WOMEN AND COMMUNISM 

The Early Communist Women’s Movement with Daria Dyakonova

Lydia and Anne sit down with Daria Dyakonova to discuss the often neglected history of the Communist Women’s Movement (1920-22). They talk about the origins of the movement, its most important figures, the debates around what the base of the CWM would be, and what would be the main issues it tackled, its changing relationship to the Comintern and its recurring fight against male chauvinism within the communist and broader workers movement. The discussion finishes with the slow eclipse of the CWM until its final demise and how that affected the future generations of communist women.
Daria and Mike Taber have an upcoming book on this topic through Brill’s Historical Materialism series.

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WOMENS’ STRUGGLE FOR EMANCIPATION 

International Women’s Day

Alexandra Kollontai

First Published: Mezhdunarodnyi den’ rabotnitz, Moscow 1920;
Translated: Alix Holt 1972;
Transcribed: Tom Condit for marx.org, 1997;
Proofed: and corrected by Chris Clayton 2006.

Marxists Internet Archive

Alexandra Kollontai

A Militant Celebration

Women’s Day or Working Women’s Day is a day of international solidarity, and a day for reviewing the strength and organization of proletarian women.

But this is not a special day for women alone. The 8th of March is a historic and memorable day for the workers and peasants, for all the Russian workers and for the workers of the whole world. In 1917, on this day, the great February revolution broke out.[2] It was the working women of Petersburg who began this revolution; it was they who first decided to raise the banner of opposition to the Tsar and his associates. And so, working women’s day is a double celebration for us.

But if this is a general holiday for all the proletariat, why do we call it “Women’s Day”? Why then do we hold special celebrations and meetings aimed above all at the women workers and the peasant women? Doesn’t this jeopardize the unity and solidarity of the working class? To answer these questions, we have to look back and see how Women’s Day came about and for what purpose it was organized.Read More »

STRUGGLE FOR WOMEN EMANCIPATION 

Women’s Suffrage and Class Struggle

Rosa Luxemburg

Speech: May 12, 1912 (at the Second Social Democratic Women’s Rally, Stuttgart, Germany).
Source: Selected Political Writings, Rosa Luxemburg. Edited and introduced by Dick Howard. Monthly Review Press © 1971.
Translated: Rosmarie Waldrop (from the German Ausgewählte Reden und Schriften, 2 (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1951, pp.433-41).
Transcription/Markup: Brian Baggins.
Copyright: Monthly Review Press © 1971. Published here by the Marxists Internet Archive (marxists.org, 2003) with permission from Monthly Review Press.

“Why are there no organizations for working women in Germany? Why do we hear so little about the working women’s movement?” With these questions, Emma Ihrer, one of the founders of the proletarian women’s movement of Germany, introduced her 1898 essay, Working Women in the Class Struggle. Hardly fourteen years have passed since, but they have seen a great expansion of the proletarian women’s movement. More than a hundred fifty thousand women are organized in unions and are among the most active troops in the economic struggle of the proletariat. Many thousands of politically organized women have rallied to the banner of Social Democracy: the Social Democratic women’s paper [Die Gleichheit, edited by Clara Zetkin] has more than one hundred thousand subscribers; women’s suffrage is one of the vital issues on the platform of Social Democracy.Read More »

WOMEN’S EMANCIPATION 

Lenin on the Women’s Question
From My Memorandum Book

Clara Zetkin

Clara Zetkin interviews Lenin on the women's question

Source: The Emancipation of Women: From the Writings of V.I. Lenin;
Publisher: International Publishers;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan.

Marxists Internet Archive

Comrade Lenin frequently spoke to me about the women’s question. Social equality for women was, of course, a principle needing no discussion for communists. It was in Lenin’s large study in the Kremlin in the autumn of 1920 that we had our first long conversation on the subject.

“We must create a powerful international women’s movement, on a clear theoretical basis”, Lenin began. “There is no good practice without Marxist theory, that is clear. The greatest clarity of principle is necessary for us communists in this question. There must be a sharp distinction between ourselves and all other Parties. Unfortunately, our Second World Congress did not deal with this question. It was brought forward, but no decision arrived at. The matter is still in commission, which should draw up a resolution, theses, directions. Up to the present, however, they haven’t got very far. You will have to help.”

I was already acquainted with what Lenin said and expressed my astonishment at the state of affairs. I was filled with enthusiasm about the work done by Russian women in the revolution and still being done by them in its defence and further development. And as for the position and activities of women comrades in the Bolshevik Party, that seemed to me a model Party. It alone formed an international communist women’s movement of useful, trained and experienced forces and a historical example.Read More »

SOCIALIST FEMINISM 

What is Socialist Feminism?

Barbara Ehrenreich

Marxists Internet Archive

Barbara Ehrenreich

Note: This article was first published in WIN Magazine in 1976. It later appeared in Working Papers on Socialism & Feminism published by the New American Movement (NAM) in 1976. NAM was a mixed gender organization heavily influenced by socialist feminism. A number of CWLUers were associated with it.


At some level, perhaps not too well articulated, socialist feminism has been around for a long time. You are a woman in a capitalist society. You get pissed off: about the job, about the bills, about your husband (or ex), about the kids’ school, the housework, being pretty, not being pretty, being looked at, not being look at (and either way, not listened to), etc. If you think about all these things and how they fit together and what has to be changed, and then you look around for some words to hold all these thoughts together in abbreviated form, you’d almost have to come up with “socialist feminism.”Read More »

CAPITALIST APPROPRIATION OF WOMEN WORKERS

Capital
A Critique of Political Economy

Karl Marx

Volume I
Book One: The Process of Production of Capital

Chapter Fifteen: Machinery and Modern Industry

Section 3 – The Proximate Effects of Machinery on the Workman

First published: in German in 1867;
Source: First english edition of 1887 (4th German edition changes included as indicated) with some modernisation of spelling;
Publisher: Progress Publishers, Moscow, USSR;
First Published: 1887;
Translated: Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling, edited by Frederick Engels;
Online Version: Marx/Engels Internet Archive (marxists.org) 1995, 1999;
Transcribed: Zodiac, Hinrich Kuhls, Allan Thurrott, Bill McDorman, Bert Schultz and Martha Gimenez (1995-1996);
HTML Markup: Stephen Baird and Brian Baggins (1999);
Proofed: and corrected by Andy Blunden and Chris Clayton (2008), Mark Harris (2010), Dave Allinson (2015).

The starting-point of modern industry is, as we have shown, the revolution in the instruments of labour, and this revolution attains its most highly developed form in the organised system of machinery in a factory. Before we inquire how human material is incorporated with this objective organism, let us consider some general effects of this revolution on the labourer himself.

A. Appropriation of Supplementary Labour-power by Capital. The Employment of Women and Children

In so far as machinery dispenses with muscular power, it becomes a means of employing labourers of slight muscular strength, and those whose bodily development is incomplete, but whose limbs are all the more supple. The labour of women and children was, therefore, the first thing sought for by capitalists who used machinery. That mighty substitute for labour and labourers was forthwith changed into a means for increasing the number of wage-labourers by enrolling, under the direct sway of capital, every member of the workman’s family, without distinction of age or sex. Compulsory work for the capitalist usurped the place, not only of the children’s play, but also of free labour at home within moderate limits for the support of the family. [38]Read More »

OPPRESSION AGAINST WOMEN

Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State

Preface to the Fourth Edition, 1891

Frederick Engels

OriginOfFamily-1884.jpg

Written: March-May, 1884;
First Published: October 1884, in Hottingen-Zurich;
Source: Marx/Engels Selected Works, Volume Three;
Translation: The text is essentially the English translation by Alick West published in 1942, but it has been revised against the German text as it appeared in MEW [Marx-Engels Werke] Volume 21, Dietz Verlag 1962, and the spelling of names and other terms has been modernised;
Transcription/Markup: Zodiac/Brian Baggins;
Online Version: Marx/Engels Internet Archive (marxists.org) 1993, 1999, 2000.
Proofed and corrected: Mark Harris 2010

The earlier large editions of this work have been out of print now for almost half a year, and for some time the publisher has been asking me to prepare a new edition. Until now, more urgent work kept me from doing so. Since the appearance of the first edition seven years have elapsed, during which our knowledge of the primitive forms of the family has made important advances. There was, therefore, plenty to do in the way of improvements and additions; all the more so as the proposed stereotyping of the present text will make any further alterations impossible for some time.

I have accordingly submitted the whole text to a careful revision and made a number of additions which, I hope, take due account of the present state of knowledge. I also give in the course of this preface a short review of the development of the history of the family from Bachofen to Morgan; I do so chiefly because the chauvinistically inclined English anthropologists are still striving their utmost to kill by silence the revolution which Morgan’s discoveries have effected in our conception of primitive history, while they appropriate his results without the slightest compunction. Elsewhere also the example of England is in some cases followed only too closely.Read More »

WOMEN’S STRUGGLE 

On 5th Anniversary of First Women Workers’ and Peasants’ Congress

J. V. Stalin

Woman image in Soviet propaganda, poster 19

Written:1923;
Published: Women and Communism, Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1950;
Transcribed and HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

Marxists Internet Archive

It is five years since the Central Committee of our Party convened in Moscow the All-Russian women workers’ and peasants’ congress. Over a thousand delegates, representing one million working women, gathered for the congress. This congress was a landmark in the work of our Party among working women. The incalculable service rendered by this congress was to lay the foundation for the organisation of the political education of our Republic’s women workers and peasants.

Some may think that there is nothing out of the ordinary in this, since the Party has always carried out political education among the masses, including women, or it may be thought that the political education of women can have no real importance since we shall soon have united worker and peasant cadres. Such opinions are fundamentally incorrect.Read More »

REVOLUTIONARY VIEWPOINT ON WOMEN’S EMANCIPATION 

Quotations from Mao Tse Tung

31. Women

Quotations from: 1927 – 1964
First Published: 1966
Publisher: Peking Foreign Languages Press
Transcription/Markup: David Quentin / Brian Baggins
Online Version: Mao Tse Tung Internet Archive (marxists.org) 2000

Picture

A man in China is usually subjected to the domination of three systems of authority [political authority, family authority and religious authority]…. As for women, in addition to being dominated by these three systems of authority, they are also dominated by the men (the authority of the husband). These four authorities – political, family, religious and masculine – are the embodiment of the whole feudal-patriarchal ideology and system, and are the four thick ropes binding the Chinese people, particularly the peasants. How the peasants have overthrown the political authority of the landlords in the countryside has been described above. The political authority of the landlords is the backbone of all the other systems of authority. With that overturned the family authority, the religious authority and the authority of the husband all begin to totter…. As to the authority of the husband, this has always been weaker among the poor peasants because, out of economic necessity, their womenfolk have to do more manual labour than the women of the richer classes and therefore have more say and greater power of decision in family matters. With the increasing bankruptcy of the rural economy in recent years, the basis for men’s domination over women has already been undermined. With the rise of the peasant movement, the women in many places have now begun to organize rural women’s associations; the opportunity has come for them to lift up their heads, and the authority of the husband is getting shakier every day. In a word, the whole feudal-patriarchal ideology and system is tottering with the growth of the peasants’ power.

“Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan” (March 1927), Selected Works, Vol. I, pp. 44-46.*Read More »