There’s nothing left-wing about being green

Environmentalism is a cover for communism? Do me a favour.

One annoying thing about being a leftie these days is that people always assume you’re an environmentalist. Thanks to a new breed of leftist who doesn’t know his Marx from his elbow, in recent years being on the left has come to mean being pro-state, anti-freedom of speech (it hurts people!), in love with welfarism (despite the harm it does to the poorest in society), and also green, eco-friendly, a tree-hugging loather of unchecked economic growth. Right-wingers love big cars and carbon; left-wingers love rainforests and dolphins – that’s the infantile script promoted by many of the red-turned-green leftists who make up what passes for modern-day radicalism.

Lord Deben, formerly known as John Gummer, who chairs the UK’s Committee on Climate Change, has further fuelled the idea that environmentalism is a naturally left-wing cause by having a pop this week at the alleged Trotskyists floating around the edges of the eco-movement. Insisting that we need some new ‘sane’ voices in the debate about climate change, Lord Deben has slammed the green extremists who are ‘very close to sort of Trotskyite politics’.

This idea that behind the green movement there lurk red intentions is held by all sorts of critics of green extremism. So the journalist and author James Delingpole uses the term ‘watermelon’ to describe large sections of the green movement – that is, these people are green on the outside but red on the inside. Whether it’s left-wingers embracing environmentalism as a natural extension of their caring, socially aware political outlook or right-wingers denouncing environmentalism as a cover for communism, the idea that green politics is a left-wing thing has become firmly established.

This infuriates us here at spiked. Because in our view, environmentalism represents, not a central component of left-wing politics, but rather a warping, a twisting, an undermining of what it traditionally meant to be left-wing. Greens are fundamentally contemptuous of man’s interferences with nature, with his exploitation of natural resources for the apparently selfish ends of growing the economy, creating more stuff, and expanding our so-called eco-footprint on the planet. But for decades and decades, before the dawning of our scarily conformist green era about 20 or 30 years ago, being on the left meant the opposite of that – it meant celebrating the creation of more wealth, cheering the destruction of poverty through greater growth, and demanding the building of bigger and better cities and other human habitats. It meant expanding the human footprint on Earth, not shrinking it.

In 1923, the Suffragette and left-wing firebrand Sylvia Pankhurst summed up socialism as follows: ‘[It] means plenty for all. We do not preach a gospel of want and scarcity, but of abundance… We do not call for limitation of births, for penurious thrift, and self-denial. We call for a great production that will supply all, and more than all the people can consume.’ Far from being left-wing in anything like that sense, today’s greens and those who claim to be ‘on the left’ call for the exact opposite of what Pankhurst and the rest of the early to mid-twentieth century left were demanding. Modern Greens and eco-leftists do preach a gospel of scarcity. They do call for a limitation on births, always insisting that the world is overpopulated by resource-sucking humans. They hate the idea of any kind of ‘great production’. And as for making loads and loads of stuff, ‘more than all the people can consume’, well, they hate consumerism, too. In fact, nothing riles them more than the sight of the advert-believing masses traipsing to the shops to buy mod-cons and expensive clobber they apparently don’t need. Really, there is nothing more un-left-wing than being green.

Greens, and the modern leftists who have uncritically embraced environmentalism, are forever fretting over the scarcity of natural resources. They promote the idea that there are natural limits to how many people we can have on this planet and how much stuff we can produce and consume. Yet the left as it was constituted for a hundred-plus years grew precisely from a desire to challenge the idea of natural limits, the idea that human aspirations must be kept in check in the name of preserving some natural balance. Karl Marx ridiculed the writings of the miserabilist Reverend Thomas Malthus, the population scaremonger and original green, describing his arguments as a ‘libel on the human race’ because they promoted the idea that human beings ‘cannot abolish poverty, because poverty has its base in nature’. Later, in the early twentieth century, the Russian revolutionary Isaak Rubin slammed Malthus for using naturalistic arguments to make the case for ‘the inevitability of poverty’. Back then, being on the left in essence meant being anti-green, being fervently opposed to the idea that mankind must rein in his wealth-creating, stuff-producing, city-building ambitions lest he deplete Mother Nature’s larder and ravage the Earth.

It is only recently that leftists have embraced the green-leaning outlook, and in doing so they have ridden roughshod over what being on the left was all about for the best part of two centuries. They have ditched the left’s one-time faith in humanity and vision of a rich, plentiful, highly modernised future in favour of adapting to the depressingly meek eco-gospel of penurious thrift and self-denial. They have abandoned the goal of liberating mankind from poverty in preference for encouraging him to accommodate to it, through using pretty sly terms like ‘sustainable development’ as a cover for demonising economic growth and ‘affluenza’ to describe the alleged mental disease of wanting too much stuff. They aren’t watermelons; they’re kiwi fruits – green on the outside and green on the inside. There’s no red whatsoever. If you want a true defence of mankind’s use of natural resources to make a bigger, better, more comfortable world for himself and future generations, then don’t go green – get spiked.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked.

Picture by: Danny Lawson/PA Archive/Press Association Images.


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