Earth Day Special
Robert Stark Interviews Greg Johnson on Eco-Fascism
45:12 / 6,632 words
The following text is the transcript by V. S. of a conversation with Robert Stark first published at the Voice of Reason network on April 2, 2012 but no longer online there. To listen in a player, click here. To download the mp3, right-click here and choose “save target as.” To subscribe to our podcasts, click here.
Robert Stark: Hello, everyone! I’m joined here with Greg Johnson. The subject for tonight is going to be the idea of eco-fascism.
Greg, you told me you’re thinking of working on a book about the subject, but the very first thing I want to get to is the idea of kind of giving ammo to enemies, because, on the one hand, on the Left you have the SPLC, who has their whole essay called “The Greening of Hate,” and on the Right you have the conservative capitalists, who will want to smear environmentalism and ecology. They actually like to use the term eco-fascism. So, are you concerned that if you do write a book on this topic and discuss this that you might give ammo to those certain enemies?
Greg Johnson: Well, I’m not really particularly concerned with what the SPLC or the Rush Limbaugh crowd think about this. I’m really more concerned with issues of truth.
I am very much a pro-ecology person myself. My outlook is very much nature-centered. Interestingly enough, it turns out that, although today ecology is considered a preserve of the Left, the truth of the matter is that if you go back far enough ecology was actually something that was pioneered by a lot of figures that today would be considered figures on the Right.
One of the projects that I would like to write some day when I get enough time to just sit down and write a book is a book on eco-fascism and it would focus on a lot of different thinkers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries who were both pioneers of ecology and pioneers of, for lack of a better term, fascism or National Socialism.
RS: What’s your definition of fascism? It’s kind of one of those words people just like to throw out against someone and a lot of people who throw that terminology around can’t even define it. What is your personal definition of fascism?
GJ: For me, fascism just represents a tendency in modern political practice, political theory. First of all, it’s anti-liberal. It’s defined by rejection of liberal egalitarianism and the sort of liberal model that the purpose of the state is to ensure the maximum amount of individual liberty or the kind of Communist egalitarian model, which basically says we’re all equal and the purpose of the state is to ensure maximum comfort and access to physical goods.
The fascist outlook is perforce hierarchical for the simple reason that if people aren’t equal then when the problem of how to have political order is raised obviously you want the best people to rule. You want to be ruled by people who are on average better than you rather than people who are on average worse than you. So, that’s one of the essential characteristics. Fascism is a hierarchical, anti-liberal political philosophy.
If you go back far enough in time, of course, every political philosophy was hierarchical and anti-liberal. Fascism represents a return of perennial ideas that were really the core ideas of all the serious ideas about politics as far back as human history records. However, it’s a recurrence of those ideas within the context of modernity where you have the rise of mass civilization. The rise of the masses and the empowerment of the masses creates a problem and so the fascist outlook is basically an attempt to resuscitate and restore a classical, hierarchical, healthy, and holistic form of society within the context of a world where the masses have been emancipated and enfranchised and empowered.
And so it’s also, by its nature, populist. I don’t think there’s any real contradiction though between elitism and populism if you understand those terms properly. The core of fascist populism is basically the idea that society should be organized as an organism, as a body politic. Meaning that it’s organic, but within every organism there’s a hierarchy of functions. The goal is to make sure that the best rule, the most far-sighted and dispassionate and also the most public-spirited rule over the body politic, and yet the criterion for just rule has to be rule for the interest of all. This is a notion that you get in classical political philosophy going back to Plato and Aristotle.
Aristotle in his Politics defines the difference between just and unjust rule in terms of the common good. You can have a society that is ruled by one man. If he rules for the common good, you call it monarchy. If he rules for his own private interests, you call it tyranny. He said that if you have a society where the few rule if the few rule for the common good, that’s aristocracy. If they rule for their own private interests, he called that oligarchy. And the same with popular rule. You can have a society that’s ruled by the many for their own factional interests and he defines that as democracy. Democracy is a bad form of government by definition in Aristotle, but he said it’s possible to have popular government for the common good and he calls that “polity.”
The populist notion, in my view, the core meaningful notion of populism is basically the idea that a system is not just if it is ruled for the factional interests of the ruling class rather than the common interests of the whole body politic. That populist principle, I think, is consistent with having a hierarchical society, and Aristotle lays that out very nicely. You can have one guy in charge, but if he rules for the common good that’s justice.
Fascism in some ways represents a return to that kind of classical political philosophy within modernity.
So, let’s go into eco-fascism. What’s the connection, if you will, between fascism in a generic sense, which would include things like National Socialism in Germany, and ecology? How did these things get connected in the 20th century?
I think that the basic thing that connects these two bodies of thought and really makes them one is the centrality of nature. Modern egalitarianism is very much man-centered and anti-natural in its outlook, and so we need to define some terminology here. I think that the best and simplest way of defining the distinction is to look at Savitri Devi’s book Impeachment of Man.
Impeachment of Man was written in 1946. It’s one of the most far-sighted and radical books on deep ecology that’s ever been written. In there, she makes the distinction between man-centered outlooks and nature-centered outlooks. Throughout most of history, most traditional societies have been nature-centered. So, the idea is that the most important thing is not the individual or the human society, but that they’re part of a larger whole. There are things in this world more important than man.
With the rise of modernity, you get an increasing anthropocentrism, and Savitri Devi says that really goes back to the Old Testament. She thinks that Judaism is the beginning of anthropocentrism, because the Jews in the Old Testament believe that man has a higher nature than all the other animals. Man is made in the image of God, and God gives man dominion over nature. That dominion is not necessarily understood in terms of stewardship or positive obligations. Nature is there for us to use.
RS: Yeah, it sounds like that in the Bible where it says that animals and plants were put on Earth for the use of humans.
GJ: Exactly. Basically, modernity is somewhat anthropocentric even if it rejects biblical religion. So, what you have with the classic modern thinkers like Descartes and Hobbes is you have this egocentric and rationalistic point of view. You have these people who basically are very reason-focused and very ego-focused and self-interest-focused. That presupposes a certain alienation and lack of connection with a larger social whole and also with the larger natural whole and once you get that alienation, if you will, from nature and from society that’s sort of built in the foundations of modern philosophy, the working out of that leads to a sort of violent attitude towards nature.
We don’t come out of the world. We’re sort of thrown into this world. We’re alienated from it, and we look around and we see that the world consists of raw material for our use. We don’t have a sense that we’re part of the flesh and blood of some sort of larger natural organism, and so with that modern idea comes an extraordinarily exploitative and destructive relationship with the natural world. It just doesn’t occur to somebody to hack off their own limbs. Yet, in a very subtle way, we are as much a part of a larger organic whole as our own limbs are part of us.
But if you get rid of that underlying assumption that we’re embedded within a larger whole, and it’s just man against everything else then you get modernity, then you get capitalism, then you get modern technology, you get burgeoning populations, and you get the on-going environmental crisis.
The reason why I think the fascist and National Socialist outlooks reject that is because they’re more nature-centered. There’s a sense that, “No, wait a second here. We’re not isolated individuals defined by our reason, who have purely technical and instrumental relationships with the world. What we are, first and foremost, is organisms. And we’re members of a larger extended family, namely our peoples. And we’re organisms within an environment.” And so, there’s a sense that there’s a return to a kind of holistic, organic relationship with the world. But that’s completely consistent with being highly aware of things like natural differences, including racial differences, and it’s very consistent with wanting to put limits on exploitative relationships between man and man and man and nature, because modern capitalism and modern science and the way that it’s used is seen as a product of a deep error, a kind of deep alienation that’s entered into the world with modernity, and once we heal that rift we will, in a way, de-escalate the assault on nature and also really the assault on one another.
This is another issue that I would like to throw out there. There is no reason to think a fundamentally ethno-centric worldview implies an exploitative relationship to other ethnic groups. Now, historically speaking, of course, human groups have struggled with one another for domination, but if you take an ecological standpoint and affirm there’s a basic biodiversity in the world, including human biodiversity, it might lead you to the attitude that it’s very important to preserve human biodiversity as well as natural biodiversity and you get the outlook of somebody like Savitri Devi, for instance, who said that her dream is of a world where you have many races and each race has its own place in the world where it can live according to its own lights. So, she was a National Socialist. She was in some ways to the Right of Hitler, and yet her dream, because she was a fundamentally ecological thinker, is of a world where every race and every people has its own place and could live according to its own nature.
I think that’s an important fact to throw out there, because if you start thinking in terms of biological concepts sometimes you can be led to the sort of “nature, red in tooth and claw” idea and think history is all about different groups slugging it out for global domination. But that’s not the only outlook that is consistent with that.
There’s also the possibility of taking a more enlarged outlook and saying, “Well, look, that’s primate behavior, and we’re primates, but we’re more than primates because we have a sense of the ecological whole and our place in it and that produces new responsibilities for us. Chimpanzees can slug it out and behave like animals because, well, they don’t know any better, but it’s possible for us to have a more enlarged perspective on things and to, in a sense, step above nature while remaining part of it, but we step above nature in order to be stewards of nature and stewards of biodiversity.” I think that’s an outlook that is very consistent with a lot of these eco-fascist thinkers even though a popular view about fascists is that they’re all about dominating other people and exterminating other people and things like that. That’s not necessarily true.
A lot of German National Socialists had this idea that there were different peoples in the world and they needed their own places, and they were actually somewhat supportive of the aspirations of colonized peoples for independence, and I don’t think that was necessarily just political expediency at work. Although you have to ask yourself how consistent that was with their plans for, say, Ukraine.
RS: You mentioned Savitri Devi. Tell us more about her life and how she got involved with National Socialism. She was also a Hindu. I think she lived in India and converted to Hinduism.
GJ: Right. Savitri Devi is a person that I’m very interested in, and I’ve done a lot of research on her over the years. She was born in France on September 30, 1905. She was not of French descent. Her mother was English and her father was basically Italian and Greek. Her father was a quarter Greek and three-quarters Italian, but he had a Greek surname which was Portaz. Because she was 1/8th Greek but she carried that Greek surname the young Savitri Devi, her name was Maximiani Portaz, she identified very strongly with the Greeks.
What happened was that she was a child prodigy. She was quite brilliant and showed this from a very young age. She started learning Greek from the local Greek community in Lyons, France where she was born, and she became very interested in politics and Greek history and things like that. She was intensely nationalistic from a Greek point of view. She just sort of fell into that outlook. She was also a pagan, just sort of instinctive pagan, from a very early age. She didn’t like Christianity. She was drawn to ancient Greek . . .
RS: Was that her main reason for disliking Christianity? The Judeo-Christian view towards nature? Was that the main reason at first?
GJ: Well, yes. She was a big animal lover and she had an aunt who made her read one chapter of the Old Testament and one chapter of the New Testament every week. She started these lessons early, and she did not like the anthropocentric attitude that you find in both the Old and New Testaments, and so that was one problem that she had. Although because she was so nationalistically Greek – the Greeks, of course, are very nationalistic people, yet at the same time their Greek Orthodox church is very much caught up with their national identity – she became a communicant of the Greek Orthodox church, and she only really rejected Christianity when she was in her 20s. But she was sort of always attracted to pagan ideas from a very early age, but she didn’t sever her ties to Christianity until she was in her 20s.
She went on a Greek Orthodox pilgrimage to Palestine, and there she saw all these proud, nationalistic Greeks crawling in the dust and prostrating themselves before shrines to a foreign people, basically, and she also saw the Jewish settlers in Palestine. She sort of had a revulsion to the whole spectacle and said, “Why can’t the Greeks worship their own gods and the Jews can worship their gods and everybody can have their own gods and be proud?” So, anyway, that was one thing that happened with her.
In 1935, when she was about 30 years old, she decided she was going to go to India. She got a PhD in philosophy, and she also got an MA in physics and chemistry from the University of Lyons. She spent a lot of her time when she was working on her dissertations in Greece. She traveled back and forth. She took Greek citizenship. She spoke fluent modern Greek. She worked with a woman in Greece who was attempting to revive classical Greek paganism, and she threw in her lot with this project, and she made no headway. And the reason she made no headway is that Greece, and all of Europe really, had had its roots to its ancient pagan religion severed violently by Christianity. Christianity came in and did as much as it could to break any kind of living tradition.
So, she started thinking in terms of going to the East and going to India, because in India there was an unbroken tradition of Indo-European religion. It had been fused with native cults in India, and they worshipped gods with elephant heads and things like that. Obviously the original Aryans didn’t do this.
RS: So, was she kind of into the pan-Aryan philosophy?
GJ: Yeah. Exactly.
RS: Explain pan-Aryanism to the audience.
GJ: Well, pan-Aryanism, maybe that’s not the right word. But she was very interested in the idea that there was a unity of civilization between the Indians and the Europeans. It was this vast Indo-European diffusion of language and culture and civilization that was discovered really starting in the 18th century by comparative linguistics and then comparative mythology, and people are still working on this project of trying to figure out what the proto-Indo-European homeland was, what the proto-Indo-European language was, and its pantheon and so forth by looking at archeology and also clues based on linguistics and comparative religion.
She was very attracted to getting back to the spiritual roots of European civilization, and since European civilization had been cut off from a living religious tradition she thought, “That tradition is still alive in a very different guise in India,” and so she thought she would go there.
The person who I believe influenced her thinking on this most fundamentally was the French esotericist, René Guénon. Guénon, in his book The Crisis of the Modern World, actually addresses the problem of European pagans, and he basically says, “If you want to get in touch with this tradition you can’t really get in touch with it outside the Christian church, because that took up certain elements of pre-Christian religion, but you can’t really get in touch with it in any fundamental way, because the Church took care to basically sever anything important, and it just held on to certain symbols. So, the only real living tradition that gets you back to this primordial Indo-European tradition is in India.” Guénon was early on a Hindu scholar.
I believe Savitri Devi read The Crisis of the Modern World. I know she read many other Guénon books. I believe that was one of the factors that influenced her to go to India.
When she got to India she fell in with the Hindu nationalist movement, the people who wanted to give India independence and return India to its Hindu roots. India, of course, had been conquered in an incredibly savage and still psychologically destructive and traumatic way by Muslims and then it had been colonized by the British, who brought Christianity. Hinduism, though, was still the dominant religion.
She took up with this group called the Hindu Mission, which was an organization to try to bring Hindus who had left Hinduism for either Islam or Christianity and convert them back to Hinduism and reintegrate them into the Hindu caste system. Then she married a Brahmin from Bengal named Asit Krishna Mukherji. Mukherji got a PhD in London and basically he was a scholar of Russian history.
RS: Are the Brahmins an ethnic group?
GJ: The Brahmins are a caste. They’re the priestly caste. He was a Brahmin from Bengal. He was very much a supporter of the Axis powers starting in the mid-’30s. He was an open supporter of Mussolini, Hitler, and, later, the Japanese. He published a publication called The New Mercury in Calcutta, which started out as a pro-Italian periodical, and as Italy allied itself with Germany it became pro-German, and then finally the British government shut it down. Then he opened up a new publication called The Eastern Economist, which was a pro-Japanese publication.
They married and were close collaborators. She claimed that it was a purely celibate marriage, that it wasn’t by her standards or by her husband’s standards a permissible marriage, because he was an Indian and she was European.
RS: It’s time for a break. Please stay with us.
Welcome back. I’m joined here with Greg Johnson and we are discussing Savitri Devi.
So, you were talking about the marriage to her husband, who was an Indian Brahmin, the highest caste in India and her reason for being celibate through the marriage. Was it that she viewed it as race-mixing?
GJ: Right, and so did her husband really. The Brahmins have very strict rules about endogamy, and she was not an appropriate mother for his children. He didn’t really want to have kids and neither did she. They were both caught up in their projects. So, anyway, they had this celibate marriage.
During the Second World War, she worked with him in Calcutta doing some espionage work on the behalf of Japan, and after the war she went back to England and France and she spent some time in prison. She got herself thrown in prison in occupied Germany for passing out National Socialist propaganda leaflets.
She had a very colorful life. She wrote a number of books, and one of her most interesting books for the purposes of our conversation here is Impeachment of Man, which she wrote in 1946 right after the end of the Second World War. She published it in 1959. It’s dated 1959 and came out in early 1960. It took her a long time to raise the money to publish it.
But Impeachment of Man is a very radical book on deep ecology. She talks about, first of all, the root of the problem of the environmental crisis and the crisis of civilization that had enveloped the West, which was anthropocentrism, which for her is rooted in Biblical religion. She also talks about non-anthropocentric religious outlooks like Hinduism. She has a chapter on the Pharaoh Akhenaton, who had a kind of biocentric or life-centered solar monotheism. This was in ancient Egypt.
So, she was exploring a lot of religious alternatives to Biblical monotheism, because she thought really that was the root of our problems. She has chapters in there about the rights of trees, vegetarianism, animal cruelty, circuses and farms and things like that. Every form of exploitation of animals and nature she writes about in a very radical way, and yet she talks about man having a steward’s role in the natural world. She doesn’t deny that man has a special status in the world, but to the extent that we have a special status she believes that our status is to be stewards of nature rather than exploiters of nature.
She end the book with her vision on an ideal world. It’s called “Race, Economics and Kindness in the Ideal World,” which I’ve reprinted at Counter-Currents, by the way, which is counter (hyphen) currents.com. We sell Impeachment of Man there and we also have that final chapter there.
So, she continued to witness for her ideas for the rest of her life. She spent all of her time, basically, caring for abused animals and stray cats and also bearing witness for National Socialism. She spent the rest of her life that way. She lived in a great deal of poverty and hardship, and the people who knew her regarded her as a saint. She was like a Hindu ascetic. She divided her time between Europe and India on and off for the rest of her life, and she died in England in 1982 at the age of 77.
So, in my opinion, she’s really one of the great eccentrics of the 20th century. But she’s only eccentric from the point of view of sort of your average person who would think, “How could a person who’s all lovey-dovey about animals be a Nazi?” and things like that. When you actually get inside of her head, it’s very clear that it’s all very consistent, but it’s consistent in a way that’s so surprising it can kind of shock people into a completely different outlook on the world.
So, she is definitely somebody who I think is worth looking at. She didn’t really have a lot of influence in terms of ecological thinking. In fact, I’d say she had virtually none. Certainly in terms of the mainstream of ecology.
RS: Yeah, I had no idea even who she was until I discovered her from your site.
GJ: Yeah. The book Impeachment of Man is uncanny, because it anticipates a lot of views that other people have had, and yet it didn’t really influence those views. She was drawing on a common set of assumptions and therefore she was coming to common conclusions that other writers who have worked independently of her have arrived at.
Somebody like Pentti Linkola, who calls himself an eco-fascist, he’s not a National Socialist, but he shares a lot of Savitri Devi’s assumptions about man and nature and he arrives at very similar political conclusions. Linkola, who is still alive — he’s a Finnish fellow, he’s in his late 70’s now — is the author of a book that’s available now in English called Can Life Prevail? Arktos published that, and you can order it from the Counter-Currents website, which is counter (hyphen) currents.com.
Linkola underscores some of the differences that you find within this broad movement or current of thought that I’ll call eco-fascism. Two of the main differences, I would say, are these: some of them are basically just “nature, red in tooth and claw” Darwinists. It’s the idea that nature’s all about struggling for survival, and some groups exterminate other groups and dominate them, and they don’t see any reason why since human societies and human interactions can’t be modeled on that. Whereas others, and I would say most people who take this ecological perspective, don’t look at it that way. They think that man is able to have a higher calling in the world. The idea that the fact that we exterminated all these species and we should pat ourselves on the back for our Darwinian superiority is grotesque to a lot of people like this. They think that we are highly fit – there’s no question we could exterminate all the life on Earth if we want to – but that’s not really the measure of success. We are called to exercise stewardship in the natural world and preserve nature, which is really preserving ourselves if you have an enlightened view of the self.
The other big issue that divides what I’ll call eco-fascists is vegetarianism. Some are vegetarians like Savitri Devi. Others like Pentti Linkola are not vegetarians. They look at vegetarianism as not natural. The question then becomes, how unnatural does man want to be? It’s not natural for other species to preserve other forms of life either, so vegetarianism could be considered just another aspect of a sort of higher spiritual obligation towards preserving the natural world, whereas some people like Linkola will eat meat and say, “Well, that’s going too far. That’s hyperbolic to not eat meat. It’s part of our nature to do that.”
The real question for Linkola, and think this is really very important, is that the question is not about preventing animals from dying, which of course you have to do to eat them and because everything dies. The real issue is the quality of their lives. If you are just concerned about animals not dying, and if your main concern is with their death, then all you need to do is be very humane about how they die. But that leave it wide open to have the most brutal and monstrous forms of factory farms. So, Linkola basically wants to focus on the quality of animal life rather than just preventing them from dying and so he is not a vegetarian but he is a radical opponent of factory farms and all this kind of really monstrous forms of agriculture.
RS: The thing about it is that most meat comes from those sources, so you kind of do have to become a vegetarian. It’s very difficult to avoid that.
GJ: Well, yeah, exactly. Either you have to become a vegetarian or you have to go catch your own fish and things like that, which is what Pentti Linkola does. He fishes. And then he at least knows he’s catching it and killing it in an honest way. So, that’s an important consideration. From a practical point of view, you practically do have to become a vegetarian not to participate in this monstrous factory farming system. You practically have to stop drinking milk and eating cheese too, because dairies are remarkably inhumane as well when they’re on the giant agri-business scale.
So, it is a problem trying to get produce from people that I know, including eggs. But that’s very hard when you live in a city. It’s very, very expensive in this world to eat simply. It’s one of the grotesque ironies. You have to pay more to have food that’s not adulterated. You have to pay more to get less crap in your diet. It is a great difficulty from a practical point of view.
RS: Yeah, it’s become a luxury item.
GJ: Right. There’s a hilarious interview that Truman Capote did years ago. He had all these rich New York socialite friends, and somebody said, “Mr. Capote, what’s the difference between the rich and the rest of us?” And he said, “The vegetables.” He’s just being flippant. But no, seriously, rich people have the best vegetables. They’re fresh. And he’s right. You have to be rich or you just have to grow it yourself, right? You can be a peasant and have your own little garden, and you can eat like a king. But the vast majority of Americans today can’t afford to eat decent food. It’s something that only the rich or the people who grow it for themselves can do.
RS: So, some of the other names you put out . . . Let’s see. I guess we can talk about Martin Heidegger and there’s Henry Williamson and Jorian Jenks. That’s three of them, so I guess we can touch on each one briefly.
GJ: Heidegger is a very interesting figure. He was a National Socialist. He was also not necessarily an ecologist himself, although his interests certainly were in that direction, but I don’t know if he was particularly informed about these things. His instincts were certainly ecological. But what is really important about Heidegger is that he tries to really get to the root of the modern alienation with nature. He tries to get to its metaphysical root and also trying to find a way out of it.
For Heidegger, modernity is defined by this deep assumption about the way the world is and about our relationship to it. It’s the assumption that nature is transparent to our understanding — that we can get to the bottom of things, we can figure it out, we can explain it — and it is available for our use. So, this dual assumption of transparency and availability is really the foundation of modern science and industry and modern technology and therefore the foundation of man’s amazing assault on nature.
For Heidegger, the way out of that is a meditation on its historical roots. How did this idea that we can understand nature come about? And how did this idea that we can control nature, that it is available for our use come about?
His ultimate answer to that sounds like a cop out, but in a subtle way it’s not. It really is the solution. The answer is this: He said, “We can’t understand where this idea that everything is understandable came from.” Well, if you can’t understand why we think that everything is understandable, then you’ve got a counter-example to that whole assumption. If you believe in principle that nothing is mysterious, but yet when you try to get to the bottom of that attitude you discover that you can’t really figure out where you got that notion . . . It just sort of came upon us and grabbed us and enthralled us. It happened. It caught us up. It’s operating us. That assumption is operating us and modern society, but we don’t know how it came about. Well, if there’s one giant mystery there then that restores all the mysteries to the world.
For him, one of the most therapeutic things is to recognize that there is a kind of mysterious withdraw in the world, that things are not just available and open for our understanding, but that things are mysterious and close themselves off to our understanding. He thinks that if we can wrap our minds around the mystery and sort of follow its tug, it might pull us out of this modern mindset.
The allied sort of therapy, if you will, is this: we have this notion that we can make everything available and we can control it. But can we control history? No. The very idea of man’s conquest of nature is not something that we’ve conquered for ourselves or set for ourselves. Again, it just sort of came upon us. It was this eruption of titanic arrogance and aspiration that mankind suddenly was taken by. And so, again, we don’t control history. We are enthralled by this idea.
So, for Heidegger, if you can just wrap your mind around the fact that modernity is in itself mysterious and uncontrollable . . . Once you’ve wrapped your mind around that the spell is broken and what that does is clear open the possibility for another, radically different form of life.
Now, early on in his life, during the 1920s and 1930s, Heidegger looked at National Socialism as a movement that was trying to escape from modern technology. He thought that the National Socialist movement was the only form of politics in the offing that was an alternative to the fundamental materialism of Anglo-American capitalism or Soviet Communism, which are both materialist, and he thought that National Socialism could be understood as a response to the challenge of modern technological civilization.
Later on as the war happened, he came to think. “That promise never really came to fruition because of the simple necessity of fighting a war.” Nazi Germany had to fight against materialist, technological enemies, and therefore it became by necessity more and more materialist and technological, and it might have won the war if it had gone further down that path of materialism and technology. He felt that National Socialism really hadn’t lived up to the promise that he had hoped for it, and he spent the rest of his life waiting for another historical dispensation to arrive. So, he ultimately ended up adopting a mystical — I that think would be a good way to describe it — attitude towards nature and history, because he thought that if you could cultivate this sort of mystical as opposed to scientific, technological attitude that could break the spell of technology.
Henry Williamson is an extraordinary 20th-century English novelist. He was a very frank, very idealistic National Socialist. He was also a friend of Sir Oswald Moseley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists. He was not so prominent in the British Union of Fascists that he was interned during the war like Moseley and many other British Union people were.
Williamson liked country life, and he was a nature writer. His most famous book is called Tarka the Otter, which is a kind of children’s book. It’s written so even children can appreciate it, although it offers enormous pleasures to adults. And it’s about the relationship that he had with an otter cub that he found and named Tarka. He also wrote other nature books that were oriented towards the imagination of children, but he also wrote very many, very adult novels and also memoirs and essays where he lays out, in his view, the connections between politics and his love of nature.
Again, it just goes back to the idea of seeing man as a natural being within the natural world. From that follows an organic, hierarchical view of society, the rejection of egalitarianism, the rejection of modern technology and capitalism and a search for some kind of third way between communism and capitalism. For that, he was attracted to Fascism and National Socialism.
You mentioned Jorian Jenks. Jenks is somebody whom I am reading about right now actually. I think he’s a really remarkable thinker. I had heard about him years ago, but I never really looked into him and then the Historical Review Press in England republished his book, Spring Comes Again, which we have for sale at the Counter-Currents site. That’s counter (hyphen) currents.com.
Anyway, Jenks was a member of the British Union of Fascists. He was a very trusted senior member of the BUF, and he was a personal friend of Oswald Moseley, and he was a farmer. Moseley had Jenks work on economic and specifically agricultural economic policies and he really defined the policies of the British Union of Fascists.
Again, the concerns were nationalistic. They wanted to basically restore England to being independent of foreign food imports and that involved also protection for the English farmer, but it went beyond that. There was also protection of the countryside.
After the Second World War, Jenks maintained cordial ties with Moseley and his new Union Movement, which he created after the war, but he somewhat retired from politics. He wasn’t openly political, but he was very much involved in the Soil Association and pioneering in countryside and wilderness preservation. There’s not much wilderness, actually, left in England, but the countryside is still rich with beauty and biodiversity. He was very important in working for that. Also, he was very important in British organic farming and agriculture.
Again, if you scratch the surface and ask, “What’s the coherence between his fascist politics and his ecological sensibility?” both of those ideas follow from the idea that man is a being who is part of the natural world; it’s a nature and life-centered outlook as opposed to the anthropocentric view, which is that we are the crown of creation, we’re in it for ourselves, and we can basically have a destructive and exploitative relationship with the natural world without worrying about it coming around to bite us.
RS: Well, we’re out of time, so I would like to thank you for being on.
GJ: Well, thank you for inviting me, Robert. I really have enjoyed this. I was a little anxious about talking about this because I hadn’t talked about it with anybody for a while, but once I got going I think it went pretty well. I really encourage people to visit Counter-Currents. We have a number of projects underway, reviews and translations and things like that, of literature that deals with some of these questions. So, it’s counter-currents.com. Thanks for having me on.
RS: That’s all that we have for tonight. Take care and we’ll be back with you next time.
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