Biehl and Staudenmaier's Ecofascism Revisited
By William Walter Kay
What follows is a condensation and critique of Biehl and Staudenmaier’s Ecofascism Revisited (2011).
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Environmentalism and German Fascism
Postcard from Deutschland, April 1993
Environmentalism (1) and German Fascism
Ecology arrived swaddled in intensely reactionary political ideas.
Ernst Arndt’s On the Care and Conservation of Forests (1815) rails against deforestation and the despoliation of soil. It presages contemporary biocentrism with:
“When one sees nature in a necessary connectedness and interrelationship, then all things are equally important – shrub, worm, plant, human, stone, nothing first or last, but all one single unity.”
Inextricable from Arndt’s proto-ecology was his fanatical, xenophobic racism. Lunatic polemics against miscegenation, appeals for Teutonic racial purity, and epithets against the French, Slavs, and Jews infected every aspect of his mind.
Arndt’s student Wilhelm Riehl wrote Field and Forest in 1853 to advance “the rights of wilderness.” Riehl mixed his campaign to save German forests with implacable opposition to industrialism.
These anti-urban, agrarian-romantic ideologues set the stage for the volkisch movement – a pathological reaction to modernity predisposed to nature mysticism and aiming to replace the dreadful industrial society that “the Jewish conspiracy” had foisted upon Germany.
One of Germany’s major ideologists, Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), helped lay the seed bed for Nazism. In 1867 he concocted “ecology” ostensibly as the science of organism-environment interaction. As the populariser of evolution in Germany, Haeckel became the German spokesperson for Social Darwinism.
Haeckel combined Ecology and Social Darwinism into a full-blown elitist, nationalist, imperialist ideology. He brought the full weight of science down hard on the side of romantic-volkisch ideas. He opposed race-mixing and supported eugenics. During WWI, as his fervent nationalism became fanatical, he fulminated in anti-Semitic tomes.
Haeckel’s numerous disciples shaped the thinking of generations of future environmentalists by embedding concern for nature into a web of regressive social themes. They declared authoritarian social structures were “natural” and that industrial cities were inorganic, hence wrongful. They divined biological roots for all social phenomena, especially racial adversity.
Environmentalist tendencies within the authoritarian right predate Nazism by decades. During the Wilhelmine era (1871-1918) “blood and soil” phraseology circulated in the volkisch movement. Nature protection and landscape preservation groups were rife with rural romanticism and racial utopianism. Such groups provided a base for Nazism, as did vegetarian, animal rights, natural healing, and back-to-the-land groups.
Weimar era (1918-1933) culture was even more awash in eco-reactionary theories. Nature-protection literature became larded with “blood and soil.” Volkisch advocates regarded materialism and science as alien to their “essence.” They blamed the “Jewish world conspiracy” for the soulless industrialism, homogenized culture, excessive technology, and consumerism that were destroying traditional values.
A chief vehicle for carrying this ideological constellation was the Wandervogel (“wandering free spirits”) youth movement. The world-view of these “hippies” was a hodge-podge of neo-romanticism, Eastern philosophies, nature mysticism, militant irrationalism, and communal back-to-the-landism.
Wandervogel guru Ludwig Klages’ popular essay Man and Earth (1913) decried: deforestation, species extinction, ecosystem imbalance, urban sprawl, displacement of aboriginals, and Man’s alienation from Nature. It disparaged Christianity, capitalism, utilitarianism, over-consumption, and “progress.” It condemned the environmental destructiveness of tourism and the slaughter of whales. It depicted Earth as an ecological totality.
Klages was an arch-conservative volkisch fanatic and venomous anti-Semite. The Wandervogel joined the Nazis by the thousands.
Also in the mix was Anthroposophy – Rudolf Steiner’s (1861-1925) variation of the occult, esoteric Theosophy doctrine. Steiner’s elaborate “root race theory” melded seamlessly into Nazi ideas of Aryan purity. Steiner’s “biodynamic” form of organic agriculture emphasized spiritual interactions between cultivator and soil. Biodynamic enthusiasts cultivated contacts with Nazis well before 1933. Anthroposophists blamed profit-orientated, chemicalized agriculture on “the Jews.”
A product of its zeitgeist, the Nazi “religion of nature” blended primeval Teutonic mysticism, ecology, and misanthropism. The Nazis stage managed indoctrination extravaganzas themed around nationalism’s inherent naturalism.
Conservationists were overjoyed with Nazi governance. Reich Agency for Nature Protection’s Walter Schoenichen described Nazism as the fulfilment of dreams. His successor, Hans Klose, integrated conservationism into the Nazi enterprise. 60% of Weimar-era conservationist leaders had, by 1939, joined the Nazi Party.
Ecology manifested in Nazi educational practice. The central topics of biology became eugenics, nature protection, and the relegating of humanity to a mere link in nature’s chain. Schoenichen proposed the following objective for biology curricula:
“Very early, the youth must develop an understanding of the civic importance of the ‘organism’ i.e. the coordination of all parts and organs for the benefit of the one and superior task of life.”
Another Professor defined Nazism as “applied biology,” adding:
“This striving toward connectedness with the totality of life, with nature itself, a nature into which we are born, this is the deepest meaning and the true essence of National Socialist thought.”
Celebrity philosopher Martin Heidegger bridged fascism to environmentalism by extolling the authenticity of rootedness while denouncing the Enlightenment and the baleful effects of technology.
Heidegger was an active Nazi Party member and for a time an enthusiastic, adoring supporter of Hitler. His mystical panegyrics to homeland were complemented by a deep anti-Semitism. (For 30 years after WWII he carried on his illustrious career, never renouncing his past, never condemning Nazi crimes.)
Hitler preached the “helplessness of humankind in the face of nature’s everlasting law.” His Mein Kampf stressed “nature’s stern and rigid laws” to wit:
“When people attempt to rebel against the iron logic of nature, they come into conflict with the very same principles to which they owe their existence as human beings. Their actions against nature must lead to their own downfall.”
Like a green utopian, Hitler promoted environmentally appropriate hydropower and bio-methane as alternatives to coal. He dubbed “water, winds and tides” the “the energy path of the future.”
Hitler’s most trusted comrades, Hess, Darre, and Todt, were among the Third Reich’s greenest leaders.
Reich Minister Rudolf Hess gave the “green wing” a secure anchor atop the Nazi Party. Hess joined the Party in 1920 – membership card number 16. For 21 years he was Hitler’s devoted personal deputy. All legislation and every decree passed over his desk before becoming law.
Hess was a nature lover with occult inclinations. He ate a strict biodynamic diet; not even Hitler’s rigorous vegetarian standards were good enough. Hess accepted only homeopathic medicine.
Richard Walther Darre exerted immense influence on Nazi ideology. He was one of the Party’s premier racists. Since the early 1920s Darre’s jingoistic writings were rabidly racist – Jews were called “weeds.” His eulogized peasants and demonized materialists.
From 1933 until 1942 Darre was Reich Peasant Leader, Agriculture Minister, and kingpin of an array of semi-private farming associations. His Agriculture Ministry had the fourth largest budget of Reich ministries. Near absolute control of agricultural made Darre uniquely powerful.
Darre was ecofascism in power. Environmentalist principles became the basis of agricultural policy. He supported organic farming and ecological land use to an extent unmatched by any state before or since. The first line of his 1934 Battle for Production was “Keep the soil healthy!” In 1939 he launched a drive to convince Party leaders that organic agriculture was Europe’s biological salvation.
Darre’s lawyer during the Nuremberg trials, Hans Merkel, had been a prominent player on Darre’s team since 1934 (and an Anthroposophist since 1926). Merkel supervised personnel at the Agrarian Policy Office and was a top Race and Settlement Office bureaucrat. Merkel’s writings combined organic metaphors with calls for Lebensraum (living room).
Darre too was an ardent Lebensraum booster. He wanted to:
“…take back as much land in the East as is necessary to establish a harmony between the body of our volk and the geopolitical space.”
Another Darre confidante supplied forced labour from the East for wartime food production.
By heading three industry-related cabinet-level ministries, plus the enormous quasi-official Todt Organization, Fritz Todt supervised the Third Reich’s major technical tasks.
Todt was considered to be a nature lover and ecologist. Todt considered his chief advisor, Alwin Siefert, to be a “fanatical ecologist.”
The two men ensured the Autobahn was constructed in harmony with nature; fulfilling not only ecological principles but ‘organological’ principles as well. They imposed strict criteria regarding wetlands and forests. The Autobahn crossed only developed areas; there was no question of destroying wilderness. This mega-project was also used to nurture collateral programs designed to advance eco-diversity and roll back monoculture.
Seifert’s official title was Reich Advocate for Landscape. His unofficial title was Mr. Mother Earth. Seifert was a Wandervogeler and volkist long before 1933. He designed the biodynamic garden at Hess’s villa.
Siefert was a militant supporter of organic agriculture. He considered Darre too moderate. The two feuded because Seifert envisioned a sweeping agricultural revolution toward simplified farming independent of capital. He dreamed of a total subordination of technology to nature.
In 1934 Seifert wrote Hess demanding more attention be paid to wetlands and eco-sensitive work methods. Seifert energetically opposed wetland drainage.
In the mid-1930s Todt and Seifert pressed for an all-encompassing Reich Law for Protection of Mother Earth, which may have passed but for opposition from the mining industry.
After Seifert formally joined the Party in 1938 he made full use of his Party credentials. His hand-picked “landscape advocates” were dedicated organic supporters and ‘blood and soil’ ideologues. Such men oversaw agriculture in the occupied Ukraine. By 1945 Seifert oversaw much of the Todt Organization.
(After WWII Seifert, Darre, Merkel, and other former Nazi land-use bureaucrats continued their environmentalist and organic farming activism.)
Like Hitler, SS Commander Heinrich Himmler was a strict vegetarian and homeopathic medicine consumer. Both men opposed vivisection and other alleged forms of cruelty to animals.
Himmler’s On the Treatment of the Land in the Eastern Territories (1942) stresses “balance of nature” while imploring his subordinates:
“If, therefore, the new Lebensraum are to become a homeland for our settlers, the planned arrangement of the landscape to keep it close to nature is a decisive prerequisite.”
An SS subsidiary ran organic plantations located at concentration camps and estates in occupied territories. Himmler requisitioned a large area in occupied Posen for organic farmer training. A sizable organic plantation at Dachau produced medicinal herbs. As at Ravensbruck, labour at the Dachau plantation was performed by inmates. These plantations operated until the camps were liberated.
Himmler lieutenants Gunther Pancke and Oswald Pohl administered SS organic programs. Pancke took over the Race and Settlement Office from Darre, thus was a senior manager of conquered farmlands. Pohl (a friend of Seifert) managed the concentration camp system. Pohl’s personal estate was farmed organically. Pohl and Pancke were hung after the war.
The Nazis assumed power in late January 1933. By mid-March 1933 they had rammed through environmentalist laws at all levels of government. National laws promoted reforestation and wildlife protection and blocked industrial development. Local ordinances protected habitat and compelled respect for sacred German forests.
Their unprecedented Reich Nature Protection Law (1935) safeguarded “natural monuments” and severely restricted commercial access to wilderness. This comprehensive law required all levels of government to consult enviro-groups before undertaking any project that might alter the countryside.
The Nazis incorporated “Life Reform” into state policy. (Links between Life Reform and the volkisch milieu were longstanding and wide-ranging.) Select vegetarian societies received official sanction in 1933 and were incorporated into the Life Reform complex.
The fascist-environmental connection was not unique to Germany. The Italian Fascists’ land campaign, launched in 1928, sought to reduce urban sprawl, discourage monoculture, and protect soil (through non-mechanized farming). Supporters, in the 1930s, claimed Italy was “witnessing a return to Mother Earth.” One provincial agricultural association president boasted Fascism was uniquely hospitable to organic agriculture. In 1940 Germany’s chief organic farming journal extolled Italy’s reforestation programs, adding that ecological achievements were only possible under fascism.
Postcard from Deutschland, April 1993 (2)
Multifarious neo-fascist political parties, academic cliques, and social clubs with overlapping memberships and explicit commitments to environmentalism comprised a “network.” Because the original Nazis led a youth-orientated movement, many “old school” Nazis were still alive in 1993 and active in this network. Some network organizations crafted front groups to appeal to people who did not think of themselves as fascist. The same organizations supported street-fighting skin-head gangs.
Esoteric and neo-pagan cults abounded. This New Age milieu, with its ecological affinities, supplied the ultra-right with the mystical component it needed to modernize fascism. The close-to-nature spiritualist literature, so popular in the alternative scene, was permeated with reactionary, volkisch, even Nazi content. Themes and motifs common to neo-fascist party programs reappeared in environmentalist and New Age literature.
Anthroposophy remained attractive to counterculture types. Anthroposophy’s child education subsidiary, Waldorf Schools, operated 60 facilities. Anthroposophy’s foods retailing operation, Demeter, and its cosmetics division, Weleda, were large going concerns. Anthroposophy was subsidized by Siemens, Bertelsmann et al.
Like many New Age enthusiasts, Anthroposophists were often unaware of the historical entwinement between their movements and fascism. Anthroposophists such as Gunther Bartsch knew better. He was a National Revolutionary who used his publications to synthesize ecological themes with the ideals of the Nazi Party’s alleged long-neglected leftist faction.
National Revolutionaries (NR) advocated a Third Way between Left and Right. These “liberation nationalists” demonized American imperialism and regarded Judeo-Christianity as an evil wedded to the equally evil: “religion of economic growth.” They proffered an alternative religion of dance and ritual. They implored Germans to undergo psychic healing while they healed Earth’s ecological wounds.
Since the early-1970s NRs had been prominent anti-nuclear activists. In the late-1970s they joined the emerging Greens, wherein some of their members briefly held office. In 1980, the Green’s Left faction refused to work with NRs whom they deemed more dangerous than overt neo-Nazis. Thereafter, NRs were either driven out of the Greens, or driven undercover.
The Freedom German Workers Party (FGWP) was remote-controlled by a shadowy group called: The Movement.
FGWP accused liberalism, cosmopolitanism, and Christianity of having “torn humanity from its connectedness to the natural cycles of our earth.” They considered “technical environmentalism” too weak to overcome the “increasingly obvious ecological catastrophe.” They demanded an “ecological revolution” to reintegrate humanity into the structures of planetary life and to re-incorporate natural cycles into the economy. Party propaganda stressed humans and nature were a unity and that: “Animals are not things (but) life forms that feel joy and pain and need our protection.”
FGWP proclaimed Nazi ideals and sought to unite fascist parties into a new Nazi Party. They recruited soccer hooligans.
The Republican Party, founded in 1983 by a former Waffen-SS officer, listed its priorities as: “preservation of the existence of the German Volk, its health and its ecological living-space.” They demanded stronger environment regulation because “ecological dislocations” threatened German health. They aspired to higher values than business profits and material living standards.
The National Democratic Party (NDP) was established in 1964 by Nazi Party veterans. The NDP encapsulated its concern about environmental destruction in its 1973 Ecological Manifesto. Its 1988 program reads:
“It is not the unlimited accumulation of material goods or boundless consumption that gives meaning to human life and happiness, but the experience of nature, concern for cultural values, and social security in the family and Volk.”
The NDP promoted New Age eco-consciousness while stressing: “Volk consciousness and environmental consciousness are inseparable.”
The German People’s Union pushed for stringent laws on polluters, stricter examination of imported foods, and improved animal rights. This party’s founder was a Holocaust denier who trafficked in Nazi memorabilia.
World League for the Protection of Life (est. 1958) was a small but influential and very wealthy enviro-organization. The garden at its educational centre was cultivated biodynamically, and visitors were served only organic refreshments.
World League co-founder, Werner Haverbeck, joined the Brownshirts in 1928. From 1929 to 1932 he was a leader in the Nazi Student League. A fixture in Hess’s circle, Haverbeck became the leader of the Hitler Youth.
During WWII Haverbeck conducted propaganda operations in Denmark and then South America. After WWII he was an Anthroposophical Christian pastor for several years before founding, in 1963, Collegium Humanum as a forum for ecological and esoteric seminars.
Haverbeck was World League president from 1974 to 1982. Along with a number of professors, he signed the anti-immigrant Heidelberg Manifesto in 1981.
In Haverbeck’s mind, Germany was the victim of Anglo-Saxon aggression during WWI and WWII. He considered the very notion of death camps to be “enemy propaganda.” This ongoing conspiracy against Germany included efforts to destroy Germany’s environment. He regarded environmentalism as a defence of German biological substance and national identity. He opposed the homogenizing effect of Western civilization.
Haverbeck’s Rudolf Steiner: Advocate for Germany (1989) highlighted Steiner’s extreme nationalism, thereby outraging many Anthroposophists who sent their children to Waldorf Schools. Haverbeck’s wife was not outraged. She publically refused to dissociate from Hitler.
Ernst Cohrs became World League president in 1989. While an official in the League’s Bavarian Chapter Cohrs had sent racist and anti-Semitic literature to League members, ran ads in neo-fascist journals, and allowed neo-fascists to reprint League pamphlets. The exposure of Cohrs’ misdeeds caused a membership exodus. Those who stayed supported Cohrs.
Among those who stayed were: Dr. Arnold Neugebohrn, Jurgen Rieger, and Baldur Springmann. Neugebohrn was a Republican Party candidate proudly sporting a Nazi Party gold medal. Rieger was a lawyer specializing in defending banned neo-nazi groups. Springmann was an “ecofarmer” whose book Partner Earth was published by the notorious Arndt Verlag. Springmann also wrote for the New Right publication Nation Europa.
Other New Rightists connected to the World League included the French academics orbiting around the New Anthropology journal. Here’s a sample of their scholarship:
“Only the Germans were different. In pagan times they worshipped groves and trees, and because of their closeness to nature they had a caring orientation toward nature. Even the love of animals is much more pronounced among the Germanic peoples… It is thus no coincidence that even today the most stalwart environmentalist efforts – private as well as state – are those conducted by peoples who have a larger proportion of the Nordic race.”
All the above-mentioned groups militantly opposed abortion rights for German women whom they wanted to reproduce prolifically. Simultaneously, they promoted “family planning” for other ethnicities – in order to combat overpopulation.
All these groups criticized German immigration policies. These two issues, abortion and immigration, separated this milieu from mainstream environmentalists.
Two conspicuous free radicals floating in the “network” were Rudolf Bahro and Herbert Gruhl.
Bahro was a famous East German dissident and author of the widely-read The Alternative in Eastern Europe. After his 1979 deportation he joined the nascent German Greens, claiming “red and green go well together.” He soon dropped any pretence of leftism, alarming many with nationalist and religious enunciations.
Bahro was a leader of the “fundamentalist” Greens who opposed the Party’s “realist” faction (who were committed to parliamentary politics). In 1985 he quit the Party, complaining similarities between Greens and Nazis were under-utilized. He called for a politics centred on the “God and Goddess” and became a New Age guru.
Bahro’s The Logic of Salvation (1987) shocked many former admirers by espousing authoritarian theological concepts while calling for a “new 1933.”
In 1989 Bahro co-founded a learning centre (“the ecological academy of the world”) to present lectures, events, and retreats focussed on ecofeminism, deep ecology, and New Age spirituality.
Soon after, Bahro ascended the Chair of Social Ecology at the University of Humboldt where students crammed into his seminars on tribal consciousness and mystical Germanism. To one seminar he invited Wolfgang Deppert – a German Unitary Religion director who had recently printed an article by the infamous Princess Marie Reuss-zur-Lippe. (In the 1920s “Darre’s little sister” founded the Nordic Ring. In the 1980s she edited a journal published by Germany’s premier Holocaust denier.)
Bahro criticized “bean-counting democracy” and advanced spiritual-consensus decision-making. The ecological crisis was only solvable by an elitist god-state, by a “Green Adolf” answering a call from the depths of the Volk. Modern Germans should emulate the Nazis’ rejection of materialistic secularism because materialistic secularism was the source of the ecological crisis.
One Bahro associate claimed Nazism was a legitimate spiritual revolt against materialism. Another associate described Nazism as a botched attempt to heal the world. Yet another, a former 1960s anarchist wild man, spouted “spirituality in Germany is named Hitler” while beseeching youth to reclaim their inheritance by being “better fascists.”
Bahro received funding from the Saxony government for an eco-commune pilot project thanks to his friend and fellow lecturer at Humboldt U, Saxony Prime Minister Kurt Biedenkopf.
Herbert Gruhl was an elected Christian Democrat politician when he wrote the best-selling A Planet is Plundered (1975).
Gruhl co-founded the Green Party through his Green Action Future group whose motto was “neither left nor right.” Gruhl’s faction fought a losing battle for control of the Greens. He quit the Party, claiming they had forsaken ecology for leftism.
Gruhl and Springmann founded the Ecological Democratic Party (EDP) in 1982. However in 1989, after the EDP distanced itself from New Democrats and Republicans, Gruhl quit to form another eco-party.
Gruhl consistently argued the “laws of nature” dictated hierarchical social structures, adding:
“…if the animal breaks the unwritten laws of the herd and goes its own way it generally pays for its independence with its life.”
He called overpopulation a violation of natural law that could only be remedied by mass death. (He assured followers Third World peoples would accept this final solution because of their ingrained fatalism.) Similarly, he contended Germany’s liberal immigration policies were upsetting the ecological equilibrium and were exhausting Germany’s natural living space.
Such views found an audience among mainstream environmentalists. In 1989 the respectable League for the Protection of the Environment announced:
“…only when humanity’s main concern, the diminution of the stream of overpopulation, has been accomplished, will there be any prospect of building an environment that is capable of improvement, of configuring the landscape of our civilization in such a way that it remains worthy of being called Heimat.”
Gruhl predicted environmental emergencies would culminate in political dictatorship. Wars of the future would be won by well-armed nations that conserved their resources. Germany had to bring military preparedness to high levels while keeping living standards low.
At a 1991 ceremony whereat Gruhl was given a prestigious award, Lower Saxony’s Environment Minister praised Gruhl for having “placed ideas of environmental protection and care at the forefront of public political consciousness.” The award shocked many observers.
In the late-1970s Gruhl, Bahro, National Revolutionaries, and other “network” types constituted a substantial portion of the Green Party’s co-founders. (Biehl forgot to mention fellow co-founder, Gert Bastian: the Wehrmacht soldier-cum-West German Army General-cum-Christian Social Union politician.) One of the Green Party’s first acts was to reprint Klages’ Man and Earth. Within a few years, as the Party made its mass appeal, “politically correct” elements overwhelmed the “network.” By 1993 Green Party members self-identifying as “leftist” had been purged.
Regarding modern times, Staudenmaier narrows “the fascists” down to “the white racists.” Even these elements remain a persistent tendency in the environmental movement. They espouse anti-immigrant and pro-eugenics policies with open or concealed racist rationales usually in “defence of the land.” Non-German European examples of this tendency include: Finnish deep ecologist Pentti Linkola’s circle, the Danish People’s Party, Italy’s Forza Nuova and Alternativa Sociale, and the British National Party (BNP).
A longstanding BNP slogan is “Racial preservation is green!” British fascists have green roots stretching at least to Rolf Gardiner (1902-1971) and Jorian Jenks (1899-1963).
There are also New Right cliques scattered across Europe who propose ethnically focused bio-regional governance as the eco-alternative to nature-destroying techno-society. New Rightists claim the destruction of environment and the suppression of nationalism are both rooted in “Semitic monotheistic universalism.”
All such groups excoriate the USA as the mongrelized bastion of egalitarian democracy. American corporate monoculture is accused of global cultural genocidal. American techno-imperialism is accused of global environmental destruction.
Inside the USA, environmentalists Garret Hardin (1915-2003) and John Tanton (b. 1934) had little trouble attracting support for their racist anti-immigrant and overpopulation campaigns. Battles over the Sierra Club’s immigration/population policies in 1998 and 2004 exposed deep fissures in US environmentalism. Senior US deep ecologist Bill Devall voices staunch anti-immigrant opinions.
Further to the fringe: In the 1990s notorious US white supremacist Tom Metzger was pleasantly surprised by how ecologically-minded his new recruits were. In 2000 the Pagan Liberation League (PLL) of the Pacific Northwest issued a manifesto declaring:
“The PLL stands opposed to all forms of capitalist exploitation of the environment and we view any attack or intrusion upon Mother Nature as a personal attack against ourselves. We will fight the Corporate State to the death to preserve the natural beauty of the earth and its species and various races, most prominently our own species, the Aryan species.”
The manifesto morphs into a sales pitch for organic food and herbal medicine.
Biehl and Staudenmaier’s scholarship is flagrantly biased. They have been truly brainwashed into embracing neo-fascism’s central myth – “the ecological crisis.”
Their goal in 1995 was “to improve the integrity of serious ecological movements.” Said integrity was compromised by the hijacking of ecology by New Age, anti-immigrant, and “even Malthusian” elements.
(They absurdly maintain Malthusianism to be a fringe concern among environmentalists.)
Their 1995 Introduction shouts:
“What prevents ecological politics from yielding reaction or fascism with an ecological patina is an ecological movement that maintains a broad social emphasis, one that places the ecological crisis in a social context. As social ecologists, we see the roots of the present ecological crisis in an irrational society – not in the biological makeup of human beings, nor in a particular religion, nor in reason, or technology. On the contrary, we uphold the importance of reason, science and technology in creating a progressive ecological movement and an ecological society. It is a specific set of social relations – above all, the competitive market economy – that is presently destroying the biosphere.”(emphasis added)
(This 700-word Introduction chants “ecological” a mantra-like 33 times.)
Biehl’s essay begins:
“It is an incontestable fact that the ecology crisis today is real. In a vast number of ways and places, the biosphere of the planet is undergoing a great deal of damage. Parts of the environment have already been rendered uninhabitable through toxic wastes and nuclear power plant disasters, while systemic pollution, ozone holes, global warming and other disasters are increasingly tearing the fabric on which all life depends. That such damage is wrought overwhelmingly by corporations in a competitive international market economy has never been clearer.” (emphasis added)
“Finally, the ecological crisis can hardly be dismissed; it is itself very real and is worsening rapidly. Indeed, the politicization of ecology is not only desirable but necessary.” (emphasis added)
The 2011 edition’s co-written one-page Preface thrice summons “the ecological crisis” which they blame on the “grow-or-die market economy.”
Staudenmaier begins his 2011 essay by re-affirming his 1995 aims, namely to: “encourage a radical and emancipatory ecology.” He ends with:
“It would be a welcome development if this history sparked a re-thinking of some of the political positions current within the contemporary environmental scene. Many of those positions are plainly inadequate in the face of the enduring social and ecological crisis. I remain a social ecologist fully committed to a thoroughgoing transformation of society and of human relations with the natural world.” (emphasis added)
Regarding agriculture, Staudenmaier has a hoe to grind. His 2011 essay contains a statement of intent:
“…I want a vibrant and politically conscious organic farming movement.”
His unstated intent is to disconnect his “organic” brand from Nazism by scapegoating Anthroposophists and by casting the false impression that Nazis supported “biodynamic” as opposed to “organic” agriculture. He nowhere differentiates “biodynamic” from “organic” agriculture; however, the text repeatedly describes biodynamics as a spiritual form of organic farming.
There was a biodynamic-Nazi connection. In the Third Reich’s early years, despite opposition from the chemical industry and anti-occult officials, biodynamic farming was praised in Nazi media and received more state support than it has enjoyed before or since.
The Reich League for Biodynamic Agriculture (RLBA) was founded in 1933 under Erhard Bartsch’s command. Nazis paraded through Bartsch’s biodynamically run estate. An SS subsidiary marketed biodynamic goods and subsidized the RLBA. Dresden’s Rudolf Hess Hospital utilized biodynamic herbs. Hitler’s villa garden was biodynamical. Anthroposophists figured prominently on Darre’s staff, including one who pressured the potato growers’ guild into favouring biodynamic spuds.
Anthroposophists’ monthly journalreturned the favour. One 1939 issue featured a photo of Hitler in the Alps surrounded by children celebrating his 50th birthday. This journal celebrated Nazi enviro-policies and military conquests and called for putting prisoners of war to work on enviro-projects.
Opponents to the Nazi’s “green wing” thought biodynamic agriculture was occultist quackery and a pointless encumbrance on farmers. After Hess’s ill-starred 1941 flight to Britain, the “green wing” became marginalized. RLBA was dissolved and Bartsch was temporarily imprisoned.
Staudenmaier correctly notes that Darre’s 1942 resignation had little to do with his environmentalist leanings. He incorrectly claims Darre was “stripped of all posts.” Darre remained Agriculture Minister until 1944, albeit largely in a ceremonial capacity. 1942 to 1945 was for Darre a period of semi-retirement during which he maintained an office in Berlin to facilitate his activism and lobbying.
Staudenmaier’s completely wrong claim that the “green wing” played no active role post-1942 is contradicted by his own account of Himmler’s post-1942 promotion of organic agriculture.
Moreover, Staudenmaier concedes that Himmler rejected Anthroposophy and referred to organic agriculture as “natural farming.” He claims Darre also eschewed the word “biodynamic” in favour of “farming according to the laws of life.” Thus, the officials responsible for promoting organic agriculture never used the term “biodynamic.”
In fact, by 1940 Darre had removed Anthroposophist mysticism from his agenda and dropped “biodynamic” in favour of “organische.” Therefore, using “biodynamic” regarding Third Reich agricultural is problematic, especially post-1940 when organic farms were neither called “biodynamic” nor managed biodynamically.
Despite this, in his 14-page segment on Nazi agriculture Staudenmaier gratuitously hammers in references to biodynamics or Anthroposophy a brain-numbing 141 times. The word “biodynamic” appears 111 times, often in reference to a post-1940 agricultural sector supervised by officials who eschewed biodynamic in word and deed. Almost every sentence in this 14-page segment has some aspect of Anthroposophy gratuitously wedged into it even though for most of the time frame being discussed Anthroposophy was repressed. One Staudenmaier tactic consists of cherry-picking second-tier Nazi officials with Anthroposophist connections and then magnifying their importance.
His revisionism causes basic misconceptions. For instance, the 1995 edition asserts:
“The campaign to institutionalize organic farming encompassed tens of thousands of small-holdings and estates across Germany.” (emphasis added)
The 2011 edition claims the above number is an error and scales back the estimate to “around 2,000.” The source for the revision is the chairman of a biodynamic promotional society who estimated there were 2,000 biodynamic operations in Germany in 1940.
The correction provides a useless statistic. Biodynamic farms were a subset of organic farms. “Biodynamic” was replaced with “organic” by 1940. Organic farming expanded after 1940, often outside German borders.
If the question was: How many organic farms existed under the Third Reich at its peak? – then the retracted statement would probably be the more accurate answer.
If this ‘organic-good/biodynamic-bad’ propaganda strategy works, soon environmentalists, when confronted with the organic-Nazi connection, will retort:
“Oh, the Nazis were into ‘biodynamic’ not ‘organic’ agriculture!”
Given his political roots, Staudenmaier might have been more mindful of the perils of two-front wars.
He opines that back in 1995 few environmentalists, even academic ones, acknowledged any connection between fascism and environmentalism. Post-1995 scholarship on this topic tended to distance fascism from environmentalism. (Haeckel and Heidegger’s vocal defenders remain willfully oblivious to these two men’s political views. Heidegger is a celebrated precursor of environmentalism and hero to deep ecologists.) Nevertheless, Staudenmaier contends there has been sufficient research post-1995 “to refute two equally absurd claims: that ‘environmentalism is fascism’ and that there are no connections whatsoever between environmentalism and fascism.” (emphasis added)
Regarding the latter, Staudenmaier is flabbergasted that blanket denial of the environmentalist-fascist connection persists. The main aim of his 2011 essay is to vanquish the deniers. However, by saliently exposing the environmentalist-fascist connection, Staudenmaier, through his own words, betrays an overwhelming confluence between environmentalism and the ultra-right political tradition.
According to Professor Staudenmaier:
- The forerunners of German ecology were reactionaries, racists, etc.
- Haeckel, the German founder of ecology, used ecological arguments to advance an authoritarian, imperialist, and racist political agenda.
- Haeckel’s disciples dominated academic ecology and continued his proto-Nazi polemicizing.
In two dozen passages Staudenmaier inextricably binds himself to the following facts:
- The Nazis’ naturalist vision bears compelling, substantive parallels to ecological values.
- The Nazis’ naturalist vision was reflected in an expansive spectrum of institutions and practices.
- Most Nazi ideologues deprecated humanity vis-à-vis nature.
- Most Nazi ideologues attacked human efforts to master nature.
- Most Nazi ideologues were anti-urban agrarian romantics.
- The trope of “Nature’s precarious balance” abounds in Nazi propaganda.
- The use of environmentalist themes was a crucial factor in the Nazis’ rise to power.
- The use of environmentalist themes was a crucial factor in the Nazis’ wielding of power.
- Ecology played a central role in Nazi policy.
- Ecological themes played a vital role in Nazi ideology.
- Social Darwinism provided scientific grounds for Nazi racism.
- Ecology was a primary justification, even motivation, of Lebensraum.
- Ecological arguments played a crucial role in the Holocaust.
- Nazis murdered in the name of Nature.
- Ecological ideas were not mere personal idiosyncrasies of top Nazis.
- Ecological ideas were not mere propaganda motifs to the Nazis.
- The top of the Nazi hierarchy firmly held ecological values.
- Ecological values were embraced at the lowest levels of the Nazi state.
- Environmentalist commitments were not peripheral phenomena in the Third Reich.
- Environmentalist commitments were not passing phenomena in the Third Reich.
- Even the Third Reich’s modernizing tendencies had significant ecological components.
- Nazi forest and wetland conservation policies were wide and varied.
- Soil ecology and organic farming were basic to Nazism.
- Environmentalist ideas played significant roles in Nazi policies in conquered territories.
Which of Professor Staudenmaier’s following assertions is true?
- The conflation of the political concepts “right and left” is confusing.
- Distinguishing right from left is increasingly futile.
- The slogan “we are neither right nor left” is often foolish or deceptive.
- “We are neither right nor left” has been a consistent ultra-rightist slogan for 150 years.
- Environmentalists/political ecologists purport to be “neither left nor right.”
Answer – all of the above.
Naturalist metaphors and parallels are features of radical right-wing rhetoric. The overlapping ideological genres: Social Darwinism, Socio-biology, Human Ecology, and Blood and Soil provide “natural law” justifications for: racial inequality, international war, economic hierarchy, anti-democratic governance, and anti-individualist mores. Naturalist/Ecological arguments impose limits to growth on human population and industrial potential. Such arguments have never been staples of the Left or Centre – only the Right.
Ecofascism Revisited profiles 33 political parties, academic cliques, publishing houses, activist groups, etc., past and present, that were/are both ultra-green and ultra-right. (Staudenmaier alleges a rich heritage of left-libertarian ecologists but doesn’t name one. The reader is directed to a perfunctory citation of a 1986 German publication on anarchy.)
Thus, Staudenmaier dispels the myth of no connection between environmentalism and fascism.
What of “environmentalism is fascism”?
Staudenmaier holds to his line, without supporting evidence, that his research “certainly does not indicate any inherent or inevitable connection between ecological issues and right wing politics.” (emphasis added)
“Indicate” does not mean “prove beyond shadow of doubt.” Indicate means: “to suggest, imply, or provide evidence for.” His research definitely indicates an enviro-fascist connection.
The concepts of “inherency/inevitability” are problematic for history. The Confederate Army wore grey jackets, but did they “inherently” wear them? Fascism was wedded to environmentalism, but was this “inherently” so? Does Staudenmaier have access to a super-computer upon which he can run historical models with or without certain variables to see if certain characteristics persist?
In 2003 Australian Senator George Brandis read passages from Ecofascism into the parliamentary record to indict Australia’s Green Party for being mystical, misanthropic, anti-democratic zealots of a familiar cast. Staudenmaier leapt into the fray with a letter complaining Brandis had misused his research. This letter supplements his patented “environmentalism-not-inherently-fascist” sophistry with a twist, i.e. extremism and anti-democratic proclivity are only “tangentially” related to the commonalities between environmentalism and fascism as revealed by Staudenmaier.
In fact, Staudenmaier’s research reveals yesteryear’s fascists were authoritarian zealots obsessed with the environment. Geometrically-speaking, a “tangent” is a line that grazes a curve; touching at only one point. Fascism, environmentalism, extremism, and authoritarianism are tightly tangled threads touching at a thousand points, and Staudenmaier’s research does not disguise this.
The letter’s main trick consists of Staudenmaier pleading ignorance about the character of the Australian Greens, then, without evidence, presuming them to be legitimate dissenters to the status quo and bulwarks of democracy. He dodges the debate, then scurries to the safety of his herd.
Staudenmaier confesses to having made six errors in the 1995 edition but not this one:
“…even Goring – who was, along with Goebbels, the member of the Nazi inner circle least hospitable to ecological ideas – appears at times to have been a committed conservationist.”
Goring was one of the greenest Nazis. In 1933 he demanded and received control over forests and hunting and quickly became a champion of both. He expanded forests in Germany and points east. In his disputes with Darre over the farmland-wilderness divide, Goring was the greener. He was the driving force behind the 1935 Nature Protection Law. He was an animal rights fanatic. He spent inordinate resources re-introducing wild species. He was obsessed with the Schorfheide Nature Reserve, which overlay his estate and grew to encompass 300 square miles.
This erroneous description of Goring probably relates to Staudenmaier’s Nazi “green wing” doctrine. This problem reduces down to a question of avian anatomy.
Hitler, Himmler, Hess, Rosenberg, Darre, Siefert, and Todt were feathers in the green wing. If Goring is added to this list, it becomes obvious we are not examining this bird’s wing; we are examining its green head.
Throughout the Third Reich “greens” comprised a majority of the Fuhrer’s inner circle. At all times “greens” controlled over half the Reich budget. The Third Reich is an exemplar of green governance.
Circa 1941, from Moscow’s gates to Dover’s cliffs, from Norway’s northern fjords to Sicily’s southern shores, Europa groaned beneath fascist dictators. Several million Europeans brandished fascist party membership cards. Five years later – not so many. Nonetheless, a political movement of this scale disappears neither quickly nor quietly. Western Europe witnessed neither a great purge of fascists nor a long overdue attainder of fascism’s social base.
Thus, under cover of the Cold War fog, the fascist movement reconstituted itself, albeit bowed and broken. The main fracture separated a minority addicted to pre-1945 symbols and rhetoric (swastikas, crude anti-Semitism, etc.) from a majority advocating a major makeover. Mainstream neo-fascism became environmentalism.
Circa 1941 anyone actively opposing the “Jewish world conspiracy” was a fascist. Circa 2013 anyone actively opposing the “global ecological crisis” is a fascist. Big Lies give coherence and direction to quasi-religious armies of reason-resistant zombies. Over its meagre 140 pages, Ecofascism Revisited cries “ecological crisis” (or “environmental destruction” or “finishing off the planet”) over 40 times. The existence of this crisis is deemed “uncontestable.” The vast counter-movement of enviro-skeptics merits no mention.
Ecofascism Revisited is thus ecofascist propaganda. Espousal of anti-capitalism hardly rescues the book given that every fascist party in Europe espoused anti-capitalism. Nor is the book rescued by its exposure of the many nests of unreconstructed Nazis (vulgar racists, outspoken authoritarians, etc.) within the environmental movement, given that driving these ogres out of the movement has been a primary goal of the ‘Neo-fascist Internationale’ since 1946.
Biehl and Staudenmaier’s mentor, Murray Bookchin (1921-2006), was a cloud-nine utopian anarchist street preacher from New York who, in 1973, parlayed his trendy apocalyptic chemical-phobia into a teaching gig at Vermont’s Goddard College – a private institute still boasting about its enviro-consciousness. Goddard gave Bookchin’s crew free run of a 40-acre farm where they experimented with organic agriculture and compost toilets and hosted the summer teach-ins that morphed into the Institute for Social Ecology (ISE) – a facility still garnering some academic legitimacy and big money philanthropy despite being a staging area for eco-terrorist assaults on modern agricultural technology.
Janet Biehl (b. 1953) arrived at ISE in the mid-1980s and soon entered into a conjugal/political partnership with Bookchin that endured until Biehl secretly made the logical leap from the deflating dingy of anarchism to that cruising Titanic of big government, the US Democratic Party, circa 2000.
Peter Staudenmaier joined ISE in the late-1980s and remains an ISE Associate. He currently teaches Inherent History of Tangents (201) for the Jesuits at Marquette U (Milwaukee) while cherishing memories of the lively “Unabomber: For or Against” campfire debates back at his old alma mater.
To their immortal credit, however, Bookchin, Biehl and Staudenmaier bravely exposed and opposed mysticism, misanthropism, misogyny, authoritarianism, and white supremecism within the environmental movement.
Ecofascism Revisited betrays how little ‘Social’ there is in Social Ecology. Nowhere does the text discuss the socio-economic consequences of green policies. No mention is made of a landed interest; or of metropolitan-hinterland relations; or of the oligarchy’s influence, past or present, within environmentalism.
Nickson’s Eco-fascists and Biehl and Staudenmaier’s Ecofascism Revisited were published months apart and were marketed to the same English-reading audience. Yet these two books do not share a single fact or comparable sentence. For Nickson “ecofascism” is an epithet to be hurled at environmentalists’ skulls. For Biehl and Staudenmaier “ecofascism” is a loathsome sub-movement to be ostracised from their tribe. Nickson hasn’t hit the: “Wow! these people really ARE fascists!” revelation. Biehl and Staudenmaier aren’t even looking for the entrance to the cave.
- Staudenmaier uses “environmental” and “ecology” interchangeably and in ways corresponding to contemporary meanings. In a narrow sense his “green” refers to the promotion of nature protection, ecological land-usage, and organic agriculture. In a broad sense his “green” refers to personal attachments to whole foods, natural medicines, etc.
- This is extracted from Biehl’s chapter “Ecology and the Modernization of Fascism in the German Ultra-Right,” which was written in April 1993.
Biehl J. and Staudenmaier P. Ecofascism Revisited: Lessons from the German Experience. New Compass Press. Porsgrunn, Norway. 2011.
Bramwell A. Blood and Soil: Walther Darre and Hitler’s Green Party. Kensall Press, Buckinghamshire. 1985.
Dominick R. The Environmental Movement in Germany: Prophets and Pioneers, 1871-1971. Indiana University Press. 1992.
Markham W. Environmental Organizations in Modern Germany. Berghahn Books. 2008.
Uekoetter F. The Green and the Brown: A History of Conservationism in Nazi Germany. Cambridge University Press. 2006.