Lenin on Birth Control
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Wed Aug 9 22:55:16 MDT 2000
I did not know that he wrote one..
The Working Class and Neo-Malthusianism
Written: Pravda, June 29, 1913
Published: Women and Communism, Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1950
Transcribed and HTML Markup: Sally Ryan
ON BIRTH CONTROL
Great interest was aroused and much discussion took place at the Pirogov
doctors' congress (1913) on the question of abortion, i.e., on the
producing of artificial miscarriages. The speaker, Luchkus, cited facts
showing the very extensive scale of abortion practised in contemporary
so-called civilised states.
In a single year in New York, there were 80,000 abortions, while in
France there are about 36,000 monthly.
In Petersburg the percentage of abortions has more than doubled in five
The Pirogov doctors' congress passed a resolution stating that criminal
prosecution of the mother for abortion must never take place and that
doctors should be prosecuted only if they had "mercenary aims".
In the discussion, the majority of speakers supporting the legalisation
of abortion, naturally touched also on the question of so-called
neo-Malthusianism (birth control), and also upon the social aspects of
According to the Russkoye Slovo report, Mr. Vigdorchik, for example,
stated that one must "welcome contraceptive measures", while Mr.
Astrakhan exclaimed, amid thunderous applause: "So we have to persuade
mothers to give birth to children, so that the latter shall be thrashed
in educational establishments, take their chance in life and be driven
If it is correctly reported that this declamation by Mr. Astrakhan
produced very stormy applause, I am not surprised. The audience was made
up of middle and petty bourgeois with a petty bourgeois psychology. What
can one expect of them but the most disgusting liberalism?
For the working class, however, one would be hard put to it to find a
more graphic expression of the whole reactionary and pitiful "social
neo-Malthusianism" of the phrase cited above, used by Mr. Astrakhan.
"To give birth to children so that they may be thrashed...." Is that the
only reason for having children? And why not have children so that they
may fight better and in a more comradely, conscious and decisive way
than we against the living conditions which are deforming and destroying
Herein lies the fundamental difference between the psychology of the
peasant, the artisan, the intellectual--in short--the petty
bourgeois--and the psychology of the proletariat. The petty bourgeois
can see and feel that he is dying, that life is becoming more and more
difficult, the battle for existence ever more merciless and his own and
his family's position more and more insoluble. And the petty bourgeois
protests against this.
But how does he protest?
He protests as the representative of a class which is decaying
irrevocably, which is hopeless about its future, a defeated and cowardly
class. "If only there were fewer children, suffering sorrows and hard
labour, our poverty and humiliations!"--that is the cry of the petty
The conscious worker is immeasurably far from this standpoint. He will
not allow his consciousness to be clouded by such snivel ings, however
sincere and heartfelt they may be. We workers and the great mass of
small owners, too, live a life filled with unbearable oppression and
suffering. Life is more difficult for our generation than it was for our
fathers. Rut in one respect we are much more fortunate than our fathers.
We have learnt and are learning rapidly to fight.
And to fight not singly as did the best of our fathers and not for
deceitful bourgeois slogans, but for our own slogans, the slogans of our
class. We fight better than our fathers. Our children will fight still
better and they will win.
The working class is not dying. It is growing, becoming strong, grown
up, united; it is learning and becoming tempered in struggle. We are
pessimists as regards serfdom, capitalism and smallscale production, but
ardent optimists about the workers' movement and its aims. We are
already laying the foundations of the new building and our children will
finish its construction.
That is why--and that is the only reason--we are unconditional enemies
of neo-Malthusianism, which is a trend proper to the petty-bourgeois
couple, hardened and egoistical, who mutter fearfully: "Only let us hang
on somehow. As for children, we'd better not have any."
It stands to reason that such an approach does not in any way prevent us
from demanding the unconditional repeal of all laws persecuting abortion
or laws against the distribution of medical works on contraceptive
measures and so on. Such laws are simply the hypocrisy of the ruling
classes. These laws do not cure the ills of capitalism, but simply turn
them into especially malignant and cruel diseases for the oppressed
The freedom of medical propaganda and the protection of the elementary
democratic rights of men and women citizens is one matter. Quite another
is the social doctrine of neo-Malthusianism.
Conscious workers will always wage the most merciless struggle against
attempts to impose this reactionary and cowardly doctrine on the most
advanced and strongest class in contemporary society, the class most
prepared for great social changes.
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Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222
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