Various Subjects

The Woman Worker
and the War

Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

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The hardships of the war bear more heavily in many respects upon the woman worker than upon the workingman. As a soldier, the proletarian fighter for a great cause, he suffers grave privations, but he knows the immediate thrill of success, of victory won. The woman worker stands further off. The war brings her only privations – the departure of her husband, brother, son. Want and hunger are the lot of the family. A Red Army man is killed in action – and in the rear an old mother or a widow is left to carry on. The war affects the womenfolk of the working people more severely than the men.

It is therefore the more important and necessary for all of us that the working woman should understand the meaning of this war and should learn not just to endure and to suffer but also to participate with her own personal strength in the great struggle for the emancipation of the working class.

The working woman passionately wants peace, the return of the man who is close to her, the restoration of economic life, so that the family may no longer be a prey to accursed, nagging cold and hunger. It is necessary that the working woman, even the most ignorant and backward, should know and understand that peace will not be given us by the embittered, callous enemies of the working people – the former landlords, capitalists, dignitaries and Tsarist generals, and the foreign predators who have set this whole pack upon us. We can achieve a calm, peaceful existence only if we force our enemies to understand that we are invincible, that we cannot be crushed, that we shall not willingly put our neck in the noose. Only by routing Denikin’s bands, which have mercilessly slaughtered workers, both men and women, shalhwe win for ourselves the possibility of calm, peaceful and harmonious labour.

The more we rally our forces, the firmer our will-power the sooner shall we finish the task, to the end, to victory, peace and freedom.

Although the majority of women do not participate in military activities, they exercise an immense influence upon them. If his mother or his sister understands the great importance of the present struggle, the morale of the warrior will be twice as strong. And, in the long run, it is the army with the stronger morale that wins in war.

In this connection the first precept for the woman worker is this: understand that this war is being fought for the sake of a happier future for your children, strengthen your heart, and sustain the proletarian warrior in his struggle.

The support, spiritual and material, of women is especially needed by the warrior who has been disabled, through wounds or sickness. Our army medical organisation is too feeble. There are a multitude of gaps and shortcomings in it. The sick or wounded Red Army man often falls into very hard circumstances. A considerable section of the professional nurses are women with a petty-bourgeois cast of mind, indifferent to the revolution, the Red Army and the wounded soldier. We need to increase the number of conscious nurses who will treat the Red Army men with real care and sincere love. We must surround our wounded and sick warriors with the same attention as that with which the bourgeoisie surrounded their sick officers. We must set up voluntary proletarian committees for aid to wounded and sick Red Army men, and the first place in these organisations must be occupied by conscious women workers.

Finally, a very great role falls to women in the sphere of supplies for the army. We shall bring our fight to speedy victory only if our Red Army men are clothed and shod and supplied with the ammunition that they need. In the factories working for the war, the productivity of labour must be raised to the highest level. The woman worker does not fight: so let her manufacture underwear, uniforms, cartridges and shells for the fighting man. In all war-industry enterprises we must have groups of devoted and self-sacrificing women workers who are able by their words and their example to stir all the workers in the enterprise to the highest intensity of labour. All for the Red Army, because the Red Army is all for the defence of the working people.

How long will this accursed war go on? It is hard to give an exact answer to that question. But, in all countries, the imperialists are getting weaker and weaker. Of our internal enemies, only Denikin still constitutes a danger. We can deal with him in three or four months if all the forces of the working people are concentrated on that task. Let the woman worker, together with the conscious male proletarian, inscribe on their banner: all for the Red Army, because the Red Army is all for the defence of the working people.

September 30, 1919

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Last updated on: 27.12.2006