The German group Marxismus und Tierbefreiung (Alliance for Marxism & Animal Liberation) has just published a statement called For Class Struggle and Animal Liberation – out for May 1st. It’s an interesting attempt to build bridges between libertarian Marxism and animal liberation – something rarely attempted and is well worth a read.
Precarious jobs for miserable wages, imperialist wars and the destruction of nature, racist agitation against refugees and migrants, the enduring exploitation of women: These constitute the balance sheet of the class struggle from above, something which is growing ever more extreme under the domination of the capitalist neoliberal offensive. At the same time animals are tortured and killed on a mass scale for profit.
However, those leftists who take to the streets on the first of May, the day of struggle of the working class, and also do so with animal liberation in mind, attract some doubly suspicious looks. On the one hand, the anti-capitalist left doesn’t know where to begin as far as animal liberation is concerned, and the animal liberation movement doesn’t fight against wage slavery on the other. Yet both have a common enemy which they should also collectively oppose: Capital.
Worker, Nature and Animals: Exploited, Destroyed and Killed for Profit
In Europe alone, hundreds of millions of animals – individuals capable of suffering – are bred and fattened in order to produce milk under duress or to be killed in slaughterhouses. They are brutally tortured in experiments as part of the pharmaceutical industry, killed for their leather or fur in the garment industry and in zoos and circuses are regularly tormented for public entertainment.
The meat industry is wasteful of resources and is responsible for a large part of the CO2 emissions leading to climate change. It poisons the land as well as water sources and destroys the existential conditions for countless numbers of people on the peripheries of the capitalist world system through the cheap exports of meat waste products which are unsaleable in Europe.
Despite all of this, the magnates of the oligopoly that is the meat industry present themselves as entrepreneurs acting sustainably – something utterly laughable and not simply for reasons of killing animals and destroying nature alone: It is also the case that the situation for those workers dependent on its wages could hardly be worse. It is predominantly migrants who, under precarious working conditions and often dubious employment, perform the hardest work for starvation wages – trade union organisation is fought against in many places. Briefly put: The animal industry exemplifies the exploitation of humans, animals and the destruction of nature by capital like no other.
No Animal Liberation without Class Struggle
Thus, the immense increase in animal suffering is not, as some animal liberationists would maintain, brought about due to dismissive sentiments about animals – speciesism in other words. It is caused because the production of sausages, cutlets and the like are highly lucrative. It is not enough to promote anti-speciesism in order to free animals. Likewise, it’s not enough to simply to oppose animal exploitation with vegan consumption. As long as there is money to be made then entrepreneurs, some of whom themselves are meat producers, will also produce vegan products. Meat production is still on the increase. Many people cannot afford the comparatively more expensive vegan food, even if they wanted to. Above all, the bourgeoisie will do everything it can to extract profits from animal exploitation as long as capitalism exists. Anyone who cannot resist will be incorporated into the capital exploitation process – neither human, animal nor nature is safe from the logic of profit.
No Class Struggle without Animal Liberation
The anti-capitalist left frequently dismisses animal liberationists as petit bourgeois moralists or as naive boycotters of consumption. While this can indeed be true in some cases, it is most often deployed as an excuse to ignore the suffering of animals and to reject the struggle for their liberation. However, for those who strive for a society without exploitation and misery there are no rational grounds to exclude animals as objects of liberation from the capitalist class society.
The revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg once wrote from prison about witnessing a buffalo being beaten by soldiers: “I stood there and the creature looked at me, tears ran down my cheeks – they were his tears, one could not have more painfully shuddered for the most beloved brother as I did in my powerlessness at this silent pain.” She correctly saw that there are no grounds to exclude animals from our sympathy and solidarity, since ultimately they share with humans an essential commonality: The ability to suffer. The revolutionary strength of her empathy acts as an applicable example: Let’s strive for a world in which exploitation, war and murder are consigned to history, in which the suffering produced by society is put to an end.
Together for a Liberated Society!
If we want to create such a liberated society then we must finish with capitalism. The class struggle must be undertaken for all of those who suffer under the dominance of capital and who are exploited for its benefit. Therefore we must also struggle for animals. We can only achieve this when all anti-capitalist forces act collectively, when revolutionary, ecological and animal liberation movements struggle together against the bourgeoisie. The first of May, the day of struggle of the proletariat and all revolutionaries, is an appropriate day to begin this cooperation in solidarity.
Let us go forward together in revolutionary and trade union demonstrations, and demand the expropriation, socialisation, and the transformation of the meat industry! Let’s struggle for a rational mode of production which is in the interest of society – for the reconciliation between humans, animals and nature.
The Alliance for Marxism and Animal Liberation