There are people who consider the population problem the most important and pressing problem, because "overpopulation" threatens us, is, in fact, already at hand. This problem in particular must be treated from an international standpoint, for the feeding and distribution of people are increasingly becoming an international issue. Since Malthus, the law of population increase has been widely disputed. In his once famous and now notorious Essay on the Principles of Population, which Karl Marx characterised as a "schoolboyish, superficial and pulpiteer piece of declamatory plagiarism from Sir James Stewart, Townsend, Franklin Wallace, etc.", and which "contains not a single original sentence", Malthus advances the view that humanity has the tendency to increase in geometrical progression (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc.), while subsistence can be increased only in arithmetical progression (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.). The inevitable result is that a rapid disproportion will emerge between the size of the population and the supply of food, which inevitably will lead to mass poverty and eventually to mass mortality. It is therefore essential to observe "abstinence" in procreation. He who does not possess sufficient means to support a family should not be allowed to marry, for otherwise there will be no place at the "table of Nature" for his descendants.
The fear of overpopulation is very old. It existed with the Greeks and Romans and again at the close of the Middle Ages. Plato and Aristotle, the Romans and the petty bourgeois of the Middle Ages were all swayed by it, and it also gripped Voltaire, who published a treatise on the subject in the first quarter of the 18th century. Other authors followed him until finally these fears found their most forcible expression in the writings of Malthus.
The fear of overpopulation always appears at periods when the existing social conditions are disintegrating. The general discontent which then flares up is ascribed primarily to the excess of people and the lack of food and not to the manner in which it is produced and distributed.
All exploitation of man by man is based on class rule. The first and principal means of class rule is the appropriation of land. Communal land gradually becomes private property. The mass is rendered propertyless and is forced to earn its portion of the means of subsistence in the service of the property owners. In such circumstances every addition to the family, or every new rival, is regarded as a burden. The spectre of overpopulation looms up, and the terror that it spreads is in direct proportion to the concentration of the land in a few hands and losses in productivity, be it because it is not cultivated sufficiently or because the best lands are turned into sheep pasture or are reserved for the pleasure of their owners as hunting grounds, and are thus no longer available for the cultivation of food. Rome and Italy were worst off for food when the land was in the hands of about 3,000 latifundists. Hence the cry: "the latifundia are ruining Rome." The land in Italy was converted into huge hunting-grounds and pleasure gardens for its noble owners, was frequently allowed to lie idle, because its cultivation by slaves was more expensive than the grain imported from Africa and Sicily, a state of affairs that opened the doors to grain profiteering, a practice in which Rome's rich nobles also played the leading role. This even came to constitute a major reason for neglecting land cultivation at home. The nobility gained more from grain profiteering than from grain cultivation on their own lands.
In these circumstances the Roman citizens and the impoverished nobles preferred to renounce marriage and the begetting of children, which all the premiums, granted for marriage and children in order to prevent the decrease of the ruling classes, were unable to prevent.
A similar phenomenon appeared towards the end of the Middle Ages, after the nobility and clergy had, in the course of centuries through all manner of intrigue and violence, robbed numerous peasants of their property and appropriated the common land. When, as a result of all the ill treatment the peasants had suffered, they revolted but their uprising was crushed, the robbery of the nobility continued on a still wider scale, and was even practised by princes who belonged to the reformed church in respect of church estates. The number of robbers, beggars and vagabonds grew larger than it had ever been before, and reached its peak shortly after the Reformation. The exproporiated peasants poured into the cities, but there, owing to the causes described above, living conditions were steadily deteriorating and, hence, "overpopulation" prevailed everywhere.
The advent of Malthus coincides with the period of English industrial development when, as a result of the inventions of Hargreaves, Arkwright and Watt, enormous changes were taking place in both mechanics and technology, which affected mainly the cotton and linen industries, and put tens of thousands of workers in the respective cottage industries out of a job. The concentration of landed property and the development of large scale industry assumed vast proportions during that period in England. As wealth rapidly increased on the one hand, mass poverty spread on the other. At such a time the ruling classes had every reason to regard the existing world as the best of all possible worlds, and to seek for so contradictory a phenomenon as the pauperisation of the masses in the midst of growing wealth and flourishing industry an explanation that would be plausible and shift the blame from them. Nothing was more convenient than to lay the blame upon the too rapid swelling of the workers' ranks as a result of procreation, instead of upon the capitalist mode of production and the accumulation of the land in the hands of the landlords which made countless workers redundant. In such circumstances the "schoolboyish, superficial and pulpiteer piece of declamatory plagiarism" that Malthus published, was an explanation of existing ills, which expressed the innermost thoughts and wishes of the ruling class, and justified them before the world. This accounts for the ecstatic approval it found in one quarter and the violent opposition in the other. Malthus came up with the right word at the right time for the English bourgeoisie and thus, although his essay "contained not a single original sentence", he became a great and celebrated figure and his name synonymous of the whole doctrine.(1)
The conditions that caused Malthus to give his alarm signal and to proclaim his harsh teachings he addressed them to the working class, thus adding insult to injury — have since spread with every passing decade. They have spread not only in Great Britain, Malthus's native land, but also in all countries with a capitalist mode of production, which gives rise to plundering of the land and the enslavement of the masses by machinery and the factory. This system divorces the worker from his means of production, whether these be land or tools, and transfers them to the capitalists. This system creates ever new branches of industry, develops and concentrates them, but it also throws ever new masses of people into the street, making them "redundant". Frequently, as in Ancient Rome, it promotes latifundia with all their attendant consequences. Ireland is the classical example in Europe being worst afflicted by the English system of land plunder. As far back as 1874, it had 12,378,244 acres of meadows and pastures but only 3,373,508 acres of arable, land, and every year the population decreases while at the same time more and more arable land is converted into meadows and pastures for sheep and cattle and hunting grounds for the landlords.(2) (In 1908 14,805,046 acres of meadows and pastures and 2,328,906 acres of arable land.) Besides, much of the arable land in Ireland is in the hands of a large number of small and very small tenants, who are not able to make the most of the land. Thus, Ireland appears to be an agricultural land becoming once more a land of pastures. At the beginning of the 19th century the population numbered over 8 million and it has since declined to about 4.3 million, and yet several million are redundant. The rebellion of the Irish against England is thus easily explained. Scotland presents a picture similar to that of Ireland with regard to landownership and cultivation of the soil.(3) A similar state of affairs is also to be found in Hungary, a country where modern progress has only made its mark in recent decades. A land, so rich in fertile soil as few in Europe, is deeply in debt, its population is impoverished and at the mercy of usurers. In despair people are emigrating en masse. But the land is concentrated in the hands of modern capitalist magnates, who barbarously exploit woods and arable land so that Hungary will in the near future cease to be a grain exporting country. A similar situation prevails in Italy. In that country, just as in Germany, the political unity of the nation has greatly promoted capitalist development, but the industrious peasants of Piedmont and Lombardy, Tuscany, Romagna and Sicily are growing ever poorer and are on the verge of ruin. Swamps are again beginning to cover the ground where several decades ago there were well tended gardens and plots belonging to small peasants. Before the gates of Rome, in what is called the Campagna, hundreds of thousands of hectares of land lie idle, an area that once numbered among the most flourishing in Ancient Rome. Swamps cover the land and give off poisonous miasma. If, with the application of the proper means, the Campagna wet a thoroughly drained and properly irrigated, the population of Rome would receive a rich source of food and enjoyment. But Italy suffers from the ambition to become a great power, it ruins the population by bad administration, by expenditure on military and maritime armaments and "colonisation", and therefore has no funds available for cultivation tasks, such as reclaiming the Campagna. Conditions similar to those in the Campagna also prevail in Southern Italy and Sicily. The latter, once the granary of Rome, sinks ever deeper into poverty; no people in the whole of Europe is as poverty stricken and maltreated as that of Sicily. The easily contented sons of Europe's most beautiful country flood half of Europe and America as wage-squeezers or else emigrate en masse from that country for ever, because they do not want to starve on their native soil, which is not their property. Malaria, that most dire of fevers, spread over Italy to such an extent that the government, alarmed at this as far back as 1882, instituted an investigation which brought to light the deplorable fact that of the 69 provinces of the land, 32 were severely afflicted by the disease, in 32 it had already gained foot, and only five had so far been spared. The disease, which was formerly to be found only in rural areas, penetrated the cities, where the crowded urban proletariat, whose numbers have multiplied as a result of the influx of the rural proletariat, forms hotbeds of infection.
From whatever angle we consider the capitalist mode of production, we are taught that the want and misery of the masses are not a consequence of an insufficiency of food and means of subsistence, but a consequence of their unequal distribution and economic mismanagement, which furnishes abundance for some and condemns others to starvation. Malthusian contentions make sense only from the standpoint of the capitalist mode of production. On the other side the capitalist system encourages the procreation of children: it needs cheap labour in the shape of children for its workshops and factories. The procreation of children becomes a matter of calculation for the proletarian they have to earn enough to be able to support themselves. The proletarian in cottage industry is even obliged to have many children for this guarantees his competitiveness. This undeniably abominable system intensifies the pauperisation of the worker and his dependence on the entrepreneur. The proletarian is compelled to work for an ever more pitiful wage. And every measure of labour protection, every additional expenditure for some social duty, which an employer is not obliged to introduce for the workers engaged in his cottage Indus prompts him to increase the number of employees in cottage industry, for that type of industry holds out advantages he will not easily find in any other form of production provided the particular production process is feasible in such conditions.
The capitalist mode of production, however, leads not only to overproduction of commodities and workers, but also the intelligentsia. Members of the intelligentsia also find it ever more difficult to find employment; supply permanently exceeds demand. Only one thing is not redundant in the capitalist world capital and its owner, the capitalist.
If bourgeois economists are followers of Malthus, this is natural in view of their bourgeois interests, only they should not extend their bourgeois whims to socialist society. John Stuart Mill writes: "...Communism is precisely the state of things in which opinion might be expected to declare itself with greatest intensity against this kind of selfish intemperance. Any augmentation of numbers which diminished the comfort or increased the toil of the mass, would then cause immediate and unmistakeable inconvenience to every individual in the association, inconvenience which could not then be imputed to the avarice of employers, or the unjust privileges of the rich. In such altered circumstances opinion could not fail to reprobate, and if reprobation did not suffice, to repress by penalties of some description, this or any other culpable self-indulgence at the expense of the community. The Communistic scheme, instead of being peculiarly open to the objection drawn from danger of overpopulation has the recommendation of tending in an especial degree to the prevention of that evil." And Professor A. Wagner says on page 376 in Rau's Manual of Political Economy: "Least of all could freedom of marriage or freedom of procreation be granted in a socialist community." The above writers proceed from the conception that the tendency towards overpopulation is common to all social conditions, but both allow that socialism is able to establish an equilibrium between the population and food supplies better than any other form of society. The latter assertion is true, while the former is not.
Indeed there were some socialists who, corrupted by Malthusian ideas, feared that the danger of overpopulation was imminent. But these socialist Malthusians have disappeared. A deeper study of the nature and essence of bourgeois society teaches them better. We also learn from the plaintive songs of our agrarian experts that we produce too much food from the viewpoint of the world market so that the resulting low prices make food production unprofitable.
Our Malthusians imagine, and the chorus of the bourgeois spokesmen echo them thoughtlessly, that the members of a socialist society in which there is freedom to choose the object of their love and an existence worthy of man is provided for all, will begin to breed like rabbits; they would succumb to the most dissolute sexual indulgence and mass procreation. The reverse is likely to happen. Up to now the largest number of children were to be found, as a rule, not in the best but the worst situated families. We may even state without being guilty of exaggeration that the more miserable the lot of a proletarian stratum, the more on average is it blessed with children, apart from occasional exceptions. This is confirmed by Virchow, who wrote in the middle of the 18th century: As the English worker in his deepest degradation, completely deprived of mental stimulus, knows only two sources of enjoyment, intoxication and copulation, so did the population of Upper Silesia until recent years concentrate all its desires, all its strivings on these two things. Liquor and the gratification of the sexual instinct had become sovereign with it, and it is thus easily explained that the population gained as rapidly in number as it lost in physical vigour and moral fibre."
Marx expresses similar views in Capital: "In fact, not only the number of births and death, but the absolute size of the families stand in inverse proportion to the height of wages, and therefore to the amount of means of subsistence of which the different categories of labourers dispose. This laws of capitalist of society would sound absurd to savages, or even civilised colonists. It calls to mind the boundless reproduction of animals individually weak and constantly hunted down." Marx goes on to quote Laing, who says: "If the people were all in easy circumstances, the world would soon be depopulated." Laing thus holds views opposed to those of Malthus: a good standard of living is conducive not to an increase but to a decrease in births. Herbert Spencer writes in the same vein: "Almost and everywhere perfection and reproductive capacity are opposed to each other. From this follows that the further progress mankind looks forward to will probably result in decrease of procreation."
We see that people who hold very different views on other matters fully agree on this point, and we concur with them.
The whole question of population could be easily disposed of with the observation that there is no danger of over population in sight, for we are faced with an excess of food which even threatens to increase with every year, so that the worry of what to do with this wealth is far greater than the worry as to whether it should suffice. The producers of foodstuffs would even eagerly welcome a rapid increase of consumers. But the Malthusians do not tire of raising objections and we must therefore counter these, lest they should take refuge in the pretext that their objections cannot be refuted.
They claim that the danger of overpopulation in the not too distant future lies in the law of "diminishing returns" Our fields become "exhausted", increasing harvests can no longer be expected and, since the land fit fur cultivation constantly becomes scarcer, the danger of a scarcity of food is imminent if the population continues to increase. We believe it to have been proved beyond doubt in the chapters on the utilisation of the soil in agriculture what enormous progress mankind can make with respect to the production of new food supplies even at the present level of agricultural science, but we should like to give a few more examples. A very able big landowner and recognised economist, a man who excelled Malthus in both respects, said as early as 1850, a time when agrochemistry was still in its infancy: "The output of raw products, namely of foodstuffs, will in future not lag behind the output in manufacture and transportation .... Agrochemistry is now only just starting to open up for agriculture prospects which even though they will no doubt still cause to take many a false path, will in the end place the production of foodstuffs under control of society, to the same extent as it now is in its power to furnish any amount of cloth, provided requisite supplies of wool are available."(4)
Justus von Liebig, the founder of agrochemistry, holds the view that "if human labour and fertilisers are available in sufficient quantities, the soil is inexhaustible and can provide abundant harvests year in year out". The law of diminishing returns is a Malthusian whim that could be accepted at a very low level of cultivation, but which has, however, long since been refuted by science and experience. The law is rather this: "The yield of a field stands in direct proportion to the human labour expended (science and machinery included) and the proper fertilisers applied to it." If it was possible for France with her small peasant holdings to more than quadruple the yield of her soil in the past ninety years, without the population even doubling, far better results are to be expected of a society with a socialist economy. The Malthusians furthermore overlook the fact that in existing conditions not only our soil should be taken into account, but also the soil of the whole earth, that is, largely countries whose fields yield twenty, thirty and even more times as much as our fields of the same size. True, the earth's resources have by now been extensively harnessed by man, yet, a small fraction excepted, it is nowhere cultivated and utilised as effectively as it could be. Not only Great Britain could produce much larger supplies of foodstuffs than it does today, but also France, Germany, Austria, and this applies in still greater measure to the other countries of Europe. In little Württemberg wills its 879,970 hectares of arable land, the mere introduction of the steam plough could raise the grain yield from 6,140,000 centners to 9,000,000 centners.
European Russia, measured by the present level of the population of Germany, could feed instead of her present population of about 100 million, one of 475 million. Today European Russia has about 19.4 inhabitants per square kilometre, Saxony over 300.
The objection that Russia contains vast stretches of land, where the climate renders impossible any high degree of fertility, is true, but, on the other hand, she has in the south a climate and soil far better suited to agricultural production than those of Germany. Then, again, the growing density of the population and the improved soil cultivation, which it brings in its wake, will lead to changes in climate which today even defy estimation. Wherever people amass, climatic changes follow. We attach too little importance to these phenomena, nor are we able to realise their full implications, because we have no occasion to and, as things are at present, no possibility to carry out large-scale experiments. Sweden and Norway, for example, so sparsely populated today, would, with their vast woods and truly inexhaustible mineral wealth, numerous rivers and long coast lines, furnish rich sources of food for a dense population. The requisite means and appliances are not obtainable in present circumstances and as a result part even of their sparse population emigrates.
What may he said of the north applies to an incomparably greater degree to the south of Europe Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, the Danubian states, Hungary, Turkey, etc. An excellent climate, a soil so abundant and fertile as is hardly to be found in the most favoured regions of the United States, will some day furnish uncounted people with abundant nourishment. The corrupt political and social conditions in those countries cause hundreds of thousands to leave Europe and to cross the ocean, instead of remaining at home or settling in other countries that are much nearer and more conveniently located. As soon as rational social and political institutions are established, new millions of people will be needed to raise those extensive and fertile lands to a higher level of cultivation.
For a long time to come, if considerably higher cultural goals are to be achieved in Europe, there will be a shortage rather than an excess of people, and it is absurd under such circumstances to entertain any fears of overpopulation.(5) It must constantly be kept in mind that the utilisation of available food sources, with the help of science and labour, knows no limits since every day brings new inventions and discoveries multiplying food sources.
If we pass from Europe to other continents, the shortage of people and superfluity of land appear even more blatant. The most abundant and fertile lands of the earth lie completely or almost completely unused, because the task of their reclamation and utilisation cannot be undertaken by several thousand people, but a mass colonisation of many millions is required in order to bring this too abundant Nature, if even to some extent, under human control. To this category belong, among others, Central and South America, a territory of hundreds of thousands of square miles. Argentina, for example, had in 1892 about five million hectares under cultivation; the country has, however, 96 million hectares of fertile land at its disposal. The soil of South America suitable for growing corn and now lying fallow is estimated at 200 million hectares at least, whereas the United States, Austria-Hungary, Great Britain and Ireland, Germany and France, taken together, have only about 105 million hectares under cereals. Carey maintained forty years ago that the 360-mile long Orinoco valley alone could supply sufficient food to feed the whole human race. Let us halve this estimate and there is still more than enough. In any case, South America alone could feed several times the present world population. The ratio of the nutritive value of a field planted with banana trees to one of the same size under wheat is 133 to 1. While our wheat yields on favourable soil 12 to 20 times its seed, rice yields in its native soil 80 to 100 times, maize 250 to 300 times its seed, and in some areas, for example, in the Philippines, rice yields are estimated at 400 times as much. It is also important in connection with all these types of food to make them as nourishing as possible in the course of their preparation. In the field of nutrition chemistry has boundless scope for development.
Central and South America, especially Brazil, which alone is almost as large as the whole of Europe — Brazil has a territory of 8,524,000 square kilometres and about 22 million inhabitants, as against Europe's 9,897,010 square kilometres and about 430 million inhabitants boast a luxuriance and fertility that call forth the astonishment and admiration of all travellers. Besides, these countries have inexhaustible ore and metal deposits. Yet, they are still almost closed to the rest of the world, because their population is indolent and too small in number, and has as yet attained too low a level of civilisation to master powerful Nature. Discoveries of recent decades have shown how things stand in Africa. Even if a good part of Central Africa will never be suitable for European agriculture, there are other regions of vast size that can be put to good use the moment rational principles of colonisation are applied. On the other hand, there are in Asia vast and fertile territories that could provide food for countless millions. The past has shown how in places that are now barren and almost desert, the mild climate wrests rich nourishment from the soil, if man knows how to go about supplying it with life-giving water. Through the destruction of the marvellous aqueducts and irrigation installations in Western Asia, the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, etc., through vandalic wars of conquest and insane oppression of the local population, thousands of square miles were transformed into sandy deserts.(6) The same thing happened in North Africa, Mexico and Peru. If civilised people settle in these regions by the million, inexhaustible sources of food will he unlocked. The fruit of the date — palm thrives to incredible profusion in Asia and Africa, and it takes up so little room that 200 trees can be planted on a morgen of land. Durra bears fruit in Egypt more than 3,000-fold, and yet the country is poor. This is due not to overpopulation, but to vandalic exploitation that has resulted in the desert spreading ever further from decade to decade. The wonderful results that could be obtained in all these countries by adopting the agricultural and horticultural techniques of Central Europe defy all calculation.
Given the present level of agriculture the United States could easily feed fifteen and twenty times its present population (85 million), that is, 1,250 to 1,700 million people. Similarly Canada could feed instead of six million, hundreds of millions. Then, for example, there are Australia and the numerous islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, several of which are large and extraordinarily fertile. To multiply and not reduce the number of people is the appeal now addressed to mankind in the name of civilisation.
Everywhere, it is the social institutions, the existing mode of production and distribution, that bring about privation and misery, not a surplus of people. Several bountiful harvests in succession lower the prices of food to such an extent that many a tiller of the soil is ruined. Instead of conditions for the agricultural producer being improved, they decline. A large number of farmers today regard a good harvest as a misfortune, because it cuts prices. And this is supposed to be a rational state of affairs! To deprive us of access to abundant harvests from other countries, high grain duties are introduced, thus impeding the import of foreign grain and making prices on the domestic market rise. We are not faced with a scarcity but surplus of food, just as we are faced with a similar surplus of manufactured goods. As millions of people need the diverse articles put out by the factories but are unable to satisfy their needs given the existing property and production relations, so millions of people are in want of food, because they are unable to pay for it, although there is an abundance of it. The insanity of such a situation is obvious. When the harvest is good our corn profiteers often deliberately let crops perish, because they know that prices rise in the measure that products are scarce. And in such conditions we are to fear overpopulation! In Russia, South Europe and many other countries of the world, hundreds of thousands of centners of grain perish every year for want of proper storage and transport facilities. Many millions of centners of foodstuffs are wasted every year, because harvesting equipment is inadequate or else because there is a shortage of hands at the vital moment. Many a corn=stack, many a filled barn, and whole estates are burned down, because the insurance premium is higher than the profit they yield; foodstuffs are destroyed for the same reason for which ships are sunk together with their crews.(7) During our military manoeuvres a large part of the crops is ruined every year; the cost of a manoeuvre that lasts only a few days runs into hundreds of thousands, and, as everybody knows, this valuation is very moderate, and there are many of them every year. For similar purposes whole villages have been razed to the ground and large areas have been taken from cultivation.
Nor must it be forgotten that the sea provides yet another auxiliary food source; the surface area of water is in the ratio of 18 to 7 to that of the land, or it is two and a half times as large as that of the land, and its enormous wealth of food is still to be rationally exploited. The future holds out prospects quite different from the gloomy picture drawn by our Malthusians.
After all, who can say where the limits to our chemical, physical and physiological knowledge could be set? Who would venture to predict what gigantic undertakings the people of future centuries will execute in order to achieve substantial modifications in climatic conditions and in methods of soil utilisation?
We see today, under the capitalist system, undertakings in execution, which a century ago were thought impossible and insane. Wide isthmuses are cut through and seas are connected. Tunnels many miles long are being cut through the bowels of the earth to link countries separated by extremely high mountains, others are being dug under the bed of the ocean so as to shorten distances and to avoid obstacles and dangers to which countries separated by the sea are exposed. Where then is the point at which someone could say: "So far and no farther!" Not only does modern experience refute the "law of diminishing returns", but there is also a surplus of fertile soil waiting to be cultivated by thousands of millions of people.
If all these cultivation projects were to be tackled simultaneously, we should have not too many but too few people. Mankind must multiply considerably in order to cope with all the tasks that lie ahead. Neither is the soil under cultivation being utilised to the full, nor are there enough people available to cultivate almost three-quarters of the earth's surface. The relative overpopulation, which the capitalist system continues to produce to the detriment of the worker and society, will at a higher stage of civilisation become a blessing. A population as large as possible does not impede, but promotes cultural progress, just as the existing overproduction of goods and foodstuffs, the disruption of the family by the employment of women and children in modern industry and the expropriation of the middle strata of society by the big capitalists, are all prerequisites for a higher stage of civilisation.
The other side of the question is: do people multiply indefinitely, and do they feel the need to do so?
To demonstrate man's great reproductive capacity, the Malthusians usually like to refer to rare cases of exceptional families and peoples. But this proves nothing. As against these cases there are others where complete sterility or negligible reproductive capacity sets in after a short time, despite favourable living conditions. It is surprising how quickly well-to-do families often become extinct. Although the United States affords more favourable conditions than any other country for the increase of the population, and hundreds of thousands of people in their prime immigrate every year, the population doubles only every thirty years. There is no indication of populations doubling within twelve or twenty years anywhere on a large scale.
As indicated by the passages quoted from Virchow and Marx, the population increases fastest where it is poorest, because, as Virchow justly claims, sexual intercourse, besides drunkenness, is their only pleasure. When Gregory VII forced celibacy upon the clergy, the priests of lower rank in the diocese of Mainz complained that as distinct from the prelates, who had access to all possible pleasures, they had only one source of comfort, women. A lack of varied occupation may also explain why the marriages of the rural clergy are, as a rule, so fruitful. It is also undeniable that the poorest districts in Germany, the Eulengebirge in Silesia, the Lausitz, the Erz- and Fichtelgebirge, the Thuringian Forest, the Harz, etc., are those with the densest population, whose chief food is potatoes. It is also certain that the sexual urge is particularly strong in those suffering from consumption, and that the latter often beget children in a state of physical decline when it would seem impossible.
It is a law of Nature, reflected also in the passages quoted from Herbert Spencer and Laing, to compensate through quantity what is lost in quality. The highest and stronger animals — lions, elephants, camels, etc., our domestic animals, such as the horse, donkey, cow, bring few young ones into the world, whereas lower animals increase in inverse proportion, for example, all kinds of insects, most fish, etc., the small mammals, such as bares, rats, mice, etc. On the other hand, Darwin established that some animals lose their fecundity when they are tamed and domesticated. The elephant is a case in point. This proves that new living conditions and the changed mode of life that results determine reproductive capacity.
It so happens that it is precisely the Darwinians who share the fear of overpopulation, and it is on their authority that our modern Malthusians rely. Our Darwinians are always out of luck when they begin to extend their theories to humans, because they resort to crude empirical methods and forget that although man is the highest animal, he, unlike all other animals, is versed in the laws of Nature and can adapt them to his own purposes and make good use of them.
The theory of the struggle for existence, the doctrine that the seeds of new life exist in much larger numbers than can be maintained with existing means of subsistence, would apply also to man if he, instead of exercising his brain and enlisting the services of machinery in order to put the air, soil and water to rational use, grazed like cattle, or like monkeys indulged his sexual instincts without restraint, that is, if he himself became a monkey. Let us observe in passing that besides man monkeys are the only beings whose sexual impulses are not confined to certain periods, a striking proof of the affinity between the two. But though they are closely related, they are not identical and must not be placed on one level or judged by the same criteria.
It is true that under the prevailing relations of ownership and production, the individual was, and still is, faced with the struggle for existence, and that many fail to obtain the necessaries of life. But this is not because of the scarcity of means of subsistence, but because under the given social conditions the means of subsistence are withheld from them in a world where great abundance prevails. It is also wrong to conclude from this that since such a state of affairs was possible up to now, it is immutable, and will never change. It is here that the Darwinians slip up, for they study natural history and anthropology but do not study sociology and, without reflecting, fall in line with our bourgeois ideologists. Hence they reach false conclusions.
Man's sexual instinct is perennial, it is his strongest instinct and demands satisfaction if his health is not to suffer. Also, this instinct is, as a rule, all the stronger in the healthy and normally developed, just as a healthy appetite and a good digestion indicate the possession of a healthy stomach, and are the basic prerequisites of a healthy body. But the gratification of the sexual instinct and conception are not the same thing. The most varied theories have been advanced about the fecundity of the human race. On the whole, we are still groping in the dark in this important field, mainly because for many centuries senseless inhibitions prevented man investigating the laws governing his origin and development and making a thorough study of the laws of human procreation and development. The situation is only gradually changing and must change much more.
Some scientists advance the theory that higher mental development and strenuous mental exertion, in short, higher nervous activity, tends to repress the sexual urge and weaken procreative capacity. This is disputed by others who point out that the better-off classes have, on an average, fewer children and that this cannot be ascribed solely to contraception. Undoubtedly, intense mental occupation tends to repress the sexual instinct, but that such activity is practised by the majority of our propertied class can be contested. On the other hand, excessive physical exertion also has a repressive influence. But all excessive exertion is harmful and therefore to be avoided.
Others claim that a woman's way of life and diet in particular, coupled with certain physical conditions, determine her power to conceive and beget. Diet, as has been demonstrated in the case of animals, influences the effectiveness of the act of procreation more than anything else. Indeed, it may well be the determining factor. The influence that the diet has on the organism of certain animals is strikingly substantiated in the case of bees, who breed a queen at will by administering special food. Bees are therefore much further advanced in the knowledge of their sexual development than man. Most probably it was not instilled into them for two thousand years that it is "indecent" and "immoral" to concern oneself with sexual matters.
It has also been established that on good and well-manured soil plants thrive luxuriantly but yield no seed. There is little reason to doubt that diet influences the composition of the male sperm and the fecundity of the female ovum in the case of humans as well. Thus, the reproductive capacity of the population may depend to a high degree on the nature of their diet. Other factors, the nature of which is as yet little known, also play a role.
A factor of decisive importance in the population question in the future will be the higher, freer position all our women without exception will then occupy. Intelligent and energetic women, leaving exceptions aside, generally have no desire to give birth to a large number of children as "gifts from God", and to spend the best years of their life pregnant or with a baby at their breast. This tendency to avoid large numbers of children, which most women share even now, may, despite all the solicitude a socialist society will show to pregnant women and mothers, grow stronger rather than weaker. In our opinion, this means that in socialist society the population will most probably grow more slowly than in bourgeois society.
Our Malthusians have really no reason to break their heads about the increase of mankind in the future. Until now nations have been known to perish through the decline; but never through an excess of their population. In the last analysis, population growth is regulated in societies that live according to the laws of Nature without harmful abstention and unnatural measures of control. On this account, too; the future will vindicate Karl Marx; his view that every period of economic development has its own special demographic laws will also prove true under socialism.
In his work The Artificial Limitation of Progeny, H. Ferdy expresses the following view:
"The strong opposition of Social-Democrats to Malthusianism is a piece of roguery. The rapid increase of the population favours pauperisation of the masses and this fosters discontent. If the overpopulation could be checked, the spread of Social-Democracy would come to an end, and the Social-Democratic state with all its splendour would be buried for ever. Thus we have one more weapon to add to the many others by which Social-Democracy can be wiped out — Malthusianism."(8)
Professor Dr. Adolf Wagner is one of those who suffer from the fear of overpopulation and who therefore demand a restriction of the freedom to marry and to choose a place of residence, particularly as far as workers are concerned. He complains that workers, as compared with the middle class, marry much too early. Like others holding similar views, he ignores the fact that the men of the middle class attain a position enabling them to enter into marriage in accordance with their station only at an advanced age. But they compensate themselves for this abstention by turning to prostitutes. If obstacles are placed in the way of marriage for the workers, they will be pushed on to the same path. But in that case, there should be no complaints about the consequences and no shouting about the "decline of virtue and morals". There should also be no indignation if men and women, since the latter have the same instincts as men, form illegitimate unions in order to satisfy their natural instincts and populate town and country with their illegitimate children "as with seed". The views of Wagner and Co. also contradict the interests of the bourgeoisie and of our economic development, which requires as many hands as possible, so that it can dispose of a labour force that makes it competitive on the world market. The evils of the age cannot be cured with petty proposals, which derive from shortsighted philistinism and backwardness. In the early 20th century no class, no state authority is any longer strong enough to hold back or check the natural advance of society. Every such attempt ends in failure. The tide of development is so powerful that it sweeps over every obstacle. Not backwards but forwards is the slogan of today, and he who still believes in obstacles is a fool.
In socialist society where mankind will for the first time be truly free and living according to natural principles, it will consciously direct its own development. In all preceding epochs mankind handled questions of production and distribution, as well as that of population growth, without the knowledge of the laws governing them, that is, unconsciously; in the new society, equipped with knowledge of the laws of its own development, mankind will act consciously and according to a plan.
Socialism is science applied in all fields of human activity.
1. That Darwin and others have also become blind adherents of Malthus only shows that lack of economic knowledge leads to extremely one-sided views in the field of natural science.
2. Ferdinand Freiligrath sings in the moving poem "Ireland":
3. "Two millions of acres... totally laid waste, embracing within their area some of the most fertile lands of Scotland. The natural grass of Glen Tilt was among the most nutritive in the county of Perth. The deerforest of Ben Aulder was by far the best grazing ground in the wide district of Badenoch; a part of the Black Mount forest was the best pasture for black-faced sheep in Scotland. Some idea of the ground laid waste for purely sporting purposes in Scotland may be formed from the fact that it embraced an area larger than the whole county of Perth. The resources of the forest of Ben Aulder might give some idea of the loss sustained from the forced desolations. The ground would pasture 15,000 sheep and it was not more than one-thirtieth part of the old forest ground in Scotland. All that forest land is as totally unproductive .... It might as well have been submerged under the waters of the German Ocean .... The London Economist of July 2, 1866, quoted by Marx in Das Kapital I. Band. 2. Auflage.
4. Rodbertus, Zur Beleuchtung der sozialen Frage, 1850.
5. This also applies to Germany in particular; despite the steady increase in population, emigration has declined just as steadily — in 1891, for example, 120,089 people emigrated, in 1907 — only 31,696. Conversely, immigration has increased, because there was a lack of native workers in various branches of industry. The number of immigrants was 757,151 in 1900, and 1,007,149 in 1905.
6. Kärger estimates the yield in Anatolia even during a bad harvest at 9 to 13 double centners, 26.40 to 39 double centners on an average and 66 double centners on fertilised and irrigated soil (Die internationale landwirtschaftliche Konkurrenz, ein kapitalistisches Problem Von Professor Dr. Gustav Ruhland, Berlin, 1901).
7. Similar conditions must have prevailed at the time of St. Basil (who died in 379) for he exhorted the rich: "Wretches that you are, what answer will you give to the divine Judge? You cover the nakedness of your walls with carpets, but do not cover the nakedness of men with clothes! You decorate your horses with costly and soft saddle-cloths and despise your brother covered with rags. You allow your corn to perish and be devoured in the barns and on your fields and do not spare even a glance for those who have no bread." The preaching of morals has from time immemorial had little effect on rulers and will not have any in the future. But once the social institutions are changed so that none can act unjustly towards his fellows, the world will fare well.
8. Socialist-baiter Ferdy's gross ignorance of Social Democracy is best illustrated by the passages he comes up with on page 40 of his book: "The Social-Democrats will go further in their demands than the Neo-Malthusians. They will demand that the minimum wage be so fixed that every working man can beget the largest possible number of children according to the social supply of food .... As soon as Social-Democracy has drawn the ultimate conclusions and private property has been abolished, even the must stupid would soon begin to ask himself: why should I work longer and harder because my neighbour chooses to thrust a dozen new members into society?" One should at least know the ABC of socialism before presuming to write about it, and such preposterous nonsense at that.