Women and Marxism - Lenin
Written: September 1907.
First Published: Kalendar dlya vsekh, 1908.
Source: The Emancipation of Women: From the Writings of V.I. Lenin.
Publisher: International Publishers.
Transcribed and HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.
The resolution on women's suffrage was also adopted unanimously. Only one Englishwoman from the semi-bourgeois Fabian Society defended the admissibility of a struggle not for full women's suffrage but for one limited to those possessing property. The Congress rejected this unconditionally and declared in favour of women workers campaigning for the franchise, not in conjunction with the bourgeois supporters of women's rights, but in conjunction with the class parties of the proletariat. The Congress recognised that in the campaign for women's suffrage it was necessary to uphold fully the principles of socialism and equal rights for men and women without distorting those principles for the sake of expediency.
In this connection an interesting difference of opinion arose in the Commission. The Austrians (Viktor Adler, Adelheid Popp) justified their tactics in the struggle for universal manhood suffrage: for the sake of winning this suffrage, they thought it expedient in the campaign not to put the demand for women's suffrage, too, in the foreground. The German Social-Democrats, and especially Clara Zetkin, had protested against this when the Austrians were campaigning for universal suffrage. Zetkin declared in the press that they should not under any circumstances have neglected the demand for women's suffrage, that the Austrians had opportunistically sacrificed principle to expediency, and that they would not have narrowed the scope of their agitation, but would have widened it and increased the force of the popular movement had they fought for women's suffrage with the same energy. In the Commission Zetkin was supported whole-heartedly by another prominent German woman Social-Democrat, Zietz. Adler's amendment, which indirectly justified the Austrian tactics, was rejected by 12 votes to 9 (this amendment stated only that there should be no abatement of the struggle for a suffrage that would really extend to all citizens, instead of stating that the struggle for the suffrage should always include the demand for equal rights for men and women). The point of view of the Commission and of the Congress may be most accurately expressed in the following words of the above-mentioned Zietz in her speech at the International Socialist Women's Conference (this Conference took place in Stuttgart at the same time as the Congress):
"In principle we must demand all that we consider to be correct," said Zietz, "and only when our strength is inadequate for more, do we accept what we are able to get. That has always been the tactics of Social-Democracy. The more modest our demands the more modest will the government be in its concessions...."
This controversy between the Austrian and German women Social-Democrats will enable the reader to see how severely the best Marxists treat the slightest deviation from the principles of consistent revolutionary tactics.