WHAT COULD AN
ECO-FEMINIST SOCIETY BE?
Equality and Women? Anthology, (Harmattan) 1990 Translated from
the French by Jacob Paisain
looking to become what one is, and doing what one wants to do as an
individual, and not as a woman' -Jane O'REILLY, F., May 1979
We must first put
forward the principle that the abolition of patriarchy and the establishment
of a relationship with the environment that is finally balanced are
not only fundamentally linked, but also can only occur in a post-revolutionary
and self-managing society.
The first relationship
between ecology and the liberation of women is the reclamation by women
of population growth, defining the reappropriation of the body (all
liberation is liberation of the body and of time). This
liberation has already begun in highly industrialized countries, which
must, for reasons of productivity, grant women contraception. (This
same contraception was denied them during the beginning stages of Capital
for the opposite reasons. Today the same profit-based system no longer
needs abundant manpower but seeks, on the contrary, to limit it, forcing
it to deal with the issue of unemployment.)
The second reason
that Daddy's Capital insists on a high birth-rate is the need for soldiers;
however, now that the proliferation of nuclear arms compels those in
power to reject armed conflict amongst themselves, replacing it with
war amongst interposed peoples (in the Third World), this second motive
no longer plays a part. The poverty-stricken peoples of the Third World
have been able to protest against proposed measures to limit population
growth because of the crucial need felt by families to keep some children
alive to take care of their aging parents. These survivors of infant
mortality are only the tip of the iceberg while the huge number of births
remains the crux of the matter. This misogynistic disgrace which enslaves
women will cease only with a rise in the standard of living.
The progress in
the stature of Western women begins with a veritable liberation and
is balanced against social injustice, the exploitation of poor countries,
the exportation of deadly armaments and nuclear industries, and devastation
of the environment as ends to productivity.
What keeps Capital,
the last stage of Patriarchy, from achieving an ecological society when
the analyses of the Club of Rome have proven to what point it is aware,
right to the top, of this dangerous peril?
The old revolutionary
guard clearly showed that the number one interest of capitalist exploitation
used to be the private possession of the sources of collectively consumed
production. Today, this motivation is reinforced by the need to conserve
a unique form of energy in order to insure the centralization of power.
This is why nuclear power, a completely insane waste of time and a threat
of agony for all living kind, has been preserved against all logic,
ever since oil, which flows in poor countries and not in those "on the
right side of the tracks," ceased to be the number one factor in profit.
Many different forms
of energy could be used instead of this one: hard methods such as geo-thermal:
the layer of water underneath the Central Massif could provide for half
of all domestic heating in France, for example; soft methods like solar,
which in France could only be a secondary source of energy, even if
it was a French company that made it the main source of energy in Mexico.
The use of tidal power, which at one time demanded an enormous
complex (like at la Rance) could today be carried out by the completely
attainable means of industrial miniaturization. In Grenoble, official
studies were undertaken on the energy to be gleaned from natural gas,
another interesting secondary source of energy. Finally, France Electric
(Energie de France) itself had to admit that the hydrographic
energy available was far from being used throughout the entire country.
All the studies necessary are there to prove that a unique source
of production is far from necessary, and thus that nuclear could be
replaced by an array of techniques, even if ecologists insist upon the
"soft," while industry insists upon the "hard." Whether soft or not,
the most important is that this multiplicity could thwart the worst
danger that humanity has ever known: atomic extinction. Yet the concentration
of energy within a small number of hands is the absolute guarantee of
a centralization which remains necessary to the pyramidal organization
of a profit-based society born of the foundations of patriarchy. Capital
is but the last stage of patriarchy, just like profit is but the last
mask of power.
The theses of Eco-Feminism:
Revolution or Mutation? established that:
1. The immediate
cause of present-day woes and future threats is the patriarchal system,
founded upon the appropriation of procreation and fertility, the mental
and cultural structures of which have persisted across all successive
social and economic domains.
2. The two principal
factors in the rapid expansion of patriarchy, exhaustion of resources
and global population growth, are the distant yet direct causes
of the present-day ecological catastrophe.
3. The battle of
the sexes merely reflects man's battle against himself, which in the
past, and still today, translates to the battle of the classes.
4. The failure of
socialist revolutions comes from their economic failure and refusal
to consider anything other than the "battle of the classes" without
examining the foundations of hierarchy and human exploitation: sexism.
5. Capital, now
in the imperialist stage, will only disappear with an ecological solution
of production (and of consumption) which will constitute the only possible
elimination of the outdated structures of dominance, aggressiveness,
competitiveness, and absolutism in order to replace them
with those of cooperation and equality between individuals (thus
between sexes), and of the species with the environment.
Due to the liberation
of procreation, population growth controlled by women will solve the
first part of the problem. The number of inhabitants on the planet will
be reduced completely without prejudice as to humanity's end. Neo-Malthusianism
is only condemnable when it serves as an instrument to conserve the
well-being of a privileged minority at the expense of an exploited majority,
which yesterday's socialism was correct in denouncing and whose mistake
was in only considering this aspect of the question.
The second part
of the problem, the question of consumption-production and its relationship
to the environment's devastation to the point of exhaustion of its resources
obviously concerns men as well as women. It would be impossible to believe
that this "first sex," the former manager of this world placed in peril
of death by him must himself find the solution and apply it. On the
contrary, here too women play a primary role. As human beings, they
are just as threatened as men by the nuclear dangers they have instituted;
as procreators, women are all the more concerned with the outcome of
future generations, while this concerns only the most highly aware amongst
Not merely an anecdote
but a significant fact of the great antinuclear battle is that of Whyl
Nuclear Facility (1975), whose first administration was defeated by
women and their children in a violent affront. A few months earlier,
the Fessenheim facility was attacked, which delayed the nuclear program
by a year and for which responsibility was claimed by a commando reminded
by women that this "industry of death originated in a patriarchal society."
But if Eco-feminism
points out the only avenue by which to escape death, it is even more
difficult to estimate the path future generations will follow. In general,
"Utopias," even in the best sense of the word, resemble too closely
the god of Basilides, definable in that Greek's words only by all that
which he is not.
Let us, however,
try to examine what an ecological, egalitarian, peaceful and self-managing
society might look like.
1. The sources
of production are no longer private. Who will manage them? If it's
the "delegates of the people," we already know how that sort of enterprise
turns out. They would have to be saints, and people are not saints.
Even if the first generation were made up of them the second generation
couldn't be. "To represent the people is to substitute oneself for the
people," a truth of which old anarchists, even Sun Yat-Sen, were aware.
On the other hand, a multiplicity of non-hierarchilized individuals
is incompetent for this management and tends to give in to specialists
who constitute a new power. It is upon this fact that all forms of government
have always relied in order to reign. As Serge Milgram demonstrated,
"submission to authority" corresponds to the most ancient need of human
survival and is the primary obstacle to direct democracy.
This is where a
principal that is today just as important as automation comes into play:
that of atomization (the true symbol of an atomic society!) Work
is in a state of shambles; daily life is segmented; oppression (of class
or of sex) possesses a multitude of disseminated micro-centers, in the
form of firms, neighborhoods, stores, universities, high schools, the
street, the home. The proletariat no longer resembles that of the past,
including that of the immediate past (War of Liberation); it has been
eradicated, dispersed and will be even moreso with the development of
computer technology. It is a hoax to still claim that a question is
only possible at the elevated and rarified level organizing "mass"-consumption.
Miniaturization is technically possible at the level of industry
(measures of production and means of exploitation) as well as at the
level of administrative management. It will be the response to the enormous
sophisticated complexes directed by a small number of specialists who
are themselves in the service of an even smaller and all-powerful number
of owners of production. Generalized self-management can only be achieved
by small groups (professionals, ethnic groups, groups organized in committees)
overseeing a small grouping of means of production (new units of production)
belonging to a reduced and miniaturized industry. It is not a question
of a miniscule society but of an adaptation to current needs and ecology.
The works of Murray Boochkin and Michel Bosquet demonstrate that it's
possible. The principal of the microcosm is rejected and scoffed at
by today's imperialist system and by the patriarchy, whereas they use
them constantly when it comes to atomizing our lives, our activities,
our leisure, our oppression and our culture.
The problem that
this choice will obviously pose will be the type of relationship between
the different self-managing committees and the code they use to do business.
This problem will only be completely solved in a second stage, when
it will be possible to supplant the monetary system of exchange.
2. From work
to service. Specializations.
The notion of work
(and thus of a wage-earning class) can only disappear in favor of service
with an inevitable and immense range of specialists. Only a very small
number of people will be able to correspond to the indispensable specializations,
whereas today any job comprises a (more and more complex) specialization.
The bare necessities that are food, habitat, clothing and play (shows,
art, bodily exercise without competition, etc.) could easily be satisfied
by the individual possessing the leisure time needed to learn production
techniques or training for it. In a first stage, the exchange of information
and teaching of specialties could be actualized with little cost in
creative and instructional centers made for this purpose. One would
thus see the mason, the clothes maker, the farmer, etc., exchange the
teaching of their work with that of the electrician, the mechanic, the
radio-operator, etc. In this way, instead of passing through an entire
chain of specialists to satisfy ones most basic needs, it would be possible
for one to reduce ones suppliers to the strict minimum after having
learned the techniques that permit one to replace others, who are themselves
remunerated by their own work. This goes without counting the advantages
of maximally satisfying ones desires, since individuals alone know exactly
what they want. Today's system constricts them to a choice between a
multitude of non-desired objects. Publicity is there to create false
needs, which mask our real desires. The suppression of this deceptive
and unproductive sector could unleash an enormous sum of work (in the
sense of productive or creative activity) and of leisure.
between Consumption and Production.
This is the fundamental
structure of all human community. The relationship that exists now consists
of working, in other words, selling ones time and ones active force
against a salary which permits consumption, thus the purchasing of the
fruit of the work of others. Exploited masses can produce or transport
an object of consumption without ever profiting from it. Tamouls grow
fruit that they do not eat, Latinos harvest coffee that others consume,
production line-workers fashion cars, stereos, etc., that they could
never themselves afford. This relationship must be abolished.
The exchange of
specialized knowledge could, in a stage further along, replace the monetary
system without going back to the awkward bartering of developing societies.
This consists, of course, of a disruption that neither capitalist society
nor the regime of Patriarchy could bear. In addition to all the objects
one can possess, one of the consumable goods in this system remains
that of Woman. "Work and you will have a wife; succeed and you will
have a mistress" is a popular proverb of a very illuminating cynicism.
All mental structures result from this perverted, misleading and prostitutional
relationship of consumption to production (consuming in order to reproduce
ones manpower) and of production to consumption (producing by means
of ones work in order to spend ones salary) have rested for millennia
upon this foundation. This is to say that a mutation (the real and never-achieved
goal of precedent revolutions) is necessary to get there. As
I explained in 1980 in Canada, only Eco-feminism will put an end to
Patriarchy and save human society from the devastation wrought on the
environment, the nuclear threat and the profit-based system which is
at the origin of all war and exploitation on this planet.
For more than one
hundred years, Marxism has envisioned the disappearance of the "means
of exchange," the basis of the mercantile economy (Marx in 1875, Engels
in 1894). But no Marxist regime has been able to achieve it because
it is impossible, within patriarchy, to suppress a market economy.
And it is impossible,
in a market system, to not devastate the planet. It is up to women,
now, to reclaim the voice of humanity.
- Francoise d'Eubonne