A Note on Alexandra Kollantai

Louis R Godena louisgodena at ids.net
Tue Sep 17 05:05:14 MDT 1996

A distinction needs to be made,  surely,  between the ancient Marxist
exhortations against the hypocrisies of bourgeois "marriage" (as in the 1848
Manifesto) and the theories of promiscuity that flourished in the heady days
of 1917.    The logical conclusion that freedom in the political sphere
should lead to a type of personal catharsis and liberation in the most
personal of human affairs faced important and, ultimately,  decisive
challenges from important quarters within the Bolshevik leadership,  and of
course,  within Russian society and tradition itself.

Lenin,  in particular,  was anxious that the "great social question" of
class struggle not appear as "an adjunct,  as a part,  of sexual problems."
He had a particularly jaundiced view of Kollantai's 1915 pamphlet in which
she breezily declared that in "communist society the satisfactions of sexual
desires,  of love,  will be as simple and unimportant as drinking a glass of
water."     "Of course",  Lenin retorted to Klara Zetkin,  "thirst must be
satisfied.   But would normal man in normal circumstances lie down in the
gutter and drink out of a puddle,  or out of a glass greasy from many lips?"
Klara,  so far as we know,  did not record her answer (if indeed there was
one) to this rhetorical (but important) question.

But what of Kollantai herself?    Much later,  in 1936,  having served the
Soviet government (mostly abroad in the foreign service) for nearly twenty
years,  she recanted much of her earlier musings on sensuality and love.
In a widely reported conversation with the Norwegian poet and dramatist
Nordhal Grieg,  she assured Soviet readers that "free love" had never,  in
her use of the term,   implied  "immorality,  promiscuity or loose living".
This remarkable *apologia* was produced during the height of Stalin's
campaign on behalf of the "proletarian family" and against the "decadence"
of western European "social-liberal idealism",  personified by Trotsky.
Her "official" autobiography,  published two years later confirmed,  in the
strictest and most uncompromising way,  this "maturing" of her earlier
views.    [The "autobiography" was actually the work of one Olva Durgenev
who,  I am told, made Mrs Nikita Kruschev look like Cameron Diaz in "Feeling

What,  precisely,  were the origins of Aleandra Kollantai's radical change
in thinking from say,  *Society and Motherhood* in 1916 to her later
recantation of these views in the Grieg interview?

More on this later,  perhaps.

Louis Godena

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