Socialist Animalism: Essays, Interviews, and Fiction


In practical terms today, animalists are all reformists



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In practical terms today, animalists are all reformists

At the 2013 Subversive Festival in Croatia, Marxist writer Richard Seymour was asked by an interviewer whether he believed the dichotomy between revolutionaries and reformists in the context of class struggle was useful. His answer, I think, would help inform similar debates held between animalists who seek for non-humans revolutionary and reformist change, or what is also called abolitionist and welfarist change.

"Well I think the categories matter," Seymour said. "I think there is a difference between reformists and revolutionaries. But the problem is that in practical terms today, we are all reformists in terms of what we can actually do." It's my firm belief the animal movement needs a strong dose of such sobriety, and we must realistically assess the political landscape in which we find ourselves. Abolition, animal liberation, species revolution — whatever one might call it — is simply not on the table at the present moment. We can delude ourselves that this is not the case or curse our luck for being born into an era in which the possibilities of change for non-humans is, at least for the immediate future, rather limited. But ultimately this won't change anything or help animals. Like it or not, all that's possible in the present moment is reform, which in practical terms makes us all reformists, whatever we might call ourselves.

Still, Seymour believed the categories mattered to some degree. "There was an old argument made by Alasdair MacIntyre who used to be a member of the International Socialist Group, a Trotskyist group," Seymour said. "He basically said that there was a law, a little known law, known as the diminishing returns of socialism, which meant that basically under capitalism there was a pressure for everybody to act somewhat to the right of their nominal beliefs. Therefore the only people who would probably take a radical stance regarding capitalism would actually be revolutionaries. In practical terms that often turns out to be the case." If I'm interpreting Seymour correctly here, what he's saying is that in conservative periods, revolutionaries are limited to pursuing reforms and reformists generally don't take an oppositional stance at all. No doubt the same holds true for abolitionists and welfarists within the context of the animal question.

"In real terms there is very little in the way of a revolutionary agency that we could activate," Seymour said. "So therefore most of the time what we're doing is trying to advocate reforms that will strengthen the agencies that would be capable of being mobilized in the event of a revolutionary situation." In other words, there is simply no revolutionary potential in the present historical moment, whether it be for the working class or animals. So revolutionaries are limited to pursuing reforms not due to lack of commitment or incorrect theory, but because reform is all that is possible in the current era.

"I think the sociologist Goran Therborn had some insight here," Seymour said. "He pointed out that really being revolutionary or reformist for most of the working class is not a question of ideology or subjectivity. I mean that's part of it. But the most important question is the context, the circumstance. Whether they're revolutionized or not depends whether or not they're in a situation which seems to demand a revolution. And that's really the appropriate way to think about it."

I believe this point regarding the historical context being more important than ideology in revolutionizing the human masses against capitalism is crucial in relation to understanding how the human masses will be revolutionized against domestication. So the question is: how can we create a situation in which revolution for animals seems inevitable? To me, the most obvious situation which would begin to produce such anti-speciesist consciousness would be one in which in-vitro meat, or similar analogs, required less labor to produce and were gastronomically superior than the slaughtered flesh of animals.

"To me, most of the time these dichotomies are used in a sectarian and moralizing way," Seymour said, concluding his remarks on the usefulness of the categorizing revolutionaries and reformists. In a similar way, I believe equivalent dichotomies within the animal movement are unnecessarily divisive and used to prematurely shut down debate regarding strategy, given that reform, like it or not, is all that's possible at the present moment in terms of the exploitation of animals.



Ehrenreich trivialized ape-personhood campaigns

In condemning capitalist inequality, writer Barbara Ehrenreich honorary co-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America, trivialized efforts to extend legal rights of personhood to apes in progressive magazine The Nation. It's particularly disappointing, given the context of her article, because it's clear she should know better. Ehrenreich is perhaps best known for her 2001 book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.

"Many humans in this country may be similarly motivated to seek chimp
status," Ehrenreich joked in the 2007 piece. "There are individuals who commit crimes in order to gain access to the free food and medical care available in a prison. How much easier and more pleasant to have oneself declared a chimp and win entry to the soft life of a zoo animal! Not only are the guards friendly, but one’s enclosure has been designed with far more psychological forethought than the average office or cubicle."

The article's tone was satirical, so it's unclear to what degree, if any, she believed animals held captive in zoos have it easy or enjoy situations preferable to human office workers. But that she might have thought this, and it's not clear from the piece, is troubling. Either way, her humor traded on speciesism to stoke class resentment, a strategy for economic justice that should be opposed by animalists. Further, from a socialist standpoint, the jokes propagated what Marxists call 'false consciousness,' in that they directed proletarian anger away from capitalists, the genuine exploiters of the working class, and toward animals and those humans who defend them.

Not much later in the article, Ehrenreich returned to the same comedic well. Again, it's unclear to what degree she was kidding as she suggested the rightful order of society has been tipped upside down and captive animals enjoy a better quality of life than humans. "Once apes achieve these protections, American humans are going to want them too," she said. "I'm thinking food, shelter, and medical-veterinary care."

Some animalists criticize campaigns for ape personhood as anthropocentric, given they focus on those species most similar to humans. This criticism is of course true, but it ignores that change generally happens incrementally and the lowest-hanging fruit is always achieved first. Additionally, such criticism doesn't recognize the possibilities a small hole in the legal barrier dividing humans from animals might open up. These efforts deserve the support of anti-speciesists and leftists like Ehrenreich. That she didn't take a position on the issue, besides using it to make unrelated points regarding capitalist injustice, is particularly frustrating given the knowledge she demonstrates in the article.

"We share 99 percent of our genome with them, making it possible for chimps to accept human blood transfusions and kidney donations," Ehrenreich said. "Despite their vocal limitations, they communicate easily with each other and can learn human languages. They use tools and live in groups that display behavioral variations attributable to what anthropologists recognize as culture. And we may be a lot closer biologically than Darwin ever imagined. Last May, paleontologists reported evidence of inter-breeding between early humans and chimps as recently as 5 million years ago."

Continuing, Ehrenreich makes a compelling case against what could be easily mistaken as the whole of speciesism. "Of course, what makes humans especially obnoxious is our tendency to believe in our absolute superiority over all creatures," Ehrenreich said. "We alone, of all species, have come up with religions and philosophies that declare us uniquely deserving of global hegemony. Yet one by one, our 'unique' human traits have turned out to be shared: Chimpanzees have culture; dolphins make art (in the form of bubble patterns); female vampire bats share food with their friends; male baboons will die to defend their troop; rats have recently demonstrated a capability for reflection that resembles consciousness. We are animals, and they are us."

And yet despite this insight, her article as a whole lazily attempted to raise human laborers up by minimizing the exploitation of animals. It was disappointing to see from Ehrenreich, whose work I otherwise greatly respect.
Wilde discusses species and class

The socialist animalist Lawrence Wilde is an emeritus professor of political theory at Nottingham Trent University in England. Author of the article 'The Creatures Too Shall Be Free: Marx and the human/animal distinction,' Wilde has been a member of the British Labour Party since 1975. He resigned in protest of the Iraq War before resuming membership in 2010. I interviewed him over email regarding his thoughts on the intersection of class and species."Politically, I would describe myself as a socialist," Wilde said. "Intellectually, I’m a radical humanist."

Wilde argued that speciesism was used to further human class exploitation. "By ‘speciesism’ I take to mean the denial that other species have intrinsic value, so that they may be treated in any way that is useful for humans," Wilde said. "This attitude endorses exploitation – animals are subjected to factory farming methods to yield the cheapest meat, allegedly for the benefit of humans. The process is analogous to workers being treated without any regard for their human needs, as described at length by [Karl] Marx in chapter 10 and 15 of Capital, which comprises more than a quarter of the whole text. Ideologically, speciesism contradicts the human potential for compassion, without which alienation can never be overcome."

Asked what areas of the relationship of humans and animals in Marxism were particularly undertheorized, Wilde seemed to suggest Ted Benton's 1993 book 'Natural Relations: Ecology, Animal Rights and Social Justice' filled many gaps. "Although I disagree with his conclusion that Marx was guilty of ‘species imperialism,'" Wilde said. "I suggest that the English translations of Marx’s work use words such as ‘mere’ and ‘primitive’ that are simply not there in the original, and that Marx’s discussion of the difference between humans and other animals does not imply superiority/inferiority."

Wilde argued that, at the very least, Marxism implied some commitment to animal welfare. "Historical materialism is a theory of historical development that points to the present capitalist mode of production as being the ultimate mode of exploitation, the transcendence of which will achieve human emancipation," Wilde said. "In terms of the alienation thesis, this means that the human essence can finally be realised, but this must involve, as Marx said, the transformation of the relationship between human and non-human nature. This is why Marx, in 1844, approvingly cited Thomas Münzer’s demand that ‘the creatures too shall be free.' Respect for human nature requires respect for non-human nature. Of course this is subject to different interpretation; at the least it means ensuring good animal welfare."

Wilde defended the value of prefigurative veganism. "Individual ethical choices should never be dismissed because they do not directly address systemic

problems," he said. "Individual responses demand attention to the issue at hand and can have unexpected consequences, such as securing the cooperation of supermarkets on issues such as battery farming." But Wilde saw a vegan capitalism as unlikely. "It is difficult to imagine a practice based on compassion to be compatible with one based on exploitation," he said.

Asked to weigh in on the debate between socialist animalists Jason Hribal, who argued animals are part of the working class, and Bob Torres, who argued animals are superexploited living commodities, Wilde sided with Torres. "The bigger question is whether or not animals belong to the same moral community as humans," Torres said. "As a humanist I would argue that our different capacities mean that humans alone form a moral community, but that the successful pursuit of human flourishing (eudaemonia) is possible only by fully developing the human potential for compassion. This would transform the relationship between humans and non-human animals."



Guevara defended animal space flight

In late 1957, in the midst of the Cuban revolution, the iconic revolutionary Che Guevara defended the Soviet Union's plan to launch a homeless dog found on the streets of Moscow into space, on a flight in which there was no possibility of survival. Laika, the stray in question, was being used as an involuntary test subject, to pave the way for human space travel.

She was only three years old when she died and described by Vladimir Yazdovsky, one of the scientists involved, as "quiet and charming." Just prior to launch, Yazdovsky took Laika home to play with his children in an apparent moment of sympathy. “I wanted to do something nice for her,” he said. “She had so little time left to live.”

Exactly how and when Laika died was something of a mystery for many years as Soviet publications gave conflicting accounts. "Some reports claimed she had died after about a week when the satellite's batteries lost power and could no longer circulate oxygen," according to Colin Burgess and Chris Dubbs. "Others suggested that she had been euthanized with poisoned food, poisoned gas or a poisoned injection. Later, Soviet sources hinted that Laika had died after several hours when her cabin overheated," a claim that was validated in 1993.

In Jon Lee Anderson's magnificent biography of Guevara, the author quotes from an article the Argentine revolutionary wrote in El Cubano Libre, the guerrilla newspaper, regarding Laika's planned fate. Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate the full version of the piece, so Anderson's quotations of Guevara are the only ones to which I have access.

"Compassion fills our soul at the thought of the poor animal that will die gloriously to further a cause it doesn't understand," Guevara said, before attempting to link American animalists' outrage at Laika's treatment to their government's support for the murderous regime he was fighting. "But we haven't heard of any philanthropic American society parading in front of the noble edifice asking clemency for our guajiros, and they die in good numbers, machine-gunned by the P-47 and B-26 airplanes...or riddled by the troop's competent M-Is. Or is that within the context of political convenience a Siberian dog is worth more than a thousand Cuban guajiros?"

Painting with a broad brush, Guevara seems to suggest those Americans who opposed Laika's exploitation supported their government’s efforts to repress the Cuban people. I have no idea to what degree this is accurate. Guevara was presumably correct there was a large amount of political expediency involved in American animalists protesting Soviet testing, given the United States' space program was exploiting non-human subjects as well. Perhaps these activists were equally vociferous in their protest of their own government's experiments, but I doubt it. Ultimately though, none of this is relevant to the question of whether the Russians should have killed Laika to serve their interests. Guevara's defense of animal abuse seems to have rested entirely on the fallacious argument we know commonly as "two wrongs make a right," which, as we all learn as children, is not the case.

Decades later, another of the scientist's involved in Laika's killing expressed remorse for what he had done, albeit still within the speciesist framework that the experiment might have been justifiable had the Soviets gained more from it. “Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us,” Oleg Gazenko said. "We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog.”



In search of the vegetarian Bolshevik

Numerous sources suggest vegetarianism was banned in the Soviet Union. But one must assume this wasn't immediately the case, as a prominent member of the Bolshevik Old Guard, meaning one active prior to the 1917 revolution, was a vegetarian. Whether his dietary choices were due to solidarity with non-human animals or some other reason is unfortunately not clear.

In early 1914, Vladimir Lenin wrote a letter in which he queried the recipient regarding Alexander Fyodorovich Ilyin-Zhenevsky, apparently a party member who abstained from consuming meat. "What has become of that young Bolshevik, the Witmerist, the highly-strung vegetarian, whom I saw at your place last year?" Lenin asked, with obvious condescension that could perhaps be interpreted as jocular.

According to Brian Pierce, who translated Ilyin's work 'The Bosheviks in Power: Reminiscences of the Year 1918,' Ilyin "defended his views on this subject [of vegetarianism] against Lenin's criticisms: Lenin joked that Ilyin might provoke a fresh split in the Party, forming a faction of Bolshevik vegetarians." Lenin was obviously kidding here, as Pierce notes, but it wouldn't seem to be much of a stretch to read Lenin's comments as suggesting there were other vegetarians in the Bolshevik ranks who have simply been lost to history.

Ilyin "served Soviet Russia," according to Pierce, "in six main capacities -- as journalist, soldier, military administrator, historian, diplomat and chess-player." He died in 1941, but it's
unclear whether he perished under Joseph Stalin's purges or as a result of the Second World War. "Volume 5 of the 'Soviet Historical Encyclopedia,' published in 1964, states that he was 'subjected to illegal repression during the period of the cult of personality' -- which may or may not mean that he was actually executed. Volume 10 of the 'Large Soviet Encyclopedia,' published in 1972, says that he 'died during the siege of Leningrad,' and Botvinnik, in the book already quoted, specifies that 'he perished from a German bomb at Novaya Ladoga,'" according to Pierce.

As mentioned earlier, many sources suggest vegetarianism was eventually banned in Russia. To what degree this information is a product of Red Scare hysteria, I'm unsure. After all, such a law would presumably be impossible to enforce outside of shuttering explicitly vegetarian restaurants and organizations.

I'm curious to know when the crackdown on vegetarianism started. While I'm far from an uncritical admirer of Lenin, I suspect it began with the rise of Stalin, as this would fit a pattern of increased conservatism in Russia following Lenin's death. Homosexuality, effectively legalized under Lenin, was outlawed in the 1930s under Stalin. Similarly, abortions were legalized under Lenin, but again outlawed in the 1930s by Stalin.
Irish anarchist talks anti-speciesism

Ferdia O’Brien is a member of the Workers Solidarity Movement, an anarchist organization based in Ireland. He recently agreed to an interview with me, in which he discussed animal issues.

Jon Hochschartner: How would you describe your economic politics? Are you a socialist? Would you consider yourself a Marxist, anarchist, social democrat or something else? Can you describe what involvement, if any, you’ve had with organized socialist or anarchist left?

Ferdia O’Brien: I’m an anarchist or libertarian socialist. I’m open to many forms of anarchism, including communism and mutualism. I joined a Trotskyist party when I was 17, but left a year later because I found it too authoritarian, reformist, and self-unaware. Then I became an anarchist and I joined the Workers Solidarity Movement at 21. I’m a new member and have had only small involvement in the anarchist left.

JH: How have your views regarding animals been received on the socialist or anarchist left?

FO: My views regarding non-human animals have been received in the left in pretty much the same way as outside of it: some are sympathetic, some detached, some mocking. Although veganism is over-represented in the anarchist milieu, and is quite well facilitated (vegan meals at many events etc.).

JH: Does your organization have any official position on animal exploitation of any kind? If not, is this something you would like to change? If so, how might you do this?

FO: I don’t think the WSM has an official position on non-human exploitation. I think it would be good for the WSM to at least officially condemn it, as non-human suffering inflicted by humans is the greatest source of suffering on planet Earth, and has a blatant connection to the state and capitalism. However, considering that carnists are in the majority, it’s unlikely this will happen.

I think that the animal libertarian movement and the libertarian socialist movement are necessarily connected, and should work together. However, they remain divided for similar reasons to how the LGBT rights movement and the socialist movement didn’t integrate for so long (the prejudice of socialist campaigners themselves).

JH: Is there any way in which speciesism is used to further human class exploitation? If so, how?

FO: The idea that cruelty toward non-humans fosters cruelty toward humans is an old one. Bentham and Kant said this, among many others. Also, the concept of dehumanisation is critical to speciesism. As long as there is a zone outside ‘humanity’ which we deem fit for cruelty, murder, and exploitation, humans will suffer according to the same perverse psychology. Speciesism is about arbitrarily demarcating victims, so it naturally feeds into racism, misogyny, etc. However, I think this criticism is only a tiny part of the case against speciesism.

JH: How would you respond to the suggestion that personal veganism is an individualistic solution to a systemic problem? Or that insisting on personal veganism as a baseline for animal activism is the equivalent of saying anyone who drives a car can’t be opposed to fossil fuel economies, or anyone who wears Nike can’t be opposed to sweatshops?

FO: ‘Personal veganism’ in practice means not paying other humans to kill or torture sentient beings. Just because the problem is systemic, doesn’t mean the individual isn’t responsible for contributing to it, especially since murdering and being cruel to other animals is unnecessary to human survival. The fact is that we are responsible for what harm we contribute to, but it’s too hard in modern society to boycott everything. That’s where collective action comes in. However, my understanding of veganism is living a life which prevents as much suffering as possible, and that naturally includes fighting with others for systematic change.

But making such an argument against ‘personal veganism’ is making the perfect the enemy of the good. The fact is that being a ‘personal vegan’ prevents a huge amount of suffering compared to, for instance, boycotting corporations which use sweatshops. Boycotting Nike doesn’t necessarily help the child in the sweatshop, but not buying that chicken in a bag means that 1 less chicken is dead because of you.

Lastly, would these humans make the same argument if we were talking about humans being killed in the tens of billions, skinned alive, cramped into tiny cages, dragged from their mothers at birth, just so they could be eaten, etc? Obviously not. This is the role of speciesism.

JH: Is a vegan capitalism possible? Why or why not?

FO: I’m sure vegan capitalism is logically possible, but definitely not in this world. Non-radical vegans need to realise that the state and capitalism are two of the most inimical institutions for non-human animals. State subsidies artificially support meat, dairy, and leather producers, ban animal rights activists from documenting abuses, and use the police to prevent the same from directly stopping it (much like Nazi police accosted the Resistance). The profit motive is the greatest enemy of sentient life on Earth. Factory farms get larger and more hellish because capitalists want to extract more and more profit. The same inhumane logic of capital that puts human children in sweatshops puts pigs in slaughterhouses. This is why I see anarchism and veganism as one and the same, one fight against oppression.

JH: Jason Hribal has argued animals should be considered part of the proletariat. Bob Torres has said such a definition obscures the difference in revolutionary potential between animal and human laborers, and that animals are in fact superexploited living commodities. Where do you stand in the debate?

FO: I don’t think that considering non-humans to be part of the proletariat is particularly useful. I think it’s more appropriate to think of other animals as slaves. A donkey makes no contract with a human, and receives no wages. They have no property rights of their own. I agree that it’s important to note that non-humans have no potential to liberate themselves, and that we must think about them differently (much as we don’t expect human children to liberate themselves). In fact, I hadn’t heard the phrase ‘superexploited living commodities’ before, but I think it’s very apt. Many non-humans are in a category of their own; their labour isn’t the commodity, their flesh, skin, etc, is the commodity, and their sentience is often not even acknowledged (let alone heeded to).

Sue Coe: socialist animalist illustrator

The contemporary British artist Sue Coe, whose work and public statements strongly condemn both capitalism and animal agriculture, is by all indications a socialist animalist. If an interview with the illustrator conducted in 2005 by Elin Slavick, now only available on an obscure blog, is to be trusted, Coe was reluctant to define her class politics, leaving that to others. However, I believe it's quite safe to say she is a socialist, in the broadest possible sense of the word, meaning one who supports public ownership of the economy, whether emerging from an anarchist, Marxist or social-democratic tradition.

A great deal of Coe's work, which is both horrifying and beautiful, focuses on the intersection of class and species politics. The cover image for her 2012 book, "Cruel: Bearing Witness to Animal Exploitation," is a case in point. It features an emaciated animal, whose recently slit throat bleeds into a bag of money held by the stereotypical vision of a capitalist wearing a top hat. Beside him are equally large piles of money and what appear to be both animal and human skulls together. In a similar illustration by Coe, entitled "Butcher to the World," a bloated businessman emerges from a mountain of animal corpses gripping sacks of cash which are dripping blood. In her piece "Animals Are the 99%," which shows a number of animals suffering human violence, Coe appropriates the slogan of the Occupy Wall Street movement to suggest humans have a similarly exploitive relationship to animals as the rich have to the poor and middle class.

According to a 1996 feature in Eye Magazine, early in her career in New York, Coe was drawn to the American Communist Party. This involvement informed her art. "Funky English punk art does not work in a tenant/landlord struggle," Coe said. "The art school mentality is not effective with people who don’t have the luxury of trying out artistic styles, of breaking up a picture. What does work is a very realistic depiction of that struggle." In the same article, Coe described capitalism as an "economic crime."

In a 1993 article in the Baltimore Sun, during a conservative era when many believed there was no alternative to the free market, Coe offered an unapologetically stark choice. "There are only two economic systems known to human beings; one is socialism and one is capitalism," Coe said. "Capitalism will destroy itself — its contradictions will destroy it. Whether it will take all human beings off the face of the earth with it — that's the question." She went on to stress the importance of communal efforts, suggesting they were innate to human nature.

"How come we've survived this long?" Coe said. "Because we cooperate. If we didn't cooperate with each other, the human race would have been dead centuries ago. In fact, and this is a peculiar thing, we're too good. That's how come we're exploited by a tiny minority of corporations who do what they want. We allow it to happen. We cooperate. That's our nature — it's not warlike."

More recently, in a 2012 interview for Bomb magazine, Coe struck a similar note regarding what she saw as the inevitability of capitalist collapse. "We now have over ten percent of people unemployed, which according to any economist—even Milton Friedman—is revolutionary conditions," Coe said. "That’s very unstable capitalism. Now capitalism, I don’t think can be fixed...But in its death throes, it’s extremely dangerous."
Marxist analysis of forced molting

From a Marxist-animalist perspective, forced molting, a practice by which egg-

laying hens' productivity is increased through starvation and reduced access to light, increases relative surplus value for animal exploiters. "Natural molting means a lot of lost production time, and the chickens never produce as many eggs afterward," according to famed animal exploitation industry consultant Temple Grandin. "Forced molting shortens the time the chickens spend replacing their feathers and gets them back into full production faster. To force-molt an egg-layer flock, farmers shorten the hen's daylight hours to six to eight and starve them for ten to fourteen days. That makes the birds molt and shortens the molting period by eight weeks, but it is very cruel. The hens' mortality rate doubles."

Within Marxism, relative surplus value is created by the lowering the amount of work dedicated to necessary labor, that needed to reproduce the exploited's livelihood, in proportion to that dedicated to surplus labor, that used to enrich the exploiter. For instance, an exploiter might create relative surplus value by reducing what constitute's their labor force's livelihood or increasing their labor force's productivity. The practice of force molting employs both of these methods to create relative surplus value for animal exploiters. Hens' necessary labor is reduced in proportion to their surplus labor by limiting what constitutes their livelihood — in this case, their access to food and light — and increasing their productivity, by artificially stimulating increased egg production.

According to Karl Marx, "all the capitalist cares for, is to reduce the labourer’s individual consumption as far as possible to what is strictly necessary," thereby increasing relative surplus value. But there are limits to which the exploited's livelihood, or means of subsistence, can be reduced. "If the owner of labour-power works to-day, to-morrow he must again be able to repeat the same process in the same conditions as regards health and strength. His means of subsistence must therefore be sufficient to maintain him in his normal state as a labouring individual," Marx said.

In the context of forced molting, hens' means of subsistence is reduced to such low levels that many are unable to reproduce their labor power. They simply perish. "One leading breeder recommends keeping food withdrawn [during forced molting] until birds lose 30 percent of their body weight,” according to animalist Erik Marcus. “Many chickens face an added horror — their cage-mates die and begin to decay in the cramped cage. The bodies are not removed until after the molting period. By the time the lights are turned back on and food restored, 5-10 percent of the chickens will be dead." For animal exploiters, the loss of the dead hens' labor power is justified by the increased generation of relative surplus value by those hens that survive.

Whether hens are subjected to forced molting in the first place, according to Marcus, often depends on the cost of replacement hens. Obviously, as Marx

pointed out, "the labour-power withdrawn from the market by wear and tear and death, must be continually replaced by, at the very least, an equal amount of fresh labour-power." In another decision calculated to maximize surplus value, animal exploiters sometimes choose to kill their hens immediately after their birds' productivity begins to decline, rather than allowing a natural molt or imposing a forced molt, because they know fresh labor power can be acquired more cheaply in the form of younger, more efficient hens.



'Man, Controller of the Universe' is speciesist

Given the piece's title, it should come as little surprise that Diego Rivera's Marxist-inspired mural "Man, Controller of the Universe" is most likely speciesist. Among other things, but perhaps of primary concern for socialist animalists, the 1934 composition features Charles Darwin resting his hand atop a lengthy measuring stick. At his feet sit a number of animals, including a monkey barely able to reach halfway up the straightedge, even with the help of an object upon which the primate is perched. While the painting is open to interpretation, to me this section is a rather clear endorsement of the anthropocentric Great Chain of Being, unscientifically wrapped in evolutionary garb.

"The Scala Naturae [also known as the Great Chain of Being] is a philosophical view of nature attributed to Aristotle in Ancient Greece," Lori Marino explained on the Huffington Post. "According to this view, nature is arranged on a kind of ladder or hierarchy of increasing 'advancement' and value, moving up from inorganic objects like stones, at the very bottom, to plants, through the 'lower' animals such as sponges, to vertebrates such as fish, then to 'higher' animals such as mammals, then to monkeys and apes, and finally humans." As Marino demonstrated, this view is simply false.

The story behind the creation of 'Man, Controller of the Universe' is interesting. Nelson Rockefeller, the capitalist and future vice-president of the United States, commissioned Rivera to paint a mural on the ground floor of the Rockefeller Center in New York City, titled 'Man at the Crossroads.' The Mexican artist, who was married to Frida Kahlo, did this, but included a sympathetic portrait of Vladimir Lenin surrounded by a multi-racial group of workers. Rockefeller demanded the image of the Russian Marxist be excised. Rivera refused, and much to the art world's dismay, the composition was subsequently destroyed.

'Man, Controller of the Universe,' which is often mistakenly referred to as 'Man at the Crossroads,' is Rivera's recreation of the latter based on photographs of his original work.

Rivera's apparent suggestion that humanity is the pinnacle of evolution represents a misreading of Charles Darwin's work and just the kind religious-inspired superstition the painting glorified triumph over. "Darwin's discoveries showed conclusively that there is no ladder, but that all life is instead connected through branching evolutionary relationships - known as phylogeny," Marino said. "Even though he demonstrated that there is no 'up' and 'down,' Darwin's insights were relabeled as the 'phylogenetic scale,' which continued to preserve a hierarchical system in which 'higher' organisms were more 'evolutionarily advanced' than 'lower' ones."

Given the format of Rivera's painting, one could argue, with incredible implausibility, that 'Man, Controller of the Universe' is a criticism of a reconstructed conception of the Great Chain of Being, rather than an endorsement of it. After all, Rivera's vision of regressive capitalism is pictured on the left side of the mural, while the artist's vision of progressive socialism is on the right. I'm not sure why Rivera placed Darwin in the context of the reactionary past. But that he meant the placement as criticism of anthropocentric science is laughably unlikely. More likely Darwin's location is a nod to the undeniable achievements of the capitalist era or how the naturalist's theories were used to justify cutthroat economic policies in the form of Social Darwinism.

As Marino pointed out, the Great Chain of Being, a version of which Rivera appeared to endorse, serves to ideologically justify human domination of other sentient species. "The Scala Naturae gives us license to exploit other animals because they are seen as being further down the ladder," Marino said. "It also helps us to view ourselves as not being fully part of nature, and therefore to disconnect from empathizing with other animals. It seems to give us a 'right' to treat them as commodities for our own use. Even seemingly well-intentioned ideas about stewardship and dominion are ultimately just manifestations of the same hierarchical view that leads to abuse and exploitation."



'Beasts of Burden' was influential socialist-animalist text

'Beasts of Burden' was an influential socialist-animalist pamphlet, first published in late 1999 by Antagonism Press. Its authorship remains a mystery, so far as I'm aware. The text was written using the pronoun, 'we,' but of course that does not necessarily mean the pamphlet was a collaborative project. Antagonism Press, which one must assume is no longer active, barely boasts a web presence at all.

For feedback, it requested mail be sent to a London address, in care of "BM Makhno," which one assumes is a pseudonym inspired by Russian anarchist Nestor Makhno.

The pamphlet was explicitly aimed at both socialists and animalists, in the hopes of beginning the process of unifying their respective struggles. "This is a text which, we hope, faces in two directions," the pamphlet stated. "On the one hand we hope that it will be read by people interested in animal liberation who want to consider why animal exploitation exists, as well as how. On the other hand, by those who define themselves as anarchists or communists who either dismiss animal liberation altogether or personally sympathise with it but don’t see how it relates to their broader political stance."

The pamphlet argued there was a close connection between human and animal liberation. "The development and maintenance of capitalism as a system that exploits humans is in some ways dependent upon the abuse of animals," the text stated. "Furthermore the movement that abolishes capitalism by changing the relations between humans - communism - also involves a fundamental transformation of the relations between humans and animals."

The pamphlet traced the changing historical relationship between humans and animals, and how that relationship affected each, while attempting to avoid reductionism. "We should avoid ascribing to agriculture the role of ‘original sin’, the singular cause of humanity’s misfortunes and of our expulsion from some primitive communist Eden," the text stated. "The development of states and classes were contradictory, complex and contested processes taking place over many millennia. While the domestication of plants and animals was an important part of this story, we do not want to suggest that it was the whole story."

The pamphlet made the case that animal-exploitation industries were critical to the development of capitalism. "The historical evidence suggests that not only is capitalism dependent on ruthless primitive accumulation, but primitive accumulation relies upon the animal industry," the text stated. "Marx is clear that it was ‘the rise in the price of the wool,' which made it profitable to transform ‘arable land into sheep walks.' People were driven from their homes to make way for sheep."

The pamphlet argued that in practical terms there could be no such thing as vegan capitalism. "Of course it is possible to imagine a theoretical model of capitalism that does not depend on animals, but this is to confuse an abstraction with the actually existing capitalism that has emerged as a result of real historical processes," the text said. "Similarly we could imagine a capitalism without racism or women’s oppression, yet both of these have played a crucial role in maintaining capital’s domination and continue to exist despite superficial changes to the contrary."

The pamphlet argued that anti-speciesist thought enriched socialist theory. "Animal liberation perspectives enable us to see that if the reconciliation of humans and nature is to be more than an empty wish, concrete measures have to be taken to change the way humans relate to animals, such as dismantling the technology of factory farming," the text stated. "They also raise the question of extending the notion of community beyond humans to embrace other species - the fact that animals may not be able to participate in the community as active subjects does not mean they have to be simply objects for human use."

For the author or authors of the pamphlet, prefigurative veganism was important. "Total abstention is more or less impossible, and to moralistically condemn others for not going far enough only limits the scope for a movement to develop," the text stated. "Nevertheless, vegetarianism/veganism is not just a matter of sanctimonious handwashing...Not eating animals brings about qualitative improvement in the well-being of animals (as well as quantitative reduction in animals killed), even if as an isolated act it can be commodified and turned into another lifestyle marketing niche."

And yet, the pamphlet conceded that while the advent of socialism would mean positive change for animals, it would not necessarily mean the overall abolition of their use. "Disagreements would continue even in the society that would emerge as the communist movement developed to a stage where capitalism was in the process of being abolished across large parts of the world," the text stated. "Communism is not the application of a universal moral code, or the creation of a uniform society, and there would be no state or similar mechanism to impose, say, veganism, even if many people thought it desirable. The question of how to live with animals might be resolved in different ways in different times and places. The animal liberation movement would form one pole of the debate."
Theorizing pets’ role under capitalism

Companion animals, like other domesticated animals, are distinct from human proletarians in that they so not sell their labor power under the pretense of free choice. Rather, companion animals are themselves commodities. Their labor power is sold all at once, by others, unlike proletarians who sell their labor power in increments. Further, companion animals work toward the creation of a marketable commodities, as do other domesticated animals. While, say, cows involuntarily labor toward the production of milk, offspring, and flesh, companion animals involuntarily labor toward the reproduction of human labor power.

Richard B. Lee defined the reproduction of labor power, a Marxist concept, this way. “In a capitalist mode of production, reproduction of labor power occurs on a daily and generational basis,” Lee said. “Daily reproduction of labor power involves the provision of food, clothing, rest, and emotional support for the workers, the task of restoring their depleted capacity for work, while generational reproduction of labor power involves child rearing and child care, the work involved in producing the next generation of workers.”

Companion animals are involved in the daily reproduction of human labor power by helping to meet their owners’ psychological and emotional needs. This forced contribution is quantifiable. Studies show that human proletarians who own pets have lower blood pressure, anxiety, and risk of depression, among other things. According to Dr. Edward Creagan, an oncologist at Mayo Clinic, “A pet is a medication without side effects that has so many benefits. I can’t always explain it myself, but for years now I’ve seen how instances of having a pet is like an effective drug. It really does help people.”

But on the whole, pet ownership certainly doesn’t benefit companion animals. According to the website of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, of the 7.6 million pets who enter shelters nationwide every year, 2.7 million unwanted, healthy animals are killed. Human domestic violence figures perhaps give the best idea of pet abuse’s scope. According to the Humane Society of the United States, over two million women and men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner every year, and 71 percent of victims say their abusers also targeted their companion animals. No doubt more prevalent than intentional cruelty toward pets is unintentional neglect by well-meaning owners. Even when this is not the case, companion animals’ lives are inevitably dull and circumscribed, as these creatures have been reduced to near-complete dependency on their human masters.

As the socialist animalist Henry Stephens Salt said, “The injustice done to the pampered lap-dog is as conspicuous, in its way, as that done to the over-worked horse, and both spring from one and the same origin—the fixed belief that the life of a ‘brute’ has no ‘moral purpose,’ no distinctive personality worthy of due consideration and development. In a society where the lower animals were regarded as intelligent beings, and not as animated machines, it would be impossible for this incongruous absurdity to continue.”

Whatever my writing here may suggest, I don’t put a high premium on abstract theory. I’m sympathetic to ‘Big Bill’ Haywood’s quip regarding the value of experiential learning, in which the Wobbly leader said, “I’ve never read Marx’s ‘Capital,’ but I have the marks of capital all over me.” In a similar way, I think many are able to see the marks of capital all over animals, without needing an intellectual system to explain it. But for whatever reason, some socialists don’t see these marks. For them especially, I think it would be helpful to codify a Marxist animalism, if you will.

As I’ve mentioned in other essays, the minutiae of theory is not my strongest suit. I’m sure there are some errors here, besides the intentional subversion of classical Marxism’s anthropocentrism. But I have no doubt other anti-speciesist socialists can radically expand, and, where necessary, correct, this brief sketch of companion animals’ role under capitalism. I hope they will.



Was Shifu's vegetarianism motivated by anti-speciesism?

The Chinese anarcho-communist Liu Shifu, who apparently modeled his class politics after Peter Kropotkin, was a steadfast practitioner of prefigurative vegetarianism, and encouraged his followers to be the same. And while there is some indication this abstinence from animal flesh was inspired by concern for non-human welfare, the other strictures Shifu applied to his adherents suggest the diet might also have just been a quasi-spiritual regimen of self-improvement.

In his anarchist publication, The Voice of the People, Shifu wrote, "Our principles are communism, anti-militarism, syndicalism, anti-religion, anti-family, vegetarianism, an international language, and universal harmony. We also support all the new scientific discoveries which advance man's livelihood." Shifu took his prefigurative vegetarianism incredibly seriously. As Shifu was dying from tuberculosis in 1915, his doctor implored him to eat animal flesh for the sake of his health, according to Edward S. Krebs, but Shifu refused.

"Following (Leo) Tolstoy, Shifu presented vegetarianism as essential to non- violence and good health," Krebs said of the Chinese anarchist who began his revolutionary career as a member of the China Assasination Corps. "Shifu's [eventual] rejection of assassination and other forms of violence as tactics for revolution marks a similarity with Kropotkin's career. Shifu's linkage of vegetarianism with nonviolent social revolution might reflect the more immediate influence of Tolstoy."

And yet in context with other strictures Shifu pressed upon his followers, prefigurative vegetarianism looks like it could have been merely one point in a loyalty pledge to a group more concerned with apolitical self-improvement than effecting systemic change. These points included, according to Krebs: "(1) Do not eat meat. (2) Do not drink liquor. (3) Do not smoke tobacco. (4) Do not use servants. (5) Do not ride in sedan-chairs or rickshas. (6) Do no marry. (7) Do not use a family name. (8) Do not serve as an official. (9) Do not serve as a member of a representative body. (10) Do not join a political party. (11) Do not serve in the army or navy. (12) Do not believe in religion."

While one could imagine how many of these points fit into an anarchist worldview, the strictures against alcohol and tobacco seem completely motivated by an apolitical impulse for self-improvement. It is unclear to what degree Shifu's advocacy for prefigurative vegetarianism was motivated by a similar impulse, as opposed to anti-speciesism.

His individualistic desire to represent his beliefs prefiguratively extended to his class politics. In 1913, Shifu and his followers expended quite a bit of energy attempting to launch an anarchist colony, which ultimately didn't get off the ground. Such escapist endeavors are regarded by many socialists, including me, as self-indulgent distractions from genuine class struggle. As contemporary Marxist Paul D'Amato put it, "You can't build little islands of socialism in a sea of market capitalism," and even if one could, they in no way challenge systemic problems. I would argue efforts to create islands of prefigurative vegetarianism or veganism in a sea of societal speciesism are a similar waste of time, if not doomed to fail.

Still, Shifu's influence, and that of anarchism more broadly, was wide enough in China in the early part of the 20th century that even a young Mao Zedong, who would later engineer his own brand of Stalinism, recognized Shifu by name, according to Krebs.


DxE’s Kelly Atlas talks anarchism

Kelly Atlas is an organizer for Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), an animalist group which has risen to prominence by protesting inside non-vegan restaurants. An internet video of Atlas leading such an action went viral, garnering her coverage on Glenn Beck’s radio show, among other outlets.

Jon Hochschartner: How would you describe your economic politics? Are you a socialist? Would you consider yourself a Marxist, anarchist, social democrat or something else?

Kelly Atlas: Pretty strongly socialist. I’d like us to get to a world in which we all choose to take care of one another, but until then, the underprivileged (including the nonhumans for whom we are responsible) need homes and health and safety much more than anyone willing to exploit them needs a Lexus.

I do identify as an anarchist, which to me means that I consider every individual’s autonomy (insofar as autonomy is possible) to be of principal importance, with the attitude that “one person’s rights stop where another’s begin.”

JH: Can you describe what involvement, if any, you’ve had with organized socialist or anarchist left?

KA: No formal involvement. My approach at present is to engage people I know in dialogue about hierarchal domination, and to endeavour with everything I do to establish collaborative, altruistic norms. We organize DxE through consensus among the (currently six) core organizers, and constantly seek input from the engaged members of our activist community, in keeping with our ideology of liberation.

JH: How have your views regarding animals been received on the socialist or anarchist left?

KA: While anti-speciesism (or liberationism or what you will) is generally more received on the left than elsewhere, there is still an embarrassing lack of concern for human supremacism among those who stand so firmly against every form of oppression that affects humans. I believe, as Will Kymlicka and Sue Donaldson have written about, that the animal advocacy movement’s focus to date on vegan consumerism is partially (if not significantly) responsible for this, and that’s a movement norm that I hope to change as we become the animal rights movement and start acting more as allies to oppressed nonhuman animals than marketers of veganism, bigger cages, or bullhook bans.

JH: If you belong to an anti-capitalist organization, does it have any official position on animal exploitation of any kind? If not, is this something you would like to change? If so, how might you do this?

KA: I split all my time at present between anti-speciesist advocacy and caregiving at a sanctuary for rescued animals who are in the process of rehabilitating, so I am not formally involved with any explicitly anti-capitalist organizations, though most of my co-activists share my disdain for the capitalist greed machine. To kind of reverse the question, I would definitely like to see both the animal liberation and environmentalist movements adopt more anti-capitalist positions, given the extremely negative direct and social effects of such a thoroughly greedy system on captive animals, wild animals, and our entire planet. It’s definitely something I talk about in conversations with other liberationists and environmentalists.

JH: Is there any way in which speciesism is used to further human class exploitation? If so, how?

KA: As I am sure many readers here understand, every manifestation of the logic of domination reinforces every other. Most obviously, the most underprivileged of humans in our society are the ones compelled into work inside slaughterhouses, in the worst conceivable conditions, physically and psychologically.

JH: How would you respond to the suggestion that personal veganism is an individualistic solution to a systemic problem? Or that insisting on personal veganism as a baseline for animal activism is the equivalent of saying anyone who drives a car can’t be opposed to fossil fuel economies, or anyone who wears Nike can’t be opposed to sweatshops?

KA: I agree with that entirely. While I am of the position that eating someone else’s body is a hate crime as one can hardly degrade someone else’s body further, and while I insist that refusing to eat or wear someone else’s body (and to a lesser but still significant degree, their eggs or milk) can be a very powerful symbolic action (if that anti-speciesist motivation is made clear), I don’t actually actively advocate for humans to engage in vegan consumer behaviour. I do not want to frame and focus the dialogue on the human oppressors, but on the nonhuman oppressed. So I try to open up space for the voices of the oppressed to reach through the physical and ideological barriers that silence them.

JH: Is a vegan capitalism possible? Why or why not?

KA: I mean that depends on how you define “vegan,” right? If a “vegan” is just someone who doesn’t use products derived from animals exploited in institutionalized exploitation camps, sure, totally doable. But I think that meaning is of little value, given that a world without slaughterhouses could still be a colonialist one, engaging in excessive consumerism that destroys the lives of non-captive animals through habitat destruction and pollution and other forms of environmental devastation.

Though I use the word infrequently now, to me “veganism” means consuming in a way that means we are doing the least amount of harm that we can given whatever constraints are on us — as consumers. But I am sure that actively trying to build collaborative and altruistic norms, advocating for species equality, demanding an end to colonialism, and otherwise speaking out against injustice makes someone much more impactful than if they were just vegan, whatever the definition. (Let’s not use that as a moral license though, especially given the social, normalizing effects of participating in speciesist behaviour — but we should have empathy for those in less wealth-privileged circumstances than ourselves, and encourage everyone to speak up for the silenced even if they are forced to participate in the speciesist system in a more direct or obvious way than ourselves.)

JH: Jason Hribal has argued animals should be considered part of the proletariat. Bob Torres has said such a definition obscures the difference in revolutionary potential between animal and human laborers, and that animals are in fact superexploited living commodities. Where do you stand in the debate?

KA: I have only given this cursory thought, and would like to learn more of each position before making an assessment myself. But for now, suffice it to say that nonhumans are most definitely a class of forced labourers, and labourers who can and do resist as Hribal has written about, but I expect it is significant that their ability to politically organize is severely limited compared to that of animals who are human and speak the same tongue. I do think it is important to try to take as non-speciesist a perspective on other animals as we can so even the idea that we can consider them part of the proletariat is valuable. But if considering them part of the proletariat would imply continuing to “employ” them, then given that I do not believe they can consent to any work (and certainly not before being coercively trained into it), then that doesn’t sit so well with me, but hey, I’ve already expressed more of a position than I have the prerogative to given that I haven’t looked into either side of this debate much.




Carpenter was Fabian animalist

Edward Carpenter was a socialist and early gay-rights activist, who practiced prefigurative vegetarianism and advocated on behalf of animals. It should be said that Carpenter's brand of socialism, Fabianism, was despised by many revolutionaries of his era, such as Leon a Trotsky, who regarded it as overly reformist.

"The reformists who are fighting against a proletarian class consciousness are, in the final reckoning, a tool of the ruling class," Trotsky said in 1925. "The day that the British proletariat cleanses itself of the spiritual abomination of Fabianism, mankind, especially in Europe, will increase its stature by a head." Whether Carpenter's gradual approach was, in the final analysis, worse for the working class than Trotsky's Bolshevism, which I would argue inadvertently laid the groundwork for Stalinism, I'm unsure.

Writing in 1889, Carpenter admirably condemned capitalism and vivisection in the same breath. In doing so, however, he seemed to take a problematically condescending view toward non-European people, and made presumptions about ancient Egyptian attitudes toward animal welfare for which I'm unsure there is any basis. "On the whole we pride ourselves (and justly I believe) on the general advance in humanity," Carpenter said. "Yet we know that to-day the merest savages can only shudder at a civilisation whose public opinion allows—as among us—the rich to wallow in their wealth, while the poor are systematically starving; and it is certain that the vivisection of animals—which on the whole is approved by our educated classes (though not by the healthier sentiment of the uneducated)—would have been stigmatised as one of the most abominable crimes by the ancient Egyptians—if, that is, they could have conceived such a practice possible at all."

It should be noted that Carpenter was not particularly strict in his prefigurative vegetarianism. Writing in 1899, he confessed, "I have yet never made any absolute rule against flesh-eating, and have as a matter of fact eaten a very little every now and then - just, as it were, to see how it tasted, or to avoid giving trouble in Philistine households, and so forth."

In his 1920 criticism of the Catholic Church, Carpenter again returned to the issues of capitalism and animal testing. "The Church," he said, "which has hardly ever spoken a generous word in favor or defence of the animals; which in modern times has supported vivisection as against the latter; Capitalism and Commercialism as against the poorer classes of mankind...such a Church can hardly claim to have established the angelic character of its mission among mankind!"

In an essay published the next year, titled 'A New Morality,' Carpenter outlined his own inclusive worldview. "Make this the basis of all teaching," Carpenter said. "Let them learn as they grow up, to regard all human beings, of whatever race or class, as ends in themselves—never to be looked upon as mere things or chattels to be made use of. Let them also learn to look upon the animals in the same light—as beings, they too, who are climbing the great ladder of creation—beings with whom also we humans have a common spirit and interest."
Ronnie Lee discusses Greens for Animal Protection

Ronnie Lee, founder of the Animal Liberation Front, has in recent years become active in the English Green Party, within which he has created an animalist subgroup, Greens for Animal Protection. He discussed the effort with me.

Jon Hochschartner: How did Greens for Animal Protection come about?

Ronnie Lee: It was something that was instigated by myself.

When I decided to get much more involved with the Green Party about three years ago, one of the first things I did was to join the party’s policy-animals group, which is a discussion list for people in the party who are concerned about animal protection, including the putting forward of better policies in that area.

I very quickly came to the conclusion that something more than this group was needed and I set up Greens for Animal Protection to try to attract more animal protectionists to the Green Party and to increase the priority given by the GP to animal protection.

Several people from the policy-animals group became involved with running GAP which soon developed a very popular social media presence and began holding stalls at Green Party conferences and vegan festivals as well as producing its own flyers for distribution at various animal protection protests.

JH: What is the range of species and class politics in Greens for Animal Protection?

RL: Six vegans and one vegetarian on our seven-strong organising committee, where most of us are abolitionist in terms of our philosophical opposition to the use of other animals by humans.

All of us on the committee would describe ourselves as being left wing, with three of us also being members of Green Left, the ecosocialist group within the party.

JH: How does Greens for Animal Protection relate to the broader English Green Party?

RL: We are recognised as a group within the party and, as such, our contact details appear in certain party publications (both printed and online) and we are given reduced rates for stalls at party conferences.

GAP produces an email newsletter for supporters which is sent out using party facilities and we have helped produce Green Party animal protection manifestos for use at elections.

We’ve been successful in raising the profile of animal protection within the party in other ways, including getting it inserted as a major policy area on the party’s website, as well as getting a big improvement to the party’s policy on the use of animals for food passed at conference.

JH: Would you recommend others attempt to form similar groups within existing leftist organizations? Why?

RL: My main recommendation re existing leftist organisations is that they, or at least their members, should join the Green Party! We really need to do something about the fragmentation of the left and form a united grouping to work towards the achievement of political power in order to truly bring about social justice within society. And, in my view, the Green Party is by far the best vehicle for such a grouping.

I always find it difficult to understand why other leftist animal protectionists would be members of a party other than the Greens. At one time this may have been because they were unaware of the strength of the Green Party’s policies on social justice, but those policies have now received so much publicity that I can no longer see that being the case.

Having said that, I would, of course, like to see the formation of animal protectionist groups within other leftist organisations, not just because animal protection is a fundamentally important political issue of itself, but because anti-speciesism is very much a left-wing issue, in the same way that anti-racism, anti-sexism and anti-homophobia are.



How did Wright feel about animal testing?

It's difficult to assess the species politics of Richard Wright solely based on his account of direct participation in vivisection. Near the beginning of the Great Depression, the Black writer and communist assisted in animal experimentation after being assigned by a relief agency to work in a Chicago hospital.

Wright was a member of the United States Communist Party for approximately a decade, beginning in the early 1930s, according to Annie Zirin. Among other forms of activism, in 1936 he took a job as Harlem editor of the Daily Worker, a CP publication. Wright would publicly break with the party, Megan Behrent said, "as [Joseph] Stalin's horrors became known, and as the CP, under orders from Stalinist Russia, abandoned the fight against racism in the U.S., a struggle that had won the party the support and political allegiance of the likes of Wright."

In his acclaimed autobiography, Wright described the hospital at which he was working as one of the biggest and wealthiest in Chicago. "I cleaned operating rooms, dog, rat, mice, cat and rabbit pens, and fed guinea pigs," he said. As a boy, Wright dreamed of being a medical researcher, and perhaps satiating this childhood interest, he asked questions of the vivisectors regarding the tests. His queries do not appear critical.

"I wanted to know if the dogs being treated for diabetes were getting well; if the rats and mice in whom cancer had been induced showed any signs of responding to treatment," Wright said, with seeming enthusiasm. "I wanted to know the principle that lay behind the Aschheim-Zondek tests that were made with rabbits, the Wassermann tests that were made with guinea pigs." The doctors he asked dismissed his questions in a racist manner.

Wright described his involvement in testing with cold detachment, perhaps the inevitable result of consistent exposure to such violence. "Each Saturday


morning I assisted a young Jewish doctor in slitting the vocal cords of a fresh batch of dogs from the city pound," he said. "The object was to devocalize the dogs so that their howls would not disturb the patients in the other parts of the hospital. I held each dog as the doctor injected nembutal into its veins to make it unconscious; then I held the dog's jaws open as the doctor inserted the scalpel and severed the vocal cords."

And yet this appeared to have a deep effect on Wright. "Later, when the dogs came to, they would lift their heads to the ceiling and gape in a soundless wail," he

said. "The sight became lodged in my imagination as a symbol of silent suffering." Indeed, Wright used the animals' plight as a metaphor for that of his black coworkers. Speaking of the latter, he said, "Perhaps there was in them a vague psyche pain stemming from their chronically frustrating way of life, a pain whose cause they did not know; and, like those devocalized dogs, they would whirl and snap at the air when their old pain struck them." And yet was this just a literary device? Not much later he distances his coworkers and himself from animals. "He did not regard me as a human being," Wright said of a white authority figure. "The hospital kept us four Negroes...as though we were close kin to the animals we tended." Given the frequency with which speciesism was and is used to justify vicious racism, it's more than understandable Wright felt the need to create such distance.

Later, Wright recounts a physical altercation between two of his coworkers that created chaos in the laboratory. "The steel tiers lay jumbled; the doors of the cage swung open," he said. "Rats and mice and dogs and rabbits moved over the floor in wild panic. The Wassermann guinea pigs were squealing as though judgement day had come. Here and there an animal had been crushed beneath a cage." Hoping to avoid discovery, Wright and his coworkers haphazardly threw animals into enclosures and frantically hid others' dead bodies. The anecdote is written in what seems to be a slightly comedic tone that unfortunately minimizes non-human lives and suffering. But it seems clear in this case Wright was not motivated by conscious animus toward animals. Rather, using grim humor, he sought to highlight his desperate panic, and that of his coworkers, which resulted from Black vulnerability within capitalist white supremacy.

Ultimately, more information is needed besides Wright's account of his involvement in animal testing to get an accurate sense of his species politics.

Nibert discusses intersection of species and class

David Nibert, a socialist animalist, is a professor at Wittenburg University and the author of two respected books on the intersection of human and animal exploitation and oppression. Nibert was an organizer for the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC)— a precursor to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) – when he was a university student in the late 1970s. He is currently a member of the DSA.

"It is essential for animal rights activists to recognize how capitalism promotes oppression economically, politically and ideologically," Nibert said in an email interview. "And it is equally imperative that socialists become aware that the abolition of the oppression of other animals is crucial in creating a sustainable, just

and nonviolent system of food production, which is an important step in promoting economic and social justice for all."

For Nibert, it's important one understands how the plight of animals and that of low-status humans have been interconnected through history. "For example, the expropriation of land and water resources to raise animals for food has been responsible for centuries of violence, displacement and repression throughout the world," Nibert said. "Hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples are landless and marginalized due to past land grabs by ranchers."

This practice continues into the present. "Tens of millions of hectares of land are being taken in Latin America and Africa to enable corporate agribusiness and the retail food industry to double the profitable consumption of animal products by the more affluent – again, with an increasing emphasis on 'grass-fed, organic' fare, which requires even more resources," Nibert said.

He is opposed to reformist approaches to eventual animal liberation. "When some corporations agree to increase cage sizes, this is taken as a victory for other animals, and the businesses that oppress animals for profit are given awards and endorsements," he sad. "Some advocates for other animals pursue voter initiatives to ameliorate the worst forms of oppression of other animals. However, changing economic and political circumstances can quickly lead to the nullification of such modest reforms. Indeed, Iowa congressional representative Steve King tried to attach an amendment to the 2014 federal farm bill that would have nullified such reforms in many states. Although he was unsuccessful this year, his efforts illuminate how tenuous such meek reforms actually are."

In order to demonstrate the supposed uselessness of reform, Nibert highlighted conservative rollbacks of progressive victories of generations past in anthropocentric politics. "In the past several decades we have seen many legislated reforms ostensibly to ameliorate human suffering and deprivation quashed — from the New Deal-era policies of establishing a progressive income tax and rights for organized labor to the recent attack on voting rights for people of color," he said. "Statutory reforms relating to the treatment of other animals are unlikely to fare any better. In the end, the gradualist, reform-based approach to social justice largely serves ideological and diversionary functions for an expanding capitalist system."

For Nibert, reforms aren't just useless, they're actually detrimental to progressive struggle. "What is more, such tepid, 'humane' reforms actually make the public feel comfortable eating products derived from the oppression of other animals and are thus counter-productive," he said. "To really promote justice for other animals, their human advocates should promote a global transition to a plant-based diet and

stop wasting energy on creating reforms and the quixotic efforts to see that they are enforced."

It should be mentioned the organization to which Nibert belongs, the DSA, supports tactical reformism. As the group's website states, "Reforms we win now—raising the minimum wage, securing a national health plan, and demanding passage of right-to-strike legislation—can bring us closer to socialism." One wonders if Nibert genuinely cannot see the value of such measures. Karl Marx reportedly made his famous quip, "All I know is that I am not a Marxist," in response to the devaluation of reform by his French acolytes. He dismissed their arguments as "revolutionary phrase-mongering."

Using language apparently inspired by the work of Gary Francione, Nibert upheld the prioritization of individual consumer choices. "Being vegan and promoting the abolition of all forms of oppression of other animals should be the baseline for all animal activists," Nibert said. Pressed as to whether he applied such a prefigurative standard to environmentalists and socialists, he suggested he did not do so. "Eating other animals is not the moral equivalent of getting into an automobile," Nibert said. "Indeed, it is difficult to function in the United States by staying out of automobiles. However, use of – and support for – hybrid and electric vehicles, and using public transportation when possible, is responsible behavior. People opposed to sweatshops may indeed prefer to refrain from buying products from Nike and similar brands and shop for fair trade and union-made shoes and clothing."

Nibert seemed to suggest that veganism was necessary to feed the global human population. "While more than a billion people on the earth are currently hungry and malnourished, over 70 percent of the earth’s agricultural land is used for the creation of animal products," he said. "As the human population races to more than ten billion, and as climate change advances, a transition to a plant-based diet is essential in order to feed an increasingly hungry and thirsty world." Questioned whether he thought dire poverty was a result of scarcity, rather than an unequal distribution of wealth, as socialists traditionally argue, Nibert appeared to backtrack. "The fact that so much of the world’s agricultural land is in the hands of the Animal Industrial Complex leads to food scarcity," he said.

Asked to weigh in on the debate between Jason Hribal, who sees animals as part of the proletariat, and Bob Torres, who views domesticated non-humans as superexploited living commodities, Nibert was noncommittal. "I can see some truth in both positions," he said. "Other animals have been exploited as laborers for centuries, while also being treated objectified and treated as property."



Lucy Robins Lang and the St. Helena Vegetarian Cafe

Shortly after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, the anarchist Lucy Robins Lang and her husband began the process of opening a vegetarian restaurant that would become a hub for socialists of different stripes in the city by the bay. In another example of the pitfalls of the anti-speciesist left establishing a political identity based around lifestyle choices, there is no evidence I'm aware of that the couple's vegetarianism had anything to do with non-human solidarity.

After arriving in San Francisco, the pair became friends with a vegetarian who introduced them to other practitioners in the Bay Area. Among these "was Darling the Nature Man, who refused to not only eat flesh but also to wear garments made out of animal matter," Lang said. "Winter and summer he lived in the hills on the outskirts of San Francisco, wearing only a strip of linen around his loins." One wonders if this is exaggeration on Lang's part, prefigurative politics taken to extremes, mental illness, or some combination of these.

Another local vegetarian who they met was the famed novelist and socialist Jack London. "London not only converted us to vegetarianism but persuaded us to establish a vegetarian restaurant," Lang said. According to her, the writer encouraged them, arguing, "You'll do all right...People are always taking up new ideas, and the only vegetarian restaurant in town was burned down." But London's vegetarianism, whatever motivated it, was short lived. By the time the couple opened their restaurant, the novelist "had abandoned vegetarianism and was living on raw meat," Lang said.

Lang and her husband named their restaurant the St. Helena Vegetarian Cafe after the St. Helena Sanitarium where Lang had received lessons in vegetarian cooking. "We rented part of a big shack on Market Street, papered the inside with a warm, red-flower pattern, and hung up racks of newspapers and magazines in imitation of the European cafés," Lang said. "While gangs of fishermen, dock workers, longshoremen, stokers, and sailors thronged the bars and brothels of the waterfront, we of the radical tribe sat over our chaste dishes on crisp linen, discussing the revolutionary parties of all the European nations."

It should be mentioned that, at least in retrospect, Lang was very much aware of her group's disconnect from the working class, jokingly referring to the restaurant as an "ivory tower." Still it was a hub for Bay Area socialists. "Our restaurant was one of two centers for the radicals of San Francisco," Lang said. "The other was the Liberty Book Store, which was operated by Alexander Horr and William McDevitt, the former an anarchist single taxer, the latter a Marxian Social Democrat. The Liberty Book Store carried only the literature of social protest, and the proprietors would argue hotly with any customer who was indiscreet enough as

to ask for a novel."

According to Richard Steven Street, "Many of the first California Wobblies could be found frequenting such hangouts as the big shack on Market Street known as the St. Helena Vegetarian Cafe, haunted by IWW member Edward Morgan, 'a dreary apostle of pure reason,' who liked to harangue people as they arrived for lunch." The cafe burnt down on November 17, 1909, not long after it was built. According to the San Francisco Call, the fire resulted from "defective wiring on the rear of the building."

Lang's vegetarianism did not last either. In her memoir, she recounts eating flesh "heartily" later in life. One must assume some prototypical socialist animalists walked through the doors of the St. Helena Vegetarian Cafe, but unfortunately their passing does not seem to have been recorded, so far as I can tell.
ISO member describes her progressive species politics

Judy Heithmar, a member of the International Socialist Organization, based in the United States, recently agreed to an interview in which she described her progressive views toward non-human animals.

Jon Hochschartner: How would you describe your economic politics? Are you a socialist? Would you consider yourself a Marxist, anarchist, social democrat or something else?

Judy Heithmar: I am a revolutionary Marxist, which means that through bottom-up, grassroots organizing, I fight for a world free of exploitation, where the world’s resources meet human need and working people control society democratically.

Hochschartner: Can you describe what involvement, if any, you’ve had with organized socialist or anarchist left?

Heithmar: I have been an organized socialist for about seven years and a member of the ISO for three. I became radicalized around capital punishment and queer issues. I became involved in the Campaign to End the Death Penalty in 2007, and in 2008 I expanded my organizing to include queer struggle and started to slowly identify as a socialist. My politics as a Marxist solidified between 2008-2009, and I joined the ISO in 2011.

Hochschartner: How have your views regarding animals been received on the socialist or anarchist left? Does your organization have any official position on animal exploitation of any kind? If not, is this something you would like to change? If so, how might you do this?

Heithmar: Many members of my organization believe that because non-human animals are incapable of liberating themselves, it is not a battle in which we should be engaged. There are a small group of us who believe otherwise, but we have been met with fairly strong opposition. The organization does not have an official position on animal exploitation and this is definitely something I would like to change. I believe that it is needed to tackle this issue first from a historical materialist perspective. Many members in the organization are simply unaware of the historical context between animal and human exploitation. To begin to win over the minds of comrades, a starting point would be here, through teach-ins, reading groups, etc.

Hochschartner: Is there any way in which speciesism is used to further human class exploitation? If so, how?

Heithmar: Yes, absolutely. The exploitation of non-human animals, from the beginning of agriculture to factory farms today, definitely furthers human class exploitation. For example, a large majority of factory farm workers are of color, including migrant workers from Mexico and Latin America, some of whom are undocumented. They are extremely underpaid and are also at a heightened risk for numerous health-related problems, through repetitive exposure to toxic gases and stress injuries.

Hochschartner: How would you respond to the suggestion that personal veganism is an individualistic solution to a systemic problem? Or that insisting on personal veganism as a baseline for animal activism is the equivalent of saying anyone who drives a car can’t be opposed to fossil fuel economies, or anyone who wears Nike can’t be opposed to sweatshops?

Heithmar: I believe that veganism is an example of a response to an oppressive dominant practice in society. Do I think that veganism will inevitably lead to the liberation of animals? No. The liberation of any oppressed group will only be won with the overthrow of capitalism as well. However, I think that it’s absurd to insist that vegans cannot also be opposed to capitalism. Personally, I am a vegan for health-related reasons, not because I believe that it’s the way to animal liberation. However, being a proud vegan has allowed me to interact with other animal liberation activists and interject a Marxist analysis into their organizing. It certainly provides an avenue for some great political debate around the topic.

Hochschartner: Is a vegan capitalism possible? Why or why not?

Heithmar: Yes. Veganism is very marketable, as we have seen with the recent upsurge in green-washing. So long as the bosses can turn a profit off of it, they’ll push for it. Vegan lifestyle has become more and more popular over the years because businesses have learned that they can make an obscene amount of wealth selling products that are vegan and organic.

Hochschartner: Jason Hribal has argued animals should be considered part of the proletariat. Bob Torres has said such a definition obscures the difference in revolutionary potential between animal and human laborers, and that animals are in fact superexploited living commodities. Where do you stand in the debate?

Heithmar: Unfortunately, I have not read Hribal’s argument, but I would probably agree that non-human animals should be considered part of the proletariat. In the sense that there are actually far more commonalities between humans and non-human workers, not only in terms of exploitation but also resistance. With regard to revolutionary potential, there are documented instances of non-human animals resisting oppression through means of strikes and other forms of withholding labor, which is certainly part of the revolutionary process. I would, however, like to read Hribal’s argument and make a more educated comment in the future.

Hochschartner: British socialist Richard Seymour has said the relationship between animals and humans in Marxism is under theorized. Do you agree? If so, what areas are particularly lacking?

Heithmar: Yes, definitely. I don’t think that the topic of animal oppression or animal liberation has been fully taken up by Marxism. I would like to unfold more this idea of animals being included in the proletariat. I think it would also be helpful to develop a stronger historical analysis of the human and non-human relationship, and it’s nature to class-exploitation.

Animalists should unite

In an interview at the 2013 Subversive Festival in Croatia, Marxist writer Richard Seymour alluded to what he described as a 1960s slogan, regarding the realities of movement building, which would be helpful for animalists. The saying appears to have originated from Civil Rights activist Bernice Johnson Reagon, who argued, "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition." I'm unsure of the context in which Reagon spoke, but within the animalist movement, I'd argue we must put aside our ideological and strategic differences as much as possible to achieve genuine change for non- humans.

To me, the benefit of prioritizing unity was the greatest lesson of the Occupy Wall Street movement. What gave that all-too-brief struggle in 2011 its power? It wasn't the movement's analysis of capitalism, which was largely reformist. While one could find anarchists, Marxists and social democrats at the encampments, in my experience they were overwhelmingly outnumbered by disaffected liberals. One could even find deeply-confused Ron Paul supporters! The movement's phraseology, contrasting the "one percent" and "the 99 percent," suggested reform. After all, while the capitalist class is a small minority, one must assume those who own the means of production make up more than one percent of the population. No doubt there are a dozen socialist sects in the country that have a more progressive analysis of the economy. But in political terms, these groups are completely irrelevant. What gave the Occupy movement its power was the large number of people involved. And that's it.

To create change, animalists must create a similarly broad coalition. And for many of us, that's going to be uncomfortable. Simply within the revolutionary pole of the anti-speciesist movement, it means pacifists should work with militants. Tactical reformers should work with abolitionists inspired by the work of Gary Francione. And those who prioritize prefigurative veganism should work with those who do not. Outside of this revolutionary pole, which one must assume would represent a minority position within a broader coalition, revolutionaries should work with reformists. We have so much unexplored ideological common ground with those who are critical of animal exploitation but might not yet want to get rid of it altogether. In fact, if the Occupy movement is any indication, proximity between revolutionaries and reformists can give revolutionaries a greater sense of the importance of short-term goals and be a radicalizing experience for reformists.

Of course this is not to say that within such a coalition we shouldn't debate those whose species politics are to the right of ours. On the contrary, we should constantly be attempting to pull our reformist allies toward a more progressive position on animal exploitation. But our criticism should be comradely, so much as possible. Within reason, we should be a loyal opposition, because we recognize that small sects, however correct their positions may be, are ineffectual. Our guiding strategy should be to make our coalition as numerically large as possible while retaining its progressive character.

West advocated animal-exploitation reform

Cornel West, the public intellectual and honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America, has advocated incredibly mild reform of animal exploitation in the past, which one hopes he sees as a short-term demand rather than an end goal. He is perhaps best known for his 1994 book 'Race Matters.'

In late 2003, West wrote to the parent company of the KFC, the fast-food giant, regarding animal abuse. "I am disappointed to learn from my friends at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that KFC has refused to take steps to eliminate some of the most egregious cruelty to chickens in the industry," West said. "PETA informs me that members of KFC’s own animal-welfare advisory panel have approved a list of simple guidelines for animal welfare that would eliminate some of the worst abuses that these animals suffer, yet KFC higher-ups have refused to implement them."

In his letter, West seemed to have all of the information needed to draw revolutionary conclusions regarded animal exploitation. "Although most people don’t know chickens as well as they know cats and dogs, chickens are interesting

individuals with personalities and interests every bit as developed as the dogs and cats with whom many of us share our lives," he said. "And of course, they feel pain just like we do."

It's unclear if the demand he made of the corporation was intended as a stepping stone to greater change or an ultimate goal. One hopes it's the former. "As a person who is concerned about all injustices," West said, "I am asking you to direct KFC’s suppliers to stop breeding and drugging animals so that they collapse under their own weight or die from heart failure and to phase in humane gas killing, a method of slaughter that protects birds from broken bones and wings, electric shocks, and even drowning in scalding-hot tanks of water."

Perhaps shining further light on West's species politics, West responded to a question regarding the validity of human uniqueness in an undated video posted to the Dropping Knowledge website.

"I think there is, for me, no doubt that the life of a human being does have more value than a life of an amoeba. I believe that the life of my mother has much, much, much more value than the life of a fly," West said. "That does not mean that we are justified in crushing other sentient creatures. It does not mean that we are justified in systematically exploiting the mammals and animals...The question is how to become ecumenical, to support as many life forms as possible without losing sight of the dignity of human beings."

West's apparent belief in some sort of religious-inspired notion of dignity exclusive to humans, while problematic, is not necessarily antithetical to the animalist project. One could conceivably assert such human uniqueness while also recognizing that animal exploitation is harmful and unnecessary.

Continuing, however, West seemed to suggest a false dichotomy between working on behalf of humans and working on behalf of animals, as if one couldn't do both or as if lifting humans from dire poverty required animal exploitation. The latter view, of course, would be based on a regressive perspective that poverty is caused by scarcity, which could be alleviated by the use of non-humans, rather than unequal distribution of wealth. "When there are so many fellow human beings, one billion living on $1 a day, two billion living on $2 a day, we cannot downplay their plight even as we support other life forms and attempt to protect other life forms, be they whales, be they penguins, be they dogs, or cats," West said. Strangely, none of the species he mentions are those humanity exploits on a comparatively broad scale, aside from companion animals, whose exploitation is generally gentler than that afforded, say, farmed animals.



There's nothing revolutionary about meat-eating

In late 2000, professors Teresa L. Ebert and Ma'sud Zavarzadeh wrote an unbelievably silly commentary for the Los Angeles Times called "Our American Diet Divides Us Into Classes of Workers and Bosses," that one hopes was intended as satire. As absurd as the article is, I fear that it's condescending workerism, by which I mean a perspective that glorifies a crude caricature of blue- collar culture, is representative of the view held by most of the socialist left in regard to the consumption of animal flesh.

"The politics of the Atkins and Ornish diets has proved to be so divisive that Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, in an almost Hegelian scenario of the relation between the state and civil society, has suggested that government researchers should do an impartial study of the two, thereby putting an end to the civil strife," Ebert and Zavarzadeh said of the competing flesh and plant-based diets. "Like everything else in social life, diets are determined not by what people desire but by the conditions of their class. This is quite an un-American thing to say, but people eat class and not food; food preferences are shaped by what one can afford to choose."

Interestingly, the pair made reference, seemingly without awareness, to an obvious objection to their argument. "By class, we do not mean lifestyle, where one shops, what accent one has or what car one drives," Ebert and Zavarzadeh said. "These are signs of cultural prestige. They belong to social semiotics and not class. Class depends on people's position in the social relations of production: Do they buy other people's labor and make a profit from it? Or do they sell their own labor in order to live?"

As the duo correctly states, from a socialist perspective, class identity is not determined by one's accent or car. It's not even based on income. For Marxists, class is solely determined by one's relation to the means of production. That Ebert and Zavarzadeh, having said this, would go on to seemingly argue consuming dead animals is inherently proletarian appears like an obvious contradiction. But of course this is exactly what they do.

"The Atkins diet is a proletarian diet: meat, eggs and other high-protein sources along with usually forbidden fats, especially butter and cream," Ebert and Zavarzadeh said. "This is 'real food,' according to Atkins, not upper-class 'invented, fake food.' In his recent New Yorker piece 'On Impact,' about recovering from a serious injury, Stephen King highlights the class culture of meat, writing that he and his wife 'came from similar working-class backgrounds; we both ate meat.' Meat is the food of the working people; a food of necessity for the class that relies on the raw energy of its body for subsistence."

The pair contrasted the Atkins diet with the plant-based Ornish plan, which they look on unfavorably. One could accept some of their points regarding inconvenience if they were aimed solely at prefigurative plant-based diets, rather than vegetarianism or veganism in general. But their writing suggests no such distinction. "The low-fat, vegetarian Ornish diet, in contrast, is a diet for those with the time and leisure to play and experiment," Ebert and Zavarzadeh said. "It entails extensive lifestyle changes. Eating becomes a full-time leisure activity, requiring frequent 'grazing' because with the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet, according to internist Dean Ornish, 'you get hungry sooner [and] feel full faster.' Eating becomes a gaze into one's soul: a meditation, a Zen moment in which a single bite becomes 'exquisitely satisfying.' It is an extended Proustian moment."

The duo concluded by reiterating their workerism regarding the essential connection between proletarianism and the consumption of corpses. "In spite of their innumerable surface variations, all diets repeat the two fundamental divisions of society into the classes of workers and owners," Ebert and Zavarzadeh said. "In eating food, we eat our class." Again, one hopes this piece was intended as satire. Sadly, I suspect that, while writing to some degree with tongue-in-cheek, they meant what they said.


Socialist candidate for state rep talks species politics

Travis Dicken, a member of Socialist Party USA and the Industrial Workers of the World, is running in the 2016 election for state representative in Pennsylvania’s 59th district. He recently agreed to an interview in which he discussed why animalists should vote for him.

Jon Hochschartner: How would you describe your economic politics? Are you a socialist? Would you consider yourself a Marxist, anarchist, social democrat or something else?

Travis Dicken: I’m a socialist first and foremost. Being that I believe in being pragmatic, I think that the working class of the USA needs to take gradual steps at the moment to begin strengthening itself to take over our economy and fully control our communities, which means that raising the minimum wage, and establishing things like a single payer healthcare system, paid maternity and paternity leave, and paid sick leave for all workers are all among my primary concerns. I feel that those measures, combined with a drastically improved educational system, will put the working class of the USA in position to begin the work of taking over from the bourgeoisie. I also believe that the power of federal, state, and local governments could be effectively used to encourage the growth of co-operative and worker owned enterprise, which will be essential building blocks towards the establishment of socialism.

JH: Can you describe what involvement, if any, you’ve had with the organized socialist or anarchist left?

TD: I’ve been a member of the Socialist Party USA for just under two years. In that time, I’ve become a staff writer for The Socialist, their online publication, and have published about ten articles so far on topics ranging from police violence, to the Affordable Care Act, to how capitalism has exacerbated my own problems with manic depression. I’m also part of the party’s Ecosocialism commission, and had a small role in the online promotion of Mimi Soltysik’s campaign for state legislature in California.

I also recently become a member of the Industrial Workers of the World after attending a May Day celebration put on by the Pittsburgh General Membership Branch. Being that I only recently joined in September, though, I haven’t as of yet had the time or opportunity to contribute much to the One Big Union, although I think that their idea of Industrial Unionism will be as essential to the development of socialism around the world as both direct and electoral action will be.

JH: Why should those concerned by the treatment of animals vote for you?

TD: Those so concerned should vote for me because I recognize the intersection of animal rights issues with those of poverty and environmentalism. The 59th district is mostly rural, and many parts of it are still recovering from the beating that Western Pennsylvania took when the steel industry decided to pick up and move. As such, choices in diet and lifestyle are incredibly limited for most residents, being that they lack access to the diverse options inherent in most cities and the economic ability to make certain choices. I also believe that a well educated and financially stable populace will be more receptive to messages that may not directly impact them, such as the ethical treat of both wild and domestic animals.

I would also hope to have your vote due to my positions on our environment here. Resource extraction through hydraulic fracturing has taken over southwest Pennsylvania, to the point where we currently have 247 such platforms in Westmoreland County alone. The effects of this reckless destruction of our environment are already being felt, as evidenced by a Truthout article published several months ago that cited contaminated well water in Donegal, which is within walking distance of my house, as well as articles published in both local and national newspapers of contaminated streams, ponds, and lakes all across the area. If left unchecked, as both Republicans and Democrats in the area would like to see, the consequences on our environment will be dire, and it is my hope to take a firm stand against these practices if elected.

I also am aware of the fact that we need to foster better communication on the left in general, and on the issue of animal rights and animal treatment in particular, and am always willing to lend any platform I have to the expression of well-articulated ideas on the subject and to encourage healthy interaction and debate between all elements of the left.

JH: What public policy proposals, that you could put into place if elected, do you support that would better the treatment of animals?

TD: First and foremost, I would want to use the power of the state to empower communities to ban “fracking” and other forms of resources extraction. This has already been attempted in several Pennsylvania towns, resulting in litigation, and I think they would benefit from having the power of the state at their back instead of in their way. I would also support a publicly funded, state wide veterinary program to both provide for the health of domesticated animals and to combat the spread of lyme disease, which studies have shown has the potential to become an even more serious problem in our communities due to climate change.

Although it isn’t a policy measure, I would also support most if not all forms of direct action regarding the protection of animal rights.

JH: For you, how, if at all, are the fights for economic justice and better treatment for animals intertwined?

TD: In many ways. For one thing, the oncoming climate catastrophe that is going to kill off millions, if not billions, of wild animals is also going to disproportionately effect poor, disenfranchised, and/or distant and poorly represented communities. Many of the small, rural communities within the 59th district will be so effected.

Also, I think that if we build a new economic order, it will greatly benefit the struggle for animal rights, as well as many other struggles that may not directly effect a majority of workers. Speaking from experience, when you are poor, it’s hard to think beyond your most immediate needs. When you are getting the heat shut off in the middle of winter and choosing between food, getting to work, or paying the rent, you don’t have the mental and emotional energy to devote to understanding the struggles of others, and although that is unfortunate I think that anyone who has experienced it will understand it immediately. When you are broke, isolated, and live in a community with very few choices already, it becomes a matter of survival to eat unhealthy, unethical food, for one example, because it is usually both all that is available and all that you can afford.

Stalinist collectivization sparked massive animal slaughter

Rapid and violent collectivization of farming in the Soviet Union during the Stalin era triggered the slaughter of domesticated animals on an incomprehensible scale from the late 1920s to the mid-1930s. While many of these non-humans would presumably have been killed regardless, their lives were undoubtedly cut shorter than they might have been.

"Peasants protested the injustice of a 'socialization' they viewed as plunder by selling or slaughtering their animals and other properties in an attempt to preserve something of their hard-earned work in the form of cash after sales, to store up a supply of food for the likely hungry times impending, or, if nothing else, to deny Soviet power the fruits of their labor," Lynne Viola said. "Peasant razbazarivanie [squandering] of livestock was of such massive and destructive scale as to directly shape state policy in the short term and cripple the potential of socialized agriculture in the long term."

According to figures provided by Viola, in 1929 there were 34 million horses in the Soviet Union. In 1933, there were a mere 16.6 million, which represents a more than 50-percent population drop. Similarly, in 1928 there were 70.5 million cattle and by 1933 there were only 34.5 million. Again, this is a more than 50-percent fall. In 1928 there were 26 million pigs. By 1932, there were a mere 11.6 million, which is another drop of over 50 percent. Finally, in 1928 there were 146.7 million sheep and goats. In 1933, this number had shrank to 50.2 million, which means the population had been reduced by more than 65 percent.

Writing of this failed period of collectivization, the exiled Bolshevik Leon Trotsky observed, in a supreme understatement, "The most devastating hurricane hit the animal kingdom." But Trotsky did not fault collectivization in general for this outcome. "The blame for these sacrifices lies not upon collectivization, but upon the blind, violent, gambling methods with which it was carried through," he said. "Having in its hands both the power and the industries, the bureaucracy could have regulated the process without carrying the nation to the edge of disaster. They could have, and should have, adopted tempos better corresponding to the material and moral resources of the country."

Socialization efforts were not helped by the gossip which spread through the countryside."There was much confusion among officials and peasants about what collectivization really meant and wild rumors held that it heralded the Antichrist, Apocalypse, a return to serfdom, a sharing of women, and foreign invasion," Mary E. A. Buckley said.

Viola quoted a few peasants who gave a sense of the mood among their class at the time. "It's all the same—soon everything we own will be socialized. It's better now to slaughter and sell the livestock than to let it remain," said one. Another peasant, whose motivation was more explicit, said, "We will not enter the collective because [we] know our property will be used by the poor. Better that we, in an organized way, destroy our horses, burn our property, than to give it to those sluggards."
Philly Socialist Kreider discusses species politics

Aaron Kreider is a branch leader of Philly Socialists, a non-sectarian socialist group which some leftists disillusioned with the sect form see as a potentially more useful organizational model. Kreider recently agreed to an interview in which he discussed animalist politics.

Jon Hochschartner: How would you describe your economic politics? Are you a socialist? Would you consider yourself a Marxist, anarchist, social democrat or something else? Can you describe what involvement, if any, you’ve had with organized socialist or anarchist left?

Aaron Kreider: I’m between anarchism and socialism. I’m a critic of every single so-called socialist government that exists (from the Soviet Union and former Eastern Europe bloc to Cuba, North Korea, Maoist China, Venezuela, and others) for generally abusing people’s human rights and failing to carry through with socialist theory. On the other hand, I also believe in organization and having leadership that is responsible to its members. I also believe in nonviolence as the most effective means to achieve socialism/anarchism.

I’m currently a member of the Philly Socialists and part of the four-person leadership “organizing committee” that facilitates and leads a lot of the work of the West Philly branch.

In grad school (at Notre Dame), in 1999 I started the Progressive Student Alliance a relatively broad organization that included anarchists, socialists, and liberals. There wasn’t a significant constituency that would support a socialist or anarchist organization, and it made more sense to radicalize liberals and moderates. Having a broad ideological base has probably helped keep the organization running to this day.

From 1997 through 2007 or so, I was involved in the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) — not explicitly anti-capitalist, but we had organizational principles and most of the main organizers that were very radical (like our commitment to fight militarism). I revised the SEAC Organizing Guide and kept the computers, website and database running.

In 2002, I founded CampusActivism.org — a general resource for student and non-student activists. It includes a large collection of anti-capitalist resources and the calendar includes many anti-capitalist events.

I was involved in Occupy Philly (not hard-core, but I helped out with a couple small things). I was a member of the Education and Training working group which was predominantly anarchist. We organized a series of talks on capitalism after Occupy Philly had ended.

I currently work for Energy Justice Network – a small national radical environmental organization that helps community groups fight power plants and waste facilities. We have founded and currently facilitate the national Anti-Biomass Incineration Network. Many environmental groups ignore the harm that biomass incinerators cause to humans, ecosystems, animals, and their contribution to global warming. If you want to help animals, then stopping a biomass incinerator is one of the most effective things you can do.

JH: How have your views regarding animals been received on the socialist or anarchist left?

AK: In SEAC, people were generally very sympathetic because we were an environmental organization (so almost all of our food at events were all vegan, or at least vegetarian). In groups like the Philly Socialists we generally ignore environmental issues and don’t have any position on the environmental impact of meat consumption, or the suffering of the animals.

JH: Is this something you would like to change? If so, how might you do this?

AK: The Philly Socialists is a broad organization. It’s likely that the best way to help the environment and animals is to not draw a strict line on animal exploitation. People react better to positive messages. So it’s likely that we’ll be more effective in building up our organization and me cooking good vegan food – then to attack people because of what they eat. A strong organization can do more for animals and the environment with, for instance, a better public transit program that would reduce the use of cars, than we could by changing several diets.

JH: Is there any way in which speciesism is used to further human class exploitation? If so, how?

AK: I wrote this leaflet in 2002 which argues that all forms of domination are connected. Now that I’m a bit older, I think there is probably a connection but I’d like to see someone do quantitative research that would test this theory. I have seen a number of examples of socialist and anarchist white men downplaying other forms of oppression to emphasize the importance of class. Is downplaying race, gender, and sexual orientation correlated with a meat eating diet and a lack of concern for the environment?

JH: How would you respond to the suggestion that personal veganism is an individualistic solution to a systemic problem? Or that insisting on personal veganism as a baseline for animal activism is the equivalent of saying anyone who drives a car can’t be opposed to fossil fuel economies, or anyone who wears Nike can’t be opposed to sweatshops?

AK: It’s a challenge to balance your personal beliefs with your practice. Nobody is perfect. We want to move people towards a more just world, while not shutting doors on people who are trying. Institutional change is the most important thing, but if your practice doesn’t at least partially resonate with your beliefs then it will be hard for you to be an effective organizer as no one will trust you.

JH: Is a vegan capitalism possible? Why or why not?

AK: Vegan capitalism is completely possible. Capitalism is very flexible and able to turn enemies into allies. For instance, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Republicans fully embrace LGBT rights within the next twenty years. In my limited experience, socialism seems to lead to veganism much more than veganism leads to socialism (somebody should do a study!).

JH: British socialist Richard Seymour has said the relationship between animals and humans in Marxism is under theorized. Do you agree? If so, what areas are particularly lacking?

AK: I think Marxism is over theorized.



Spira was socialist anti-speciesist

Many socialists and anti-speciesists might not be aware, but one of the most celebrated animalists in recent memory was a veteran of the Trotskyist movement. According to Peter Singer, in twenty years, Henry Spira did "more to reduce animal suffering than anything done in the previous fifty years by vastly larger organizations with millions of dollars at their disposal."

Spira's involvement in socialist politics apparently began in his adolescence. "Henry went with his friends to classes on socialism organized by Trotskyists," Singer said. "He began reading [Leon] Trotsky and V.I. Lenin, as well as the early Russian Marxist, G.V. Plekhanonv." His views began to change, and among other

things, he stopped observing Jewish religious law. "He began to see injustice not as a matter of the greed or sadism of particular individuals, but as something more systemic," Singer said. "He became a socialist, sharing Trotsky's view that Stalin had derailed the idea of a real socialist revolution."

Spira soon became a supporter of the United States' Socialist Workers Party, for which he would be blacklisted and subjected to government surveillance in the 1950s. Spira covered labor struggles and the Civil Rights Movement for the SWP's newspaper 'The Militant.' He wrote for other socialist publications about the Cuban revolution, which he witnessed firsthand. Later, he would take part in reform efforts within the National Maritime Union.

Spira would eventually leave the SWP, it seems, primarily because he saw the organization as out of touch with the working class. His exit appears to have been motivated by a disillusionment with the group's cultishness rather than socialism more broadly. "They would explain everything by going back and finding a quote from Trotsky or from Lenin in order to explain things, as opposed to explaining how things were in the real world," Spira said. "They were basically just living in their own universe as opposed to making real life connections."

Beginning in the 1970s, after being exposed to Singer's work, Spira got involved in animalist activism. "Spira first gained notice in 1976 by leading a campaign seeking an end to the American Museum of Natural History's research on the impact of castration and other forms of mutilation on the sexual behavior of cats," according to Barnaby J. Feder. "When the research was halted in 1977, animal rights activists hailed the campaign as the first in more than a century of antivivisection efforts in the United States and Europe actually to result in an end to any animal testing."

Soon after, Spira organized a coalition of groups to oppose the use of Draize and LD/50 tests in the cosmetics industry. "The animal testing campaigns played a major role in forcing hospitals, government laboratories and universities to establish review boards to make sure that experiments used alternatives to animals — test-tube cultures, for example — where possible and to make sure that animals were not unnecessarily abused when they were used," Feder said, obviously describing reformist change. "Spira also negotiated with the cosmetics industry to provide initial financing to create the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore."

In the 1980s he turned his animalist efforts toward the farm industry. "He led a successful campaign to end face branding of cattle and negotiated with McDonald's and other fast-food companies to get them to supervise the practices of their suppliers more closely," Feder said. Spira died in 1998 at the age of 71.
Philly Socialist Bagot discusses species politics

Jonathan Bagot, formerly connected to the Revolutionary Communist Party, is now a member of Philly Socialists, a non-sectarian group. He recently agreed to an interview in which he discussed his views on animal treatment.

Jon Hochschartner: How would you describe your economic politics? Are you a socialist? Would you consider yourself a Marxist, anarchist, social democrat or something else? Can you describe what involvement, if any, you’ve had with organized socialist or anarchist left?

Jonathan Bagot: I’ve self-identified as a Maoist over the past 15 years. Back then I gravitated towards the RCP since they were pretty much the only group in town that were close to being on the same page as me and active in the same causes I was concerned with locally. The internet was obviously present back then, but it was nowhere near what it is today. So actually having a local chapter that I could meet up with in my city really helped me connect with like-minded folk since participating in anything online was difficult and pointless — in terms of getting anything accomplished, debates on forums only go so far.

Then when I, and plenty of others, were done with what the RCP had become; Mike Ely founded the Kasama Project. I was at the founding conference, and worked with them for a few years. We tried to build something locally, but it just never came together in my town.

Currently I’m a member of Philly Socialists.

JH: How have your views regarding animals been received on the socialist or anarchist left?

JB: I’ve been vegan and a supporter of animal rights for less time than I’ve considered myself a communist — vegan for about 11 or 12 years now? So it was interesting to see the before and after.

The before never involved vegan or vegetarian food being served at events, it meant meeting at places like McDonalds and animal rights just never being mentioned. Which actually surprised me even while I ate meat. I knew vegetarians outside of these circles, and assumed there would be more animal rights minded people involved with these political groups. Without thinking about it too deeply, it always seemed like a stereotype of the left to be vegetarian.

The after had me feeling like an outsider for being vegan, having to recommend better places to meet, and any ideas of animal rights being dismissed rather quickly. It was less shocking since I noticed previously that most socialists and communists ate meat. But what caught me off guard was how looked down upon vegetarians were for really no valid reason (besides guilt, I have to assume).

And how intelligent, deeply felt arguments would get shrugged aside by people that have spent hours a night studying Das Kapital but seemingly can’t engage with anything that would challenge their desire for meat.

So really I had to go to anarchist events to satisfy that side — both for the vegan food and to engage with people about animal liberation. It was rather frustrating, and still is. People on the left get pretty self-righteous about standing up for humans before animals — then again, in my experience most meat eaters do that, left or right, as if they know what they’re doing is wrong.

JH: Does your organization have any official position on animal exploitation of any kind? If not, is this something you would like to change? If so, how might you do this?

JB: No, they do not. I’ve always respected the fact that the SP-USA had animal rights in their platform — I’m not sure how that plays out into their day to day actions, or even how their general membership feels about, besides looking nice on their website. But it’s more than any other socialist party has done, as far as I’ve seen.

If Philly Socialists ever decided to put together a list of positions like that I would definitely present the idea at a General Assembly. But for now, we really don’t have many “official positions” like most political parties do.

JH: Is there any way in which speciesism is used to further human class exploitation? If so, how?

JB: Anytime something is commodified there will be human class exploitation at some point in the chain. But with speciesism I’ve found it interesting that human class sort of correlates with animal work. To compare someone who works with chickens and pigs versus horses in a similar setting is a bit of a leap in terms of pay and social status, then move on to any animals we don’t eat and it’s a whole other world. Then it’s a huge leap to go to people that work with animals we’d consider even less common (say, in a zoo setting).

Clearly, considering some species less than others (e.g. animals processed into food in a factory, can’t get much lower than that) will align the humans working with them to also be exploited at a higher rate.

JH: How would you respond to the suggestion that personal veganism is an individualistic solution to a systemic problem? Or that insisting on personal veganism as a baseline for animal activism is the equivalent of saying anyone who drives a car can’t be opposed to fossil fuel economies, or anyone who wears Nike can’t be opposed to sweatshops?

JB: The one part about this question that really hits me is the fact that we’re talking about diet. The idea that you’re actually fueling yourself on this awful product, it’s coursing through your system. It’s such an intimate chain of events. Much different than the shoe argument. At least that’s how I feel about it.

Then not only are you fueling yourself on this product that represents everything your fighting against (whether you accept it or not), but you’re then using that energy to do positive political work. It’s so backwards.

And in terms of the boycott angle in general, I’ve always felt that whether being vegan is part of a larger solution or just you wanting to simply remove yourself from an awful system (but remaining in society, as opposed to, say, dropping out of capitalism by moving to a farm somewhere) why would you continue to consume those items? Is every decision you make part of some larger solution? Can’t you just do the right thing and not be driven by some addiction to a taste? Especially these days when simply doing the right thing can be done so easily and affordably.

JH: Is a vegan capitalism possible? Why or why not?

JB: I guess as much as any capitalism is “possible”? There’s so much “green capitalism” these days, I assume veganism can fit into that dynamic.

I know day to day when I deal with fully vegan businesses that they’re not perfect, there’s exploitation down the line at some point. Most likely animals are being exploited three degrees from whatever product I’m purchasing.

It was interesting, just the other day there is this vegan shoe company I follow on Facebook, and they posed a question about sweatshops to their fans. Something like “do you even think about sweatshops? does that matter? or do you only care about animals?” I was surprised to see some of the responses where people honestly never thought about that. So I’d like to think all of that would at least be part of a vegan capitalism.

JH: Jason Hribal has argued animals should be considered part of the proletariat. Bob Torres has said such a definition obscures the difference in revolutionary potential between animal and human laborers, and that animals are in fact superexploited living commodities. Where do you stand in the debate?

JB: I hadn’t read Torres or Hribal until you mentioned it. And I’ll be honest, both view points are very interesting. Though when Jason talked about the service dog industry it seemed like he couldn’t really build the same argument for laying hens. And even his service dog argument sounds like a stretch, compared with my personal experience with dogs. But still interesting and I’d like to check out more of what he has to say beyond the interviews I’ve read.

My thinking is definitely more along the lines of Torres and the super exploited living commodity argument. It’s hard to think of an animal that doesn’t fit into that description. But I haven’t really dug too deep into it, I’ll definitely be checking out Torres’ Making a Killing soon.

JH: British socialist Richard Seymour has said the relationship between animals and humans in Marxism is under theorized. Do you agree? If so, what areas are particularly lacking?

JB: I definitely agree. Even the small amount that exists has mostly been under my radar. I’d love to hear some thoughts on animal rights and Marxism in the Third World.

Pankhurst practiced prefigurative vegetarianism

Sylvia Pankhurst, a socialist, Ethiopian nationalist and a feminist, practiced prefigurative vegetarianism for some time, apparently out of concern for non- human animals.

According to John P. Gerber, Pankhurst's "Socialist Workers' Federation and their publication,'Workers' Dreadnought,'" was in Britain a "major theoretical center of left communism." Pankhurst's contacts included a veritable who's who of the European left. "She was in close touch with leading revolutionaries in Russia (Alexandra Kollantai), Germany (Clara Zetkin), Holland (Herman Gorter, Anton Pannekoek, Henrietta Roland Horst), Italy (Antonio Gramsci and Amadeo Bordiga) and even Hungary (Bela Kun)," according to Barbara Winslow. Vladimir Lenin criticized her directly in his 1920 book 'Left Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder" for her opposition to electoral reformism in Britain.

Interestingly, Pankhurst's mother, Emmeline Pankhurst, the suffragette leader, was also a vegetarian for a time, according to 'Current Literature, Volume 45' a publication edited by Edward Jewitt Wheeler. The same source states Pankhurst's mother was an admirer of the anarchist animalist Louise Michel, although she did not accept "the erratic woman's political theories."

In 1907, Pankhurst, by all indications, ate non-human flesh. Recalling her time in prison early that year for her own feminist activism, she described the difficulties of vegetarians, but did not seem to count herself among this group. "When we had originally been put in the first class, Mrs. Cobden Sanderson, who was a vegetarian, was daily served the usual prison diet, and though she was obliged to leave the meat, no extra vegetables were allowed her, and she was obliged to live on her potatoes and bread," Pankhurst said. "Now a special dietary had been introduced for vegetarians, which consisted at this season of an alternation of carrots and onions, with occasional rather stale eggs as a substitute for meat, and milk, night and morning, instead of cocoa and tea."

Decades later, Pankhurst was practicing prefigurative vegetarianism, for how long I'm unsure. But she gave it up following the outbreak of the Second World War. "Another change in the household resulted from the fact its mistress had been until then, on general humanitarian grounds, a vegetarian," according to her son, Richard Pankhurst. "But with the introduction of rationing — a system which she had advocated in the a First World War and greatly praised on account of its fairness —she felt it 'more practical' to turn to meat-eating like the population at

large."

As I've mentioned previously, I don't think individual dietary choices are particularly important to the animalist struggle. But I wonder what this abandonment of vegetarianism meant for Pankhurst. Was she giving up what she saw merely as a symbolic gesture toward non-human solidarity? Or did her return to flesh-eating represent the low priority she placed on animal lives and suffering?



In later life, according to Winslow, "Pankhurst never made any attempt to rejoin or work with her former comrades in the Communist Party. Shocked and horrified by [Joseph] Stalin, she denounced the 1936 Moscow Trials as a brutal farce. Having known and admired [Nikolai] Bukharin in particular, she knew he had been framed by Stalin." Still, according to Winslow, Pankhurst considered herself a socialist for the remainder of her life. She would die of heart failure in late 1960 at the aged of 78.

Shaw was socialist animalist

The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, winner of the 1925 Nobel Prize in Literature, was a socialist animalist. A practitioner of prefigurative vegetarianism, Shaw was a critic of many forms of non-human exploitation, but is perhaps best known as an anti-vivisectionist.

In using the term 'animalist' here, I'm not referring to a follower of the fictional ideology in George Orwell's "Animal Farm.' Although that ideology did have anti- speciesist elements! Nor am I referring to the theory written about by philosophers such as Eric T. Olson, which truth be told, I know nothing about. Rather I'm using the term 'animalist' to indicate someone who to one degree or another supports the animal liberation project, which activist Ronnie Lee defined as "an end to all persecution, exploitation and killing of other animals by human beings or for us to reach a situation that is as near to that as possible." By 'socialist animalist' I mean someone who supports both public ownership of the economy and animal liberation.

It should be mentioned that Shaw's brand of socialism, Fabianism, was scorned by many of the revolutionaries of his day. Friedrich Engels dismissed the Fabian Society as "a clique of bourgeois-socialists of diverse calibres, from careerists to sentimental socialists and philanthropists, united only by their fear of the threatening rule of the workers and doing all in their power to spike this danger by making their own leadership secure." Engels reserved only somewhat kinder words for Shaw himself, describing the writer as "very talented and witty as a

belletrist but absolutely useless as an economist and politician, although honest and not a careerist."

Shaw was clearly opposed to the exploitation of non-humans for food. He vividly described animal agriculture as the "monstrous habit of bringing millions of useless and disagreeable animals into existence for the express purpose of barbarously slaughtering them, roasting their corpses and eating them." The playwright apparently transitioned to vegetarianism in his mid-twenties, after reading the work of Percy Shelley. "I was a cannibal for twenty-five years," Shaw said. "For the rest I have been a vegetarian. It was Shelley who first opened my eyes to the savagery of my diet."

Shaw was critical of those animalists who presented the case for vegetarianism on the diet's health merits. "Why, if we prefer a clean and humane way of feeding ourselves to a nasty and cruel way, may we not say so, instead of raising foolish amateurish arguments about nitrogen and hydro-carbons and the rest of the figments of the science of 'metabolism?'" Shaw said. "I have not the slightest doubt, myself, that a diet of nice tender babies, carefully selected, cleanly killed, and tenderly cooked, would make us far healthier and handsomer than the haphazard dinners of to-day, whether carnivorous or vegetarian."

Shaw took his anti-vivisectionist comrades to task for the shortsightedness of their anti-speciesist politics. "On one occasion I was invited to speak at a large Anti- Vivisection meeting in the Queen's Hall in London," the playwright recalled.


"I found myself on the platform with fox hunters, tame stage hunters, men and women whose calendar was divided, not by pay days and quarter days, but by seasons for killing animals for sport: the fox, the hare, the otter, the partridge and the rest having each appointed date for slaughter." When he spoke against animal exploitation broadly, rather than vivisection specifically, he found himself unwelcome at the gathering.

Regrettably, it appears that in his later years, like too many of those on the left, Shaw was duped into supporting an increasingly-tyrannical Soviet Russia. For instance, speaking of Joseph Stalin, who Shaw apparently met in person, the playwright said, "I have spent nearly three hours in Stalin's presence and observed him with keen curiosity, and I find it just as hard to believe that he is a vulgar gangster as that [Leon] Trotsky is an assassin." The anti-Stalinist socialist George Orwell claimed to see an authoritarian thread running through Shaw's writing. "No one has ever pointed out the sadistic and masochistic element in Bernard Shaw's work," Orwell said, "still less suggested that this probably has some connection to Shaw's admiration for dictators."




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