The latest issue of CounterPunch contains an article by Jeffrey St. Clair, in which he expresses his deep indignation that some people have actually dared to criticize something that appeared on his poorly edited and politically confused website. The article is mostly not very interesting, but my curiosity was piqued by the following passage in which St. Clair recounts a conversation he allegedly had with Joshua Frank:
- “Right, right. Are we Trots?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Doug Henwood just wrote that we were Edward Abbeyists.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“He didn’t mean it as a compliment.”
“What does he know? He hasn’t left his apartment in the last 12 years.”
I have never met Doug Henwood, but I feel reasonably certain that he does leave his apartment sometimes, if only to buy groceries at the very least. That’s not what concerns me here, however. What interests me is that St. Clair and Frank apparently see themselves as “Edward Abbeyists”. (The correct term is “Abbeyists”. I know, I’m nitpicking.)
Edward Abbey was an American writer and environmentalist. I remember that his writings were very popular during the 1980’s. They influenced the radical environmentalist movement of that period, as well as some anarchists. However, I don’t hear his name mentioned often nowadays. When I lived in Oregon, the anarchists I met there mostly talked about Kropotkin and Bakunin. There may be any number of reasons for this, but I suspect that one of them may be that Abbey sometimes wrote things like this:
- This being so, it occurs to some of us that perhaps evercontinuing [sic] industrial and population growth is not the true road to human happiness, that simple gross quantitative increase of this kind creates only more pain, dislocation, confusion, and misery. In which case it might be wise for us as American citizens to consider calling a halt to the mass influx of even more millions of hungry, ignorant, unskilled, and culturally-morally-genetically impoverished people. At least until we have brought our own affairs into order. Especially when these uninvited millions bring with them an alien mode of life which – let us be honest about this – is not appealing to the majority of Americans. Why not? Because we prefer democratic government, for one thing; because we still hope for an open, spacious, uncrowded, and beautiful–yes, beautiful!–society, for another. The alternative, in [sic] the squalor, cruelty, and corruption of Latin America, is plain for all to see. [Emphasis added.]
This is from an article that Abbey wrote for The New York Times. The Times, which has never been a huge defender of immigrants, refused to publish it.
How did Abbey propose to keep out these “culturally-morally-genetically impoverished” people? He tells us:
- Therefore-let us close our national borders to any further mass immigration, legal or illegal, from any source, as does every other nation on earth. The means are available, it’s a simple technical-military problem. Even our Pentagon should be able to handle it. We’ve got an army somewhere on this planet, let’s bring our soldiers home and station them where they can be of some actual and immediate benefit to the taxpayers who support them.
So, Abbey wanted to militarize the U.S.-Mexican border. Some environmentalist. Few things are more environmentally destructive than an army.
- Am I a racist? I guess I am. I certainly do not wish to live in a society dominated by blacks, or Mexicans, or Orientals. Look at Africa, at Mexico, at Asia.
One sympathetic article in The New York Times described him as as a “a melancholic naturalist who loved the land but did not care much for Indians, Hispanics or blacks.”
This melancholic naturalist is the man with whom the editors of CounterPunch politically identify.