Woman and Socialism. August Bebel
The Socialisation of Society

Chapter XXX.
The Question of Population and Socialism.

1. – Fear of Over-Population.

There are people who regard the question of population as one of the most important and urgent of all, because, they claim that we are threatened with over-population, indeed, that it is already at hand. Therefore this question must be specially treated from an international standpoint, for nourishment and distribution of the population have become more and more a matter of international concern. There has been much discussion on the law governing the growth of population since Malthus. In his famous and notorious book, an “Essay on the Principle of Population,” that Karl Marx has described as a “school-boyish, superficial plagiarism on Sir James Stewart, Townsend, Franklin Wallace, etc., declaimed in a priest-like manner and not containing a single original thought,” – Malthus propounds the theory that mankind has the tendency to increase at the ratio of geometrical progression (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc.), while food increases only at the ratio of arithmetical progression (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.). The consequence, he asserts, is that a disproportion arises between the number of human beings and the food supply which must lead to wholesale starvation, and that, therefore, it becomes necessary to impose abstinence upon one’s self in the procreation of children. He, who has not sufficient means to support a family should not marry, as there would not be sufficient room at “nature’s table” for his descendants.

The fear of over-population is a very old one. As we have shown in this book, it existed among the Greeks and Romans and was met with again at the close of the middle ages. Plato and Aristotle, the Romans, the small bourgeois of the middle ages, they all were dominated by this fear. It also occupied Voltaire, who wrote a treatise on this subject at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Other writers followed him, until Malthus finally gave this fear the most poignant expression.

The fear of over-population is always met with at periods when existing social conditions are in a state of decay. The general dissatisfaction that prevails at such times is ascribed to the superabundance of human beings and the lack of food, instead of being ascribed to the manner in which food is obtained and distributed.

Every exploitation of man by man is founded on class rule. The first, and principle means of establishing class rule is to take possession of the soil. Common property at first, it gradually becomes private property. The masses become propertyless and are obliged to earn their share of food by serving the propertied class. Under such circumstances, every addition to the family, or new competitor, becomes a burden. The specter of over-population appears, and spreads terror in the same measure in which the soil becomes monopolized and loses its productivity, either because it is not sufficiently cultivated, or because the best ground is turned into pastures, or because it has been reserved for the pleasures of the hunt of its masters, and thus withdrawn from cultivation for human food. Rome and Italy suffered from the greatest lack of food at the time when the land was owned by about three thousand latifundia proprietors. Hence the cry of fear: the latifundia are destroying Rome! The Italian soil was converted into immense hunting grounds or parks for the pleasure of its noble owners. Sometimes it was also left uncultivated, because its cultivation by slaves was more expensive than to import grain from Sicily and Africa; this state of affairs favored the usury in grain, in which the rich nobility of Rome likewise participated. The nobility profited more by the usury in grain than by cultivating grain in their own country.

Under such conditions the Roman bourgeois, or the pauperized nobleman, preferred to refrain from marriage and the procreation of children. The premiums placed on marriage and the birth of children, to prevent a diminution of the ruling classes, remained ineffectual.

A similar phenomenon occurred at the close of the middle ages, after the nobility and the clergy had, for centuries, by force and by stealth, robbed many peasants of their property and usurped the common land. When the peasants revolted as a result of all the abuses they had suffered, but were beaten down, the robbery of the nobility was continued on a still larger scale, and the reformed princes also practiced it on the property of the church. At that time the number of thieves, beggars and vagabonds increased as never before. Their number was greatest after the reformation. The expropriated rural population poured into the cities; but here, too, the conditions of life had been growing steadily worse, owing to causes that have been set forth in previous chapters, and so “over-population” prevailed everywhere.

The appearance of Malthus coincides with that period of English industry when, as a result of the new inventions by Hargreaves, Arkwright and Watt, tremendous mechanical and technical changes took place. These changes especially effected the cotton and linen industries, and deprived tens of thousands of workingmen of employment, who were engaged in these domestic industries. The concentration of property in land, and the development of industry on a large scale, assumed great dimensions in England at that time. With the rapid increase of wealth on the one hand, there was growing misery of the masses on the other. During such a time the ruling classes, who have good cause to consider the world, as it is, the best of worlds, had to seek a plausible explanation, relieving them of all responsibility, for so contradictory a phenomenon as the pauperization of the masses in the midst of increasing wealth and flourishing industry. Nothing was more convenient than to blame the too rapid increase of the workingmen by their having too many children for this state of affairs, instead of blaming the fact that they were being made superfluous by the process of production, and the further fact that the soil was becoming accumulated in the hands of the landlords. Under such conditions the “school-boyish, plagiarism declaimed in a priest-like manner” which Malthus published, contained an explanation of existing evils that expressed the innermost thoughts and wishes of the ruling classes, and justified them before the world. That explains why it met with so much success on the one hand, and with such bitter opposition on the other. For the English bourgeoisie Malthus had spoken the right word at the right time, and so – altho his book did “not contain a single original thought,” he became a great and famous man, and his name came to stand for the entire doctrine![1]

2. – Production of Over-Population.

The conditions that caused Malthus to utter his cry of warning and to set forth his brutal doctrines – they were addressed to the working class, which meant adding insult to injury, – have since expanded with every decade. They have expanded, not only in the native land of Malthus, Great Britain, but in all countries of the world that have a capitalistic method of production, which implies robbery of the soil and subjugation of the masses by means of the machine and the factory. This system, – as has been shown, – consists in the separation of the worker from his means of production, be it the land or tools, and their transfer into the hands of the capitalists. This system constantly creates new branches of industry, developes and concentrates them, but it also constantly turns out into the street new masses of the population and makes them “superfluous.” In many cases it also promotes, as in ancient Rome, the latifundia ownership with all its results. Ireland is the classic land of Europe that has been afflicted worst of all by the English system of robbery. As early as 874 it already had an area of meadow and pasture land of 12,378,244 acres, but only 3,373,508 acres of cultivated fields, and every year the population decreases, and hand in hand with this decrease proceeds the further conversion of cultivated land into meadows and pastures for sheep and cattle and into hunting grounds for the landlords.[2] (In 19o8 there were 14,805,046 acres of meadow and pasture land and only 2,238,906 acres of cultivated land.) Moreover, the agricultural land of Ireland is, to a great extent, rented by small tenants who are unable to improve upon the cultivation of the soil. So Ireland presents the aspect of a country that is retrogressing from an agricultural to a pastoral country. At the same time the population that numbered 8 millions at the beginning of the nineteenth century, has declined to 4.3 millions, and a few million still are “superfluous.” This clearly explains the rebellion of the Irish against England. Scotland presents a similar picture in regard to the ownership and cultivation of its land.[3] The same thing is re-enacted in Hungary, which entered upon modern lines of development only a few decades ago. Few European countries possess such a wealth of fertile soil as Hungary, and yet it is burdened with debts and the population is pauperized and is at the mercy of usurers. Despair drives the people to wholesale emigration. The land is concentrated in the hands of modern magnates of capital, who apply their rapacious system to the forests and the fields. It is likely that in a time not far distant, Hungary will cease to be a grain exporting country. Italy presents a similar picture. In Italy, as in Germany, political unity of the nation has favored capitalistic development, but the industrious peasants of Piedmont and Lombardy, of Tuscany, Romagna and Sicily, are constantly growing poorer and are being utterly ruined. Already swamps and marshes begin to reappear, where, up to a few decades ago, were the well cultivated fields and gardens of small peasants. Before the very gates of Rome, in the district known as the Campagna, are hundreds of thousands of hectares of land that are left uncultivated, in a vicinity that was one of the most flourishing of ancient Rome. Everywhere are swamps exhaling their poisonous miasms. If the necessary means were employed to drain the swamps and to introduce a proper system of irrigation, the population of Rome would obtain a rich source of nourishment and enjoyment. But Italy suffers from the ambition to become a great power; so it ruins the population by bad administration, military and naval armament and colonization, and has no means left for true tasks of civilization, such as the cultivation of the Campagna. In southern Italy and Sicily conditions are similar as in the Campagna. Sicily, at one time the granary of Rome, is ever growing poorer. In all Europe there is no poorer, more exploited and worse treated population. The sons of the most beautiful country of Europe, flood half of Europe and America, and because their needs are few they serve to lower wages. They emigrate in masses, because they do not wish to starve on their native soil, which they no longer own. Malaria, that awful fever, has spread to such an extent throughout Italy, that in 1882 the government became alarmed and instituted an investigation. This investigation revealed that of the 96 provinces of the country, 32 were already severely afflicted, 32 others were infected and only 5 remained free from the disease. Formerly known in the country only, the disease was carried into the cities, where the congested proletarian population, increased by the rural proletariat, formed the central seat of the infection.

3. – Poverty and Fecundity.

No matter from what side we view the capitalistic system of production, we arrive at the conclusion that the poverty and misery of the masses is not due to a lack of food, but to an unequal distribution of same, and to wrong methods, that create an abundance for some and compel others to live in want. The assertions of Malthus have sense only from the standpoint of capitalistic production. On the other hand, the capitalistic method of production urges the production of children. Cheap. “hands,” in the shape of children, are needed for its factories and work-shops. Among proletarians the procreation of children becomes a sort of calculation, as they earn their own living. The proletarian employed in domestic industry is even obliged to have many children, for they help him to be able to compete. This is assuredly an abominable system; it increases the pauperization of the workingman and his dependence upon the employer. The proletarian is compelled to work for lower and lower wages, and every labor law destined to protect workingmen, that does not include the persons engaged in domestic industry, only causes the employer to widen the circle of those so employed, for wherever this form of production is possible, it offers particular advantages to the capitalist.

But the capitalistic system does not lead only to an over-production of goods and of workers, but also to an over-production of intellect. Intellectuals, too, find it increasingly difficult to obtain employment, as the supply constantly surpasses the demand. There is only one thing in this capitalistic world that is never superfluous, and that is capital and its owner, the capitalist.

If the bourgeois economists are followers of Malthus, they are what they must be in accordance with their bourgeois interests. Only they should refrain from transferring their bourgeois prejudices to Socialistic society. John Stuart Mill says: “Communism is that very state of affairs of which one may expect, that it will vehemently oppose this sort of selfish immoderation. Every increase of the population that would diminish the comfortable status of the population, or increase its toils, would cause direct and unmistakable inconvenience to each individual member of the association, and this inconvenience could no longer be ascribed to the rapacity of the employers or the unfair privileges of the rich. Under such circumstances, public opinion could not fail to make known its disapproval, and if this would not suffice, punishments of one kind or another would be resorted to, in order to suppress this and similar immoderations. The danger of over-population, then is not advanced by the communistic theory; this theory, on the contrary, tends to counteract this danger in a marked degree.” Professor Adolf Wagner says, in Rau’s “Text-book of Political Economy:” “Least of all could a Socialistic community grant absolute freedom of marriage or freedom in the procreation of children.” The authors both proceed from the opinion that the tendency toward over-population is common to all social systems, but they both grant that Socialism will be better able to maintain an equilibrium between population and nourishment than any other form of society. The latter is true, but the former is not.

There were, indeed, some Socialists who were infected by the ideas of Malthus, and feared that over-population was “an imminent danger.” But these Socialistic Malthusians have disappeared. A better understanding of the nature of bourgeois society has changed their opinion on this subject. The complaints of our agrarians also teach us that we have too much food – viewed from the standpoint of the world market – and that the resulting lowering of prices make the production of food unprofitable.

Our Malthusians imagine, – and the chorus of bourgeois leaders thoughtlessly echo their fears, – that a Socialistic society upholding freedom of choice in love and maintaining an existence worthy of human beings for all its members, would foster rabbit-like propensities. They imagine that people, under such conditions, would indulge in an unbridled satisfaction of their lusts and in unlimited procreation of children. Rather the contrary is likely to be true. So far not the well-to-do classes have had the greatest number of children, but, on the contrary, the poorest classes. Indeed, we may say without exaggeration: the poorer the position of a proletarian stratum is, the more numerous is its blessing of children; occasional exceptions are, of course, conceded, This opinion is confirmed by Virchow, who wrote, in the middle of the last century; “as the English laborer in his deepest degradation, in the utmost emptiness of mind. knows only two sources of enjoyment, intoxication and cohabitation, so the population of Upper Silesia, until recent years, had concentrated all its desires and endeavors upon these two things. The enjoyment of liquor and the satisfaction of the sexual impulse had become the supreme factors of its existence, and so it can be easily explained that the population increased as rapidly in numbers, as it deteriorated physically and morally.”

Karl Marx expresses himself similarly in “Capital.” He says: “Not only the number of births and deaths, but the absolute size of the families also is in reverse ratio to the height of the wages, that is, to the means of subsistence at the disposal of the various categories of laborers. This law of capitalistic society would sound absurd among savages or even among civilized colonists. It reminds one of the enormous reproduction of species of animals that are individually weak and much hunted.” Marx furthermore quotes Laing, who says: “If the whole world lived in comfortable circumstances, the world would soon be depopulated.” So Laing holds the opposite view from Malthus. He maintains that an improved standard of living does not increase the number of births, but diminishes them. Herbert Spencer expresses a similar opinion thus: “always and everywhere perfection of the species and its procreative ability are opposed to one another. From this follows that the further development of man will probably lead to a decrease in procreation.” We see, then, that men, maintaining different standpoints on other subjects, are fully agreed on this one, and we fully concur with their conception.

4. – Lack of Human Beings and Abundance of Food.

The whole question of population might be disposed of by saying, that for a long time to come this fear of over-population is absurd, for we are confronted with an abundance of food that increases each year, so that we would be more justified in worrying over how to apply this wealth, than in worrying over whether it will suffice. The producers of food would even welcome a more rapid increase of consumers. But our Malthusians are indefatigable in raising objections, and so we must meet these objections, lest they assert that they cannot be answered. They claim that the danger of over-production in a not distant future lies in the “decrease of the productivity of the soil.” Our cultivated soil, they claim, is becoming “weary of yields,” an increase in crops could no longer be expected, and since fresh soil that still might be cultivated is becoming rarer, the danger of a scarcity of food, if the population continues to increase, is imminent. In the chapters on agriculture we have, so we believe, already proved irrefutably of what enormous progress mankind is still capable in the matter of obtaining new masses of nourishment, judging even by the present state of agricultural science. Nevertheless we will add some further illustrations. A very capable large land-owner and an economist of recognized worth, who, therefore, far surpassed Malthus in both respects, as early as 1850, at a time when agricultural chemistry was in its beginnings, – expressed the following: “The productivity of raw products, especially of food, will in future not lag behind the productivity in manufacture and transportation. In our days agricultural chemistry is just beginning to open up vistas to agriculture that may lead to some errors, but that will ultimately place the production of food into the power of society, just as society has the power to-day of furnishing any desired quantity of cloth, provided that there is a sufficient supply of work.[4]

Justus v. Liebig, the founder of agricultural chemistry, holds the opinion that “if there is sufficient human labor power and sufficient manure, the soil is inexhaustible and continually yields the richest crops.”

The “law of decrease of the productivity of the soil” is a notion of Malthus that could be accepted at a time when agriculture was very undeveloped, but it has long since been refuted by science and experience. The yield of a field is in direct ratio to the amount of human labor power (including science and technic) expended on it, and to the amount of proper fertilizers applied to it. If the small peasantry of France have been able to more than quadruple the yields of their soil during the last go years, while the population has not even doubled, what results may be expected from a Socialistic society! Our Malthusians overlook, furthermore, that under present day conditions not only our own soil must be taken into consideration, but the soil of the entire earth, including countries whose fertility is twenty and thirty times as great as that of our fields of the same size. The earth is largely occupied by man, but with the exception of a very small fraction, it is nowhere cultivated and utilized as it might be. Not only Great Britain could produce far more food than it is producing at present, but also France, Germany and Austria, and the other European countries might do so to a still greater extent. In little Wurtemberg alone, with its 879,970 hectares of grain soil, by application of the steam plough, the average crop might be increased from 6,140,000 cwts. to 9,000,000 cwt. European Russia, measured by the present standard of the population of Germany, might feed a population Of 475 million instead of its present 100 million. At present European Russia has about 19.4 inhabitants to the square kilometer; Saxony has over 300. The objection that Russia has vast stretches of land that cannot be rendered more fertile owing to their climate, is true. But it is equally true that other stretches of land in the southern part of Russia have a climate and a fertility that Germany cannot come up to. Moreover, the greater density of the population, and the increased cultivation of the soil, will cause changes in the climate that cannot be estimated to-day. Wherever men aggregate in masses climatic changes result. We do not pay sufficient attention to these phenomena. Moreover, we cannot observe them to their full extent, because we have no occasion to do so and because, as matters are at present, it is impossible to undertake experiments on a large scale. Thus Sweden and Norway, who are both sparsely populated, with their immense forests and inexhaustible wealth of metals, their numerous streams and their sea-coasts, might become a rich source of nourishment to a dense population. Under existing conditions it is impossible to obtain the proper means and appliances, to disclose the wealth of these countries, and so even a part of the sparse population emigrates.

What has been said of the north, applies to a still greater extent to the south of Europe, to Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, the Danubian Provinces, Hungary, Turkey, etc. A delightful climate, a soil so rich and fertile as it can hardly be found in the best regions of the United States, will some day provide an abundance of food for unnumbered masses of the population. The rotten social and political conditions of these countries cause hundreds of thousands of persons to leave Europe and cross the ocean instead of remaining in their native lands or settling down in much nearer and more conveniently located places. As soon as rational social and political institutions have been established, fresh millions of people will be needed to place those wide and fertile countries on a higher level of civilization.

In order to achieve higher objects of civilization in Europe, we have, for a long time to come, not a superabundance of human beings, but rather a dearth of same, and under such circumstances it is absurd to entertain any fears in regard to over-population.[5] At the same time we must always keep in mind that the utilization of existing sources of nourishment by the application of science and labor is practically unlimited, and that every day brings us new discoveries and inventions whereby the sources of nourishment are increased.

If we turn from Europe to other parts of the earth, we find that the lack of human beings and the abundance of food is still more pronounced. The richest and most fertile lands of the earth still lie entirely, or almost entirely, unused, because their cultivation and utilization cannot be undertaken by a few thousand persons; here colonies of many millions would be needed only partly to master the over-abundant nature. Such countries are, among others, Central and South America, an area of hundreds of thousands of square miles. In Argentine Republic, for instance, only about 5 million hectares were cultivated in 1892, but the country has 96 million hectares of fertile soil at its disposal. That soil of South America that is fit for the cultivation of wheat, but still lies fallow, is estimated at 200 million hectares at least, while the United States, Austria, Hungary, Great Britain and Ireland, Germany and France altogether have cultivated only about 105 million hectares for the raising of grain. About 40 years ago, Carey asserted that the valley of the Orinoco alone, having a length Of 360 miles, might produce sufficient nourishment to feed the entire human race. If we accept but half of this statement, an abundance still remains. At any rate, both Americas alone, could feed many times the number of persons living on the earth at present. The nutritive value of a territory planted with banana trees yield 12 to 20 times its seed; rice, in its native soil, yields 80 to 100 times and corn 2 50 to 300 times its seed. In some regions, for instance in the Philippine Islands, the productivity of rice is estimated at 400 times its seed. With all these articles of food it is, moreover, a matter of importance, to make them as nourishing as possible by the manner in which they are prepared. In matters of nutrition chemistry has an inexhaustible field for development.

Central America and South America, especially Brazil, abound with a luxuriance and fertility that cause the marvel and admiration of travellers. These countries also possess a boundless wealth of ores and metals. Brazil itself is almost as large as all of Europe, having 8,524,000 square miles, with about 22 million inhabitants, as against Europe’s 9,887,010 square miles, with about 430 million inhabitants. But to the world these countries are barely disclosed, because their population is indolent, too few in numbers and on too low a level of civilization to master the grandeur of nature. The discoveries of recent decades have enlightened us in regard to matters in Africa. Altho a great portion of Central Africa will never be available for European agriculture, there are other territories of a wide range that can be utilized to a marked degree as soon as rational principles of colonization are applied. In Asia, too, there are wide stretches of fertile land that could provide food for countless numbers. The past has shown us how, in regions that are unfertile and almost desert at present, the climate can produce a wealth of nourishment if man will but provide the soil with water. The destruction of grand water-works and contrivances for irrigation in Asia Minor, along the Tigris, Euphrates, etc., by cruel wars of conquest and by insane oppression of the people, have transformed thousands of square miles of fertile land into a desert.[6] The same is true of northern Asia, Mexico and Peru. Give us millions of civilized human beings and inexhaustible sources of nourishment will be disclosed. The date palm thrives in Asia and Africa in marvellous abundance, and requires so little room that 200 of these trees can be grown on one acre of land. In Egypt the durria bears fruit three thousand fold, and yet this country is poor. It is poor, not owing to an excessive population, but owing to a system of robbery that causes the desert to widen and expand with each decade. What marvelous results European agriculture and horticulture might obtain in these countries is incalculable.

The United States, measured by the standard of their present agricultural production, could easily maintain a population 15 or 20 times as large as the present one; that is, 1250 to 1700 million, instead of go million. At the same rate, Canada could provide food for several hundred millions, instead of for its six millions. Then there is Australia, the numerous and to some extent exceedingly fertile islands of the Pacific and Indian Ocean, etc. In the name of civilization man should be exhorted to multiply, not to decrease.

Everywhere it is the social institutions – the existing methods of production and distribution of the products – that cause misery and want, not a too great number of people. A number of rich crops in succession lower the prices of food to such an extent, that many a farmer is ruined thereby. The lot of the producers grows worse instead of being improved. At the present time a great many farmers regard a good harvest as a misfortune, because it lowers the prices. And such conditions are supposed to be rational? To keep out the rich crops of other countries, high duties are imposed on grain, to make the importation of grain more difficult and to raise the price of the domestic product. There is not a lack of food, but a superabundance of food, just as there is a superabundance of the products of industry. just as millions of persons are in need of all kinds of industrial products, but cannot satisfy their needs under the existing conditions of property and production, so millions are in need of the most essential articles of food, because they cannot pay for them, altho there is food in abundance. The madness of such conditions is obvious. When the crops are good, our speculators in grain often intentionally allow a part of it to go to waste and ruin, because they know that the price increases at the same rate at which the supply diminishes. And with all this, we should be in fear of over-population? In Russia, southern Europe and elsewhere, hundreds of thousands of hundredweights of grain are destroyed, because there is a lack of appropriate storehouses and means of transportation. Many million hundred-weights of food are wasted annually, because the provisions for gathering in the crops are imperfect and insufficient, or because there is a lack of hands at the decisive time. Many a granary, many a replenished barn, indeed, entire farms are burned down, because the insurance premiums heighten the profits. Food is destroyed for the same reasons that cause people to sink ships with their entire crews.[7] Our military drills cause the destruction of large crops each year. The cost of a single manoeuvre, lasting a few days only, amounts to hundreds of thousands of marks, altho the estimates are very moderate, and there are a number of such manoeuvres annually. For the same purpose entire villages have been razed and large areas are withdrawn from agriculture.

We must not forget that to all the sources we have enumerated, the ocean must be added, whose surface is to the area of the earth as 18 to 7. The surface of the water is, accordingly, two and a half times as large as that of the land, and is still awaiting a rational utilization of its enormous wealth of food. The future, then, opens tip a vista very different from the sombre picture drawn for us by our Malthusians.

Who can say when our chemical, physical and physiological knowledge will have reached their limit? Who could venture to predict what gigantic undertakings future mankind will carry out to bring about marked changes in the climates of various countries and the utilization of their soil?

Even to-day, under the capitalistic system of society, we see undertakings executed that would have appeared impossible and insane a century ago. Broad isthmuses are cut thru and oceans connected; tunnels, many miles long, connect countries that are separated by the highest mountains; others are dug tinder the bottom of the sea to shorten distances, and to avoid disturbances and dangers that occur where countries are separated by the sea. Where, then, might one say: “thus far and no further?” Not only must the “law of decrease of the productivity of the soil” be answered in the negative, it must be reasserted that there is an abundance of cultivatable soil, that will require millions of human beings for its cultivation.

If all these tasks of civilization were to be undertaken at the same time, we would not have too many people, but too few. Humanity must still multiply considerably to do justice to all the tasks that are awaiting it. The soil is far from being cultivated as it might be, and almost three-quarters of the surface of the earth are still uncultivated, because there are not enough people to undertake its cultivation. The relative excess of population that to-day is continually produced by the capitalistic system to the detriment of the working class and of society, will prove a blessing on a higher level of civilization. A numerous population is not a hindrance to progress. It is, on the contrary, a means to advance progress, just like the present over-production of commodities and food, the disruption of marriage by the employment of women, children in industry and the expropriation of the middle class by the large capitalists, are the preliminary conditions of a higher stage of civilization.

5. – Social Conditions and Reproductive Ability.

The other side of the question is: do people multiply indefinitely, and do they wish to? In order to prove the enormous reproductive ability of man, the Malthusians like to point to the abnormal cases of some families or peoples. But these examples do not prove anything. There are other cases where, regardless of favorable conditions of existence, complete sterility sets in, or the reproductive ability is very slight. It is surprising how quickly wealthy families often die out. Altho the conditions for an increase of the population are more favorable in the United States than in any other country, and hundreds of thousands of persons in the prime of life emigrate into the United States every year, the population doubles only once in thirty years. The claim that populations double once in twelve or twenty years is not born out by the facts anywhere.

As has already been indicated by the quotations from Virchow and Marx, the population multiplies most rapidly where it is poorest, because, as Virchow correctly says, beside drink, sexual intercourse forms their only enjoyment. When Gregory VII forced celibacy upon the clergy, the clergy of lower rank of the Diocese of Mayence, – as previously mentioned, – complained that they did not have all kinds of enjoyments like the prelates, but that their only joy was woman. Lack of a variety of occupations may also account for it that the marriages of the rural clergy are usually so richly blessed with children. It cannot be disputed, furthermore, that the poorest districts in Germany, the Silesian Eulengebirge, the Lausitz, the Erzgebirge and Fichtelgebirge, the Forest of Thuringia, the Harz, etc. – districts in which the potato constitutes the chief article of food, are at the same time the most densely populated. It is furthermore certain that the sexual impulse is particularly strongly developed with persons afflicted with consumption, and such persons often beget children in a stage of physical decline in which this seems almost impossible.

It is a law of nature, as expressed in the utterances of Herbert Spencer and Laing, which we have quoted, to supply in quantity what is lacking in quality. The most highly developed and strongest animals, lion, elephant, camel, etc., our domestic animals, as horse, donkey, cow bring forth but few young, while animals of a lower order multiply in inverse ratio, as all kinds of insects, most fish, etc., and also the smaller mammals, like rabbits, rats, mice, etc. Darwin has shown that certain species of animals, for instance the elephant, lose their fecundity when they are captured and tamed by man. All this proves that altered conditions of existence and the resulting changed mode of life have a decisive influence on reproductive ability.

Strange to say, the Darwinians share the fear of overpopulation, and our modern Malthusians lean on their authority. The Darwinians seem to be unfortunate as soon as they seek to apply their theories to man, because they employ roughly empirical methods and do not take into consideration that man, altho the most highly developed animal, is distinguished from animals by the fact that he has learned to understand the laws of nature, and may consciously and intelligently apply these laws.

The theory of the struggle for existence, the doctrine that the germs of new life exist in a far greater measure than could be maintained by the existing means of subsistence, would be equally applicable to man, if human beings, instead of exerting their brain and employing technics for the conscious utilization of land and water, would graze like cattle or would yield, like monkeys, to an unbridled satisfaction of their sexual desires, thereby reverting to monkeys. Incidentally, be it noted, that beside human beings, monkeys are the only creatures with whom the sexual impulse is not limited to certain periods. This alone furnishes a striking proof of the close relationship between the two. But, altho closely related, they are not identical. They cannot be placed upon the same level or measured by the same standards.

It is true that so far, owing to the conditions of property and production, the struggle for existence has prevailed, and still prevails, for individual human beings, and that many were unable to obtain the needful means of subsistence. But this was so, not because the means were wanting, but because social conditions withheld the means from them in the midst of plenty. It is a mistake to assume that because conditions have been such until now, they must always and unalterably remain so. This is the point where Darwinians make a great mistake. They study biology and anthropology, but they fail to study sociology, and thoughtlessly become the followers of bourgeois ideologists . Thus they arrive at false conclusions.

The sexual impulse is perennial in man. It is his strongest impulse, and must be satisfied if his health is not to suffer. As a rule this impulse is strongest with healthy, normally developed human beings, just like a hearty appetite and good digestion are proofs of a healthy stomach and are essential to a healthy body. But satisfaction of the sexual impulse and the procreation of children are not one and the same thing. Many are the theories that have been propounded in regard to the fecundity of man. On the whole, we are still groping in the dark concerning these important questions, mainly because, for centuries, a foolish reticence has prevailed that prevented an investigation of the laws of the origin and development of man and a study of human procreation and evolution. Only gradually will our conception change on this subject, and it is highly important that they should. Some claim that higher mental development and strenuous intellectual activity, in fact all increased nervous activity, has a repressing effect on the sexual impulse and diminishes the productive ability. By others this is denied. People point to the fact that the well-to-do classes generally have fewer children, and that this cannot be ascribed to preventive measures only. It is certain that a strenuous mental activity has a repressing influence on the sexual impulse, but it cannot be claimed that such activity is carried on by a majority of our propertied class. Excessive physical exertion also has a repressing effect, but any kind of excessive exertion is harmful and therefore not to be desired.

Others assert that the mode of life, especially the nourishment, beside certain physical conditions on the part of the woman, have a decisive influence on procreation and conception. The food, they claim, also influences procreation among animals more than any other factor. Here, indeed, the determining factor may be found. The influence of the nature of food on the organisms of certain animals, has been revealed in a surprising manner among bees. By feeding the larvae on special food, they can produce a queen at will. The bees accordingly are further advanced in their recognition of the development of sex than man. Probably they have not been preached to for thousands of years that it is “indecent” and “immoral” to concern one’s self with sexual matters.

It is also known that plants grown in rich and well-manured soil thrive luxuriantly, but do not yield seed. It is hardly to be doubted that, with human beings, also the nature of food influences the composition of the male sperm and the fecundity of the female egg, and so it may be that the reproductive power of a population depends largely upon its food. There are other factors besides, whose nature is but slightly known.

In the future one factor will be decisive in regard to the question of population: the higher, freer position of woman. As a rule, intelligent and energetic women are not inclined to regard a number of children as a “Godsend,” and to spend the best years of their lives in a condition of pregnancy, or with babes at their breasts. Even at present, most women have an aversion against a too numerous progeny, and this aversion is likely to increase rather than decrease, regardless of the care that a Socialistic society will bestow upon pregnant women and mothers. This is the main reason why, in our opinion, the increase of population is likely to progress more slowly in Socialistic society than it does in bourgeois society.

Our Malthusians assuredly have no cause to rack their brains in regard to the increase of population in the future. Until now, nations have been ruined by a diminution of their numbers, but never yet by an excess. In a society, living according to natural laws, the number of the population will ultimately be regulated without harmful abstinence or unnatural preventive measures. Karl Marx will be vindicated on this subject also. His conception, that every economic period of development has its special law of population, will prove true under the rule of Socialism.

In a book on “The Artificial Limitation of Progeny,” H. Ferdy sets forth the following opinion: “The strong opposition of Socialists to Malthusianism is a piece of roguery. The rapid increase of the population favors pauperization of the masses and fosters discontent. If the over-population could be checked, the spread of Socialism would come to an end, and the Socialist state with all its splendor would be buried forever.” Here we behold Malthusianism as a new weapon for combatting Socialism.[8]

Dr. Adolf Wagner is one of those who are in fear of over-population, and, therefore, favor restriction of the freedom of marriage and freedom of settlement, especially in the case of workingmen. He bewails the fact that workingmen marry too young, as compared with the middle classes. He and others holding the same views, overlook that the male members of the middle class do not attain a position until later in life, that enables them to support a family according to their standard of life. But they seek recompense for this renunciation with prostitution. If marriage is made more difficult for the workingmen also, they will be driven upon the same devious path. But, then, do not let us complain of the results, and cry out at the “decline of ethics and morality.” Neither let us grow indignant, then, if men and women, – since the natural impulses reside, in women as in men, – if men and women satisfy their natural impulse in illegitimate relations, and if hosts of illegitimate children populate town and country. But the views of Wagner, and those who agree with him, are also averse to the interests of the bourgeoisie and to the interests of our economic development that requires a large supply of “hands” in order to possess forces that enable competition on the world market. By petty, shortsighted suggestions, born of retrogressive and philistine minds, the evils of the age cannot be cured. At the dawn of th e twentieth century there is no class and no power of the state that is strong enough to retard the natural evolution of society. Every attempt is bound to fail. The current of evolution is so strong that it overcomes every obstacle. Not backward, but “forward,” is the word, and fie who believes in retarding progress fools himself.

In Socialistic society, when mankind will be placed upon a natural basis, and will be truly free, man will consciously guide his own development. In all preceding epochs, man acted in regard to production and distribution, and in regard to the increase of population, without any knowledge of their underlying laws; he, therefore, acted unconsciously. In the new society man will act consciously and methodically, knowing the laws of his own development.

Socialism is science applied to all realms of human activity.


1. That Darwin and others also become followers of Malthus only proves that a lack of economic studies leads to the most biased views in the realm of science.

2. In his pathetic poem, “Ireland,” Ferdinand Freiligrath sings:

The lord provides that stag and ox
For him the peasant’s toil may feed,
Instead of draining pools and bogs
Ireland’s swamps, well known indeed!
Unused he leaves and useless quite
The soil that wealth of crops might bear,
There but the wild duck wings its flight
And guinea-hens are nesting there.
Aye, by the curse of God, a marsh
And wilderness, four million acres wide!

3. “Two million acres, comprising the most fertile parts of Scotland, entirely laid waste! The natural grass of Glen Tilt was among the most nourishing of the County of Perth. The Deer Forest of Ben Aulder was the best grazing ground in the wide district of Badenoch; a portion of the Black Mountain Forest was the best pasture for black-faced sheep. An idea may be gained of the extent of the land laid waste for the pleasure of the chase, from the fact that it is larger than the entire County of Perth. The great loss entailed by this forcible destruction of the sources of production may be ascertained by calling to mind that the soil of the Deer Forest of Ben Aulder could pasture 15,000 sheep, and that, moreover, this deer forest is but one thirtieth of the entire hunting ground of Scotland. All this hunting ground is entirely unproductive. It might as well have been caused to sink into the North-Sea.” The London “Economist,” – July 2, 1866. Quoted by Karl Marx in “Capital.”

4. Rodbertus: “An Elucidation of the Social Question.”

5. This is especially true of Germany also. Notwithstanding the steady increase of the population, emigration has steadily decreased. In 1891, 120,089 persons emigrated; in 1907, only 31,696. On the other hand, immigration has increased, because there was a scarcity of labor power in several branches of industry. In 1900, 757,151 persons immigrated, in 1905, 1,007,149.

6. Kaerger estimates the harvests in Anatolia, even when the crops are poor, at 26.40 to 30 cwt. The average is 26.40 to 39 cwt.; on well fertilized and irrigated soil, 66 cwt. (“International Agricultural Competition, a Capitalistic Problem,” by Professor Dr. Gustave Ruhland. Berlin, 1901.)

7. Even at the time of St. Basil (died 379), similar conditions must have existed, for he calls out to the rich: “wretches, what reply will you make to the divine judge. You cover the nakedness of your walls with tapestry, but you do not cover with clothes the nakedness of man. You deck your horses with costly, soft blankets, but you despise your brother who is clad in rags. You stiffer your grain in the barns and granaries to rot and to be eaten by rats, and do not even cast a glance at those who have no bread.”

Moralizing has never yet availed with the ruling classes and never will. Let the social institutions be changed so that no one can act unfairly toward his fellowmen, and the world will be well off.

8. The immense ignorance of the Socialist-killer, Ferdy, is most clearly seen from the following sentences, perpetrated on page 40 Of his book: “The Socialists will go further in their demands than the Neo-Malthusians. They will demand that the minimum wage be so fixed that every workingman can beget the largest possible number of children according to the social supply of food. As soon as Socialism has drawn its ultimate conclusions and private property has been abolished, even the most stupid would soon begin to question: why should I work longer and harder because my neighbor chooses to thrust a dozen new members into society?”

It would be well to know the A B C of Socialism before venturing to write about it and such utter nonsense as that!