- NeoecofascismThe Example of the United States
Humankind alone is no longer the focus of thought, but rather life as a whole. This striving toward connectedness with the totality of life, with nature itself, a nature into which we are born, this is the deepest meaning and the true essence of National Socialist thought.1—Ernst Lehmann, 1934
We are a special part of the natural order, being in it and above it. We have the potential to become nature’s steward or its destroyer. European countries should invest in national parks, wilderness preserves, and wildlife refuges, as well as productive and sustainable farms and ranches. The natural world—and our experience of it—is an end in itself.2—Richard Spencer, 2017
In a context of increasing concern regarding global warming and its effects on human society and our planet’s biosphere, environmentalism is expected to become one of the central political issues of the next decades. The emergence and success of green movements and parties, a logical consequence of such situation, is already a reality in several Western countries. Although there are differences between those movements, in [End Page 95] general they share values such as progressivism, liberalism, equalitarianism, and respect for democracy.
Yet this hasn’t always been the case in the past, and it won’t necessarily be the case in the future. History shows us that the protection of the environment against human intervention and the idea that the human being is part of the natural world are far from being a monopoly of any single worldview. In fact, at the beginning of the twentieth century it was difficult to associate such tendencies to a particular ideology.3
Although today ecological radicalism is generally associated with leftist worldviews, its radical right counterpart, ecofascism, remains a reality in a series of contemporary political groups and it could be a political force to be reckoned with in the near future in countries such as the United States. This article starts from the assumption that political demands (such as environmentalism) only express concrete content after being located within a discursive system, a view introduced by the poststructuralist theorist Ernesto Laclau.4 This means that ecological radicalism cannot be a priori associated with any particular ideological movement. Therefore, the fact that the radical right “uses” it cannot logically be denounced as a deceitful appropriation. A similar view is formulated by Janet Biehl and Peter Stauden-maier (although on a different basis), the authors of what has become the reference publication on ecofascism.5 Only this “relativist” framework can guarantee a rigorous and objective examination of ecofascism and prevent ideological biases.
This article is divided in two sections. The first is a brief history of the genesis of ecofascism and an analysis of the core ideas of its doctrine. It will trace the origins of this branch of fascism that began to form in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century and that was highly influential among certain sectors of the NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei) until the fall of the Nazi regime in 1945. This section will also focus on analyzing what kind of ecological radicalism was formulated by the early ecofascists and what were its connections with racist and authoritarian discourses.
The second section centers on an illustrative case study that can point up some of the key characteristics of neoecofascism, the contemporary version of ecofascism, and how they compare to the latter’s. It will focus on the United States, a country that has witnessed a rise of radical right groups and discourses in the last decade6 and in which several terrorists have included [End Page 96] ecofascist remarks in their manifestos, as we shall see further on. Finally, the differences between the many right-wing environmentalist stances will be outlined in order to avoid the semantic inflation of the term “ecofascism.”
The Origins of Ecofascism: The German National-Romantic Synthesis
Ecofascism was first and foremost an offshoot of Romanticism, an intellectual movement whose impact on Germany during the nineteenth century is impossible to exaggerate. In political terms, Romanticism was primarily a reaction against the Enlightenment and its core assumptions. To put...