Goldsmith and his Gaian hierarchy

For some 30 years now the British millionaire Goldsmith has been promoting the same totalitarian ecological worldview. Dozens of Western European organisations on ecology, indigenous peoples, biotechnology, nuclear energy and "globalisation", have nevertheless cherished their good contacts with him. Five years ago Goldsmith became active in New Right circles, among the intellectuals who want to renew their extreme-right ideology. There, Goldsmith's writings have become compulsory by now. Just like Goldsmith, they want to "restore the natural social order" and the "traditional relations between people".

Confronted with Goldsmith's extreme Right activities, some of his Left wing contacts in the Netherlands said the millionaire had become "old and senile". However, Goldsmith wrote his hunderds of articles and books from the same, very consistent New Right point of view. His choise to also work together with fascists is a logical consequence to his thinking.

The model of the general Basic to all of Goldsmith's work is his fascistoid longing for a "stable society". That would have to be organized according to "the natural laws of Gaia", or "Mother Earth". To Goldsmith there exists but "a single order" and "a single set of laws, whose generalities apply equally well to biological organisms, vernacular societies and ecosystems and to Gaia herself." Of which the most important law is "that a natural system is organized hierarchically", writes Goldsmith. This law should also be central for society: "All behaviour, including the evolutionary process itself, must be controlled with the aid of a dynamic model analogous to that used by the general".

Goldsmith says he gets his inspiration "from the world-view of vernacular societies". "By seeing his body, his house and his settlement as reflecting the same critical order, which is also that of his society of the natural world and of the cosmos itself, it becomes clear to vernacular man that his life is subject to the same single law that governs the cosmic hierarchy." The millionaire regrets the "progress" by which this knowledge is getting lost, because "traditional man" knew very well "that the world is hierarchically organized" European medieval and feudal times also inspire Goldsmith. The "stable society" at that time was governed, according to Goldsmith, by the "natural principle" of "hierarchical mutualism". That almost all people were enslaved at the time, doesn't bother him. "Medieval serfs were bound to their land, but their relationship to their lord was one of mutual obligations rather than of sheer economic expediency, and in exchange they normally had security of tenure." So, also nobility had their obligations, the millionaire assures us, "noblesse oblige". The feudal system was following the "generalized natural law", that says that "the relationship between things and beings at different echelons in the hierarchy of the cosmos is not symmetrical. Vital power flows downwards to vitalize and hence sanctify things and beings at the lower echelons, though it will only do so if the latter fulfil their obligations towards the higher echelons and hence towards the cosmos a a whole."

Abhorring unnatural colours Now and again Goldsmith quotes the anarchist Kropotkin. At the beginning of the century he said: "Nature is the first ethical teacher of man". Just like Goldsmith Kropotkin also tried to extract his political ideals from nature. His books, with beautiful titles like "mutual aid", inspired millions of anarchists all over the world. But, fascist or anarchist, it cannot be liberating for an ideologist to project his political ideals and analysis on "nature" trying to win political arguments, and aquire power.

One can probably find analogies in nature to every type of human society and behaviour. So this type of argument proves nothing. But it does promote analysing the world using nonsense dualities like between "the natural" and "the artificial". Goldsmiths trick is to simply attach eco-labels saying "natural" or "natural law" to his extreme Right preferences. He is very honest about that: "There is no reason to suppose that ecological knowledge - in its different variants - is any more objective, less value-laden or less purposeful. It is, or should be, designed purposefully to rationalize the world-view of ecology and the associated ecological society geared as it must be to maintaining the critical order of the cosmos." The ecologist Goldsmith doesn't only think about the destruction of nature.

He writes about almost every part of society. According to him the same laws apply to "all natural systems, such as the family, the community and the eciological system". Sometimes he draws conclusions from his analysis which - on first sight - seem liberating to society. For example, he argues against nuclear energy and the bio-industries, and also wants to take medical science out of the hands of capitalism. This might explain why some people on the Left do not recognize Goldsmith as the New Right ideologist he is. Most of the time however, his conclusions and recommendations for a new society are very clearly extreme Right. In some cases, he seems afraid to openly draw the inescapable extreme Right conclusion from his own reasoning, and leaves it the reader to conclude.

His rapidly growing following in extreme Right circles do not really need more than that. They know where Goldsmith is heading. For example, they probably immediately start dreaming of the nazi-culture ministry during World War 2, when Goldsmith writes that "a Gothic cathedral, for instance, is beautiful; for its vault is that of the forest, its pillars the forest trees. On the other hand, we abhor what is foreign to nature: unnatural colours, the straight lines of modern buildings." It is not accidental that Goldsmith recently spoke on a New Right congress, entitled: "How can we survive decadence?"

The elimination of mutations

"Natural systems are not geared to change but towards the avoidance of change. Change occurs, not because it is desirable per se, but because in certain conditions, it is judged to be necessary, as a means of preventing predictably larger and more disruptive changes. This must be true of social evolution as well as biological evolution." Goldsmith's "stable society" is clearly geared against the Left-revolutionary politics of a combined anti-capitalism, anti-racism and anti-patriarchal struggle. "Nature" has even told Goldsmith that "persistant conflicts" should not be allowed.

Goldsmith does not want to end capitalism, but wants to "try to come to a series of losely knit economies, geared to the local community, and led by smaller firms, which foremost, although not exclusively, produce for the local or regional market". Alternative money systems like LETS can therefore count on his support. But, a young Belgian nazi once asked him, "do you really think that your ideas can be realized within these crowded peoples?" Goldsmith: "To be honest, no. However, I fear that we will be speaking of much smaller populations." Afther which he started to explain that the current "overpopulation" will be reduced by "epidemics" and other natural desasters. Whether the millionaire will be sad about that remains a question. However, he did once write that "humanity is a parasite".

Goldsmith often uses the words "population explosion". He probably took the idea from the racist population professor Paul Ehrlich, his old friend, who got world wide fame with his book "The Population Explosion". In the beginning of the 70's Goldsmith paid for the translation of the book in Dutch.

When his "stable society" is finally realized, Goldsmith thinks "forces" should be developped, that keep the population stable, just like the "forces that keep the bodytemperature stable". A "council of men" could operate "population control" by some system of "licensing marriage" for young men. And women can still always become a nun. The Afghan Taliban are going to be jaleous. In Goldsmith brave new world also "asocialized and delinquent inhabitants of urban slums" will not be tolerated anymore.

"Social abberations" will be disposed of. Who is included in this category remains still unclear, but "a society, by means of its specific cultural pattern, is capable of maintaining itself on its path by correcting any diversions from it." Just like in nature, where "once mutations do occur, special mechanisms, that are perfected during the course of evolution, exist for assuring their elimination." Frightning? "But what is so special about the individual organism?", Goldsmith asks rhetorically.

Excluding foreign bodies

Goldsmith's small societies will "in essence be exclusive". "Indeed, one cannot build a community with thousands of people", the millionaire admits willingly. "It is not surprising that systems which are sufficiently differentiated, such as biological organisms and societies, will tend to develop mechanisms that will enable them to exclude foreign bodies likely to menace their integrity. At the biological level, such devices are known as rejection mechanisms. Experience with organ transplants was revealed that to suppress these mechanisms is to increase one hundredfold the patient's susceptibility to cancer, i.e. to the anarchic proliferation of cells. Mechanisms of this kind are essential at all levels of organization.

Of the 3,000 simple societies so far examined by anthropologists, all appear to have laws of exogamy and endogamy. Marriage is forbidden within a restricted family circle, but also ouside the cultural group, the object being to avoid cultural hybridization and hence the production of sub-systems that are differentiated parts neither of one system nor of another. What is today regarded as prejudice against people of different ethnic groups is a normal and necessary feature of human cultural behaviour, and is absent only among members of a cultural system already far along the road to disintegration. The notion of the universal brotherhood of man is therefore totally incompatible with the systemic approach to human cultural systems. It is as absurd as the notion that the cells, making up a vast number of different biological organisms, can be shuffled and still give rise to viable biological systems. Industrial countries tend to develop labour shortages and to import labour from elsewhere. In this way quite large ethnic minorities are being built up in many countries. In addition, economic development is tending towards the development of ever-larger political units, which often embrace ethnic groups with little in common with each other. All this is creating a very unstable situation, one which can only lead to civil wars and to the massacre of minorities singled out as scapegoats when inevitable economic and social crises occur." Says Goldsmith, in his typical way reasoning.

Apartheid and forced migration

Goldsmith usually writes about political conflicts as if they are "natural" or "ethnic" problems. He says that "different ethnic groups" cannot live together in one country. "The only way to do this is for the different national groups to be allowed to develop seperately". Goldsmith believes for example, that Rwanda's Tutsi's and Hutu's "should quite clearly be separated". Except for apartheid, Goldsmith also considers forced migration a solution. He admires Ataturk, who "separated Greeks and Turks very succesfully, although there was a terrible outcry at the time and it undoubtedly caused considerable inconvenience to the people who were forced to migrate. But should we not be willing to accept measures of inconvenience in order to establish a stable society?" "Practically all the European states of today are artificial creations made up of nations whose seperate identity is largely ignored", Goldsmith writes. He thinks that peace will only be possible in Europe once its "territory were split up into its natural ecological and ethnic regions".

The nationalists in former Yugoslavia have already started this grand project. "In Europe, people are now slowly beginning to see the light. In Belgium for instance, a new project is being studied to devide the country into four regions, one Walloon, one Flemish, one German and one composed of the ethnically mixed population of Brussels." By claiming that Flemish and Walloon people constitute different biological "ethnics", Goldsmith positions himself even more to the right than the extreme Right Vlaams Blok.

But for Goldsmith, nothing goes too far. He also considers the Northern Irish catholics and protestants as "two distict ethnic groups, of different origin, with different manners and traditions and different motivations and capacities". Was Goldsmith thinking of Ataturk when he concluded that "the only remaining solution is to seperate them territorially"?

More statues of religious leaders

To Goldsmith the family is, just like the small community, a "fundamental, we might even say just as natural unit of social organisation". Everybody should "naturally" be at home within "a family, within which the mother is the most essential member." Goldsmith: "A mother looks after her children; a father provides for his wife and also helps bring up the children." Single mothers are "far removed from the norm", and Goldsmith even considers male extramarital relationships bad for the "Gaian hierarchy".

According to him, women have "a very important rôle, in the social cohesion, as well as from the viewpoint of the conservation of the natural environment. They haven't got machismo and competitiveness, those typical male traits. You know, one should accept the differences between man and woman, just like the differences between ethnics and cultures". Goldsmith doesn't feel much for feminism. Goldsmith's political project is not based on science or rationality. "I do not believe in a society based on reason or the contract", he says. On this issue he agreeingly quotes Alexis Carrel: "Scientific civilisation has destroyed the soul of the world". Already in 1935, Carrel called for euthanasia institutes, in which "anti-social people" could be eliminated using "appropiate gases". This ideologist got a high position in fascist Vichy-France. Nowadays National Front leader Le Pen sees Carrel as a guide to social and political thought and tries to rehabilitate the man and his ideas. By quoting Carrel positively, Goldsmith is assisting Le Pen.

Inhabitants of Goldsmith's future "stable society" will not be influenced rationally, but rather more religiously and "emotionally motivated". "It is only within the context of a cosmic or ecological religion that people can be made to realise that the destruction of God's creation is a sin." In this way Goldsmith want to turn everyone into a sinner, in the hands of a totalitarian religion. For every living being will inescapably destroy little pieces of nature. The new man will get to fill his time with "ritual activities", so that "everyone is properly imbued with the worldview" and "mythology" of society. And to get us proud of our own community again, Goldsmith wants to fill all squares up with statues of religious and other leaders.


- Goldsmith, De ecologische krisis, oorzaak en aanpak, 1970. In: The Ecologist 1. (Dutch translation in: TeKoS 85, 1997.)
- Goldsmith, Basic principles of cultural ecology, 1971. In: The Ecologist 5.
- Goldsmith, Limits of Growth in Natural Systems, 1971. In: Goldsmith (ed.), Can Britain Survive?, 1971.
- Goldsmith, Ethnocracy: The lesson from Africa, 1980. In: The Ecologist 4.
- Goldsmith, The Way, 1996.
- Ullrich Melle, Verscheidenheid, verbondenheid en zelfverwerkelijking, 1996. In: Voeten in de Aarde, Janssens en Melle, 1996.
- Goldsmith, Letter to George Monbiot and others, 1997.
- Goldsmith, Tegen de "vooruitgang": gezin gemeenschap, demokratie, 1997. In: Pauwels (ed.), Hoe overleven we de dekadentie?, 1997.
- Goldsmith, Ultimate freedom, 1998. In: Fourth World Review 92.
- Van den Broele, Collier, Edward Goldsmith: menselijk, al te menselijk?, 1998. In: Vrijbuiter, spring 1998.
- Goldsmith, Letter to Silence, 1999.
- Paul Gimeno, Een interview met Goldsmith. In: Oikos 3.
- Krebbers, Millionaire Goldsmith supports the Left and the extreme Right, August 1999.

Eric Krebbers
De Fabel van de illegaal
September 1999

Some editing of the English translation by Alain Kessi

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Last updated 1999-11-17