Ex-Machina: Refusal to Feed the Capitalist Machine

Spencer Rocchi
(Parti Rhinocéros Party)

A paper submitted for the Society for Expanding the Women-in-Leadership Advantage, Real-World Solutions to Real-World Problems Conference (1000 word limit)

on August 19, 2021-August 20, 2021 at Walden University

Submitted on
July 5th, 2021
(Revised August 8th, 2021)

The goal of this essay will be to inform feminist and children’s rights activists within
the socialist movement about “birth striking” as a potential revolutionary tactic. After a discussion of Social Reproduction Theory (S.R.T.), and “birth striking” as a
concept, a comprehensive rationale is included to explain why a birth strike is
necessary to advance the socialist agenda. Birth striking has the potential to combat the very structure of capitalism and reverse the impact of Holocene Mass Extinction while allowing substantially more free time for revolutionaries to support their causes. Perhaps the most imperative argument for birth striking is to protect the child from social, economic, and environmental collapse. Finally, the paper will address the Women’s Liberation Movements’ fundamental misconceptions about S.R.T., and using children as “bargaining chips” for their own social advancement.

Social Reproduction Theory
As Social Reproduction Theory (S.R.T.) notes that society must address how
capitalism intentionally exploits the value of labour based on gender and race,
Griffiths argues S.R.T. is the trend best-positioned for further developing classical
Marxist accounts of the labor theory of value. This occurs through a concrete
historical account of the family as a capitalist institution by tracing debates about
value within and beyond the range of Marxist-feminist accounts of labor, the strike
tactic, and circulation. She also explains that amendments must apply to the Marxist production models in order to account for housework and other general labour. Federici points out that many feminists oppose S.R.T. in favour of government programs and cites the horrors of surrogacy contracts and children’s rights as reasons to support S.R.T.

BirthStriking as a Concept
Timsit explains that Blythe Pepino, Adam Leylange, and Jessica Johannesson were
the official pioneers of the “BirthStrike Movement”, which began out of a growing
concern regarding the morality of having children in the climate change era.
Dapcevich discusses how the BirthStrike Movement considers itself a valid response to the impending socioeconomic and environmental breakdown. Bacon notes a similar movement by a young activist named Emma Lim, called “#No Future, No Children”, which is also intended to withhold birthing children as a response to the climate change crisis, specifically because it is no longer safe to do so.

Not Birthing Children Hurts Capitalism
Gimenez, who disagrees with the environmental focus on overpopulation,
acknowledges that more focus needs to be given to the capitalistic model and how it negatively affects fertility, mortality, and migration. Levine explains that as we
approach the middle of the century, the aging population will not be consuming as
much, or having as many children. This is important to note because it gives women
considerable leverage to pressure decision-makers to improve conditions for women and the disenfranchised. Newman and Cheadle concur with the assessment that an aging population and fewer babies in the developed world will inevitably destabilize the capitalistic economic model.

Not Birthing Children is the Most Important Decision an Individual Can Make to
Address Climate Change

Hickel explains it is the wealthy nations that are, by far, contributing the most
atmospheric CO2—meaning they should carry the most responsibility for combating the climate change crisis. Perkins reports that not having children is the most effective strategy in reversing the effects of climate change, and that this is
underrepresented in government policy and the educational curriculum. Hwang also notes that the Earth is only capable of supporting, at most, 1.5 billion people at the American standard of living.

BirthStrike Reddit logo

Being Child-free Affords Women More Time and Resources for Personal Gains
and Activism

Sessions reports that younger generations are realizing how much more affordable
and manageable a child-free lifestyle is because it spares the child a bleak future in
a capitalistic model, while simultaneously allowing for more political activism. Tillich
notes specifically how women can become empowered and liberated via voluntary
sterilization by establishing complete control over their reproductive processes. Ellis explains that many child-free people, especially women, often face a lot of medical barriers with sterilization, and lists a common reason for this is “Maybe you’ll change your mind”. Most child-free people cite a bleak future as a primary reason not to have children.

The Women’s Liberation Movement’s Misconceptions About The “Birth Strike”
Concept and Societal Lack of Consideration For Children’s Rights

Jenny Brown’s current “Birth Strike” movement simply seeks to use children as
“bargaining chips” to benefit themselves in the capitalistic model, as opposed to
putting the best interests of children first. In short, Brown’s movement views child-rearing as a profitable venture for feminists, and claims there is already a natural
birth-strike occurring. This movement is neither strategic (not a real strike), nor
respectful of children’s rights. The National Women’s Liberation references child-rearing as a strictly business venture, making no specific reference to the best
interests of children. Johannesson and Pepino characterized their actual BirthStrike
Movement as “dangerous,” formally citing this as the reason they discontinued their
movement, officially. Brown’s misleading movement has caused notable confusion
for those interested in children’s rights.

BirthStriking as a Strategy for Revolution
Hammond et al. note that Emma Lim is actively calling for the youth to refrain from
procreation. So too are Hammond et al. with their No Future Pledge. Spencer Rocchi has officially revived the BirthStrike Movement as of March 2021.

Bacon, John. “No Future, No Children: Teens Refusing to Have Kids until There’s
Action on Climate Change.” USA Today, 19 Sept. 2019,
Brown, Jenny. Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight over Work. PM Press, 2019.
Brown, Jenny. “Who’s Afraid of the Lower Birth Rate?” OrgUp, 19 Jan. 2021,
Cheadle, Caitlin. “Fertility Rates Keep Dropping, and It’s Going to Hit the Economy
Hard.” Visual Capitalist, 25 Nov. 2016,
Dapcevich, Madison. “’BirthStrike’ Movement Encourages People to Stop Having
Children in the Face of Climate Change.” EcoWatch, 27 Mar. 2019,
Ellis, Emma Grey. “’Why Don’t You Want Kids?’ ‘Because Apocalypse!’” WIRED, 28
Mar. 2019, http://www.wired.com/story/how-we-reproduce-childfree/.
Featherstone, Liza. “The Pandemic Is a Family Emergency: How the Coronavirus
Exposes a Crisis of Care Work.” The New Republic, 7 May 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157528/coronavirus-pandemic-family-care-work-crisis.
Federici, Silvia. “Social Reproduction Theory: History, Issues and Present
Challenges.” Radical Philosophy, vol. 2.02, ser. 2, pp. 55–57. 2,
Gimenez, Martha E. “Population and Capitalism.” Latin American Perspectives, vol.
4, no. 4, 1977, pp. 5–40., http://www.jstor.org/stable/2633174?seq=1.
Griffiths, Kate Doyle. “Labor Valorization and Social Reproduction: What is Valuable
about the Labor Theory of Value?” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture,
vol. 22, no. 2, ser. 4, pp. 1–14. 4,
Hammond, Bailey, Maddison Forster and Flordelis Bonenfant. “Homepage.” No
Future Pledge, 2021, http://www.nofuturepledge.ca.
Hickel, Jason. “Quantifying National Responsibility for Climate Breakdown: an
Equality-Based Attribution Approach for Carbon Dioxide Emissions in Excess of the
Planetary Boundary.” The Lancet Planetary Health Volume 4, Issue 9, September
2020, Pages e399-e404, vol. 4, no. 9, pp. 399–404.,
Hwang, Andrew D. “7.5 Billion and Counting: How Many Humans Can the Earth
Support?” The Conversation, 9 July 2018,
Johannesson, Jessica, and Blythe Pepino. “BirthStrike Statement to Members
English.” Suffolk, 2020, Southwold, England,
Irfan, Umair. “We Need to Talk about the Ethics of Having Children in a Warming
World.” Vox, 11 Mar. 2019,
Lim, Emma. “No Future No Children.” Greenpeace.org, 23 Sept. 2019,
LeVine, Steve. “The New Threat to Capitalism.” Axios, 20 Aug. 2019,
Newman, Rick. “Why a Falling Birth Rate Is a Big Problem.” U.S. News, 3 Dec. 2012,
Pattillo, Ali. “Climate Scientists Predict a Bleak Future for Today’s Children.” Inverse,
13 Nov. 2019,
Perkins, Sid. “The Best Way to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint Is One the
Government Isn’t Telling You About.” ScienceMag.org, 11 July 2017, http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/07/best-way-reduce-your-carbon-footprint-one-government-isn-t-telling-you-about.
Sessions, David. “The Child-Free Generation’s Hard Bargain With Capitalism.”
Ordinary Times, 23 Aug. 2013,
Tillich, Emma. “‘Liberation! A True Liberation!’: Being Childfree and Sterilized.”
Ethnologie Française, translated by Johnl Angel, vol. 176, no. 4, 2019, pp. 787–801.
“World Failing to Provide Children with a Healthy Life and a Climate Fit for Their
Future.” WHO, WHO-UNICEF-Lancet, 19 Feb. 2020,

Published by The BirthStrike Movement

We are leftist revolutionaries seeking to liberate children and animals from oppression.

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