September 16, 2020


Eugenics and the intellectual left: To what extent should we separate an artist's work from their period, character and ideas? (Michael Coren, 16 September, 2020, The Critic)

Shaw did indeed write, that, 'The only fundamental and possible socialism is the socialisation of the selective breeding of man" and, chillingly, "A part of eugenic politics would finally land us in an extensive use of the lethal chamber. A great many people would have to be put out of existence simply because it wastes other people's time to look after them." He lectured for the Eugenic Education Society, praised Stalin (naturally) the early Mussolini, and even Hitler as late as 1935. He abandoned most of all this in his old age but never made any formal apology.

He was also an incisive critic of imperialism, mercilessly exposed establishment hypocrisy, opposed war and oppression throughout his career, and cared passionately about actors and writers - the very people at RADA trying to expunge his name from their place of learning. And here's another challenge and even embarrassment for those who would remove the social engineers from the litany of the great and the good: many of their harshest opponents were not others on the left but, in Edwardian Britain and in the 20s and 30s, conservative Roman Catholic writers led by GK Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.

In 1922 Chesterton wrote a book entitled Eugenics and Other Evils. He wrote that, "Eugenics itself, in large quantities or small, coming quickly or coming slowly, urged from good motives or bad, applied to a thousand people or applied to three, Eugenics itself is a thing no more to be bargained about than poisoning." He and Belloc, both arch-traditionalists and both responsible for some jarringly reactionary and anti-Semitic comments, nevertheless saw the policies of Shaw, Wells, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, and the rest for what they were. These prolific authors and journalists were also surprisingly early opponents of the Nazis, principally because of the party's racist eugenics. Chesterton wrote of thousands of Jews being "rabbled or ruined or driven from their homes" by the Nazis, who "beat and bully poor Jews in concentration camps", and how, "I do indeed despise the Hitlerites."

Posted by at September 16, 2020 7:26 AM


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