Too Many Babies?

By Seth Galinsky
January 3, 2022

A woman’s private decision to decide when and how many children to have is being twisted by many liberal and middle-class radicals today who are hysterical about imminent climate change disaster and the bleakness of life they perceive. This has nothing to do with the fight for women’s emancipation, Socialist Workers Party leader Paul Mailhot said in his Dec. 11 talk.

Mailhot pointed to a 1913 article by V.I. Lenin, the central leader of the Russian Revolution, which describes a congress of bourgeois and upper-middle-class doctors promoting abortion and contraception. When one delegate said women bringing children into the world can only lead to them being “maimed” or “driven to suicide,” he received thunderous applause.

Lenin strongly objected. “Why not that they should fight better, more unitedly, consciously and resolutely than we are fighting against the present-day conditions of life that are maiming and ruining our generation.” The doctors’ sentiments were “suited only to unfeeling and egotistic petty-bourgeois couples, who whisper in scared voices: ‘God grant we manage somehow by ourselves. So much the better if we have no children.’”

Those reluctant to see children brought into a world “ravaged by climate change” today are especially concerned that “deplorable” workers here and throughout the semi-colonial world shouldn’t have children. “Lenin’s words are a good answer today” to them, Mailhot said.

Too Many Babies? by SWP leader Joseph Hansen, which is being prepared to be reprinted, takes up the same question. The 1960 pamphlet was written when article after article in the bourgeois press decried a looming “overpopulation” crisis, claiming the world’s population was increasing “geometrically” but food production was only going up “arithmetically.” Soon, food supplies would run out in an overpopulated world, leading to disaster.

It wasn’t true then and it’s not true now. “Under capitalism the distribution of hunger,” Hansen says, “is not due to the abundance of the poor but to poor distribution of society’s abundance.” In addition, “wealth can be increased without limit if society is so organized as to bring about the most effective combination of labor power and science.” Science, coupled with a far-reaching reorganization of society led by working people taking political power into their own hands, can revolutionize food production. The problem isn’t “too many babies,” it’s capitalism’s system of exploitation.