neo-Marxist techno-utopianism and the population debate

I would not say it is uncommon to find myself more than frustrated with opinions published in the mainstream press. A piece in today’s Sydney Morning Herald by John Passant, whose blog En Passant has the byline ‘revolutionary reflection on this world of ours’ did get me riled a little. The limited writings of his I have glanced at speak of tired same-old card carrying socialist rantings that literally equate the working class with religious icons. For example, apparently working class men do not benefit from women’s oppression — what cave is he living in! His piece in the today’s SMH, first published on his blog, attacks the Australian Greens. My issue with it is his reference to those concerned about population as neo-Malthusians. His lefter than left (i.e. holier than thou) rhetoric is unsurprising, unfortunately. His anthropocentric techno-utopianism fails to transcend solidly founded critiques of 60s era neo-Marxists and numerous others (including neo-Liberals today). When will the the blinkered political left and right realise that whereas technology may save us (i.e. Humans) in some form (as well as continue to impact on our lives in multitude and unforeseen ways, not all positive), what about all the other species and ecosystems that we exist alongside?

To put it plainly, ecosystems, bioregions and this planet all have carrying capacities. Passant attacks Bob Brown, the spokesperson for the Australian Greens for referring to a figure of 35 million people as not supportable. I already think Australia’s population is beyond the carrying capacity of this continent. And this has nothing to do with neo-Malthusians ideas. Infrastructure and ‘quality of life’ are not my priorities. Our individual and collective ecological footprints already exceed what the areas in which we live can handle. On a simple level, there is not enough water. We already flush our shit out of site, and we bury our ‘waste’ in holes in the ground — waiting to become toxic cesspits. Whereas we are impacted by this, it is orders of magnitude less than the billions of others who inhabit this planet with us.

I long for the day when neo-Marxists move beyond anthropocentrism and consider ourselves part of the environment. Yet, can we really expect vanguardists to eschew hierarchy? They are unashamedly speciesist and have vehemently dismissed, based on appeals to the ‘masses’, any criticisms. Similarly, environmental concerns were not seen as a key issue only a few decades ago, rather bourgeois ideology. The same can be said of Women’s struggle a few decades prior. Environmental issues are now one of their key recruitment tools. I must add a caveat, that there are many good people in the organisation, and I would much rather they exist than not.

Can we not already move beyond the techno-utopianism that has and will continue to not provide the salvation we continue to hope it will? This is not a neo-Malthusians idea. I am not opposed to immigration. You can be critical of population growth, promote population reduction, and not be racist. In calling for population reduction we need to challenge the political elite and decision makers who first target non-white immigrants. Humanitarian immigration should be the priority. What it comes down to, is people here need to stop breeding — it is not a ‘right’ to bear child. The earth is not ours to do as we please. It is time for the neo-Marxists to smell the roses


Somewhat unrelated, the increasing cross-pollination of the blogosphere in the mainstream press has interesting connotations. It is quite rare for a piece by a card carrying socialist to be published. This begs the question, why was it? Are the Greens being seen as a threat to mainstream politics (Socialist Alliance, who Passant is a member of, could not be considered a blip in electoral politics)? What is the agenda of the SMH? Perhaps time will tell…

One thought on “neo-Marxist techno-utopianism and the population debate

  1. Let me point out I am not a member of Socialist Alliance as you incorrectly assert.

    Second you attribute to me views I do not hold. I don’t believe workers are religious icons.

    But I do for example believe that working class men don’t benefit from the oppression of working class women – the bosses on the other hand do. Perhaps we could debate the issue rather than you juts dismissing my views as self-evidently wrong – a world view that pompous middle class do gooders always adopt.

    Third you pontificate that Marxists don’t consider humans as part of the environment. We do. That is the essence of the materialist view. Humanity is part of and shapes the environment. The way we do that is determined by the way we organise production and at the moment that is through a profit driven process destroying the planet.

    Fourth you say you are not a neo-Malthusian yet the very essence of what you write is Malthusian. You say for example that there are carrying capacities. What are these? How are they determined? Was Malthus right in 1800 that we were reaching our carrying capacities then? Why now rather than 1800?

    This is environmental anti-humanism bordering on environmental racism with simplistic approaches like don’t have babies (which in my view is your message for dark skinned people.)

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