Peter Kropotkin and Eugenics

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Peter Kropotkin and Eugenics

Post by Celtiberian on Sat Jul 16, 2011 12:54 am


In 1912, Peter Kropotkin gave an impressive lecture to London's Eugenics Conference, addressing some of the faulty assumptions reactionary eugenicists were making at the time. Ever since reading this lecture, I refer to Kropotkin's warning of the possible misapplication of eugenic programs—which would undoubtedly occur if ever implemented within capitalist societies—as "Kropotkin's Proviso." Considering what we now know about the nature of heredity (which is still, in many ways, limited), Kropotkin's views proved to be remarkably correct.

Below is the speech in its entirety:

Lecture delivered by Peter Kropotkin before the Eugenics Congress held in London in August last.

Permit me to make a few remarks: one concerning the papers read by Professor Loria and Professor Kellogg, and another of a more general character concerning the purpose and limitations of Eugenics.

First of all I must express my gratitude to Professor Loria and to Professor Kellogg for having widened the discussion about the great question which we all have at heart—the prevention of the deterioration and the improvement of the human race by maintaining in purity the common stock of inheritance of mankind.

Granting the possibility of artificial selection in the human race, Professor Loria asks: "Upon which criterion are we going to make the selection?" Here we touch upon the most substantial point of Eugenics and of this Congress. I came this morning with the intention of expressing my deep regret to see the narrow point of view from which Eugenics has been treated up till now, excluding from our discussion all this vast domain where Eugenics comes in contact with social hygiene. This exclusion has already produced an unfavorable impression upon a number of thinking men in this country, and I fear that this impression may be reflected upon science altogether. Happily enough the two papers I just mentioned came to widen the field of our discussions.

Before science is enabled to give us any advice as to the measures to be taken for the improvement of the human race, it has to cover first with its researches a very wide field. Instead of that we have been asked to discuss not the foundations of a science which has still to be worked out, but a number of practical measures, some of which are of a legislative character. Conclusions were already drawn from a science before its very elements had been established.

Thus we have been asked to sanction, after a very rapid examination, marriage certificates, Malthusianism, the notification of certain contagious diseases, and especially the sterilization of the individuals who may be considered as undesirables.

I do not lose sight of the words of our president, who indicated the necessity of concentrating our attention upon the heredity aspects of this portion of social hygiene; but I maintain that by systematically avoiding considerations about the influence of surroundings upon the soundness of what is transmitted by heredity, the Congress conveys an entirely false idea of both Genetics and Eugenics. To use that word à la mode, it risks the "sterilization" of its own discussions. In fact, such a separation between surroundings and inheritance is impossible, as we just saw from Professor Kellogg's paper, which has shown us how futile it is to proceed with Eugenic measures when such immensely powerful agencies, like war and poverty, are at work to counteract them.

Another point of importance is this. Science, that is, the sum total of scientific opinion, does not consider that all we have to do is to pay a compliment to that part of human nature which induces man to take the part of the weak ones and then to act in the opposite direction. Charles Darwin knew that the birds which used to bring fish from a great distance to feed one of their blind fellows were also a part of Nature, and, as he told us in The Descent of Man, such facts of mutual support were the chief element in the preservation of the race; because such facts of benevolence nurture the sociable instinct, and without that instinct not one single race could survive in the struggle for life against the hostile forces of Nature.

My time is short, so I take only one question out of those which we have discussed: Have we had any serious discussion of the Report of the American Breeders' Association, which advocated sterilization? Have we had any serious analysis of the vague statements of that Report about the physiological and mental effects of sterilization of the feebleminded and prisoners? Were any objections raised when this sterilization was represented as a powerful deterring means against certain sexual crimes?

In my opinion, Professor McDonnell was quite right when he made the remark that it was untimely to talk of such measures at the time when the criminologists themselves are coming to the conclusion that the criminal is "a manufactured product," a product of society itself. He stood on the firm ground of modern science. I have given in my book on prisons [In Russian and French Prisons] some striking facts, taken from my own close observation of prison life from the inside, and I might produce still more striking facts to show how sexual aberrations, described by Krafft-Ebing, are often the results of prison nurture, and how the germs of that sort of criminality, if they were present in the prisoner, were always aggravated by imprisonment.

But to create or aggravate this sort of perversion in our prisons, and then to punish it by measures advocated at this Congress, is surely one of the greatest crimes. It kills all faith in justice, it destroys all sense of mutual obligation between society and the individual. It attacks the race solidarity—the best arm of the human race in its struggle for life.

Before granting to society the right of sterilization of persons affected by disease, the feebleminded, the unsuccessful in life, the epileptics (by the way, the Russian writer you so much admire at this moment, Dostoyevsky, was an epileptic), is it not our holy duty carefully to study the social roots and causes of these diseases?

When children sleep to the age of twelve and fifteen in the same room as their parents, they will show the effects of early sexual awakenings with all its consequences. You cannot combat such widely spread effects by sterilization. Just now 100,000 children have been in need of food in consequence of a social conflict. Is it not the duty of Eugenics to study the effects of a prolonged privation of food upon the generation that was submitted to such a calamity?

Destroy the slums, build healthy dwellings, abolish that promiscuity between the children and full-grown people, and be not afraid, as you often are now, of "making Socialism"; remember that to pave the streets, to bring a supply of water to a city, is already what they call to "make Socialism"; and you will have improved the germ plasm of the next generation much more than you might have done by any amount of sterilization.

And then, once these questions have been raised, don't you think that the question as to who are the unfit must necessarily come to the front? Who, indeed? The workers or the idlers? The women of the people, who suckle their children themselves, of the ladies who are unfit for maternity because they cannot perform all the duties of a mother? Those who produce degenerates in the slums, or those who produce degenerates in palaces?
Glassgold, Peter. Anarchy!: An Anthology of Emma Goldman's Mother Earth, pp. 121-123


Last edited by Celtiberian on Sat Jul 16, 2011 2:11 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Typos...)

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Re: Peter Kropotkin and Eugenics

Post by Pantheon Rising on Sat Jul 16, 2011 1:43 am

Not a bad lecture at all. I consider my self a eugenicist and I agree that it is important to research into what actually causes the diseases and ailments.
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Re: Peter Kropotkin and Eugenics

Post by Bladridigan on Sat Jul 16, 2011 2:20 pm

Good lecture, expecially the second to last paragraph. We must introduce socialism before we introduce eugenics. Otherwise we might end up sterilzing the wrong people.
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Re: Peter Kropotkin and Eugenics

Post by Lew Skannon on Sat Jul 16, 2011 7:50 pm

SSocialistStateSS wrote:Not a bad lecture at all. I consider my self a eugenicist and I agree that it is important to research into what actually causes the diseases and ailments.

I used to believe genes played a part in this, but I don't anymore. I subscribe to germanic new medicine and have found it 100% accurate.

To me eugenics is important as a study of racial traits and differences, but isn't my main focus point. People chosing a spouse of their own kind is really eugenics enough for me. As a strasserist I am more focused on the folkish socialist state and how to acieve it. How pure your blood has to be to be considered part of thepeople I leave up to others.

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Re: Peter Kropotkin and Eugenics

Post by WodzuUK on Sat Jul 16, 2011 11:15 pm

Eugenics...Your views do not suprise me at all...

Although I oppose germanic supremacism of which Third Reich is best example, to some extent I believe it should be implemented within new Socialist-Nationalist state, but only mark as undesirables ''carriers'' of genetical mental and physical dieseases.
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Re: Peter Kropotkin and Eugenics

Post by Romanticist on Sun Jul 17, 2011 2:24 am

Lew Skannon wrote:I used to believe genes played a part in this, but I don't anymore. I subscribe to germanic new medicine and have found it 100% accurate.

To me eugenics is important as a study of racial traits and differences, but isn't my main focus point. People chosing a spouse of their own kind is really eugenics enough for me. As a strasserist I am more focused on the folkish socialist state and how to acieve it. How pure your blood has to be to be considered part of thepeople I leave up to others.

germanic new medicine?

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Re: Peter Kropotkin and Eugenics

Post by Admin on Sun Jul 17, 2011 2:45 am

In posting the speech by Kropotkin, I don't think 'Celtiberian' intended to suggest anything beyond the fact that applying eugenics within the framework of capitalist social stratification is a very irresponsible and unethical proposition. That should not be interpreted to mean that he is automatically in favor of applying eugenics — much less negative eugenics — to any contemporary social framework, socialist or otherwise.

But, of course, he can speak for himself on that point.

My personal opinion is that eugenics is an anachronistic concept, the value of which will soon be a entirely surpassed by genetic modification — itself presenting a number of significant ethical questions.

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Re: Peter Kropotkin and Eugenics

Post by Rev Scare on Sun Jul 17, 2011 4:18 am

Admin wrote:In posting the speech by Kropotkin, I don't think 'Celtiberian' intended to suggest anything beyond the fact that applying eugenics within the framework of capitalist social stratification is a very irresponsible and unethical proposition. That should not be interpreted to mean that he is automatically in favor of applying eugenics — much less negative eugenics — to any contemporary social framework, socialist or otherwise.

But, of course, he can speak for himself on that point.

My personal opinion is that eugenics is an anachronistic concept, the value of which will soon be a entirely surpassed by genetic modification — itself presenting a number of significant ethical questions.

I believe that insofar as the improvement of a population's biological constitution is concerned, human genetic engineering as a planned social project would be included under the term "eugenics."

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Re: Peter Kropotkin and Eugenics

Post by Lew Skannon on Sun Jul 17, 2011 6:06 am

Romanticist wrote:germanic new medicine?

Lecture 1.
The german biologist and virologist Dr. Stefan Lanka, the first scientist to ever identify, document and isolate a virus in an ocean living organism, discusses swineflu, the vaccine and pharma industry in general.



Lecture 2.
German new medicine and the 5 biological laws. (press cc button for english subtitles)


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