August Bebel 1879

Free Development of the Individual

4. Revolution in Domestic Life

First Published: Die Frau un der Sozialialismus, Berlin, 1946, S. 463-624;
Source: Society of the Future, Progress Publishers, 1971;
Translated: from the German by Don Danemanis;
Transcribed and HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

As in the kitchen, so in all spheres of domestic life a revolution will be accomplished; it will make redundant countless jobs that have to be carried out today. As in the future the home kitchen will be made entirely superfluous by the setting up of food-preparation centres, so central heating and central lighting will abolish all the former work connected with the maintenance of stoves, lamps and other lighting fixtures; warm and cold water supplies will place washing and bathing within the reach of all and without help from anybody else. Central laundries complete with drying machines will take over washing and drying; central dry-cleaning establishments will see to the cleaning of clothes and carpets. In Chicago, carpet-cleaning machines were exhibited that did the work in so short a time as to evoke the admiration of the ladies visiting the exhibition. An electric door opens at a slight pressure of the finger and closes auto-matically. Electric installations transport letters and newspapers to flats on all floors; electric lifts save us the trouble of climbing stairs. The interior decoration of houses--floors, wall-covering, furnishings--will all be arranged with an eye to easy cleaning and there will no longer be dust and germ traps. Refuse of all sorts will be carried out of the house by pipes, as waste water is today (refuse chutes). In the United States and in some European towns, as for example Zurich, Berlin and its suburbs, London, Vienna and Munich such houses already exist; they are exquisitely equipped and the numerous affluent families who live in them--others could not afford to--enjoy many of the conveniences desciibed above.

Here once again we have an illustration of how capitalist society breaks the ground for a revolution in domestic life, but only for its elect. Once domestic life has been fundamentally transformed in this way, the servant, "this slave to all the whims of the mistress" disappears, as does the mistress. "Without servants no culture", Herr von Treitschke exclaimed with comical pathos. He cannot imagine society without servants, as Aristotle could not imagine it without slaves. It is surprising that Herr von Treitschke regards our servants as the "bearers of our culture". Treitschke, like Eugen Richter, is worried about boot-polishing and clothes-brushing, which he cannot see everyone doing for himself. In nine cases out of ten, people now see to that themselves, or a wife does it fof her husband, or a daughter or son for a whole family. It could be said that what nine people out of every ten have done up to now, the remaining tenth can also do. But there is a better way out. Why in future should not the young people, irrespective of sex, be enlisted for this and other necessary work of a similar type? There is nothing shameful about work, even if it consists in polishing boots. This has even been discovered by certain officers of the old nobility, who to escape their debts ran off to the United States, where they became servants or bootblacks. In one of his pamphlets Herr Eugen Richter even goes so far as to bring about the downfall of the "Socialist Imperial Chancellor" and the collapse of the "socialist state of the future" over the boot-cleaning problem. The "Socialist Imperial Chancellor" refuses to polish his own boots and therein lie his troubles. Our opponents have relished this description and thereby merely demonstrated the modesty of their demands with regard to criticism of socialism. Herr Eugen Richter lived to experience the sorrow of not only seeing one of his own party members in Nuremberg invent a shoe-cleaning machine soon after the publication of his pamphlet, but also learning that electric shoe-clesning machines that carry out the task to perfection were exhibited at the Chicago World Exhibition. Thus, the principal objection raised by Richter and Treitschke against socialist society has been virtually thrown overboard by an invention made even in bourgeois society.

The revolutionary transformation that fundamentally changes all aspects of human life and especially the position of women is proceeding before our very eyes. It is only n question of time, when society will take up this transformation on a large scale, when the process will be accelerated and extended to all domains, so that all without exception are able to enjoy its innumerable and manifold advantages.