Tony Cliff

Class Struggle and Women’s Liberation

6. Russian Marxists and women workers



The bourgeois and socialist women’s movements in Russia, compared with those in Germany which battled with each other over a long period, were much smaller and had a much shorter life. But their conflicts were even sharper than in Germany.


The gentry feminists

Until the revolution of 1905 there was no women’s movement to speak of in Russia, although there were groups of feminists. In the atmosphere created by Tsar Alexander II’s abolition of serfdom in 1861 and other limited reforms, people began to dream of other liberties. Among those affected were women of the nobility, and in 1859 a group of women gentry formed the first feminist group in Russia. This published a magazine called Razvet (“A Journal of Science, Art and Literature for Adult Women”), devoted to a cautious struggle for higher education for women “in accord with the spirit of Christian teachings”. [1] Such a call could hardly fire the mass of Russian women at a time when no more than five or six people in every hundred could even read and only one of those had any higher education. [2] Although literacy spread, to reach 21 per cent by the turn of the century, as late as 1909 only one girl in three hundred went to secondary school. [3]

In the same year that Razvet was founded, a philanthropic women s group by the name of “The Society for Cheap Lodging and Other Aid to the Residents of St Petersburg” was formed. Its most ambitious project, begun in 1868, was a sizeable clothing workshop employing between 300 and 500 workers. This mainly fulfilled orders for uniforms for the Ministry for War. [4] The Society also organised communal kitchens and a school for working mothers. [5]

Other philanthropic causes gave rise to other societies, one “for Helping Needy Women”, another “for Circulating Useful Books”, another “for Stimulating a Love for Work”.

From these small philanthropic beginnings came bigger developments. In 1893 the Russian Women’s Mutual Philanthropic Society was founded [6], which had about 2,000 members in 1900. It operated a sixty-room hostel for educated women, another for transients, a cafeteria, an employment service, and a child care centre for working women. It also organised talks on the “physical, intellectual and moral upbringing of children”, and special committees for aid to victims of floods and famine. [7]

In 1900 the Russian Society for the Protection of Women was founded to counter prostitution. Headed alternately by two princesses, Evgenii Oldenburgskaia and Elena Saksen-Altenburgskaia, it was well staffed with titled patricians and wealthy philanthropists such as Baron Ginsburg and Countess Panina. [8] Stites, the historian of Russian feminism, writes:

Fearful pity and hopeful piety were the main ingredients in the feminists’ attitude towards prostitutes, and their response was to care for the fallen women and to provide them with the spiritual strength to resist a return to the streets ...

Traditional “charity” among Russian ladies was embellished by the conspicuous leadership of tsarinas, empress-dowagers and princesses. Activities usually were limited, refined, and impersonal. [9]



Bourgeois feminists

1905, the year of revolution, awakened millions of women, working-class, bourgeois and petty bourgeois. Alexandra Kollontai wrote, looking back: “In 1905 there was no corner in which in one way or another, the voice of a woman speaking about herself and demanding new rights was not heard.” [10] In Moscow and St Petersburg, Minsk, Yalta, Saratov, Vilna and Odessa, public women’s rights meetings were held for the first time. [11]

Late in February 1905 a feminist political organisation was established, composed mainly of middle-class women and intelligentki. It was called the Women’s Equal Rights Union. Leading members had close ties with the Teachers’ Union and included a number of journalists. Their ranks were strengthened by two women members from the political circles that became the Kadet Party – Anna Miliukova and Ariadna Tyrkova. [12]

The Women’s Equal Rights Union grew rapidly. On 7 May 1905 twenty-six branches from nineteen cities and towns sent seventy delegates to the three-day meeting of its First Organisational Congress in Moscow. [13] At this a number of working women put forward a resolution which emphasised the needs of industrial and peasant women, such as equal pay for equal work and welfare for mothers and children. But women of the bourgeoisie, who were the majority at the Congress, rejected this proposal. They then put forward a resolution which called only for the unity of women of all social strata in the struggle for a republican form of government and universal suffrage without distinction of sex, nationality or religion. [14] In addition the programme demanded national autonomy; equality of the sexes before the law; equal rights of peasant women in any land reforms; laws for the welfare, insurance and protection of women workers; equal opportunity for women; co-education at every level; the reform of laws relating to prostitution; and abolition of the death penalty. It was a classic programme of radical bougeois reform.

When the second congress of the Women’s Equal Rights Union convened on 8 October 1905, at the height of the revolution, it went as far as to call for the boycott of the elections to the Duma, or parliament, following in the footsteps of the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries. At the congress members “recognised that the goals of the socialist parties were closest to those of women.” Carrying a banner reading “Universal Suffrage Without Distinction of Sex”, Moscow Union members marched in the funeral demonstration for Nicholas Bauman, a Bolshevik murdered by the police. A Union member was wounded when police shot at the demonstrators. Though members did participate in other demonstrations and work on strike committees, much of their activity involved support work, such as establishing soup kitchens, first aid stations and services for the unemployed. During clashes with the racist gangs of the Black Hundreds, or the police and army, Union activists served as medical aides. [15]

The Women’s Equal Rights Union’s most militant phase coincided with the height of general revolutionary activity, from the October general strike to the Moscow uprising in December 1905. It was, however, a loose organisation, and a number of its branches disregarded the call for a boycott of the Duma, and followed the Kadets. At the third congress of the Union, on 21 May 1906, the boycott was lifted. [16] The Union’s membership in 1906 reached 8,000. [17]

Another bourgeois feminist organisation founded in 1905 was the Women’s Progressive Party, led by Dr Maria Ivanovna Pokrovskaia. She represented the most extreme feminist separatism. From 1904 to 1917 Pokrovskaia spent a good deal of her time and money on the journal Zhenskii Vestnik (Women’s Herald), editing and publishing it almost single-handedly from her apartment. Far more than other feminist journals, it consistently devoted space to the situation of women factory workers, domestic servants, prostitutes and peasants, for, as it said:

It is clear that women aspiring to equal rights cannot place their hopes in the bourgeoisie and the aristocrats. The working people have experienced and experience now the full weight of lack of rights – these are the ones we can count on now. [18]

Pokrovskaia paid detailed attention to women workers, calling not only for general factory reform but specifically for women factory inspectors, a ten-month fully paid pregnancy leave, nursing facilities in the factories, and equal wages for equal work. The Women’s Progressive Party was one of those liberal Russian groups whose outlook was far more social reformist than their opposite numbers in Europe. It called for the “elimination of the unfair distribution of wealth and the just payment of labour”, and improved public health measures, but was against protective legislation for women workers. A call for “the destruction of militarism”, the replacement of armies by militias, and “the unification of all the peoples of Russia in the name of general humanitarian ideas”, rounded out the programme, save for one important item. All this was to be accomplished while coming to terms with the Romanoff monarchy – by reforming it and making it constitutional! [19]

However, Pokrovskaia objected to working-class militancy, on both feminist and pacifist principles. She opposed strikes because of their consequences for women:

We ask: who bears the chief burden of the strike? The wife and mother ... Let the men stay at home with the hungry children during strikes, and let the women be free to leave the cries of hunger! [20]

Pokrovskaia’s party, unlike the Women’s Equal Rights Union, excluded men. She opposed the socialists, “since they, like other political parties, were led by men, this only perpetuating male control and female passivity”. She had no sympathy for the class struggle:

Every woman aspiring to equality ought to be called a feminist – be she landowner or peasant, wife of the factory owner or working woman, privileged or not. For feminism there are no classes, legal castes, or educational levels. It is an idea which equalises all. [21]

She deplored revolutionary violence, and wrote at the time of the Moscow uprising of 1905: “It is not through violence and slaughter that we can recreate life but only through peaceful reform.”

The Women’s Progressive Party attracted no more than a handful of members from the middle or upper classes. Kollontai noted that the members’ behaviour, dress and conversation at meetings alienated working-class women. [22]

During the 1905 revolution, the Russian Women’s Mutual Philanthropic Society ran frantic campaigns petitioning important individuals and institutions. In 1905 alone, the Society made 398 requests to regional assemblies (zemstvos) and 108 requests to municipal government for support for women’s rights, posted 6,000 appeals to different social and government agencies, and sent petitions to five governors-general, 80 governors and 46 marshals of the nobility asking for their endorsement of equal rights. [23]



Women in the revolutionary movement

The most reliable list of revolutionary activists available is of people arrested. For the 1860s this shows that of 2,000 people arrested, 65 were women, about 3 per cent. [24] In the 1870s the proportion of women was significantly higher: around 700 out of 5,664 revolutionaries arrested, over 12 per cent. Like the men, the women in the movement were almost all between twenty and thirty. To a much greater extent than the men, they came from the gentry – some two-thirds of those most deeply implicated in the years 1873-77, and at least four of these were daughters of generals. All but a handful had been given a good education, many in European and, after 1876, Russian universities. [25]

The proportion of women in the Socialist Revolutionary Party, which arose out of the Populist movement, was 14.3 per cent between 1901 and 1916. [26] Women were most heavily involved in carrying out terrorist missions, where being female offered considerable tactical advantages. They also paid a high price for their activities: of forty-three revolutionaries sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour for terrorist activities between 1880 and 1890, twenty-one were women. [27]

Among the Marxists who became significant in the 1890s and beginning of this century the proportion of women was much smaller. Unfortunately information is scanty. At the Sixth Bolshevik Party Congress held in August 1917, out of 171 delegates ten were women, or roughly 6 per cent. The first comprehensive census of party members was not taken until 1922, when women constituted just under 8 per cent of the total membership of the Communist Party. [28] The Populist and terrorist movements, with their emphasis on heroic individual actions, attracted more women, largely from the intelligentsia. The Marxists’ main activity was agitating and organising among industrial workers, where they found it difficult to organise women.



Women and the industrial struggle

Women did come into action with the entry of the working class into the arena of industrial struggle. The story of women workers’ industrial struggle between the 1870s and 1905 is best told by Kollontai, a leading participant in the revolutionary movement:

The movement of women workers is by its very nature an indivisible part of the general workers’ movement ... In all the risings and in all the factory riots which were so distasteful to tsarism she took an equal part, alongside the working man ... Working women played an active role in the unrest at the Krengel’mskaya factory in 1874; women were involved in the 1878 strike at the Novaya Pryadil’na factory in St Petersburg, and in 1885 they led the textile workers in that famous strike in Orekhovo-Zeyevo, when the factory buildings were destroyed and the tsarist government was forced to hurry through, on 3 July, a law banning night work for women and young people.

The “April Rebellion” of 1895 at the Yaroslav factory was carried out with the help and under the influence of the women weavers. The women workers of St Petersburg did not desert their comrades during the sporadic economic strikes of 1894-96, and when the historic strike of textile workers broke out in the summer of 1896 the women workers joined the men in a unanimous walk-out.

At a time of unrest and strike actions the proletarian woman, downtrodden, timid and without rights, suddenly grows and learns to stand tall and straight ... participation in the workers’ movement brings the woman worker towards her liberation, not only as the seller of her labour power but also as a woman, a wife, a mother and a housekeeper.

Kollontai does not glorify working-class women. She paints them warts and all. She notices their lack of perseverance and the weakness of the political socialist element among them:

... as soon as the wave of strike activity died down and the workers returned to work whether in victory or in defeat, the women would be scattered and isolated once again.

The few women in the underground party organisations were from the intelligentsia. Working women could not be persuaded to attend either the illegal or the “legal” meetings where Marxism and revolutionary socialism were “presented under the guise of harmless lessons in geography and arithmetic. The working women were still avoiding life and struggle, believing that their destiny was the cooking pot, the washtub and the cradle ...” However, she wrote,

the picture changes swiftly once the red flag of revolution is hoisted high above Russia ... In the revolutionary years of 1905 and 1906 the woman worker ... was everywhere ... to give full justice to the self-sacrifice of the proletarian women and their loyalty to the ideals of socialism, we would have to describe the events of the revolution scene by scene. [29]

Both wings of the Social Democratic Party – the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks – and the Socialist Revolutionaries did their best to attract women into the trade unions. The Bolshevik-dominated textile union of the Moscow district considered in 1906 that “the only solution to the problems of improving the position of the working class in general, and of women in particular, is organisation of the proletariat.” Given that “women, because of their economic and domestic situation, are much less capable of defending themselves against the bondage and exploitation of capital”, it proposed that “all measure be taken to attract women on an equal basis with men into unions and all other workers’ organisations.”

Strike demands throughout 1905-7 more often than not reflected women workers’ needs. There is scarcely a strike document in industries employing women that does not mention, in some form, demands for paid maternity leave (usually four weeks before and six weeks after childbirth), for time off for feeding infants, and for construction of nurseries at the factory. [30]

Unlike Britain or Germany, the doors of the unions were wide open to women from the beginning in Russia. But the difficulties of organising women workers were extreme. First there was the low level of literacy and culture, much lower for women than men; then women’s low wages – about half of men’s in manufacturing industry in 1913 [31] – also the double burden of being both workers and housewives. So women lacked confidence. One woman worker expressed the feelings of women workers towards participation in workers’ groups:

Well, I do want to express myself, but then I think it over – so many people, they will all be looking at me and what if someone laughs at what I say. I grow cold with these thoughts, I’m filled with terror. So – you will silently, but your heart is inflamed. [32]

The result was a very low level of trade union organisation of women in a country where trade unionism lagged anyway. Those industries which employed many women were particularly backward. Thus in 1907 only 1.2 per cent of the workers in the garment industry and 3.9 per cent of those in textiles were members of trade unions, as against 43 per cent of print workers and 8.6 per cent of engineers. [33] The proportion of women trade unionists was tiny. In the Moscow textile industry, for example, women made up only 4.4 per cent of trade union membership. In St Petersburg and the central industrial region the proportion was higher, but still very low. [34] In the Soviets – or workers’ councils – which arose in 1905 women were again very under-represented. While women were about two-fifths of the Petersburg working class, there were only six women among the 562 delegates. [35]



In the wake of the 1905 Revolution

Only in 1905, when the government retreated before rising popular unrest, did the large-scale organisation of working women become possible. The Marxists found themselves in sharp competition with bourgeois feminists. Because of the greater difficulty of organising women and their consequent weakness compared with men, women were more profoundly influenced by bourgeois women s organisations than men workers were by the liberal party of the Kadets, whose influence on them was very small.

The bourgeois feminists made the effort to attract working women. To start with they were successful. In 1905 in St Petersburg they founded four women’s political clubs aimed at working women, which functioned for nearly two months before being closed by the police. [36] Many working women, however, resisted recruitment by Social Democratic organisers. A group from the Andreev factory in Moscow requested that the local branch of the Women’s Equal Rights Union send some feminist agitators, as the Social Democrats had proved “too severe”.

Sometimes Social Democratic Party organisers worked with feminists. In one case a male Social Democrat who organised women workers used feminist literature and received Women’s Equal Rights Union help and advice. Women workers went to feminist meetings and invited speakers from the Women’s Equal Rights Union to their factories. [37]

But though groups organised by the bourgeois feminists rose quickly they also disintegrated rapidly. One reason was the abyss between the bourgeois and petty bourgeois ladies on the one hand and the working women on the other. The case of servants is a good illustration. The Women’s Equal Rights Union helped to establish a servants’ union in Moscow and some other towns. S.K. Ispolateva, a member of the Union’s central bureau, reported that her cook, also a Union member, organised servants’ meetings, usually in her kitchen. Ispolateva led these meetings. When the meetings grew too large, they were moved to the staircase of the servants entrance. They were always confined to the servants’ quarters. [38]

Kollontai commented: “They tried to construct an idyllic, mixed union of grand-lady employers and domestic servants ... They strove to organise domestic servants under the vigilant eyes of their mistresses.” [39]

In Kharkov the local branch of the Women’s Equal Rights Union organised a special committee to study the situation of domestic servants. In response the Social Democrats called servants’ meetings to point out “the unacceptability of a project worked out with the close participation and leadership of their employers.” At these meetings the servants developed their own proposals, including a minimum wage, a standard working day and a day off. The majority of servants welcomed this project; the majority of feminists were, according to Kollontai, “disappointed”. They came to the conclusion that their efforts to organise working women had failed, and they changed tack. Members of the Women’s Equal Rights Union decided to limit their activities among working women to general propaganda, such as Sunday schools, workers’ courses at individual factories, work at cafeterias and soup kitchens, and gathering signatures for petitions. [40]

Social Democratic women intervened in meetings for working women that had been organised by the Women’s Equal Rights Union, but their attitude to the Union varied. The Socialist Revolutionary and Menshevik women believed in the need to create a broadly-based alliance including socialists and liberal women. [41] The Bolsheviks opposed this.

Kollontai, who had joined the Marxists in 1896, did not undertake organisational work among women till the winter of 1905. Then, although she had not yet joined the Bolsheviks, she was one of the most vociferous opponents of any alliance. [42] She argued for the maintenance of “strict class lines”, the organisation of working-class women within the trade unions and the Social Democratic movement [43], and total opposition to the feminists. She always referred to the word feminist’ in a derogatory way. She defined it thus: “Feminism – the struggle of bourgeois women to unite, to rely on one another and thus to rebuff the common enemy – men.” [44]

During 1905 she attended many feminist meetings in order to denounce their leaders and call on women workers to separate themselves from them. She did not have a smooth passage. Cries of “Hooliganism!” “You play into the hands of the Black Hundreds!” “Strangling is too good for you!” were not uncommon. [45]

Bolshevik and Menshevik women tried, despite opposition from some leading socialists, such as Vera Zasulich, to establish clubs for working women. Kollontai’s first attempt, sanctioned by the party’s Petersburg committee, proved disastrous. Though the party had promised to provide a meeting place, when Kollontai and several workers arrived, they found a sign on the door reading, “The meeting for women only has been cancelled. Tomorrow there will be a meeting for men only”. [46]

The results of establishing working-class women’s clubs were very small indeed. The first socialist-sponsored club for women workers, called the Working Women’s Mutual Aid Society, opened in St Petersburg in the autumn of 1907. It was legal and its organisers included Kollontai and a group of women workers. Its activities included lectures and a library. It was open every night and had between 200 and 300 members (of whom about two-thirds were women and one-third men). It was deliberately not identified with any faction: both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks attended its functions. In the spring of 1908 a faction fight divided the club, one vociferous group wanting to exclude all intelligentki. Kollontai, as one of the intelligentki, dropped out.

While all the working women’s clubs in St Petersburg had dissolved by the end of 1908, fifteen workers’ clubs which included men and women in their membership survived. They had some 6,000 members in all, of whom around one-fifth were women. These women were overwhelmingly young (about two-thirds below the age of 25) and literate – in the two clubs for which there is information, one had a literacy rate for women of 96.6 per cent, the other 99.5 per cent. [47]



The First All-Russian Women’s Congress

As the revolutionary tide ebbed, so did the activity of the women’s movement. A final attempt to revitalise it was the First All-Russian Women’s Congress held over a week in December 1908. A survey of the congress illuminates the relationship of socialist women with bourgeois feminists.

Members of the Women’s Mutual Philanthropic Society and the Women’s Equal Rights Union joined forces to plan the congress over nearly a year, hoping that a new unified women’s organisation would result. Anna Filosofova, one of the veteran founders of feminism in Russia, now in her seventies, especially wanted to cap her years of feminist activity by the creation of a National Council of Russian Women. She asked members of the congress: “How can we gain political and social rights and influence, if we ourselves cannot unite and mobilise women’s power?” [48] The congress slogan was: “The women’s movement must be neither bourgeois nor proletarian, but one movement for all women.”

In the autumn the textile workers set up an organising committee, contacted other unions, and finally won the full endorsement of the St Petersburg Central Bureau of the Trade Unions. The organising committee consisted of members of the sales clerks, typographers, seamstresses, bookkeepers, clerks and confectioners’ unions, in addition to the textile workers. Later delegates from workers’ clubs also joined. [49] This continued interest of workers in the congress influenced the Bolsheviks, who were opposed to it, and they decided to participate. One male Bolshevik who attended the congress wrote later of the pre-congress illusions:

Every woman worker wanted to lay out her stored-up sorrows before this Congress, “before the entire proletariat”. Though we said many times that this Congress “would give us nothing”, that “we are going only for agitation”, all the same we could see the illusions on the delegates’ faces.

To expose these “illusions” the Bolsheviks still wanted to keep participation to a minimum. At first they urged the workers simply to “go to the Congress, show your banner, and march home!” But when this too did not dampen the enthusiasm, the Bolsheviks conceded that their delegates should take part but only to articulate the social democratic position. If their demands were refused, they proposed a walk-out.

More than fifty organisational meetings were held before the congress, attendance ranging from three to 150, the total number of working women participating being between 500 and 650, according to Kollontai. As a result of these efforts, a broad-based Workers’ Group was set up to represent the working-class women at the congress. Kollontai differentiated three basic positions within the group: the Bolsheviks, who wanted to cut co-operation with the feminists to a minimum and to leave the congress as soon as possible; the Mensheviks, who took an opposite position, arguing against alienating the democratic elements of the congress and for creating a general democratic alliance; and Kollontai herself, who insisted on clarifying the contradictions between the feminists and socialists on all basic points concerning women’s issues. [50]

The Bolshevik-controlled Petersburg Committee of the Social Democratic Party sent two leading Bolshevik women as delegates for the Workers’ group, V. Slutskaia, formerly a vigorous opponent of participation, and P.F. Kudelli; and a man, “comrade Sergei”, of whom we know nothing more, as its leader. When the congress convened on 10 December in St Petersburg City Hall the working-class women proved to be a tiny minority #8211; 45 out of 1,053 delegates. [51]

There were three groups at the congress. On the stage, behind a long table, “comfortably seated in two rows of chairs”, sat the members of the organising committee, “typical Petersburg ‘lady-patronnesses’”, “’cream’ of the Petersburg and provincial aristocracy and bourgeoisie, the wives of ministers, high officials, factory owners, merchants, well-known lady-philanthropists.” [52] On the other side of the hall, sharply contrasting with the women on the platform, was a group of women workers, small in number as the congress was held in working hours. They included a sizeable proportion of Bolsheviks. By far the largest group consisted of members of the intelligentsia.

This impression is confirmed by the statistics available of those who took part, although this covers only 243 of the 1,053 officially represented and excludes most of the workers, who had left the congress before the questionnaire was distributed. A majority of those responding (60 per cent) were between the ages of thirty and fifty; 27 per cent were younger and 13 per cent older; 59 per cent were married, 28 per cent unmarried, 12 per cent widows, and only 1 per cent in “free marriages”. More than half (54 per cent) had finished secondary school; 30 per cent had a higher education; 16 per cent had the equivalent of a grammar school education. Over half had their own careers; but a sizeable minority (42 per cent) either did not indicate their own work, or more likely, were not engaged in paid work. Of women who did have their own careers, those in the “free professions” (doctors, teachers, writers, artists) predominated (75 per cent). Of the remainder, 14 per cent were employed in public or private institutions; 11 per cent were either students or workers. Of those who were married, the majority had spouses who were professionals.

Again and again class conflicts erupted. A leading member of the Women’s Equal Rights Union, Z.S.I. Mirevich, called for unity: “In unity there is strength. Unity is possible only on the basis of complete lack of party affiliation”. The Bolshevik Anna Gurevich retorted:

Women of different groups and classes of the population need different rights and must fight in different ways and their organisations must be different. Women workers must fight for all the needs of the working class. [53]

One member of the Workers’ Group stated: “Working women are fighting for their full rights ...” [54] Bourgeois women were content merely to throw off the legal shackles which disabled them, while continuing to exploit the working class (particularly their maids). Marxists sought to destroy the “single master of contemporary life – capital”. [55] Kollontai delivered her talk, The Woman Worker in Contemporary Society, on 15 December:

The woman question, say the feminists, is a question of “rights and justice”. The woman question, answer the proletarian women, is a question of a “piece of bread”. The awakening of woman, the development of her special needs and demands, will come only as she joins the army of the independent labouring population. [56]

There is no independent woman question; the woman question arose as an integrated component of the social problem of our time. The liberation of woman as a member of society, a worker, an individual, a wife, and a mother, is possible therefore only together with the solution of the general social question, with the fundamental transformation of the present social order. [57]

One feminist underlined the differences between her wing of the congress and the Workers’ Group with some honesty:

The two principal modes of human activity are individual and collective. People like feminists, possessing greater scope, time, and the means to express themselves in individual action, do so, hoping to leave their personal stamp upon the activity they have engaged in. This, at bottom, was the underlying impulse of feminism. [58]

The socialists, she said, put their emphasis on collective action.

Another feminist leader, Olga Shapir, stated: “As regards unity I regard it as impossible in a class society. I regard the constant appeals of the workers’ party for disunity as useful in forcing us to renounce a vain hope.” She therefore suggested that the movement should concentrate on the inner emancipation of women through the “raising of consciousness” (a phrase used frequently by feminists at that time) to free them from the shackles of a slave mentality. [59]

On the last day of the congress the Bolsheviks among the Workers’ Group staged a demonstrative exit, making it clear that no co-operation could be maintained between the workers and the capitalists, but the Mensheviks stayed on. [60]

After the congress, its organisational committee arranged a banquet in a luxurious restaurant. A Bolshevik woman interrupted the proceedings with a loud question: “Why aren’t there working women, peasant women, and maids at this table?” [61]

A report of the congress in the Menshevik press criticised the Workers’ Group’s heavy emphasis on economic questions and insistence on “demarcation” of class boundaries. Sympathetic openings to the working women, privately expressed, were not developed largely because of the extremism of the Workers’ Group, said the report. Thus the workers made it hard, if not impossible, for a genuine coalition of left and liberal elements to develop. They “broke the vital threads” of common, if temporary, political interests linking them with the democratic women, and created the impression of being against the entire women’s movement. They made it seem as if socialism was the only way to cure social ills.

Kollontai’s report in the same paper maintained that the congress had decisively shown “that class antagonism, that opposition of socio-economic interests divides the world of women as it does that of men into two hostile camps ...” It had, she claimed, decisively convinced women workers of the futility of unity with women of other classes. [62]



Reaction and the revival

1907-12 were years of harsh reaction. When the working-class as a whole suffered a series of terrible defeats, women workers were pushed back even further. With the upward movement of the class thereafter women workers became active again and large-scale, militant and well-organised women’s strikes took place. In the years 1905-20, wrote the historian Anne Bobroff,

strikers began to develop organisational skills, a determination not to return to work until genuine gains were won, and a willingness of women and men to support each other. It was not uncommon for a women’s section of a plant to strike, and then to gain the support of other workers, including men, who would walk out in sympathy. For example, in October 1910, the administration at the Teikov textile factory increased the workload among the women in the water frame workshop. Even under the former conditions this work had been “most difficult”, resulting in two deaths from overwork. In addition, “the extremely unceremonious treatment of them by the administration stirred up discontent among the women”. The women struck and were subsequently joined by the weavers, spinners and ultimately all 5,000 workers in the factory.

In the summer of 1913 2,000 workers in Palia textile factory, mostly women, went on strike for 47 days, demanding wage increases, paid pregnancy leave, use of the factory owner’s bath house and laundry facilities. In late 1913, 5,500 workers, the majority women, struck at the Riga rubber factory. “And disturbances at the Khludovsky textile factory were renewed following settlement of a walkout by 5,000 employees when three women were dismissed on suspicion of having incited the workers to strike.’” Another strike of 3,000 took place in a Moscow pastry and perfume factory, where two-thirds of the workers were women. [63]

Perhaps the most interesting development in the female strike movement during the 1910-14 period was the growth of consciousness among working women of their own needs as women. They would no longer accept rudeness and sexual exploitation by foremen and employers. And they also set forth strike demands relating to their particular needs.

Strikes frequently began when women refused to tolerate the sexual abuse which was endemic. At the Grisov factory in Moscow in 1913 a strike began because “The attitude of the factory administration is revolting. There is no other word for it than prostitution.” Among the demands was one for polite treatment of working women in particular, with prohibition of swearing. The immediate cause of the 1911 strike of 5,000 workers at the Khludovsky factory in Yartsev was the “indelicate treatment” of women workers by one of the foremen, whose offences were even documented by the factory inspector. The strike demands included the dismissal of this foreman.

At a plywood factory in Riga women worked with glue prepared from blood, curds, cement and lime. The glue stank terribly and ate away at their hands. But a second cause for discontent was that several foremen were “not ashamed to curse in the most obscene words even to women.”

Demands were made at various factories which related to the problems of pregnant women and mothers: for pregnancy leave, against the firing of pregnant women, for half-pay during confinement leave, for relief from carrying heavy weights during pregnancy, for two one-hour breaks per day for nursing mothers, and an end to a policy of not hiring married women. [64]



International Women’s Day

The first time International Women’s Day was held in Russia was in 1913. It was held six days early, on 2 March (17 February by the old calendar then in use) for fear of police interference. The Bolshevik newspaper Pravda commemorated the day with a special six-page issue, and a holiday committee was set up by the Bolshevik-controlled Petersburg Committee of the Social Democratic Party, consisting of a group of women textile workers and Bolshevik activists. Celebrations took place in five cities: St Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Samara and Tblisi. The largest was in St Petersburg. Over a thousand people – out of a larger number who failed to get in – crowded into the hall, which was heavily policed both outside and inside, the police occupying the first two rows. One of the main speakers, a textile worker, Ianchevskaia, summed up the meaning of the assembly thus: “The women workers’ movement is a tributary flowing into the great river of the proletarian movement and giving it strength.” [65]

These words and the general spirit of International Women s Day grated on the nerves of the bourgeois feminist Dr Pokrovskaia. She wrote:

As we expected, the women workers’ day did not protest at all against the subordinate position of wives in relation to their husbands. They spoke primarily of the enslavement of the proletarian women by capital, and only in passing mentioned domestic subservience ... Mme Kudelli was wrong in asserting that economic interests are the most important for the woman worker. Personal freedom stands higher. [66]

Her conclusion was: all men benefitted from male privilege; all women must join together to fight it.

In 1914 the government refused a request for ten meetings in the larger workers’ quarters of St Petersburg to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, allowing only one, and this was heavily policed. Three of the five planned speakers were arrested and the police refused to allow substitutes. Disappointed and angry, many of the large numbers present spilled out into the streets, singing revolutionary songs, only to be eventually dispersed by the police, who made mass arrests.

In both 1913 and 1914 there were deep differences between the Mensheviks, who wanted only women to participate in the celebrations, and the Bolsheviks, who insisted that International Women s Day should be celebrated not only by working women but by the entire working class. [67]

During the war it was far more difficult to celebrate International Women’s Day. But despite a government ban the day was commemorated in 1915 and 1916 by small meetings and celebrations.




Early in January 1913 the Bolshevik daily Pravda began publishing a special section entitled Labour and the Life of the Working Woman which gave information about all the meetings and rallies to be held in preparation for International Women’s Day and all the resolutions passed. [68] It also contained a correspondence page which by the winter of 1913 was receiving more correspondence from working women than it could handle. At Lenin~s suggestion, therefore, the foreign bureau of the central committee of the Bolshevik Party decided to publish a separate journal aimed specifically at working-class women. It was called Rabotnitsa (The Working Woman).

Writing from abroad to his elder sister, Anna Ulianova-Elizarova, Lenin suggested that she organise the publication of the journal and select the editorial board. Her selections, which were confirmed by the central committee, were divided into two groups, one residing in Russia and one in exile abroad. The first group included P.F. Kudelli, K.N. Samoilova, L. Menshinskaia and Anna Ulianova-Elizarova herself. The second, in exile, was Inessa Armand, Nadezhda Krupskaia, Lilina Zonivieva and Liudmila Stal, all scattered in various places of exile. The resident editors were to be responsible for the publication of the journal and any organisation connected with it.

To finance the first issue, the Russian members of the editorial board took on sewing jobs. A number of women responded with enthusiasm to Pravda’s appeal for funds for Rabotnitsa. A typical note, signed by a group of thirty working women, said:

... warm greetings to our journal Rabotnitsa. We are sure that it will be a true mouthpiece of our needs and interests and we promise you our constant moral and material encouragement. We are contributing 2 roubles and 74 kopeks to the journal fund.

Krupskaia suggested an outline of contents, including current politics, general political and economic struggles of the workers’ movement highlighting the participation of women, the protection of women’s conditions in their workplaces, the struggles of working women abroad, and the family and the working woman. [69]

A few days before the first issue was due, all the members of the Russian editorial board except Anna Ulianova-Elizarova were arrested, and the majority of the articles for the issue confiscated by the police. Anna Ulianova-Elizarova persevered, finally succeeding in finding a printer. 12,000 copies did appear as planned on International Women’s Day. [70] The lead article, written by Krupskaia, sharply differentiated between Bolshevism and bourgeois feminism. On the “so-called ‘woman’ question” she wrote:

Bourgeois women advocate their special “women’s rights”, they always oppose themselves to men and demand their rights from men. For them contemporary society is divided into two main categories, men and women. Men possess everything, hold all rights. The question is one of achieving equal rights.

For the working woman the woman question becomes quite different. The politically conscious women see that contemporary society is divided into classes ... That which unites the working woman with the working man is much stronger than that which divides them. They are united by their common lack of rights, their common need, their common conditions which are the exploitation of their labour, their common struggle and their common goals. “All for one, and one for all”. This “all” means members of the working class – men and women alike.

The “woman question” for working men and women – this question is about how to involve the backward masses of working women in organisation, how better to make clear to them their interests, how to make them comrades in the common struggle quickly. The solidarity between working men and women, the common cause, the common goal, and the common path to those goals. Such is the solution for the “woman question” among workers ... our journal strives to help working women become conscious and organised. [71]

Rabotnitsa dealt with a wide range of women’s concerns: maternity insurance, female labour, child-care centres, hygiene information, the problems of working women and the family, children’s stories, Women’s Day, electoral rights for women. Seven issues were published between 23 February and 26 June 1914, when it ceased publication because of impossible obstacles imposed by the outbreak of war. Of the seven issues, two were confiscated by police.



Against separatism

Anne Bobroff, a historian critical of Bolshevism, complains that Lenin always insisted on the party leadership controlling women’s activities. She writes:

The Bolshevik women who ran Rabotnitsa worked in close association with Lenin. And although the two editorial boards were both made up completely of women, the editor of Sotsial demokrat – Lenin – had the deciding vote in the event of a tie.

In addition, she says, equal voting rights for the Russian and foreign editorial boards was a device “to guarantee majority control over editorial policy to Lenin and those women who were in closest contact with him.”

A blatant example occurred at the international women’s congress in Berne in March 1915.

Lenin sat drinking tea in a nearby restaurant while the women’s congress was in session ... The “Bolshevik women, working under Lenin’s direction, introduced a resolution which ... called for an immediate organisational break with the majorities in the existing Socialist and Labour parties and for the formation of a new International”. Despite the overwhelming opposition of all the other delegates, the Bolshevik representatives refused to withdraw their motion. Because a show of international unity among socialists was desperately desired at that point, Clara Zetkin finally negotiated with the Russian women and Lenin in a separate room. “Here Lenin finally agreed to a compromise.” [72]

This gives us “further insight into the Bolsheviks’ resistance to organising working women into all-female groups.” [73]

Sadly Anne Bobroff, like many non-Marxists, does not understand the reasons behind the role of the revolutionary socialist party and “democratic centralism” as put forward by Lenin. In Marx’s words, the working class is “the subject of history”. In the struggle for its own emancipation, therefore, it must fight for the emancipation of all humanity, of all who are oppressed. For this reason, there can be no concessions to prevailing bourgeois ideas which divide workers on grounds of race, nation or sex – and this particularly applies to the party, whose role is to lead the working class in its struggle for power.

“Democratic centralism” is the principle on which the party operates, and does not mean the dictatorship of the central leadership, as Bobroff implies. When the central leadership is functioning properly it is not acting on its own, but rather it is carrying out decisions arrived at through the widest possible understanding of the working-class struggle. Thus democracy in the party is essential so that the party can put forward policies which meet the needs of the working class. But centralism too is essential. For the working class is continually divided by bourgeois prejudices, and the experience and understanding of the class struggle varies enormously from one group of workers to another. The party must overcome this unevenness and these divisions if the working class is to be united sufficiently to win the struggle for socialism. Centralism is also essential because this struggle is against a highly centralised enemy, the capitalist state.

Once the central leadership of the party has been democratically elected, all sectional organisations of the party need to be subordinated to it – in order to ensure that their activities mirror the needs of the working-class struggle as a whole and not the divisions of the bourgeois society in which we live. It was because Lenin took political work amongst women particularly seriously that he intervened in it in depth.



Towards October

The war deepened the abyss between socialist women and bourgeois feminists in Russia. The bourgeois feminists jumped on the patriotic bandwagon. Dr Pokrovskaia proclaimed:

In such a great patriotic moment ... we must reduce to the minimum our needs, abandon luxury, and sacrifice all on the altar of society This is important ... for the success of that equality which progressive women all over the world hope to achieve. [74]

The Mutual Philanthropic Society was no less enthusiastic in supporting the war effort, through voluntary organisations covering every home front activity. The Women’s Equal Rights Union, in August 1915, called for a “women’s mobilisation” of the “daughters of Russia” along the lines of that attempted by Christabel Pankhurst in England – a campaign to draw all Russian women into some kind of war work. “This is our obligation to the fatherland, and this will give us the right to participate as the equals of men in the new life of a victorious Russia.” [75]

For Russian working women, however, the war meant added burdens on their already heavily laden backs. At the same time changes in employment during the war increased their economic strength. The number of women in employment swelled enormously. Mass conscription lowered the number of men working in inspected industries by 12.6 per cent between 1914 and 1917; for the same period the number of women rose by 18.8 per cent. Women made up a third of the labour force at the start of the war and about half by 1917. [76]

The war at first led to total disarray in the labour movement. The first nine months were very quiet on the industrial front – and it was women who triggered a change, beginning with bread riots. In Petrograd on 6 April 1915, when the sale of meat was suspended for one day, women smashed and looted a large meat market; the scene was repeated in Moscow two days later over a shortage of bread. During the disturbances the commandant of the city was badly cut by flying cobblestones. Later in the summer this happened again in the turbulent Khitrova Market. Similar events occurred in the following year.

Women participated in a large number of strikes. A strike in Ivanovo-Voznesensk in June 1915 began as a “flour strike”; a month later it erupted again as a political demonstration to end the war and free jailed workers; thirty people were killed. A simultaneous strike in Kostroma was met by armed repression and followed by a mass funeral; it erupted again, and this time the working women addressed a circular to the soldiers asking them for protection instead of bullets. [77]

News of the clashes led to major political strikes in August and September. In August 27,000 workers went on strike in Petrograd demanding the withdrawal of Cossack guards from the factories, the release of five exiled Bolshevik deputies to the Duma, and freedom of the press, among other things. Early in September 64,000 workers came out in Petrograd with political demands. Altogether in 1915 there were 928 strikes, of which 715 were economic, involving 383,587 workers, and 213 were political involving 155,941 workers.

The struggle continued in 1916. The commemoration of Bloody Sunday on 9 January 1916 brought 53,000 workers out (85 per cent of them in Petrograd). Throughout 1916, and especially in the second half of the year, not only were more and more workers involved in strikes, but these became more and more political in nature. Altogether in 1916, 280,943 workers were involved in political strikes, and 221,136 in economic strikes.

In January 1917 a police report noted that

the mothers of families, exhausted from endless standing in line at the stores, tormented by the look of their half-starving and sick children, are very likely closer now to revolution than Messrs Miliukov, Rodichev and Company, and of course, they are more dangerous because they represent that store of inflammable material for which one spark will set off a fire. [78]

It was the women workers of Petrograd who started the revolution of 1917. On 22 February (7 March) a group of women workers met to discuss the organisation of International Women’s Day the following day. V. Kaiurov, the worker-leader of the St Petersburg district committee of the Bolshevik Party, advised them to refrain from hasty action:

But to my surprise and indignation, on 23 February, at an emergency conference of five persons in the corridor of the Erikson works, we learned from comrade Nikifer Ilyin of the strike in some textile factories and of the arrival of a number of delegates from the women workers, who announced that they were supporting the metal workers. I was extremely indignant about the behaviour of the strikers, both because they had blatantly ignored the decision of the District Committee of the party, and also because they had gone on strike after I had appealed to them only the night before to keep cool and disciplined. With reluctance the Bolsheviks agreed to [spreading the strike] and they were followed by other workers – Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries. But once there is a mass strike one must call everybody into the streets and take the lead. [79]

Not until 25 February did the Bolsheviks come out with their first leaflet calling for a general strike – after 200,000 workers had already downed tools!

The massive wave of strikes and demonstrations was the culmination of years of accumulated anger. As one witness later recounted:

The working women, driven to desperation by starvation and war, came along like a hurricane that destroys everything in its path with the violence of an elemental force. This revolutionary march of working women, full of the hatred of centuries of oppression, was the spark that set light to the great flame of the February revolution, that revolution which was to shatter Tsarism. [80]

It was the women workers in the textile industry who elected delegates and sent them round to neighbouring factories with appeals for support. Thus was the revolution detonated. It was, as Trotsky said,

... a revolution begun from below, overcoming the resistance of its own revolutionary organisation, the initiative being taken of their own accord by the most oppressed and downtrodden part of the working class – the women textile workers. [81]

It was these same women who fraternised with the soldiers, persuading them to disobey the orders of the officers, and to hold fire:

They go up to the cordons more boldly than men, take hold of the rifles, beseech, almost command: “Put down your bayonets – join us”. The soldiers are excited, ashamed, exchange anxious glances, waver; someone makes up his mind first, and the bayonets rise guiltily above the shoulders of the advancing crowd. The barrier is opened, a joyous and grateful “Hurrah!” shakes the air. The soldiers are surrounded. Everywhere arguments, reproaches, appeals – the revolution makes another forward step. [82]

The newly resurrected Pravda acknowledged the revolution’s debt to women in an editorial:

Hail the women!
Hail the International!
The women were the first to come out on the streets of Petrograd on their Women’s Day.
The women in Moscow in many cases determined the need of the military; they went to the barracks, and convinced the soldiers to come over to the side of the Revolution.
Hail the women! [83]



But the burden of centuries cannot be removed easily

But even the revolution could not shift the deep prejudices implanted over generations in the minds of both men and women workers. As Marx said: “The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.”

Take the question of equal pay. During the 1905 revolution, the demands for minimum wages were in most cases explicit in requesting lower rates for women than for men. [84] The same assumption underlay agreements after the February 1917 revolution. The first minimum wage agreement concluded between a society of factory owners and the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies established two minimum wages – one for men, who were to receive five roubles a day, and another for women, who were to receive four. [85] For Nevsky shoe factories the minima concluded were five roubles and three; for the giant Skorokhed shoe factory in Petrograd (13 March) five and three roubles and fifty kopeks; for unskilled Ekaterinoslav workers (14 June) three and two. [86]

The Bolsheviks fought against unequal wages. Kollontai had joined the Bolsheviks in 1915. In an article entitled A Serious Gap which appeared in Pravda on 5 May 1917, she criticised the agenda of the coming trade union congress:

There is a serious gap in the agenda of the conference. The question of equal pay for equal work, which is one of the most burning questions for the working class as a whole and for working women in particular, is not down for discussion. The low pay women receive is now even more impermissible since the war has thrown a large number of women on the labour market who are their family’s sole “breadwinner”. [87]

After the October 1917 revolution equal pay was established by law.

Another aspect of unevenness was, as in 1905, the extreme under-representation of women in the Soviets. Again and again in the most democratic elections in history, women workers voted for men to represent them. In the Moscow Province, where women made up half the working population, of 4,743 delegates to the Soviets on 26-7 March 1917, there were only 259 women. In Grozny, four out of 170 delegates were women; in Nizhnigorod, three out of 135; in Odessa, about 40 out of 900, in Iaroslav, five out of 87. [88]

The women who were in the vanguard of the revolution in February 1917 afterwards moved into the background of the historical arena. Hence in Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution, women workers appear only in the first couple of chapters.

One of Lenin’s first acts upon returning to Petrograd in April 1917 was to demand central committee support for political work among women:

Unless women are drawn into taking an independent part, not only in political life generally, but also in daily service obligatory to everyone, it is idle to speak not only of socialism, but even of complete and stable democracy. [89]

The Executive Committee o4 the Petrograd Committee of the Bolsheviks made a special effort to organise women. On 10 March Vera Slutskaia was put in charge of agitation among working-class women. Her recommendations, submitted three days later, were the creation of a women’s bureau as part of the Petrograd committee, and the revival of Rabotnitsa. Each district committee of the Petrograd committee was to select a woman representative to the bureau, whose immediate tasks were to take steps towards republishing Rabotnitsa, and issue leaflets “directed specifically to the woman proletarian question”.

Slutskaia specified that “no independent women’s organisations whatsoever will be created”. The working women in general would be organised in the working-class political and trade union institutions. The bureau was to conduct only agitational work in full agreement with the decisions of the Petrograd committee. Agitation bureaux were accordingly established throughout all party districts. Clubs were also founded with the aim of drawing non-party working women into party activity.

On 10 May Rabotnitsa was started as a weekly with a circulation of between forty and fifty thousand. Its editors were Krupskaia, Elizarova, Kollontai, Samoilova, Nikolaeva, Kudelli and Velichkina. It dealt with such questions as the war, the eight-hour working day, the election to the district Dumas, child labour, the women’s movement in Russia and abroad. [90]

When the Bolsheviks came to power in October 1917 the question of the involvement of the mass of non-party women took on new dimensions. Now the question was how to mobilise millions of women to participate in building socialism. Where they succeeded and where they failed will be examined in a later chapter.



In conclusion

The story of the women’s movement in Russia demonstrates clearly how the sharpening class struggle polarises women into two antagonistic women’s movements: working-class and bourgeois. The greater the polarisation of women, the stronger the bonds between working-class women and men. This conclusion was central for the Bolsheviks, who were intransigent in their opposition to the bourgeois feminists. Against this, the Mensheviks, who advocated a political alliance with the liberals, were also for conciliation between working- class women and bourgeois feminists.

The Bolsheviks understood the difficulty of organising working- class women, who are held back as victims of a double oppression as wage slaves and household slaves. The conclusions they drew from this were fundamentally different from those of the feminist separatists. The Bolsheviks argued that women and men workers face the same bosses, the same capitalist state. It is in the workplace that women can overcome their passivity and their isolation from each other (which is imposed largely by the family structure of society), gaining confidence in their capacity to act collectively. As workers too, the needs of men and women are identical. Because of these things any separatism between men and women workers will damage both, and will damage women more than men.

Likewise, because the role of the party is to lead the struggle of the working class, the structure of the party – including any of its organisations relating to women – must fit the constituencies of the workers’ struggle, not the political constituencies of bourgeois society. This again means focussing on the workplaces, where the interests of women and men stand together.

Conclusive proof of the correctness of the Bolshevik stand on the woman question was the revolution itself. It was women workers, who, together with men, inaugurated the “festival of the oppressed” – and it was the October revolution that opened up the grandest chapter of women’s liberation.


1. Rothchild-Goldberg, The Russian Women’s Movement 1859-1917 (PhD thesis, University of Rochester 1976), pp.29-30.

2. L.L. Filippova, On the History of Women’s Education in Russia, in Voprosy istorii (February 1963), p.209. K

3. G.W. Lapidus, Women in Soviet Society (Berkeley 1979), p.31.

4. Rothchild-Goldberg, pp.45-6.

5. R. Stites, The Women’s Liberation Movement in Russia: Feminism, Nihilism and Bolshevism 1860-1930 (New Jersey 1978), p.69.

6. Rothchild-Goldberg, p.75.

7. Rothchild-Goldberg, pp.77-8.

8. Stites, p.192.

9. Stites, p.65.

10. A.M. Kollontai, Sotsialnie osnovy zhenskogo voprosa (St Petersburg 1909), p.21.

11. Rothchild-Goldberg, p.89.

12. Stites, p.199.

13. Rothchild-Goldberg, p.96.

14. V. Bilshai, The Status of Women in the Soviet Union (Moscow 1957), pp.16-17.

15. Rothchild-Goldberg, pp.110-11.

16. Rothchild-Goldberg, pp.134-5.

17. Rothchild-Goldberg, p.103.

18. Quoted in Rothchild-Goldberg, pp.144-S.

19. Rothchild-Goldberg, p.129.

20. Quoted in Stites, p.202.

21. Rothchild-Goldberg, p.145.

22. Stites, pp.214-S.

23. Rothchild-Goldberg, pp.130-1.

24. Stites, p.116.

25. Stites, pp.148-9.

26. R.H. McNeal, Women in the Russian Radical Movement, in Journal of Social History (Winter 1971-2), p.144; M. Perrie, The Social Composition and Structure of the Socialist Revolutionary Party before 1917, in Soviet Studies (October 1972), p.237.

27. McNeal, p.155.

28. M. Fainsod, How Russia is ruled (Cambridge, Massachusetts), p.254.

29. Selected Writings of Alexandra Kollontai, edited by Alix Holt (London 1977), pp.39-42.

30. R.L. Glickman, The Russian Factory Woman 1890-1914, in D. Atkinson and others, Women in Russia (Stamford 1978), pp.80-1.

31. V. Bilshai, Reshenie zhenskogo voprosa v SSSR (Moscow 1956), p.58.

32. Glickman, p.82.

33. V. Grinevich, Professionalnoe dvizhenie rabochilch v Rossii (St Petersburg 1908), p.278.

34. Glickman, p.81.

35. L. Trotsky, 1905 (New York 1971), p.250.

36. Kollontai, Sotsialnie osnovy, pp.23-4.

37. A.M. Kollontai, Avtobiograficheskii ocherk, in Proletarskaia revoliutsiia, No.3 (1921), pp.268-70.

38. Rothchild-Goldberg, p.108.

39. Kollontai, Sotsialnie osnovy, pp.102-6.

40. Rothchild-Goldberg, p.107.

41. Kollontai, Avtobiograficheskh ocherk, pp.26 1-70.

42. After the Bolshevik-Menshevik split in 1903, Kollontai (1872-1952) wavered between the two groups, though admitting that “by temperament” she was a Bolshevik. In 1906 she became a Menshevik, but joined the Bolsheviks in June 1915. In March 1917 she returned to Russia. On 4 April she spoke in support of Lenin’s April Theses. At the Sixth Congress (26 July-3 August) she was elected a member of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party in absentia (being in one of Kerensky’s prisons). After the October Revolution she became Commissar of Social Welfare. In protest against the Brest-Litovsk Treaty she resigned. At the end of 1920 she was a founder of the Workers’ Opposition and continued to belong to it until early 1922. From October 1922 until 1945 she acted as Soviet Ambassador in Norway, Mexico, then again Norway. Throughout the years of Stalin’s suppression of opposition, including the arrest and disappearance of her former lover, Alexander Shliapnikov, and the shooting of her subsequent husband, Pavel Dybenko, Kollontai kept quiet. She received top awards from Stalin for her services. She died of a heart attack on 9 March 1952.

43. Rothchild-Goldberg, p.99.

44. Kollontai, Sotsialnie osnovy, p.45.

45. Kollontai, Avtobiograficheskii ocherk, pp.267-8.

46. Kollontai, Avtobiograficheskii ocherk, p.272.

47. I.D. Levin, Workers’ Clubs in Petersburg 1907-14, in Materialy po istorii professionalnogo dvizhenie v Rossii, Vol.3 (Moscow 1924), pp.88-111.

48. Quoted in Rothchild-Goldberg, p.173.

49. Rothchild-Goldberg, p.181.

50. Rothchild-Goldberg, p.198.

51. Kollontai, Iz moei zhizni i raboty (Moscow 1974), p.114.

52. Vsegda s Vami (Moscow 1964), pp.15-16.

53. Rothchild-Goldberg, pp.183-5.

54. Trudy pervogo vserossiiskogo zhenskogo sezda pri Russkom zhenskom obshchestvo Sankt-Petersburge 10-16 Dekabria 1908 (St Petersburg 1909), pp.456-8.

55. Trudy pervogo, p.318.

56. Trudy pervogo, p.340.

57. Trudy pervogo, pp.792-4 and 800-1.

58. Stites, p.231.

59. Trudy pervogo, p.496.

60. Stites, p.252. Kollontai was not present at the time of the walk-out. The police had got wind of her presence at the congress during the first four days and surrounded the meeting hall on the fifth. Kollontai, forewarned, was able to flee.

61. A. Bobroff, The Bolsheviks and Working Women 1905-20, in Soviet Studies (October 1974), p.545.

62. Rothchild-Goldberg, pp.254-6.

63. Bobroff, pp.551-3.

64. Bobroff, pp.554-5.

65. A.V. Artiukhina and others, Zhenshchiny v revoliutsii (Moscow 1959), p.97.

66. Rothchild-Goldberg, pp.341-2.

67. R. Dale, The Role of the Women of Petrograd in War, Revolution and Counter-revolution 1914-21 (PhD thesis, New Brunswick University 1973), p.104.

68. Dale, pp.94-5.

69. V. Drizdo, Nadezhda Konstantinova (Moscow 1966), pp.31-4, quoted in Dale, p.102.

70. Dale, pp.104-5.

71. A.F. Bessonova (editor), On the History of the Publication of the Journal Rabotnitsa, in Istoricheskiii arkhiv (Moscow 1955), pp.37-9.

72. A. Balabanoff, My Life as a Rebel (Bloomington 1973), pp.132-3. When the same situation was repeated several weeks later at the International Youth Congress, Balabanoff again found Lenin sitting in the very place from which he had directed his followers a few weeks before. She asked, ironically, “Vladimir Il’ich, did you come here for tea or for the resolution?” He answered with an annoyed glance.

73. Bobroff, pp.564-5.

74. Rothchild-Goldberg, p.346.

75. Stites, p.282.

76. Stites, p.287.

77. Stites, pp.288-9.

78. Bilshai, Reshenie zhenskogo, p.96.

79. V. Kaiurov, Six Days in the February Revolution, in Proletarskaia revoliutsiia, No.1:13 (1923).

80. F.W. Halle, Women in Soviet Russia (London 1933), p.91.

81. L. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution (London 1934), p.122.

82. Trotsky, p.109.

83. Rothchild-Goldberg, p.354.

84. Glickman, p.81.

85. S.M. Kingsbury and M. Fairchild, Factory, Family and Women in the Soviet Union (New York 1935), p.80.

86. A.L. Sidorov and others, Velikaia oktiabrskaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia: Dokumenty i materialy, Vol.1 (Moscow 1957), pp.470-1 and 490-1; Vol.3, pp.208-9.

87. Kollontai, Selected Writings, p.125.

88. Sidorov, Vol.1, pp.316, 321, 323, 325, 327 and 331.

89. V.I. Lenin, The Revolution of 1917, in Collected Works, Vol.20, book I (1929), p.142, quoted in Kingsbury and Fairchild, p.xxii.

90. Sidorov, Vol.1, pp.55, 67, 74-5 and 80.


Last updated on 31.7.2002