Eugenics and the Left

If you start researching the intellectual movements of the first 30 years of the twentieth century, you will find that eugenics was extraordinarily popular on the left. I’ve been looking at Spanish feminists and co-operativists of the 1920s and 1930s, and they were all eugenicists. And so were their colleagues and friends in the rest of Europe and the US. Margaret Sanger was not an outlier. She was extremely typical.

The reason for eugenicism’s popularity among the leftist crowd of the early twentieth century is that these were the people who were absolutely convinced that their ideas were going to save the world. They were possessed by a missionary zeal. But what stood in their way was that the masses were completely uninterested in their ideas. There are only two conclusions you can draw when that happens: the ideas are no good or the masses are defective. And nobody likes abandoning their pet theories.

The rhetoric of the urgent need to eliminate the “inferior” masses that stood in the way of “superior” human beings changing things for the better had to be abandoned by the left once Hitler adopted it. But the sensibility that informed these beliefs never disappeared. A belief in dumb, unwashed masses that stand in the way of everything good because something is physically wrong with them is still an organizing principle on the left.

2 thoughts on “Eugenics and the Left

  1. The rhetoric was abandoned? Not so fast! Bill Clinton received this letter shortly before taking office, from Ron Weddington, co-counsel from the Roe v. Wade case. One of Clinton’s first acts in office? Legalizing the abortion pill.

    ““[Y]ou can start immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy and poor segment of our country. No, I’m not advocating some sort of mass extinction of these unfortunate people. Crime, drugs and disease are already doing that. The problem is that their numbers are not only replaced but increased by the birth of millions of babies to people who can’t afford to have babies.

    In 1989, 27% of all births were to unmarried mothers, a huge percentage of whom were teenagers. If current trends continue, soon a majority of the babies born will be born into poverty and one half of the country cannot support the other half, no matter how good our intentions. I am not proposing that you send federal agents armed with Depo-Provera dart guns to the ghetto. You should use persuasion rather than coercion…

    No, government is going to have to provide vasectomies, tubal ligations and abortions… RU-486 and conventional abortions. Even if we make birth control as ubiquitous as sneakers and junk food, there will still be unplanned pregnancies. There have been about 30 million abortions in this country since Roe V Wade. Think of all the poverty, crime and misery… And then add 30 million unwanted babies to the scenario.”

    Full letter can be found in Tab F here. I recommend reading it, it’s short:

    Liked by 1 person

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