Think of the Children

In Beyond Totalitarianism, chapter 3 focuses on the reproductive policies of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Both countries, along with Italy and all of Western Europe, placed importance on increasing the birth rate and population numbers in their respective countries. WWI had devastated a generation and decreased birth rates dramatically. The countries related population numbers to military strength, the more people you had, the more men you could use to fight the enemy.

The Nazis, Fascists and Soviets implemented policies and incentives to encourage increased birth rates. Medals were given to Nazi mothers who had more than 7/8 children, and stipends were given to Soviet women who produced more than four children. In the Soviet Union these were mostly rural peasant mothers, where large families were needed to work the farm. Also, many of these large families existed before the government introduced the compensation.

Yet, with the push for an immediate population increase, did no one think of the future? The Earth has a maximum capacity for life. It can only support so many. As twisted as it is, wars throughout history, along with epidemics have kept the population in check. Imagine how overpopulated the world would be if the Black Plague had not struck Europe. Currently the world is facing a problem of overpopulation, if the European nations had not pushed so much for increased births would it have delayed this problem? Or since the birth rates in Germany and the Soviet Union were not dramatically increased with the incentives and laws, did this have little effect on the world problem we currently face?

5 thoughts on “Think of the Children

  1. I do not think Europe’s interwar dictators concerned themselves with overpopulation of the Earth and subsequent totally completion of its resources. The future was precisely what they were thinking of, in fact, the future remained a priority over the present; interwar party policies were linked directly with future goals.

  2. I think it is important to consider that most of these citizens who were reproducing so quickly were often in extreme poverty. Many families were limited to a small, often shared, apartments with sub-par living standards. Thus, I’m sure the infant mortality rate was fairly high. Medals and stipends can only go so far. So, although this increased birth rate did have an effect on overpopulation, many children in this generation did not live beyond their first couple years due to poor living conditions.

  3. I want to build off of Jackson’s post and the Dictators’ focus on the future. Many times throughout the essay, Wilson argues that although both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany had very explicit and intrusive reproductive policies, these policies were not a product of the totalitarian state. He bases this argument off the differences between the two policies and eugenics pre-totalitarian origins. His fight against bringing ideas under a generic sense of totalitarianism counteracts the efforts taken by Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski to unify or define a generic for of totalitarianism that would group Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union under the same overarching classification. Wilson criticizes social scientists for and some historians for trying to blur the unique social histories and circumstances that led to the development of distinct reproductive policies in each country. However, he acknowledges that the Soviet and Nazi policies differentiate themselves from nineteenth century reproductive policies in that they direct sexual personal experiences towards collective states goals. Does this nuance unite these policies and make them the product of distinctly totalitarian states or are the differences between the two states actually as stark as Wilson argues. Who takes the correct approach, Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski as they collectivized regimes under a broad umbrella of totalitarianism or Wilson who dismisses almost all generic similarities?

  4. I think Wilson was on the right path by distinguishing between the different regimes. Each one had very particular and distinct circumstances that led it to following its respective policy. For example, the Nazis were motivated primarily by their quest for a “master race”, while the Soviets tried to repopulate after decimation in both World Wars. The reasons for following what may have been similar strategies are vastly different, and as such should be examined as different systems.

  5. I agree with Jackson and most of these comments that these dictators did not think about the future in regards to the possibility of over-populating the Earth. I do believe that they were certainly looking towards the distant future. However, in the sense that they felt that increased birthrates would help their respective nations overcome the devastation that they had previously experienced with war. International competition and fear of one another was a primary motivating factor in the implementation of pronatalist policies, and therefore huge populations equated to massive militaries that would be capable of overpowering the enemy.

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