Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Green Sacred Cows?

Over the next few weeks/months I hope to run a series of posts severely questioning a number of viewpoints, attitudes and policy positions found amongst the broad Green movement, and even amongst ecosocialists, that I find worryingly regressive, dead end and redundant. I hope that this will spark debate and political reassessment amongst my readers and hopefully a wider Green audience. Some of these points will be relatively uncontentious on the Green Left, others may be seen as attacks on unquestioned "givens". I do this not because I want to be iconoclastic or argumentative, but because I believe that these positions seriously handicap the Green movement in the short term and might potentially have disastrous effects in the longer term.
My position is clear. I am a progressive (in the technological and social rather than narrow political sense), a libertarian socialist as opposed to a statist or authoritarian, and a green seeking sustainability and protection compatible with an advanced and advancing technological civilisation rather than regression to an earlier mode of production.

Amongst the sacred cows up for interrogation and potential slaughter are ideas stemming from the thought of those seen by some as "guiding lights" such as Schumacher and Morris. I think these and other thinkers should be approached, like Marx, as flawed thinkers with some useful ideas and analyses, but with a whole load of superceded and superfluous ideological baggage that can be critiqued and discarded. Morris is infected with a reactionary fetishisation of earlier modes of production and Schumacher is quite frankly, on close examination, a philosophical, political and social regressive.

So what might I seek to illuminate and critique over the coming period?

Amongst areas I might look at are Romanticism, the idea that small is almost always more beautiful than large, the cult of Schumacher; the New Age and mysticism, and worrying residual hero worship and "package deal leftism" that gives an impression of being relatively uncritical of left authoritarians, demagogues and primitivists on the basis of "anti-imperialism".

The ideas of out-and-out primitivists , crypto- and not-so-crypto-fascists, reactionaries and the Stalinist/Maoist dead-enders are easily defeated. What are more dangerous are the residues of authoritarian influence and regressive thinking within the green movement, some of which even infect the nascent ecosocialist movement. These residues can be found in language, unquestioned ideas, attitudes and structures. It is time for a bit of house cleaning and introspection if we are to present a coherent approach and have a clear view of those pieces of historical experience and theory that are useful, and also if we are to present an accurate and appealing image to those we seek to influence beyond the confines of the small ideological green and left movements in Britain.

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At 11:26 am, Blogger greenman said...

A very good start to a critique of largely unquestioned populist ideas circulating in the green and global justice movements is made in the Kovel article I linked above -

"1. Because there was no precorporate golden age, and capitalism is much more embedded in society--and the psyche--than the economic populists hold--the job of overcoming it requires a much more thorough and deep vision of social transformation. A mere change in social regulation of corporations is totally inadequate except as a first step--in which case the following steps have to be anticipated.

2. The notion of smallness may be appealing for many--and indeed an ecological society needs to be much more fine grained, intimate, and based on face-to-face interactions than the present. However, the generalization of the small business model to the whole social body is preposterous. There being no point except fantasy of returning to a Jeffersonian or precapitalist model on a world scale, there will necessarily remain in any worthwhile future society, large-scale enterprises, and highly important ones at that--telecommunications networks, for example, or rail systems, not to mention the conduct of global trade in a post-WTO era. If the state is to be merely regulatory, who is to run these enterprises--the small-scale capitalists? If they do, they will become large-scale capitalists, and the cycle will be renewed.

3. The notions of populists necessarily remain nationalist. They are extensions of a bourgeois Anglo-American vision to the whole world.

4. What's so hot about small business, anyway? Why should we be satisified with a model that represents humanity as it had evolved to the era of Adam Smith, one grounded in hierarchy, exploitation, profiteering, and competition--exactly what generated the present capitalist system?

The conclusion must be to go beyond populism, and its politics of resentment. As Greens, our goal should be to build a better world, and for this, we need to think beyond the boundaries of the present."


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