The scientific discoveries of English primatologist Jane Goodall overturned bourgeois-materialist zoology. Beginning her academic career as secretary and protege of anthropologist Louis Leaky, she was able to observe, through innovative new methods of field observation, what the bourgeois-materialist scientists could not. By forming long-terms bonds with the chimpanzees of Gombe Stream National Park in British-occupied Tanzania, Goodall was the first scientist to observe tool-making in animals outside the human species. (In response to this discovery, Leaky was said to have remarked “We must now redefine man, redefine tool, or accept chimpanzees as human!”) More importantly, she observed outward displays of emotion and camaraderie (such as kissing, hugging, mourning) among the apes which challenged the erroneous bourgeois-materialist belief that higher animals are mechanical and instinctual beings with no emotional bond or individual personality.
A New York Times article from 2007 illustrates the importance of Goodall’s work, and the advances in this important scientific field since then;
“‘Fifty years ago, we knew next to nothing about chimpanzees,’ said Andrew Whiten, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. ‘You could not have predicted the richness and complexity of chimp culture that we know now.’ … Tetsuro Matsuzawa, a Kyoto primatologist, described a young chimp watching as numbers 1 through 9 flashed on the computer screen at random positions. Then the numbers disappeared in no more than a second. White squares remained where the numbers had been. The chimp casually but swiftly pressed the squares, calling back the numbers in ascending order — 1, 2, 3, etc. The test was repeated several times, with the numbers and squares in different places. The chimp, which had months of training accompanied by promised food rewards, almost never failed to remember where the numbers had been. The video included scenes of a human failing the test, seldom recalling more than one or two numbers, if any. ‘Humans can’t do it,’ Dr. Matsuzawa said. ‘Chimpanzees are superior to humans in this task.’ Dr. Matsuzawa suggested that early human species ‘lost the immediate memory and, in return, learned symbolization, the language skills.’ ‘I call this the trade-off theory,’ he continued. ‘If you want a capability like better immediate memory, you have to lose some other capability.’ Other experiments at Kyoto’s primate center demonstrated the ability of chimps to recognize themselves and focus attention on others. Masaki Tomonaga, who conducted the tests, said that an infant made eye contact with its mother at about 2 months and that sometime after the first year was able to maintain a gaze as the mother moved about. Dr. Tomonaga said such ‘gaze following’ developed in humans about the same age, ‘though infant humans generally have more complex interactions.’ (“Almost Human, and Sometimes Smarter”, April 2007)
Goodall’s discoveries confirm the principles of dialectical materialism. Goodall’s firsthand observations of humanity’s distant cousin, the chimpanzee, affirm Engels’ observation about the first qualitative leap in human evolution:
“The first operations for which our ancestors gradually learned to adapt their hands during the many thousands of years of transition from ape to man could have been only very simple ones…Before the first flint could be fashioned into a knife by human hands, a period of time probably elapsed in comparison with which the historical period known to us appears insignificant. But the decisive step had been taken, the hand had become free and could henceforth attain ever greater dexterity; the greater flexibility thus acquired was inherited and increased from generation to generation….Thus the hand is not only the organ of labour, it is also the product of labour…the development of labour necessarily helped to bring the members of society closer together by increasing cases of mutual support and joint activity, and by making clear the advantage of this joint activity to each individual.” (“The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man”)
“In its natural state, no animal feels handicapped by its inability to speak or to understand human speech. It is quite different when it has been tamed by man. The dog and the horse, by association with man, have developed such a good ear for articulate speech that they easily learn to understand any language within their range of concept. Moreover they have acquired the capacity for feelings such as affection for man, gratitude, etc., which were previously foreign to them. Anyone who has had much to do with such animals will hardly be able to escape the conviction that in many cases they now feel their inability to speak as a defect, although, unfortunately, it is one that can no longer be remedied because their vocal organs are too specialised in a definite direction. However, where vocal organs exist, within certain limits even this inability disappears. The buccal organs of birds are as different from those of man as they can be, yet birds are the only animals that can learn to speak; and it is the bird with the most hideous voice, the parrot, that speaks best of all. Let no one object that the parrot does not understand what it says. It is true that for the sheer pleasure of talking and associating with human beings, the parrot will chatter for hours at a stretch, continually repeating its whole vocabulary. But within the limits of its range of concepts it can also learn to understand what it is saying. Teach a parrot swear words in such a way that it gets an idea of their meaning (one of the great amusements of sailors returning from the tropics); tease it and you will soon discover that it knows how to use its swear words just as correctly as a Berlin costermonger.” (ibid)
“It is hardly needful to say that those mammals, which stand at the very top of the animal world and most approach man by their structure and intelligence, are eminently sociable. evidently we must be prepared to meet with all varieties of character and habits in so great a division of the animal kingdom which includes hundreds of species. But, all things considered, it must be said that sociability, action in common, mutual protection, and a high development of those feelings which are the necessary outcome of social life, are characteristic of most monkeys and apes. From the smallest species to the biggest ones, sociability is a rule to which we know but a few exceptions.” – Kropotkin, “Mutual Aid”
But it is not only humanity’s relationship to the higher animals that is important but also the entire sum of life on the planet: Vladimir Vernadsky, the Soviet naturalist who popularized the phrase “biosphere”, once wrote:
“In the thick of life today, intense and complex as it is, a person practically forgets that he, and all of mankind, from which he is inseparable, are inseparably connected with the biosphere … it is customary to talk about man as an individual who moves freely about our planet, and freely constructs his own history. Hitherto neither historians, scientists in the humanities, nor, to a certain extent, even biologists have consciously taken into account the laws of the nature of the biosphere—the envelope of Earth, which is the only place where life can exist. Man is elementally indivisible from the biosphere. And this inseparability is only now beginning to become precisely clear to us. In reality, no living organism exists in a free state on Earth. All of these organisms are inseparably and continuously connected—first and foremost by feeding and breathing—with their material-energetic environment.” (The Biosphere and the Noösphere, 1943)
When can use Vernadsky’s scientific breakthrough to illustrate that we owe all of our modern ecological thinking to the great socialist revolution of 1917 – and to the science of socialism. Vernadsky’s theories were not an idealist departure from Marxist dogma, but affirm Marx’s and Engels’ own, avant-garde writings on ecological issues:
“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human conquest over nature. For each such conquest takes its revenge on us. Each of them, it is true, has in the first place the consequences on which we counted, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel out the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor, and elsewhere, destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that they were laying the basis for the present devastated condition of these countries, by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture. When, on the southern slopes of the mountains, the Italians of the Alps used up the pine forests so carefully cherished on the northern slopes, they had no inkling that by doing so they were cutting at the roots of the dairy industry in their region; they had still less inkling that they were thereby depriving their mountain springs of water for the greater part of the year, with the effect that these would be able to pour still more furious flood torrents on the plains during the rainy seasons. Those who spread the potato in Europe were not aware that they were at the same time spreading the disease of scrofula. Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature—but that we, with flesh, blood, and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other beings of being able to know and correctly apply its laws.” – Engels, the Dialectics of Nature
“[Capital] disturbs the metabolic interaction between man and the earth, i.e. it prevents the return to the soil of its constituent elements consumed by man in the form of food and clothing; hence it hinders the operation of the eternal natural condition for the lasting fertility of the soil…But by destroying the circumstances surrounding that metabolism…it compels its systematic restoration as a regulative law of social production, and in a form adequate to the full development of the human race…All progress in capitalist agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the worker, but of robbing the soil; all progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time is a progress toward ruining the more long-lasting sources of that fertility…Capitalist production, therefore, only develops the techniques and the degree of combination of the social process of production by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the worker.” – Marx, Capital, vol. 1
“Freedom in this sphere [the realm of natural necessity] can consist only in this, that socialized man, the associated producers, govern the human metabolism with nature in a rational way, bringing it under their own collective control instead of being dominated by it as a blind power; accomplishing it with the least expenditure of energy and in conditions most worthy and appropriate for their human nature” – Marx, Capital vol. 3
However, Goodall, like many members of the bourgeois intelligentsia, (such as Darwin before her) cannot on an individual level fully comprehend the socio-historical ramifications of her contributions to the wealth of human knowledge. This is why the Jane Goodall Institute has partnered in promoting the film “Disney’s Chimpanzee”, which was released on Earth Day to exploit the people’s love of chimpanzees and wild animals to promote philistine sentimentalism and bourgeois environmentalism.
The film, purporting to be a nature documentary, clips together non-sequential and unrelated footage of wild chimp activity and splices it with the inane voice-over bumblings of bourgeois comedian Tim Allen to tell a saccharine story of a baby chimp named Oscar and his dramatic escapades against a rival chimp gang. (One film review from the Washington Post says “One wonders whether more than a few viewers won’t want to take home a baby chimp after seeing the film.”) This is a technique that Disney has employed before in their “True Life Adventures” educational-television series and the fictional plot of “Disney’s Chimpanzee” bears a striking similarity to the plot of their classic 1994 animation “The Lion King”.
Anthropomorphic animals are a staple of Disney propaganda cartoons, but this obviously has nothing to do with a dialectical materialist appreciation of the biosphere or animal life. For example, the ideological moral of “Bambi” is that humans ultimately spoil the pristine, idyllic wilderness and thus the division between humanity and nature is something to be cherished and preserved. We can observe similar nature-themes running throughout the pathologically misogynistic and white-supremacist undertones of Disney films; The Pastoral Symphony piece in “Fantasia” depicts blonde, Aryan centaurs having their hooves polished by a sub-human Afrikan womyn slave zebra-centaur; (illustrating perfectly that Beethoven’s music was highly progressive in its historical era but has its fair share of reactionary admirers today) thus we are given a false image of static, romantic nature in which human systems of exploitation are fixed and part of the natural order of the world. In “Dumbo” the crows are personified as New Afrikans, in “Song of the South”, the simple-minded New Afrikan share-cropper Uncle Remus is able to speak and sing to birds, much like the simple-minded virgin Snow White in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”, who is seduced by a menopausal “witch” brandishing the apple of knowlege. While Disney children’s propaganda has gotten more subtle and sophisticated over the years, reactionary pseudo-environmental themes (along with the misogyny and white supremacy of course) have persisted; this can be seen in “The Jungle Book”, “Robin Hood”, “The Fox and the Hound”, “The Little Mermaid”, “The Lion King”, “Pocahontas”, “Tarzan”, “Brother Bear”, and so on.
If Disney had any interest in creating a socially realistic portrayal of the existential threats facing our chimpanzee cousins, we would have a film depicting the logging industry, bushmeat industry, and exotic pet industry as the primary antagonists. More and more of the chimpanzee’s natural habitat is destroyed by deforestation; mother chimpanzees are killed and the children (as cute as Oscar) abducted to sell as exotic pets to the global bourgeoisie; poachers kill chimpanzees and sell their meat to desperate workers pushed into a state of extreme starvation and malnutrition by the shackles of capitalism. (This says everything that needs to be said about the horrors of colonialism: violently placed into extreme hunger and desperation, the workers of Africa are forced to consume the flesh of humanity’s closest living relative to survive.) A November 2001 Guardian article points out, chimpanzees, despite their similarities to humans, are more resilient to HIV and may hold the key to a cure; the potential extinction of chimpanzees would close a door on new innovations in genetic sequencing.
But Disney’s purpose in life is not to cure humanity’s ailments, but to intensify them, to exploit the masses for imperialist super-profits. This is why Donald Duck cartoons were distributed in Chile during the seventies depicting Marx and Hegel as vultures. (Like the lazy crows in “Dumbo”) This is why factory-workers in China, as young as 14, are working 120 hours of overtime a month, inhaling toxic fumes, and being denied medical treatment by their managers for assembly-line accidents, are manufacturing Disney merchandise to sell in the west. This is why womyn employed for minimum wage at Disney World can be fired for having shaved heads, tattoos, or sleeveless tops with shoulder straps narrower than three inches.
The masses in the ever-expanding metropolitan world are conditioned to a life somewhat alienated from the biosphere, with detrimental psychological effects, they can only find solace in watching the filmed antics of exotic animals that are being exterminated in the wild by the same capitalist system that deprives said masses of direct contact with the ecology. Luckily Earth Day is not just any other holiday; it is also Lenin’s birthday, and Earth Day began as a celebration among the revolutionary workers’ and students’ struggles in the US circa 1969-70, around the same time as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of socialist China which, despite its limitations, (and eventual defeat at the hands of capitalists within the party) pioneered the way forward in regards to an ecologically sane attempt to transition from socialism to communism. We look forward to a time when our grandchildren all across the world, freed from toil, can walk the sprawling metropolitan herb gardens of the future and see chimpanzees and other majestic animals at work and play, and sit and study our species’ past, up close, like Goodall once did.