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Communism as veganism

By Percy Gauguin

Veganism and communism are both movements for the liberation of the oppressed which seek to undermine and overcome relations of domination and create a free world. Communism has developed on a very different line than veganism, although their convergence seems to be more and more apparent. Veganism — it appears — would be like the ruling class becoming self-enlightened and freeing its servants from their shackles. This is not quite true, however. Veganism as animal liberation is the recognition of animals not as animals but, instead, as fellow creatures, and in its more radical aspects, fellow persons. In the vast sea of life on our planet the non-dietary bonds between humanity and the rest of the animal kingdom are greater than we have supposed. This, incidentally, is a truth readily recognized within communist thought except concerning an ostensibly different matter. The relations of mutual aid and cooperation are always greater than those of exploitation and domination, even if these latter relations have become ascendant. It is the perpetuation of these destructive relations that has throughout time increasingly obscured the suppressed reality which cooperation yearns to fulfill. The age-old violence of power against the foundation of our being as social creatures has distorted our way of relating to ourselves. And more importantly, this violence has defined who these selves are, through the exclusionary creation of otherness.

Veganism is not recognized as a necessary complement to communism because animal subordination is not considered by many communists as one of the pillars of hierarchical civilization. Darwinism has assured the place of animals as fodder for human evolution and so to question animal consumption would be to question nature itself. But it seems appropriate to question practically everything that has come before us, in a world that has ‘evolved’ into becoming a giant landfill and factory of drudgery and horror. The future of the planet, if it is to be free, will lose more and more any semblance it has with the past. It is hard, and even reactionary, to imagine a revolution that does not turn everything down to the fleas upon its head.

Yet similarly, communism is not seen as a logical extension of veganism, which, given its radical, apparently far-fetched assumptions of the equality of all life, has easily been co-opted by the commodifying force of the market, and fallen into consumerism. The casual vegan is against animal suffering, but because of the veil imposed by capitalist ideology, systematized human suffering, that which renders to us so many of the products we use, is ignored by vegan practice. But it is clear enough to see that the food system itself is founded largely in the exploitation of cheap labor. In this way not only agriculture, but all industries benefit from the suffering of living beings. And not our consumption quite so much, but our participation in this system perpetuates this daily degradation of life.

The two liberation movements converge, but the manipulative forces of capitalism keeps them from interpenetrating to a degree that would make them inseparable. Capitalism is justified by some of its more honest apologists because of the great disparity of capacities between individuals- the washerwoman should be a washerwoman because that’s all she can be. Unfortunately, communist and anarchist carnivores justify their use and consumption of animals in a similar fashion- pigs should be food because they can’t be anything more. But the lower potential for living life — in the first case, of enjoying wealth equally, in the second, of freely experiencing the world — does not justify subordination to a class of beings that have a greater potential. It can only be justified by violence. The truth is that all animals have consciousness and the suffering and pleasure that accompanies it. Subjugating anyone or anything because this consciousness is less sophisticated, however, is clearly within the practice of domination.

Communism that converges with veganism cannot be situated among Marxist concepts such as proletarian democracy, the collective ownership of production, wage abolition, etc. because these are strictly human things. It is the principle of egalitarian living and non-exploitative and cooperative production which unites these two deceptively disparate traditions of liberation. At the fundamental level of both communism and veganism is the championing of life, and despite the ideological obfuscations which beguile them both, they are ultimately heading in the selfsame direction. Life can only evolve towards greater enjoyment of itself by entering into a greater and all-embracing harmony. When all life is honored and recognized as an intense mutuality of communion, one is both a vegan and a communist.

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