A Note on Alexandra Kollantai

Louis R Godena louisgodena at ids.net
Tue Sep 17 19:49:00 MDT 1996

Jorn seizes upon my use of quotation marks in referring to Stalin's campaign
on behalf of a paradigmatic "proletarian family" and against western
European decadence.

>A little euphemistic, isn't it, Louis? (Is that what the quotation marks
>Stalin's "campaign" for "proletarian family" and against "decadence" etc.
>was taking away some of the gains of October: The right to abortion on
>demand, equal rights for homosexuals etc.

Yes,  Jorn,  you're not the first person to discover how badly Stalin's
policies turned out in practice and,  further,  how it further tarnishes the
image of the Soviet regime even among people who would otherwise be inclined
to defend it.     It especially plays poorly in our own enlightened era.

But if we are going to hypothesize about the motives of Alexandra Kollantai,
what of Stalin himself?    Would we not have to speak also of Stalin's
decisive outlook against the intellectual and the theoretical and his
indifference or distrust of fine-drawn intellectual argument?    And what of
his intense hostility toward western influences?

Stalin gathered around himself,  particularly after the ignominious
departure of the Left Opposition,  good party men whose theoretical
pretensions were as few as his own.    In a letter to the German Communist
Party leader Maslow in 1925,  he spoke of the "dying away" of those among
the "*litterateurs" and "old 'chiefs'"...as a "necessary process for a
renewal of the leading cadres of a living and developing party."   Many have
seen in Stalin's actions in the 1930s a final vengeance on the intellectuals
who had despised him during his earlier career.    What Stalin brought to
Soviet policy was not originality in conception,   but vigor and
ruthlessness in execution.

And it was he above all,  and not Trotsky who,  as EH Carr points out,
"carried forward the revolution to its appointed conclusion by bringing
about the rapid industrialization of the country."

The notion that the same temperment that ruled so ruthlessly conservative in
the social sphere proved indispensable to the larger task of bringing the
Soviet Union among the Great Powers during the era of fascism.

It is a tenable argument.

Jorn resorts to a particularly shabby form of presentism:

>In essence this hailing of the Mother-figure and giving medails to women
>who had born 8 (I think) children was about turning the USSR women into
>machines producing labour power for industrialization.

Jorn,  you are capable of producing a better argument than this.    I am not
aware of Stalin bestowing medals on fertile mothers for producing
extraordinary numbers of offspring,   but it is possible--even probable--
that such evidence irrefutably exists at the Hoover Institution.    I'd like
to see it.    In the meantime,  the system of rewards and sanctions was
clearly predicated on material production in field and factory,
unremarkable perhaps in a country embarked on a course of breakneck

>In this context it was a disgrace for Kollontai to give in on her original
>views. We can argue at length Lenin's points against Kollontai and Zetkin
>and vice versa. But in the mid-1930's this had very concrete and harsh
>social consequences, which no Marxist could support.

Yes,  Jorn,  it would be an inexcusable lapse on Kollantai's part if she
were to renounce her original views for reasons other than principled
conviction.    On the other hand,  I am suspicious of people whose outlook
has survived twenty or thirty years of tumultuous and revolutionary change
without some revision.

Aren't you?

But,  yes,  Jorn's right in the sense that no Marxist could "support" a ban
on abortion or on the sexual activities of consenting adults,  or on the
fundamental human rights that are an intrinsic part of a fully human society.

Back to Jorn's seat--of--the--pants pretzel logic,  which has served him so
poorly in the past:

>The short version [for Kollantai's change of heart]:  Because she had given
in on the *major* political
>questions, in the end she would have to give in on this one too. Of course
>the fact that she was not directly confronted with these social
>consequences played a role. She was Stalin's ambassador in Sweden from

At some point I would like to see a critical study of Kollantai's political
career that dispassionately analyzes her role in both the Bolshevik
Revolution and in serving subsequent Soviet governments.   I am unwilling to
concede at this point that she had "given in" on "major political
questions".   Her role in the Soviet foreign service much infinitely more
pro-active than you imply,  for example.    I simply don't have the evidence
to support a sweeping denunciation of Alexandra Kollantai as a political animal.

And,  to be honest,  you don't either.

Louis Godena

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