Notes on the View of Marxist and Socialist on Population Growth

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Socialist writers in general have traced all human miseries to defects in the capitalist social order and have claimed that if the reforms suggested by them are implemented, the productive capacity of the people would increase, and that unemployment and over­population would be checked.

Although all socialist writers were against the Malthusian theory, their ideas regarding population issues have varied to a great extent. Early socialist writers were concerned with population questions, but their views were not clearly stated. The credit of formulating a consistent approach to the population problem may be given to Marx and Engels.

Marx and Engels

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The Malthusian theory was completely rejected by Marx as it did not fit into his ideas of a socialist society. It is to be noted that while Marx and Engels did not formulate a population theory per se, they set forth basic principles which, according to them, would determine population size and its socio­economic correlates.

Marx postulated that there could be no natural or universal law of population growth and asserted: “Every special historic mode of production has its own special laws of population, historically valid, within its limits alone.”

According to him, “An abstract law of population in exists for plants and animals only, and only in so far as man has not interfered with them. In this view, the population law was peculiar only to the capitalist system of production, and that the tendency of over-population was inherent in that system and was not due to excessive reproduction.

Engels, while fully supporting the views of Marx, added one point of his own. He maintained that under the capitalistic system, surplus population was associated with surplus capital and that such a contradiction inherent in capitalism could be overcome only by “social reorganisation.”

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Socialist Views on Birth Control

The Marxist views of the good society as enunciated in the Communist Manifesto of Marx and the Origin of the Family of Engles emphasised the need for the emancipation of women from household drudgery.

It was, however, not made very explicit whether they should also be emancipated from excessive child bearing. Engels, in a letter to Kautsky, wrote about the “abstract possibility” that the number of persons in a communist society might have to be limited by conscious control.

Augustus Bebets, German socialists whose analysis was mainly confined to the status of women under capitalist and socialist societies, was of the opinion that population in a socialist society would increase more slowly than in a bourgeois society because of the superior status of women under socialism.

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Later socialists indicate that they support responsible parenthood. The Marxists are of the view that in a socialist society, reproductive behaviour would develop a complete harmony between the individual and society.

Though they are generally opposed to the theme of birth control as an independent means to fight the socio-economic causes of poverty, the modern socialists hold the view that birth control contributes to the emancipation of women by “combining happy maternity and creative work,” and to that extent birth control is accepted and even abortion is permitted in the modern socialist countries of Europe.

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