Women and Marxism - Lenin

From The Development of Capitalism in Russia

Chapter VII The Development of Large-Scale Machine Industry

Written: 1896-99.
Source: The Emancipation of Women: From the Writings of V.I. Lenin.
Publisher: International Publishers.
Transcribed and HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

Large-scale machine industry, which concentrates masses of workers who often come from various parts of the country, absolutely refuses to tolerate survivals of patriarchalism and personal dependence, and is marked by a truly "contemptuous attitude to the past".

It is this break with obsolete tradition that is one of the substantial conditions which have created the possibility and evoked the necessity of regulating production and of public control over it. In particular, speaking of the transformation brought about by the factory in the conditions of life of the population, it must be stated that the drawing of women and juveniles into production is, at bottom, progressive. It is indisputable that the capitalist factory places these categories of the working population in particularly hard conditions, and that for them it is particularly necessary to regulate and shorten the working day, to guarantee hygienic conditions of labour, etc.; but endeavours completely to ban the work of women and juveniles in industry, or to maintain the patriarchal manner of life that ruled out such work, would be reactionary and utopian.

By destroying the patriarchal isolation of these categories of the population who formerly never emerged from the narrow circle of domestic, family relationships, by drawing them into direct participation in social production, large-scale machine industry stimulates their development and increases their independence, in other words, creates conditions of life that are incomparably superior to the patriarchal immobility of pre-capitalist relations.



"The poor woman-weaver follows her father and husband to the factory and works alongside of them and independently of them. She is as much a breadwinner as the man is." "In the factory... the woman is quite an independent producer, apart from her husband." Literacy spreads among the women factory workers with remarkable rapidity.

(Industries of Vladimir Gubernia, III, 113, 118, 112 and elsewhere.)

Mr. Kharizomenov is perfectly right in drawing the following conclusion: industry has destroyed

"the economic dependence of the woman on the family... and on the husband.... At the factory, the woman is the equal of the man; this is the equality of the proletarian.... The capitalisation of industry is an important factor in the woman's struggle for her independence in the family." "Industry creates a new position for the woman in which she is completely independent of her family and husband."

(Yuridichesky Vestnik, 1883, No. 12, pp. 5fi2, 596.)

In the Statistical Returns for Moscow Gubernia (Vol. VII, Pt. II, Moscow 1882, pp. 152, 138-39), the investigators compare the position of women engaged in making stockings by hand and by machine. The daily earnings of hand workers is about 8 kopeks, and of machine workers, 14 to 30 kopeks. The working woman's conditions under machine production are described as follows:

"...Before us is a free young woman, hampered by no obstacles, emancipated from the family and from all that constitutes the peasant woman's conditions of life, a young woman who at any moment may leave one place for another, one employer for another, and may at any moment find herself without a job ... without a crust of bread.... Under hand production, the knitter's earnings are very meagre, insufficient to cover the cost of her food, earnings only acceptable if she, as a member of an allotment-holding and farming family, enjoys in part the product of that land; under machine production the working woman, in addition to food and tea, gets earnings which enable ... her to live away from the family and to do without the family's income from the land.... Moreover, the woman worker's earnings in machine industry, under present conditions, are more secure."