Revolutionary Ecology: Some remarks

Fountain pen

I’ve decided to publish a long-awaited piece here (via link after all my waffle) from the website dubbed “Revolutionary Ecology.” RE, to my knowledge, is written by and maintained by individuals close to the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement, itself, at times, a rather alarming group of Maoist-influenced Third Worldist Marxists packing some occasionally very erudite theoretical contributions via the website, Anti-Imperialism.com.

The first part of the RE piece is essentially what you might have come to expect from an ethical vegan with political inclinations towards broader social change. For one, I will say it is with some relief that questions relating to ethics and individual morality are making something of an emergence in Marxist circles after decades of economic determinism and, frankly, dispassionate and often downright cynical discourse. The endorsement of a kind of left-utilitarianism, something practiced by the animal rights theorist Gary Francione, is also a welcome addition to this piece, and quite evident proof of a less sectarian attitude towards individual thinkers and philosophies some might prefer remain outside of a purely determinist Marxism.

However, I will point out there are a number of issues of which I take note of. For one, if you can get past some rather novel attempts to turn sex-specific nouns into something more gender-neutral, certain segments of argument run the risk of equating “patriarchy” with an almost mythical malevolence on the part of individual men. As one might assume to be a given, human societies, whether expressly identified as patriarchal or otherwise, have tended to enforce gender roles for purposes other than mere collective vindictiveness on the part of the male gender.

As such, given some work already published on this blog and also the more substantial arguments entertained by certain theorists, it can certainly not be said by anyone willing to look into the matter that men, individually or otherwise, are immune from gender-specific privations emanating from the oppressive social relations of capitalism itself. Men are expected to play roles, conform to standards, provide financial succor and even sacrifice their lives in the millions if need be.

The resulting pressure to conform, in association with being considerably more likely to suffer a violent death either at the hands of another or your own (men in the UK are three times more likely to resort to suicide than women, and female on male domestic violence is on the rise, yet still taboo) cannot lead one to view patriarchy in the more traditional, simplistic, even mainstream First World interpretation of feminism. Whilst the piece below does not go that far, I felt that it came somewhat close to implying that patriarchy, such as it is, exists due to the personal machinations of unpleasant individuals who happen to be male, rather than as something firmly knitted to the oppressive economic and social structures of a society placing burdens and demands on both genders, albeit it of differing character.

Towards the end of the article I also noted an argument I can only liken to a kind of “speciesism for the oppressed”. Whilst the idea that poorer segments of the population are dependent on animal products because of financial constraints (I’ve never worked out how rice and vegetables are more expensive than meat) can’t be taken too seriously, the notion that the exploitation of animals by certain societies oppressed by imperialism is something that can almost be put to one side, for now, is problematic.

For one, there is nothing within Marxism that says we have to necessarily idealise any society that immediately comes into conflict with imperialism, and any potential critique of a facet of that society could somehow become de facto harmful. An obvious example is the plight of women in Central Asian/Middle Eastern societies that, for whatever reason, are either directly under military attack by the United States or enduring oppressive political conditions at the former’s behest.

Any revolutionary of any real caliber would not shirk from advocating gender equality as part of a communist argument (indigenous activists certainly don’t either, the PKK being the most striking example) even whilst distancing themselves from the kind of “feminism” often deployed to justify interventions in these societies on bogus humanitarian grounds.

There is a necessarily narrow line of argument that needs to be pursued here, one that does not equate itself with the kind  of short-sighted and indeed pro-imperialist attacks of certain western “animal lovers” that rage against the practice of eating cats and dogs in east Asia before they themselves go off to lunch at KFC. Likewise, if we can ascertain that women have equal moral value in relation to how such societies should both resist imperialism and, by association, ferment revolutionary struggle, to agitate for moral consideration in the case of animals within the imperialist metropoles yet introduce differing standards elsewhere, is,  I find, problematic.

That being said, I would still very much recommend the below article and a fuller engagement with the views expressed.

D Read

You can (finally!) find Part One and Two of the much debated piece here.

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