Mark Starr

Seeing is Believing

From Cook to Commissar

Source: Woman Worker, November 1926, No. 8
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). 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.

Since my visit to the Soviet Union last August the thought of the women there brings back to my mind a crowded meeting at Charkov in a large theatre. The Women’s Committee for Aid for the British Miners’ are discussing ways and means of supplementing the levies paid through the unions. A touch of colour is given to the scene by the bright red kerchief headdress of many of the women present. It is true that Rabichev—the male head of the local Trade Union Cultural Department—is there and makes a speech but woman comrade presides and others speak, ask questions and discuss.

The questions, as usual, came thick and fast. Why hadn’t a delegation of miners’ wives been sent? How was the relief money spent? Was there any danger of compromise on the part of the miners? Finally a long resolution advising them not to, criticising the T.U.C. General Council and pledging further support and The Internationale in all its verses sung. On the following Sunday I was able to buy to add to a large collection the printed slip which the Committee used for its “flag day.”

In that meeting, with significant farsightedness, the women speakers not only appealed to the mothers to remember their own privations of the famine years in order to understand the suffering of the British miners’ wives and children, but argued in effect that the battle front of the Ukrainian workers was now in Durham; that, if reaction, triumphed in Britain, wage cuts on an international scale would be introduced and the Whites again financed to torture and to hang the workers of Russia.

However, even before I met such comrades, I knew about the immense and beneficial changes the Revolution had brought to women. In the many Esperanto letters I have received, again and again has been described how the woman cook become a commissar, how the children before and after birth are cared for, how special steps are taken to protect women in the factories and how women are specially encouraged to participate in the life of the Trade Union and the village Soviet. All this I found to be true and the posters and women’s journals obtained indicate campaign being waved against illiteracy and ignorance.

Kautsky may doubt whether any change has been made but the mothers with their babies in the clinic and creche I met at Gorlovka could make him wise in the matter. For these reasons there will be no more enthusiastic marchers in the Ninth Anniversary of the Revolution than the women.