George Bernard Shaw was one of the greatest British playwrights of the modern time, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1925. However, in interwar Britain, Shaw wasn’t known only for his writing, but for his extremely favourable position towards Stalinism. The Irish writer was a fierce defender of the Soviet Union and its regime and even a supporter of eugenics, promoting the idea of killing people who weren’t ‘useful’to society.
Influenced by his readings, Shaw became a true believer in socialism. He was a member of the famous Fabian Society, a socialist organisation founded in 1884 who advanced the principles of socialism and favoured an evolution towards a democratic socialism through gradual reforms rather than a violent revolution.
Shaw claimed that every social class was serving its own purposes, and that superior classes had won this battle in detriment of the working class. He condemned the democratic system for its exploitation of workers, who were overworked by greedy employers and forced to live in poverty. Shaw also believed that modern workers were too ignorant and apathetic to vote intelligently, but that this situation could be corrected through the promotion of superiorpeople, who had the experience and intelligence needed to govern correctly. He named this development process elective breedingor Shavian eugenics, and believed it was driven by the inner strength (a ‘life force’) that made women subconsciously choose men who could offer them ‘superior’ children.
As a socialist, Shaw admired the Bolshevik Revolution and welcomed the birth of the Soviet Union. He became its loyal defender and even justified the Stalinist crimes. Asked whether the revolution had also attracted ‘degenerate types’, Shaw disagreed and argued that the revolution had attracted only ‘superior men from all over the world’, but that the old revolutionaries who didn’t have financial or managing experience had to be eliminated to make way for true statesmen.
During the famine that killed millions of people at the end of the 1920s – early 1930s, the western press wrote about the disaster in the Soviet Union. Obviously, Kremlin officials denied these ‘rumours’, as they called them, and in order to prove everything was nothing more than western capitalist propaganda, several journalists and known personalities were invited to visit the Soviet Union and Ukraine. Tours were thoroughly organised to show these strangers ‘the soviet paradise’.
So, in 1931, George Bernard Shaw visited the Soviet Union with Lord and Lady Astor, two very important public British personalities, and returned with a very favourable impression of the socialist state. Shaw described the Gulag as some sort of luxury vacation, from which people don’t even want to live. ‘From what I gather, they can stay there as long they like’, he said. In his last day of ‘pilgrimage’, Shaw regretfully said he is ‘leaving this land of hope and returning to the western countries of despair’.
Of Stalin, Shaw said he expected him to be a simple ‘Russian worker’;instead, he’d discovered ‘Georgian gentleman, who had the art of relieving our fears. He was in a charming mood, not at all malicious, nor gullible.’
In 1933, Shaw wrote to the editor of the ‘Manchester Guardian’ newspaper, denouncing an article signed by Malcolm Muggeridge, who’d written about the Soviet famine. One year later, he published a text extolling the Stalinism crimes. He even expressed sympathy for the ‘unfortunate Commissar’ who ‘felt obliged to put a gun in his pocket and shoot disobedient workers’ to show them his orders had to be carried out.
Shaw also wrote that the trials in Russia were exaggerated and rejected the idea that the accused had pleaded guilty only under torture or drugs. Then, in 1936, Shaw publicly defended the Great Stalinist Purge saying these purges had clearly demonstrated the existence of active conspiracies against the regime.
His defence of Stalinist crimes wasn’t Shaw’s most intriguing actions. He was also a defender of eugenics, the theory of improving the qualities of the human species through discouraging reproduction by people with genetic defects or inheritable ‘undesirable traits’. Shaw even promoted the idea of exterminating those ‘useless’ to society and defended the Nazi concept of Lebensunwertes Leben– ‘life unworthy of life’, arguing that there are people who are of no use in the world, who cause more trouble than they are worth and who should be eliminated.
You must all know half a dozen people at least who are no use in this world, who are more trouble than they are worth. Just put them there and say Sir, or Madam, now will you be kind enough to justify your existence? If you can't justify your existence, if you're not pulling your weight in the social boat, if you're not producing as much as you consume or perhaps a little more, then, clearly, we cannot use the organizations of our society for the purpose of keeping you alive, because your life does not benefit us and it can't be of very much use to yourself.