What Is To Be UnDone?

With all of this in mind, I offer the following six proposals for greening Marxism, which is essential if we are going to both save the planet and transform society in a socially and economically meaningful way. I call this framework “Deep Marxism”:


The privatization of the biological cell, of natural genetic sequences, is the mechanism through which a new and fundamental expansion of capitalism is taking place.

Today, with the globalization of capital – oiled by the funds of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank’s “structural adjustment programs” (also known as “neo-liberalism”) — capitalism is colonizing not only other countries’ economic, political, agricultural, ideological and health care systems — the world “out there” — but through Genetic Engineering it is able to engage in a new form of colonization and accumulation as it seeks to colonize the cells of living organisms, the “nature within.”

This is what genetic engineering is about. No more the Jeffersonian idea (repackaged and idealized for today’s ahistorical philosophers) that people are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights” such as the right to own and control our own bodies. We have been struggling to control our own reproductive capacities for many years, but now the legal authority to own and to sell our genes themselves has been handed to private corporations. This is one of the most disgraceful legacies of the Clinton/Gore administration. What does it mean to speak of “self-determination” and “working class democracy” when our own cells, and the genetic sequences of whole societies (Iceland, for example) — that is, our “selves” — can now be legally owned and sold by private corporations? Whose “self” is doing the determining?

Is nothing sacred? Is all life and every stretch of wilderness (and “the wilderness within”) for sale? Marx­ists must take on this and related issues, if we want to truly confront one of the key mechanisms upon which capitalism as a system relies. We must fight to:

a) Ban all genetic engineering of agriculture, plants, pesticides, and foods — this demand becomes essential to the new anti-colonial movements of the 21st century, which are fighting everywhere to retain control of their indigenous plants and animals, and to their own biological legacies.1

b) Abolish the private patenting of genetic sequences and seeds — so-called “intellectual property rights.”

c) Take private profit out of research and development of genetically engineered health-related drugs.

d) In the meantime, require all bioengineered products and those derived from them to be clearly labeled.

e) Develop the theoretical framework to reveal the ways in which bio­tech­nology is not just another interesting issue, but fundamental to the expansion of capitalism in this era.2

Portions of the right wing grassroots have also rallied ag­ainst genetic engineering, which they see as a violation of the sanctity of species and “God’s work.” Aside from failing to engage all of the economic, social, ethical, class and environmental issues embedded in the technology of genetic engineering, the Left is missing the opportunity to organize the right wing’s base out from under its leadership. Marxists need to break with the liberal capitalist ideological framework and understand that opposition to genetic engineering is not just another issue but one of the crucial and heretofore hidden class issues driving the system — the “color line” (in W.E.B. Dubois’ words) of this new century.


If “pro” is the opposite of “con”, then the opposite of Progress is …?

We need to deepen Marxism so that it challenges the capitalist-manufactured consensus underlying what we mean by “Pro­gress” and “the Good Life.” We need to reject the notion that the “good life” is based on the mass production and accumulation of commodities, and its consequent massive and unregulated consumption of Nature.

”Progress,” for capital and its apologists, is always technologically framed. We can hardly think of “progress” that does not involve production and accumulation of more stuff. Rarely do Marxists discuss other aspects of what we’d like to see in a new and humane society, such as the way we treat each other or organize our lives. We need to think about the way the industrial form of production itself — not just who owns it or how it is administered — propels anti-social, anti-loving behavior and a skewed conception of “progress”.

Workers in the past had a very different conception of what work should be about, a different conception of “the good life.” It took enormous effort by capitalists to coerce the potential workforce into accepting that different view. From the beginnings of capitalism all the way into the 1940s workers in the U.S. fought against what today we take for granted — the imposition of the factory, the ar­ti­ficial rhythms that technology imposed upon the working class, the unnatural mechanical motions, the need to “make money.”

But for many Marxists the institutionalization of the factory is seen as a progressive facet of capitalism, one in which the “good life” became increasingly accepted as ownership of things and access to services rather than as communal relationships among people. The idealization of small town America remains fixed in the American psyche. Meanwhile, the real communities of workers were uprooted and shifted to the shop floor where they were tightly regulated and controlled by the boss, the needs of the massive technological infrastructure, and eventually the workers’ own unions. The factory model jumped from the factory floor to the other institutions of society, coming to pervade education, recreation and all other areas of daily life. As Phil Ochs sang, “Every single classroom is a factory of despair.”3 He meant that literally. So do I.

How does Marx look at the process historically, by which entire populations were driven insane in this manner, torn from their lands and communities and “proletarianized”? Marx sums it up in this way: “Thus were the agricultural people first forcibly expropriated from the soil, driven from their homes, turned into vag­abonds, and then whipped, branded, tortured by laws grotesquely terrible into the discipline necessary for the wage system.” 4

Wherever capitalism installs its newest pendulum of accumulation the pit of slave labor is never far behind. Its long knife ransacks the globe. Its emissaries — Democrats and Republicans, bankers and corporate CEOs, media moguls and military contractors — slash this way and that, shrieking at the exploited and oppressed: “Get your cut throat off my knife!” (That’s beat poet Diane DiPrima’s apt phrase).

But, as I wrote in the first pamphlet in my Zen-Marxism series (Those Not Busy Being Born Are Busy Dying), the Old Left — by that I mean the Marxist-Leninist parties — had for so long immersed itself in campaigns to win unionized North American workers a bigger piece of the pie at any cost that it began to see “the good life,” and thus the purpose of its efforts, as gaining for the working class greater access to the glut of commodities produced under capitalism. As NY Green Party member John Moran puts it, “the world crisis of overproduction and the ecological crisis are converging, and socialism is necessary to make a serious start at a solution.” But socialism as such — both in mind and in reality — is not enough.

We need to envision a society based on a very different organization of productive forces, one that produces the goods we need and desire in a very different way. We also need to investigate where our desires themselves come from. They are not innate, they’re manufactured by the society we live in in order to to sell us goods to fulfill those conditioned desires. Failing to apply a “ruthless critique to everything existing” in Marx’s words — i.e., failing to fully examine our own desires, ways of relating, the way we’ve been manufactured and spit out by the system — will mean that we will find ourselves chaining all working class initiatives and the possibility of a qualitatively different world to the expansion of the factory form. Unless we confront the desires manufactured in us by capitalism and patriarchy and begin to transform ourselves now into human beings fit to live in the new world we seek to create, we will end up undermining the revolutionary project and further poisoning the earth, even as we struggle to heal it.

In projecting a superficial and ecologically destructive notion of “the good life,” official Marxists — and many anarchists — literally miss the forest for the trees, reprodu­cing the dominant paradigm of capitalism and technological progress even when meaning to oppose it. To start, they’ve forgotten that a non-capitalist society society need not accept efficiency per se as the measure of progress, nor labor alone as the measure of value.

Two hundred years ago, in 1811, the Luddites — as with the Iroquois and other American Indian communities — offered a different measure of progress, one not defined by artificial discipline, mechanical efficiency or the expropriation of Nature and exploitation of Labor. Contrary to popular mythology, the Luddites did not oppose machines per se, but “machinery hurtful to Commonality.” In England they wielded hammers against the newly installed giant mechan­ical looms; in France, their counterparts threw wooden shoes (in French, sabots) into the gears (hence the term sabotage). The emerging industrial system found it needed to crush the Luddites, who were organizing across England and were becoming a wide­spread and well-organized mass movement.5 The bourgeois presses distorted and then obli­terated memory of the Luddites’ radical direct action “critique” of factory production from history’s texts. So did the Marxist parties, who falsely caricatured the Luddites in order to dismiss their trenchant critique of industrial technology. So in that sense, I am proud to be a Luddite, an Iroquois, a Saboteur … a Zapatista!


We in the industrialized capitalist world need to train ourselves to think “holistically”.

This is not something that will come about on its own within the capitalist or patriarchal frameworks — nor will it come about in any socialist framework relying on the dominance of industrial production.

Take this item, about a malaria outbreak in Borneo in the 1950s. The World Health Organization (WHO) sprayed DDT to kill mosquitoes. But the DDT also killed parasitic wasps which were controlling thatch-eating caterpillars. As a result, the thatched roofs of many homes fell down, and the DDT-poisoned insects were eaten by geckoes, which were in turn eaten by cats. The cats perished from the poisoning, which led to the multiplication of rats, and then outbreaks of sylvatic plague and typhus. To put an end to this destructive chain of events, WHO had to parachute 145,000 live cats into the area to control the rats.

The Left, like the rest of society, is steeped in the same sequential linear thinking. It finds a problem and then looks for the magic bullet approach for addressing it. I talk about this in a number of other essays, grouped under the general heading, “Zen-Marxism.” Leftists need to practice holistic thinking. This will not occur automatically. It takes a lot of work; it takes conscious effort.

Holistic thinking attempts to look at entire ecosystems as totalities, with their underlying Unity as the starting point. In the West, we’re accustomed to examining pieces and try­ing to fit them together to arrive at some sort of totality. A holistic ap­proach, on the other hand, invites us to examine how the Whole informs interactions of the “Parts.” We need to do that with every issue. One important effect of that type of approach is the mini­mization of unintended consequences (which are rampant, as Ed­ward Tenner informs us in his fascinating book, Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Con­se­quen­ces). But that’s not the only reason to look at things holistically.

Reductionist science claims that our “sameness” over time is the result of genes, which pre­determine and program each cell. It tries to explain each level of causality by searching for ever-smaller determining factors.

This reductionist process occurs in reverse as well. As kids grow­ing up in the Marlboro Projects in Brooklyn in the late 1950s and early 1960s, we’d always argue about whether God exists. And for years the arguments would come down to: If God is all-powerful, all-knowing and created everything in the universe, then who created God?

The unexpected implications of anti-reductionist thought emerge like symphonies from individual and seemingly unrelated notes. For instance, since each cell in an individual’s body contains the same “genetic code” as every other cell in that body, how is it that the genes “know” which sequence of chemicals to turn on and which to turn off so that the cell becomes of a particular kind? Some scientists today attribute cell differentiation to special “regulator” genes that tell the other genes what to do and when to do it. Well, you might wonder, what tells them?

Who created God?, and Who tells the genes what to do?, are the kinds of infinite regression one gets bogged down in when trying to build up a picture of how a complex organism works by adding up the separate parts.

In actuality, it is the position of each new cell with respect to the surrounding cells, and not its genetic component alone, that defines what each cell does. Will it be a muscle cell? A blood cell? A bone cell? A skin cell? The kind of cell each becomes is as strongly influenced by its context and location — its relationship to its surrounding environment — as by the type of parent cells it had.6

Note, for example, the Mississippi alligator. Alligator eggs developing in the temperature range 26-30° C. hatch females. Change nothing but the temperature, raise it to 34-36° C., and the same eggs will hatch only males. Eggs that develop between 31-33° C. produce alligators of either sex, with the probabilities changing from female to male as the temperature rises. What causes the egg’s temperature to change? Well, the macro temperature is important — global climate change may play a role here and cause more male alligators to be born. On the other hand, there are counteracting factors, such as cooling rains — also subject to global climate change — and the time of year in which the eggs are laid (which may be changing, too). What about temperature variations in the micro-environment ar­ound the egg? It turns out that the most important factor is the egg’s location within the nest. Eggs surrounded by other eggs tend to be slightly warmer and, thus, tend to hatch males. Eggs around the circumference tend to be slightly cooler and tend to hatch females. (Please do not construe this as a “potential female” alligator nurturing the “potential male” eggs.)

Clearly, genes are not strict determining entities as claimed by, among others, Richard Daw­kins in his popular book The Selfish Gene. They depend upon and interact with the surrounding micro-environment — in this case, the temperature of the air in the immediate vicinity — which, in turn, influences environments at other levels, such as the chemistry of the cell, the genes’ im­mediate environment. The problem of where to draw the boundary of the immediate environ­ment or community — in this case the gene’s — plays a critical role in what will actually happen.

One other important factor: the 3-dimensional double-helix con­figuration of DNA is guided by non-transcribed segments of the genome that geneticists until recently called ’junk DNA’. How do these interact with the micro-environment in shaping the sequences of which they themselves are a part? I’m reminded of Escher’s famous drawing of one hand drawing the other. Paradoxes on this recursive level abound. They cannot be addressed by linear thinking, especially by the magic-bullet approach of Western (and increasingly corporate) science.

Understanding an organism’s relationship to the ecosystem in which it lives (as well as the ecosystem within) requires ways of see­ing that carry beyond the “cause and effect” linearity to which we are accustomed. The sex of individual alligators, as well as the sexual dispersal over the population, is not determined by one isolated “gene” but, at the very least, by environmental temperatures working in a sort of “feedback loop” with the full genetic complement; it is influenced by the interaction of variables from different levels of complexity: temperature, genes, location of the egg in the nest, environment within the eggs and of course the gross destruction of the alligator’s natural habitat.

Philosophically, it is not that the whole is more than the sum of its parts, but that by being parts of a particular whole the parts acquire new properties. And as the parts acquire new properties they impart new properties to the Whole, which are reflected in changes to the parts, and so on.7 This relation is always in motion. I use the term “dialectical” to encapsulate all of this back-and-forth between different levels of complexity.8


In the movie “Modern Times,” Charlie Chaplin plays an assembly-line worker whose job is to wrench bolts all day as they come flooding down the conveyor belt, faster, ever faster. Charlie has no idea why. He just gets paid for it, and it warps his mind as well as his body.

The film is a blistering indictment of industrial production under capitalism. Like other assembly-line workers, Charlie is a victim of the “science” of mass production. In the early 1900s, Frederick Taylor introduced Time-and-Motion studies into industry, examining the fragmentary repetitive motions of the industrial labor process with the aim of increasing output and efficiency by subdividing each task and reducing each worker’s movements as much as possible to mimic the mech­an­ical motions of a machine. Lenin became a huge fan of these studies and applied them to organizing production in the Soviet Union.9

Every moment of mass production reproduces capitalist and patriarchal relations in their entirety. It’s like a “fractal” — every piece, no matter how small you slice it, contains within it the totality of which it itself is a part.10 The ensemble of capitalist and patriarchal and anti-ecological relations exist and are reproduced through every moment of industrial produc­tion, as much under socialist governments as capitalist ones, under state-centralized planning as what passes for “democracy” — which is really just another name for the dictatorship of the “free market.” Technology is not some “neutral force”; it is dripping with the ideology and power relations of the system in which it originated. Marxists — like liberals — over and over again, fall for the “Tech­nological Imperative” — the attempt to tech­nolo­gize one’s way out of the contradictions of existing in a world shaped and controlled by capital­ism. In so doing they reproduce the very relations that they’d hoped to overcome.

Let me give another example of how these contradictions play out: The fight over stem cell research. Some leftists believe that the primary struggle today is between science and theocracy. They end up allying with the Democratic Party and the capitalist intelligentsia in arguing for providing billions of dollars in public funds to giant biotech pharmaceutical corporations for stem cell research. Bush 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 best way to proceed to address those diseases?

Since Richard Nixon declared “war on cancer” in 1971, 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.11 Increased exposure to pesticides — NOT faulty genes — is seen as a main factor in this cancer explosion in children. A growing number of scientists report that pesticides, diet sodas (particularly those containing aspartame) and cell-phone towers are factors in MS, Parkinson’s and other neurological and immune compromising diseases, and genetically engineered hi-fructose corn syrup in diabetes and overweight youth.

Neither the Left as such, nor the government, nor the corporations will examine the the causes of disease that stem cells are allegedly being developed to treat. Not only are the bio­tech companies eagerly seeking patents for new products and biological processes (that is, privatizing them), but 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 the real causes of disease — chemical pollution, pesticides, the stress of living in a highly competitive society — are not. Damn the Precautionary Principle; the companies pushing their “cures” for cancer, lymphoma, sterility are the same ones polluting the environment and causing those diseases to begin with.

Stem Cell developments should require a much fuller discussion 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? A recent Food and Drug Administration ruling allows the sale of meat and dairy from cloned animals, merging with stem cell research and genetic engineering on the road to “Progress.”

The idea that science and technology are (or could be) somehow “objectively neutral” is an ideological construct and a figment of capitalist mythology. Calls for more intensive technological development ignore the capitalist relations embedded in the technology and facilely peel away the critical Marxian category “forces of production” from the intricate constraints of its dialectical integuments, further disempowering the working class.


Even today, much of the liberal and Marxist Left buys into the capitalist formulations of the official insurance-based health care fraud, which asks for “single-payer health care” — or, as I view it, the “Subsidize the Pharmaceutical Industry” cult.

Yes, we need free health care for all — of course! BUT we also need to look beyond narrow economics and promote a different conception of what health care should consist of, instead of the factory model of health care 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, chiropractic, nutrition, and herbology? Why doesn’t the Left in the U.S. see this as part of its purview such that it can join movements to de-toxify the environment of the pollutants dumped there by industry, which increasingly sicken us in the first place?

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? Don’t American women know how to give birth prop­erly? Obviously I’m being facetious, 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 birthing position in the U.S. hospitals — that is the cause of the higher percentage here of difficult births. 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. Yet doctors in the U.S. insist on that on-your-back 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.

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 concern over what that coverage should consist of, instead of leaving that to the so-called capitalist-trained “experts”? Increasingly, it comes down to the Capitalist system vs. the Immune system. The left needs to stand with the alternative healthcare movement on the side of the Immune system.

A sustained critique of major health-endangering practices — such as nuclear power, fluoridation of water, inappropriate vaccinations, mass-spraying of pesticides, genetic engineering, industrialization of healthcare, the pharmaceutical framework for AIDS and other syndromes and diseases, and many others12 — has eluded the Left. Marxists need to stop assuming that science and technology could answer capitalism’s problems if only they were owned, controlled and applied by the working class. Difficult though it may be to stop using the Master’s tools to take down the Master’s house (in Audrey Lorde’s words), the Marxist Left needs to imagine a different kind of fu­ture, one not based on factories, assembly lines, factory farming or factory-type healthcare.


We need to actively search for the ecological dimension in every social justice issue and raise it as part of that fight.

Bob Dylan sang: “I’ll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours.” For many years the left acted similarly; organizations made alliances that at best led to raising each others’ issues and concatenating them into laundry lists of seemingly unrelated programmatic demands. However, the globalization of capital has changed all that. Every issue is multidimensional. Every issue has an ecological dimension that is fundamental to it. But it is often hidden. It is our job, as revolutionaries, to search for that green dimension and unpeel it, reveal it, and organize around it even when it does not seem obvious at first. We must make this a fundamental component of every fight. We need to practice how to unpeel that ecological dimension – it won’t happen on its own.

Here’s an example of what I mean: when the international boycott of CocaCola ( was being organized to protest Coke’s murder of indigenous working class organizers in Colombia, Green activists brought to that struggle opposition to the mass herbicide poisoning of the entire countryside with Monsanto’s RoundUp, which Coke supported — the same deadly herbicide that they are spraying in New York City (to kill weeds) and on corn in Mexico. Monsanto has pat­ented a procedure for genetically modifying what they call “RoundUp Ready” corn and soy so that the plants are able to withstand repeated application of the world’s #1 selling herbicide, Round­Up — and ONLY RoundUp. As a consequence, corporate farms pour thousands of tons of RoundUp onto the crops, killing every living organism — weeds, butterflies, frogs, earthworms, bees. The only organism left standing is the corn itself. And then we eat it, saturated with poisons. The overwhelming majority of GMOs do nothing but aid the marketing of more herbicides and pesticides.

Marxists need to address the deeper systemic issues. We are not seeking to make capitalism more fair for its corpora­tions, nor proposing to greenwash its exploitation to make capitalism more palatable for its liberal investors. Nor are we arguing that police clubs must be made from organic, non-rainforest wood, and that the police use non-GMO soy-based ink to take our fingerprints when we are arrested. Perhaps someone, somewhere, is demanding that traffic cops use recycled paper for all tickets and citations, and that bullets be made from recycled metal — oops, they’re already doing that with depleted uranium in Iraq! — but none of those greenwashing reforms is what I’m proposing here (even though the fingerprint ink may in fact injure people who suffer from Multiple Chemical Sensitivi­ties). In challenging the technology itself we learn to search out the deeper Green dim­ension, which reveals that Coke is one of the world’s leading buyers of genetically engineered hi-fructose corn syrup; it permeates every processed food, and is responsible (as I’ve noted) for the epidemic of diabetes and overweight children in the United States. So we raise this as part of the reason for boycotting Coca Cola even though that was not part of the organizers’ original rationale.

I’ll give another example: When the transit workers went on strike a few years back, we not only did strike support but also challenged the workers to express themselves about how to reconfigure the entire transportation system and raise the issue of alternatives to petroleum-based fuels. One role of Marxists is to encourage workers to legitimize and expand the issues that unions and other working class organizations see as part of their domain and as valid and necessary to fight around.13

Unpeeling the ecological dimension is crucial to success in vying for workplace democracy and reparation of the damages inflicted upon the communities we, as workers, live in. Imagine, for instance, how different things would be if workers at General Electric’s plant in Schenectady N.Y. had fought against the company’s dumping of PCBs into the Hudson river and demanded that G.E. clean up its toxic wastes from the river as part of its union organizing and contractual demands.

A powerful example of actively looking for the ecological dimension of a particular issue occurred in Australia in the late 1970s when unions issued “Green Bans” and refused to construct highways and malls unless they were first approved at public meetings by the communities that would be impacted by such “development.” They would not build anything unless both the workers and the community approved it, regardless of the developers’ plans and investments.14

We can, and must, teach ourselves to do the same with every issue — even those that at first glance seem to have no ecological connections whatsoever. We need to:

(1) Oppose genetic engineering not only as a social justice issue but from our understanding that it is a new and fundamental mechanism through which capitalism is colonizing and exploiting new dimensions of life;

(2) Oppose and reframe what is presented as “the good life”;

(3) Train ourselves in how to think holistically;

(4) Stop fetishizing science and technology;

(5) Challenge the dominant ways for fighting for health care and other essential issues; and,

(6) Practice how to bring out the ecological dimension to issues that are perceived solely as moral or economic social justice struggles.

One of the principal reasons why the Left and the unions are in disarray in the U.S. has to do with their failure to expand the framework of what unions see as their role, beyond the single dimensionality of wages and a narrow construct of “working conditions” and “right to unionize”. All of these (and more, of course) are necessary in enabling our movements and the working class in general to reveal and explore the deeper connections, which then would allow us to take ac­tions that strike more deeply into the system itself and provide the basis for more powerful, successful, and radical social movements.

Hic Rhodus! Hic Salta!

Here is the rose. Here we must dance.



1See, for example, U.S.-imposed laws in Yugoslavia under NATO, Somalia and now Iraq, which force the purchase and planting of genetically engineered seeds. Zambia provided the stiffest resistance to genetically engineered foods, forcing the U.S. to back down lest their resistance spread to the rest of Africa – a defining moment at the Seattle anti-globalization protests in 1999.

2Although limited by misunderstandings concerning Marxism, some good work on this score has been done by Chaia Heller, Ecology of Everyday Life (Black Rose Books, Montreal: 1999), and her dissertation advisor, Arturo Escobar. Also, Brian Tokar, Earth for Sale: Reclaiming Ecology in the Age of Corporate Greenwash (Boston: South End Press, 1997).

3Phil Ochs, “Here’s to the State of Mississippi,” on I Ain’t Marching Anymore.

Here’s to the schools of Mississippi

Where they’re teaching all the children that they don’t have to care

All of rudiments of hatred are present everywhere

And every single classroom is a factory of despair

There’s nobody learning such a foreign word as ‘fair.’

Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of

Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of …

4Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Chapter 28, p. 737 in International Publishers ed. [New York, 1967].

5Kirkpatrick Sale, Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and Their War on the Industrial Revolution (New York: Addison-Wesley, 1996).

6See the work of cellular biologist Stuart Newman, “Phase Transitions in a Gene Network Model of Morphogenesis”, for one of many research papers on this theme, in Journal of Biosciences, Volume 17, Number 3, 193-215.

7See, among others who challenge reductionist constructs, Stuart Newman, “Idealist Biology,” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 31:3, Spring 1988, pp. 353-368; Paul Weiss, “The Living System: Determin­ism Strati­fied,” in Beyond Reductionism: New Perspectives in the Life Sciences, ed. by Arthur Koestler and J.R. Smythies (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971); Martha Herbert, Incomplete Science, the Body and Indwelling Spirit (2000); Joel Kovel, The Enemy of Nature (London: Zed Books, 2002); Richard Levins & Richard Lewontin, The Dialectical Biologist (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985); Brian Tokar, ed., Redesigning Life? The Worldwide Challenge to Genetic Engineering (London: Zed Books, 2001); Mae Wan-Ho, Living with the Fluid Genome, Institute of Science and Society, London, 2003; and Stuart Kauffman, At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).

8This essential relationship between parts and wholes, individual and environment, is generally given short shrift by many scientists, even ignored. Instead, they pursue a reductionist unidirectional causality — the parts, pieced together (they say) determine the whole in cause and effect sequence. Their linear framework provides the basis for the mechanistic formulations (such as reductionism, positivism, empiricism, and behaviorism) that, I would argue, are incorrect when applied to genes or nano-level interactions in a determinist manner. These meditations on Wholes and Parts, Holism and Reductionism, Freedom and Determinism, grew out of discussions of a paper I presented at the Radical Philosophy Association conference in Havana in 1992 titled “A Call for a Revolutionary Science.” I offered the radical idea that the Whole — any “whole” (an organism, species, political era, set of numbers or musical notes) — shapes and defines the parts and their interactions as much as the parts shape and define the whole.

9I review this fully in my pamphlet, Big Science, Fragmentation of Work, & the ­Left’s Curious Notion of Progress, 2004.

10Douglas Hofstadter addresses this relationship between holism and reductionism in his wonderful book, Gödel, Escher & Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (New York: Basic Books, 1979)

11Dr. Samuel Epstein, M.D., and Dr. Quentin Young, M.D., as quoted in Pesticides and You v.22 no.2, Summer 2002.

12All the practices listed here, as well as the torture of animals by cosmetics companies, have been typically endorsed by Communist parties in the United States. See, for example, Mitchel Cohen, The Politics of World Hunger, Red Balloon pamphlets, 1994.

13See Mitchel Cohen’s What Is Direct Action?, which explores ways of reframing the questions before us to allow us to unpeel the hidden dimensions of any issue.

14The Communist-led unions enacting the Green Bans were finally broken up when the government hired Maoist thugs in “alternative” unions, who assassinated the leadership with the support of the Australian government.



One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  • jp says:

    how about ‘stop supporting imperial slaughter and wage slavery while calling it a step toward ending imperial slaughter and wage slavery’?

    that’d be a good negative

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *