Luxemburg, the Bolsheviks, Patriarchy

tgs at tgs at
Mon Nov 14 13:21:05 MST 1994

Rebecca and Larry,

Rebecca, you wrote an interesting post a little bit ago, in which
you brought up two ideas I would like to discuss.  The first was
your schematization of Marxist thinkers as thinking economically
about women's oppression, whereas the rad-fem thinkers think about
domestic and other social and psychological oppressions.  I resist such
schematization.  Engels's The Orignins of Family, etc.; Reich's
The Origins of Compulsory-Sex Morality, Michele Barratt's The Anti-
Social Family, can hardly be seen as treatises on value theory.
But I think you have a point with the idea that by focusing on
domestic/social oppression (exclusively), the rad-femmers might have
just stumbled on something positive to contribute, despite their general
invidiousness and irrationalism.  As I said to Phil, I'm not for hounding
anybody out of either the university or the debate.

2nd point: you mentioned Luxemburg as a field of feminist inquiry.  Why?--
because she is female and a Marxist, she makes a good females-only role model?
That's the way it sounds like--perhaps that is not your intention.  I don't
like the idea of seeing her this way, because a) she's a role model of mine,
and I'm not giving her up b) she herself would not countenance it.  And
while both RL and Zetkin wanted to strictly subordinate feminism to
class struggle, Luxemburg was not even that interested in feminism, to begin

But I do think that Luxemburg is very interesting for feminism--not particularly
because of her gene pool.  Because her critique of the Russian Revolution
points up what  I consider to be the Bolsheviks unconsious reproduction
of patriarchal attitudes toward power.

I realize full well, Larry, that the Bolsheviks
consciously and heroically strove to combat
all sexism and sexist discrimination.  But their ideology of a one-party state,
which can be shown well before the civil war, is clearly patriarchal.

As Montesquieu shows in the Persian Letters, there is a deep psychological
connection between despotism and the domination of women.

In the Bolsheviks' hands, their despotism was
meant to dominate, to "lean on,"  in Trotsky's words, the peasantry, which
were conceived as "formless"--as "weak-minded", as was traditional with
the Westernist strand of Russian socialist thought (Chernyshevsky is the
prime example: his own What is to be Done is very explicitly anti-sexist,yet
he believed just as much in a permanent one-party dictatorship)--an attitude
typical the way in which men conceive women under patriarchy.

This unconscious reproduction of patriarchy (given the B's explicit attacks upon
sexism, I wouldn't call it sexist.) is further given away by Lenin's treatment
of Zetkin's ideas on sexual experimentation for women as so much "dirty glass"
sexuality.  And it's shown by the Bolsheviks condescending attitude toward
Luxemburg.  Lenin called her "Our Beloved Rosa"--patronizing--while he and
the rest consistently dismissed her critique with spurious excuses--she
never published it, she renounced it in practice during the German revolution,

Luxemburg's critique is, I think, anti-Patriarchal as well as anti-despotic.
Her critique is based upon the concept of mass democratic, public "spirit,"
which counters all the repressive ideas of the Bolsheviks justifying the
repression of their political opponents because of the need for purity in
this emergency, etc.  As Luxemburg discusses, the Bolsheviks are not only
Jacobin and bourgeois in their concept of proletarian dictatorship, they are
also quite compulsive.  They seek to solve the problems of bureaucratic
corruption--with more bureaucracy.  Spirit, as a concept, as a force in
revolutionary politics, is her answer to this urge to dominate and dominate
some more.

Tom the wild-eyed Luxemburgist idealist


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