Published: Women and Communism, Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1950;
Transcribed and HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.
It is five years since the Central Committee of our Party convened in Moscow the All-Russian women workers' and peasants' congress. Over a thousand delegates, representing one million working women, gathered for the congress. This congress was a landmark in the work of our Party among working women. The incalculable service rendered by this congress was to lay the foundation for the organisation of the political education of our Republic's women workers and peasants.
Some may think that there is nothing out of the ordinary in this, since the Party has always carried out political education among the masses, including women, or it may be thought that the political education of women can have no real importance since we shall soon have united worker and peasant cadres. Such opinions are fundamentally incorrect.
The political education of working women is of primary importance today when power has passed into the hands of the workers and peasants. Let me demonstrate the reason.
Our country has a population of nearly 140 million and no less than half are women, mainly women workers and peasants, backward, downtrodden and with little political consciousness.
If our country has begun the construction of the new Soviet life in earnest, then surely it is clear that the women of this country, constituting half its population, would act as a drag on any advance if they remained backward, downtrodden and politically undeveloped in the future also?
The women worker stands shoulder to shoulder with the man worker. She works with him on the common task of building our industry. She can help the common cause if she is politically conscious and politically educated. But she can ruin the common cause if she is downtrodden and backward, not, of course, as a result of her ill-will, but because of her backwardness.
The peasant woman stands shoulder to shoulder with the peasant. She advances, together with him, the common cause of the development of our agriculture, its successes and its flourishing.
She can make an enormous contribution in this cause if she frees herself of backwardness and ignorance. And the contrary is also the case: she could act as a brake on the whole cause if she remains a slave to ignorance in the future also.
Women workers and peasants are free citizens on an equal footing with men workers and peasants. The women elect our Soviets and our co-operatives and can be elected to these organs. Women workers and peasants can improve our Soviets and cooperatives, strengthen and develop them if they are politically literate. Women workers and peasants can weaken and undermine these organisations if they are backward and ignorant.
Finally, women workers and peasants are mothers who bring up our youth--the future of our country. They can cripple the spirit of a child or give us youth with a healthy spirit, capable of taking our country forward. All this depends on whether the woman and mother has sympathy for the Soviet system or whether she trails in the wake of the priest, the kulak or the bourgeois.
That is why the political education of women workers and peasants is a task of primary importance, a most important task for real victory over the bourgeoisie today, when the workers and peasants have set about the building of a new life. That is why the importance of the first women workers' and peasants' congress, which laid the foundations for the task of politically educating working women, is really quite inestimable.
Five years ago at that congress, the current task of the Party was to draw hundreds of thousands of working women into the common task of building a new Soviet life. In the forefront of this task there stood women workers from the industrial areas, since they were the most lively and conscious elements among working women. It may be said that a good deal has been done in this respect in the past five years, although much still remains to be done.
Today, the Party's current task is to draw into the common cause of organising our Soviet life millions of peasant women.
Five years of work have already produced a whole number of leading personnel who have emerged from among the peasantry.
Let us hope that the ranks of the leading women peasants will be swelled by the addition of fresh, politically conscious, peasant women. Let us hope that the Party will solve this problem also.