Left Green Perspectives #27




Neither Left nor “Up Front” but Far Right

If the Green slogan “we are neither left nor right but up front” was ever meaningful, the increasingly notable emergence of an “ecological right” defines its bankruptcy conclusively. A political ecology that is dubiously conceived as a ideology that privileges the natural world over the social, combined with a nationalism that invokes “anti-imperialism” as a patina for xenophobia and with biocentric concern for the “intrinsic worth” of life conjures a shadowy realm of biological ideas that can be put to the service of extremely reactionary ends.

The virtues–and the evils–of ecological ideas depend not only upon how they define humanity’s place in nature but upon the social and political context in which they are placed. If this context is ahistorical, intuitive, and culturally parochial, and if it is amoral and “possibilist” (to use the kindest possible word for the desire to acquire broad public support), it can easily create a social ambience for reaction and, as in the past, ecofascism. If, on the other hand, the more valuable universalistic and generous ideals of the Enlightenment are upheld as part of an ecological outlook, an ecology movement can if nothing else establish barriers to sinister regressions and to quasi-religious deflections from its humanistic goal of attaining a sharing social world and an ecologically creative humanity.

Hence the enormous importance of the debate between social ecologists and “deep” ecologists, between those who foster the intuitionism and ecotheologies of “deep” ecology and those who foster the rationalism and naturalism of social ecology. In the United States, these opposing pathways for the ecology movement were clarified most fully in debates over ecological philosophy and ethics. But in Europe they have recently been emerging in the concrete realms of ecological politics and practice. No longer are ecological concerns being formulated solely in the radical terms of an ecoanarchic or even ecosocialist left; they are being cast in terms of a highly authoritarian right that verges on–and that even explicitly draws many of its “naturalistic” sentiments from–fascist traditions.

Indeed, as a growing presence in the European ecological movement, the far right often uses radical rhetoric familiar to the ecological left. Perhaps the most sophisticated–and sinister–of these ideological challenges comes from the so-called New Right (the choice of this term places it in a highly obscurantist relation to the New Left of the early 1960s), which in a quasi-Spenglerian fashion critiques Western civilization (including the Enlightenment itself) as decadent and the Judeo-Christian worldview as antinaturalistic. It avows a hatred of Western civilization (in the peculiar sense of American culture), especially Judeo-Christianity, and of a homogenizing, bureaucratizing industrial society. It glorifies pagan and pre-Christian cultures and dresses its views in anti-imperialist trappings.

Earlier in this century, the NSDAP demagogically appealed not only to Germans’ love of nature but to many sentiments that have legitimate appeal to today’s leftist ecologists and ecoanarchists, including opposition to “blind industrialization,” “materialist consumerism,” soulless, homogenized modern society, and the excesses of modern technology. The Nazis also stressed the need to return to a simpler, healthier, more “natural” lifeways. Even as they constructed a virulently nationalist totalitarian state, stage-managed a strident leadership cult, and committed genocide against Jews, their indoctrination extravaganzas promised “authenticity” in a mystical and romantic worldview.

The fact that present-day ultrarightists use the ecological problem and exploit people’s genuine alienation does not, of course, make attention to these issues fascist. We are certainly facing an ecological crisis of monumental proportions. Alternative, more “organic” ways of living, communes, and back-to-the-land lifeways have a long and honorable histories, certainly in Britain and the United States as well as in Germany. Anticapitalism and decentralism underpin a broad array of libertarian-leftist positions, however much the New Right chooses to reinterpret and rework them. The popular search for ideals, for a meaning to life beyond materialism, and for creativity and community is genuine, as is the “crisis of spirit” in modern societies. In the 1970s, quests for “autonomous spheres” and for “authenticity” and mistrust of existing institutions played a large part in the emergence of “new social movements” throughout the world.

But ecological theorists and activists would do well to exercise extreme wariness as to how they use these ideas and the context in which they are placed. Despite seeming points of convergence between far right and leftist ecologists, a genuine left does not share the right’s attitude toward people from countries outside one’s own or its nationalism, among other things. In response to a Europe that is becoming increasingly multicultural, for example, old right-wing arguments are now being shrewdly recast in “ecological” terms. Most notoriously, “ecology” is invoked by some–not only on the far right–to advance seemingly “ecological” reasons for keeping out or expelling immigrants and for asserting fervently nationalistic slogans in the name of ethnic identity and seemingly anti-imperialist sentiments.

Certain tendencies are quite blatant on this score. “Racial preservation is Green,” declaims a 1986 pamphlet from a National Front group in Britain. In Germany, the programs of the National Revolutionaries call for “revolutionary change in the ecological field” as well as the compulsory and graduated expulsion of all foreigners (except political refugees) within ten years. But perhaps the most blatant ecofascist to use such manipulative terms and make such demands today is Herbert Gruhl, a far-rightist who has been working on environmental issues at least since the early seventies, when as a CDU representative to the federal parliament (Bundestag) he chaired the party caucus’s working group on environmentalism. His 1975 book A Planet Is Plundered: The Balance of Terror of our Politics is notable for its explicit social Darwinist interpretation of ecology and for its dubious understanding of democracy. He envisages a strongly armed ecological dictatorship that provides “an optimum of military preparedness with a minimum of consumer satisfaction and therefore a much smaller utilization of natural resources.”

His exquisitely demagogic conjunction of terms and ideas imparts a frightening consistency to an ecologism permeated by fascistic intentions. In a recent conversation with the editors of Young Freedom, the flagship publication of the ultraright National Revolutionaries, Gruhl was asked whether the problems of protecting the environment and life can be solved within a democracy. His reply: “Probably not, because democracies follow the temper of the times [Zeitgeist]. And the Zeitgeist in all countries of the world today is programmed to further raise the standard of living. Parties that warn about this and advocate renunciation of consumption seem to have little chance.” (This curious twist to what is known as “simple living” in the English-speaking world is a fascinating new wrinkle in the conventional environmental wisdom about the virtues of austerity.)

Gruhl participated in the melange of groups that came together to form the German Greens in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He founded Green Action Future (GAZ) and remained its leading figure–indeed, GAZ had little organizational infrastructure and was primarily a party of leaders. In their 1984 book Green Politics, Charlene Spretnak and Fritjof Capra note that it was Gruhl “who created the slogan ‘We are neither left nor right; we are in front.'” Ultimately, Gruhl was incensed when the center-left took control of the incipient Green party and adopted a program outline that in his estimation constituted “a socialist shopping list.” The left- and right-wing tendencies in ecological politics splitting, and Gruhl walked out of the Green milieu.

After his departure, Gruhl went on to found the gently named Ecological Democratic Party (öDP), with the support of other far-right ecologists. He became the ÖDP’s chairman in March 1982 and co-authored much of its programmatic material. Yet in January 1989, after seven years, Gruhl walked out of the ÖDP as well, after national party congress passed a resolution that formally distanced itself from two fascist parties, the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) and the Republicans. The group Gruhl subsequently formed, the Working Circle for Ecological Politics, passed as one of its first resolutions a demand for an “end to immigration on ecological grounds,” at Gruhl’s advocacy.

Since the mid-1980s Gruhl has often appeared as a guest speaker at assemblies of neo-Nazis and at congresses of Historical Revisionist groups (who regard the Holocaust as a Jewish hoax). Last fall, in an action that shocked many observers, Monika Greifahn, a former Greenpeace activist who is now environmental minister of Lower Saxony, awarded Gruhl the Federal Service Cross, a highly prestigious state honor. (It should be noted that the ruling provincial government of Lower Saxony is a coalition between the Greens and the Social Democrats.) “With his international best-seller, A Planet Is Plundered,” Greifahn said, attempting to explain her appalling action, Gruhl has “placed ideas of environmental protection and care at the forefront of public political consciousness.”

The increasingly rambunctious right in the world today is equipped with an ecological rhetoric that is often indistinguishable from that of the conventional ecological movement. The emergence of Herbert Gruhl as a spokesman of “ecologism” reinforces the urgent need for an ecological left, or better an eco-anarchist left, that is firmly committed to a clear, coherent set of anticapitalist, democratic, antihierarchical views. Without firm roots in the internationalism of the left and the rational, humanistic, and genuinely egalitarian critique of social oppression that was part of the Enlightenment, particularly its revolutionary libertarian offshoot, ecology can be used to provide a veneer for irrationalism, as can identity politics for racism, pagan nature worship for anti-Semitism, and biocentrism for Malthusianism. In the face of this, the ecoanarchist left must firmly restate its basic principles, indeed the ideas that literally define it, in its conflict with the mysticism, social Darwinism, and antihumanistic biologism that are growing in our time. The cry, “Neither left nor right” rings hollow when it can be used (as it emphatically is) by ecofascists who want to go backward in their ideologies and activities–and not “forward” at all.

German leftists of an ecological orientation are now trying to counter Gruhl’s influence, as the following articles attest. ¤

Sources: Walter Laqueur, Germany Today: A Personal Report (Boston and Toronto: Little Brown, 1985); Werner Hülsberg, The German Greens: A Social and Political Profile, trans. Gus Fagan (Verso: London and New York, 1988); Reimar Paul, “EK III in Grün-Braun,” Konkret [Hamburg] (December 1991), pp. 35-36; Derek Wall, unpublished ms.


Should We Work in Coalition
with “Right-to-Lifers” and Racists?

by the Cologne Anti-EC Group

Editors’ note:

Last year at Maastricht, Holland, the governments of the European Community (EC) agreed to form a unitary market with a common currency and a common political structure before the end of the decade. Many ecological leftists in Germany oppose the unitary market, partly because it would ultimately reduce the stringency of existing environmental standards in Germany, partly because it would mean a closer integration of capitalism in Europe, and partly because, as opponents of excessive centralization, they prefer cooperation among regions to a Brussels superstate. German ecological leftists are not alone in opposing Maastricht: so do many neo-liberal economists and many people concerned about the stability of their respective national currencies. And so do many far-right nationalists, who fear that a newly unified Germany would be “infiltrated” [überfremdet] or weakened by European union. For one, Franz Schönhuber, the former Waffen-SS member who founded the Republicans in 1983, argues quite blatantly that the unitary market would shift Europe’s center of gravity to the south and southeast: “The main reason why I reject this EC is the importation of crime, drugs, the Mafia and Camorra that it would mean.”1

Last year, a coalition of German liberal and leftist groups got together build a campaign called “1992: Year of Resistance” to oppose the high degree of centralization, capitalist integration, and ecological damage that the unitary market would create. These groups set up a clearinghouse to coordinate their actions, one of which was carried out against the Group of Seven (G-7) summit meeting in Munich this past July and received heavy international news coverage.

The fact that Herbert Gruhl’s old party, the ÖDP, is also represented on that clearinghouse alarms at least one group, the Cologne Anti-EC Group. Their instructive argument against this unholy coalition details the programs of Gruhl and the ODP and shows the face that a resurgent ecofascism wears today.

“Ever since the middle of this year,” reads an ÖDP members’ information document from 1991, “a round table called Clearinghouse 1992, has been meeting. It consists of representatives from various citizens’ initiatives, environmental alliances, church groups, unions, and parties. Our chairman, Hans-Joachim Ritter, has successfully seen to it that the ÖDP is also represented in the Clearinghouse. Meanwhile, a working group in which the ÖDP participates has worked hard on developing ideas for the ‘alternative summit,’ which will be held parallel to the world economic summit on July 6-8, 1992, in Munich.”2

As a matter of fact, the ÖDP has reason to feel quite satisfied with its efforts at coalition building. After all, two years ago, during the 1990 Bundestag electoral campaign, antifascist groups were distributing stickers that read: “Nip them in the bud! No voice for Republicans, DVU, NPD, and ÖDP!”3 But today, in the 1992: Year of Resistance campaign, the ÖDP finds itself sitting not only in the Clearinghouse but in the coalition for Campaign 1992, to which Greens and other liberal and radical groups also belong.4 What has happened in those two years? Have ecofascists suddenly become acceptable coalition partners?

At this writing, no one is confronting the ÖDP over its ideology or its political activity. Those who do venture to criticize coalition building with this party are assured that the ÖDP of 1992 is not the same as the ÖDP of the 1980s, when Herbert Gruhl was its chairman. Gruhl is no longer in the party, such doubters are assured, and besides, the ÖDP has since undergone a rethinking and a reorientation.

This is simply not true. In fact, it was not ÖDP that separated itself from Herbert Gruhl; rather, it was Gruhl who left the party that he himself had co-founded because it was ostensibly hesitating to follow him as far into the radical-right swamp as he wanted to go–or at least, it was reluctant to do so as openly as he was.

In point of fact, the catalyst for Gruhl’s departure from the ÖDP at its February 1989 congress in Saarbrücken was a resolution that the majority of assembled ÖDP delegates narrowly passed that declared the party opposed to making coalitions with Republicans and other far-right parties. Yet in the Brief History of the ÖDP that Gruhl’s successor as party chairman, Hans-Joachim Ritter, subsequently co-wrote (and that the ODP still distributes), the party distances itself from that earlier “intra-party disturbance”: “What was expressed in that resolution,” we read, “. . . were defamations that had been leveled by people from the extreme left, and that were then uncritically picked up by various members.”5 Thus, the ÖDP does not convincingly distance itself from the far right–it dismisses its own public resolution as something alien to itself and continues its practical political activities unaltered.

Indeed, the fact that Gruhl allies himself with radical rightists and appears as a speaker before neo-Nazi groups6 has induced the ÖDP to utter nary a dissenting word against Gruhl’s ideas–upon which all the party’s programs and resolutions continue to be based. To the contrary, the ÖDP stands by Gruhl and his ideas, which he had promoted among ODP members [Parteivolk] ever since the publication of his 1975 best-seller A Planet Is Plundered (400,000 sold). And his successor, Ritter, quotes Gruhl admiringly, without a single word of criticism, in every other paragraph of his ÖDP history (which the ODP also still distributes).

In the early days of the Greens, Ritter’s account explains, Gruhl had considered that the left had “pushed aside” the Greens’ “central concern for ecology in favor of a leftist ideology of emancipation.” Gruhl and the “well-known eco-farmer” Baldur Springmann took up the fight against the “left’s mentality of making demands, which is motivated by its social utopianism.” But they lost their ideological battle for the Greens, and after departing from the organization in March 1982, Gruhl and Springmann went on to found the Ecological Democratic Party (ÖDP). Gruhl became the party chairman, and Springmann his spokesman. From Gruhl’s pen flowed the ÖDP’s foundational program, as well as its many “special-area programmatic documents” on various themes–and the ÖDP continues to distribute most of the literature that dates from Gruhl’s years in the party. At this writing, the ÖDP still distributes Gruhl’s keynote address from the 1982 founding party congress, not to mention his Outline of a New Economic Policy and dozens of other papers on which Gruhl collaborated while he was party chief.

Social Darwinist Roots

Gruhl’s conception of ecology can be traced back to Ernst Haeckel and his circle in the late nineteenth century. In 1866, Haeckel transformed the concept of “ecology,” originally a subdiscipline of biology, into an political concept to be fought for. He intended his politicized “ecology” to transcend all the natural sciences and to be used to invoke natural laws to prescribe human social relations. Such crude transfers from the natural world to the social realm resulted in the theory of social Darwinism, which applied the maxim “survival of the fittest” to society and thereby provided theoretical grounds for racist ideologies that are still current today.7 Early ecologists also carried over concepts like “selective breeding” and “racial hygiene” from nonhuman nature into human society.

The subsequent “holistic” thought of later politicized ecologists was used to argue against the materialist concept of history and against the Enlightenment beliefs of the natural sciences. Ecology, in such approaches, was to become the “paramount science.” Its explanations of the world would depend not only on reason but also on “intuition” and “spirituality.” It was only a small step from this understanding of ecology to religious sects and occultism, and another small step to the fascist theories of the Nazis.

In the model of society associated with this model of ecology, the individual appears only as a member of a larger whole, or the “Volk whole,” as it came to be known, or the “Volk community,” as the Nazis called it. In this view, everyone naturally occupies their own “natural” niche in the social order–the strong and the weak; the rich and the poor; men and women; and German “Aryans” and non-Germans elsewhere, whose “lesser value” was said to be evident even in their environments. As one Nazi writer put it, “Landscapes of the Germans are distinguished from those of the Poles and Russians in all their essential features–as are the people themselves.”8

For Gruhl, too, ecology is an all-encompassing science that attempts to describe the “unfathomable” in nature, the “secret forces” to which people must necessarily adapt and subject themselves. In his view, all worldly strivings for emancipation and justice are futile: “The swan is white, without anyone artificially cleaning it. The raven is black, and everything is in its natural place of its own accord. This is good. All the strivings of people . . . for organized justice are simply hopeless.”9

Instead of continually pondering the possibilities for creating social orders that are more just, Gruhl believes, people should intuitively follow the call of the wild: “All laws that apply to living nature generally apply to people as well, since people themselves are part of living nature.”10 What we should learn from nature first is to adapt to existing conditions, since “every life-form accommodates itself to that which it cannot change.”11 Besides, “an ongoing pressure toward adaptation rules in nature, as does a necessary alertness. Continuous striving on the part of organisms is therefore actually coerced, for life always exists under the threat of death. Nature has no pity for mistakes.”12

But the pitiless mechanisms of natural selection that Gruhl believes are recognizable in nature are unfortunately insufficiently applied in our pampered society, he thinks: “The network of charitable institutions that we today call ‘the social safety net’ actually go into effect only for people who have already ruined their own situation themselves. Herein lies the great delusion: We tell ourselves that we are living in a state of security, when actually that security is wholly and entirely unnatural.”13 If society were set up according to nature, Gruhl believes, cultures would institute prescriptions against outsiders, eccentrics, and minorities, since “in the hunting grounds of the wilderness, if an animal breaks the unwritten law of the herd and goes its own way, it generally pays for this independence with its life.”

Perhaps it was for raising such questions as these, Gruhl has earned nothing less than the Federal Service Cross, which Monika Greifahn, former Greenpeace activist and now environment minister in Lower Saxony, pinned to his chest in November 1991. “Why is it,” Gruhl muses, “that so many of today’s youth are so terribly concerned about humanity, yet they show indifference, and often even contempt, for their own people [Volk], for their homeland [Heimat] and Fatherland?”14

Ecological” Justifications for Racism

Imprecations against “betrayers of the Fatherland” have always been accompanied by the racist rejection of “foreigners”; with Gruhl, it becomes a demand to “put an end to immigration for ecological reasons.” After all, foreigners, coming as they do from colder climates, are cold in Germany and up the heat in their homes, therefore using up much more energy and thereby burdening the German environment more than Germans themselves do.15

Like the ÖDP, Gruhl considers the “tidal wave of humanity” in the countries of the Third World to be a primary menace. His fear of the “increasing billions of people” surfaces in the first paragraph of the economic program he wrote for the ÖDP (which, again, the party still distributes today), and warnings about the “population explosion” crop up in all his writings. He even compares the alleged “capacity for annihilation” possessed by the “armies of job-seekers” to a “nuclear bomb.” The “laws of nature,” by contrast, promise a remedy: “The only currency that is accepted, with which violations of natural law can be paid for, is death. Death equalizes; it cuts back down again all the life that grows on this planet, so that the planet can once again come into equilibrium.”16

But those damned of the earth–damned to death, that is–tend not to accept their fate as easily as Gruhl would like. So he demands a “strong state,” strong both internationally and domestically–if possible, even a state with “dictatorial powers.” For the competition for survival “in the coming years will take on the proportions of an emergency, and attempts that will be made to prevail in it will produce a permanent state of emergency.”17

Struggling for the Basics of Life

In this supposedly upcoming global social Darwinian struggle for existence, the people that have the best prospects for survival will, of course, be those that have the most and best weapons: “For the period immediately ahead, the most important consideration in world politics will be the level of a people’s armaments, its numerical size, the amount of fertile soil with which it is provided, its raw materials, and its industries. . . . In the future, those peoples [Völker] who succeed in bringing their military preparedness to the highest level, while keeping their standard of living low, will have an enormous advantage.”18

Gruhl knows full well that war follows hard upon armaments: “There is no doubt that the wars of the future will be fought over shares in the basic foundations of life–that is, over the basis of nutrition and the increasingly precious fruits of the soil. Under these circumstances, future wars will far surpass in frightfulness all previous wars.”19

But Gruhl fears most of all for his own countrymen: “At this time, we have every reason to believe that the Germans will be among the last to grasp this fact. And this despite the fact that only thirty years ago they were roaming hungry through the streets to scavenge a few potatoes to eat.” The ODP too fears primarily for Germany: “The potential not only for civil but for military destruction threatens the broader existence of humanity, especially that of the German people,” the party’s foundational program reads. Like Gruhl, the ÖDP demands “a state leadership that is worthy of the name,” one that is concerned “even in times of international crisis to afford basic provisions in the existential areas of nutrition, water, energy, and transportation.” And: “In a world that is facing hunger because the world population increases by some eighty million people every year, our German agriculture must become so proficient that it can afford to make the maximum provisions for the population.”20

When the ÖDP uses the word population, it means above all Germans. So we read in Outlines for an Immigration Policy, “Violations of ecological equilibrium and the destruction of natural living spaces [Lebensräume] are directly related to population density.” This theory of a “people without space” has its own logical consequences: “Because of its high population density, the Federal Republic of Germany, one of the most densely settled countries on earth, cannot be a destination country for immigrants. We therefore reject the unlimited acceptance of foreigners.”

The ÖDP asserts that “foreigners from states outside the European Community who come to the Federal Republic to look for work should receive neither a visa nor a work permit. Exceptions should be made only for those who need no work permit, like scientists.” Besides, the fate that often awaits rejected asylum-seekers in their countries of origin–death through torture–does not directly threaten ÖDP members! “Neither dissatisfaction with a political system nor an economic condition of poverty should be a legitimate basis for receiving asylum.”21

Like so many racists, ÖDP ideologues speak of “cultures” when they really mean races are not to be intermixed: “Long-term agreements with friendly countries throughout the world should be sought, with the goal that asylum-seekers be accepted by countries that belong to the same cultural area as the asylum-seekers themselves.” In other words, go back to where you belong!

Rather than recognizing the equality of all people–as well as equal rights for all–the ÖDP, like the New Right generally, emphasizes the “different kinds and diversity of peoples” in its foundational program. This ideology of “ethnopluralism” becomes for the ÖDP the pretext for its real mission: the protection of the German Volk. So as to prevent the German “cultural area” from being endangered more than it allegedly is already, the party’s economic-political program, titled “To Create Sensible Work,” calls for making it “attractive” for “foreign workers to return home.”

Gruhl has long preached that whoever wants to survive must be militant about it. Even today, the ÖDP demands the retention of NATO, which, “after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact,” should become “the pan-European cooperative security system.” German weapons exports should not only not cease but should go only to friends of Germany: thus, “West German weapons commodities should not be exported to countries outside NATO”–for example, not to Turkey.

“Right to Life”: A Keystone

Instead of a “one-sided woman’s politics,” the ÖDP demands a “family politics.”22 Here, the party is concerned above all for the “protection of the unborn”; indeed, “to protect life is for us the highest political goal.” According to a resolution passed at the 1987 party congress (which, like all the papers quoted in this article, still applies and is still distributed), abortion “would not exist in a humane state.” Moreover, “if life is to be irrevocably destroyed, whether it is through nuclear arms, nuclear energy, destruction of the common environment, or abortion, the state must deal with it through laws.”

On this issue of “protecting life,” the ÖDP converges with every conceivable right-wing, reactionary, and even fascist grouping. In his recent article analyzing “New Trends in the Eco-Fascist Network,” Volkmar Wölk calls connecting the “themes of protecting life with protecting the environment” a “keystone” of ultraright ideology, one in which “a popular theme, ecology, is amalgamated with reactionary and fascist policies of the state.”

This right-to-life rapprochement has long had an organizational framework, in Action Right to Life for All (ALfA). ALfA’s active groups are working in many places, and its eleven thousand or so individual members include numerous federal and regional legislators. Among ALfA’s activists are many ÖDP members, including ÖDP chairman Ritter himself. At the ALfA gatherings he attends, Ritter likely encounters not only Christian Democratic politicians but members of radical-right groups like Action Life and Action European Doctors as well.23

After he left the ÖDP in 1989, Gruhl carried his Ecological Politics Working Group still further to the right. Other former ÖDP members met with him in a group known as Independent Ecologists of Germany, where members of extreme-right groups assembled openly. In April 1991 the two groups merged under the name Independent Ecologists of Germany. At the founding meeting, Herbert Gruhl delivered the keynote address. At that time he claimed that since reunification, “middle Germans” have shown themselves to be unprepared “to accede to such Marxist ideals of emancipation as women’s businesses.”24

Making the transition the Independent Ecologists is not hard for former ÖDP members or for homeland-protectors and members of other radical-right organizations, as a look at the plethora of right-wing ecological publications attests. The second assembly of the Independent Ecologists convened under the slogan “Homeland, Not Multiculture.”25 This assembly took place in July 1991 at Breitengüssbach in a “full hall, decorated with German, Bavarian, Saxon, and the old Lower Saxon flags.” There, with ÖDP participation, representatives of groups with names like the Saxon Alliance, the Frankish Alliance, and the Bavaria Party all came out in favor of a “German federalism based on ethnic identity.”

It was at about this time that Campaign 1992 clearinghouse was formed in Bonn–also with ÖDP participation. At the beginning of 1992, the ÖDP was accepted as a coalition partner in the clearinghouse, even though its members and functionaries were taking part in obscure right-wing-nationalist “homeland” meetings and publishing articles in New Right periodicals, and even though the party still seeks to win back to its own ranks the “primary thinker” of all these dubious unions: Herbert Gruhl. In 1990, a year after his departure, the ÖDP offered him the office of “honorary chairman.”26

Federal Service Cross for an Ecofascist

For the Federal Service Cross that now adorns his chest, Gruhl can thank Hans-Joachim Ritter, the coalition partner of the Greens and the other clearinghouse groups. Ritter was invited to the award ceremonies for Gruhl, which were held in the environment ministry in Hanover, by Environment Minister Griefahn, whose ministry says it has “never heard anything about” criticisms of the ecofascist Gruhl.27 And Ritter was permitted to deliver his own encomium immediately after Greifahn herself spoke. Ritter took that opportunity to say that he was “joyous that this honor, which he had suggested years ago to the federal president, had now finally become a reality.”28 ¤


This article, “Mit ‘LebensschützerInnen und RassistInnen gegen EG und Kolonialismus? Anmerkungen zur öDP und anderen ‘BündnispartnerInnen’ in der Kampagne ’92,” appeared in ÖkoLinX: Zeitschrift der Ökologischen Linken (ÖkoLi) 6 (July-August-September 1992), the magazine of the Ecological Left. Translated by Janet Biehl.

1. Schönhuber quoted in David Childs, “The Far Right in Germany Since 1945,” in Cheles, Ferguson, and Vaughan, Neo-Fascism, p. 79 (trans.).

2. “Ökologie-Politik: ÖDP Members’ Information” (December 1991).

3. These are all far-right parties in the Federal Republic of Germany. The Republicans (REP) was founded in 1983 by Franz Schönhuber, who had served in the Waffen SS. The DVU (German People’s Union), founded by Gerhard Frey, recently received enough votes to enter the Schleswig-Holstein Landtag. The NPD (National Democratic Party of Germany), founded in November 1964, went into decline after 1969-70. The ÖDP (Ecological Democratic Party) is the party under discussion in this article (trans.).

4. The text lists “the DGB [the Federation of German Trade Unions], the SDAJ, the ESG, the Peace Cooperative Network, BUND, the DNR, and last but not least the Federal Congress of Political Development Action Groups (BUKO)” (trans.).

5. Hans-Joachim Ritter, “Kurze Geschichte der ODP” (1991).

6. Reported in tageszeitung (November 7, 1991).

7. For a discussion of Haeckel as the primary spokesperson for social Darwinism in Germany in the latter half of the nineteenth century, see Daniel Gasman, The Scientific Origins of National Socialism: Social Darwinism in Ernst Haeckel and the German Monist League (New York: American Elsevier; London: Macdonald & Co, 1971). Gasman argues that “racially inspired social Darwininism in Germany . . . was almost completely indebted to Haeckel for its creation [and] . . . on the whole had little, if anything at all, to do with Charles Darwin” (xxiii) (trans.).

8. Quoted in Antifa-Gruppe Freiburg und Volksfront gegen Reaktion, Faschismus und Krieg, eds., Beitrag zur Kritik der Ökologismus und zur Ideologie und Programmatik der ÖDP (Cologne: GNN-Verlag, 1989), p. 14.

9. Quoted in ibid., p. 27.

10. Quoted in ibid., p. 30.

11. Quoted in ibid., p. 35.

12. Quoted in ibid., p. 37.

13. Herbert Gruhl, Das irdische Gleichgewicht (1988), p. 234.

14. Quoted in Antifa-Gruppe Freiburg, p. 63.

15. Quoted in tageszeitung (November 11, 1991).

16. Quoted in Antifa-Gruppe Freiburg, op. cit., p. 110.

17. Quoted in ibid., p. 113.

18. Quoted in ibid., p. 114f.

19. Herbert Gruhl, Ein Planet wird geplundert (Frankfurt, 1975), p. 322f.

20. ÖDP Economic-Political Program.

21. Quoted in Volkmar Woelk, “Neue Trends im oekofaschistischen Netzwerk,” in Raimund Hethley and Peter Kratz, eds., In bester Gesellschaft: Antifa-Rechereche zwischen Konservatismus und Neofaschismus (Göttingen, 1991), p. 127.

22. OeDP, “Was die ODP von den Gruenen unterscheidet” (1991)

23. Compare Frauen gegen den [artikel] 218; Bundesweite koordination: Vorsicht Lebensschützer; Die Macht der organisierten Abtreibungsgegner (Hamburg: Konkret Literatur Verlag, 1991).

24. Quoted in Blick Nach Rechts, September 23, 1991.

25. See the report of the central organ of the new group in Ökologie 3 (1991).

26. ÖDP-Pressespiegel (November 13, 1991), p. 88.

27. tageszeitung (November 7, 1991).

28. “Ökologie-Politik: ODP Members’ Information” (December 1991).


Massacre the Poor!
by Thomas Ebermann

In the Federal Republic of Germany, one can think, say, do, or vote (almost) everything without being considered a fascist. Anyone who really tries can quickly find himself a concern, an anxiety, or a rejection of politics that will earn a magazine think-piece. The greatest of all the concerns, for having which one can go unpunished today, is concern for the demise of the world, for the uninhabitability of the planet, for the end of humanity. No other concern produces greater cultural dinosaurs.

Herbert Gruhl, who recently received the Federal Service Cross, realized this a long time ago. He could therefore be certain that his latest end-of-the-world book, Heavenly Voyage into Nothingness (Himmelfahrt ins Nichts), would become a best-seller; that Der Spiegel would praise him (“Gruhl numbers among the major ecological thinkers and was one of the earlier voices warning of a turnaround”); and that all the better talk shows would snatch up the concerned ecologist, whose pessimism is prettily garnished with many condemnations of technological innovation and many appeals to bourgeois self-confidence, much as Schönhuber and Frey once came along with the reproach that those in power have “no ideas.”

Gruhl, for his part, does have an idea, and he writes about its consequences with such penetration that even his stupidest reader can figure out what it is: Humanity can be rescued only when we exterminate the poor (or more precisely, the superfluous).

But then, can he really get away with saying this so bluntly? No–only if he laments “overpopulation” and the failure of population policy up to now–only then will he find himself completely and entirely within the metropolitan consensus. Hence: “the most devilish problem therefore is the increase in the number of people”; “the abstention from reproducing must begin”; “the Third World’s desire to procreate . . .”; “the mass of humanity that floods over every remaining surface of the earth . . .”; “if 500 million people came to Europe from the Third World, all order would collapse here” (all verbatim Gruhl quotes from Der Spiegel). Phrased this way, or perhaps somewhat more moderately, any politician or journalist could go on like this, whether he or she speaks rigidly, like an imperialist, or gently, like the friends of Nature and her eternal cycles. Even “concern” for women of the “Third World” produces arguments that favor of the IMF, the World Bank, and the population policies dictated by the imperialist powers, not to speak of their bestialities against women of the “Third World.”

In the ruling classes, Gruhl induces disgust for and fear of those vermin, the subhumans [Untermenschen], as compellingly as Nobel prizewinner Paul Ehrlich does:

I have understood the population explosion intellectually for a long time. I came to understand it emotionally one stinking hot night in Delhi a couple of years ago. My wife and daughter and I were returning to our hotel in an ancient taxi. The seats were hopping with fleas. . . . The streets seemed alive with people. People eating, people washing, people sleeping. People visiting, arguing, and screaming. People thrusting their hands through the taxi window, begging. People defecating and urinating. People clinging to buses. People herding animals. People, people, people, people. As we moved slowly thorugh the mob, hand horn squawking, the dust, noise, heat and cooking fires gave the scene a hellish aspect. Would we ever get to our hotel? . . . Since that night I’ve known the feel of overpopulation. . . . We must unyeildingly press for the global introduction of pouplation controls. . . . The operation will demand many apparently brutal and heartless decisions. The pain may be intense. But the disease is so far advanced that only with radical surgery does the patient have a chance of survival.1

In his struggle against the “mass of humanity that inundates everything,” Gruhl can also call upon Hoimar von Ditfurth, who made edifying statements like this one for his sensitive clientele: “Today alone, forty thousand children will die–one every two seconds. They will starve. . . . Horrible? But what would be much worse would be if these children did not die from starvation in the arms of their mothers . . . but if they survived . . . to have children themselves. . . . Then the catastrophe would be enormously greater. It may sound cynical, but these thousands of silent deaths protect the earth [!] from reaching a situation that would by far surpass today’s death rate.”

But Herbert is no Hoimar von, and the cultivated bourgeois’s tormented attempts to veil his own cynicism with elegant flourishes are not for Gruhl. No, Gruhl prefers to give his own nature free rein: “Every life-form seeks to overcome the development of intervening obstacles, if necessary through the annihilation of the opponent. . . . Although humanity is master of the strategy of defense, it actually belongs to the aggressors.” Gruhl does not explain whether this distinguishes people from ants, but then, neither people nor ants are going to make it without a leader: “The animal-anthill is helpless and dies if it loses its queen. The humanity-hill is helpless if no God gives it the necessary orders.”

Such attempts to naturalize social and political relations are something all ecofascists share with Franz Schönhuber, even if he himself has not made up his mind whether he should ply his trade through a car-drivers’ party or build an ecoracist tendency. They make it possible for Gruhl to conceive of military victory as the greatest stimulator of human feelings of desire: “Victory for one’s own country and people in war, in a matter of high stakes and of the highest seriousness, always calls forth the most powerful flush of victory.” How nice for the West, that what it desires happens also to be what is necessary: “Societies of culture [Kulturgesellschaften] are always threatened from without, since their standard of living arouses other peoples’ envy. . . . So these peoples have a more urgent need for armed forces for their defense than poor tribal peoples have.”

But “societies of culture” emerge only when the race remains pure–after all, the hen does not mate with the whale. “When many cultures are mixed together in one area, on the other hand, the result will be either coexistence and mutuality or . . . entropy, in other words a mixture, and its value will lessen with further mixtures until it finally has no more worth.” One could hardly come up with a formulation closer to “life not worth living.” Gruhl’s warning to the (German) race is to keep itself pure so that no “undefinable, smelted mass will result”–not to speak of his assertion that “mixed societies collapse at the first gust of wind like silk sails”–allows this “ecological thinker and early voice warning of a turnaround in the Federal Republic” (Der Spiegel) to appear as someone who more than earned the Federal Service Cross awarded him by Monika Griefahn, the former Greenpeace and Amnesty International activist who is today the environmental minister of Lower Saxony.

“Western man” can feel “ecological” the most intensely and can lament the loss of nature most searingly when forests are chopped down in Guatemala (sometimes it happens that wanton destruction is committed at home not for the export but just to feed oneself), or if a forest in Brazil is made arable, or if energy is wasted in the Far East. And because all these things influence our climate, there is a growing willingness to go beyond present-day population policy (which at the moment is: Allow people to starve by annihilating their subsistence economy and by forced campaigns of birth limitation) if it does not bring about the expected results. As for the masses, the foundations of whose lives are being removed: If they are no longer needed (or are needed less than they used to be) as a reserve labor force and have therefore become superfluous to utilization by capital, they are themselves a surplus. “In other words, they become overpopulation,” as Ingrid Strobl puts it in her book Strange Fruit (Edition ID-Archiv), very much worth reading.

So there remain, says Gruhl, only “the following alternatives: to perish, or to take precautionary reductions.” These “precautionary reductions” must be carried out by force, since “most of the peoples of the world are not capable of behaving in a rational way,” and since unlike “Western man,” they do not know how to exercise self-control and therefore “flood the earth like a sinister natural catastrophe.”

Fortunately, these floods of people do not have “our” psychological characteristics. In particular, death affects them much more lightly, “because of their entirely different basic orientation to life. With them, one’s own death, like that of one’s children, is accepted as fate.” Perhaps–the bold thought comes to mind–perhaps these strange beings would not really be angry at us after all if we massacred them, but–who knows–maybe they would even be thankful to us? Since it is now unthinkable for us to share our wealth with them so that they can get something to eat, would we not really be doing them a favor? It may be, says Gruhl, and he cites a Mr. Dubos in agreement, that “to some overcrowded populations violence or even the bomb may one day no longer seem a threat but rather become a release.”2

Gruhl is no stupid tale-spinner–he anticipates what the future “necessities” are going to be. Today, the best objection that one can raise against him and his Mr. Dubos, the one that is richest in possibilities, may be that liberating the poor through nuclear weapons is too dangerous for “us.” After all, who knows which way the wind will be blowing that day, or how it will influence the world’s climate? No, one would have to use some other kind of weapon–but that is a specialized ecological debate that I do not care to anticipate. ¤

This article, “Massakriert die Armen!,” appeared in Konkret [Hamburg] (June 1992). Translated by Janet Biehl.


1. Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb (New York: Ballantine Books, 1968; Sierra Club, 1969), pp. 12, 148-49 (trans.).

2. The reference here is to René Dubos, and the sentence quoted is from So Human an Animal (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1968), p. 154, where Dubos speculates on the “psychological damage” that may be caused by “overcrowding in a highly technicized society.” We have not seen the Gruhl passage that quotes the sentence from Dubos and therefore cannot speak to how Gruhl used it. But Dubos’s work (of which Ebermann is apparently unaware) and the humanism that pervades it cannot but lead one to conclude that he would certainly abhor the racist, misanthropic views expressed by Gruhl throughout this issue of Green Perspectives (eds.).


Avoiding Marginality: Letter from a Reader

To the Editors:

I was surprised and dismayed to find Green Perspectives pandering to this dead-end doxological leftism that continues to insist on seeing the cultural strategies of the “New Right,” and their resonance with popular culture, in the obsolete polarities of the past. Wolfgang Haug’s “Pogroms Begin in the Mind,” and to some extent even Janet [Biehl]’s introduction, fed into this tired and ultimately self-defeating leftist oversimplification. It is decisive that these issues be raised, but raising them in this way is as good as not raising them at all.

The “New Right” are not monsters of indoctrinal genius. They have, though, managed to tap into a vital nerve. They have managed to articulate their agenda in an idiom and vernacular that gives expression to real, genuine, and legitimate concerns felt by vast numbers of people about the erosion of personal character structures, family relations, authentic community, political powerlessness, and ecological well-being. These are the facts, and they leave us two essential choices: to categorically dismiss such people and their concerns, hence marginalizing ourselves into oblivion; or to come to terms with these concerns in a way that recognizes their innate wisdom, and connects that wisdom to our own ecological autonomist ethics. This is what I always thought Murray [Bookchin] was talking about when he implored us to speak in the language of our own popular traditions–as opposed to Bakunin’s Russian, Marx’s German, etc. We must be prepared, though, for the fact that these popular expressions–for a variety of reasons, some easily amendable and some not so–will take forms that many of us will find noxious. And most difficult of all, we have to be prepared for the possibility that it may be us, not the popular culture, that needs to change our way of thinking in some such instances.

In any case, the truth of the matter today is that the residual communities that still exist for the building of a new communitarianism are largely ethnically based ones. This may not be where we want to end up, but it is a big part of where we must begin. And beginning here, in communitarian reconstruction, raises the danger of racism. If we want to address people’s real concerns, in the remaking of real communities, we will have to come to terms with racism–but without initially resorting to a universalist ethos that undermines the particularity of real flesh and blood people-in-community! This is dangerous theory!! But our only hope is to enter the fray, on the problems’ own terms.

There can be no comfort in the ideological anchoring of ourselves in the leftist lagoon of self-celebrating paradise. While I have no sympathy for the political dilettantism of Spretnak and Capra, I too for other reasons believe that these “left and right” labels have exhausted their usefulness. They’re part of an exhausted chapter of intellectual-political-cultural history–valuable as a resource and inspiration, but of minimal use for contemporary theoretical and practical projects. The struggle today is over autonomy (as defined through the rich dialectic of person and community, in the work of Castoriadis) and its opposite, heteronomy. I have a common cause with anyone who sincerely struggles against commodification, homogenization, and domination in the interest of an autonomist communitarianism–whether he or she calls him or herself a New Rightist, or anything else. Those “leftists” of the Leninist vanguard (they’re still out there!), social democratic welfare state, or pretentious anarchist counterculture, who simply offer a new heteronomy, I have no more common cause with than I do with the capitalist corporations, the state bureaucrats, or counterinsurgent torturers.

One of the strongest indigenous radical political legacies we have in North America is the tradition of populism. Its historical project has been the regeneration of autonomist community, and it has always dealt, more and less successively, with North American nativism and racism. Unsurprisingly, academic and journalistic savants have traditionally painted populism with the same kind of charges now being leveled at the New Right–as well as the Lombardy/Northern League in Italy, which is not touched upon in the Green Perspectives issue under consideration.

I don’t mean to neglect the potential dangers of a new fascism, nor to deny that by entering the fray of dangerous theory there is the possibility of inadvertently feeding a racism that could facilitate this new fascism. We must keep an eye open over our shoulder for the potential progress of such a new fascism. But it is not the fundamental problem that we stand before, face to face. The heteronomous forces of state-corporate bureaucratic rationality are destroying us, and where we live, in every sense of the terms.

People are desperate to recover the character structure, the family, the community, the polity, and the ecology that they see everywhere collapsing around them. They are increasingly looking to desperate solutions. If we do not enter the fray of dangerous theory, on its own terms; if we insist on fighting the battles of the present in the ideological language and assumptions of yesteryear; if we are not prepared to explore the core of wisdom in popular expressions that we initially find noxious; we leave this terrain to open season for those whose appropriative motive may indeed be suspect.

Then we really might be paving the way for a new fascism.

Mike McConkey
Toronto, Ontario

The editors reply:

Mike McConkey’s admirable work in green confederal municipalism makes his reaction to Green Perspectives 26 cause not only for surprise but for regret. Let us agree that we must find a socially progressive response to the popular awareness of disempowerment, commodification, manipulation, and loss of community, indeed of cultural identity, that many people feel today. We have raised and emphasized the importance of the radical resolution of these needs in books and articles on the subject of a new politics for the left for years.

But it is hardly an “obsolete polarity of the past” to object to ethnic chauvinism, tribalism, racism, and xenophobia; it is hardly the leftism of “yesteryear” to maintain a commitment to what is morally right in the face of popular prejudice and opposition. Nor is it a tired, worn-out Marxism-Leninism to object when one’s ally wants to “ethnically cleanse” the neighborhood. One’s response must be based on unequivocal morality and principle.

But is McConkey’s approach “our only hope”? Leaving aside his concern over “marginality,” a concern that we shall address shortly, if the “particularity of real flesh and blood people-in-community” is tribalist or chauvinist, then that “particularity” must be resolutely opposed. Despite all his qualifiers and mixed messages, McConkey regrettably seems less concerned with what is morally right under any circumstances than with what is pragmatically expedient at a given moment. If we are not to devolve into a parochial tribalism, we must be prepared to accept “marginality” in the interests of moral probity by refusing to pander to that tribalism. To deal elastically with or possibly suspend our objections “initially,” much less at any time, would be as manipulative as it would be dishonest. If ethnic prejudices are wrong under all circumstances–and we do not doubt that McConkey believes they are–we must raise objections to them especially when we “begin” and continue with our objections throughout, be it yesterday, today, or tomorrow–not mitigate, ignore, or shelve them to accommodate ourselves to a “common wisdom” that we have decided it is inexpedient to challenge.

McConkey’s reading of the populist tradition is grossly out of focus, to say the least. The Populist movement of the 1880s and 1890s in the United States, in fact, foundered not on universalism but (among other things) on sectionalism and particularism; less on antiracism than on white supremacist demagogy. The specific economic problems that were severely afflicting farmers in the South and West were caused most immediately by the monetary policies of the central government. “Initially,” to use McConkey’s word, those who articulated the demands of the Southern and Western farmers knew that to remedy their common economic and political problems, they had to form a multisectional movement, challenging and resisting traditional tribal appeals.

They recognized that those who invoked the “Lost Cause” and “waved the bloody shirt”–that is, made sectional appeals based on the Civil War–were in great part responsible for agrarian peonage, and that politicians were accustomed to making these appeals to prevent people from seeing the basic structural causes of their misery. The Populists were determined, as one of them put it, to “knock sectionalism on the head, wrap the bloody shirt about it for a winding-sheet, and bury it so deep that it will never hear the call on resurrection day.” Populist newspaper editors, far from pandering to–or “coming to terms with”–the sectionalism in their milieu, “faced such a storm of ridicule and vindictive hatred as seldom falls to the lot of man,” a contemporary observer noted. Nor was their appeal tribal: “the note they strike,” this observer continued, “. . .is the same everywhere. Its appeal is to all people . . . regardless of creed, nationality, location, calling, or previous condition of servitude” (emphasis added).

This, let us repeat, was their “initial” point of departure, so different from present-day forms of so-called “populism” that are ethnically and sectionally oriented. The point of departure of the Farmers Alliance spokespeople was a heroic universalist stand, from which their movement tragically devolved and disappeared. It foundered in large measure on the racial demagogy of established politicians that inflamed those same local and sectional animosities that Populist spokespeople initially–in many cases, continuously–opposed. Those who ruled in the South succeeded in diverting people’s attention from the very issues of economic change upon which the agrarian challenge had been based.

When Murray Bookchin “implored us to speak in the language of our own popular traditions–as opposed to Bakunin’s [more precisely, Lenin’s] Russian, Marx’s German, etc.,” he did not mean accepting prejudices, however deep-seated and indigenous they may be. He referred to the American utopistic tradition–the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, the dream of the “city on the hill,” the abolitionist hatred of black servitude, the all-pervasive antistatism of the people, and the antihierarchicalism of some of its feminist movements–but most certainly not to American xenophobia, racism, parochialism, and egotism. We can only wonder how McConkey interpreted Bookchin’s ongoing defense of the best elements of the Enlightenment, or his ongoing attacks on parochialism whenever he writes about decentralism; or “The Left That Was” (Green Perspectives 22), or his cofounding–and naming–the Left Green Network.

Dwight MacDonald once defined a radical as one who “is pleased if history is also going his way, but . . . is stubborn about following his own road, that of ‘ought’ rather than ‘is.'” This definition clearly does not apply to those who modify their own views, however temporarily, to conform to what may be popular. “Marginality” is far from the worst fate that can confront a radical who is committed to reason, ecological humanism, ethical probity, and the rational “ought” that should stand opposed to the irrational “is,” regardless of the conventional wisdom of the people–or of the ruling elites and the state that orchestrates it. There are times, if you please, when marginality is indeed the only appropriate fate that confronts an individual or group that seeks to oppose the irrationality, moral debasement, and personal disintegration of a society or even an era. At least a standard of the social good can then exist, to which people can hopefully repair in more propitious times.

And there are times when to be nonmarginal or “popular” is ethically indecent. If anything has dissolved the very identity of the left today–and yes, there is still a strident right that is wending its way through society–it is an ugly opportunism that curries favor with popular tastes and drifts from one “lesser evil” to another. This has historically “paved the way for fascism”–as was the case of German Social Democracy with its policies of accommodation between 1919 and 1933.¤