Dora B. Montefiore 1919
Source: The Call, 9 January 1919, p. 3 (607 words)
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
Our comrade Clara Zetkin’s letter in “The Call” for December 26th voices what I feel sure all Socialist women are thinking—the demand that we should make to be present at the Peace Conference. Linked up with that demand is the fact that our comrade Zetkin, the Secretary of the Women’s International, invites Socialist women delegates to a Congress, which she is convening, at which will be debated the questions arising out of the war, and have a special bearing on the conditions of working women, wives and mothers.
No one can deny that the four years capitalist war, which has changed politically, industrially, and socially the face of Europe, has not profoundly affected the position and environment of working women. To begin with, they were called upon, as no other war has ever called upon them, to take a direct and active part in each country in the prosecution of the war. Wives, mothers, and unmarried women in France, Germany, Austria, Japan, and Great Britain made millions of pounds worth of munitions with the conscious object of destroying the sons of other women. This is the added horror that capitalism held in reserve for its ultimate expression, its final reflex: women, the givers and nurturers of life, organised as wage earners to destroy life. What the consequences to the race may be of this functional perversion we have yet to realise.
To take another point: working women during the war have won certain liberties, which it is to be hoped they will guard as a sacred trust. In Russia, women have absolutely equal rights in voting for and in being elected to the Soviets, the most democratic administrative Councils that exist; we Socialist women shall look forward to meeting women from both the Russian and German Soviets, and to learning from them the truth about the way their countries are evolving from Imperialist and capitalist domination to proletarian administration. The idea and scope of the Soviets is well known to the Socialist women of Gorbals, but there they have John Maclean as an exponent and teacher; and our task, as women of the B.S.P., is to popularise this idea of the Soviet or Council, which is to be the administrative unit of the future. There has never been a Women’s Socialist International gathering which will have the intense and vivid interest of this proposed Congress. For four years we have been fed on capitalist yellow Press lies; for four years truths have been suppressed and misrepresentations have been manufactured. We now know that a deliberate and systematic attempt is being made to crush out in Russia the emerging Socialist administration; while our military chiefs haughtily refuse in Germany to consult or treat with representatives of the German Soviets. These facts give us the measure of the hatred and fear of Socialism, and to some extent cheer us with the knowledge of our comrades’ success. But what we long to know is the Truth, and that we can only have when we meet our Continental comrades, and once more renew the relations and friendships which four years of capitalist war have interrupted. We Socialist women were, anti-militarists before the war, we are anti-militarists still; we recognise that the war, as the ultimate expression of capitalist competition, had to be; but we intend with our men comrades to extract from the chaotic conditions the war has created all the advantage we can in our propaganda, which we shall carry on with increased courage and hope till we have changed world from a competitive struggle to a human co-operation.
DORA B. MONTEFIORE