Edward Goldsmith came under attack from all sides of the political spectrum for his uncompromising and firmly-held views. In this article of December 1999 (first published in January 2003), he robustly defends himself against his various detractors.
I have been under heavy, often vitriolic, attack in the last year. For some of my critics I am now a racist, fascist, neo-nazi, and “extreme right-wing ideologue” (Eric Krebbers and others of Fabel van de Illegaal).
I say “now”, as in the past I have been referred to as a Bolshevik (l’Actuel, a French periodical), a “whacko-communist-liberal” (a viewer of the US television programme C-Span), an “anarchist” (widespread sources), a “Jacobin” (Lyndon Larouche), a “Palaeolithic counter-revolutionary” (widespread sources), an “omnivorous pseudo-ecological tribalist” (Bob Finch of the Mundi Club) a “hypocrisy accumulation zone” (same source), a “Gaian-sociobiologist” (Wolfgang Sachs) a madman (Professor Lewis Wolpert), and even more recently, so I am told, the “anti-Christ” (Cardinal Biffi).
This suggests above all that my writings are difficult to classify in terms of today’s conventional classifications, also that my views are not as popular as they might be, at least among many sectors of today’s industrial society. I have to admit that they could not be more different from those of “Fabel van de Illegaal”, my most vitriolic critics today, and of their gurus, Nicholas Hildyard and Larry Lohmann of the “Corner House”, but that does not make me a fascist or any of the other things that these people make me out to be.
My views reflect above all my rejection of modern industrial society in just about all its manifestations, including its underlying world-view and its associated values, and the very principle of economic development that they serve to rationalise and hence legitimise. Needless to say, I also reject even more the globalisation of this destructive process, which, by its very nature, can only lead, if it continues for much longer, to the annihilation of the natural world, and among other things to the extinction of our species. I doubt if all the people I work with accept this view, many of them do not see the present situation as being quite as grim as I do. All I can say is that I sincerely hope that they are right.
“It is quite clear to me that only traditional societies have proved to be in any way sustainable”
My views also reflect my experience of traditional societies and my extensive reading of the anthropological literature over the last 40 years. It is quite clear to me that only traditional societies have proved to be in any way sustainable. Only such societies have been capable of satisfying real human needs. These include the need to live in a loving family, a cohesive community, and a rich natural environment, and to be imbued with the religio-cultural pattern that holds it all together. These ideas could not be less fashionable, but I believe them to be true, and it would take more than the venom of Krebbers, Hildyard, and Lohmann, to make me relinquish them. It is no coincidence that not one of my African, Indian, or Polynesian friends rejects a single word of my writings.
These writings also fit in perfectly with the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi (I worked for four or five months in 1974 with the Gandhi Peace Foundation in Delhi), while possibly the leading Gandhian figure in India today, Sunderlal Bahuguna, personally arranged for the publication of a shortened version of my book The Way: an Ecological World-View  to distribute among social activists in his country. If my views make me a fascist and a racist then you would have to apply these terms to the members of all traditional societies just about everywhere in the world – including New Guinea tribesmen and Amazonian Indians. [See Note A]
I suppose that by holding these views I could be described as a conservative – but a conservative with a small ‘c’ – which I take as applying to those who seek to protect society against the state and in particular against the totalitarian state that has always sought to destroy the family and community which it tends to regard as rival social structures. Today, it is above all, the big corporations that seek to destroy social forms and create an atomised mass society made up of egoistic and competitive individuals with no social or ecological obligations of any kind and whose interrelationships are of a strictly economic nature.
To be a conservative with a small ‘c’ does not mean that I am right wing in the normal sense of the term. Mrs Thatcher had no feeling for society. In fact she once denied that society actually existed over and above the individuals and families that it contained.
Right wing governments such as those of Mr Reagan and Mrs Thatcher, Mr Bush and Mr Major, and in effect Mr Clinton and Mr Blair, are totally committed to defending the interests of big corporations – interests that are in many ways in total conflict with those of the citizens who elected them to power.
I hated Mr Major’s government and actually set up a Commission that published a 64-page booklet entitled The Tory Record: an Assessment. It was a merciless indictment of its record over the previous eighteen years, showing how it had sided with big industry and against the electors on such issues as unemployment, health, child malnutrition, the privatisation of the nuclear industry, contaminated land, etc; 87,000 copies of this booklet were distributed by Green Party candidates in different constituencies.
It is of course true that right-wing parties do affect concern (sometimes sincerely and sometimes less so) for the destruction of the family and the community, and that of the natural world, but their economic policies can only further accelerate their destruction. For me only a local economy run by small companies, artisans and small farmers, can provide the economic infrastructure for a society made up of solid families and communities, while minimising its impact on the environment and Right Wing governments (including those of Mr Clinton and Mr Blair) are forcing us in the very opposite direction – towards ever greater economic globalisation.
* * *
But let us look at the precise accusations that are being levelled at me. The first is that I am a regular participant in the meetings of the French New Right. In fact – and for what it is worth – I have participated in exactly one meeting of the French New Right, that of le G.R.E.C.E. in November 1994. Before being invited to speak at that meeting I had never heard of le G.R.E.C.E., nor even of the New Right. I have also participated in one meeting of the Delta Stichting in Antwerp in 1997, a similar association. [See Note B]
I have been involved for thirty years in environmental, and, to a lesser extent, in social issues that are of relevance for determining a society’s impact on its environment. I founded The Ecologist in 1969. I have written, edited, or co-edited 17 books and also written hundreds of articles, mainly on environmental issues, and am invited to speak at meetings of all sorts of groups in many different countries. A year or two before I spoke at le G.R.E.C.E. I toured Switzerland at the request of the Swiss Trotskyist party to denounce the activities of the IMF, which that country was about to join. I have also spoken at the World Bank and at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“It is essential . . . that people—regardless of their political views—should understand the seriousness of the environmental problems we face today”
There is no point just talking to fellow environmentalists, as I used to do in the early days. It is essential, as far as I am concerned, that people – regardless of their political views – should understand the seriousness of the environmental problems we face today. As for the G.R.E.C.E. after I was invited to speak at their meeting, I was told that they were originally a neo-fascist, intellectual, and cultural association, but that they had seriously changed their tune in the last 15 years. Some people later insisted that this change was of a purely cosmetic nature and that the writings of their guru and main spokesman Alain de Benoist, which I found particularly interesting, did not reflect his real agenda.
At the time I was not in a position to decide whether this is so, nor am I better able to do so today. What is certain is that I do not find anything in his writings to suggest that he is a fascist. For one thing de Benoist has strongly criticised the National Front on many occasions, and their views on social issues – insofar as I can judge them – are by no means the same. In particular, de Benoist has strongly denounced Le Pen’s attitude to immigrants in France. Nor is he a rabid nationalist for that matter.  He is in favour of European integration, to which I am very much opposed.
In any case, I have never had any contact whatsoever with any extreme Right political party, either in France or in England, let alone funded them, as it is apparently rumoured. The only political party I have been a member of is the British Green Party, whose formation was largely triggered off by the Blueprint for Survival (1972)  a book of which I was co-author. I stood for the first parliamentary election that (what is now) the Green Party ever contested in October 1974. I later stood as the Green Party candidate for the County Council Elections in Cornwall, and still later for the European elections representing Cornwall and Plymouth.
What is fascism?
Since I am accused of being a fascist, I think it is worth seeing exactly what fascism really means. The main features of the fascist state – if we take Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy as the models – are: firstly that it is totalitarian. That is to say that it is run by a highly authoritarian and centralized government that brooks no opposition and whose policies are thereby subject to no democratic control.
However, in my book, The Way: an Ecological World-View, I point out that in a traditional society made up of cohesive family and community groupings, there is no place for the State (in the sense of a formal government and bureaucracy, let alone a totalitarian state). I quote the great anthropologist, Roy Rappaport, who describes it as a “special purpose” association  – concerned almost exclusively with its own short-term interests and almost invariably oblivious of the real needs of those it has been called upon to govern.
I also quote J.K. Galbraith, who states that “the State, in important matters, is an instrument of the industrial system”, and the industrial system I also reject. As I have already noted, I see economic development and hence industrialization, as the cause of all the social and environmental problems of today. What I believe in is real democratic government, by which I mean participatory government at a communal level – the only level at which the individual can make himself or herself heard, the only level at which he or she can truly participate in public affairs, and the only level at which decisions can be taken by those who will be affected by them. 
The model, for me, at least in the Western world, is the Swiss Confederation as it once was. Power there effectively resided with the communes rather than with the Cantonal governments and still less with the Confederate Government in Berne.  If none of my readers (as I am sure is the case) can name a single Swiss politician – this clearly suggests that the Swiss central government even today has very little power. In any case, to suggest as Krebbers does that for over thirty years I have been “propagating the same totalitarian view of the world”  is a downright lie, and he knows it. My view of the world is the very opposite to the authoritarian or totalitarian view. [See Note C]
The second main feature of the fascist state is its militarism and its associated imperialism. Alan Cassel wrote in his book Fascist Italy  that “the fascist creed was the injunction ‘believe, obey, fight’”. The supreme fascist virtues were “Spartan”. The state into which the fascist proposed to integrate the Italian masses was a bleak one. “It demanded sacrifice and duty, and held out the distant hope of national conquest and honours of war. It was less suited to a civil community than to an army,” while needless to say German fascism was even more militaristic.
I, on the other hand, utterly reject militarism, as I make clear in my book [The Great U-turn]  and in The Case Against the Global Economy, which Jerry Mander and I co-edited, nor would I have worked for the Gandhi Peace Foundation for four months in 1974 if I were militaristically inclined.
The third basic feature of fascist ideology is corporatism. The corporative state was one of Mussolini’s most cherished principles. Its object was to encourage industrial activity (not by the small farmers and artisans, as suggested by my critics, but by big powerful companies) and put it to the service of the state. Corporations (industrial associations) were set up for each major industry and included representation from both capital and labour. The government was seen as representing these corporations to the point that in 1938 the Chamber of Deputies was abolished and replaced by a “Chamber of Fasces and Corporations”, which was elected or appointed by 22 corporations. 
Needless to say it is critical to the thesis of The Case Against the Global Economy  that democracy is impossible if the economy is run by large corporations that are powerful enough to control our governments as they do today. It follows that we must return to a local economy run by small companies that are more likely to take the interests of the society in which they operate at heart, and which, in any case, governments are better able to control.
The fourth feature of the fascist state, at least in the case of Nazi Germany, was its racism. (Mussolini was not a racist until he was forced to become one by Hitler in 1938). The importance of maintaining the purity of the Aryan blood was central to Hitler’s vision.  It was this purity which enabled the Aryans to dominate the rest of the world. The Jews had to be exterminated because they wished to interbreed with the Aryans and were thereby a threat to the very survival of the “master race” – which is of course absurd as Jews seek marriage among themselves in order to preserve their identity as a people. Nolte, an authority on the Nazis,  regards genocide “as corresponding to the central intention of National Socialism”.
“I am 100 percent against the totalitarian state, militarism, imperialism, corporatism, and racism”
To accuse me of espousing these ideas is simply farcical. To begin with I am a Jew myself. Many of my relations died in Hitler’s gas chambers. I repeat that I am 100 percent against the totalitarian state, militarism, imperialism, corporatism, and racism, (that is if this latter term is defined as the persecution of racial, or indeed of cultural minorities) [see Note D]. It will be noted that the fascist state did not in any way promote the things that I personally believe in, i.e. the protection of our natural environment, of local communities, local economies, small farmers, artisans and local cultural patterns that provide people with a blueprint for relating to their society and to the natural world, and of course local participatory democracy.
As I have already stated, I believe that most people still entertain these views. Among them, I am sure, are many people I would approve of, and some too I would disapprove of. For all I know, Jack the Ripper firmly believed in the local economy. So what? Would any of the idealistic young people who are fighting so desperately to prevent the annihilation of the world’s remaining forests simply give up and take a job in a logging company because they had suddenly discovered that Count Dracula had fought just as passionately to save the forests of Transylvania? I doubt it very much.
Krebbers, Hildyard, etc., insist that my reason for attending the meeting of the G.R.E.C.E. in 1994 and that of the Delta Stichtung in 1997 was to help make these associations respectable in the eyes of the environmental movement. I am very flattered of course that they should think that by personally participating in the meeting of an association, whatever it might be, suffices to assure its complete acceptance by the environmental movement. I must have grossly underestimated my influence in environmental circles.
We must realize that we can only hope to win the critical battle we are fighting, by getting the public on our side, and not just part of the public, but as much of it as possible. It is only public pressure that can make governments change their policies, and, what is more, public pressure is the only force that we can conceivably control. As it happens, possibly half the population of a country like the UK or the US is made up of people who normally vote for Conservative or right wing governments [see Note E]. Just like Left Wing voters they must be converted to our cause – that is of course if we want to win this battle – i.e. if we want our children to have a life worth living on this planet.
This means that environmentalists and those fighting the global economy must not be frightened of making ad hoc alliances with groups with whom we may disagree on many important issues in order to prevent destructive initiatives like the Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI) for instance. Thus in Seattle there was a de facto alliance between environmentalists and Third World leaders, whose refusal to sign the final declaration actually brought the meeting to a close.
Yet their motivation was not to prevent the further destruction of the planet or to fight the escalating poverty in their respective countries. It was primarily to obtain greater access to the American markets many sectors of which are still relatively closed to their exports. However, to export more sugar cane, palm oil, bananas, tea, coffee, cut flowers, and livestock to the U.S. can only occur at the cost of cutting down still more forests and of diverting still more land and water that is badly required to feed their already underfed citizens in order to accommodate the interests of the corporations that run the export trade in Third World countries.
This is of course something that environmentalists cannot approve of, yet tactically this temporary alliance was of critical importance. One of the first great victories of the environmental movement could never have been scored without it.
On the other hand, if the object of an alliance is to co-operate in building up a new society, this would of course only be possible with people with whom we agreed on most, if not all, fundamental issues. What is certain is that there is a huge difference between these two types of alliances. The former are loose and temporary, whereas the latter are much closer and of course must be long-lasting if they are to achieve their goal.Back to top