Politics & Policy

Comrade Lysenko in Copenhagen

How Stalin's favorite scientist paved the way for today's global-warming enthusiasts.

As the illustrious conclave of global-warming true believers, led by Pres. Barack Obama, gathers in Copenhagen for yet another exercise in environmental doom and gloom, observing the proceedings with the sly smirk of somebody who’s “been there, done that” is likely to be the ghost of one Trofim Denisovich Lysenko. No ordinary ghost he: Comrade Lysenko was Stalin’s favorite scientist for decades and the driving force behind the greatest scientific fraud in history prior to anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Indeed, to fully understand the nature, magnitude, and implications of the AGW scam, it’s worthwhile to revisit Academician Lysenko’s exploits.

The 1950 edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, the arbiter and repository of all politically correct Communist knowledge, had the following entry under genetics: “Soviet scientists under the leadership of Academician Lysenko proved scientifically that genes do not exist in nature.” Having Mendelian genetics outlawed on the grounds that it was not a science was probably Lysenko’s crowning achievement.

A self-taught agronomist, Lysenko early on jumped aboard the Stalinist bandwagon and developed a number of agricultural ideas — ideas that rejected all established science as “bourgeois” and therefore “counter-revolutionary,” an approach similar to the Nazis’ assault on “Jewish mathematics.” Included were promises to dramatically raise grain yields through the practice of something called “vernalization,” change the climate of Siberia by planting trees, and make wheat plants produce rye, among others. To push these ideas, Lysenko called his opponents “wreckers” and the mere discussion of his theories “political sabotage.”

#ad#Invariably these “saboteurs” lost their jobs (if they were lucky) or landed in the Gulag. Today’s global-warming “deniers” would easily recognize all these tactics minus the Gulag. The U.K.’s energy and climate-change secretary, Ed Miliband, recently even referred to AGW skeptics as “saboteurs.” Some of our latter-day Lysenkos have called for legal prosecution of skeptics.

Despite a well-known record of bogus research, experiment falsification, and faked results, and with Stalin’s blessing, Lysenko and Lysenkoism ruled Soviet agricultural science for three decades with dismal consequences for agriculture and the country at large. While pre-Lysenko Russia was known as the granary of Europe, the Soviet Union was never able to feed its population and relied on huge grain imports until its demise.

Why was this charlatan tolerated for years even after Stalin’s death? The answer to that is simple. Lysenko may have been a fraud as a scientist, but he was a Communist scientist par excellence. Communist ideology, just like Nazi ideology, required strict obedience to partisanship in all realms, and science was not an exception.

And here Lysenko’s contribution was impressive. By denying genetics and propounding the idea that acquired characteristics are inheritable, he provided the “scientific” underpinning of Marx’s theory that after a few generations of Communist dictatorship, a new selfless and docile Communist man — a perfect ant in an anthill — would emerge.

It is here that Lysenkoism’s resemblance to AGW is most striking. Just as the former was only tangentially concerned with agriculture, the latter is only tangentially concerned with climate. Like many previous campaigns against imaginary evils (such as acid rain, overpopulation, urban sprawl, etc.), its real targets are capitalism and individual rights. Its solution is the unrestricted primacy of government over the citizen and of collectivism over individual rights.

The objective is the age-old socialist dream of the Left under a new and more benign guise. This new direction was best framed by the American academic socialist Robert Heilbroner after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Lamenting the fall of Communism and the socialist economic model, he urged his fellow leftists to use the ecological movement to impose socialism and central planning. This has proven to be sound advice, and today radical environmentalism has become the ramming rod of the anti-capitalist Left and a vastly more effective instrument for undermining markets and free societies than socialist ideology ever was.

Man-made climate change has become for its supporters what Lysenko’s theory of heredity was for the Stalinists. For the small international cabal of top AGW functionaries, it isn’t about climate — and it’s about more than money, power, and prestige (though, with the connivance of sycophantic Western governments and U.N. bureaucrats, there is plenty of that too). It is about ideology, in the name of which at least some of them were perfectly prepared to dissemble, falsify records, and destroy others’ careers. And their pseudo-scientific edifice, built with much underhanded effort over the years, will not go down without a fight, as Copenhagen’s confab will undoubtedly prove. For the AGW zealots in government and academia know well that the unraveling of the global-warming scam may well be the beginning of the end of radical environmentalism as the most promising means to destroy the hated free-enterprise system.

Consider, for a minute, how closely the various ongoing assaults on capitalism in the United States depend on AGW. The minute it is proven conclusively to be a fabrication, the rationale for government takeover of the energy sector via cap-and-trade disappears, as does the raison d’être for taxpayer-subsidized renewable-energy fantasies or the efforts to undermine Americans’ property rights through “smart growth” land-use restrictions. Or think of the likely impact of proven malfeasance by the AGW mandarins on their allies in U.S. government agencies, like EPA and NASA, whose regulatory proposals and policy recommendations have relied so heavily on the IPCC’s forged consensus. They are already circling the wagons and, given the support of the Obama administration and the mainstream media, it is premature to write the mandarins off quite yet.

Nonetheless, what looked like an impregnable AGW fortress a while ago has been breached and appears shaken and vulnerable, and Copenhagen will not change that. With China and India not willing to join in the global-warming demagoguery of the West, no agreement worth the paper it’s written on is likely to come out of it. In the meantime, with new Climategate investigations, FOIA requests galore, and almost daily revelations of the disingenuous shenanigans of the environmental zealots and their government supporters, it no longer looks outlandish to imagine the AGW scam and Comrade Lysenko put to rest once and for all.

– Alex Alexiev is a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.

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