Joan Roelofs ponders life, after reading Henrik Wahren’s fan letter to Jeff J. Brown: a web of hope and humanity in a world on fire.

Joan has graced China Rising Sinoland with her books and her great thoughts,


Here is Henrik Wahren's orginal letter,

Your fan letter from Henrik Wahren prompted many thoughts. I was on the editorial board of Capitalism, Nature, Socialism. The meetings, with a great group of interdisciplinary editors, were intellectually stimulating and very pleasant (unlike some other journals). CNS was initiated by Marxists seeking to incorporate an ecological emphasis into Marxism. Levins and Lewontin were associated, although I didn't see them at the Boston meetings.

I was brought onto CNS as a Fourierist. Chinese intentions to create an ecological civilization were revealed in CNS articles by Chinese authors.

I was invited to contribute to Chinese journals. Two were published in International Critical Thought and one in World Review of Political Economy.

“Alexandra Kollontai” International Critical Thought 8:1 (2018) 166-175.

“Fourier and Agriculture.” World Review of Political Economy. Journal of the World Association for Political Economy

6:3 (2015).

“What Is Political Science and What Should It Be?” International Critical Thought 5:3 (2015) 348-361.

I am an eclectic ecosocialist, so I am not bound head and foot to Fourier. However, he had some fine ideas that have been unduly neglected. These include the education of children, and the premise that you can’t have democracy, and certainly not socialism, if there is a class of people who must spend their entire working lives in menial, boring, or physically taxing work.

This is all the more relevant today, as progress has reduced the population of voluntary drudges, and we must desperately find (often import) desperate people to engage in unpopular work. Fourier’s solution was that everyone must do a share of this work, and unnecessary destructive, hazardous or boring work must be eliminated, especially war. A diet based on market gardening would be pleasant work (as gardening is one of the world’s favorite hobbies), and save land, resources, and onerous labor. Fourier was also a radically feminist socialist. Some examples of typical Marxist attitudes toward women appear in Vivian Gornick's The Romance of American Communism.

John Bellamy Foster and I had a famous debate at the Socialist Scholars Conference (1998) about whether Marxism was ecological. It was famous because Stephen Jay Gould was supposed to be on the panel, so the audience was huge. He didn't show up—probably because of illness. I argued that although one could find ecological ideas in Marx and Engels' writings, Western Marxist movements had not been much concerned with ecology—or feminism and imperialism. Insofar as Marx and Engels had advocated proletarians controlling the means of production, they envisioned those to be the globalized industries—like Engels' factories, only without children.

Joan Roelofs to Jeff Brown 2/25/2024

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