The last word on Marxism and Ecology, Louis Proyect, has written:
>Amazing. Not a single reference to John Bellamy
>Foster, Paul Burkett, James O'Connor or Mike Davis.
Let me give some examples of positions taken by
many Marxist groups in our recent history, positions that have hurt the Left:
- U.S. communist parties endorsed nuclear power
plants in the 1960s, and so did not join the
anti-nuke movements that came to a head in the late 1970s.
- they also endorsed fluoridation of drinking
water, believing the government’s assurances and
as a result never realizing that fluoridation was
actually a means for the burgeoning aluminum
industry to get rid of its waste products in the
1940s and 50s by dumping them into the nation’s water supply;
- they endorsed mass vaccination of children for
diseases that children in societies like ours
SHOULD get, we WANT them to get so that they
don’t get these diseases as adults where they are
far more dangerous diseases such as chicken
pox, measles, mumps, etc. Of course, this
requires that they have access to healthy food,
clean water and adequate sanitation; otherwise
children in impoverished or colonized countries
would be victimized by these diseases. Measles,
for instance, is among the top killers of young
children in the so-called “Third World”;
- the Communist parties also endorsed mass
spraying of pesticides and over-application of antibiotics;
- they continue to endorse the torture of animals
by cosmetic companies like Gillette under the
guise of “scientific research,” and refuse to
hear, let alone heed, the wide-scale protests of
young people involved in animal rights struggles,
ruling them out as part of the Left;
- and they even uphold genetic engineering
rationalizing it, as they did with the
Rockefeller-sponsored Green Revolution, as a
technological means for ending world hunger! –
yea, right! instead of examining the real causes of hunger to begin with.
In the early 1990s I was organizing with ACT-UP
in New York City. Despite my pleadings with
members of Marxist organizations, very few of
them would get involved with this gay-organized
but not exclusive organization, perhaps the most
dynamic and large group in recent City history.
Which leads directly to the movement for
universal health care or, should we call it,
“Subsidize the Pharmaceutical Industry” cult.
We need to call for free universal health care
of course! BUT we also need to engage in a
continent-wide discussion of what that health
care should consist of, instead of the factory
model of healthcare that the Left promotes today!
Where is that discussion, the understanding that
free universal health care is by itself not
enough and may even be counterproductive when not
combined with those contextual demands, such as
access to acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropracty,
nutrition, and herbology? How about a movement to
de-toxify the environment of the pollutants
dumped there by industry which is causing us to be sick to begin with?
Why are there 3 times as many episiotomies
performed on women in the U.S. than in Europe,
percentage-wise? Is it that women in the U.S. are
genetically inferior to those elsewhere in the
world, or that they just don’t know how to give
birth properly? Obviously, that’s not the case;
but I’m sure some enterprising corporation will
soon try to market genetic implants to “correct”
that “defect.” In reality, it’s the ridiculous
on-your-back feet-in-stirrups position the
standard operating position in the U.S. hospitals
that is the cause of the higher percentage here
of difficult births. Yet doctors insist on that
position because it is more convenient for them
and for connecting all the technological gadgetry
that now is part and parcel of giving birth in this country.
In Cuba, women squat in a sort-of rocking chair
with the bottom removed and rock the baby out, a
traditional method that generates a much lower need for C-sections.
Similarly with hysterectomies in the U.S. the
removal of the uterus is performed at a rate that
is at least double that of other industrialized
countries. WHY AREN’T THESE AND SIMILAR ISSUES
BEING RAISED BY THE LEFT as part of the demands
for Universal Health coverage? Why doesn’t the
Left address widespread concerns over what that
coverage should consist of, instead of leaving
that to the so-called capitalist-trained
“experts”? Increasingly, the choice is the
Capitalist system vs. the Immune system. The left
needs to stand on the side of the Immune system don’t you agree?
* * *
And, on stem cells:
Some leftists believe that the primary struggle
today is between science and theocracy. So when
George Bush steps forward to ban stem cell
research, they ally with the Democratic Party and
the capitalist intelligentsia and argue for
underwriting with public funds billions of
dollars in stem cell research by giant biotech pharmaceutical corporations.
Bush has threatened to ban this research for
theocratic reasons. Yes, the theocracy must be
stopped. But does this mean that the reverse is
true, that this new technology will cure the
diseases we face today? Is it the proper way to
proceed to address those diseases?
Since Richard Nixon declared the "war on cancer"
in 1971 -- that's Nixon, mind you, now known
fondly as the "environmental president"(!) --
childhood cancers have increased 26 percent
overall. Rates of some specific cancers have
increased even more dramatically: acute
lymphocyte leukemia by 62 percent, brain cancer
by 50 percent, and bone cancer by 40 percent.(1)
Increased exposure to pesticides is seen as the
main reason for this cancer explosion in
children, NOT faulty genes. A growing number of
scientists see pesticides, diet sodas
(particularly aspartame) and cellphone towers as
related to MS, Parkinson's and other neurological
and immune compromising diseases, and genetically
engineered hi-fructose corn syrup to diabetes and overweight youth.
But of course neither the Left nor the government
nor the corporations involved will address those
diseases from that perspective.
What's often forgotten in this debate is that not
only are the biotech companies eagerly seeking
patents for any new products or processes (that
is, privatizing them), but there's no discussion
in this frenzy (Are you for or against it?) of
the underlying causes of disease that stem cells
are allegedly being developed to treat. Stem Cell
proponents, including (unfortunately) a number of
prominent Marxists, in effect are buying into the
dominant corporate ideology that disease is
caused by an individual's faulty genetics. Gene
therapies, cloning, and stem cell experimentation
are patentable, and thus lucrative. Ending
chemical pollution, pesticides, etc. -- the real causes of disease -- are not.
Thus, the alternative to Bush's ban actually
rewards billions of tax dollars to the same
companies that are polluting the environment and
causing these diseases to begin with, to "cure"
the very diseases that their activities have created.
Stem Cell developments should also require a much
fuller discussion on this and other leftist
listserves of the slippery slope of genetic
cloning and organ cloning, and even animal and
human cloning. How can we stop this profit making
juggernaut once the Left has bought into the
Biotech and Pharmaceutical companies' framework?
The recent Food and Drug Administration's ruling
to allow the sale of meat and dairy from cloned
animals follows an intersecting track, in the
name of "Progress." One would have to be deaf
dumb and blind not to see the direction the stem
cell industry is moving in, with the Left's blessings.
The approach that the Left is taking is kind of
like helping the ice to melt at the north pole so
that we can help the oil companies find new
shipping routes and enhanced opportunities for
oil drilling in the arctic as the ice cap melts.
According to Walter Gibbs in his July 11, 2000
Pre-Bush New York Times article Research Predicts
Summer Doom for Northern Icecap: "While an
ice-free Arctic Ocean would most likely disrupt
the global environment, researchers said, it
could have positive economic aspects. It could
shorten shipping routes, for example, and expand
the range of offshore oil drillers". A true
visionary for our times. That's the kind of
reductionist thinking we're stuck in.
1) Dr. Samuel Epstein, M.D., and Dr. Quentin
Young, M.D., as quoted in Pesticides and You v.22 no.2, Summer 2002.