obvious cause.

Was it that, all-unknowing, we were afflicted with the malady of the age that had reached and passed its apogee of material prosperity and had begun to descend, deeper and deeper into unsuspected depths, into the abyss of the 20th century? Or was it that we were uprooted from our homeland, and sickening, withering in our urban pot and de-oxygenated air? We were 'hydroponics' ... nothing to offset the deadening effects and mechanical processes of the mental factory. [84]

Massingham shared his dislike of a formal education with Henry Williamson. He complained particularly that the classics taught him 'entirely failed to be ecological'. [85] It was his private reading of literature and history that inspired in him a love of the English countryside which he compared to that taught at the Danish Folk Schools - the rural education centres introduced in the 1920s. He became a self-taught naturalist, and drifted into journalism, writing for the New Age and The Nation. (From 1938 until his death he was correspondent for The Field.) The New Age, edited by A.R. Orage, also a patron of Ezra Pound, supported Social Credit policies, the ones advocated by Rolf Gardiner as a young man. It attacked usury, Whig history and heroes - William of Orange, Adam Smith, Malthus, Cobden and Darwin - and supported a society based on crafts and Guilds. Chief villain of the 'money power' was the Bank of England. The fact that both Cobden and Adam Smith supported 'small proprietors' (Smith) and 'forty-shilling freeholders' (Cobden), was ignored in this analysis.

Guild Socialist ideas were Catholic in inspiration, though not always in denomination, and deeply religious. Materialism was a blind alley, and man was not an end in himself. [86] Massingham and his pre-First World War circle of Guild Socialists formed part of a group of writers and artists, many of whom were to be killed in the war, and replaced by the negative, flippant and sterile culture known as Bloomsbury. His friends included T.E. Hulme, the philosopher, Gaudier-Brzeska, the artist, and Epstein. Another nature-lover, the poet Ralph Hodgson, supported Nordic racialism, according to Massingham, but generally this group was not pro-German. Massingham's opposition to determinist racial theory was typical of his religious, essentially conservative cast of mind. But he could write angrily about 'traders whom for months we had been pillorying for the knaves and Judases of German Jews they undoubtedly were'; he blamed them for opposition to the Plumage Bill, an attempt to protect wild birds along lines started by W.H. Hudson, whom Massingham admired. [87]

Opponents of 'the money power' always had a tendency to drift towards an anti-semitic position because of their association of bankers and finance houses with Jews. Massingham's role in the Plumage Bill campaign hardened his attitudes. He began to distrust special interest groups and parliamentary democracy; more, it gave him an insight into 'the true meaning' of 'the conquest of nature', which he contrasted with the aim of 'wholeness, which is holiness'. [88]

... impossible for so hellish a commerce to have persisted as it did if the human relation to nature were not resting on a false basis ... It was predatory and acquisitive only. Was it man's customary attitude to nature? Was man the instinctive matricide? Was his only thought of his maternal heritage to rob, exploit and spend to his own vulgar gain the natural riches ... lavished upon him? Or was this approach to nature the expression of some widespread mental disease, contrary to the nature of things and man's own health of mind, but induced and fostered by an economic system (in this part of) Western civilization? Was it, in other words, a birthright from Nature, herself predacious, or was it the effect of historical causes and sequences? Is Nazi Nihilism its ultimate fruit? [89]

Massingham was to develop the idea that Nazism was the fruit of a scientistic, nihilistic creed, the antithesis of conservationist values and traditions. He was encouraged in his interpretation by the writings of the Conservative German emigre Hermann Rauschning, ex-President of the Danzig Senate, who described the Nazis as nihilistic and destructive. Rauschning felt he, along with other farmers and land-owners, had been hoaxed into supporting the Nazi peasant programme. 'Nazi propaganda articulated a language that touched the most sensitive nerve of the peasant', and exploited their desire to escape from a liberal agrarian policy. [90] Like Massingham, he opposed the 'rationalised farming' of the nineteenth century, which he associated with positivism and Darwinism, and had read of world-wide erosion in Rape of the Earth. He wrote that on his family's East Prussian farm, after a hundred years of chemical farming, without manure, the soil had lost much of its humus, and yields were down some fifty per cent. Massingham described Germany in 1943 as the 'Satanic-Teutonic state', whose father was 'Hobbes not Hitler'. [91]

Despite this difference between him and Rolf Gardiner, the two men agreed on the need to regenerate the countryside, and develop a new class of yeomen peasants. Although Gardiner's efforts to make Springhead 'a nucleus for land settlement based on subsistence- farming by co-operative groups' failed, Massingham was deeply inspired by Gardiner's Springhead estate, and the Springhead Ring, 'a new regional growth arising spontaneously from our native earth' which reminded him of the candle-flame of Iona during the Dark Ages (surely an image that Gardiner, who preferred the pagan Dark Ages to the Christian ones, would have rejected). 'That this blossoming of the ancient thorn of wisdom should have been at Paladore, the last resting-place of the martyred Edward ... what did it not mean to me who had had my solitary vision of the Wessex of Aldhelm and Arthur and Alfred?'  [92] The rural feasts, songs and celebrations, the songs and masques performed at Springhead were more than a means to help make England self-sufficient in food, they were a 'means (to win) the soul of England back to herself'. Massingham felt that Springhead showed that under a new economic system land could be redistributed to a million new smallholders. 'What nobler opportunity for the landlord to redeem the crime of the Enclosures and for the nation to redeem itself?' [93]

Enough has been quoted to show the strength of Massingham's belief in the values of rural conservation, ecology and settlement. The food shortages of the Second World War seemed to vindicate advocates of land-use maximalization through peasant cultivation. Massingham joined Kinship in Husbandry, and edited a book on the small farmer in 1947 which included studies of cooperative groups, homesteading and ecological problems. His hatred of bureaucracy, the artificial, the mechanical, the noncraftmanslike, was Cobbettian in its fanaticism. A sense of loss and waste permeates all his writings. The best men were being lost to the land: soil fertility was swept out to sea. The campaign to use more artificial fertilisers was backed by armament firms. 'The woodlands pass.' [94] His often moving rhetoric was based on this dark dread of desertification and homelessness. It drove him to an ethic of service, service to nature and to England, and also service in the more hierarchical context of man to man, which was founded in concepts of Christian duty.

But, again, if man and nature were one, whole, pacific and benevolent, what had gone wrong? Man was one with nature, but man had made the chaos. For Massingham the problem remained unresolved, which keeps his assertive rhetoric self-indulgent. 'The law of nature, be it truly interpreted, expounds the divine law.' [95] (My italics.) Perhaps Massingham was unhappy with the logical results of his own analysis. His dislike of rigorous analysis is clear from his work, despite his feeling for exact naturalist detail and description of crafts. The National Socialists, consistent at least, were to attribute the spirit of mechanistic, exploitative technology, bad technology, to the Jews. Their dichotomy, their causation, was clear. The great error, the wrongness, of the path Western civilization had taken, was caused by the cultural effects of Jewry. Massingham, despite his anti-semitic outbursts, could not have agreed with this analysis. But there had to be a scapegoat, a reason for the wrong path the West had taken since the Middle Ages. For Cobbett, the enemy was the mercantile, lobbying, alien, urban Quaker, and the state-pensioned parasite. For Massingham, as for Knut Hamsun, the enemy was the capitalist, Protestant spirit, the Whig liberal, and the free market economic system associated with it. Individualism meant an atomized, exploitable work-force, and an exploitative attitude to all natural resources. By regaining the knowledge of our ordered, craft-oriented country roots, man would rescue himself from the trough of urban despair.

This was an 'enemy' whose elusiveness was equal to its strength. The greater the opponent, the more profound, and even violent, the need for counteraction. But the violent counteraction in this case was back to an allegedly more pacific natural man, away from imposed violent structures. How to combine problem and answer? Massingham's eventual answer, to retreat to the country, and each man to create for himself a core of sanity, was Gramsci-ite. A change of human, spiritual consciousness was needed.

To see the 'enemy' as the Western capitalist, Protestant ethic is today perfectly acceptable, fitting in not only with the need to blame somebody, but providing the perfect scapegoat, the white, Western, Protestant male, who, as Wyndham Lewis says, is too chivalrous to defend himself against being bitten to death. Yet, as Massingham himself knew, the Victorian era saw a degree of care for future generations that has not since been surpassed. It was the century of the long view, when houses were sold on 99-year leases in the sure knowledge that the family would still be there to plan land use when the leases expired, and when the planting of woods and copses was discussed with one's son and grandson to ensure their approval and understanding of the project. It was the death of this long view that Schumpeter mourned along with the death of capitalism. Nonetheless, the enemy as the insensitive Western capitalist is a concept still often expressed today by Third World representatives and more especially by Greens. It is a racialist viewpoint with idealist overtones. Franz Fanon identifies the white man's spirit as the spirit of untrammelled exploitation and destruction.96 For this reason, Massingham has remained exempt from the kind of attacks launched on his fellow-ecologists who took a pro-German position in the 1930s.

Massingham's conservationism, and its rejection of economics as motive or structure, was tied to a programme of peasant cultivation, guilds, land distribution, Social Credit, wholeness, and mediaeval folk religion. He always felt it was a lost cause, and this may account for the choleric melancholy which suffuses his work, and his constant retreat into wrestling with religious apologias: - his identification of the 'rural Christ' with the peasant destroyed by Rome, his belief that pre-Puritanical Christianity fused nature with doctrine. In a curious way, this pessimistic conservative longed to believe the views of an optimistic naturist, but never achieved it. His positive values are persuasive, but his identification of his enemies, - Hobbes, Satan, the Teutons, is less so.


The last and most influential flower of the seed of Catholic Distributism was Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. His manichaean presentation of good and evil has persuaded admirers to try to identify Ores and Hobbits, the Dark Lord and Gandalf. Many believe that Tolkien was moved to write his powerful parable by the Second World War, and that the spirit of arid, mechanistic darkness, which poisons water and kills trees, expresses his feeling about Nazism and the German treatment of the Jews. However, he is also seen as a Northern European nationalist, and this interpretation is especially strong in Italy, where far-right groups print Hobbit tee-shirts, and have Hobbit summer camps which teach bomb-making and runes. According to Tolkien's biographer, though, the original inspiration for the picture of the Shire despoiled, the poisoned water, the tainted loyalties, the good perverted and bought, lay in his experience of the industrialization of parts of the West Midlands countryside just after the First World War. The Shire was originally Worcestershire, 'Bag End' his aunt's farm, and it was the pollution of parts of this beloved countryside that Tolkien resented. Other familiar rural scenes became Birmingham suburbs. German art played another role. A late nineteenth-century German painting, the Berggeist, which showed a white-haired traveller on a rock under a pinetree, talking to a fawn on a mountainside, gave him the inspiration for Gandalf. [97]

As an undergraduate, Tolkien mourned the loss of an essentially English cultural history, especially a mythical history. William Morris's Norse epics resonated in his mind. Of the Finnish folk epic, the Kalevala, he said, 'Would that we had more of it left, something of the same sort that belonged to the English.' He compared it to a 'primitive undergrowth', slowly cut down by European literature. [96] Like Hargrave, and, indeed, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien saw an England stripped of its myths, and deprived of its folk memory, especially its Northern, Nordic folk roots. Where Hargrave had temporised unsuccessfully with the 'Althing', Tolkien set out, with Lord of the Rings, to fill the gap.

Once upon a time ... I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic to the level of romantic fairy-story - the larger founded on the lesser in contact ... which I could dedicate simply: to England; to my country. It should possess the tone and quality that I desired, somewhat cool and clear, be redolent of our 'air' (the clime and soil of the North West, meaning Britain and the hither parts of Europe; not Italy or the Aegean, stil less the East), and, while possessing ... the fair, elusive beauty that some call Celtic (though it is rarely found in genuine, ancient Celtic things), it should be 'high', purged of the gross, and fit for the more adult mind of a land long steeped in poetry. [99]

At the time of the Munich agreement, Tolkien was more anxious about Soviet Russia's intentions than those of Germany. He 'had a loathing of being on any side that include[d] Russia. One fancies that Russia is probably ultimately far more responsible for the present crisis and choice of moment than Hitler.' [100]

Of course, Tolkien was in no way sympathetic to Nazism. But he did not express the anti-German feeling that overtook so many civilians during the war. 'People in this land seem not even yet to realise that in the Germans we have enemies whose virtues (and they are virtues) of obedience and patriotism are greater than ours in the mass,' he wrote in 1941. Hitler had perverted, ruined and misapplied 'for ever that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light.' [101]

The mysterious delays in finishing off the Lord of the Rings were perhaps due to this sense that it had become difficult to create a Nordic myth for England while she was fighting a country whose guiding ideology included that myth. The cleansing of the Shire (carried out, one notes, by the radical working class Sam Gamgee, while the paternalist Tory Frodo waits for death and resurrection) can be interpreted in several ways. The trees that were cut down are replanted again, the dark, smoky mills are demolished. The bearers of exploitative capitalism are chased out by the sword and the fist. The victims turn on their oppressors with the aid of the returning Auslanders. The strawberries ripen in the field, elf dust stimulates the crops like bio-dynamic compost. The crop of new babies are stronger, bluer-eyed and blonder-haired than ever before. Was this Blake? Or was this Wagner, one of Tolkien's inspirations? As Martin Green writes, what shows as an acid reaction in one country shows as alkali in another. But, he adds, 'there can surely be no question that the Englishmen are saying exactly the same things as the Germans.' [102] By the time the book was issued, the possible implications of voicing Norse myths so convincingly in a country recently bereft of empire, identity and homogeneity, went unperceived, except by the politically sensitized on the far Left and far Right. Enraged Marxist professors at Sussex University attacked Tolkien's rural fantasy world, for its irrational appeal, for detracting attention from the evils of capitalism. Nice conservatives fell with relief on Tolkien's 'values', while Lord of the Rings joined pirated translations of Alfred Rosenberg's Myth of the Twentieth Century in right-wing fringe book lists. Its greatest appeal was to the deracinated hippy generation. Gandalf and Middle Earth became code words for drug fantasies, signs that pot was easily available in World's End shops. Tolkien became a California fad. The full implications of the Tolkien cult belong in a later chapter, but enough has been said to show his links with the pro-Nordic spirit of the early twentieth century, the sense that England's cultural roots had been snapped and her countryside polluted.
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Re: Ecology in the 20th Century: A History, by Anna Bramwell

Postby admin » Tue Jan 23, 2018 1:16 am

Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER SEVEN: The Literary Ecologist


Who are the writers of the ecological movement? For me, as for many others relying on a small public library, the outstanding figures to write about the smallholding ideal were two men who apparently had nothing in common in age or nationality; Knut Hamsun and Henry Williamson. Again, like many others, I had no idea when I read Growth of the Soil by Hamsun or The Story of a Norfolk Farm by Williamson, that either author had been involved in politics, still less what their politics had been. From the point of view of literary criticism or theory, again, they have little in common. Williamson was a prolix writer, who worked and reworked his stories, over decades or, as with Tarka the Otter, before publication. He used his own experience for material. The power of his work comes from his total recall, his eye for detail and the unsparing truthfulness of his writing. Hamsun was a genius with prose, whose power emerges even in translation. Unlike Williamson, he cannot be parodied. Both men were seen as 'modern' and revolutionary, in style and content, in their day. Both were self-taught as artists.

It seems a curious and perhaps coincidental expression of the spirit of the age that two literary giants should, quite separately, have written works on the small farmer. Hamsun published Growth of the Soil in 1917, when he was 60. He had returned to his native North Norway for ten years and farmed there. Williamson had tried to restore and reclaim a Norfolk farm through the time of depression and war. The experience was described once in The Story of a Norfolk Farm (1941), and, more truthfully and in greater detail, but as fiction, in three volumes of his Chronicles of Ancient Sunlight, completed in the 1960s. Despite the gap of some forty-five years, both writers express the ideology of the peasant or small farmer, independent, individualistic and nationalistic. The relevance for ecological ideas, and especially its political economy, is that both trace the most basic possible experience of what they see as the crucial component of a nation, the man on the land.

Both writers were originally left-wing. Both became nationalist and autarkic, but in the special, anti-capitalist, pro-farmer sense common among ecologists. Williamson, immediately after the First World War, was a Leninist Communist. Hamsun began as an anarchist. Both ended by supporting extreme parties, but for different motives and through different experiences. However, as with my typical ecologist, who rejects party politics and orthodox political categories, both men were always anti-political, and saw the movements which they supported as equally anti-political. This may be the explanation why the two great exponents of literary ecologism in this century displayed (though at different times in their lives) similar political tendencies.

The inter-war link between the search for rural values and some nationalist parties has emerged very strongly. It does, I think, demonstrate that the 'alternative' movement tended to take a particular form between 1914 and 1945 which it does not take today. No modern parallel (at the time of writing) seems to exist. It is an argument in favour of continuity that today's vision of ecological smallholder settlement was alive between 1917 and 1945, and was presented with the same arguments as it is today. On the other hand, the change in political categorization is striking.


Williamson is part of an extant tradition of English nature writing. Nature is embedded in our literature, and it would be hard to find a conventional chronicle written in the last three decades that did not stress something of the beauty of English countryside before the First World War. [1] A study of the moral role played by nature in English literature would certainly include E.M. Forster and D.H. Lawrence. Naturalists who were also writers include Gilbert White, W.H. Hudson, and, outstandingly, Richard Jefferies (1848-1887). Observers of village life include Mary Mitford and Hugh Massingham. Henry Williamson belonged in all three categories. His special interest for the ecologist is that he twice went 'back to the land' himself. As a twenty-three year old he left a frustrating job as a journalist, and lived rough in a cottage in North Devon, surrounded by wild animals. After success with his nature books, he decided to restore a family farm, and retreat from the worldly world.

In both, he was inspired by Richard Jefferies. We noted earlier that Jefferies had been described both as a 'Tory transcendentalist' and as an inspirer of William Morris's utopian socialism. [2] This apparent contradiction is resolved by seeing him as an early ecologist. Jefferies was a gifted farmer's son, a journalist who remained a country dweller. Author of Hodge and his Master, he saw and described the harsh life of the agricultural labourer without losing his pantheistic love of nature. Thus, he offered evidence for those who sought agrarian reform, while inspiring the lover of nature.

Surprisingly for a nature writer living in rural Berkshire, Jefferies was not only aware of scientific developments but welcomed them enthusiastically. He was one of those for whom theories of evolution fuelled a sense of transcendental unity with nature. [3] In Nature and Eternity (1895) Jefferies exclaimed,

It is probable that with the progress of knowledge it will be possible to satisfy the necessary wants of existence much more easily than now, and thus to remove one great cause of discord ... All living creatures, from the zoophyte upwards ... strive with all their power to obtain as perfect an existence as possible.

Progress meant not only the 'fuller development of the individual' but improvement of the species, and even the development of new, superior races. 'Part and parcel as we are of the great community of living beings, indissolubly connected with them from the lowest to the highest by a thousand ties, it is impossible for us to escape from the operation of this law.' Besides this law of progress, Jefferies welcomes the law of heredity.

The physical and mental man are ... a mass of inherited structures ... He is made up of the Past. This is a happy and inspiriting discovery ... which calls upon us for new and larger moral and physical exertion ... wider and nobler duties, for upon us depends the future.

The discovery of laws governing man's nature brought, as Jefferies saw it, a new potential for perfectibility. Biology and science together meant progress, but a genius was needed to point the way. 'The faith of the future ... will spring from the researches of a thousand thousand thinkers, where minds, once brought into a focus, will speedily burn up all that is useless and worn out ... and evoke a new and brilliant light.' Jefferies described this fusion of scientific genius as 'converging thought', which was rendered possible by greater means of communication. [4] So, as one author points out, his worship of nature was not 'an atavistic rejection of progress in favour of primitivism'. Jefferies favoured 'the light of the future' as long as it was derived from nature. [5] Jefferies, therefore, saw nature as powerful, benevolent, and a force with whose laws man must abide. But nature was not interested in man. It was 'a force without a mind'. This lack of 'directing intelligence' meant that 'all things become at once plastic to our will'. So the power of nature at once confined man's potential and set man free from a dominant authority. All political authorities and traditions became unnecessary with nature's guidance. Jefferies had, like Williamson, a concern for truth and accuracy. [6]

D.H. Lawrence read W.H. Hudson as well as the North American transcendentalists, such as Emerson, and earlier we saw that Haeckel influenced him. However, Williamson seems not to have come across Hudson's works at a formative age, and he was not the influence that Jefferies was, in seeing the agricultural worker as central. Stylistically, too, Williamson followed Jefferies, and their habit of using the sun and sunlight as an image mirrored a similar cast of mind and ethic. [7] Jefferies' works are saturated with light.


Henry Williamson (1896-1977) is well known as a nature writer. His book Tarka the Otter has been a best-seller among children and adults since it was first published in 1927. However, his main work lay in the re-creation of his own life, his experiences on the Western Front during the First World War, and his attempts to restore a family farm in Norfolk. He hoped, through his fifteen-volume Chronicles of Ancient Sunlight, to present the causes of the deterioration and decay of a typical London family, and the source of his own failure, as he saw it, to reverse it. His nature books, his chronicle and the volumes of country tales all hammer out an environmental point of view: indeed, they are more seriously concerned with the need for rural revival and resettlement, unpolluted water, better use of physical resources and close contact with the countryside as a regenerative personal and collective force, than most ecological groups to-day, and the message is drawn from knowledge and experience of rural problems in a way seldom found among urban intellectuals. Williamson is the voice of the ecological movement in a way that Tolkien is not. Tolkien is doing something more when he creates an entire world-view, he is re-structuring European history by presenting a Norse/Catholic myth impregnated with Norse/Catholic values. But Williamson is offering a message of immediate relevance to anyone interested in environmental values and ecological ideas; a difficult, sour and demanding message, but one which omits no element of pain or failure, which strives above all for clarity, truth and justice.

Williamson began to plan his family chronicle - and made several false starts, of which the more popular and available four-volume series The Flax of Dream, is one, first published between 1921and 1924. He wanted to show how the First World War had been caused by the spirit of lovelessness, and lack of thought for others, by a failure of 'truth and clarity', words which constantly recur in his books. He saw his own family history as a microcosm of this process, of hope crushed, land despoiled, and the sensitive victimized. Yet his work has nothing in common with the social novels and satires of the period, and he went out of the way to distance himself from works like John Galsworthy's Forsyte Saga, seeing them as superficial attacks on easy targets which lacked exactly that element of comprehension and empathy which he hoped to bring to his work. It took two decades to purge his work of the anger and resentment felt by someone who had always been isolated. Using his own and his family's journals, he began his work in the 1950s, and his last work was completed when he was seventy-five. The eventual picture is stunning but depressing. You cannot read it without a sense of having been touched by life, making Williamson one of the greatest English novelists of the twentieth century. It is Tolstoyan, and, as with Tolstoy, the personality of the author, awkward and messianic, and the message, or series of messages, cannot be expunged from the impact of the art. The First World War towers over his work. The experience of the war, volunteered for lightly out of an experience of suburban scouting and Territorial camps alongside his fellow London clerks, showed him discipline, courage and terror, and taught him empathic tolerance for those who had to suffer the intolerable, mixed with unforgiving impatience for the inadequate, the need for precision and exactitude. He suffered a kind of inner death during the war: its aftermath found him indifferent to physical suffering. He dated his spiritual re-birth to a chance reading of Jefferies in 1918. The capacity, or need, for endurance remained. Nothing, he would exclaim to himself, camping in a deserted barn while restoring his farm, or falling off a motorcycle into winter mud, could ever be as bad as the Flanders mud and the trenches. He felt a sense of guilt and a duty to those who had died. This burden of responsibility rescued him from Bloomsbury egocentricity and hedonism, and from escapist English charm, as well as from the fundamental failure to face reality of self-consciously 'reactionary' writers such as Evelyn Waugh. Whether or not one agrees with his ideas, they are far too deeply ingrained in the texture of his work to be brushed aside as the unfortunate excrescence of an eccentric naturalist. Indeed, one would not want to do so. No literature can be serious, just as no philosophy can be worthwhile, if it does not include the sense of wider interests known loosely as 'politics', based on an unreticent acceptance of one's own values, and a care for the spiritual and moral life of the nation.

His message is simple. The Western world is dying for lack of love, truth and clarity. These virtues are expressed in a well-ordered farm, in a well-ordered household, in a properly organized countryside. Order does not mean force: Williamson criticizes his own rages and attempts to produce order in others. A proper order arises from people's sense of harmony within themselves, from a loving upbringing, and from a feeling of responsibility for the world around us. How was this to be made real? Williamson's picture of his hero, Phillip Maddison's life, is semi-autobiographical. Maddison is described as a cowardly, dishonest, tearful and sensitive small boy, who reacted against a stern father's coldness and bad treatment of a loving mother, - like so many intellectuals just before and after the First World War.

The subdued expression of his face was characteristic of many children of the district in the first decade of the twentieth century: a remote look in the eyes, as though the living scene were generally being evaded; a pallor upon cheek and brow, due to long hours of sunlessness in school and to existence in a smoky, often foggy atmosphere during half the year; and on a diet the main food of which was bread whose composition lacked the beneficial germ, or 'sharp', of the white berry, being made of the interior filling whose whiteness had been enhanced by chemical bleaching. [9]

After four years war service, he suffered a complete physical and mental breakdown, and decided to try and re-build his character from scratch. Punished for his 'soft' impulses by separation from his mother, he could not find affection and comradeship with women: revealingly, he writes of his desire to 'punish', to 'pay back' a pretty cousin by seducing her. One pre-war novel implies a complete unfamiliarity with the female orgasm - yet Williamson had five children, one illegitimate! Torn between a desire for emotional self-sufficiency, and a romantic longing for companionship, he married a motherly, rather silly woman, and became, as it were, his father again, stern, demanding and insensitive with his own children, and shouting at his wife; this time not only, like his father, out of Victorian duty and repression, but from his sense of mission, his desire to create a new Europe in miniature. This new and better world could only emerge if each individual reformed himself, and the process should begin with the child. His restoration of a derelict and exploited farm, accompanied by his wife and four children, was to be a step towards this reform. A bloodless revolution was needed, the 'growing of young minds in a way entirely different from the past.' [10]

He had grown up on the edge of expanding London, and - something which seems a constant factor in twentieth-century country-lovers - saw with anguish his childhood fields become brutalised into garish shops and ugly suburbs. The villages and herb fields of Surrey became Greater London. Childhood holidays in Devon hinted at a different world. Scouting was a discovery. Williamson grew up a self-taught naturalist, saw himself as a recreation of Jefferies and Francis Thompson, and went to live in remote Devon after the First World War. At this stage in his life, he was a left-wing revolutionary typical of the time, hating capitalism, industrialists, and, above all, London.

With the sun's disappearance there arose as out of sweating paving-stone, sooted building, wet bedunged asphalt street, and dripping branch of plane tree supporting puffed and dingy rock-dove ... an emanation as of solar death. Sulphurous whiffs caught the breathing; acid inflamed the membrane of eyes; detritus lodged under lids, inflamed haws ... The pea-souper dreaded ... by two million Londoners, was beginning to drift in slow swirl and eddy ... It was to be seen billowing past the street lamps, enclosing them at once in clammy thickness; it moved upon central London from its gathering places over the industrial east both north and south of the river, as though sucked upon the tide moving in from Gravesend and the marshes of Sheppey and distant Nore. At six o'clock, when it was at its most dense, more than four hundred tons of organic and inorganic matter were in suspension within the area called Greater London; double night lay upon the City, more terrible because it was made by man who least desired it. [11]

This is not Dickens' fog: the exact and disgusting detail I have italicised demonstrates the difference between the romantic Cockney approach and Williamson's. His early novels are a mine of detail about the physical, social and economic environment of urban life before the First World War. Londoners poured out on their free Saturday afternoons

in droves and couples, or singly, all hurrying, staring ahead as with tinkling bells, backs bent, faces set as though they were in for a race, they crouched over handle-bars, while enormous bunches of bluebells, white clustered ends of long stalks dropping, were tied behind their saddles ... the cyclists' faces were nearly as white as the stalks where they had been pulled out of the bulbs in the leaf-mould. [12]

Phillip Maddison mourned the execution of the Irish revolutionaries who assassinated Sir Henry Wilson. He supported Lenin. The 'hard-faced men' were responsible for the war. It was the white-faced worker in the urban slums who had suffered and fought, though also, and this probably stopped Williamson from becoming a serious Communist, the gentlemen from the Shires. The war taught him to 'fit in' with the county gentry he had never encountered before. The old families became a touchstone of comparison, a glimpse of an older, better world. Unlike many of the French fascists who had been through the war, Williamson did not come into contact with Marxist ideology or political sociology, and his left-wing tendencies were more of a gut reaction to the war and its aftermath than a system.

The Corn Production Act was repealed in 1923, and farmers ... found themselves facing ruin. Ex-soldiers were workless. In an effort to bring about the British Millenium, a General Strike was organised throughout England ... Here and there ... in the larger and unhappier towns, a motor-car, taking people to work, was overturned by the mob and set on fire. Most, if not all, working men, were animated by a vision of new hope, of new life, that was being stifled in their anguished breasts. The General Strike failed. [13]

Essentially, he was uninterested in party politics, and unable to lay blame on any group or class. He saw men as individuals each with a will and soul of his own. His sympathies, however, were with the Quixotic, chivalrous, natural men of the upper and lower classes. When he went to live in North Devon, his first project, never completed, was to create a full, complete picture of the life and world of the agricultural labourer, to bring up to date the picture of Hodge begun by Richard Jefferies.

He lacked the irritating romanticism of many writers about rural life because he had not only lived in the country, but lived as an economic equal with labourers. His exact descriptions and analyses were used to discuss their lot clear-sightedly; the minor tragedies, waste and hardnesses of village life. In his 1931 introduction to The Labouring Life, he wrote that if 'property was the root of all evil, then so was narrowness of interest'. The newspapers, wireless, higher wages, better food and clothing, that had revolutionised village life since the war, were a benefit, not a disaster. They temporarily removed 'the greatest enemy of mankind, fear'. Here, Williamson showed himself to be more humane than other rural writers, such as J. Robertson Scott, a disagreeably puritanical man, who thought compulsory church-going and porridge eating would revive village life.

Williamson penned the cruelty of the rural underworld, the kind impulses and stunted spiritual growth of the very poor. He wanted to show the heroic soul of the village labourer, but found himself writing about the petty meannesses of underdogs who turned on each other. This grasp of detail made him unique among nature writers.

One small boy called Ernie, and a smaller, paler baby moving about from place to place in a lowly but rapid manner, a morsel of life, something entirely hidden, except for a small, pale face ... in a bundle of rags. It was protected, in its shifting and crab-crawlings from cold lime-ash floor to damp stone drains, from streams or edge to garden rubbish-heap, in many layers or coverings of cloth, both wool and cotton, of various colours overlaid or dyed to the hue of ashes, coal, grease, gravy, jam, red mud from the loose and dark brown soil from the garden. [14]

In The Labouring Life, he described the sufferings and homesickness of a Maltese woman brought to the village by a sailor, the beatings and sexual repression of the children. This book, unfortunately out of print, lies behind the correlation of the small farm with Europe itself, which is revealed in his novel sequence. Williamson's stories of this time are perhaps his best work of all. His knowledge of agricultural history and economics become part of the scene he describes in a way that is unique. There is no romanticisation. When he describes a tree, you see not only a tree, but its context and meaning, embedded in a landscape that also possesses a past. Tarka got under the skin of an otter, but did not put it into a difficult and anguished context of human suffering. Hence its popularity, but Williamson became trapped by its innocuous success. His future work was usually greeted by requests to drop this political stuff and write another Tarka again. The 'political stuff' included support for Oswald Mosley and contributions to the Anglo-German Review. [15] Williamson, who was a quarter German himself, had been pro-German since the Christmas Day truce in 1914, the first Christmas of the First World War. Although he talked of a united Europe, it was really a united England and Germany that he envisaged. He visited Germany for the 1935 Nuremberg Rally, and was inspired by Nazi Germany's apparent success, the healthy youths in their labour camps and the lack of poverty and hunger. On return, all he could see was a decayed urban world, symbolized, above all, by London.

They reached the area left ugly by the maulings of London; speculative hire-purchase housing 'estates' - all trees cut down - tens of thousands of cubic yards of coke-breeze blocks and pink heaps of fletton bricks piled up. Life is big business, fornication and death. Civilisation is chromium fittings, radio, love with pessary, rubber girdles, perms, BBC gentility and the sterilising of truth, cubic international-type architecture. Civilisation is white sepulchral bread, gin, and homosexual jokes in the Shaftesbury Avenue theatres. Civilisation is world-citizenship and freedom from tradition, based on rootless eternal wandering in the mind that had nothing to lose and everything to gain including the whole world. Hoardings, brittle houses, flashiness posing as beauty, mongrel living and cosmopolitan modernism, no planning, all higgledy-piggledy - thus the spiritual materialist approaches to London, the great wen, as Cobbett called it. Was the wen about to burst and pus to run throughout the body politic for the second time in his life? [16]

After Tarka, he had a similar success with Salar the Salmon, but eventually broke away from this false position by buying the rundown farm in Norfolk. Run-down is probably an understatement. At the height of the agricultural depression, with good farming land going for £10 an acre, Williamson managed to buy the only hilly, steep, difficult farmland in Norfolk, and he spent the next nine years restoring the land himself, and farming it organically. He was determined to restore the old four-year rotation system, of fallow, corn, small seeds and grazing, and bought one of the early small petrol-driven Ferguson tractors to help work the hilly land. He refused to put the land down to grass and run a dairy herd, thinking that this meant exploiting the land by exporting the fertility off the land with the milk, and importing artificial fertilisers and fodder. He saw the farm's history as symbolising England's:

After centuries under a responsible landlord, when the place had order and design, the lands passed by mortgage to the 'Colonel'; thence to a London insurance company, which sold it in the depression upon 'the land fit for heroes', and so it fell into the speculator's market; and to dilapidation. And now, thought Phillip, to my microcosmic effect towards resurgence as damned and doomed as the European macrocosm. [17]

From naturalist to farmer was a difficult transition. Williamson's nature writings had hymned the wild countryside, while often resenting the farmer's eternal effects to control it.

Which was the true way? Action and the market place: or inaction in retreat? The farm as it had been - a nature reserve reverting to wildness ... or the farm civilized and brought back to culture, its wild flowers to be seen as weeds to be destroyed: the snipe bogs to become meadows for milk; the reeds pulled from the grupps, and the reed-warbler homeless? [18]

But restoring, a family was to be a miniature lesson in Europe's resurgence. It was a way to break off from the overpowering, solitary ego town-dwellers were trapped in, the cause of war and hatred between nations.

Were they, each one, crouching within the little ego, void of the still, small voice, the glimmer of each soul dulled-out under the bushel of circumstance - the circumstance of one business against another business, of each for himself, of unemployment, poor housing conditions, malnutrition, the wheat berry permanently stripped of its goodness, people fed on the destroying white bread of ordinary life, with its eternal wars, mutilations, its diseases and frustrations, until the final peace of death? [19]

Competition was solitary misery, and its effects social evil: cooperation would waste fewer resources, both human and physical. The white bread of the cities was not only a cause of war, but a symbol of the loss and destruction that deracinated men feel. In The Phoenix Generation, Maddison tells his wife of his wish to restore polluted land and water.

One day our children ... will see salmon jumping again in the Pool of London; and watch them ... below the piers of London Bridge. One day our children ... will save millions of pounds -- the hundreds of millions of pounds' worth of factory waste, sewage sludge, and other valuable chemicals now cast into our rivers, and after treatment, put them on our land, our England - the great mother of our race.

Bringing in a typical Maddison/Williamson theme, he describes the leaping salmon as signifying the true, clear hope of the future.

Anciently, the fish was the symbol of regeneration: as baptism is the symbol of the new consciousness of faith, of hope, of clarity. We are aspiring, struggling, learning - just beginning to believe we can build a fine new Britain. We are passing through an age of industrial darkness; but beyond it, I can see salmon leaping again in both the Rhine and its ancient tributary Thames. [20]

This strange mixture of Mosleyite political rhetoric with pantheistic longing for hope, faith and love, is typical of his work. The last phrase, the sting in the tail, refers to his longing to see a united Anglo-Germany.

His efforts to restore his farm organically and make a living from it broke against the stubborn wills of labourers perverted by a false, inhumane education, which cut them off from the rural world around them. 'Dead - dead - dead stuff, the blind trout slowly dying of inanition', he railed at the uselessness of the past. [21] He was obsessed with the loss of fertility through wasting human and animal excreta, joined to the pollution of the rivers and the sea. But the parish in which the farm lay had a bad local authority, which polluted streams and neglected its statutory duty.

Phillip could not bear to look into the river; he felt its condition to be symbolic of the system, of the dark pollution of the spirit of Man, of the lack of honour in the body politic. [22]

Cheap grain still flooded England up to 1939. 'Could any man, small or great, stem the decline of a human culture?' [23] His own lack of experience, lack of capital and failure of will and concentration (partly due to the need to continue writing to earn a living) were other factors. 'That had been his ambition ... to work to make a small parcel of England and water harmonious again, for its own sake. [24] During the war, part of the farm was requisitioned by the armed forces. After the war, he decided to retire and concentrate on writing, having decided that that was where his true metier lay.

Farming is one long battle, most of it hidden behind the farmer's eyes. When I began ... I believed then in the power of the will ... Is to submit to be defeated? To learn that aspiration is of a man's aloneness, that the human will is not transferable directly, that endurance is by its very nature expendable? As the phoenix of resurgent Europe has sunk back into its own embers, so the family-farm idea had failed, and for the same causes in miniature, I cannot but believe. [25]

The story of the attempt to restore a family farm in Norfolk was told in a book published in 1941, the second year of the war. He was obliged to cut a chapter supporting Oswald Mosley and the B.U.F., a censorship he was to rectify to himself in later years by dedicating his book A Solitary War to the Mosleys. This action damaged his fortunes considerably - even an appreciative approach such as Keith's in The Rural Tradition, which describes Williamson as stylistically 'one of the purest writers of our time' and has a chapter on him, omits the novel sequence from his study. [26] Far more unacceptable ideas were to come. In his next book his battle to restore the farm ran parallel to what he saw as Hitler's attempts to foster the same rural and spiritual values in Germany. He eventually accepted that Hitler had been flawed, but occasionally still wrote of him as a flawed Christ, a saint killed by the lack of imagination of others. [27] Hence the 'Lucifer', of his penultimate book, Lucifer before Sunrise, a work which signalled the end of reviews and re-prints, and which has meant serious embarrassment for many of his fans.

Still, however historically unreal and naive his picture of Nazi Germany, Williamson was right to observe in it an interest in ecology and rural values. His error was rather in thinking that this was a major interest for Hitler, and in his romantic and absurd vision of Hitler as a simple old soldier, who wanted peace for Europe. The dimension of purely German nationalistic expansionism escaped Williamson entirely. He believed that Nazi Germany was curing the division between mind and body, by introducing the cult of physical labour. Hitler was a chaste saint, above earthly impulses. Williamson wanted to find a chaste spirit to follow - he saw T.E. Lawrence in this role, and believed him to be a non- or supra-sexual Ariel, a sprite, as did Robert Graves. Both, in a more innocent age, were unable to acknowledge Lawrence's homosexuality. Williamson's favourite music was Wagner, Tristan and Isolde and Parsifal, operas that inspired him at crucial moments of his life, before volunteering in 1914, or on his departure for Devon, and it is surely significant that he portrayed the announcement of Hitler's death on the German radio as being accompanied by the playing of Siegfried, the funeral march, - although in fact, it was Bruckner's 7th symphony.

He had known that one day he would hear the music of the Death-Devoted Heart, Love-Devoted Head theme of Wagner's Tristan. And that would be followed by the music of the finale of Gotterdammerung-Valhalla of the gods wrecked and in flames, the world of men drowning in the rising waters of the Rhine. Wagner had seen it all, with the clairvoyance of genius: Siegfried, the pure hero, had, through arrogance, betrayed himself, and all about him. [28]

Williamson identified himself and the ex-soldier Hitler as simple, holy, idealistic spirits. Both suffered a psychic wound, partly caused by the war, partly by a need to rise above the trivial demands of family and social life. Williamson compared his inadequacies in everyday life, his frequent failures, to a split between his capacities in daily life and his imagination, his failure to realise his imagination: like the wounded king in Parsifal, waiting for the healing holy Grail.

Is it mere illusion to link the pollution of an English river with the general pollution of European vision, and attribute both to a cast of thought which accepts such things as ordinary, whereby the truths of the interior heart have been overlaid on the sandy bed of this brook with the sludge of dead life? Must a Christ perish in torment in every generation, because people have no imagination, as Bernard Shaw wrote in St Joan? [29]

Of course, Williamson did not expect his readers to accede to his rhetorical questions. With the end of the war and Hitler's suicide Williamson floundered among the wreckage of his world. His last book, attacked by some critics as a fantasy, shows the ruin of his Quixotic gentry as, variously crippled, impotent and incestuous, they come to the end of their lives. His old friend, the gallant young rake, Piers, returns to his family house, and, in an act full of symbolic meaning, strips off and sells the Georgian and Victorian outer shells, damaged by army occupation, to reveal a Jacobean farmhouse within. He is restored to 'his true self' by his girlfriend, a gentle, working-class girl, whose lover was hanged for murder, and the two begin to restore the vegetable orchard and garden. Maddison's girl-friend returns from India, her face scarred by a demented Indian soldier. His hill-top study has been occupied by troops and used for firing practice, his notes and belongings destroyed. The title, The Gale of the World, refers to the last words spoken by the Royalist Yugoslav leader, executed by Tito's men. Out of this numbing destruction, which is not so much an exaggerated as a puzzling remnant belonging to a hitherto untold history, Maddison/Williamson decides to write his series of novels. What had gone wrong? Returning to the belief in the clear, true self, obscured by the false ego, he writes. 'If the ego rules the mind, then the machine will rule the body. Is that what happened among men? Mankind mastered by the machine.'3o The answer was not to avoid painful efforts to correct urban corruption in oneself or in others. After all, his own father, brought up in the country, had lost his link with the land and lived as a clerk in London until he retired, when he found himself unable to settle again in a village with his allotment: it was too late. People had to be taught the life of the farm while young enough, in farm labour camps if necessary, to retain this link with the land.

The proper time to accustom ... the body to the slow, satisfying, non-mental rhythm of sustained body-work was in boyhood and early youth. Properly organised, made interesting, such physical education would alter the secret mind-life of, and give calmness to, metropolitan man ... dissolve the crystallised, or petrofact mentality of the towns. All boards of directors would know how to use ... the shovel or the spade ... For himself, he was part metropolitan waste-land - only part natural. [31]

The answer was to remember the past, and show it with the maximum clarity, so that others could learn that 'The grace of God is poetry - the spirit of love - the major spirit of Evolution.' [32] 'Fallible man must learn', he wrote in The Children of Shallowford. The salmon journeyed, the swallow voyaged, to raise their young, to face death, to 'give back what it has held, for a while, in trust for others of its kind'. [33] In his Mosley period, he had blamed capitalism, competition, the free market and lack of planning for pollution, white bread and stunted physiques. 'I knew that the haphazard economic structure was the cause of pale faces, bad teeth, fearful men and women, wars between European nations.' [34] The natural world was an orderly one: man had obtruded selfish disorder. The economic system produced disorder. Order was the framework needed for the 'natural man on his natural earth'. [35]

Williamson was naturally an optimist, burdened by the memories of his sad childhood, (though that was always gilded over by memory - 'the ancient sunlight'), by the war, and his sense of duty to the dead and their sacrifice, by his vision of loss and disaster, waste and destruction. Yet behind these themes run others, that 'the purpose of Nature is to create Beauty' (echoing Haeckel), that sunlight reveals truth, it 'saw no shadows', that the truth possesses order and integrity, an internal, necessary, truthful order. [36] The enemies of the sun and the beautiful were waste, short-sightedness, clumsiness, disorder, artificiality and the ego. These evils veiled the truth, veiled clarity, and its inherent orderly sensibility. There are no conflicting interests to be juggled by an invisible hand, no inherent clash between men, if they only faced up to their true selves. Maddison/Williamson assumed that all men were, like him, deeply riven: that, conscious of their bad, untruthful, insincere impulses, they could turn their back on this dark aggression, and become their good selves. It was vital to abolish the old education, which crushed intuition and replaced it with artificial 'dead stuff'. All his intuitions were correct, but one had to learn the courage to follow them, ignoring the clumsiness, stupidity and insensitivity of others.

Indeed, so usual was the habit of despoiling his intuitions that it was with a considerable shock he had realized, after the Great War, that all the acts making his education ... were not the true and authentic acts of himself. Instantly he had perceived Truth to be the realization of the Past, and he had begun to stammer. [37]

His obsession with clear, unpolluted water, as a symbol of truth, reality, and hope for the future, reappeared in his post- Second World War nature writings. Integrity, the state where 'the sun sees no shadows', remained the most that could be hoped for. He continued propagating ecological themes, and in a television programme shown in 1968 he expressed his approval of today's ecological awareness. The programme, made by Kenneth Allsop, failed to show the prominent fascist symbol painted on his farm wall, and was chided for whitewashing an old fascist. But what the programme could not have explained, even if the audience was ready to hear it, was that Williamson brought to his support of Mosley a bundle of 'soft' ideas, typical of the naturist thinker, despite his apparently collectivist and dictatorial desire for order and planning. He saw order as the natural state of things, which human error obstructed. He opposed frustration of the human spirit, especially in youth, and thought that natural man, treated and educated correctly, was essentially benevolent and sympathetic. A loving childhood was all-important. He had wanted to send his own children to the experimental 'free school' run by A.S. Neill but been unable to afford it. [38]

Meditating after the Second World War on his failure to change Britain, he concluded

Water, like man, cannot be frustrated, by the nature of its energy, and like any human society, a river bed is always breaking down and re-making itself ... Moving water is governed by the same laws which govern all the movement called life. Life is action, movement, progress as well as reaction, resistance, conservance; but action, movement, progress are alone of the Spirit that giveth life. [39]

Men and animals followed the same laws. Although bound by nature, they had individuality and feelings: 'the balance of nature is akin to the balance of a man's feelings', and he grew to resent those who tried to control the free flow and movement of nature, to gloat over their failure. [40] Civilization cut man off from the free flow of nature's instinct. Set against the physical world, man seemed nothing, his life of no more importance than the life of a fish or an insect. On a visit to North Florida, he found a sandy landscape, full of decayed tree-stumps. This seemed an enormity, a crime. The felled trees left an unforgiveable void, and only by planning land use so that each plant and animal had its rightful place could this wound be healed. [41]

Williamson donated many of his papers to Exeter University before he died, and observers recall an embarrassed Vice-Chancellor unsure what to say in his speech of thanks, but obviously reluctant to receive the gift. His books, especially the later ones, are hard to find. Yet, though un honoured in any formal sense, he retains a cult following which is increasing as more people find their environmental and ecological interests reflected in his work. Williamson placed his hopes in youth, and demonstrated alongside self-conscious representatives of that creed in the Grosvenor Square anti-Vietnam demonstrations of 1968. Youth had begun to care about the environment. He was a sensitive friend to many such people. But he had seen his world come to an end in 1943.

Small children growing up to be young men; season after season of corn turning to summer's gold; butterflies, birds, trees, faces of friends - all, all, drifting down the stream of Time which some men dread as death. A short-eared owl wafted down the sea-wall. Partridges had ceased to call on the stubbles. Night had come to the western hemisphere. [42]

The concentration on Gnostic psycho-analytical cults in Gale of the World mirrors the rapid shift from politics to meta-politics in 1945 which launched Jorian Jenks and others on to a spiritual ecologism. A retreat into the individual's own consciousness was the despairing Gramsciism of the defeated fascist.

In the end he adopted meta-political ends: deep breathing, Buddhism, 'diatonics' the need to re-create the past and make the dead live again in his work. He worked in a hut in a field in North Devon, where he grew vegetables and had a small orchard. The Chronicles of Ancient Sunlight emerged as the total recall of the century's experience. It is true to say it was 'as parochial as Homer'. [43] But, more importantly for our purpose, it was permeated with ecological motifs. The clear water, the shadowless sun, the kind harmony of nature, the need for whole grain and pure food, combine with the realistic detail of the naturalist and social chronicler to offer a convincing ecological vision. At his funeral, the Poet Laureate Ted Hughes described Williamson as a man who 'worshipped energy and ... feared [entropy] ... worshipped natural creativity'. [44] Hughes also comments that Williamson's views emerged from his love for a few simple things. Williamson's 'soft' politics could have led him to the left, as with T.H. White, anarchist pacifist, a writer whose tendency to seek lessons from the natural world, as well as his love of England, resembles Williamson. [45] Put into his correct category, as an ecologist of his era, those ideas of Williamson's which are intolerable to us today slot into place; as painful but entwined with his real beliefs, a society oriented around the natural man on the natural earth.
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Re: Ecology in the 20th Century: A History, by Anna Bramwell

Postby admin » Tue Jan 23, 2018 1:17 am

Part 2 of 2


The second great writer who created an ecological ideology was the Norwegian, Knut Hamsun. He was born to a family of Norwegian peasants in 1859 and died in 1952. He became a Nobel Prize-winning novelist. His books were exceptionally popular in Germany, but were also translated into all major languages. He was one of the most praised novelists of his era. Andre Gide, Maxim Gorki, Allexandra Kollontai, H.G. Wells, Stefan Zweig, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller and Thomas Mann, all admired his work. Of the novel of peasant settlement, Growth of the Soil, Mann wrote,

A splendid work, though completely apolitical, one in profound contact with all the present yearnings: glorification of the solitary farmer, of rustic self-sufficiency: hatred of the city, industry, commerce; ironic treatment of the state - all this is communism poetically conceived; or better; humanely poeticized anarchism ... simplicity in it, goodness, health, humanity ... doubtless the spirit of the future. [46]

Hamsun too was compared to Homer. But in 1945 he was declared a traitor and mad, and incarcerated in a clinic for both reasons. Nearly ninety, he published an account of his trial, to prove his sanity. He supported the Norwegian National Socialist Party during the war, but visited Hitler and Goering to ask for the dismissal of Josef Terboven, Gauleiter of Norway, because of his brutality towards the Norwegians. In 1945, his assets were seized and he became a bankrupt. It was many years before his works were to be republished in England, and, like the more political works of Henry Williamson, they are still hard to find.

Hamsun typifies the complexity that spanned simple left and right divisions in the first decades of this century. He was an individualist, but supported the untouched village community. He was a peasant without education, who became a Nobel Prize winner and unofficial Norwegian Poet Laureate. An anarchist, he admired the aristocratic values, chivalry, honour, independence, generosity, but painted a world where they always failed. He hymned the wanderer, the uprooted loner, but also showed the corruption caused by lost roots. He wrote of rural and fishing villages in decay, of emigration to America, of wandering pedlars, labourers and adventurers like himself, with empathy and tenderness, but his politics expressly opposed the wandering spirit.

A sensitive stylist, he also viciously attacked Ibsen and Strindberg, and the so-called 'social realist' school as neither realist nor social, but blind to human realities and instincts. 'They knew nothing of woman in her sanctity, woman in her sweetness, woman as a vital necessity ... ' [47] He wrote moving love stories, semi-autobiographical tales, but his best-known and most influential work was the story of an illiterate peasant settling uncleared ground in the Norwegian mountains, Growth of the Soil (1917).

He attacked the foreign ownership of Norwegian land and capital, but his support for autarky applied not only to nations but to villages. In one work he described his dislike of selling cows from one farm to another. But he was not a rural romantic. His picture of the 'folk' is as clear and sad as that of Williamson. Unlike the great Romantic writers, such as Victor Hugo, Hamsun could be truthful about people, but still love them.

Hamsun's importance here is not only as an early ecologist, whose picture of the solitary, self-sufficient farmer caught the spirit of the age as no other, and with the total reforming vision which is one of the pre-requisites for the true ecologist; but also the demonstration of a clear link between support for what he perceived as the rural values of German and Norwegian National Socialism and his ecological world-view. However, Hamsun had put forward these ideas many decades before they were used by the Nazis. Between the wars, Hamsun, like Williamson, was to see Germany as the rescuer of the peasantry, and of the true European spirit. He may have a claim to have inspired much of National Socialist rural ideology, as Scandinavia and peasant novels were important to Nordicist Nazis such as Rosenberg, Hans Gunther and Walther Darre. His English biographer points out that a wave of pro-Scandinavian sentiment hit Berlin in the 1890s. The fact that Hamsun owed his fame to early German appreciation of his work also affected him. [48]

From an early age, Hamsun wanted to write. He worked as a labourer to earn enough money to write, and emigrated to North America, where again he worked as a labourer, then as a secretary to a Scandinavian journalist in Minnesota. After falling ill, apparently with TB, he returned to Norway, where he underwent the experiences recorded in Hunger. He re-emigrated to North America where he fell in with a group of radical young Scandinavians, who denounced bourgeois culture and supported nineteenth- century progressive ideals, such as the temperance movement. Hamsun delivered a series of lectures on literature, ending with a denunciation of the North American business ethic and culture. (He forbade its re-publication.) He abhorred 'problem literature', and aimed at psychological realism and subtlety. Hamsun's early work concerned the wanderer, the artist-vagabond, rejected by bourgeois society. His hero was then the solitary writer, the anti-bourgeois radical, anxious to shock, the nihilist.

In his 1907 work, The Wanderer, Hamsun's outrageous vagabond turns into a more sympathetic figure. He learns to take pleasure in humble farm work, to make things work: he is the practical craftsman, whose quixotry is confined to a hopeless passion for the wife of his occasional employer. It is a farewell to his own youth, and an ode to the sweetness of women. In On Muted Strings, he describes the last love affair of his alter ego, the wandering labourer-cum-artist, who falls in love with a neglected married woman, who eventually drowns, with her unborn child. The wanderer sits in a cave in the snow-bound forest and muses on the loss' Age confers no maturity; age confers nothing beyond old age.' Perhaps the nearest Hamsun approached to a social Darwinist position was when he meditated on this tragedy, the wasted life of a childless woman. 'And life can afford to be wasteful. .. It was mother and child that went to the bottom.' [49]

In 1911, Hamsun, like Williamson in 1935, bought a remote farm, and, again like Williamson, he became concerned with soil fertility and the relationship between farming, man and the soil. [50] He wrote numerous articles on the subject. In 1913 and 1915 he published his first books to deal with broader issues. He analysed the disintegration and degeneration of an entire community. Children of the Age and The Village of Segelfoss portray a Norwegian village transformed into a prosperous industrial centre by a successful emigrant, Holmengraa. He buys out the old landowning family and creates factories and a trading centre. The villagers forget their own skills and are corrupted by substitutes, such as margarine, bought-in boots, and various fripperies. Unlike the social realists, like Zola, or even Dickens, Hamsun's criticism of the spiritual decay brought about by industrial growth is, as one critic argues, a total criticism, which focuses not on specific problems, but on what he sees as the inherently alienating quality of trade. [50] This absolutist quality is another hallmark of the ecological thinker.

He defined what he saw as the problem of his era, the failure of the individualistic, aristocratic ethic of the uprooted wanderer, who loses his soul, and the failure of economic growth to restore it. He then set about showing the solution. This was the genesis of his greatest work, Growth of the Soil (1917), the story of a homesteader in the Norwegian mountains, who creates fertile and productive farmland from wilderness. He had killed off the dandy, that nineteenth-century ghost in the machine, and replaced him with the rooted peasant. A later work, Wayfarers, was to return poignantly to the theme of the uprooted versus the rooted, with what in hindsight emerges as a clear political message.

Up to the 1930s, Hamsun, apart from his pointed Anglophobia, seemed an apolitical writer, his moral aspect subsumed in his artistry, his early irony and savage humour mellowed by a Tolstoyan vision. His unsentimental vision of the uncorrupted peasant, the doomed villages, the spiritual beauties of the Norwegian countryside, suited the mood of post-1918 Europe. Pre-Second World War studies of his work naturally concentrate on this aspect. A recent Danish book about his post-war trial, and a new English biography both try to answer the question, how could such a sensitive artist ever have supported Hitler. [52]

Hamsun was always pro-German, and carried his pro-German feeling at the time of the First World War up to the Second World War. He saw Germany as a young, expanding nation, cramped by the existing European Empires. Britain was a stale old colonial power. He opposed liberal democracy and the small-town mentality he found in Scandinavia. His dislike of the business ethic extended to England, which he described as the source of the Protestant free market enemy of all values, the 'Protestant Jews.' England was a colonialist oppressor, responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians during the Boer War. [53] Otherwise, he regarded himself as neither right nor left. He worshipped youth, which belonged to Persia, to Germany, anywhere except America and England, fat with success, the homes of sloth and the machine. [54] In his thanksgiving speech for his Nobel Prize, he toasted 'youth, ... everything in life that is young'. [55] But Hamsun wrote about the solitary victim, the lonely, aristocratic failure. He did not support a hero cult. What he did find sympathetic in National Socialism was its support for the peasantry. Hamsun praised peasant virtues, resignation and content, peasant wisdom, the anti-hero. Was this National Socialism?

Yes, answered one biographer: not only was a belief in fate, resignation, acceptance of poverty and misfortune part of National Socialism, but it was 'an aim of what would to-day be considered the "ecological" side of National Socialism.' 'We see National Socialism retrospectively, ... Hamsun saw it from its inception [von vorn], in the words of Thomas Mann, as "an attempt to take over the world in the name of thatched roofs, folk dances and solstice celebrations". He thought that in the fight between town and country, artificial and natural which had been the main theme of his life and work, Hitler indisputably was on the side of nature.' [56] Thorkild Hansen quotes the Volkischer Beobachter of 1920 calling for garden cities, to show the similarity between today's 'long-haired protest movement' and Hamsun's experience of National Socialism. Hansen interprets the Hitler Youth as a nature cult, and suggests that the peasantry were the object of the deepest emotion and propaganda efforts of the Nazis, and that Lebnsraum was not a desire for military expansion, but a call for new land to plough; a call for - as Hamsun expressed it - Growth of the Soil, literally Segen der Erde, that is, 'Seed of the Earth'.

But Hamsun had developed his ideas long before the First World War. What was a constant was the opposition to what Hamsun saw as the dominant forces of his day. His sympathy for the Chicago anarchists sentenced to death in 1889 expressed this, as did his later support for Russian populism. [57] It is probable that he supported Hitler also because of his loathing of England and opposition to free trade. The similarity is rather because much of his peasant ideology influenced rural Nazis than that Hamsun was inspired by Nazi ideology. Not only the early ideologues, but the German troops of the Eastern Front bought hundreds of thousands of his books. Jodl, Kaltenbrunner and Streicher all asked for and read Hamsun before their executions at Nuremberg.

His wife, an ex-actress, went on Hamsun lecture and reading tours during the Second World War, organised by the Nordic Society, founded in Lubeck in 1921 and patronised by Darre and Rosenberg. In Germany, to an attentive audience, she read extracts from Hamsun's works, the favourites being Victoria and Growth of the Soil. To a hushed room full of soldiers, she would read the opening pages of Growth of the Soil, which describe in precise but biblical language the peasant seeking for empty land to till, and the arrival of a woman,

The man comes, moving towards the North ... He is strong and thin, has a red beard ... perhaps he is an ex-prisoner ... perhaps he is a philosopher, who seeks peace; however, here he was, a wanderer in this enormous solitude ...

In the morning she stayed, nor did she leave during the day. She made herself useful, milked the goats and cleaned the stove with fine sand. She did not go away at all. She was called Inger. He was called Isak.

Hardened SS men and factory women in the Ruhr wept at the simple tale. [58]

Growth of the Soil could be interpreted as being about Lebensraum. However, Hamsun's main theme is the settlement of a wild stretch of country by a native peasant. Nothing is known of his past; he seems to have no family. He appears from nowhere with a bag of seeds and an axe, finds his chosen spot, and homesteads there. He traps animals and lives on barley bread and cheese. He finds a woman, Inger, who is disfigured with a harelip, but a good worker, a companion. When she becomes pregnant, they marry. Their idyll is disturbed by Inger's malicious and thieving sister. Through her interference, Inger murders her baby, also born with a harelip, and is sent to prison for some years. In a theme Hamsun takes up again and again, she is seen to return corrupted by the atmosphere of the town. She has discovered stockings, make-up and prostitution; she is now spoilt, dishonest, dissatisfied and worldly. Eventually she recovers her balance and love for Isak. The second symbolic intrusion is more benevolent. A likeable crook of an engineer, - again, the figure of the untrustworthy, but imaginative, unreliable but innovative confidence trickster appears often in Hamsun - persuades a company to take up a mining concession in the hills by planting ore samples. The company builds roads and opens up the land. They go bankrupt, but their fate receives no sympathy from the author. The engineer explains that he had deliberately cheated the company so that the rural wilderness would be settled by fine, productive peasants like Isak.

Look at you folk at Sellanraa, now ... living in touch with heaven and earth, one with them, one with all these wide-rooted things. No need of a sword in your hands, you go through life bareheaded, bare-handed, in the midst of a great kindliness. Look, nature's there, for you and yours to have and enjoy. Man and Nature don't bombard each other, but agree; they don't compete, race ... but go together ... Be content! ... being born and bringing forth, you are the needful on earth. You maintain life. Generation to generation, breeding ever anew, and when you die, the new stock goes on. [59]

Like Williamson and the other ecologists, Hamsun believes that nature is benevolent if man accepts the discipline of its laws. Growth of the Soil also makes explicit the ambiguity of the ecologists' attitude to technology and progress. Technology is good if it can be lifted from its urban, corrupting influence, and used to benefit the countryman. The dishonest engineer, despite his boasting, drunken ways, is a hero because he uses the industrial system to benefit the peasant. Isak, though, maintains his integrity through remaining independent of the town. It is made clear that he can survive without towns and railways, but that they enable his abilities to be used to the full. Who are the villains? It is the small town and its stifling spirit, the petty bureaucracy, the rules and regulations. The town takes his two sons; debauches one and alienates the other, who emigrates to North America. There is creative, craft-oriented technology, which is of value, just as the earth's fruitfulness is creative. But everything urban is parasitical; newspapers, the law, small town society, and banks: 'sentimental feminist humanitarianism' and above all, 'progressive' literature. [60] (The self-taught Hamsun, like his hero in Hunger, hired a town hall to deliver an attack on Scandinavian literature.)

Because he was a great artist, Hamsun's messages are not oversimplified or didactic. Wayfarers (1927)is his clearest picture of the need to keep one's rural roots. Despite his dislike of the 'social' novel, this is just that, a picture of economic decay and sporadic prosperity in Norway's fishing communities at the turn of the century. It is the account of the education of a dreamy, imaginative village youth, Edvart, and his induction into the layers of dishonesty as he falls one by one down through the levels of society. Capitalist society, according to Hamsun, is a society of unstable, rootless, dishonest hucksters. He first encounters two pedlar tricksters; then a Jewish watch dealer, the most fraudulent, but the most capable of generosity (he leaves his money to Edvart). The apparently upright merchant is in contrast unimaginative, and ungenerous, whereas the wanderer Edvart is quixotry itself, the aristocratic value most prized by Hamsun. His first lover, Lovise, lies about her husband - he is in prison - and then, after some years in America, returns corrupted, an episode handled by Hamsun with the wry tenderness with which his work characteristically treats women. Edvart discovers that all his employers and workmates are dishonest. His best friend, like the engineer in Growth of the Soil, acts as a catalyst for slothful rural communities, pulling one area out of depression, through dishonest methods, and, for example, fooling a village into clearing a bog by pretending that it is haunted. He is a thief and a looter, but generous. The corruption helps to feed capital into rural life.

In this, as in Hamsun's other works, his perceptions raise his work far above easy attacks on urbanization and capitalist exploitation produced by socialist writers of the time. He shows a world of struggling small entrepreneurs, where everyone is a capitalist, everyone is corrupt, but everyone is capable of productive labour. The missing capital, controlled by the speculative companies and financiers, can be turned into productive capital. Similarly, we see the regenerative effect of rotten town money applied to the land, like compost. In Chapter The Last, a sanatorium is established (this book was published the same year as the Magic Mountain, and at times reads like a parody of it), by a gaggle of semi-crooked, incompetent doctors, and inhabited by pathetic, lying invalids and pseudo-invalids. Eventually the sanatorium burns to the ground. No-one is injured, and the doctors go back to the town. The heroine, an ex-patient now pregnant and deserted, fools a local farmer into marrying her. Hamsun's conclusion is unexpected. She succeeds in returning to the land, and makes the farmer happy as a husband and father. The sanatorium, symbol of useless modern medicine and urban hypochondria, disappears in chaos and bankruptcy, but a healthy woman and child have been restored to a sensible, primitive, rural life.

For Hamsun, as with Williamson, there are good and bad impulses mixed up in everyone. But the 'system' exacerbates bad things. The key theme in Wayfarers (1927) is - do not be tempted to wander. Edvart and Lovise, both villagers, and used to rural poverty, both become wanderers. They have the potential to become a settled, loving farming couple, but they lose their roots, which wither, and cannot be re-established. Edvart loses Lovise to America. He cannot settle to village life, and when she calls him, he goes. 'Lovise Magrete's roots had been torn up from their native soil, and now she belonged everywhere, belonged nowhere.' [61]

Edvart's brother, Joakim, a smallholder, tries to summarise the changes that have overtaken the village since Edvart and his friend, August, returned with their wealth and new ideas. His judgement carries a special moral force, since Joakim is a self-educated, improving farmer, not a yokel: - he 'reads and reads': he uses seaweed as a fertiliser, for example, because he read about it in his farming journals. [62]

He was a stranger to us and he brought alien things into our lives. Now the people in the north of the district have started going in for calves. They fatten them up over a period and then sell them to the village people for slaughter. They make money out of it ... 'There's something evil, something swinish indeed, about those calves,' Joakim says. 'First you raise them, then you get to know them, and then you dispose of them to the fine folk in the village for food! How were things before? Well, we bred our beasts and grew fond of them. And we never sold a cow without knowing how well it would be looked after in the new place. It was like letting one of our children go. But that's not how things are now. We've changed ... 1 don't think anyone benefits by being homeless and wandering around. We should stay where we belong.'

... 'The thing is whether we shouldn't try ourselves out to see where we belong best.'

'Don't you think we belong where we were put? .. We don't become any happier in ourselves by being better off.'

'Then I don't understand why you want five cattle when Father and Mother were content with two.' [63]

The reader may wonder why more production is good if it is also immoral. Hamsun now brings in the theme of the national interest.

In the first place, ... there were just the two of them ... but now there are four of us ... Then there's the point that we ought to cultivate our own soil, Norway's soil; then we shouldn't have to buy so much of our food from abroad and suffer for it later in taxes and duties. But that's not all. The most important thing is that we avoid ... being torn up by the roots from our own poor soil and set down in a richer one. [64]

There was a deep irony in this folk wisdom. Ecologists, like socialists, are making a moral claim, and one expects them to live according to their morality, within the practical limits imposed by the physical and economic infrastructure ( - hard to use horses instead of cars when blacksmiths have become so scarce). Hamsun was himself an uprooted wanderer from a peasant family. He had taken on a peasant farm in a poor Northern part of Norway for some years, used it as inspiration for his novels, and then lived in luxury, feted by Europe's society. He despised the town, the literary establishment, emancipated women and 'bourgeois' society, but married first an heiress then an actress. Yet the continued quality of his artistry shows that he somehow maintained his integrity, avoiding the intellectual fashions of his time. His peasant stubbornness was perhaps the cause both of this independence and of his attachment to a Norwegian volkisch spirit. (Although Hamsun never seems to have joined the Norwegian Nazi Party, nor did he vote for it, his son and his wife were ardent supporters). Had he not known what it was to lose his 'roots' by becoming a writer, he could not have communicated his loss to others.

But while he avoided the trap of believing that such 'roots' could be artificially re-rooted, he was optimistic about the possibility of reviving rural communities, if done in a peasant fashion. But a farmer's energies had to be devoted to the soil. Local district councils were a waste of time, enabling pompous men to become malevolently destructive at the expense of productive farmers, yet the latter went gladly to their own destruction, exchanging the produce of their land and labour for shoddy goods. In Hunger, Hamsun's autobiographical study of a gifted writer slowly starving to death in Christiana, what he finds villainous is the spirit of provincial, petty obtuseness, rather than any particular malefactor or deliberate wrong-doing, - although in this work the psychological realism and subtlety of the work defy categorization.

Here is a passage quoted more briefly in Chapter Four.

Isak at his sowing, a stump of a man, a barge of a man to look at, nothing more. Clad in homespun-wool from his own sheep, boots from the hide of his own cows and calves ... a tiller of the ground, body and soul; a worker on the land without respite. A ghost risen out of the past to point the future, a man from the earliest days of cultivation, a settler in the wilds, nine hundred years old, and, withal, a man of the day ... There was nothing left of the copper mine and its riches - the money had vanished into thin air ... But the Almenning was still there, and ten new holdings on that land, beckoning a hundred more. Nothing growing there? All things growing there; men and beasts and fruit of the soil. [65]

This was the new man, the homesteader, untouched by past errors, untouched by tradition, come from nowhere, creating a new and fertile world. Hamsun's ideal was to increase the natural produce of the soil, to avoid corruption by outside and bought-in objects, and to use all natural resources to the full, but without despoiling them.

Were Hamsun alive today, he would certainly reject nuclear power and nuclear weapons, just as Williamson did. He would call for Norway's withdrawal from NATO. With his anti-authoritarian attitude, he would be a Green. His combination of cultural criticism and rejection of the trade ethic is typically ecological. The attachment to what he saw as a victimized spirit, the free peasant, is ecological. Bizarre as it may seem, and to his English biographer the 'Great Ideas' he pursues are indeed bizarre, his agrarian ruralism does cohere with his anarchist rejection of the international, the characterless. [66] His appreciation of craft and 'small' technology, too, is consistent with 'greenness'.

Above all, he portrays the ecological combination of a search for roots and a new start. Isak is a wanderer, but he is tribal. He both establishes a patriarchal family and comes to dominate the area. He is from away, but is in no sense 'other'. His name implies a biblical quality. It is perhaps not reading too much into it to suggest that Hamsun was offering a substitute Adam and Eve, a renewed Nordic Genesis, with the dominion of man over land and beasts given this time under the harsh Northern skies to Northern peasants.
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Re: Ecology in the 20th Century: A History, by Anna Bramwell

Postby admin » Tue Jan 23, 2018 10:16 pm

CHAPTER EIGHT: Was there a Generic Fascist Ecologism?

During the inter-war period, most of the ecological thinkers examined in the last two chapters could be categorised as belonging to the soft, alternative Right. Anti-capitalist, anti-system and anti- Establishment, some described themselves as Tory anarchists, some as Cobbettian democrats and some as High Tories. No political party existed which could incorporate them. Such party activity as existed fluctuated between Independent Labour, Conservative, Liberal and Fascist. The political picture was complicated by the remnants of the nineteenth-century, intellectual, middle-class love affair with Germany. For many of these interwar ecologists contact and cross-fertilization with German alternative ideas continued in the 1920s, and for some into the 1930s.

During the 1920s a tradition of liberal and pacifist internationalist pro-German feeling existed in Britain. German contacts were acceptable. The ecologists were, in any case, interested in values, and justifications for values, not programmes. Nevertheless, the link with Germany and its continuation into the 1930sis striking. It seems that German culture had a stronger leaning towards nature than others in Europe.

It has, however, been argued that radical fascism is always 'Catonist', in Barrington Moore Jr.'s derisive phrase. [1] According to Moore, 'Catonism' looks to the peasants as the saviours of the nation, and to peasant values as a corrective against urban corruption. This argument implies that the green streak in Nazism, which will be discussed in the next chapter, was generic to all European fascism. Ernst Nolte, too, has argued a similar case, in much more detail. [2] He believes that there was an anti-transcendence belief common to European fascism between the wars, and argues that fascist ideology rejected the old liberal ideal that man could rise above what was natural, or embedded in the laws of nature. A closer examination, however, brings out the interesting fact that between the wars German national socialism was alone among European fascist parties in expressing ecological concerns. For the purpose of the following discussion, no distinction will be made between national socialism and fascism. Although there are substantial differences, these are less important in the context of agrarian ruralism or middle-class ecological ideals than the similarities.

In looking for green roots among the European fascisms of the 1920s and 1930s, it is important to differentiate between ecological and peasant-oriented movements. All the successor states, except Czechoslovakia, had peasant-oriented policies, but no supporting ideology, so that once peasant demands on land reform had been met by expropriating or expelling ethnically different landowners, peasant parties tended to collapse. Even in Poland, where the Peasant Party was dominant in a democratic coalition in 1923, Marshall Pilsudski's nationalism had only hostility for the Polish Peasant Party. [3] The complexity of nationality, tribe and religion in Eastern Europe makes generalisations a problem. In some countries, the intelligentsia adopted a narodnik approach to the peasantry, that mysterious entity, still a separate caste. The Hungarian 'village explorers' were democratic agrarians. In Rumania, the Iron Guard were anti-liberal, anti-democratic peasant terrorists.  [4] In some of their demands, for example, for an independent, productive and wealthy peasantry, the peasant national socialism of the Green Shirts in Hungary and Rumania might seem to resemble those of the ecological intelligentsia discussed in earlier chapters. Peasant radical fascism in Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria was strongly anti-semitic and anti-capitalist, as well as being anti-communist. Rumania, especially, saw capitalism, which it partly identified with Jewish interests, as 'responsible for the destruction of the very fabric of traditional peasant life, be it the destruction of the ancient forests of Transylvania or the decline of the Orthodox Church'. [5]

Bulgaria defused peasant radicalism by the largest and most successful land reform in Eastern Europe, producing a nation of market gardeners by 1939. In Rumania, whose village fanatics present in some ways the closest approximation to early German Nazism, the Iron Guard consisted of fanatically Christian peasants (peasants made up some ninety percent of the country's population, a higher proportion than Turkey)! They saw terrorism as a means of divine retribution as well as a means to power. 'Up above, we will defend the life of the trees and the mountains from further devastation. Down below [in the towns] we will spread death and mercy.' [6] They called for national redemption and re-birth - the strength of their belief in individual redemption is indicated by their demand that their members give themselves up after each terrorist attack. Another similarity with Germany's 'Blood and Soil' intellectuals and Rumania is that they both opposed colonialism, and claimed a special status as a victim nation. On the whole, though, Eastern European radical fascism was a Messianic and apocalyptic creed with little urban or exurban component. The narodnik intelligentsia made little impression on the peasantry, who were often of a different religion and ethnic group. Furthermore, the intelligentsia concerned were likely to come from the land-owning gentry themselves, and hence were unlikely to glorify rurallife. [7]

In Spain, similarities between early fascism and German National Socialism can be found. The closest link with German neoconservative and radical right movements is through Ortega y Gasset, who studied in Germany before the First World War, and who went into exile under Franco. Ortega's politics were originally on the left, and it was the culture shock of finding Spain a despised poor relation of Northern Europe that turned his thoughts to the Paretoan view of power. In the 1920s, Ortega often referred to Hans Driesch, author of The Philosophy of the Organic, and was impressed by his biological teachings, as was Ernst ]Unger, German neo-conservative. Ortega, though, was opposed to Spanish fascism from the first. [8] Jose Antonio, whose party but not whose policies were later to be subsumed in Franco's Falange y Jons, called not for land reform but for a transformation of rural-urban relationships. This included a guaranteed minimum price for farm goods, more agricultural education, more credit, rationalization of holdings, with the elimination of latifundia where inefficient, and the merging of inefficient small farms, the restoration of communal land, the abolition of rent, and general improvement of agricultural land through irrigation and afforestation. [9] This was a classic programme for general improvement, presented without ideological force or rhetoric, and not distinctively fascist, insofar as a belief in an interventionist, 'properly' planned economy was generic to the inter-war period. There was no emphasis on the need for a class of medium-sized or yeoman peasants, or on the need to retain a link with the soil. Indeed, although the anarcho-syndicalist nature of Spanish radical fascism might be expected to have entailed a revolt from organised technology, as well as from the usual concomitants of urban life, such as lawyers, parliaments and pornography, Jose Antonio stringently attacked the 'Blood and Soil' gut patriotism typical of Rumanian and German national socialism, together with Romantic nationalism and its emphasis on the pull of the land: 'The Romantics were keen on all things natural. Their slogan was a 'return to nature'. Thus they identified the nation with 'the birthplace' ... The most pernicious nationalisms, because they are the most dissolvent, are those which take this view of nationhood. [10] He called instead for the 'patriotism of the great heterogeneous units' and an awareness of historical destiny, while point three of the twenty-six points of the Falange, written in November 1934, declared that 'Spain's historical fulfilment is the Empire'. [11] His economic and social policies followed the modernizing path of Mussolini and the aims of Mosley. 'Patriotism' had to be 'anchored, not in the heart, but in the mind'. [12] The short-lived nature of this movement makes it hard to judge whether or not any serious conservationist or agrarian element would have been prominent in a genuinely fascist Spanish government. It is clear, however, that Jose Antonio's radical fascism does not correspond to the 'Catonist' model outlined earlier, nor is it oriented towards 'Blood and Soil', still less towards ecological ideas. Indeed, he goes out of his way to attack them.

Latin or Mediterranean fascism and its imitators had little in common with the Messianic religious peasant revolts of Eastern Europe. In England the British Union of Fascists, inspired by Mussolini were modernizers. They looked to technical advance, in agriculture as elsewhere. Heroic technology would free Britain from the stale burdens of the past. 'Our new Britons require the virility of the Elizabethan combined with the intellect and method of the modern technician.' [13] In the 1930s, although the rhetoric concentrated on national regeneration through spiritual rebirth and unity, actual B.U.F. policy concentrated on economic and social problems. An adequate food supply was to be ensured by the existence of a (largely white) British Empire, encouraged and aided by an extension of Imperial Preference and agricultural subsidies. Land reform was merely sketched in as a policy, while British self-sufficiency in agriculture was not envisaged.

Many supporters of the British Union of Fascists were drawn to it because they saw it as a way of using resources efficiently and properly. Unemployment and capitalist competition were both seen as prime areas of waste. But there was no equivalent of the large-scale agricultural settlement planned in Nazi Germany. Agricultural reform was integral to a grand plan to re-create British society and the economy. Land use throughout Britain was to be centrally planned and organised: re-afforestation, sewage disposal (to leave rivers clean and unpolluted), factory siting, and building motorways, would create jobs and re-cycle materials. One of the differences between the pre-war English groups described in an earlier chapter as 'High Tories' and the British Union of Fascists membership lay in this approach to the land. So few studies of B.U.F. membership and policy have been carried out that one cannot determine why this distinction existed. [14] However, exist it did. According to one study, interviews with surviving B.U.F. men produced only one reference to 'agrarian fascism' and 'peasant life', in opposition to the 'make full use of the land' policies of the B.U.F. As the author points out, this occurred in 1937, when several British fascists had been influenced by national socialist ideas encountered on visits to Germany. The interviewee himself referred to having encountered these ideas among anarchists at Hyde Park Corner, who were living a simple, peasant, agrarian, communard kind of life. [15] One can speculate that the sight of weed-strewn derelict acres in East Anglia, and other fertile arable counties, common after the collapse in land and produce prices after the abolition of corn price support in 1923, would not imply the need for the more intensive use of land which small-holder farming entails. Land lay underutilised everywhere.

This emphasis on enlarging the urban home market, and getting 'back to work' as a cure-all for British agriculture was, of course, a short-term policy, but then, the inter-war Depression in arable farming lasted some fifteen years, a large part of a farmer's working lifetime. Does this account for the lack of 'Blood and Soil' ideology in British fascism? It could be argued that the social background of the membership was a relevant factor, that there were more landowners among the B.U.F.'s membership than agriculturallabourers or small farmers, and that this led the B.U.F. to concentrate on agricultural price mechanisms rather than on land reform. But the group of ecologists centred around what was to be become Kinship in Husbandry and the Soil Association also included large landowners; indeed, men like Lord Lymington and Rolf Gardiner were the most prominent in the ecological movement. But Gardiner and Lymington were atypical 'sports', who fretted against the existing British agricultural establishment. (Gardiner also found the English Country Dance Association too respectable and conventional.) Perhaps Rolf Gardiner's criticism that Mosley's movement was too lower middle-class and urban is relevant here. He thought that national regeneration could only come about through an alliance of aristocrats and yeomen, bypassing the towns and especially, the new towns and suburbs. [16] Certainly, many B.U.F. members were proud of the accusation that they were 'lower middle-class', while their more wealthy landed supporters, according to MI5 files, were new landowners, whose money had come from the 'new' industries. Their industrial supporters were to a surprising degree the self-made men rather than the 'reactionary gentry' of left-wing fantasy. [17] The spirit of H.G. Wells can be found lurking behind some of the B.U.F.'s 1930s pronouncements, and this spirit was alien to the High Tories.

One exception to this tentative explanation may seem the presence of Jorian Jenks, the B.U.F.'s agricultural expert, because he was later to edit Rural Economy, produced as a 'club bulletin' from 1944 to 1951, and Eve Balfour's Mother Earth, both journals with a strong ecological interest. He was Secretary to the Soil Association. ISJenks was the author of pamphlets on the B.U.F.'s agricultural policy before the war. But his writings of the 1930s did not have an ecological or 'Blood and Soil' component. They followed Mosley's general economic and social policy closely. Foreign investment would be stopped, and an agricultural bank established, to invest in British and Dominion agriculture. The B.U.F. would restore the huge areas of land which lay wholly or partly derelict. [19] It would create an Agricultural Corporation, reduce foreign food imports, create an enlarged home market by raising industrial wages, and eliminate the middleman. [20] One policy that was similar to that of the National Socialists in Germany was to make land tenure hereditary 'provided the heir proves himself to be fitted to develop the land to the best purpose' but this idea was not worked out in any detail. It would have applied to all farms, regardless of size. In Germany, the Nazis planned to make only the 'hereditary farm', the Erbhof, inalienable, but the Junker estates were deprived of their inalienable entail. The B.U.F. intended to establish local councils to determine rents and wages, and 'plan' agricultural production, so that gluts and other marketing problems would be avoided, while at the same time production would be increased. Farmers and landowners would lose their land and estates if they were not well farmed, and absentee landowners would be expropriated. The vagueness of these proposals, typical of the nauvety of fascist economics, brings out the stress on 'proper' planning, the belief that good-will, dedication and team-work combined with a rebirth of nationalist feeling, could iron out all the alleged inefficiencies of individualistic, market-oriented production. There was a boy scout enthusiasm about the military attitude adapted towards some problems:

Effective steps will be taken to cope with the host of rabbits, pigeons, rooks and other vermin, which now levy a heavy toll on our fields ... the Agricultural Corporation will maintain a corps of expert vermin-destroyers equipped with up-to-date apparatus, who will clear each district systematically? [21]

This militant problem-solving was anti-ecological in spirit, if anything. It was an attitude that disappeared during the early '40s. After the Second World War, Jenks published an article called 'The Homestead Economy' in a compilation of essays on agriculture and the small farmer edited by Hugh Massingham, which attacked 'Economic Man', predictions by socialist writers such as Rowntree and Lamartine Yates that there would be vast food surpluses after the war. He opposed the generic attack on 'backward, inefficient' peasant farming and desire for agricultural 'industrial efficiency' delivered by these advisers to the post-war British Socialist government. He called for an ecological balance in farming, regretted the disappearance of the four-year rotation of the high days of Victorian farming, and suggested that the future of improved agriculture lay in intensive peasant farming. Jenks' attitude towards natural resources was now that of the typical ecologist:

Thus, the nineteenth century disequilibrium between 'industrial' and 'agricultural' countries is disappearing, and is being replaced by a new disequilibrium, that between the power-mechanisms and the natural resources which they have exploited only too successfully and without which they are useless.


The limiting factor in civilisation now is fertility, which is capacity to create and sustain life ... we have failed to notice the full significance of the many symptoms of flagging vitality -loss of soil, diminished resistance to pests and diseases, declining crop yields, falling birth-rates ... No economy is worth considering that does not encourage the cultivation of resources that represent the springs of vital renewal ... Our chances [in Britain] of survival depend very much upon the use we make of our own natural assets within the next ten or twenty years. It is not 'output per man' that matters now, but 'wealth per acre.' [22]

In the B.U.F.'s pre-war writings, the emphasis was on the ideal technocratic future: the garden city on stilts, walkways in the sky, and silent, clean, rapid public transport. Even in Williamson's work there is a constant tension between the vision of the untouched, richly-textured countryside (whether wild or farmed) and the roaring motor-cycle and sports car. [23]

Although Jenks was important enough to be interned during much of the Second World War - and attended dinners in prison at which 'The Land' was toasted, - his policies and views remained peripheral to the B.U.F.'s chief interests before the war. His influence on the re-constituted Mosley movement after the war remains uncharted. One contributor to his Rural Economy in 1949 suggested paying agricultural workers dividends as well as wages, and creating a system of 'limited partnerships' between farmer and employee, an idea which has now found favour among progressive libertarian academics where industry is concerned, and which typifies the ability of the ecologists of the early post-war period to avoid the existing anti-rural economic orthodoxies. [24]

Jenks' shift from a belief in totalitarian team-work to a post-war belief in the individual small farmer, was marked, but does not seem to have affected his old colleagues, several of whom were landowners and practising farmers, using orthodox methods. Feeding the Fifty Million was produced by the 'Rural Reconstruction Association Research Committee on the Increase of Agricultural Production', a group which included several ex- B.U.F. members and Mosley supports, including D. Stukely, Robert Saunders, O.B.E., and Jorian Jenks. The book showed signs of dissension on issues like organic farming, a long discussion of which ended inconclusively. It limited consideration of ecological problems to one sentence on the ecological value of hedges and trees. [25] In calling for food and fodder self-sufficiency, the Committee echoed the preoccupations of the prewar B.U.F., although the discussion, unlike pre-war pamphlets, was unpolemical and informed. Rural electrification and methane gas plants would help revive the countryside. 'Rural repopulation' was acceptable, providing it was carefully planned and 'not left to irresponsible economic forces'. [26] In supporting a family-worked farm of 50 to 100 acres, and in calculating productivity (both net and gross) according to the size of farm, it was building on the work of Danish and German agrarian reformers, including those who backed Walther Darre's peasant policies in the Third Reich, and the Danish smallholding movement of the 1920s. But the idea that in agriculture 'a measure of compulsion is necessary but just' had lost favour after the harsh war-time measures to increase self-sufficiency in British agriculture, which included totalitarian measures far exceeding anything the pre-war B.U.F. had dreamed of in agriculture and land tenure, not to think of rationing, quotas, civilian Land Armies and fixed prices. [27] These policies have now lost much of their novel thrust, and have an almost anodyne ring to them to-day.

In the case of Italy, lip service was paid to the peasantry throughout the life of Mussolini's regime. Mussolini fits the 'Catonist' model in that he always referred to the peasant as the backbone of the nation. The famous land reclamation schemes were carried out. By diminishing the power of the Mafia, the Fascist government eased some of the burdens of peasant life. Less successful attempts were made to introduce corporate and co-operative mechanisms to agriculture. Italy was almost as 'backward' as Spain, - or at least, had almost as high a proportion of peasants in the population. But the Fascist role-model was ancient Rome: youth, will and technological progress were the weapons to regain Italy's ancient glory. As with their imitators in Britain, the Italian Fascists emphasised in their political rhetoric a desire for imperial grandeur, won the support of the initiators of new industries (who were often from old families) - aircraft, electric light bulbs, chemists - and concentrated on public infrastructural works. They built, in short, motorways and harbours. There was no Fascist philosophy of nature, and, according to a recent 450-page biography of Mussolini which devotes a mere two brief paragraphs to the issue (the 'battle for wheat' of 1925, and Mussolini's decision, in 1939, to try to improve Sicily's fertility for purposes of self-sufficiency), there was little interest in agriculture, except where autarky was concerned. [28] Mussolini in his autobiography, does not refer to the concept. [29]

Insofar as there was a philosopher of the regime, this was the ex-liberal Giovanni Gentile (1875-1944), Idealist, Platonist and Hegelian, who became Minister of Public Instruction (Education) in 1923 under Mussolini and was fascism's most persuasive philosopher of corporate unity. In an earlier chapter, I described how the belief in an objective world, inherent in nature, came about in the nineteenth century, and looked at some of its epistemological consequences. The theoretical ecologist described in my model looks to nature for guidance. He believes in a finite, objective truth, in a single reality. In this, he is anti-transcendental. He rejects the belief that reality, embodied in nature, can be transcended. On this issue, Gentile expressed the opposite viewpoint, and this suggests that Italian fascism, certainly, did not share National Socialism's naturist bias.

Gentile denied the existence of an 'absolute Nature ... against which the truth of experience can be measured.' [30] He wrote in his introduction to a Hegelian Principle of Ethics by Bertrando Spaventa, that art, philosophy and religion formed a great triad lying behind Logic and Nature, and commented that 'nowadays there is even a tendency to overemphasise the dependency of the latter [Nature] on the former [Logic]'; in other words, the spirit should not be dependent on nature. [31] The Fascist philosophy of the absolute and all-embracing state was the enemy of nature, and Sorel's attack on the dangerous and fundamental opposition of nature to man, which will be quoted in the next chapter, is further evidence of the essentially latin Fascist view of nature. Gentile believed that 'the absolute freedom involved in the identification of the rational individual with the State as an ethical reality requires that there be no pre-existing Nature behind ... the Philosophy of Nature must disappear'. [32]

Gentile argued more directly for the totality of the identification of State and man as a political concept, in his late work Genesis and Structure of Society. 'And since we can also say that the State is man, it follows that nothing human can be alien to the essential nature of the State. For the State includes, unifies and fulfils every human activity, every form or element of human nature ...' [33] He saw anarchy as the true alternative to a state-centred, totalitarian creed, not an organic tribalism. Anarchy, which he defined as the consistent and logical fulfilment of liberalism, would dismantle the framework in which human culture could survive and flourish. Anarchy was nature and nature anarchy. Nature was the enemy of human culture, and hence a danger to be fought. He even argued that nature was, through its anarchic and anti-etatist character, equivalent to evil. 'Evil is nullity. We might even say that it is nature ...' [34] So not only did he maintain the supremacy of the state, he argued that nature threatened the autonomy of the state, and man's fully human culture.

This contradicts Nolte's anti-transcendentalist theory of fascism. For Gentile, the Hegelian, transcendalist idealist, nature is not an objective or, indeed, fully knowable state or thing. In direct contradiction to the natural scientists of the nineteenth century, he argues that nature is unknowable, that the only part of nature that can be known is that small part that can only be apprehended by becoming 'part of the personality of the knower.' [35] Not Nature, but Culture, was the watchword of Italian Fascism. The link between the two that was the heart of green Nazism, that the German philosophical anthropologists had argued was inevitable, that future ecologists would maintain was the motor of society, was rejected. At the heart of Italian Fascist philosophy lay a hostility to nature, despite the land reclamation and food subsidies. And 'to the humanism of culture, which was a great step in the liberation of man, there succeeds today or will succeed tomorrow the humanism of labour'. [36] This is surely the apotheosis of urbanism, the glorification of human labour which in this form became a mechanistic concept unconnected with its spiritual nature.

Thus, in this context, the philosophy of Italian Fascism had little in common with the German National Socialism with which it is so often linked. Italy was seen by Nazi intellectuals in the 1930s as too 'from above', too inorganic and inflexible. Otto Ohlendorf, a lawyer and economist who was head of the German Trade Council in 1936 (and later, of course, notorious as Einsatzgruppe leader, besides being active in the Resistance against Hitler), visited Italy in 1934, as an active NSDAP party member, to examine Italy's economic and social policies. He concluded that they were too etatist, totally unsuited to the 'from below' strivings of German National Socialism. [37] The little-known philosopher of the Italian radical right, Julius Evola, was actually banned by Mussolini because of his pagan, rural philosophies and sympathies with national socialist naturist ideas. Evola criticised Darre's marketing organization for being too democratic. But, like the German ecologists of the time, he was drawn to Eastern religions, and wrote a book on Buddhism. [38] In December 1934, Mussolini tried to start a 'Fascist international', but Germany was not invited. Mussolini also attacked National Socialism, saying that the two movements were 'in many respects at opposite poles'. [39] Curzio Malaparte, journalist and novelist, described the new, mechanised, factory warfare introduced by Fascism.

And below me, on both sides of the hill ... I could see, slowly advancing, not an army, but an immense travelling workshop, an enormous mobile foundry, that stretched as far as the eye could see in either direction. It was as if the thousands of chimneys, cranes, iron bridges and steel towers, the millions of cog-wheels, the hundreds ... of blast-furnaces and rolling-mills of the whole of Westphalia, the whole of the Ruhr, were advancing in a body over the vast expanse of corn-fields that is Bessarabia. It was as if an enormous Krupps Steelworks, a gigantic Essen, were preparing to launch an attack on the hills of Zaicani ... Yes, that was it: I was looking not at an army but at a colossal steel-works, in which a multitude of workmen were setting about their various tasks with a streamlined efficiency which at first sight concealed the immensity of their effort. [40]

This picture of the German-Russian war was only partly accurate in that other observers saw a war fought partly with horse drawn troops - two million horses died in the first two years of the German-Russian war - and bicycles. Massive mechanisation and tank warfare came later. But the mistake itself is important, showing that Malaparte's memories of huge, factory-sized weapons lumbering across a great plain must have owed more to a theoretical assessment of modern fascist warfare than to the reality.

French fascism in the 1930s corresponds more to Stanley Payne's concept of the fascist negations than does the more programmatic Spanish and Italian variety. It was negative: it opposed. Struggle and action were its key-words. 'Any man who is both pessimistic and active is, or will become a fascist', commented Andre Malraux in the 1930s. [41]

A sense of the place of rural values had existed in the French Right. In the late 19th century, the novelist Barres called for the provinces, especially his homeland, Lorraine, to become stronger, to regain autonomy, and break away from the powerful call of the capital, Paris. Regions, not nations, were the future of Europe for Barres, especially under French guidance. 'Nous depasserons notre nationalisme', he wrote after the First World War. [42] It was Barres, too, perhaps surprisingly for this fastidious, urban, sleek-haired dandy, who tenderly portrayed a tragic peasant family of semi-mystics, semi-money-grubbers, in La Colline inspiree. Barres' analysis was not a political one, nor was it pessimistic. 'When the nightingale sings, you do not hear a word, or a song, but an immense hope.' [43] He pictured the pull and counter-pull of human values: the church on the hill, representing order and form, ('la regle, l'autorite, le lien'), and the free life of the flat fields below, ('l' esprit de la terre et des ancetres les plus lointains, la liberte, l'inspiration'), with its heroes, Manfred, Prospero, Faust, who continually fight against the constraints of ordered human society. [44] Humanity needed both.

Let the two antagonistic forces fight eternally, eternally prove themselves, but never conquer, .and expand by their very struggle. One could not exist without the other. Of what value is enthusiasm which remains an individual dream? And what value an order if it is not animated by enthusiasm? The church is born from the fields, and nourishes it perpetually. [45]

The arid experiments of a disillusioned Drieu la Rochelle, leader of the post-Maurras French fascists, were of a different order. He and his group had much more in common with the French Communist intellectuals, in their hatred of the bourgeoisie, and their desire to destroy society, than with any existing French institutions. 'Was it possible to believe in fascism if you did not believe in communism?' [46] The drift towards Nazi sympathies came easily to a failed creed. Drieu, like others, appreciated the German's capacity for (apparent) success. However, they had hoped for a pan-European programme to emerge from the German conquest of France, which was supposed to lift France from its slough and stimulate a national re-birth. They were disillusioned.

Whatever the role of the First World War in creating this negative attitude, one has only to compare it with ex-soldier Henry Williamson's attempt to re-create a corner of Europe in the guise of a family farm to see the sharp difference. National Socialism attracted the French fascists by its success, but was philosophically and programmatically alien. The French intellectuals of Action Francaise found German eugenics comical, and had dreamed since 1918 of a united Europe. Nature was a bore, and peasants were something rather distasteful. Drieu played at adopting Northern racialism: he discarded a Jewish wife and lived with a Virginian woman. But when jilted, he joked that he felt like Madame Butterfly, not a comment that would have been permitted - or conceived, probably - in Germany at that time. The French fascist was locked into the very prison of urban individualism and irony he claimed to despise. There was only Culture, not Nature, to cling to, and an urban culture could not free him.

If nature was rejected by French fascists, was it of concern to the landed or rural interest? It appears that even agrarian radicalism failed to gain support in the Third Republic. The sporadic attempts to form a farmer's party, under, for example, Henri Dorgeres, came to nothing. After the defeat of France, the Vichy Government's propaganda did stress the role of the sturdy peasant as well as rural life in general. However, given that this was during the war, Vichy propaganda must have been influenced by Nazi Germany. [47]

With the possible exception of Rumania's anti-colonialist, religiously fanatical, terrorist fascists, European fascism, where it had a programme, emphasised forward-looking, technological planning and urban development. Relatively developed countries, such as France, had this in common with less urbanised countries, such as Italy, and less technologically advanced countries, such as Spain. Germany was the exception, with a tradition, in practice as well as in theory, of looking to nature for philosophical guidance. It may be that similar evidence exists for Italy, the only other European nation which established a fascist government in peace-time. However, Italy did not have a bio-dynamic or organic or ecological lobby. Pending new evidence, I would conclude that from the stance of their public policy and their published ideology there was no ecological movement of any significance in Italy between the wars. In England, fascism followed the Italian model. However, the Anglo-German sympathisers of the period were united by a common interest in nature and ecology.

Clearly, the shock of the First World War disoriented and alienated the intelligentsia who had experienced it. This trauma may have caused their inter-war support for fascism and communism. But this does not seem an adequate explanation for the different form taken by the alienation in different countries. It also clashes with the Weberian-Marxist explanation referred to earlier, that ecological ideas are a reaction to the anomie effects of industrialization and technology.
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Re: Ecology in the 20th Century: A History, by Anna Bramwell

Postby admin » Tue Jan 23, 2018 10:18 pm


CHAPTER NINE: The Chill of the Forests

Of these cities there will remain what passes through them - the wind.

-- Bertolt Brecht, 'Vom armen B.B'


In my discussion on Haeckel, the influential neo-Lamarckian organicism of Hans Driesch was mentioned as the peak of the reaction in the natural sciences against mechanistic biology in Germany. Not only in Germany, of course; the growth of existentialist philosophy is a European phenomenon, but it has been argued that it was in Germany alone that 'life-philosophy tendentiously abolished the traditional difference between nature and culture, and thus facilitated the success of the general biologism in the theory of culture, which culminated in National Socialism'. [1] This chapter will look at some of the 'alternative' phenomena in 1920s Germany, to see whether the argument for similarity of content, if not form, of vitalist philosophy (Lebensphilosophie) and National Socialism, can be maintained. Driesch's influence certainly reverberated throughout the 1920s, - Ernst Junger, for example, studied zoology with him in Leipzig in 1923-5. [2] Life-philosophy was a response to the revolutionary idea that man and world and nature were one. It gave birth to the philosophical anthropologists, philosophers who tried to make sense of the growth in biological knowledge and studies of animal behaviour, and the resulting implication that man's intellect was not autonomous. It certainly coincided with the rise of National Socialism, but the line of development was not a straightforward one, nor is there any apparent causal link. Other influences were Nietzsche, Bergson and Spengler.

'In 1913, I composed ... for the ... Free German Youth ... the essay 'Man and Earth', in which, on the basis of a terrible analysis of the rape of nature by humanity in the present day, I sought to prove that man, as bearer of the spirit, has torn himself apart along with the planet which gave him birth.' [3] This essay by Klages 'Der Mensch und das Leben', has been described as a 'brilliant essay about what we now call ecology'. [4] It had been written for a meeting of the Free German Youth held on the hill of Meissner, near Kassel. This gathering of 1913 was later seen as the peak of the Youth Movement's beliefs. Ironically, considering the passion with which many Youth Movement members were to throw themselves into war a year later, the conference had been called as a quasi-pacifist gesture, to counteract the centenary demonstrations for the Battle of Leipzig. Even more ironically, it was organized and hosted by Eugen Diederichs, neo-Conservative and volkisch publisher, later seen as an early Nazi. The meeting incorporated the mixture of radical nature-cult, community versus society, and youth versus age, typical of the youth movement. A group of German nationalist school teachers took part. Like Darre and Rosenberg later, they wanted to replace Christian traditions and myths with Germanic ones. The Holy Land was Germany: the holy symbol the swastika: the holy river the Rhine, the holy mountain the Wartburg. [5]

How could pacifist ecologists also be Germanic nationalists? They associated nature with the life-force, that existed independently of mankind, but made man into a vessel for its use. Man could express this autonomous force through dance, gesture, and poetry. He could satisfy it by living close to nature. What stopped people from living like this? Germans had been victims of forcible denaturalization from the days of the Roman Empire. The alien Christian-Judaic civilization had blocked man off from the natural world, and all the anti-life manifestations of urban living stemmed from this false ethic.

Another element in these pacifist 'Greens' which was repeated by some National Socialists and by post-Second World War ecologists was their theory of matriarchy. A German anthropologist, J. Bachofen, wrote in 1860 that pre-civilized society was based on a female-dominated religion and social system. Archaeological discoveries from the Bronze Age showed that a harmonious equality had reigned between the sexes, with women very slightly superior. Klages and Stefan George adopted this ideal in the early years of this century. To reject the dominant patriarchal principle meant rejecting exploitative, insensitive attitudes to nature. A neo-Conservative journalist of the 1920s, Paul Fechter, later a Nazi, wrote a science-fiction book after the Second World War, which portrays a matriarchal, tribal society. [6] The discoverer of the book interprets it as covert Nazi propaganda, in that Fechter is not a real feminist, but keeps woman in her place, the home, or rather, hut. Robert Graves' The White Goddess is an outright attack on late Greek, Roman and post-Roman civilization, male dominance, and the masculine spirit, in the name of the female muse and goddess, whether in the guise of blood-soaked matriarch or desirable succubus. [7] The identification of matriarchal ecological sensitivity and male destructiveness is too common today among feminist writers to need much comment here.

The similarity of Klages' argument to Nietzsche's is unsurprising. He was seen as Nietzsche's spiritual heir. One of the finest expressive dancers of the time would dance to a recitation of Thus Spake Zarathustra. [8] After the First World War, the cultural criticism of the earlier period seemed to have been only too unhappily fulfilled. In Doctor Zhivago, Pasternak quotes Blok's reference to the' children of Russia's terrible years'. [9] For pre-war writers it was a metaphor. For the post-war generation it had become a reality. They were the orphaned children of the storm. Tens of thousands of homeless orphans roamed Russia in gangs. Many had to be shot. Similarly in Germany, the much mocked fear of steamroller pseudo-democracy, of anti-human technology expressed by the critics of 'bigness', or urbanism, was to be made manifest, embodied in the mindless mass slaughterings of the war. Although it could be seen as a vindication of their ideas, the trauma affected the sensitive matriarchites differently. Diederichs gave a memorial address to the war dead which was pagan and naturist. [10] For many, the sacrifices and death had to be retrospectively justified. Some rejected adult malehood altogether, clinging to a dream of youth and boyish comradeship: or a country ruled by a worker-soldier elite. The Youth Movement after the First World War was to fragment into political extremes. Some joined the neo-Conservatives, some the Nazis, others the Leninists, like Theodor Plievier and Johannes Becher, the left-wing anarchist who wrote a spectacularly bad paean to Rosa Luxembourg and an even more memorable ode to Lenin. [11] (Both went to Russia, and spent the war years there.) The voluntary hardships previously sought by pampered bourgeois children had became a necessity for the many penniless nouveaux pauvres.

Several Asconans had come from ethnic German communities in Transylvania or Czechoslovakia. Graser, the poet-anarchist and Green, was one. Rudolph Laban was another. Among the Auslander peasant anarchists was Dr Georg Kenstler, founder member of the Artamanen, and editor of the journal Blood and Soil, who was later to join Walther Darn~ in plotting a revolution to be fought by cells of disaffected peasant farmers. The name Artamanen derived from Artnm, old German for a stretch of land, and meant tiller of the soil, according to the founder. The group consisted of a group of students and ex-soldiers, many from ethnic German communities who had lost German citizenship through the Weimar law of 1921, and were thus doubly aware of a loss of national status, and were continually harassed and moved on by the police when they tried to work as agricultural labourers. [12] Their mentors were Gandhi and Tolstoy. Their membership form asked not whether you were musical, but which musical instrument the applicant played. They wanted to settle the German east, which was losing its German character through Polish immigration, and this aim of racial defence and renewal drew comparisons from later historians with the S.S. Their art, postcards and illustrations, showed clear-eyed youths with pageboy haircuts, gazing over corn-fields and mountains.

Anarchists at Ascona had seen Cain, the murdering peasant, not Abel, the wandering pastoralist, as a hero, not so much because he was a peasant as because he was an individualist. Yet contemplative religions and cults such as Taoism, and Buddhism, were other influences. Julius Evola, the Italian pagan philosopher and Germanist, wrote a book on Buddha in 1937. Tagore's poems and music were danced to and recited at Ascona. [13]

Engineers, geographers and Auslanders are prominent in the history of ecological thought. Ludwig Klages, author of 'Der Mensch und das Leben', neo-conservative philosopher, was trained as a natural scientist, and knew Stefan George, one of the founders of the German Youth Movement. His complex metaphysics can be summarised as a pro-life, anti-technology set of dichotomies; the title of his main work was The Spirit as Adversary of the Soul Klages decomposes the cosmos into spirit (Geist) versus object: spirit versus life. Life experiences pure being: the spirit, which one might also define as the intellect, comprehends what life lives directly. The spirit is anti-life, it judges the pure object of life-experience, and by mediating it, corrupts it. Life does not need the spirit, argues Klages, the spirit is parasitical on life. What is generally seen as the advance of history, or as progress, is in fact the gradual domination of the spirit over life, which must end with the annihilation of the latter. [14]

This view of history as having taken a wrong path, one where intellect increasingly dominated the vital spirit, owes something to Oswald Spengler's analysis of the cycles of history, whereby each period had a youthful, fresh, spontaneous culture, then froze into a technologically advanced civilization, then decayed. The new spirit dropped like manna on to a people, it grew, developed, flowered, became formalized and stratified, and died. Sometimes the death took a long time. Frequently it was unobserved and unrealised by the participants. Culture was as organic as a tree. Seen in the context of interpreting the cycle of Western civilization, Klages' cultural critique also resembled Heidegger's argument that the culture of the West had been flawed from Roman times, through Roman distortion of and misunderstanding of Greek ideas. 'Roman thought takes over the Greek words without a corresponding, equally authentic, experience of what they say, without the Greek word. The rootlessness of Western thought begins with this translation.' [15] This flaw, inherent for Heidegger, in Western civilization, is the same as Klages' inauthentic intellect- spirit, which distorts life, and the transcendence which for Nietzsche was the ancient crime against Western culture.

Heidegger dedicated his 1929 book on Kant to Scheler, a follower of Klages, but opposed the claim by the philosophical anthropologist to have reached a final understanding of man's place 'in the Cosmos'. [16] His opposition seems based on an ambiguity. He did not wish to concede philosophy to natural scientists, as explained in his discourse, 'The Difficulties of Achieving a Natural Conception of the World', on the inadequacy of ethnology as a tool to understanding 'Being'. [17] Yet he conceded that 'In biology there is an awakening tendency to inquire beyond the definitions which mechanism and vitalism have given for "life" and "organism", and to define anew the kind of Being which belongs to the living as such.' [18] He shares with fascist writers the belief that new techniques require a new man, but unlike them does not welcome the idea: it is all part of the wrongness of our historical path.

What Nietzsche already knew metaphysically now becomes clear: that in its absolute form the modern 'machine economy', the machine-based reckoning of all activity and planning, demands a new kind of man who surpasses man as he has been hitherto. It is not enough that one possess tanks, airplanes and communications apparatus: nor is it enough that one has at one's disposal men who can service such things; it is not even sufficient that man only master technology as if it were something neutral, beyond benefit and harm, creation and destruction, to be used by anybody at all for any ends at all. What is needed is a form of mankind that is from top to bottom equal to the unique fundamental essence of modern technology and its metaphysical truth; that is to say, that lets itself be entirely dominated by the essence of technology precisely in order to steer and deploy individual technological processes and possibilities ... only the 'Over-man' is appropriate to an absolute 'machine economy,' and vice versa: he needs it for the institution of absolute dominion over the earth.


Within the history of the modern age, and as the history of modern mankind, man ... attempts to establish himself as midpoint and measure in a position of dominance ... the new world of the modern age has its own historical ground in the place where every history seeks its essential ground, namely, in metaphysics; that is, in a new determination of the truth of beings as a whole, and of the essence of such truth. [19]

The ambiguous attitude expressed here to the 'new man' had become unambiguous opposition to technological domination and - especially - consumerism, by 1944.

In place of all the world-content of things that was formerly perceived and used to grant freely of itself, the object-character of technological domination spreads itself over the earth ever more quickly, ruthlessly and completely. Not only does it establish all things as producible in the process of production; it also delivers the products of production by means of the market. In self-assertive production, the humanness of man and the thingness of things dissolve into the calculated market value of a market which not only spans the whole earth ... but also ... trades in the nature of Being and thus subjects all beings to the trade of a calculation that dominates most tenaciously in those areas where there is no need of numbers. [20]

Technology and the market corrupts. Everything has a market value; everything, including those things that should not be marketed, is for sale. This criticism was one of Heidegger's claims to an ecological ethic of life.

Klages was obviously influenced by Bergson's elan vital; but he extracted an anti-technological, pro-raw-experience message, that was, perhaps, too extreme to influence the mainstream philosophers of his time. Certainly, one commentator thinks that Klages's attack on 'spirit' as opposing intellect and technique removed any possibility of influencing 'the critique of culture, which could have been considerable in our own period of ecological, "green" and alternative ideas,' a comment which hints at the connection between today's cultural criticism of technology and the neo-conservative one of Weimar Germany, without really explaining why Klages should be seen as irrelevant to it. [21] Klages' criticism is in fact the essence of today's 'green' and ecological cultural criticism, which also attacks what is seen as excessive rationality.

Bergson's life-spirit also inspired Georges Sorel and his conclusions help to show the difference between German and Latin attitudes to the nature-culture issue. He disputed Bergson's contrast between intellect as a means of organising space (defined by Bergson as an essential part of the growth of civilization) and the vital life-force. Sorel saw this as a mere justification for mechanization, for capitalist division of labour and automation. For Sorel, this was out of date: the new capitalism was subject to the worker's will and creative impulse. What man could create was as 'vital' as raw nature. Unlike Bergson, Sorel rejected Darwinian analogies to explain society, because he saw society as a willed creation built on chaotic basic nature. [22] The interests of nature were opposed to man's: holistic theories tried to gloss over this chasm of struggle, to impose a pseudo-rationalism on raw reality:

The creation of an artificial nature, which appears during the feverish era of capitalism, assumes that men have become capable of imposing new directions on the movements of things [passage about hydraulic power & mines] ... Nature does not let itself be reduced to the role of servant of humanity, without protesting ... Nature never ceases working, with a crafty slowness, for the ruination of all our works. We buy the power of commanding in artificial nature by incessant labour; matter imposes its own laws when the mind withdraws. The true doctrine is that which juxtaposes natural nature and artificial nature. [23]

In this odd Marxian-fascist analysis, Sorel juxtaposes and alien nature with man's technological capacities and needs. He recognises a dichotomy between the two, but in the end supports man's dominance.

The permeation of the critique of technological culture in German thought at the time of Weimar is indicated by the attack by Ernst Niekisch - Niekisch was a National Bolshevik, who resisted Hitler. He inspired the Nouvelle Droite today, and went to East Germany after 1945. He wrote in 1931:

Technology is the rape of nature. It brushes nature aside. It amounts to cunningly tricking nature out of the free disposal of one piece of land after another. When technology triumphs, nature is violated and desolated. Technology murders life by striking down, step by step, the limits established by nature. It devours men and all that is human. It is heated with bodies. Blood is its cooling lubricant. Consequently, war in this technological era is a murderous slaughter ... The anti-life demonic quality of technology manifests itself most horribly in total war. In war, technology's productive capacity is so up-to-date that on the hour it is able to annihilate everything organic whatever it may be - suddenly, totally and precisely. [24]

Some neo-conservatives rejected nature as a philosophical guide -- notably Spengler and Moeller van den Bruck. Spengler, indeed, commented to Eduard Spranger, the philosopher and education specialist, who wrote an influential book on the psychology of youth, that only Goethe's concept of the biological, or organic, was valid: that the idea did not mean the mechanistic biology of Darwin and his era, but a 'metaphysic of life'. [25] This was the fundamental difference between the idealistic, pessimistic neoconservatives and those optimistic radicals who went on to accept the Third Reich.

Many of the traditional problems of philosophy ceased to have meaning when man was accepted as part of nature. 'Philosophical anthropology', was the new concept evolved by German philosophers in response to this challenge. Max Scheler was one of the most influential of this school. His posthumously published book of 1928, The Place of Man in the Cosmos, (misleadingly translated as Man's Place in Nature by the 1958 translator, which blurs the important change from Cosmos to Welt in Arnold Gehlen's Der Mensch: seine Natur und seine Stellung in der Welt (Berlin, 1940) deals with the question of what is the essential nature of man, and his relationship to the world around him - perhaps the most pressing philosophical question that exists. [26] Scheler wrestles with the concept that man and nature are one, but emerges with a dualistic theory of man's special nature, one that rescues the religious cosmology while preserving scientific knowledge. For Scheler, man is different precisely because the cosmos has ordered it so. Man's tendency to develop a dualism, of body and soul, results from his capacity to be introspective, to think: he is the meditating animal. He deduced differences from the organic analogies between man and animal; man alone possesses 'spirit', a quality which in Scheler's schema encompasses will, making man 'open to the world', that is, able to reject or alter his surroundings. [27] In this, he was less subject to the world than animals, but more aware.

Arnold Gehlen, whose sociological work was published in wartime under the Nazis, and, as a leading conservative theorist, well into the 1970s, dismissed Scheler's attempt to maintain the existence of and justify 'spirit' as man's distinctive quality, and replaced it with a capacity to create social and familial institutions. He kept the belief in man's uniqueness, and argued that identifying man with animals too closely would blind people to what was distinct in man. He evolved a concept of a functional sociology which he called 'anthrobiology': this would analyse man in the context of his social relationships. Gehlen arrived at the same holistic view of man and human institutions taken by Weimar neo-conservatives, but by a very different path. His rested on an interpretation of nature supported by the most recent experiments in human and animal psychology; theirs rested on an emphasis on the non-animal, spiritually specific culture and will of man which derived directly from the Idealist tradition in German thought, especially the philosophy of history represented by Dilthey. Where animals had instinct, man had traditions. He had, as it were, genes for the ability to create traditions, which replaced genes for instincts. [28]

What, if anything, links the philosophical anthropologists and the ideologues of National Socialism? Certainly, Rosenberg, Goebbels and so on, do not appear to quote the works of Scheler and Gehlen. Indeed, Hitler directly attacked Haeckel's biographer, Bolsche, for writing rubbish designed to appeal to the urban masses. [29] Yet one can certainly elicit an appeal to 'natural laws', to accepting the way the world is, in Nazi writings, a rejection of transcendental doctrines which is quite separate from the Nazi approach to ecological politics. What was the common denominator? What - to return to a major theme in my argument - are the political implications of accepting nature's laws?

German naturist thought, from its inception in the late nineteenth century influenced a generation of well-meaning, earnest reformers. The German naturist thinker was opposed to Conservative thought, and also not utopian. The pacifist note of the meeting at Meissner in 1913, addressed by Klages, symbolised the yearning spirit of the youth movement. The first difference between German and English attitudes to nature and ecological ideas that strikes a student of these matters, is that German writings on nature seem not to have the sensuous element they have in England. The role played by nature in German literature, apart from lyric poetry, is not as great as one might expect. And while German poetry is often based on nature, it tends to have a didactic and teleological quality. The blue flower symbolises the unknowable, which is, finally, death. The bluebird means the unreachable, - perhaps, too, death. The wood, the forest, that potent element in German literature, implies a homeland, but also a way to lose the self. The bluebird, the wood, are symbols. They imply a certain relationship with the self, usually that of loss of selfhood, sometimes explicitly death.

There are significant differences between the English and German visions of what constituted the life of the peasant and yeoman. For example, German Romantic art (and one of its later variants, National Socialist painting) emphasises endurance, not jollity, and doom, not Arcadia, in its landscapes. German peasant painting was didactic and reformist. The sensuous luxuriating in rural beauty which characterises English landscape art is lacking. Why should this be? One, somewhat ethnocentric explanation, would be that the English countryside is more beautiful, although less wild and grand. That aside, however, what particular quality was being sought for in rural life in Germany? What did man's need for nature mean to them? It is hard to identify a specific change in late nineteenth-century German society that was responsible for the Wandervogel movement. Certainly there was no abrupt increase in industrialisation, urbanisation or technology at that time. Nonetheless, the Youth Movement, like German rural art, sought answers. It wanted to be taught.

One of the constant themes in German writings on nature is that it is seen as a pointer or a path. It goes somewhere. Nature is a teacher. Another theme is that there does exist a truthful, real world - identified with nature - which can be seized, grasped and verified, but which is veiled. The image of the veil which I mentioned earlier, first appeared in the nineteenth century. The veil has to be torn aside. This may seem a banal conclusion. Of course there is a real world. Of course one has to look for it. Yet the existence of reachability of an objectively other otherness has by no means always been granted by philosophy or religion. Nor is the symbol of veiled truth obvious in European thought before around 1800 - the date of Schiller's lovely poem. [30]

The concept of veiled nature-truth is not a conservative view of society or politics. In the realm of political ideas I would include as Conservative thinkers a rag-bag from Plato to Michael Oakeshott, who are self-defining, and include Hobbes, Burke, and perhaps some elements of Hegel's thought. Their main characteristic is that of myth-creating. Myths are needed either to convey a non-earthly or spiritual concept, or to maintain social stability and to protect society from excessive and destructive rationalism (constructivist rationalism, as defined by Hayek, and exemplified by Bentham). This is a constant in Conservative thought.

But the German naturist attitude prefers the 'real', the bedrock, objective nature, to any structures and traditions built for human use. This is why naturists are drawn to unconventional and innovative ideas, although they are also looking for guidelines. This leads to a form of centrist, but also radical attitude, that views political and social tradition and big institutions and structures with suspicion. They are seen as fossilised, and obscurantist: institutions, instead of being the guardian of the social memory, obstruct society, rather as Nietzsche saw the study of history as hampering a people's ability to create anew and yet continue their own history.

The cure for an uncultured people? 'Know thyself.' The Greeks were faced for centuries by a danger similar to that which faces us; the danger of being overwhelmed by what was past and foreign, of perishing through history ... But they learned to organise the chaos ... thinking back to their real needs. Each one of us must organise the chaos within him by thinking back to his real needs. [31]

Traditions also veil reality, in a way that blurs comprehension and inhibits progress. The naturist does not live in the past although he rejects the present, and his frequent glances at earlier rural times are to eliminate the misdirecting signposts previous generations obeyed. That is because of the belief that in the past objects were more object-like, more real. The constant search for a bed-rock, true reality is not utopian. As Hannah Arendt writes, 'Conceptually, we may call truth what we cannot change; metaphorically, it is the ground on which we stand and the sky that stretches above us'. [32] The man seeking truth from nature usually comes from a mobile class background: certainly, he is not cushioned from insecurities by status and tradition. Perhaps that is why he searches for 'reality' more obsessedly, and seeks truth as a bulwark, for security. Something must be trusted, be hunted for as reliable. That intangible set of creative values that comprise the intimate, spiritual life of a nation matter more to the naturist than does national power. That is not a conservative position.

The naturist is a natural protestor. There can be no compromise where this objective world is concerned; yet one of its rules is constant change and growth. He is not a determinist, through religion or through genetical inheritance. The human spirit and will is all-important to him. Nature-based thinking tends, too, to optimism. In one sense it is 'forward-looking', partly because it is abjuring the outworn, out-of-date traditions, and partly because of the didactic element. As in von Humboldt's metaphor, nature is the teacher. When one learns from nature, as opposed to learning from one's parents, one learns something new and different. Optimism and novelty appeal to youth, and the generational split in European culture from around 1900 was sharp. With the German Youth Movement, the appeal of nature was bound up with a desire to escape from the old and outworn and look for a new path. The Art Nouveau artist who illustrated the works of the Youth Movement, Fidus, was seen wandering through the bombed ruins of Berlin in 1945, raising his arms, and saying, 'Now we can build afresh.' [33]

The lack of an Arcadian vision in Germany, the dark element in rural appeal, can be illustrated with two quotations here.

From the dark opening of the worn insides of the shoes the toilsome tread of the worker stares forth. In the stiffly rugged heaviness of the shoes there is ... her slow trudge through the ... ever-uniform furrows of the field swept by a raw wind ... In the shoes vibrates the silent call of the earth, its quiet gift of the ripening grain, and its unexplained self-refusal in the fallow desolation of the wintry field ... the trembling before the impending childbed and shivering at the surrounding menace of death. [34]

This is Heidegger meditating on the implications of a small part of a Van Gogh painting and comparing the use-value of the painting of the shoes to the observer and the wearing of the shoes to the wearer. Whoever in England would have written that? We write about the sunflowers instead. Heidegger's late work includes an essay which consists of short nature poems, each one followed on the same page by didactic prose poems. For example,

When the wind, shifting quickly, grumbles in the rafters of the cabin, and the weather threatens to become nasty ...

is followed by:

Three dangers threaten thinking.
The good and thus wholesome danger is the nighness of the singing poet.
The evil and thus keenest danger is thinking itself. It must think against itself, which it can only seldom do.
The bad and thus muddled danger is philosophizing. [35]

The second quotation is Spengler describing the peasant's nature.

All effective history begins with the primary classes, nobility and priesthood, forming themselves and elevating themselves above the peasants as such ... the peasant is historyless. The village stands outside world history, and all evolution ... passes by these little points on the landscape ... never touching their inwardness in the least. The peasant is eternal man, independent of every Culture that ensconces itself in the Cities. He precedes it, he outlives it, a dumb creature propagating himself from generation to generation, limited to soil-bound callings and aptitudes, a mystical soul, a dry, shrewd understanding ... the origin, the ever-flowing source of the blood that makes world history in the cities. [36]

The peasant, this undifferentiated blob, this crab-like plant person, is the foundation, the soil for the mysterious spirit that produces a Culture; but for Spengler, that is his sole important function.

The Wandervogel youth shared their love of the countryside with reformist views on society. The range of views was wide: from a Tolstoyan anarchy to communard Communism. After the First World War it encompassed racialist German settlement communes in the east to revolutionary Bolshevik and National Bolshevik activities. There were new settlements, communes built on youth movement ideology. All wanted their groups to be the seeds of a new world. One Back-to-the-Land prophet called for

A new belief in the greatness of humanity, a new courage to be free, the strength to search for truth ... Not 'back to nature but forward to culture' is inscribed on our banner ... Down with mechanical, dehumanising civilization. By culture we mean that state where man has a tight, personal link, a sensitive perception towards the things with which he is bound. [37]

The search for a bed-rock, objective reality meant a new sensitivity to cultural violation of the tangible. Rilke praised the thingness of things, a quality which materialistic mass production destroyed. Things had to be rooted in real meaning, in their links with the past, with the maker, with the owner. Things only possessed meaning if they emerged from a nexus of meaning.

Even for our grandparents, a house, a well, a familiar tower, their very dress, their cloak, was infinitely more, infinitely more intimate; almost everything a receptacle in which they both found and enlarged a store of humanness ... Now there are intruding, from America, empty, indifferent things, sham things, dummies of life ... A house, etc., as the Americans understand it, has nothing in common with the house into which the hope and thoughtfulness of our forefathers had entered. The animated, experienced things that share our lives are running out, and cannot be replaced. We are perhaps the last to have known such things. [38]

This poignant assertion can perhaps be illustrated by considering the question of real and fake works of art. What Rilke and Heidegger were saying was that, even if a work of art were imitated so well as to be completely identical with the original, it would still not be the original, and that quality that made it objectively not the original was the quality that mattered. Furthermore, thingness affected and was affected by the relationship between the object and the owner, or, in the case of a work of art, between the object and the understanding observer, not to think of the maker. In denying empirical materialism and substituting thingness, or Being, these writers postulated a new dimension, neither mind-mind, or mind-body, or all body, but the cobweb of links existing in a hidden reality, occasionally sun-flecked, as it were, where caught by the light. In Heidegger's extraordinary passage about Van Gogh's portrait about a peasant woman, he defines the relationship between the observer of a work of art and the thingly quality of the painting as one of the qualities that makes a work of art art.

For Heidegger, the quality that goes to make a poem or a painting is its degree of thingness, its substance, its reality, and its truth. We at once see that for the Conservative, this craving for rock bottom, objective truth does not exist. Michael Oakeshott's definition of poetry and other works of art is that they express a myth: and far from being a higher, purer form of truth, they provide a dimension of escape, a golden myth, a transcendental other to comfort and to solace, to help to maintain society. For the pessimistic Conservative, the truth is hardly bearable; for the naturist radical, it is the true end of endeavour. As Rilke, again, writes:

What is your most grievous experience?
If the drink is bitter, become wine ...
And if forgotten by the earthly world,
Say to the still earth that you flow on.
Tell the running water that you be. [39]

Going back to nature in this context is hardly about nature at all. It is about being versus thinking: being inside the egg not outside it. It expresses an ancient dichotomy in Western political life, that between the Grand Inquisitor and Jesus, between Descartes and Spinoza. This is hinted at by one sympathetic and knowledgeable observer of German Conservatism, who objects to a close analogy between conservatism and fascism, although he considers, as I do not, that both share a pessimistic view of human nature. Klemperer argues that 'the conservative's opposition to a one-sidedly optimistic faith in man was connected with his organic view of life ... Man was shaped by his past, and, therefore, subject to tradition. ' [40] At first, this sounds like our hypothetical naturist: but being bound by tradition was precisely the concept that such people opposed.

Utopian and mystical are words often used to define odd and unfamiliar ideas, but if one accepts the definition of utopianism as the attempt to escape from the wheel of fate, naturist reformers cannot be defined as utopians. [41] They do not want to cling to an inevitable and pre-determined fate. They go to nature to learn, and return with the recommendation that one clings to the wheel because it is the most sensible path of action. To do so requires the sweeping away of past identities, past traditions and past errors.

This line of thought fitted the mood of 1920s Germany. German nature-based thinking had a practical, social-problem base that it did not have elsewhere in Europe. 'Blood and Soil', a phrase invented in the early 1920s, was a code word implying the protection of a real personality. It stressed the kinship element, and the peasant's demographic role. City-dwellers did not breed - peasants did. They were the life-blood of the nation in a literal sense as well as its spiritual and cultural basis.

The cultural criticism of this period in Germany has two faces. On the one hand there was the desire to escape from the burden of the past; on the other hand a sense of loss so acute as to induce nihilism. This apparent contradiction stems from the reality of the loss of the past. One could accept and rejoice or one could mourn. The fact of the loss was put into poetic and philosophic form by Rilke and Heidegger. The need to replace what had been lost was emphasised by German conservatives. Sometimes the losses seemed merely the doorway to something dazzlingly new. [42]

Material losses had occurred. A war had been lost, and with it territory, goods, industry and a system of government. But the tangible loss about which we know was not only what was mourned. The poets and philosophers did not discuss these specifics, but instead the spiritual problems of the new era. That technology, for example, had to be discussed and analysed so often gives a clear picture of the impact of change. However, why this impact should have taken place in the 1920s is difficult to understand. There was, after all, technology in the nineteenth century. If anything, the 'heavy metal' artefacts of those days, - railways, lathes and factories - were fiercer and more frightening. By contrast, the technology linked with the 1920s, telephones, radio and aeroplanes, was clean, efficient and usable. The nineteenth century gloried in detail, complexity and effort: its machines are found drawn in detail in encyclopaedias like Durer etchings. The more advanced technology of the 1920s was simpler, and more acceptable. Possibly this made it seem more de-humanised - one can only surmise. The gulf between what observers claim to observe and what is perceived as real is a problem of intellectual history. It is easy to assume that because the issue of technology obsessed German politicians and philosophers in the 1920s, there was some real and quantifiable increase in technology's alien and harsh nature. But it seems rather that 'The defense against the cultural and political effects of modernity on the body politic [was] thus thought to require a homeopathic absorption of the organisational and technological hallmarks of modernity.' [43]

Certainly, this period found Germany suffering a loss of identity. The outburst of creative modernity before 1914 had petered out, countered by a hunt for older values. Despite the superficial success of the Wilhelmine Empire, its unity fragmented after 1918. For the radical intelligentsia, it had never satisfied their yearnings for a fully German identity: the hunt for a definition of what was uniquely their Germany continued. This aspect of the Wilhelmine period still leaves room for research. Attention has focused on Marxist and Social Democratic theorists, while those searching for a German identity tended to be subsumed under the general rubric of proto-Nazi, nationalist, or antisemitic. Although these facets existed, they were not confined to the radical conservative German intelligentsia. [44]

The radical nationalists included those with progressive, social reformist ideas. The warlike Professors, conservative landowners, Catholic reactionaries, and other figures who receive a bad press in most history books, were in a minority. Theosophy became popular: Gerhard Hauptmann wrote 'problem plays' on alcoholism, others on euthanasia. Many of this group of vegetarians, temperance activists, utopian eugenicists and communards, were connected by marriage, others by university education and their joint victimization by Bismarck's anti-Socialist laws. In their search for identity, many looked to India, - after all it was Max Muller, a German, who first developed the science of comparative philology and Indo-European linguistics from studying Sanskrit. India was a place of romance in the German popular imagination, and in poetry. 'Aryanism', and especially the pan- Aryan variant, was to catch on because of this fundamentally sympathetic attitude to North Indian culture, of which Hinduism was seen as a variant. Tagore, the Indian poet and nature-mystic, received a rapturous reception in Berlin in the 1920s, and had a status similar to that of Count Keyserling and Rudolf Steiner. [45] Some of the messianic gurus of the Weimar period dressed up in loose, dhoti-like clothing.

This sense of a lack of cultural identity, of insecurity, can be found in Thomas Mann's works. Mann, the half-Brazilian outsider, aware of the dichotomous impulses in his own character and upbringing, expresses in his novels a disturbing insecurity. His heroes always yearn after the 'other', sometimes transcendental, sometimes not. In The Magic Mountain, the blonde, simple Castorp from the North German plains, yearns for an untrammelled, feckless 'bad Russian' carelessness, in the form of a slanteyed Russian woman. His will has been sabotaged by an early love for an utterly 'other' slant-eyed Russian boy. In other works he portrays the yearning of the complex, dark, earth-bound, introspective, for the blonde, healthy, carefree, callous Northerner. In the 1920s, an age axis enters. A three-year-old girl falls in love with a young man; an ageing musician with a fourteen-year-old boy. A fifty-year-old woman desires a youth in his early twenties: her passion seems to lead to a cancerous tumour. The various longings in Doctor Faustus end in death or suicide. What is yearned for is never achieved, and it is implied that it never can be. The 'other' is a threat because it involves a sense of incompleteness and inadequacy on the part of the lover, and although Mann presents his suffering anti-heroes with irony, there is nevertheless something unsatisfactory in this situation. Before the First World War it could be subsumed in the general ferment of the time.

Men of practical enterprise joined forces with the men of intellectual enterprise ... The Superman was adored, and the Subman was adored: health and the sun was worshipped, and the delicacy of consumptive girls was worshipped; people were enthusiastic hero-worshippers, and enthusiastic adherents of the creed of the Man in the Street; one had faith and was sceptical ... one dreamed of ancient castles and shady avenues, autumnal gardens, glassy ponds, jewels, hashish, disease and demonism, but also of prairies, vast horizons, forges and rolling mills, naked wrestlers, the uprisings of the slaves of toil, man and woman in their primeval garden, and the destruction of society. [46]

In the 1920s, a return to simplicity, to Indian peasant life, to anything, as long it did not breathe the air of past disasters, seemed the answer. And not only the sensitive neo-conservative yearned for nature, and felt a sense of loss. Who is this whom we hear bewailing the loss of his birthright, the forest?

'I, Bertolt Brecht, cast away into the asphalt cities out of the black forests when I was in the womb ...' [47]

Yes, it is none other than the tough apostle of alienation, anti-individualism and Marxist collectivism: prophet of asphaltindividualismus, later known as Bert Brecht, partaking of the Zeitgeist.

'I, Bertolt Brecht, come from the black forests. My mother took me into the towns while I was in her womb. And the chill of the forests will be in me until I die.' [48]
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Re: Ecology in the 20th Century: A History, by Anna Bramwell

Postby admin » Tue Jan 23, 2018 10:20 pm

CHAPTER TEN: The Steiner Connection


How relevant were ecological ideas to the Third Reich? Discussions of theory and practice under the Nazis tend to dissolve into schoolmen-type arguments about ideology and practice. But we all know what we mean by ideology, even though it is difficult to judge precisely how Nazism was perceived at different times by its various supporters. There is a body of speeches, books and pronouncements which, in common sense terms, constitute Nazi ideology. It is not complete. Hitler's speeches have never been collected and published in full, even in their original German. What exists is sometimes fraudulent or of dubious origin. Nonetheless, there is some basis from which to deduce an ideology, a collection of texts, although some are authorised and some are not. Further, there are intellectual forefathers. Traditions can be identified. Historians of ideas would be silenced indeed if, for every allegation that the Third Reich was for example influenced by, or a product of, the French Enlightenment, or perversions therefrom, evidence had to be produced to show that Rosenberg or Hess had studied Diderot, Voltaire or Condorcet. Ideas are held to permeate or saturate other ideas. They are, in the telling phrase, 'in the air'. To measure the influence ideas have on practice is more difficult. Fortunately, though, we do not need to strain at gnats to show that there was a strain of ecological ideas among Nazis: the evidence is ample. It would be better known if it were to be found in the more well-known of the authorised texts referred to above, but it does exist in the ministerial, planning and personal archives of the Third Reich.

The problem arises when one is trying to determine whether a concept or policy existed contemporaneously outside Germany. Equally, a concept may seem specifically German but be not necessarily specifically Nazi. Two cross-axes of comparison have to be brought to bear. This process has been continuing for some years, and is known as the 'historicization' of the Third Reich. National Socialist welfare policies, for example, have been compared to those proposed by Beveridge - a cross-country comparison. Nazi war aims have been found comparable to those of Germany in the First World War - a comparison of a different kind.

A further problem is how peripheral these ideas were to National Socialism. If they were part of a separate current of ideas, then their practitioners would have held ecological beliefs whether or not the Third Reich had come to power; - the argument for continuity in this area of German life, as in other intellectual and academic spheres, is a powerful one. If the ideas were central and not peripheral, then the onus is on students of comparative fascism to explain why similar themes were not embodied in other fascist movements. The following discussion should help to shift the debate from morphological to structural points.

The argument for continuity has to answer the problem that there was top-level Nazi support for ecological ideas - especially if one incorporates the attitude of Hitler and Himmler on vegetarianism and animal rights, issues which are not covered in this book. [1]

A discussion of the element of green and ecological ideas in Nazism is bound to have an explosive effect. There are also possible political consequences for Germany. The Green Party in today's Germany is popular among many disaffected intellectuals, because it appears to be pure and untainted by the past. The Green Party is a potential ally of the SPD, and therefore opposed to the Christian Democrat right. In short, its heart appears to be in the right place, that is, on the left, and it has adopted the 'soft' values of today's far left - feminism, egalitarianism, and antinuclear action. So a link between today's fashionable green ideas and the Nazis can meet with displeasure or even vituperation.

Given that ecological ideas in Germany did not begin with the Nazis, would their proponents have come to power in any case under a non-Nazi government? Would their policies have been made law? Was a radical revolutionary government necessary for the activists to attain office? The answer is probably yes, on the analogy on Roosevelt's New Dealers, where it took a collectivist interventionist government to impose anti-erosion and peasant settlement ideas on an uninterested populace (an area of historical comparison which deserves more attention than it can receive here); but perhaps the ideas would eventually have affected government policy whatever the government. [2] Again, how far was there continuity of ideas and personnel with the past, or should all legislation and activity under the Third Reich be seen as manifestations of Nazism? Another problem is how important the various ecological legislation and activities were in terms of the overall programme. So far, they have been dismissed as trivial and irrelevant. Was this true, or was this dismissal because academics did not want to draw comparisons with today's green ideas? Has there been a paradigm shift? How far did the Nazis implement their ecological policies? These are questions which are not always posed in discussions of ideology and practice, but they are important, and all discussions of this issue (or any other regarding radical politics in power) need to take account of methodological difficulties, which will be borne in mind as the account continues.

There were two levels of ecological support in the Third Reich. The first was at ministerial level, the second was at planning and administrative level, in the new party organs. The two ministers concerned were Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy, and Walther Darre, Peasant Leader and Minister of Agriculture between 1933 and 1942, while Fritz Todt, founder and head of the Todt Organisation, a civil engineer, was also an ecologist. Hess was a follower of Rudolf Steiner and a homeopath. A naturist hospital was named after Hess (although it was renamed after his flight to England in 1941). Hess's office contained several ecologists, including Antony Ludovici, who wrote on the need for carefully planned, 'organic', ecologically sound land use and planning. There were two thousand bio-dynamic farmers registered in the Nazi 'Battle for Production', probably an under-statement of the real figure, in view of the known hostility from Goering, Goebbels and Bormann to bio-dynamic methods. Martin Bormann, who replaced Hess as leader of the Reich Chancellory, was sufficiently alarmed about the number of alternative practitioners close to Hess to circulate a memorandum to all Gauleiters - some days before Hess's flight to England - asking them to ban 'confessional and occult circles'. He drew a contrast between the 'slogans of politicking soothsayers' and 'the solid National Socialist Weltanschauung founded on a scientific knowledge of the laws of race, life and nature'. [3] This attack emphasises the split within National Socialism, between the practical men, and the alternative, individualist rebels against the Weimar structures, whose ability to conform to the strictures and precepts of the Third Reich was tempered by their own strongly held beliefs.

Alwin Seifert, a member of the Todt Organisation, was a motorway architect who specialised in 'embedding motorways organically into the landscape'. [4] He took the then unfashionable ecological position that monoculture damaged disease resistance among plants and animals, as well as diminishing land fertility. The interests of man, even German man, did not come first for him. He also argued against land reclamation and drainage, claiming that Germany's water table depended on her wild countryside. His arguments were sufficiently persuasive to make Hitler order that such programmes of moorland drainage should cease. This caused considerable anger among the Ministry of Agriculture leaders, including Herbert Backe, who had prepared a plan in 1942 to drain and reclaim moorland in Schleswig-Holstein, and Willikens, who in 1937-8, had a similar programme under way in Frisia. Seifert was also a follower of Steiner, and bombarded Walther Darre with Anthroposophical papers and long letters about the need to retain wild plants to form a bank of plant genes and resistance potential. He sent Darre unpublished papers by Steiner, including one on magnetism and its effects on agriculture. One paper by Seifert himself argued that 'classical scientific farming' was a nineteenth-century phenomenon, unsuited to the 'new' era; that imported artificial fertilisers, fodder and insecticides were not only poisonous, but laid an extra burden on agriculture through transport and import costs. It was dangerous to depend on these products in wartime. He called for an agricultural revolution towards 'a more peasant-like, natural, simple' method of farming, 'independent of capital'. Again, typically for the biodynamic reformers, he emphasised the need for a total rethinking of agricultural methods, rather than a simple reversion to the primitive. 'A mere re-building of the old peasant methods cannot help, because the internal connectedness of the old ways has gone. The ground that was healthy then is now sick in many ways. [5] The land-planning department in Hess's office used similar language, which is unsurprising, since it included men of a similar cast of mind and background to Seifert, who was a trained architect; he worked for the Todt Organisation, and Todt found him 'a knowledgeable co-worker'. [6]

Rural land created [erfasst] the landscape as a natural, organic, vital [lebendige] world, ploughed fields, meadows, pastures and woodland. It is the soil as bearer [Trager] of organic nature, the ground which bears the harvest, ... bound to the landscape ... the foundation of the formation of a community ... of neighbourliness. The agricultural community is bound to this land. The land determines labour and economy ... [7]

Thus wrote the Representative for Settlement who was also the land planning officer, as in Hess's office the term included rural and urban building. [8]

Given the split between Hess and the increasingly powerful Bormann, the subject of bio-dynamic agriculture was a sensitive one. One Gauleiter, an ex-Keeper of the Seal for the National Peasant Council, wrote to Herbert Backe in 1940, in guarded terms, about this issue. The letter hints at dissensions.

You are probably aware that after the war Dr Todt [at this date still alive] will have control of all Germany's technology. All the more vital, then, that each Ministry should have people in it who are trusted by him ... There has been a complete revolution in the question of bio-dynamic farming. After [Hess] in very odd circumstances repudiated the results drawn from a study of organically farmed units by Darre's staff, the renewed investigation in 1939 by Darre's staff office has come down quite clearly on the side of bio-dynamic agriculture ... The SS have already installed their own agricultural and market gardening enterprises, and it really looks as though leadership has been transferred to Himmler ... With the recent drought in North Germany, the superiority of organic farming methods as opposed to artificial fertilisers has made itself apparent in no uncertain fashion. [9]

But despite the battle waged at Reich Chancellory level, actual government policy continued to support rural conservation. Nazi Germany was the first country in Europe to form nature reserves. (America had done something similar, on a much larger scale, in the nineteenth century.) It was the first country to insist, in 1934, that new tree plantations should include broad-leaved, deciduous trees, as well as conifers (a decision not yet formalised in law in Britain), while hedge-row and copse protection ordinances were passed in 1940 'to protect the habitat of wild-life'. [10] Anti-vivisection laws were passed. Ninety per cent of all Prussian government- owned land in East Prussia was forest, and some eighty per cent of community and local authority land over the rest of Germany. Despite the general belief that Germany was desperately short of land, land with trees on it was seen as sacrosanct. Not only was it not planned to cut down trees, but landowners offered to exchange their arable land for publicly owned forest, so that they would own trees, and the public authorities could settle peasants on the cultivated land: nobody seemed to think this an odd proposal. When part of Poland was incorporated into Germany as the Warthegau, after 1939, fifteen per cent of the usable arable land was set aside to be afforested. According to one economic historian, two-fifths of German land consisted of forest in the 1930s: while today, it is still one-third.ll According to a 1984 German opinion poll forests were of great concern to seventy four per cent of those questioned, and ninety nine per cent of Germans had heard of the dying trees, threatened by acid rain. 'West Germans show a deep rooted love of forests' was the unfortunate newspaper title. [12] The oak leaf was a symbol of the SS.

Tension between Germany and Italy intensified when Mussolini persisted in cutting down trees in the South Tyrol. German spies in Poland in 1937 saw an outbreak of pine bud mite, which destroyed vast tracts of forest along the German-Polish border, as tantamount to an act of war - the Poles had not only taken their trees, they had neglected and destroyed them.


'A new era is upon us, which will be the era of the Peasant.' [13]

Between the end of the First World War and the Nazi takeover, the idea that the peasantry had a special 'mission' was widespread.  [14] A reaction against the use of artificial fertilisers also occurred. Rudolf Steiner, founder of Anthroposophy, became its leader, before his death in 1925, and inspired the founding of a new school of farming known as 'bio-dynamic agriculture'. In Easter 1924, a meeting of Anthroposophical farmers took place at a Silesian estate owned by Count Keyserling, belle-lettrist, poet and nationalist author of Das Reisetagebuch eines Philosophen. Here Steiner delivered eight lectures calling for self-sufficient farms, which preserved the spirit of the soil and were tilled in accordance with his vision of the life-forces and magnetic influences of the cosmos. Artificial fertilisers were rejected because they were alien to the land, man-made, or at least, man-extracted, and dead. The earth was alive: the soil was like an eye or ear for the earth, it was 'an actual organ'. [15] Humus in the soil had to be built up naturally, through compost made from living matter. Steiner's followers believed that the build-up of chemical fertilisers was harmful to human health, and could eventually destroy human civilization through damaging the human nervous system and brain. Agriculture should be part of a world-earth organic unit; Goethe, who thought nature should be viewed through its inherent morphology - the acorn has to grow into an oak - was seen as a forebear, and Steiner's building was called the Goethenaeum. The symbol for their farm produce, and later title of their journal, was Demeter, goddess of fruitfulness, the corn-harvest, and mother of Persephone. It ran from 1930 to 1940, when Himmler seized all copies, and ordered the SS to destroy them. [16] This journal, in content and format, was very like the later Soil Association magazine, and showed pictures of hedges, copses and well-farmed land. It carried reports of productivity and protein equivalent grown on each acre of the experimental farms. A Society for the Furtherance of Bio-Dynamic Agriculture was formed, and no less a figure than the former German Chancellor, Georg Michaelis, became its leader in 1930.

Throughout the 1930s, Anthroposophist farmers, whose system of bio-dynamic farming was, in practical terms, close to what is today called organic farming, tried to publicise their results and ideas, especially to the Nazi leadership. The most active farmer and propagandist was a Dr Eduard Bartsch, who started an organic farm at Marienh6he, in East Prussia, after hearing Steiner's lectures on bio-dynamic farming. He was chairman of the Union of Anthroposophist farmers, which was banned by the Gestapo in 1935, as tainted with excessive individualism, international Freemasonry, pacifism, and Judaism. The National Union for Biodynamic Agriculture, however, survived, and in 1935 merged with the German Society for Life Reform. It was to reappear as a force in top government circles at a most surprising moment in time, well after the invasion of Poland. The bio-dynamic farmers were, however, harassed, and in some cases arrested, in 1941, after Hess's flight to England. Dr Bartsch was held, as was Dr Hans Merkel, later to be Darre's defence lawyer at Nuremburg. Darre was rumoured to have been briefly arrested, but despite his attempts to protect his Anthroposophical farmers, remained in office. Anyone linked with Hess's ideas, - he was a homeopath and naturist - was suspect. Hermann Goering and Martin Bormann opposed any attempt to move to a system of organic farming, Goering because he feared a drop in German food production, Bormann for ideological reasons. [17]

Hess himself, who was then Hitler's representative, ordered, soon after the Nazi Machtergreifu ng, that there should be no division between concepts of 'organic' land use and planning, and farming. The intensive experimentation in bio-dynamic farming that continued till about 1942 had first Hess's blessing, and later Darre's. [18] In 1937, a meeting took place between Hess, Bormann and Darre to discuss farming, and at this meeting Hess complained that the farming advisory service of the National Food Estate was interfering with bio-dynamic farms. [19] Between 1936 and 1939, experiments were carried out on feeding infants with organically grown food. Official instructions on agricultural practice began to take account of the need to form humus in the soil. The land planning officer under Himmler, Konrad Meyer (sentenced to seven years at Nuremberg), impressed by the results of the experimental feeding programme, called in 1941 for chemical fertilisers to be forbidden. [20] Meyer, though, disliked the Steiner connection, and preferred 'organic farming' to 'biodynamic agriculture'. [21]

But there was conflict within the Ministry of Agriculture itself on the issue of organic farming. Herbert Backe 'hated the mystic twilight', and wanted the agricultural advisory officials to concentrate on orthodox productivity increases. [22] It was Backe who initiated and publicised the 'Battle for Production' in 1934 (the Erzeugungschlacht), a campaign which, despite its militant and grandiose title, included advice on keeping rabbits, hens and geese, and growing fruit trees and fruit bushes. Picture books were produced showing farmer's wives how to do these things. This campaign to use each corner of the farmland and farmyard intensively was successful. Visitors to Germany in these years recall the cabbages planted on roadside verges, while the production figures for rabbit and poultry breeding show substantial growth. The Four-Year Plan, with its etatist, interventionist approach, exacerbated the bias towards scientific farming and mechanisation. In order to induce German farmers to use more chemical fertilisers, there were proposals to lower fertiliser prices by fifty per cent, and increase state credit for mechanising peasant farms: this would release land used for growing fodder for horses. [23]

Backe disagreed with Darre about organic farming: he believed in increasing artificial fertiliser use, though it should be borne in mind that the canons of good farming technique at the time - with which Backe was certainly familiar -- called for a balanced use of different kinds of fertilisers (nitrogen, potash and phosphate), not a crude dosing with nitrogen alone. But in practice, Darre's apparent dottiness on this issue ('Darre muttering about organic farming', groaned Backe) would have helped Germany's war effort. [24] Germany exported most of her nitrogen during the war, and war-time productivity began to drop after 1943. A system of organic farming, if adopted well before the war to allow for the temporary drop in productivity caused by the new techniques, would almost certainly have improved agricultural self-sufficiency.  [25] The gap between technocrats and organicists was forced wide open by the war. 'It is always the same. Backe thinks in terms of paper and facts, he is etatist and statistical, but not bio-dynamic in orientation', noted Darre in 1940. [26]

Darre, Minister of Agriculture between 1933 and 1942, devoted his last two years as Minister, at a time when his effective power was over, and he had nothing more to lose, to conducting a campaign for organic farming in 1940 and 1941, against the wishes of Backe, Heydrich, Bormann and Goering. In May, 1940, he circulated all members of the National Peasant Council, a group which included Gauleiters, Reichsleiter, and ad hoc dignitaries, on the desirability of bio-dynamic farming, which he decided to re-label 'organic farming' (lebensgesetzliche Wirtschaftsweise), to avoid the connection with Steiner.

In 1933, my first task was to secure Germany against a blockade. It had to be as quick as possible; there was no time to worry about the right and wrong method ... I left the question of bio-dynamic farming open, and gave it no publicity. But after the Armistice with France, the danger of Germany's hunger receded, though a continental European blockade was still possible ... On June 18th, I visited ... Marienh6he, and established that is [Steiner's] method is the best. The results speak for themselves. If the scientists and past agricultural teaching cannot explain it, that is their problem. The achievement and the result are ours. I have decided to support bio-dynamic agriculture, without altering my previous course. [27]

This last phrase meant that the Ministry of Agriculture's commitment to the 'Battle for Production' would remain. Darre was, still, at least on paper, a Minister presiding over the fourth largest spending Ministry of the regime, and the care with which he prepared the groundwork for his campaign, - obtaining a broad permission from Goering, who did not realise what was happening - shows his awareness of his weak position.

Darre received comprehensive reports from the Gauleiters of various areas, which showed that many peasants, as well as large farmers, were switching to organic farming techniques. Not all their reports were positive: the. Chief of the Civil Administration in Alsace, Wagner, commented in November 1941, that in Baden there were some seventy to eighty peasant farms, and one of 100 ha, which had gone over to bio-dynamic farming, but that performance had dropped by twenty to twenty-five per cent. He pointed out that productivity appeared to drop substantially on a changeover from inorganic to organic methods. On the other hand, the Gauleiter of Koblenz-Trier, an acquaintance of Alwin Seifert's, was impressed by what he had heard and seen of organic farming. [28] Darre's staff circulated a letter from the chemical giant I.G. Farben, allegedly plotting against organic farmers. The letter disappeared from the files, but was mentioned in a Der Spiegel article on Anthroposophy and the National Socialists. [29]

Although warned by Backe that Hitler had advised against protecting members of the now dissolved Reichsverband fur biologisch- dynamische Wirtschaftsweise, Darre continued his questionnaire campaign until June 1941. He was sure that he had the support of Himmler. Indeed, one third of the top Nazi leadership supported Darre's campaign: one third only declined to lend support because of the link with Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophical ideas, and only one third were hostile. A similar result in other countries seems improbable, especially during war-time, and demonstrates the extent to which interest in organic farming had permeated the Nazi as well as the German establishment.

Himmler established experimental organic farms, including one at Dachau, which grew organic herbs for SS medicines. The head of the SS Race and Settlement Office, Gustav Pancke, visited Polish farms in October and November 1939, two months after the German invasion and conquest of Poland, in search of farms that could be farmed organically, and sent detailed reports to Himmler on each one, its fertility, productivity and potential. Himmler's staff sent him papers on B vitamin shortages as a cause of matriarchal societies, together with more serious scientific studies on the effects of trace mineral deficiency on plant genes. [30] Studies were made on the degenerative effect of artificial fertiliser.  [31] Himmler looked at the efficacy of nature cures for cancer. [32] In 1943, Himmler's staff commissioned a report on the possibility of making protein from cellulose waste products and yeast. [33] A complete list of all homeopathic doctors in Germany, with their political leanings and biographical details, was compiled for Himmler in 1942. [34] On Himmler's insistence, anti-vivisection laws were passed. SS training included a respect for animal life of near Buddhist proportions. Konrad Lorenz, who was originally inspired to study zoology by Bolsche's biography of Ernst Haeckel, was able to continue his scientific research after the Anschluss, while biological research institutes, like the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, attracted overseas scholars, who found the emphasis on a holistic approach sympathetic. [35]

Clearly, there was an element of simple continuity in National Socialist support for ecologically sound land planning and organic farming. As in other areas, such as the teaching of history in universities, discontinuities under the Nazis have been exaggerated. [36] Still, the existence of ecological ideologues among the Nazi leadership does show that National Socialism was perceived at the time as a system which had room for ecological ideas. Certainly, Nazism opposed the liberal belief, entrenched under many political labels, that nature and its laws could be transcended by human society. Like ecologists to-day, the nazis opposed capitalism and the consumer-oriented market mechanism. In theory, if not in practice, they supported critiques of mercantilism, and claimed to serve ideals of long-term responsibility, duty and service for the community.

Nonetheless, ecologists were eventually seen as hostile to Germany's national interests by the technocrats among the leadership, especially Heydrich, who interpreted the search for ecological values as essentially treacherous: part of the pre-Third Reich yearning for a pan-Aryan, non-national identity of a 'soft', oriental kind. He set the Security Service to harass organic farmers, as well as fringe groups such as the nudists. But this was shortly before Hitler's invasion of Russia, at a time of national emergency, and Hess's flight to England was obviously a factor in tainting all such groups with treason in the eyes of the Gestapo. Was this the triumph of one ideology over another? Surely, it should rather be seen as a result, temporary and non-contingent, as it would seem, of the imperatives of war-time.

I described earlier how the agricultural adviser for the British Union of Fascists moved in about 1944 from a polemical and technocratic programme to a strikingly ecological, 'soft' attitude. The same cannot be said of Walther Dam~. His views remained the same mixture of practicality, rejection of Steiner as unproven, and support for small farmers, as before. However, he was enthusiastic over the writings of Lady Eve Balfour, whose book The Living Soil he reviewed in 1953, and the English Soil Association. He attempted to start a similar group for Germany after his release from prison, when his first contact was with a biodynamic farmer, but decided that his connection would lend it a 'Nazi taint'. His protection for Anthroposophists during the war was repaid greatly by their help and support for his family and for him immediately after his release. The utterly unpolitical nature of Steiner's followers, their rejection of organised activity and disdain for external labelling, can be seen by their dedication both in continuing to oppose the Third Reich when it was in power, and - at a small but significant level- in repaying help from one of its leading members when he was sick and powerless.

Anthroposophists were present at a meeting held in England in 1950 to propagate a joint Anglo-German venture for ecological ideals. They included Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, author of a book on biodynamic farming in 1938, inspirer of Lord Lymington. The Catholic Minister for Refugees, Professor Theodore Oberlander, who had visited Russia in 1931 to examine their agriculture, and had been an adviser for the SS and the National Food Estate during the war, was also present. (He was later to resign his office when his war-time position was publicised by the East Germans.) The initiative petered out, but contacts remained. [38]

It was in its 'Back to the Land' programme that the Third Reich achieved its greatest and most puzzling mixture of continuity, similarity with other countries, and drastic differences. It also presents a confused picture of success and failure.

The land settlement programme was essential for Nazi plans to create a rural Germany. It would sweep away the old nobility by enforcing land division. It would install a new peasant nobility. However, between 1933 and 1938 the number of new small farm units created annually declined. The failure to implement the programme has been attributed to Junker power, to re-industrialisation and to rearmament, with its resulting shortage of agricultural labour and land. However, a study of it shows that institutional and financial factors were more important. These problems were embedded in the basic concept of the Back-to-the- Land movement in Germany, and to this extent it was a flawed vision.

The major difference between the Nazi programme and Britain's, for example (as exemplified in Britain's Smallholding Act and later agricultural protection) is the racial emphasis of the former. The racial-cum-tribal element in Britain was hardly ever articulated. But in both countries such an emphasis was redundant. While land was a favoured investment in England and to some extent Germany, in neither country did immigrants wish to settle as agricultural labourers or farmers on small, fixed-tenure, non-alienable holdings. It was the descendants of those who had left the land, decades or generations ago, who wished in England to return.

Some aspects of this agrarian revival are comparable to Eastern Europe, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland; others relate to the post- First World War distaste for the industrialised world seen in Britain at the same time. In the 1920s, land settlement was part of utopian left as well as nationalist right programmes; the German allotment movement acquired a wide following. Planned demographic consolidation of thinly populated farmland had been German policy since Frederick the Great's time; he had imported Dutch and Frisian colonists to settle the Mark of Brandenburg. Loss of agricultural labour, to emigration abroad and to towns, had diminished the tax base of several German states. Fear of Polish migration from the East was another factor in encouraging the promotion of rural settlement. During the 1920s the Polish government established armed 'Poniatowski' villages on its border with Germany, after buying out German farmers (with worthless government scrip). Although Weimar Germany maintained the rhetoric of anti-Polish demographic settlement, they did not have the clout to enforce it. The Third Reich did, but this time the emphasis was on creating a yeoman peasantry all over Germany, not only in the relatively under-populated Eastern areas.

What was distinctly ecological about the planned creation of a new German peasantry was the reasoning behind it. Agrarian radicals saw the American dust-bowl and agricultural depression as the vindication of their dislike of capitalistic agriculture. The creation of a strong, self-reliant class of yeomen peasants was seen as a cure-all for various social, economic and moral evils.

The Weimar Constitution had contained a clause promising smallholdings to all applicants, and during the Depression the rural population had been swelled by returning industrial workers. But while numerically impressive, these holdings were small and under-capitalised. The rhetorical thrust of the radical agrarian Nazis was rather different. They wanted Germany to be part of a Northern Europe peasant international. The unit of settlement was the medium-sized farm of 7 to 125 hectares. Earlier settlements were to be enlarged and improved to conform to this ideal. In order to prevent foreclosures and partition, farms were to be inalienable. Banks could not foreclose upon them, and descent was to the eldest son. Sub-division was forbidden, but younger sons had first call upon new settlements. If farms were not run to the satisfaction of a local committee of agricultural advisers and experts, they could be seized. Finally, farmers had to be of 'German or similar' descent.

This incorporated a large-scale attack on capitalistic economic and property relationships. The belief was that foreign trade and industrialisation had been designed by manipulative capitalists to force the rural population into towns to produce finished industrial goods in order to export them in exchange for raw materials. The system, they believed, had been expressly intended to prevent local autonomy, barter and self-sufficiency. The remedy, they believed, was the ruralisation of Germany. This was not seen as merely a distant utopia. It was thought that the industrial world, whose infrastructural base had substantially diminished during the Depression, was not sustainable.

Apocalyptic conclusions were drawn from the American experience of the period - the dust-bowl, the apparent seizure of an advanced technological society, just as the oil-price increases of the 1970s fed apocalyptic fears of energy starvation. The specific and characteristically National Socialist argument was that second and third generation city dwellers were deemed to have lost their capability to live on the land as German peasants. Once the network of kinship and tradition had been broken it could not be restored simply by moving city-dwellers to the land and telling them they were peasants again. Nazis like Darre stressed the distinction between their vision of a peasant Europe, in which cities would have decayed and disappeared, and the 'urban intellectual homestead romanticism' which by creating suburbia on the land would merely corrupt the countryside. [39] This was an ideological development that had not taken place in England, but which resembles arguments used about peasant life in the Third World today.
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Re: Ecology in the 20th Century: A History, by Anna Bramwell

Postby admin » Tue Jan 23, 2018 10:47 pm

Part 1 of 2


CHAPTER ELEVEN: Greens, Reds and Pagans

But tell me Nymphs, what power divine
Shall henceforth wash the river Rhine?

-- S.T. Coleridge, 'Cologne'

What produced the flowering of the ecological movement? In the early 1970sthe finite resource arguments fused with the biological argument. Today it is often thought that the oil crisis of the early 1970s seemed to prove the economic ecologist argument beyond doubt. The West's dependence on this finite resource seemed very clear when an abrupt rise in price created shortages and economic depression. The long-term implications of a shortage of mineral resources could be impressed clearly on the public mind.

However, the emergence of finite resources as a global issue predated the oil crisis. In 1972 a report was presented to the United Nations World Conference on the Human Environment by Barbara Ward and Rene Dubos. [1] It argued that man had to replace family or national loyalties with a sense of allegiance to the planet. It preached imminent doom through man's technological capacity. The book prophesied that children alive then would see the global crisis take inescapable shape. The Club of Rome was also founded in 1972. It too prophesied imminent global catastrophe, unless resource use was curbed, and resources shared.

The ideal of global planning of resources had emerged well before the Second World War. Later bodies that embodied this ideal, like the United Nations and its subsidiaries, had begun the post-war era full of hope. Yet their scope had grown in almost direct proportion to their increasing powerlessness over Third World countries. Fears of their over-population increased in the 1960s. [2] Theories of increasing immiserisation continued in parallel with increasing population growth and prosperity. The stage was set for academic arguments about inter-generational allocation of resources to affect the public. To do this the media had to present ecological issues seriously. The mass media had not done so before. It was helped to do so now by well-organised, massively-financed conferences, conference reports and press releases from authoritative-sounding bodies. The mixture of vague alarm about forthcoming doom and convincing statistics extrapolated from current experience proved irresistible. Instead of having to deal with isolated or irritable conservative thinkers who puzzlingly bucked the progressive trend, the media now dealt with intellectuals who spoke and understood the jargon of growth, but turned it on its head. Those who absorbed economic ecologism did so because of their values, their love of countryside and animals. They found in economic ecologism a legitimation of these values, which were no longer presented as a selfish, middle-class luxury. Here were scientifically backed and quantified arguments. Instead of feeling guilty for wanting to preserve nature, that desire was a means to save the world from catastrophe. The oil crisis of 1973-4 seemed a rapid vindication of economic ecologism. The fusion of green values with resource fears had taken place.

It was also necessary that the ecological movement be freed of the elements that had been mocked or feared previously. [3] Up to the end of the 1960s the link between far right groups and alternative, organic movements was stressed by those interested in the characteristics and psychology of extremism. In Europe and in North America during the 1960s, the major political parties were committed to growth, size and efficiency. Labour and Conservative parties vied to capture this ground. To make ecologism acceptable to the media and the intelligentsia of the time, it had to lose its middle-class values-oriented image, and, in Britain, drop any vestige of English cultural nationalism. It had to become universalist. It had to move into acceptable patterns of political discourse, and, ironically, could only do so by becoming left-radical. Some existing forms of alternative politics could be absorbed. Celtic nationalism, feminist exclusivism and anti-paternalism fitted the pattern of opposition to what was presented as the Western values of paternalism, greed and exploitation. The process of matching radical politics to the new ecologism differed in different countries.

The German connection with ecology was partly through the holistic and organic tradition of German medicine and biology and partly through bio-dynamic agriculture. It encompassed a current of agrarian ruralism shared spiritually with England, and finally the philosophical and cultural yearning for Greek or Buddhist oneness with nature.

In pursuing the genesis of post-war ecologism, the German influence re-emerges in the shape of anti-Nazi emigres. Fritz Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful, arrived in England in 1939, and worked as an agricultural labourer for some time during the war, before being whisked to high office as an economist for the nationalised coal industry after the war. Schumacher was, of course, opposed to Nazism. However, he came with a full complement of the German intellectual luggage of his time. He became chairman of the Soil Association in 1971, and the Schumacher Society Lectures, which have publicised a range of alternative ideas, were established in his memory. [4]

In post-war England, reconstruction was based on the welfarestate plans of utopian socialists. The rhetoric of a New Jerusalem suggested Blake, Ruskin and the early Morris. It implied a return to rural life and pre-industrial values. However, the rhetoric was appropriated and enunciated by left-wing intellectuals such as Harold Laski and E.H. Carr, in whom the 'Little England' cultural patrotism and nationalist idealism of the earlier Labour Party were absent.

The new town planners despised rather than admired Gothic architecture and thatched cottages. The new towns built after the Second World War showed no trace of Ruskin's influence. The small-scale rustic charm of Bournville and Letchworth was absent in Stevenage, Basildon and Bletchley. There was a real hatred of everything Victorian. The honesty of concrete replaced the honesty of stone and timber. The plans for a new world expressed only the ugly side of the collectivist, socialist tradition, a side that was to culminate in the wholesale destruction of British towns and cities in the 1960s. The vision of Ruskin and Morris had little to do with the socialism of Balogh and Kaldor, with the five-year plans proposed in Picture Post.

In presenting the sun-lit Britain of the future ... an aerial view of an existing town with its streets of little terrace houses on one page faced on the next an architect's vision of tomorrow's city of glass and concrete geometrically laid out in wide grassy spaces. [5]

The search for English values, for English spirit and nature-tradition which had dominated conservationist sentiment in the 1930s and early 1940s was moribund. For many involved and influential people the desire to find and preserve rural values and roots was tainted by the image of the Third Reich. Public expression of this urge was killed stone dead by the revelations about Nazi atrocities appearing almost daily. For the home-grown English folk movement, as for the school of 'organic' biologists in Chicago, it was fatal. The foundation of specifically English patriotism that underlay the conservationist movement was cut away. From 1944-5 on many of its adherents moved away entirely from politics or ideas of political action. [6]

In spite of the reliance on scientists and their wisdom which characterised the post-war world, some conservationist initiatives emerged. In 1949 the ature Conservancy Council was established. Its brief included the creation and management of nature reserves and ecological research. One of its founders, Professor Charles Elton, had written standard university works on animal ecology. He extrapolated from animals to man in his interest in preserving a stable and balanced environment. [7] But during the 1950s, after over ten years of rationing, shortages and general if low-grade privation, few in Britain were interested in preservation. The Nature Conservancy Council experienced an important internal revolution in the late 1960s, designed to change it, according to the radicals, from a powerless, underfunded group of elderly conservationists to a politicised, dynamic pressure group, worried about mounting threats to the biosphere.

The Nature Conservancy Council was a statutory agency developed with pressure from the Royal Society for Nature Conservation.  [8] With less land in the hands of large estates and more run by practising farmers, the structure of agricultural marketing and land use was possibly more relevant to the preservation of the countryside. In this sector, pre-war price maintenance and marketing boards survived. A policy of protecting marginal hill farms was pursued, while a system of price subsidy helped British farmers and kept food prices low. Smallholding legislation was kept on the statute books, and the small number created were successful, although their envisaged purpose of providing a stepping-stone from small to large farms failed.

However, government quangos of all kinds were powerless to halt the infrastructural development of the 1950s. Where they had power, competing lobbyists and pressure groups rendered them inoperative, as their role could only be virtually to sabotage the efforts of governments devoted to growth, size and social reform of various kinds.

Media (if not public) imagination was caught more by the intermediate technology initiatives of Schumacher and John Papworth, adviser to Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia after independence, pacifist, and editor of Resurgence, an anarchist and pacifist journal in the 1960s. [9] The Intermediate Technology (IT) movement opposed much of the big-is-beautiful ethic of its time. It was an ethic that assumed, in a crude extrapolation from Marxist ideology, that large firms must crush small firms; that the independent small business, like the individual, was finished. Intermediate Technology was directed at the Third World, and argued that development projects geared to heavy industry, advanced technology and the 'big' were unsuitable to the social infrastructure of undeveloped countries (as they were then known). Schumacher's group wanted well made fishing nets instead of factory fishing ships; wells and pumps instead of dams and hydroelectricity plants. It implied, too, that the West was guilty in forcing its high-technology projects on to poor countries, and that the cultural destruction involved was too high a price to pay for a progress that was in any case largely illusory. IT was not just a criticism of unsuitable aid projects but a criticism of the technology and ethic that had created them Not only was the West guilty of creating poverty through colonialism, it compounded the guilt through destroying the habits and milieu of simple peasants. That such destructive effects should be envisaged through exporting Western culture implied a loss of faith in it. One reason for doubt was that after the Second World War, expensive technology was identified with the USA. It was therefore seen as alien to Europe. Thus the entire anti-American lobby was available for mobilization on this issue.

But if washing machines and cars were deleterious to Africans, were they suitable for Surbiton? As the standard of living rose in Britain and America, the problem of the positional good arose, too. By this was meant the conundrum that some goods could only be enjoyed if they were confined to a few; cars and motor travel were the classic example. Some libertarian writers attributed aristocratic malice to the socialist anti-technology movement. It was alleged to want a world of impoverished serfs in which only th educated planner-king enjoys port and motor-rides to the rural heartlands. However, anyone who lived through the cultural decline of the 1950s and 1960s can very well understand why it should have found opposition. The conceptual problem lay in trying to stem technological advance at anyone time. Small computers are as beautiful as small wells.


Disparate alternative groups were shattered by the war until the 1960s; pacifism, conscientious objection and conservationism had emerged as the most unpopular pressure groups. But the period 1944-5 saw the founding of an important single-issue group which kept ecological issues alive during the 1950s and 1960s. Lady Eve Balfour, niece of Arthur Balfour, started the Haughley experimental farms in 1939 to test the claims that organic matter incorporated into the soil produced better results, and inorganic fertilisers, pesticides and weed-killers worse results. The farms were brought into existence by a sympathetic woman landowner, who donated two farms at Haughley for this purpose. Followers of Rudolf Steiner gradually increased in number, and formed a powerful network of alternative sympathisers, some of whom were involved in the Soil Association.

The importance of the Soil Association is that it brought together at the end of Second World War the various groups and people worried about soil erosion, soil fertility, pollution and chemicals-based agriculture. They described themselves as ecologists. The Soil Association is still in existence. Together with various research groups such as the Henry Doubleday Association, it concentrated on research into the effects of chemical pollutants, advice to members, the circulation of books and pamphlets and locally based groups. Organic farmers could be put in touch with each other through the Association. Many family farms which had always farmed according to older ways were helped to survive by SA advertising and publicity for their products.

This group, the first effectively organised ecological pressure group in the United Kingdom, had its genesis among the pre-war ecologists described earlier. In 1938, the Earl of Portsmouth held a conference at his house to plan organic experiments. From this emerged the Kinship in Husbandry circle run by Rolf Gardiner. Several of the landowners present did establish organic methods on their own estates. Lord Northbourne, Sir Albert Howard, George Stapleton (as early as 1935) and Lord Lymington had all written books before 1940 which opposed mechanisation and chemicals in farming, wanted Britain to be self-sufficient in agriculture, and spoke of ecological dangers. In 1944 a book appeared which brought together the ecological sympathisers. Lady Eve Balfour described in The Living Soil the web of energy use and fertility creation, from sun to soil, to micro-organisms and worms, to plant and animal life, finally to man. Her picture of the ecological food chain conformed to extant 'normal' biological descriptions, but had a persuasive moral force. She used the work of Howard in India to urge the virtues of compost heaps and organically- grown food. Monoculture was attacked. The Haughley farms were designed to complement the Rothamstead experimental soil plots, which had experimented with the effects of chemical fertiliser and organic manures since the early 1800s. The Haughley group criticised Rothamstead for errors of methodology; the plots were too small and new seed was used each year, variables which they claimed affected the experiments. The Haughley farms followed the German Anthroposophical farms of the 1930s in their composition and experimental method, although the bio-dynamic element in organic farming was generally played down. However, the ecological vision was the same; Alwin Seifert's bio-dynamic paper and appeals to the German Ministry of Agriculture in 1936 stressed the same belief in mulching, non-ploughing farming methods, the same opposition to single crops and weed eradication. The existence of this group, and especially the arguments in Lady Eve Balfour's book of 1944, emphasise the long tradition of ecological awareness.

In June 1945 the Soil Association was formally created. Lord Teviot was the first president. Jorian Jenks, formerly agricultural adviser to Mosley, was editorial secretary of the Soil Association journal, Mother Earth, until 1963. During this period he published several ecological books, including We are What We Eat, an influential study of the effect of pesticides and additives on man. Rolf Gardiner and Lord Lymington were on the Council, together with Laurence Easterbrook, ex-agricultural correspondent of the News Chronicle, who edited Feeding the Fifty Million in 1955. Jenks advised Easterbrook about the practicality of its recommendations, which included measures to help the rural population with electrification and cheap energy methane gas plants. [10] A prominent supporter of Anthroposophy, Maye Bruce, was also on the Council, and her influence appeared from time to time in the journal with articles on vegetarian compost made with yarrow flowers gathered in moonlight.

The members of the Soil Association were described in interviews in 1970-71 as criticising orthodox science, as looking for a creed of 'wholeness'. Members referred to vitalist Hans Driesch and Bergson, the existentialist philosopher, one member indeed describing the Soil Association's philosophy as 'neo-vitalist'. [11]

Towards the end of the 1960s the Soil Association leadership shifted emphasis. Barry Commoner, the American environmentalist who saw multi-national corporations as responsible for forcing unwanted and unnecessary technology down people's throats, became Vice-President. Commoner took the left-wing side in the debate about scarce resources which developed in the 1960s. Garrett Hardin, a right-libertarian ecologist, wrote in an influential article that without property rights resources, especially land, would not be used economically and with care for its future. [12] Population pressure was cited at this time as a cause of imminent over-population and famine. Anti-capitalist ecologists argued rather that distribution was at fault, and Commoner was at the forefront of the drive to take control of technology and production from 'big business'. Michael Allaby edited the journal, renamed in 1968 Journal of the Soil Association, from 1971 to 1973-4. He developed a left-ecologist viewpoint. He was to become involved in Edward Goldsmith's Ecologist, and in 1981 was coauthor of The Politics of Self-Sufficiency.

With Schumacher's appointment a key change of attitude had taken place among the conservative conservationists. Practical agrarian reform and organic farming was soon replaced as a political aim by the egalitarian socio-economic re-structuring we associate today with ecologists. The Soil Association now published a handful of articles admiring Mao's communes, and suggesting that plots of land a few acres in size be distributed among the population. The self-sufficiency books of John Seymour, who described how to run a small-holding, were attacked by radical reformers who thought that small-holdings of 60 acres should be parcelled out among ten families. [13] Under the later guidance of Secretary David Strickland the Soil Association reverted to its original preoccupation, organic farming. The gap between farming organically and growing small vegetable plots and gardens was, however, hard to bridge, and dislike of 'muck and mystery' persisted among farmers and Ministry of Agriculture officials. But with persistence and amid growing publicity about the harm of pesticide residues and food additives, the health food movement began to expand towards the end of the 1970s.

A smaller version of the Soil Association existed in France. Its journal, Nature et progres was like a carbon copy of Mother Earth and both resembled the German Demeter, which had begun again in the 1950s. The French version was completely independent, but used the same bio-dynamic works of Pfeiffer and others as inspiration. In Germany 'Demeter' became the name of a health food chain and organic movement in general, and branches were opened overseas. Demeter remained an Anthroposophical group, although it did not attempt to recruit for the movement as such.

The intellectual core of the British ecological movement during the 1960s and 1970s was with the Ecologist, a journal edited and financed by the brother of Sir James Goldsmith, the multimillionaire businessman. The most cogent arguments for ecological problems and policies, drawn from writers familiar with philosophical traditions as well as scientific data, appeared in his journal. The American influence on the treatment of the subject in the British media has led to an undervaluation of Edward Goldsmith's work, but his Blueprint for Survival, with its draconian policies for cutting population numbers, does face up to the problems inherent in cutting down on resource use and mechanised food production.


The relationship between the health food movement in German and the green movement is more complex. The green protest movement emerged from the organised left-wing student protest movement of 1968. Anthroposophists were a particular target of the protesters in German universities, and bitter attacks were launched on them for their alleged authoritarian tendencies and 'social fascist' beliefs. [14] What was anarcho-communism in the Berkeley of 1968 split between organised terrorism (Hitler's Children, as one author called them) and alternative groups, Marcuse's Children, perhaps. [15] During the 1970s, anti-nuclear movements, anti-American groups, the feminist movement, all the so-called 'citizen's initiatives', had no clear focus, but mobilised between them a large number of middle class supporters. Opposed to authority and what were seen as patriarchal, middleclass values, many of the protesters moved into communes. By independent routes, they came to the same concern for environmental values as their grandparents. The rhetoric of environmentalism carried uncomfortable overtones for the German conservative. Calls for the German soul, for re-unification of East and West Germany, for neutralism, for a 'Third Way', were too similar to the 1920s for comfort. Where had late capitalist society gone wrong, to be so criticised? The theory of marginality was produced. The functional logic of late capitalist society, argued academics, alienated certain marginal groups; the physically handicapped, the mentally handicapped, the unemployed and - the ecologists. [16] However, far from being a marginal part of German society, the new ecologists represented its most secure and comfortable section, the middle-class Beamten; the schoolteachers and civil servants who made up the majority of the alternative supporters.

Indeed, straight ecological issues re-emerged in mid-1970s Germany as a conservative cause. It was Herbert Gruhl, member of the Christian Democratic group, whose The Plundering of a Planet became a bestseller in 1975. Gruhl, who had been involved in the Club of Rome's 1972 The Limits to Growth, was pessimistic about growth and economic competition. Capitalism and Communism were fighting to plunder and destroy the eco-system. In becoming anti-earth they had become anti-human. In 1976, opinion polls in Germany among the young showed that technology was seen as a boon by fifty per cent. By 1981, it was thus seen by only by thirty per cent. [17]

In 1977, anti-nuclear 'citizen's initiative' groups moved from mass demonstrations and other pressure group activity in the early 1970s to Land (state) candidatures. The first 'Green List' party was in Lower Saxony, with a strong environmental protection slant. A year later, the resignation of the leader expressed the shift to a more concentrated anti-nuclear platform. In 1978 Hamburg saw a convention of various alternative list groups. This convention was named the Rainbow group, because all the alternative groups had their own colours; purple for the women's movement, black for the anarchists and so on. The German Communist Party attended the convention. One of their publications in October 1978 even claimed that the alternative list had been 'subsumed by the CP'. [18] The Maoists of Hamburg were also represented in the alternative list, and are unlikely to have remained in a group controlled by the Communist Party. Their joint inclusion, however, is of some significance.

The name 'Green' struck a chord in Britain, but the instinctive sympathy felt towards them rested in part on a cultural confusion. 'Green' in English carries a connotation of old rural myth. The Green Man was the god of the woods. 'Green' is linked with late spring. It is the colour of English meadows, the prevailing colour of the countryside. In Germany the word was more of a convenient label, an equivalent to the purple, the black and the red. Since a colour had to be found, 'Green' was used. If anything, it carried an ironic tinge of rural idiocy. Green Henry, a German-language folk hero, was an innocent fool, a saintly rural simpleton.

The Rainbow List received three and-a-half per cent of the Hamburg vote and the Green List, still conservative-oriented, only 1 per cent. The Berlin alternative list was Maoist-dominated in 1978, but later attracted Socialist Bureau members. The Schleswig-Holstein Green List had a more agrarian flavour, one missing from other Green groups, then and now; it was led by a practising farmer, who wanted to ban fascist and communist members.

In June 1979 the Greens became a Party. The Green Party first fought the European Parliamentary election in 1979, and then the German federal elections in 1980. Their delegates came from anthroposophical groups in Baden, Gruhl's Green Future Action, the Green Alternative List and the Action Association. Herbert Gruhl, Rudolf Bahro and Otto Schily were the best-known members. It thus included a wide cross-section of political views.

However, the conservative element soon left, while the Greens found that they had attracted unexpected support from the far Right. Anti-capitalist German nationalists formed themselves into a Green cell in Berlin. When uncovered, they were expelled, but the fact that they could present themselves as Green without causing comment is of itself significant. One Green representative resigned after a row erupted over his past as an SS man in the 1930s. The clash between the fundamentalist ideals of the Greens and the democracy of Parliamentary processes put their potential co-operation in some doubt, while the refusal of the Green leadership to disavow militancy led to some commentators in the early 1980s seeing them as dangerous revolutionaries. In their early days in Parliament organised heckling and self-conscious ridiculing of governmental methods were common with Green representatives and their followers. They have on the whole, however, adopted the non-violent mass protest tactics of the CND, not the violent student protests of 1968.

In the non-party political sphere, Left and Right meet on the issue of ecological values. Yet to determine these values remains difficult. Green policies focus on the issue of nuclear power and nuclear bombs. There is concern about acid rain and the Black Forest. But calls for one car-free day a week, and for no more motorway building are far from the radical socio-economic proposals of ecologists elsewhere. Instead, the left-oriented Greens call for participatory democracy, egalitarianism within the movement, women's rights and an end to unemployment. Green representatives display impressive debating skills when dealing with the kind of politician who will explain to them that they represent marginalism in late capitalist society. But they seem less impressive at producing proposals for general environmental improvement. What ideas about, for example, the need for a Social Wage do demonstrate is the Greens' inheritance of egalitarian left-wing energy economics. Popper-Lynkeus was cited by the speaker for the Greens in the Baden-Wurttemberg Parliament in 1986 as the progenitor of this idea (although, as Milton Friedman was also called in to add credit to green economics, some doubt remains about the validity of this claim). [19]

In short, the German Greens do not seem very green at all compared to single issue ecological groups; and the most green element in them, Gruhl's conservationist movement, split off in 1981. Given the evidence of opinion polls on green issues, especially the German forest it is surprising that the Red-Greens and Green-Reds have come to dominate their party. [20] Much of the remaining left-wing ideology was made acceptable through charismatic leaders like Petra Kelly, and the religious poetics of Rudolf Bahro.

Kelly is one of the best known Green leaders, together with the Party's fundamentalist ideologue, Rudolf Bahro, who resigned in 1984. Bahro was a dissident in East Germany, where he was imprisoned for some years. His book The Alternative in Eastern Europe was a best-seller in the West. His works are sometimes almost incomprehensible, with their Marxist terminology forced to accept non-Marxist meanings, and sometimes full of the declamatory rhetoric which characterises the German radical. Bahro was one of the first Greens to realise that party-political participation would render Green ideology impure through compromise with 'the system'.

Kelly is an attractively sincere orator, who was brought up and educated mostly in America. Despite an American political style of lobbying and campaigning, and an American set of political left-liberal values, she has, paradoxically, captured the anti-Americanism of German youth. Her political position is presented with a simple emotion rather than argument. She is not an intellectual, and lacks any compensating component of common sense or analytical ability. Her account of the sufferings of female secretaries in the EEC (they have to commute, sit still all day, type letters), who notoriously earn a great deal for doing very little, is an example of the crude feminism of her arguments, as is her claim that the thalidomide tragedy 'shows how lethal the policies of male researchers and male politicians have been'. [21] But her speeches brought together the general feeling that something was wrong, without alienating the general public through specific proposals. Her political naivety and freshness, too, helped the Greens avoid being seen as a sinisterly committed radical left group.

The well-known 'rotation' rule of the Greens provides another clue as to their increasing popularity. There is little doubt that cynicism about party politics exists. The spectacle of Green representatives actually giving up position so that their comrades can have their turn impresses, even if it meant classing Petra Kelly as an honorary man to let other women have their turn.

The chief representatives of the realist wing are Joschka Fischer, who by 1987 was Minister of the Environment in Hesse, and Otto Schily, representative in the German Federal Parliament. Schily's parents belonged to the upper echelons of German industrial society and his father is said to be an Anthroposophist. They were educated at a Rudolf Steiner 'Waldorf School'. (Schily's brother recently founded one of West Germany's few private universities.) Schily was a left-wing lawyer who appeared on behalf of German terroris ts in trials during the 1970s. [22]

The disaster at Chernobyl in 1986led many observers to expect a rush of support for the Greens. The Greens took advantage of this fulfilment of one of their main prophecies to launch a full economic party-programme, and decide against coalition with the S.P.D. The programme called for full employment and nationalisation of the steel industry, neither policy remotely green. However, in the Land elections of the summer of 1986 they did less well than expected. The January elections of 1987 produced a vote averaging eight per cent, better than before but less high than had been hoped. In Hesse, May 1987, it was 9.4 per cent.

Currently, the Greens have successfully overcome the first hurdle of radical parties, multiple fission. Their coalition contains the Red-Greens, the Green-Reds, the eco-libertarian wing represented by Hasenclaver, the eco-socialists like Schily, fundamentalists, realists and Buddhist revivalists. What is more of a problem is that the major German parties have stolen many of their green clothes, and now talk about qualitative not quantitative growth, and the need to curb pollution. A change of atmosphere and piecemeal reform are not enough for the alternative movement, who demand job quotas for women and an end to American bases in Europe.

Another problem is that the split between Green factions represents a deeper clash of attitudes than can easily be contained by one party. For example, there is an element of folk-nationalism in the Greens, focused on the old peasant ideal. Antje Vollmer, one of the Frauenliste representatives, supports a policy of agricultural subvention, and her department was responsible for a poster showing what another Green critic described as an 'idealised peasant, a phallic German acorn and the obligatory sunflower.'  [23] Her critic here, Jo Muller, was a representative of urban Green socialism, while Vollmer has called on Gruhl, the conservative ecologist, to rejoin the Greens. Vollmer also suggested that subsidies currently paid to the deep-sea fishermen of Bremen should be paid instead to farmers, on the grounds that the personnel manning the fishing-boats were not German. [24] Clearly a potential rift exists in policy between those who want the egalitarian sharing of scarce resources, on an international basis, using the tools, techniques and rhetoric of traditional economic socialism; and those who, in accordance with what is for many the green image, seek a local, ethnic or tribal autarkic protectionism.

It is perhaps a fear, indeed a terror, of this potential return to small-scale European nationalism that has caused the Greens to be attacked as potential terrorists and anti-semites from time to time, since such a system tends towards exclusivity. One such attack was from Israel's ambassador to Bonn in 1984, after Greens planned to meet the PLO. [25] A Freudian psychiatrist, Jannine Chasseguet-Smirgel, accused the Greens of wanting to write out of history the Nazi murders of the Jews; and claimed that Green interest in air pollution was a sub-conscious reference to the gassing of the Jews, and that they claimed that Germans were in danger of suffocation through air pollution in order to hide their feelings of guilt at having (via their parents and grandparents at least) gassed the Jews. [26] Whatever one may think of the idea that sub-conscious guilt feelings can be passed down through the generations - via the blood, the genes or the collective subconscious is not explained - it is plain that by some Greens are seen as in danger of breaching one of the main conventions of Western democracy since the war, the centrality of the Jewish experience under the Nazis. This is not because there is actual anti-semitism among the Greens, or support for Nazi crimes such as Auschwitz, but because they implicitly turn their backs on so many of the old Enlightenment ideas: progress, emancipation, growth and utilitarianism.

Yet in some ways the German Greens do correspond to the model of the traditional urban radical. When the Greens first breached the five per cent barrier and qualified for public funding, they immediately donated much of the money to typically leftwing causes and groups. The anti-nuclear groups, Third World lobbyists and immigrant workers all received funds. This was not obviously in accordance with ecological policies. Had the money gone towards tree-planting or river cleaning the ecological stance would have been more convincing. And after all, Green power does not depend on the support of marginalised groups such as foreign workers, who do not have a vote in Germany, or the disabled, who are not politically mobilised. Their attempt to create a new socialist order based on compassion for these groups is therefore not essential for their power base. Their leftward emphasis may be linked with the influence on the socialist Greens of the economists and philosophers emerging from the failed (and polluting) socialisms of the Eastern bloc. That third way so much sought after this century is put forward not only by disenchanted ex-Marxists like Bahro, but also by men like Ota Sik, the 'reform communist' who tried to give Czech socialism a human face. [27] Realos, apparently moderates in their support of parliamentary proceedings, include originally far-left figures like Frankfurt communard, Danny Cohn-Bendit, ex-student leader in the violent protest movement of 1968, and Otto Schily. But the call for a third way is also seen as a means of avoiding the past.

The most telling criticism of the Red-Green path is the defection of Bahro, the movement's philosopher. Bahro, unlike many Greens, has been searching for a broad green tradition. He quotes Thoreau, Robert Graves and Lao Tse, as well as Rilke, H6lderlin and Thomas Munzer, leader of the sixteenth-century peasants revolt. Through writing and lectures, his influence, unlike other German Greens, is powerful outside Germany, and especially in America. [28]
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Re: Ecology in the 20th Century: A History, by Anna Bramwell

Postby admin » Tue Jan 23, 2018 10:47 pm

Part 2 of 2


After the failure of the student movement of 1968, some Berkeley activists found a new cause. Marxist criticisms of alienation and reification combined with a Reichian critique of hard, paternalist insensitivity. Rachel Carson's 1966 Silent Spring had demonstrated the existence of an astonishing degree of pollution of North America's vast and fertile sub-continent. The young radicals now claimed that it was multi-national capitalism that was responsible for pollution. It was the positive value behind this socialist criticism that provided a non-party, catch-all popularity among America's affluent middle-class. At last radical socialism could combine with aesthetic values. The urban proletariat was no longer God; it would, indeed, be abolished altogether. Political action in the form of campaigning against ecological damage could now morally be carried out from a comfortable suburb. The 'pink-diaper babies' found Marcuse more spiritually appealing than Marx. While reputable scientists like the Ehrlichs and Barry Commoner drew attention to pollution that was real enough (however unreal and indeed disproven their prophecies of disaster), anarcho-communist Murray Bookchin, his books circulated by the Schumacher Book Centre, wrote of a utopian communard future in which scarcity would disappear, when man returned to living close to the land.

Since 1970, and Charles Reich's The Greening of America, which foretold a return to rurality which has not occurred, the American ecological movement has gone through many stages, in a weirdly speeded-up version of the slow growth and development of ecologism elsewhere. The American feminists took up ecology. It fitted their belief that there had once been a matriarchal paradise, which nurtured the earth and encouraged universal harmony. Technophobe ecologists, who praised the most marginal Third World tribes, but could not manage on their communes without washing machines and videos, clashed with technophiles, who saw solar power and computers as energy efficient. 'Deep ecology', a non-party political search for Buddhist-type harmony soon had its violent splinter movement, the eco-teurs, who specialised in sabotaging industrial plants. [29] With technocratic gusto, plans for 'bio-regions' were drawn up by men who had never heard of Lewis Mumford. These regions would be self-sufficient areas which provided their own water and fuels, converted their sewage and garbage to usable fertiliser and heating, and grew their own crops. Gardens in towns would grow vegetables and fruit trees.

One of the important aspects of the bio-region plan is that nation-state and other boundaries would be superseded by geopolitical ones. Who is to plan these new areas, how large they are to be, and who is to police the boundaries to make sure that no apples are transported beyond them is neither disclosed nor costed. So far, these plans have not been quantified in terms of population-carrying capacity. Certainly, there seems no reason why ecologists should not establish such areas in the fertile parts of America or Africa, just as ecological and anthroposophist merchant banks have been established in Europe, and barter areas set up in an island off Vancouver. However, for some reason Greens appear bad at self-sufficiency. Some alternative communes are unable to support themselves on three hundred acres of land, although Cobbett's smallholders could do it on five. Ecologists seem to need more of earth's resources than other people. One reason may be the participatory democracy, because attending meetings every evening is time-consuming. [30]

The various Ecotopias (and the Blueprint for Survival drawn up by Goldsmith in England) do assume that the limit for population has been reached. Many ecologists argue that to be viably self-sufficient, countries like England are over-populated. The ideal population for North America has not been stated, but the ecotopias presume a low-density population, something that seems to beg the question, for if industry, towns and mechanised farming can support a larger population than low-density housing and peasant farming, what then becomes of the argument that they are a means of exploiting and worsening the environment of the masses? [31]

American ecologists seem to have come to the movement afresh. More than in Europe they have ignored their ancestors. In a continent and a culture frequently renewed by migration it is understandable that little memory of the past should linger, more surprising that the ideas of geographers and economists should have been virtually lost to the academic community. Not only have they lost sight of their own nineteenth-century forebears, not to think of other countries', but they forget their own prophecies. The apocalyptic visions of twenty years ago (hundreds of millions dead of famine, infertile soil, climatic disaster) have not come true. That is not to say, of course, that they never will. [32] In any case, purified by their rebirth from the Atlantic, ecological lobbies have returned to influenced Europe since 1970.


Concern about the land in Europe today takes many forms. A rebirth of the agrarian ruralism of the inter-war period appeared in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and East Germany. The East German Communist Party recently reversed its policy of extreme agricultural monoculture and specialization, and began to appeal to the 'peasant ethic'. The inauguration of the Bauernkongress in 1970 was itself significant, as between 1945 and 1970 the peasant was suposed to behave like an industrial worker. The East German Minister for Agriculture now called for 'pride' in the peasant's occupation.  [33] The Soviet Union has held off firmly - even under Gorbachov - from pandering to the bourgeois reactionary nature of the peasant. The Soviet envoy to Bulgaria complained in 1985 that Bulgarian workers were insufficiently proletarianised; they saw factory jobs as subsidiary to tilling their plots. [34] However, the disparity between successful peasant production and disastrous collective farm production in the USSR, must eventually weaken the politico-moral fear of the individualist, of roots, of folk memory, which has prevented rational agrarian reform in Russia to date.

Green parties as such have emerged in several European countries. Despite the success of the German Green Party, it is not typical of European ecological parties. These include ones that developed from small socialist parties (Denmark and the Netherlands), parties which are specifically geared to ecological/environmental issues and liberal agrarian parties (Sweden) which adopt environmental issues. The membership tends to a leftward position where young, and a more right-wing position where old. Italy's radical left ecological party elected eighteen candidates to the national parliament in 1979. [35] In France, ecological candidates first stood in 1973; one received 6.5 per cent of the vote in a 1976 bye-election, and ten per cent in 1977in the municipal elections. An umbrella organization was formed in 1978, the Collectif Ecologie. Their standard green policies included the protection of the environment, the conservation of energy resources, economic social and sexual equality, a 'new culture', no more nuclear power or bombs, and decentralisation. From a low of 2.22 per cent in 1978 the French ecological vote climbed to nearly four per cent in 1981, while in the European Parliament elections of 1979 Europe- Ecologie won the fifth largest vote in France (4.39 per cent). [36] Nuclear power was the main issue in Sweden, Switzerland and Austria; in the latter two countries a referendum was held on the question.

In Austria, Greens have won representation in provincial parliaments, but not yet in the main parliament. Greens there have a more conservationist policy, focusing especially on plans to develop the unspoilt forests of the lower Danube. Although the Austrian Greens are a conservative group, they have cooperated with Austrian trade unions on such single issues. The Greens captured some seven per cent of the vote in Belgium in 1981; it has remained static since then. In Finland an ecological party has the support of seven per cent of the electorate, and two Green M.P.s. [37] The static nature of the green vote in countries (outside Germany) with proportional representation seems to show that ecological issues are strong values for some, but a lower priority for most voters.

England's two-party system militates against the success of a third or fourth party. It has the Ecology Party, the first of that name. It was founded in 1973, and changed its name in 1986 to the Green Party. It fought its first election under that name in June 1987. It grew out of the 'Movement for Survival', launched in 1972. The Friends of the Earth, the Soil Association and the Conservation Society supported the Movement, which was in part modelled on Edward Goldsmith's Blueprint for Survival. [38]

It is some indication of the leftwards shift of the green movement that in 1973 two of the three groups were conservatively (if passionately) conservationist, while the Green Party is now competing with the Labour Party as a radical movement. Friends of the Earth, formed in 1970, was a single-issue pressure group devoted at that time to landscape and energy conservation. Their good-humoured demonstrations calling for the re-cycling of glass bottles and bio-degradable food wrapping drew attention away from their economic energy argument that the energy input into capital infrastructure could never be returned by energy output in terms of income. (Thus, it would be as pointless to dig an allotment as to build a new cow-shed; the energy units expended could not be recovered - a comically wrong-headed argument.) The green umbrella organization and alternative voice in Britain, the Schumacher Society, seems to have expunged the older conservationists from its memory. This is despite the fact that Schumacher was President of the Soil Association. It is probably not surprising that they do not publicise the works of Lord Lymington and Rolf Gardiner, with their pre-war support for Germany. But it is a surprising shift of emphasis that in 1986 out of a hundred and five of its recommended green books, only four covered organic farming. Out of the original founders of the movement only the works of Schumacher himself and Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, a member of the Lymington circle, were circulated, the latter possibly because the current head, an ex-Jain monk, is of Indian origin. Eve Balfour's The Living Soil was not included. Jungian mysticism and feminism as well as American anarchocommunism seemed to dominate. [39]

The Ecology Party called for participatory democracy as well as decentralisation, for increased aid to the Third World but no trade with them at all, and for full sexual equality. As some three million people are estimated to be active supporters of environmental groups, clearly greenness has potential support in Britain. Here too, however, there was clothes-snatching. The Conservative Party developed an environmentally-conscious wing after 1983, with South of England Tories opposing new development in their constituencies. Some Tory 'wets' were closely connected to the Rowntree Trust, which houses and helps to fund pressure groups such as the Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. The old Liberal Party, based in the Celtic fringe and the countryside, always had an environmentalist element. The Alliance (the Liberal Party in short-lived coalition with the SDP) stressed participatory politics and local issues in a way that could lead to a green stance if this were to become a majority view. In 1984, the National Front, an amalgam formed in the 1960s from the League of Empire Loyalists and the British National Party, decided to focus on green issues, a decision greeted by Jonathon Porritt with dismay.  [40] This move was apparently prompted by increases in membership in country towns and rural countries, and the interests of new recruits. Since 1984, the influence of continental anti-urbanism has increased, and may lead to a split within the party, as may pressure to take up an anti-nuclear stance.


In the sphere of single-issue campaigns ecologists have been successful. They have aroused public and media interest, even if their policies have not always themselves succeeded. Greenpeace and its Save the Whale campaigns, recycling bottles, Friends of the Earth and their specific and localised anti-pollution campaigns, anti-nuclear-waste actions, all these have caught the public imagination, and appeal to the prevalent sense that the valuable and beautiful rural world is being laid waste. When the issue is presented in terms of destroying ancient forests around the Danube, or building a hydro-electricity dam, it seems that public opinion can be aroused to protest. However, the sphere of action of single-issue pressure groups is limited. Despite the Marxist belief that only capitalist societies are uncontrollably polluting and exploitative, Soviet fishing fleets prove much less responsive to Greenpeace's campaigns than American ones. Air and water pollution from the factories of Eastern Europe is horrific, especially considering their much lower density of population than Western Europe.

However, environmental movements are strongest in North America and Western Europe. In part this is because of the Transcendentalist tradition of these areas, and the moral residue of the Protestant ethic - Waste not, Want not. It is a reaction to the perceived wastefulness of the planned state by young radicals, influenced by the pacifist tradition. There is also a more unstructured cultural criticism involved, which relates to the political condition of today's Europe.

George Orwell said during the Second World War that H.G. Wells's dream of a New Utopia pre-supposed an antithesis between the scientist working for a planned world state and the 'reactionary who is trying to restore a disorderly past'. Wells opposed 'war, nationalism, religion, monarchy, peasants, Greek professors, poets, horses'. [41] Romantic nationalism, 'the atavistic emotion of patriotism, ... racial pride', Orwell points out, was the chief force that kept England and Russia fighting Germany. [42] There are two paradoxes in this analysis insofar as modern ecological politics are concerned. The first is that both scientists working for a planned world state and atavistic poets have come together in the ecological movement, with the scientific planners currently in the ascendancy ('scientific' here referring to a cast of mind, not a guarantee of quality). The second is that in 1945, in contrast to the restorations of 1815, there was no restoration of the ideals of sword, honour, church and tradition. The nationalism called into service during the war in the Allied nations was promptly discarded. [43] But it remains true that man does not live by Wellsian values alone. In the bombed-out ruins of Europe those who had linked ecological values with the far Right began to rethink their positions, and retreat into pessimistic isolation. Heidegger's critique of technology and consumerism belong to this war-time era. Those who were born one or two generations later came newly-minted to the desire for cultural values, for roots, national memories, and the mystic symbols of ancient European tribes.

Today's Back-to-the-Land movement presents these symptoms of loss across the political spectrum. Among the green movements mentioned earlier, such manifestations of 'folkness' tend to be jeered at or written out by the media, as with the Morris-dancing of earlier decades. [44] And the Red entryism, which is obviously just at its inception, will have nothing to do with such matters. It is found, however, in the minority European nationalisms. Where once the Nordic League brandished its mystic Eastern symbols, today's Celtic nationalists brandish their own, similar, three-legged symbol; the CND itself has made the death-rune famous. Basque and Breton nationalists use the flags, symbols and pre-Christian rituals.

Green culture today ranges from CND to the European NouveLLe Droite. It incorporates the new pagans, such as the nomadic bands of witches, who visit Stonehenge for the solstice and follow the astral plane across Britain's sacred land, the matriarchal witches who worship at exactly the same standing stone in Germany as did the pagan Nazis, although rejecting the patriarchy of the Nazis. [45] The pagan movement in Britain and America has grown from matriarchal feminism and anti-nuclear movements, together with the astrological and nature-worshipping tendencies of the naturist movement this century. Such revivals are not new. The Druid cult, appearing to us now in tamed form of bespectacled, neatly collared men in flowing white gowns, had found an echo all over Europe in the late eighteenth century, when nations vied for the honour of being the most truly celtic, ('Wizardry, myth and ritual 'was claimed as the Celtic inheritance in a pop-history series on BBC 2, 21 May 1987.) The last Druidical group in Germany was closed down by the Nazis in 1934. However, Druidism was exclusivist; in Britain, at least, it was geared to the Welsh. The new paganism, often based on Atlantean theories of a lost Golden Age, and theories of cultural diffusion via a vanished super-race, is open to all, and especially attractive to the semi-educated, semi-rational product of today's de-naturing educational process, stripped of religion, reason, tradition and even history.

The Nouvelle Droite, strongest in France, Italy and Belgium, is green in its cultural critique. It upholds Hellenic values (including Hellenic paganism), and supports geo-political thinking, a form of decomposition of national boundaries for reasons of geographical determinism, which loosely resembles the 'bio-regions' of American ecologists. The Nouvelle Droite is anti-American, sharing in this one of the chief components of Greens today. They want American missiles out of Europe, and are hostile to nuclear power, while suspecting the Left Greens' opposition to both. Some ecological activists are hard to categorise. Peter Cadogan, CND anarchist, organised a European ecological anti-nuclear group that co-operated with John Papworth's long-standing Resurgence. Opposition to environmental pollution and landscape destruction is an automatic part of their values. In the tradition of European conservatism, they are anti-capitalist, because of the alienation and rootlessness they see as its consequence. Unlike European conservatives, they have adopted socio-biological arguments to stress the uniqueness of each race and culture. Like E.M. Forster and Gobineau, however, they oppose slavery, colonisation and empire. J.R.R. Tolkien is the object of a political cult in Italy, where, as mentioned earlier, hobbit camps teach bomb-making and runes. Hobbit newsletters and hobbit tee-shirts are circulated by the Italian radical right, while Nuova Destra carries a feature entitled 'Hobbit, Hobbit'.

In Germany, the radical right journal Mut is pacifist and pro the ecological movement. Neue Zeit describes itself in its advertising as being 'ecological, - but not against technology. For the social revolution - but against Marxism'. The radical left journal Aufbruch demands the re-unification of Germany, and this folk nationalism is strong amongst non-party intellectuals. Peter Brandt, the son of Willy Brandt, said that Germans could 'not talk about returning to their roots without recognising' their 'own nationality', while Henning Eichberg, a left-wing sociologist, argued that 'nationalism is not out of date' but was essential to the attack on bureaucracies, dynasties and alienation. [46] One neo-Nazi novel, published, apparently, by an underground Californian press in 1966, offered a vision of the ecological bio-region of South America. A task-force of joint East and West Germans, numbering three, push a corrupt and crime-ridden North America into self-destruct mode with ease. The team take time to complain that the car lobby conspired to destroy a viable, public transport network in Los Angeles. They then return to their South American base, herd the natives into sexually segregated camps (so that they cannot breed), and make them replant the forests of the Amazon, to restore the ecological balance of the country. [47] There exists stil a group of Indian Nazis who believe that a Hindu- German alliance would save the world from pollution and industrialisation.  [48] Indeed, neo-Nazi movements in general all seem to be inspired by a strong ecological input. How far this relates to the original ideology of Nazism, how far it is a result of opposition to today's world driven underground, or how far there has been a change of ideology resulting from the defeat of imperialist Nazism in armed combat is an open question.

Ideological continuity of a related kind has been found among the New Right in Russia. One opposition group of the early 1970s, Veche, which was closed down by the KGB in 1973, called for the renaissance of a peasant Russia, possibly located in Siberia, with European Russia left to the Marxists.

A nation resettled into cities is doomed to extinction. All patriotism is inseparably linked to love for the land, for the sower and protector of the land, the peasant. All cosmopolitanism is equally inseparably linked to hatred of the peasantry - the creator and preserver of national traditions, the national morality and culture ... The peasant is the most morally unique type. [49]

This 'liberal utopia', which demanded the de-urbanization of Russia and a reverse migration away from the cities, derives from Danilevsky, the biologist and pan-Slavist discussed earlier. The more recent and apparently apolitical Committee for the Protection of Russian Monuments (Pamyat) has taken up environmental and ecological issues. It attacks pollution and the cult of ahistorical ugliness and 'modernity' in today's Russia. While some commentators have perceived this movement as sinisterly illiberal and anti-Western, to share in today's ecology movement is a sign that Russia is still part of European culture. [50]

Given the witches, the CND, the neo-Nazis and the French professors, though, can one really talk of a common green ethic, a joint ecological cultural criticism? In fact they do have points in common, despite the unlikelihood of any joint future cooperation. They are all anti-capitalist and anti-growth-ethic. They are pacifist, both with regard to unilateral nuclear disarmament but also in that they believe that a decomposition of nation-state boundaries will remove the causes of war. They oppose the market economy on principle, and object to man's attempt to escape from the laws of nature. They favour a long-term view. There are apocalyptic expectations of desertification and mass famine. There is support for a return to tribal society ('the global village') and communes. Obviously cities must go; man must return to the land, to rebuild a new age, a new culture and a new world.

I referred earlier to the ecologists' paradox; that living in a natural way is seen as better, more 'economical', more enjoyable and more productive, while the way to this new life is to be planned for us by the very kind of scientific, or pseudo-scientific, mental attitude that inspires small boys to fiddle with watches and break them, and, of course, led to wasteful use of resources in the first place.

Eco-socialism has produced a new paradox. Earlier ecologists argued that we were living too well; earth's resources were being over-used and wasted. Energy economists claimed that we were in danger of running out of energy, and a form of rationing should be introduced to use existing resources sparingly. Social life should be re-organised and directed from above to ensure its continuation. But socialist suggestions for environmental improvement want more of the same. To provide 'free' transport would mean its over-use. Government-subsidised airlines, as John Papworth points out, fly half-empty all round the world. The public purse is seen as bottomless, and is the most uneconomical possible way to use any resource, especially when one considers the manpower involved in re-directing and supplying all resources used by humanity. It is no accident that such utopias emerge from a generation of political activists who have worked in the public sector only, sometimes leaving for the charity sector when life becomes too bureaucratic and wasteful. All the contributors to Weston's Red and Green are public sector officials. Some red ecologists try to escape from this paradox by advocating anarchic, co-operative socialism, on the lines of Godwin and Robert Owen (whose free-enterprise ideas and belief in hard discipline would not fit their ideology). While rights-based anarchosocialism has always appealed to decent and serious reformers, the result of the anarchist communes established over the last hundred years is not impressive. Either an egalitarian ethos is adopted, in which case Veysey shows the result to be a grey, antlike submissiveness to the group, or a charismatic authoritarian leader is needed to hold the group together. Neither, presumably, would be acceptable to the anarcho-socialist, with his regard for individuality. Religious communes have a higher rate of success, as well as economic self-sufficiency. Religious tribal groups, like the Amish in America and the Doukhoubours, work best, and do not depend on the state sector. The Basque Mondragon co-operative schemes are also tribal, established in an intensely nationalistic area, and run on a tribal capitalist basis.

The claim has been mentioned that the Labour Party's welfare state incorporated 'the most wide-reaching environmental measures ever enacted in Britain.' [51] Here we see ecological values abandoned. Even if we are to adopt anthropocentric living standards as an index of ecological virtue, did the post-war welfare state really contribute more than piped sewage, clean water, market gardening, sewing machines, bicycles and timber-framed houses? Even as I write, the last physical remnants of those days are being thankfully destroyed; the council complexes, the low-grade spectacles and appalling dentistry, the atrocious school buildings, the destruction of entire viable communities in the name of slum clearance, the corruption, all created at vast cost out of the last remnants of British prosperity, itself the creation of two hundred years of working-class and lower-middle-class savings at painfully low interest rates, the ten years of food rationing, the queues, - all the remnants of a callous disregard for human and natural values which characterised post-war collectivism.

In reality, it is socialist planning and economic policies, both under socialist and corporative capitalist parties, that have proved to be the most wasteful consumers of resources. The billions of dollars' worth of aid that disappeared into arms purchases and gold bath-taps; Mercedes for the concerned Third World leaders and American-financed land nationalisation for the masses; the unnecessary maintenance of resource-heavy primary production, both in mines and in factories; wasteful education policies that keep healthy, intelligent individuals compulsorily at school and then in tertiary education for one third of their useful working lives; the hideous and expensive concrete factories and houses which collapse after twenty years and which no-one wants to live in; the unnecessarily ugly squalor of those parts of our lives owned and directed by the public authorities, from roads to new shopping precincts; this is the fruit of the collectivist Zeitgeist of earlier decades. Given these phenomena of the planned state, the claims by the new Red ecologists that more of the same - 'changing social relations of property,' 'taking resources from private ownership' will somehow produce an ecological millennium, show that ecologism has already lost its way.

If single-issue groups become subsumed in a radical new Green Party, much of the value of the ecological critique will be lost. Their policies have little to do with real green values, while the anti-Western stance which characterises the European left points to another danger. For ecologism is a phenomenon of the despised 'Northern White Empire'. It is not - as yet - prominent in the newly emerging prosperous nations elsewhere. The question is whether, if ecologism returned to being a non-party matter, Western man could restore his sense of values, while surviving in a world dominated by anti-ecological ideology, and potentially dominated by the expanding economies of nations like Japan and Indonesia, Brazil and Korea, who do not share the culture-specific ecological concerns of the West.
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Re: Ecology in the 20th Century: A History, by Anna Bramwell

Postby admin » Tue Jan 23, 2018 10:48 pm


The Political Economy of Ecologism

Boswell: 'So, Sir, you laugh at schemes of political improvement?'
Dr Johnson: 'Why, Sir, schemes of political improvement are very laughable things'.

-- Boswell, Life of Johnson


We have arrived at a set of historical data with which to check my preliminary typology of ecologism. This is not intended to be, and can hardly be, an exercise in finality. Although th€ historian is always tempted to be dogmatic about his intuitions, facts require humility. However, I have compiled sufficient expository material to commence the voyage of interpretation, which must leave areas of ambiguity, must remain partly uncharted. This interpretation is an act of creation, not a judgment, a vision to be shared with the reader.

Ecologism appears to me to be a convincing box in which all kinds of alternative ideas and people fit, and which begins to take on its current form and clearly identifiable content in the late nineteenth century. It is a box that contains anarchist and protofascist, Marxist and liberal, natural scientist and visionary alike; not because their world-views were identical, but because all shared an idea which by them was perceived as primary, although its secondary manifestations may have differed. In one book it has been impossible to deal with all the manifestations of the phenomenon of ecologism. The details of the anti-vivisectionist movement, of the commune movement, of vegetarianism and animal rights, receive treatment elsewhere, and I have merely sketched in their connection with ecologism. These movements, though deeply connected with the ecological world-view, can exist without a total commitment to global ecologism. I have concentrated here on what seem the more vital links between ecologists and land and resource use, ecologists and biological studies.

Ecological values have the force of a religion. But there is no reason why religion should not be subjected to critical analysis like any other belief. One can sympathise with people's values without believing that cultural relativism prevents an examination of the implications of their credo.

In the last chapter, I described how, in the 1970s, a major change came over the ecological box. The force of the new Greens came from a fusion of the two roots of ecologism; the biological root and the economic root. The holistic values of the new biological science proved, justified and utilised man's links with nature. It emphasised our interdependence with soil, air and food. It showed the importance of instinct and inbuilt patterns of behaviour. It did so 'scientifically', that is, it utilised rational ways of thought, testable hypotheses and experiments to show that man's genetic potential included a grammar of behaviour as powerful as his inborn sense of language.

After 1880, 'green' biology would offer a real alternative. Konrad Lorenz and Eugene Marais, Whitman and Eibl-Eibesfeld, would produce a scientific explanation of the living world not only different from but demonstrably better than the experimental results of Skinner's rats in mazes, or Zuckermann's chimpanzees in captvity. It was a more satisfying picture of the world than the earlier holistic philosopher, Goethe, had ever offered, despite the poetic genius of his vision. It also suggested a vindication of the claim of the German vitalists. By admitting into the picture the intuition of the observer, science thus became more scientific. Had there not been this valid basis for the cultural criticism of today's Greens, it would have remained a luxury for the few. But the perceived inadequacies of the orthodox science world-picture were both shown and cured by the new holism.

This rediscovery of man avoided determinism by emphasising his powerful will. By utilising his pattern of development to avoid the traps set by artificial civilization, his potential could be fulfilled, but his aggressive and destructive capacities short-circuited. The new biology implied that man could be improved, even perfected, but only in relation to his natural capacities. Acceptance of the real would mean greater, not less, freedom. This shift of values in the biological sciences meant that for the first time man was free from the dreadful bondage of his alleged dual nature. The ideals of progress and improvement were no longer linked with the ideal ant-state the technocratic communists like J. D. Bernal and Herman Muller had foreseen. If his values and instincts were integral to man, essential to his full development, the burden of sin, of centuries of wrong-headed repressions, had gone, vanished in the light of the new sun-worship.

Hence some of the apparent paradoxes I have examined in the political development of ecologism. Planning and anarchy; the tribal village and the global village; humanism versus anti-humanity; materialism versus spiritualism, all depend on the blurring of the old boundaries between world and human, being and time, matter and spirit, produced by the realisation that we are all part of the one earth. What they have in common is a mutual rejection of the traditional, the existing political system, and a set of values which, while not unique to ecologists, are put first by them.

The economic and geographical theories that provide the second root of ecologism seem less valid, partly because normative economics and geography cannot be demonstrated by experiment in the same way as the animal sciences. The same belief in the validity of the scientific method leads to the assumption that 'rational' economic policies of redistribution and reorganisation can solve what are seen as resource shortages and inequality. The cost of the redistribution is either not quantified, or counted in as a necessary sacrifice towards improving the quality of people's lives. When the concept of economics is extended to include the 'household management' implicit in Oekonomie, economists do not always seem to realise the political dimension, of control, order and paternal (or maternal) forward planning that is, for better or worse, inherent in the household state.

The belief that trained minds can plan life better than those just living the life sterns from the formative influence of a specific global village, that of the university-trained intellectual. Green biologists often had to work away from recognition, from outside the traditional system. They failed for decades to break into orthodox science, even to the extent of the hapless suicide of a Marais. Where experimental animal biologists worked outside laboratory confines in as natural an environment as they could find, economists do not. Thus, the academic economists retain their cabalistic character, and faith in their own diagnoses and prescriptions. The new economics of food production, of the bio-region, comes from the thoughtless rejection of what does not belong to the cabal. Further, cabals are always set against the tribe, the rooted group, the loss of whose roots I have hinted at earlier as another factor in ecologism. But economists do have loyalties; they are firmly attached to their global vision, and the re-ordered global system will be supra-tribal, because that is where their faith lies.

Oppositional economists may jib at being described as a global cabal, when their own self-image is one of internal exile, of perpetual dissidence. But there is no real conflict here. All orthodoxy derives from heresy. Bacon, Galileo and Copernicus were heretics in their time. The advocates of Third-World self-sufficiency are happily moling away in the World Bank, while opponents of the Green Revolution (that is, advances in crop breeding and food production) are cheerfully ensconced in the Food and Agriculture Organisation. While economic ecologists would probably put their hand into the fire without a qualm for their ideas, they are still heretics securely embedded in the very system they attack.

The anti-capitalist, anti-growth distributionists do point up the inadequacies of neo-classical economic models, as models. Yet the criticisms of a Ballod, a Soddy or a Podolinsky, remain just that, criticisms, unable to offer convincing alternative models or precise suggestions. The onus is on those who wish to replace the impersonal and costless theory of the system to produce viable alternatives. This ecological economists have not yet done, though because many of their criticisms can be used against the West, international trade and other objects of Marxist and Third- World hatred, their criticisms have convinced researchers, and have been propounded in numerous feature articles and books, and documentaries and educational programmes on radio and television.

The moral criticisms of trade, which imply imbalance, greed and resource exploitation to the ecological economist, are contrasted with a hypothetical, but unspecified, viable moral economic order. The confusion of arguments which support this dogma is itself significant. We are told that there will be less food in the near future, but that there is too much food, grown at the cost of fertility. There are too many people in the world, and those here are about to die in their billions of famine. Within the same Green Party manifesto, entirely conflicting scenarios will be found. Existing national borders should be replaced by bioregions, which are self-sufficient. No clue is given as to who is to decide them, or on what grounds, or what the carrying capacity of the region will be. Who will police the borders; why trade within a region should be permissible but not outside the region; who is to take the food that is too important to be treated as a mere commodity and given to whom by whom; not to question these policies is to accept indeed the benevolent nature of man, and his harmony of interests. Self-sufficiency is desirable, but aid to the Third World, or at least that dwindling part of it still unaffected by prosperity, must increase without, of course, strings. Would the cabal of planners, foreseen by Bernal and Muller, partly implemented under Roosevelt, ever dissolve itself, or would it remain as a permanency? It would be an irony if the implicit anarchy of the ecological movement were to end subject to such a system, and yet it would also be in accordance with some of the earlier political manifestations of ecologism outlined previously. For here is a re-working of geo-politics, but without the sense of history, in a sense fascism without the nationalist dimension. Ecological economics, as enunciated so far, inherently oppose the values of political ecology.

These criticisms may seem harsh. The rhetoric and values of a political party do customarily attract more attention than its detailed policies, which are often improvised after a party reaches office. However, radical groups with a moral critique need to explain the practical effects of their policies more stringently than parties who believe in continuing the old system, or in muddling through somehow, in being pragmatic, unideological, 'natural' in short. As soon as ecological movements become political parties they have to turn against their own values, and the more 'apolitical' in party terms they aim to be, the more ideological they become. It was barely four decades ago that Joseph Schumpeter, the great economic historian, feared that the grey centralised socialism he saw creeping over the West would prove more efficient than capitalism at managing an advanced industrial society. We no longer think so. But will it be necessary to repeat this error, to spend another few decades in struggling with corrupt, cumbersome international bureaucracies, planned by well-meaning ecologists, run by 'qualified' bureaucrats, whether or not so envisaged by the Green Parties?

But, the ecologist may ask, how 'natural' is it to exploit and pollute our earth, to cut down trees, to erect ugly and wasteful buildings, to make an environment so hateful and ugly that human beings cannot function within it?

While in times of crisis - the Ice Age, the great neolithic flint wars, the twentieth century world wars, - survival must come first, no civilization, no culture can truly survive which ignores the human spirit and human values. The habit of English businessmen of returning to their rural homeland as soon as possible - so bewailed by critics for over two hundred years - shows that the first 'good' that is purchased after one's sustenance is the quality of life we associate with the countryside. And the nurture of the countryside is the first long-term aim of those who live in it, belong to it and wish to transfer it intact to their heirs. Whether a new rural proletariat, previously unemployed in the towns, inhabiting small, nationalised units of land, working farms organically, would offer such a nurture seems to me doubtful. The experience of the radical German agricultural programme described earlier indicates that while highly capitalised peasant settlement, complete with price subsidies and low-interest loans, is viable, it does not attract the masses in the insecurity of a mixed economy. Given socialist certainty, where forced collectivization is concerned, whether communist, or socialist, as in Tanzania, to force the masses to go to the land has been seen to lead to the solution of Pol Pot; a far cry from the vision of Kropotkin, Soddy or Schumacher.

So the lesson of the Third Reich in peasant-oriented land reform is an important one, and, given the link between a 'Germanic' ideology, the Protestant transcendentalism of Northern Europe and her children overseas, and the current popularity of ecological ideas, one that should be considered. However, the atrocities of the Third Reich are probably still too close to make it easy to render a balance sheet of its share in the themes of the time.


Among the disparate groups who were the first ecologists, some have become forefathers, and some have been forgotten. In part, this is because of profound differences. The shift of political categories that has taken place outside ecologism has deeply affected the self-image of the ecologist. The earlier ecologists would probably support those of today, but in many cases the recognition would not be reciprocated. Seen in terms of the categories with which we are more familiar, it seems bizarre to group together, for example, the scientific bureaucratic would-be overlords and the pro-peasant anarchists. Yet the common bundle of characteristics elicited and described, and the lack of fit with other political boxes, help to prove that a new political category is at issue here. The outlines of a political box, and its typology, have emerged.

There are several reasons for re-categorising the past. One is pure curiosity: who was this person, why did they think what they did? Allied by necessity to this is the problem as to why their thought has become neglected, or misrepresented; how it does not, or perhaps does, fit into today's problems. Another drive to re-interpret is to clear away misconceptions: it is an act of mental hygiene. A more usual motive is the polemical one.

Undoubtedly, the link between a German ideology and green ideas has been used in this way, and will continue to be so used in the future. Anything to do with National Socialism must carry overtones of a polemical interpretation, for the simple reason that National Socialism is the demonic figure of our time, and plays a vital psychological role in the health of society, quite apart from its role in legitimizing the post-war settlements and systems. We need a figure to represent evil. Although there is bound to be a negative element in these re-interpretative acts, the links which I have delineated should be seen in their context, as part of a broader movement.


We have arrived at some strange developments since I laid out some of the defining qualities of the ecologist. One of these qualities was that of seeking after truth. Ecologists believe in an objective reality. They oppose dualism, implicitly or explicitly. Ruskin was described as being such a man, and his theory of aesthetics as well as his politics rested on this belief. It was an element in his writings that particularly inspired the first ecologists. Erahim Kohak, the philosopher, in his book on man and nature, described his meditations in a hut in the woods, his vision of the boundless moral sphere embodied in the stars and the sky. According to his vision, there were 'no conditions more basic to authentic humanity than to live in truth'. [1]

Why is it that the search for truth, for objective reality, can, and does in any other than the aesthetic sphere, lead to unreality? How does Rilke's anti-consumerist man-object shift to a primitivism focused on the Ghanaian drums of the global village? The conservative and the libertarian would answer that any faith in 'scientism' must lead to error. But why the desire for such alternative world-views?

Ecologists believe that society has taken a wrong path. As ecologists are a phenomenon of Western society, their search for the guilty party concentrates on Western society. Some place the wrong turning with the Roman Empire: some with the Iron Age's victory over the Bronze Age: some with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and others with the end of the mediaeval age. All look elsewhere for salvation. Although nature must not and cannot, according to this creed, be transcended, the desire for transcendence is still present. They seek the transcendental 'other' in primitive tribes. The noble savage belief was a powerful myth of Rousseau's, whose benevolent Nature we have seen extending its wings into the twentieth century, a belief which has survived in popular fiction in England, Germany and North America. The influence of Lao Tzu and Buddha is another transcendental 'other' which seems especially prominent in today's fundamentalist German Greens and in America's deep ecology, but which has not yet struck root in England. The contemplative and rural aura of Hinduism offers another escape from a guilty Western identity. The ecological far Right in Europe differs from the Nouvelle Droite in emphasising this spiritual, apolitical dimension, just as does the ecological far Left. Matriarchy offers another escape for 'guilty', 'dominant' Western man. Thus, nature is accepted, but the urge which leads the ecologist to accept nature makes him abandon his own self.

Ecologists' solutions differ. Some, like Ernst Haeckel, thought society lagged behind scientific knowledge about man's nature, and society should be geared to the necessities of the biological drive. For him, that meant a centralised, liberal, progressive, strong nation-state. This is alien to today's ecologists. Both left and right ecologists today support the decomposition of society into small communities, either as minority tribes (Bretons and Basques, Welsh, Orinoco Indians) or on a basis of size alone, as when Bahro suggests 3000 as a maximum for any community. In theory, communes could be self-motivating; in practice, a network of international communities and contacts exists, whose pressure groups and members create the atmosphere of a church, mutually supportive, full of faith and good works, but dependent on jet planes and telephones.

A typical example of the anti-trade bias of ecologists is Knut Hamsun's peasant, who complained that cows were sold off callously from one village to another, whereas once each farm kept its cows, knew them and cared for them. Ecologism is anti-trade, and while the weight of argument is directed usually against international trade, the logic of the creed is indeed against trade between villages.

Here again 'Right' and 'Left' meet. International trade has been presented as exploitative since Hobson and Lenin's theories of imperialism. It is obviously a theme that appeals to the Left, broadly speaking. But it is not part of Marx's doctrine. Marx's model of commodity exchange assumed that value was exchanged against value. The measure of the value involved was the value of the labour. The exchange of labour itself, as a commodity against money wages, produced exploitation, because here value was not exchanged against value. Labour had a dual quality, the 'dual commodity value', by which the labourer received only his subsistence value, while the added value of his labour produced the surplus that became the employer's profit. The supposedly free market for labour concealed an inherent bias, due to the monopoly purchasing power of the capitalist. This technical exploitation has a lesser emotional force than Marx's theory of alienation, whereby the worker becomes alienated from the result of his labours under the wage system and division of labour. The object he makes does not belong to him. It has only a short connection with his life, and leaves him for the hands of others. Marx is not objecting that the worker has no property right vested in the object; but uses the tools of German idealism to express the idea that the connecting web between worker and product is broken. It is this part of Marx's theory that has remained a powerful criticism of the capitalist economy.

In 1920s Germany the separation of object and meaning apparently caused by technology was opposed. It was linked with a loss of identity. Heidegger's critique of consumerism is the same; that objects become separated from producer and consumer, through mass production and technology, and lose meaning, and Heidegger, after all, was described as 'the metaphysician of ecology'. It is here too that the Left and the Right meet, in an attack on alienation of man and thing, man and the world, man and nature, derived from the same source, the anti-liberal tradition of Hegelian idealism. That is why both Bahro and Heidegger cite H61derlin, the melancholy singer of the death of the pagan world. Ecologists object to consumerism not because it is too materialistic, but because it is not real materialism. Real materialism, an understanding of things, possesses a sensitive understanding of and respect for the real, material and natural world. The religion of greed is, they argue, what is nonmaterialistic.

The theory of exploitation through trade, then, argues that monopoly purchasers can beat down unorganised producers. Trade must exploit. The profit made from re-sale is the result of exploitation. In order to increase exploitation, people invest in the Third World. If their investment is in urban factories, they exploit labour on the Marxist model, but a new dimension of guilt appears, white is allegedly exploiting black, and cultural oppression appears. Capitalist trade corrupts as well as exploits. Further, the economic changes that will arise are said to damage rural life in the Third World. If investment is rural, it much more clearly distorts and corrupts. If the big is favoured, the small goes under. In this simple model, any economic contact between one culture and another, first world and third world, exploits and corrupts.

Add to this the idealistic belief in exploitation through reification, and the impetus of the message becomes clear; that human lives and natural resources are being destroyed to pander to unnecessary consumerist fripperies in the West. This guilt at wasting resources helps explain the religious dimension, its force and fervour, and the link with the Marxist, the proto-fascist and the High Tory criticism of the mercantile world.

There may seem to be a gulf between the small-nation patriotism then and the global dimension of today's ecologists. It is true that pre-First World War thinkers tended to be Euro-centric, if European, or oriented towards the frontier society, if North American. But both were anti-imperial, and today's dream of an empire of good works, mysteriously non-coercive but effective, led by a Western intelligentsia open to non-Western values, is still consistent with ecological ideas.


The claim that man could feed himself from poor land living a pastoral life was made certainly as early as 1920; while in 1980 Allaby and Bunyard reported that 'scientists' had discovered that wild wheat in Turkey produced more edible corn for pastoralists than wheat grown as a crop.2 The hope inspired by these fantasies is telling. Ecologists have failed to compute the relative fertility of the soil or explore the repeatable nature of the exciting discovery or take into account the fact that most of the world's population does not live in Turkey. All reason is abandoned at the sight of an apparently scientific legitimation of the modern ecologists' dream that the hunter-gatherer life is viable, that agriculture, with its property rights, its discontents, its brutalities, was never necessary.

The question has to be put, why is it that so many able, intelligent and learned men have deceived themselves in this way? Unless one assumes conspiracy theories of fantastic proportions, the answer can only be that disaffection with the extant has been of such an order as seriously to impair their sense of reality. After all, many ecologists gave and give their entire lives to trying to replace what to them was immoral and hideous; not with easy escapism but with passionately held visions of a purer and more resource-efficient world. That this particular biped had 'advanced' to the point where he could not sustain himself 'naturally' for a fortnight unless he reduced his numbers by at least three-quarters, was something many ecologists have been unable or unwilling to grasp. That five billion people can exist on earth today is a direct consequence of the technical advances made by agronomists, including the so-called agricultural Green Revolution.

The sad fact is that ecological movements have been given impetus and organization by the recent left-wing entryism. But this has not clarified their millenarian beliefs in an enhanced potential for survival. Such a scenario would, according to them, be mysteriously rendered possible throughout the globe by measures of egalitarian self-sufficiency financed, somehow, by an equally self-sufficient West. This agenda would only be destructive if put into effect. It would result in waste and squalor, not environmental improvement. The attribution of pollution and ecological damage to capitalism and greed is significant. The blindness to the environmental pollution in the Eastern bloc, where capitalism and private exploitation can be punished by death, demonstrates a dyslexia of categories which is not new in radical politics.

Truth is not only a matter of the private sphere. The public sphere too has to have a regularity, reciprocity and security in which man's creativity can flower. The philosophical anthropologists and the 'green' biologists argue that man's animality both sets the problem and enables him to solve it. Ethologists hope that a universal comprehension of instinctive social relationships will enable man to control what nature had left uncontrolled; that his primate curiosity can lead to self-knowledge to control his destructive side.

Comtean scientific ecologists believe that the reforms they want are obvious; that only people of ill-will would deny their validity. Yet their writings which concern the reconstruction of the public sphere are worryingly imprecise. Imprecision of word can arise from vagueness of thought. It can also arise from a desire to manipulate language. Language is one of the main social bonds with the past, it is an area of contemporary reciprocity. Given the cultural shifts this century, the domination of American culture in Europe - especially Britain - via the media, the slow but final removal of meaning from many of our institutions (church, family, law) which has already amounted to a revolution; the dissolution of language and meaning is another blow to the public sphere.

In the language of economic ecologism today, its relativism is intended to create a world where symbols produce an instant response. It is one of those campaigns, typical of our century, where a negative common-sense, an incredulous rejection, is the only possible response. There is unlikely to be an articulate and organised opposition to economic ecologism; there is even the hope of gain (moral and aesthetic) for individuals through single-issue campaigns (although the whales are still killed by Japanese and Russian fleets, and large-scale urban green-field development continues).

The twentieth century was the century of socialism; between 1880 and 1980 the West and its areas of cultural export experimented with various forms of collectivism, social planning and Marxism. Ideology began it, ideology was abandoned. Perhaps the next hundred years will be the century of the global ecologist - only in those areas which have already looted themselves for socialism, and regret it.

In the meantime, there are the sufferings of the Communist-ruled nations, where the attack is on individual conscience and autonomy. In the attempt to attach itself to the guilt festering in the West, ecologism is attacking the roots of individual moral integrity, and substitutes a nebulous societal guilt. It is yet another paradox of the ecological movement - that the call to individual moral truth should finish as a global religion. Despite its rejection of organised and traditional Christianity, the ecological movement still carries the burden of its heritage, the legacy of the crucifixion, symbol of death, suffering and self-surrender.

What after all today's ecological movement is advocating is a return to primitivism, and the abandonment of treasure and knowledge to tribes and nations in foreign lands who pose no threat to us. Consciously or otherwise, this is a death-wish. We are not talking here about eschewing food additives and colouring matter, whole food in a whole land, as were the earlier ecologists, but something different - and deathly. For today's ecologists, their hope of regeneration presupposes a return to primitivism, and thus, whether they wish to enunciate it or not, concomitant anarchy, the burning before the replanting, the cutting down of the dead tree. The father of the movement is an utter rejection of all that is, and for at least three millennia all that was.
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