Bolsheviks and women's liberation
mlbooks at mcs.net
Tue Apr 4 19:59:41 MDT 1995
From: Jack Hill <mlbooks at mcs.com>
The Chicago Workers' Voice has published a book, _From Baba to
Tovarishch, The Bolshevik Revolution and Soviet
Women's Struggle for Liberation_, edited by Barbara Ranes.
This book is the fruit of years of serious study of the history
of the struggles of women in the Soviet Union from the victory of
the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 through 1936. It examines in
detail the victories and defeats of the women's movement through
the early years of the Soviet Union. There are chapters on
Zhenotdel and the new woman, law and the transformation of the
family, the abortion dilemma, the campaign against prostitution,
and women's work and public life.
I want to point out that a lot of hard work went into this work.
We have striven very hard to get the facts right. At the same time
the study group that produced this book was united by a strong
political stand. It is a stand of wanting to advance the struggle
for the emancipation of women worldwide. It is a stand linking the
struggle for the emancipation of women with the struggle for
emancipation of the working class and all the poor and oppressed
laboring masses of the world. It is a stand based on the
scientific theory of revolution, Marxism-Leninism. In the
forward to the book which I have appended below, you can see in
more detail the political views which motivated this study.
Undoubtedly our political stand will prevent some pro-capitalist
scholars from even seriously considering what we have to say,
although I believe our scholarship is quite sound. However, I
also believe this book can be of considerable use to those who
are interested in women's liberation. In the early years of the
Soviet Union, the struggle for women's emancipation made major
advances of worldwide significance. By the end of the 1920s this
struggle had been seriously undermined. There are crucial
lessons to be learned both in the successes and the failures.
[Ordering information is at the end of the forward.]
The articles in this book were prepared by members of a
study group on women which was formed in 1990. This study group
was organized by the Marxist-Leninist Party, and several of these
articles originally appeared in the Workers' Advocate Supplement,
a journal of the MLP. The articles have been edited and expanded
for publication in this book.
The Marxist-Leninist Party has since dissolved -- in
November, 1993. The MLP stood for Socialism, and for building an
independent working class movement. One of the historic
strengths of the Marxist-Leninist Party was its opposition to
the betrayal of Marxism-Leninism that took place in the Soviet
Union. In fact, the MLP and its predecessors saw themselves as
anti-revisionist communists who opposed the bureaucratic state
capitalist regime in the Soviet Union and its reactionary
theories and tactics. The MLP worked to develop a critique of
Soviet state capitalism and to rescue socialist theory and
practice from years of distortion brought on by the Soviet-style
communist parties, which had wide influence on the mass movements
around the world. Today, the USSR doesn't exist. We were not
surprised when economic and political crises brought down the
Developing this critique of Soviet revisionism was one of
the issues which inspired our work on women.
The MLP came out of the mass struggles of the 1960s and
'70s. It tried to break the reformist hold over the mass
movements and to organize working people as a class for
themselves. The MLP fought against the influence of the
Democratic Party in the mass movement. It opposed the trade
union bureaucrats for holding back the workers' struggles. It
opposed the revisionist and Trotskyist politics which attempt to
tie the mass struggles to reformism.
The members of the study group have had many years of
experience working to build a revolutionary movement. At
the time the study group was formed, the MLP was actively working
to build the Pro-Choice and Clinic Defense movements. It tried
to develop more militant tactics by exposing the role of
bourgeois feminism in the movement, and by broadening the
perspective to focus on the concerns of working class, poor, and
The MLP was very aware of the conditions of women in the
capitalist world of the 1980s and '90s. In the U.S., women make
on average only 67% of the wages of men, poverty among women and
children is rising, and there is an epidemic of violence against
women. In many countries such as Japan, for example, violence
against women is still hardly talked about. There is the
widespread practice of genital mutilation of young girls in many
African and some Asian countries, the murder of women for their
dowries in India, the infanticide of female children in many
countries, and the rise of fundamentalist religious attacks on
women in Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Bangladesh, and other countries.
We could go on and on.
Our awareness of the condition of women throughout the
world, and our (often frustrating) experience in the women's
movement today was another current which led to our research on
Soviet women under the Bolsheviks.
In our research, the study group reviewed the works of such
major socialist theorists as Marx, Engels and Lenin, who wrote on
the issues of women's oppression and how to end it. As well, we
studied the works of other socialist leaders to whom the
liberation of women
was a major concern, such as August Bebel, Clara Zetkin and
Alexandra Kollontai. We wanted to have a better grasp of the
views and experiences of the socialist struggle to liberate
women. We also investigated certain questions of anthropology in
order to better understand the historical basis for women's
We are informed of the controversies surrounding Engels and
his use of Morgan's work. In the end, we found these criticisms
to be insignificant in regard to the basic conclusions of our
book. We are also aware of the many feminist analyses of the
Marxist position regarding women which have been written over the
last twenty years. We have found that most of these critiques
were based on a false interpretation of Soviet history as
socialism, and not on a correct analysis of its history as a
failed attempt to create socialism that resulted in a repressive
We make the assertion that there has been no better
blueprint for women's emancipation than that of Marxist-
Leninism. It is our contention that fighting for women's
liberation is closely linked to fighting the economic system of
capitalism which maintains the oppression of women and that,
conversely, socialism cannot be achieved without emancipating
Our study and discussion focused on the history of the
struggle for women's liberation prior to and after the
October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. The October
Revolution brought to power the first proletarian regime to
endure for more than a brief time. The fight of women against
their oppression was a strong current of this Revolution, and the
victory of 1917 opened up an even broader fight. The struggle
for women's liberation was intimately connected with the
advances, as well as the failures, of the Bolshevik Revolution.
It is our view that the revolutionary socialist movement in
the Soviet Union was betrayed, that eventually the Communist
Party and the Soviet state lost all of their revolutionary
character and became an entrenched state capitalist bureaucracy.
One of the factors revealing this betrayal was the abandonment of
the struggle for the liberation of women.
In our opinion, activists committed to women's emancipation
should seriously look into the history of the revolutionary
movement in the Soviet Union, a story which provides valuable
lessons for the struggles of today. Our study on women has given
us a better grasp of the long-term issues involved in building a
progressive women's movement in this country.
In this book, we examine the history of the struggle for
women's liberation in the Soviet Union in detail, concentrating
on the period from 1917 through the middle 1930s. We investigate
the Bolshevik goals for the liberation of women, the struggles of
the women themselves, the policies of the Soviet government and
the Communist Party, and the turn away from socialism, which
undermined the progress of women's liberation and justified the
exploitation of women anew.
We welcome any comments or criticisms about our book, and
will willingly engage in dialogue on the issues involved in it.
We include a form for your convenience.
email-- Jack Hill <mlbooks at mcs.com>
Postal Service-- ML Books, P.O. Box 11542, Chicago, IL 60611
The price is $15 which includes shipping and handling. For
orders of five or more copies, the price is $10 each. Make
checks out to Marxist-Leninist Books and Periodicals.
--- from list marxism at lists.village.virginia.edu ---
More information about the Marxism