Source: Alexandra Kollontai: Selected Articles and Speeches, Progress Publishers, 1984;
First Published: The Woman Worker and Peasant in Soviet Russia, Gosizdat, 1921, abridged;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan for marxists.org, 2000.
In Soviet Russia there is no independent movement of women workers. In Soviet Russia the proletariat of both sexes are indissolubly united in their struggle to establish and consolidate the dictatorship (of the proletariat-Tr.) and to build the new society of working people.
However, precisely in order to ensure this unity, this joint struggle and joint work, the Communist Party had to include among its tasks the special task of involving women actively in the construction of a new future and in the conscious defence of the first republic of working people against its internal and external enemies.
This task was formulated by the Bolshevik Party as far back as the eve of the revolution, the spring of 1917, when the editorial board of the magazine Rabotnitsa was set up under the party Central Committee in order to serve not only as a centre of propaganda work among the female proletariat, but also as a centre organising women workers around the banner of Bolshevism.
At a time when bourgeois chauvinism and Kerenskyism were in full flood and the dangers of conciliation had not yet been finally eliminated, the editorial board of Rabotnitsa, responding in early June, 1917, to Kerensky's call for the Russian army to advance, organised a large international meeting calling for opposition to the criminal slaughter of the war and for world-wide worker solidarity against the common enemy-the capitalists-and their loyal servants, the conciliators. This was the first open international meeting in Russia.
In autumn, 1917, with the struggle of the proletariat for Soviet power having intensified, and faced with the threat of an offensive by General Kornilov, the most progressive and conscious section of women workers came out in support of the Bolsheviks and became actively involved in the civil war that had broken out. However, the broad mass of women workers and peasants remained outside the movement, passively bearing the increasing burden of economic collapse, deprivation and suffering that inevitably accompany the clash between two social worlds.
The Great October Revolution and the transfer of power into the hands of the working people gave women in Russia full political and civil equality. A new age opened up before women workers and peasants. An end had been put to their former, age-old lack of rights. From that moment on, women enjoyed total equality in every sphere of the work and life of the state. From the very first days following the October Revolution, the Communist Party hastened to make use of the energies of women communists and women workers sympathetic to Soviet power. Women were appointed Commissars, were given important posts, and even sat on the Council of People's Commissars. They were given work in every section of the newly formed Soviet state apparatus...
The doors of the Communist Party stood open to women of the working class, and the law gave them every opportunity to participate in the work of the Soviets to reshape their way of life and thus improve their own living conditions... However, the broad mass of women workers and peasants (taken in the majority) looked with fear upon communists and Soviet power, seeing in them only the destroyers of the fundamental order and ancient traditions, 'godless' people who separated church and state, heartless people who wished to take children away from their mothers and hand them over to be brought up by the state.
Starvation and deprivation further stimulated the blind resentment of the women, who transmitted to their families ideas and attitudes hostile to communism.
In the autumn of 1918 after the attempt by counterrevolution, with the assistance of the Czechoslovaks, to smash the Bolsheviks and put an end to Soviet power, the party recognised the urgency of the problem of involving women workers in Soviet construction and raising their level of class-consciousness. The women, who had stood aside from the movement to consolidate the Soviets, were already becoming a factor actively assisting counter-revolution.
In the interests of communism it was necessary to win over the women workers and turn them into defenders of Soviet power. General propaganda of the ideas of Soviet power and communism proved insufficient to draw women into the movement. A special approach had to be found as regards the women workers and poorest peasants; a special method of work among women had to be developed in order to force them to understand and appreciate what their position should be and which power best guaranteed women's interests – the dictatorship of the proletariat, or a return to the rule of the bourgeoisie.
On the initiative of a group of communist women in Moscow, and with the full support of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party, the First All-Russia Congress of Women Workers and Peasants was convened in Moscow in November, 1918. It was attended by over a thousand women delegates elected at women workers' and peasants' meetings. This congress was not only of enormous propaganda significance, but also laid the foundations for the creation within the Russian Communist Party of a special, all-Russia apparatus for conducting work among women. The creation of a special apparatus within the party whose purpose was to draw the mass of the female population into the construction of a republic of working people and into the struggle for communism thus received official recognition within the party.
To begin with, responsibility for this work was assumed by the Commissions for Propaganda Among Women Workers, organised under the auspices of party committees. The slogan of the commissions ran: 'propaganda in deeds as well as words', which meant that women workers and peasants were to be turned into conscious and active communists via involvement in the creative practical work of the Soviets. With this in view, the commissions created a special apparatus linking the party with the broad mass of backward working women. This apparatus was the council of women delegates. Each enterprise and each workshop was to send one woman delegate for every fifty women workers to the delegate council of women workers. The delegates were elected for three months, and their attendance at weekly delegate councils, at which they were informed about recent political events, about the work being done in various branches of Soviet construction, and in particular about social education, public catering, protection of motherhood and other areas of state activity directly assisting the domestic emancipation of working woman, was compulsory. The delegates not only attended the councils, but were also charged with a number of practical activities which included membership of the commissions on labour protection, on improving living conditions, on provision for motherhood, etc., operating at their own enterprises, visits of inspection to state institutions in order to become familiar with the methods and systems of work used in various branches of the state apparatus, and also co-operating in various party and state campaigns. As the work done by the party among the women increased, it became necessary to regulate it, make it more efficient and thorough-going. In the autumn of 1919, the party reorganised the Commissions for Propaganda Among Women Workers into departments for work among women. Such departments now form part of every local party committee, from the Central Committee to city, district and uyezd committees.
The departments for work among women not only involve women workers and peasants in the party and in state construction, turning them into active women Communists, but also bring independent initiative into the building of communism, putting before the party and state organs tasks related to the comprehensive and practical emancipation of women. Thus, on the initiative of the departments, abortion was legalised, and the proposal advanced at the Eighth Congress of Soviets on actively involving women workers in the rehabilitation of the economy and organisation of production by bringing women into all the organs of economic management has been adopted. The inter-departmental commission for the campaign against prostitution, and the commissions to promote the protection of mother and child were also set up on the initiative of these departments. During the elaboration of the law on the obligation to work (April, 1920) they introduced a number of clauses relating to the protection of the physical strength, health and interests of mothers. Finally, in April of this year, on the initiative of the women's departments, a law was passed through the Council of People's Commissars on involving women workers and peasants in the practical work of executive committee departments and institutions for a period of two months with a view to infusing new life into the state apparatus and freeing it from bureaucratic elements, and also in order to train state executives from among the women workers.
Over the two and a half years since the creation within the party of the special apparatus to conduct work among women with a view to involving women workers and peasants in the construction of a republic of working people ...and drawing them into communism, enormous progress has been made. The former mistrustful or passive attitude among the mass of women to the revolution and to Soviet power is now found only in the most remote areas where the women's departments have not yet begun to expand their activities.
Of the total party membership, 9-10 per cent is comprised of women. According to the latest figures (February-March), there are 3,842 women communists in 12 provinces, including:
The number of delegates in these provinces totals 12,910.
On the most conservative estimates, the number of delegates linked to the women workers' departments, and therefore under the influence of the Communist Party, is more than 70 thousand. These 70 thousand delegates elected from among women workers, housewives and peasant women (the latter elected on a village basis) represent a female population numbering more than 3 million, all linked to the party. Through their deputies, these 3 million women are involved in one way or another in the practical work of state construction either in the sphere of production organisation, or in national defence, or in the re-organisation of daily life and living conditions on new communist principles. Thus, for example, in the 12 provinces for which we have the most recent figures, 6,930 women workers took part in subbotniks, and 2,975 women workers and peasants worked in Soviet institutions.
Thus, through active, practical participation in the work to rehabilitate the economy, help the Red Army, develop agriculture, provide for children (Children's Week), overcome the fuel crisis and get the transport system working again, etc., the party is gradually moulding out of hundreds of thousands of 'non-party' women workers and peasants not only new, fresh forces working for the Soviet system, but also conscious defenders of the republic of the working people and of communism. The broad mass of women workers has already ceased to be the bulwark of counter-revolution. These three years of special work among women have succeeded not only in awakening their political consciousness, but also In accustoming them to active participation in the construction of the new society.
Immediately following the revolution, women were elected as members of the Soviets. However, the election of women was still rare, an exception to the rule. Women were more commonly used to help carry through the designated tasks, and it was a rarity for women to be given administrative posts involving decision-making. Even now there are not many women workers and peasants who are members of the Soviets. For example, in the 12 provinces referred to above, there are only 635 women members of Soviets, that is, an average of 52 members for each province. Moreover, in the uyezd Soviets the number of women members is 574, while in the provincial Soviets there are only seven...
Women workers have been particularly active over recent years in the inspection of various institutions, primarily canteens, hospitals and all the children's institutions that form part of the network of social upbringing. A number of abuses in these institutions, mismanagement, incompetence, and sometimes a deliberately obstructive approach on the part of representatives of the petty-bourgeois elements that poured into state institutions, were discovered thanks to the vigilant eye and conscientiousness of the women workers. In the afore-mentioned 12 provinces, 3,436 women worker delegates sat on inspection commissions. In Petrograd, around 500 women delegates took part in the inspection of infirmaries. According to the figures of the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection, up to 25 thousand women workers and peasants were actively involved in large-scale inspections throughout the whole of Russia. When the republic of working people was faced with the problem of looking after wounded Red Army soldiers, Moscow women workers, under the leadership of the women workers' departments, immediately organised groups of 20-50 delegates who visited the army hospitals once a week, inspected them, reported on inadequacies to the appropriate institution and organised subbotniks to clean the infirmaries and mend the clothes of the wounded. When there were not enough medical orderlies, the delegates helped to transport the ill and the wounded, visited them, read them newspapers, wrote their letters for them, etc. According to the People's Commissariat for Health, the women delegates played a not unimportant role in the improvement of conditions in Moscow hospitals.
As regards the involvement of women in military affairs, the Soviet republic of the working people has adopted a completely new approach. The bourgeoisie has always based itself on the view that the woman was and should remain the preserver of the home, while nature has determined that the man should defend it, or, by extension, should defend the fatherland, the state.
'War,' according to the bourgeoisie,'is men's business.' The idea of taking women into the armed forces appeared monstrous to bourgeois society. It would undermine the 'foundations of the family' – an institution essential to private property and the class-based state.
The use of female personnel during the last imperialist war, particularly in England, was significant not so much as a practical state measure, but rather as a particular form of patriotic propaganda.
A very different attitude is developing in the state of the working people to the involvement of women workers and peasants into the army for the self-defence of the republic of the working people. In the transitional period through which we are now passing, the two duties of each member of the state of the working people to work and to defend that republic are fusing together. The great revolution that took place in October, 1917, in the organisation of production and in the national economy of Russia have had a radical effect upon the lives of women and their role in the state. The communist state, in which all the available reserves of adult citizens are taken into account in order to be put to more rational use and in order to develop the national productive forces more successfully, is already unable to dispense with the part played by women. Just as the basic economic system requires, in the interests of the working class, that the greatest possible number of women be involved in it, so also the self-defence of the working class against bourgeois domination requires that women workers and peasants be used for the army and the navy. The involvement of women, of women workers and peasants, in military affairs is dictated hot by short-term political considerations, such as those that guided the bourgeois governments in the imperialist war, but by the fundamental objectives of the working class. The broader the participation by the working population in its vital objectives, the more successfully will the workers and peasants' army be able to defend the revolution.
The Red Army needs the active involvement of women workers and peasants. Women should be used to ensure success at the front precisely because this victory is essential to the women themselves for their total emancipation and the consolidation of those rights which the October Revolution has won for them. Therefore the participation of women workers and peasants in the Soviet class army is to be evaluated not only in terms of the practical aid which women have already supplied to the army and the war front, but also in terms of that inevitable radical change introduced by the question of involving women in military matters. While the October Revolution paved the way for the abolition of the former inequality between the sexes, the active involvement of women on our common basic fronts-the labour front and the war front – will destroy the lingering prejudices that fed this inequality.
Women workers and peasants were involved in the civil, class war from the very first barricade battles in 1917. Just as the Red Guards" emerged spontaneously in the workers' districts, so also there arose, just as spontaneously, auxiliary detachments of women medical orderlies, Red nurses, and simply groups of volunteer women workers and peasants who assumed one function or another in the Red Guards during and immediately after the October days. However, at that time the involvement of women workers and peasants was not a mass phenomenon, nor was it organised. It was only from the end of 1918 onwards that the women workers and peasants of the Soviet Republic began to take part in military affairs on an organised basis. When the Red Army was formed to replace the Red Guards, the government of workers and peasants did, it is true, appeal for co-operation not only by men, but also by women. However, it did not prove possible at first to find a practical, useful way of making widespread use of women at the front.
The active involvement of working women in the Red Army consists primarily in the formation of an entire detachment of women communists who function as political propagandists in the army, as political workers. Many of these women political workers in the army died alongside their comrades in defence of Soviet power, while others returned decorated with the Order of the Red Banner.
Even in the army Military Revolutionary Councils the number of women members was very small. The political sections of the Red Army are to a large degree the creation of the talented organiser, comrade Varsenika-Kasparova.
The second way in which women workers are involved in military matters is as Red nurses and medical orderlies. The first trained Red nurses from among women workers who had attended special courses arrived at the front in November, 1919, and a number of documents testify to their selfless work and that of the medical orderlies.
Over a period of two years, up to 6,000 trained women workers, Red nurses and medical orderlies have been sent to the front...
The women workers and peasants serving as Red nurses and medical orderlies have shown cheerfulness and enthusiasm in their work. The Red nurse treats the wounded Red Army soldier first and foremost as a comrade and brother, and does not show that sickly-sweet condescension with which the bourgeois nurse approached the 'poor soldier'.
The organisation of medical assistance to the army has opened before the women workers and peasants a wide sphere of necessary and important work, particularly at a moment when Soviet Russia is experiencing bitter class conflict.
However, the role of women in the defence of the Soviet Republic is not limited to the organisation of medical assistance. One only has to remember the critical moments in the struggle, when all the gains of our revolution were in danger, to realise how great and important a role women workers and peasants have played in the self-defence of the republic. Three episodes in the class war over the last three years serve to illustrate this very clearly: the attack by the Whites on the Donbas and Lugansk in 1919, the Denikin threat to Tula and the Yudenich threat to Red Petrograd in the autumn of the same year; Lugansk succeeded in repelling the second attack on the Red city by White Guard bands thanks only to the massive and active participation of working men and women in every sphere of defence. Particularly memorable is the resolute stand adopted by the working women of Tula during Denikin's advance: 'Denikin will reach Moscow only over our dead bodies,' declared the women workers, who were then fulfilling a variety of roles and carrying out every kind of work for the front, from digging trenches to army communications. The fame of the women workers of Petrograd, who repelled the attack by Yudenich, is too well known to need repetition here. The proletarian women of Petrograd not only provided 500 Red nurses and medical orderlies for the front, but also served in their thousands in the machine-gun companies, in communications, in sapper companies, and laboured selflessly in the cold autumn weather to dig trenches and surround Petrograd with barbed wire...
Not only in Moscow, but throughout the whole of Russia, the system of universal military training is drawing young women workers and peasants into military matters, thus gradually creating the reserves necessary to defend the republic from international predators.
During the last three years, not one recruitment campaign has been conducted in which women have not taken an active part. Women workers and peasants helped to combat army desertion, and to collect the necessary army equipment; they visited infirmaries and concerned themselves about the fate of sick and wounded Red Army soldiers. The appeal from the Red front found a warm response in the hearts of women workers and peasants. The industrial centres in particular sent a large number of women to the front. Her class sense tells the woman worker that the total emancipation of women is indissolubly linked with each first victory of the Red front.
In May of this year, the first women workers will complete their course in military communications. Over the last few months courses for women telephonists and telegraph operators have become available in various parts of the country; the latest graduates completed courses in Samara and Simbirsk in the summer of 1920, and provided efficient cadres for the Southern and South-Western fronts.
The heroism of the women workers and peasants, their direct involvement in battle and their fearlessness under fire is referred to in dispatches from General Headquarters. The number of Red Army women who have been killed, wounded or taken prisoner is 1,854. Many women have been awarded the Order of the Red Banner: medical orderlies, telephonists, Red Army women soldiers in machine-gun detachments, medical orderlies, doctors, etc.
Women workers have also played an important role in organising the public catering service. They are involved in the organisation of public canteens, in food quality control, in the management of canteens and the organisation of a special children's food service. Women delegates organise a duty roster for mothers at children's canteens. In some places (for example Kiev, the Moscow province, etc.), women workers took the first steps to organise factory canteens. In the provincial capitals of Russia almost the entire population is now using the public catering service. About five million people now use canteens, which shows first and foremost that, in what concerns the emancipation of women from the slavery of housework, working Russia has managed during the four years following the revolution to achieve that which no bourgeois country would have dared attempt. Up to 75 thousand women are now employed in the public catering service.
Women workers are particularly active in social education. This area of Soviet policy is the one that even backward women workers can most easily understand and sympathize with. Numerous children's institutions: children's homes, creches and nurseries – are run by women workers. Women delegates are helping Soviet organs of government to organise new institutions and improve those that already exist. Under the pressure of women Communists working in social education, the former charitable 'refuges' for orphans-those breeding grounds producing servile and will-less servants of the bourgeoisie – are disappearing, to be replaced by new forms of social education for children in the healthy environment of children's homes, kindergartens, and playgrounds where women workers can leave their children with an easy heart. It is true that material obstacles such as the shortage of equipment, textbooks, clothing and a normal supply of food are severely impeding the exemplary organisation of 'social education'. However, the policy laid down by the Soviet government in this sphere is receiving the energetic support of many communist women, and the very idea of social education is gradually penetrating the consciousness of broad masses of women workers. A number of women communists-comrades Nikolayeva (a former woman worker), Lilina, Yelizarova, Dyushenhave made their valuable contribution to this cause and assisted the progress of this difficult and responsible work while the names of comrades Nadezhda Krupskaya and L. Menzhinskaya are inseparably linked with the creation of one, unified school of labour and the organisation of widespread out-of-school education.
Not only in the capital cities of Soviet Russia, but also in many provincial towns, courses have been started for children's nurses, kindergarten teachers, women creche organisers, etc., and women workers are being sent to attend them.
Closely linked to the activities of women workers in the sphere of social education is the work done by women delegates and women communists to ensure protection for mother and child. On the initiative of the women's departments, special Commissions of Support have been organised as part of the subdivision concerned with the protection of mother and child. These special commissions are to assist in the broad practical implementation of those decrees on the protection of motherhood which, for a number of technical reasons, and particularly as a result of the dislocation of the national economy, are in effect only benefiting an extremely small number of working women.
The Commissions of Support, under the leadership of the women's departments, are conducting a campaign to spread the idea of protecting mother and child, and are familiarising women workers at their place of work with the basic laws on the protection of expectant and nursing mothers at work, and are checking on the implementation of all legislation in this area.
Women workers in the Ukraine are particularly active in the sphere of the protection of motherhood, and each enterprise has a group concerned with this issue. Women workers are the directors of numerous institutions, creches, mother and child homes, and themselves run the local departments.
Comrade Moirova, who is in charge of the Ukrainian Department of Women Workers under the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Ukraine, is a tireless worker who shows great initiative. In just one year she has succeeded in raising the work of the women's departments in the sphere of protection of mother and child to the necessary level, having begun this work in the Ukraine under the guidance of one of the leading figures in work among the female proletariat in Russia, Comrade Konkordia Samoilova.
There is still one major and difficult task to be carried through in the sphere of protection of mother and child. At present, the measures taken to protect and provide for motherhood benefit only women working in factories and plants, and even countryside, even summer creches are few in number. However, this task has already been set, and will be dealt with as soon as it is materially possible to do so...
The protection of motherhood is impossible without the proper organisation of labour protection at factories. Despite the fact that the principle of equal pay for equal work was established in Soviet Russia from the very first moment of the revolution, most women workers in fact continue to do lower-paid work. The fact that women often lack qualifications means that women belong to the lower-paid category of workers. Moreover, very little has been done to improve sanitation and hygiene at factories. Harmful, unhealthy conditions of work seriously affect women workers, particularly if one takes into account the fact that decrees are implemented only under pressure from the Commissions of Labour Protection. Women workers are being brought into these commissions and made responsible for checking that the decrees on labour protection are implemented, for encouraging an improvement in conditions of work (provision of washrooms, cloakrooms, canteens, etc.), and in particular for concerning themselves with the help of the Commissions of Support with the protection of motherhood and the fate of nursing and pregnant women workers.
Over these four years women workers have also played a major role in eliminating illiteracy. The Communist Party departments of women workers have succeeded in drawing large numbers of working women into this work. In some provinces every enterprise has a woman delegate specifically selected to assist in eliminating adult illiteracy. Women worker delegates give technical assistance to schools, teach or help to organise literacy schools.
In Yekaterinburg, the women workers themselves organised a census of the illiterate. Over recent years, the question of eliminating illiteracy was raised at many conferences of women workers.
Women workers are participating in the administration of Soviet law, both as judges and as members of the jury. In particular it is now becoming customary for women of the Soviet East to take part in people's courts. Here, women are achieving emancipation from their everyday yoke and religious tradition only thanks to the support of Soviet legislation. In Bashkiria, among the Kirghiz and Tatar women, and in Turkestan, the court is one of the first stages of Soviet work among Muslim women who are only just awakening and becoming conscious of their rights.
In order to make more effective use of women workers in the cause of Soviet construction, the women's departments are everywhere seconding women workers to courses. At first, women workers attended mainly courses on the protection of motherhood, organised by Comrade Lebedeva, who was in charge of all the work done for the protection of mother and child in Soviet Russia and who managed to raise this work to the necessary level. Subsequently the women started to attend courses for medical orderlies and Red nurses, and courses on pre-school upbringing.
However, women workers are now being seconded to all courses on Soviet construction and party work. Women delegates from the women's departments have been allotted 10 per cent of all the places available on party courses. In 1920 ten provinces sent 3,484 women workers and peasants to such courses through the women's departments.
On the initiative of the Central Women's Department, a special section has been set up at the Sverdlov University (the central party school) which introduce the students to the basic methods and forms of work among the female proletariat. In order to ensure that women workers, peasants and housewives are brought up in the spirit of communism, the women's departments have obtained for themselves a certain number of places in schools and on courses and, in addition to oral propaganda of the ideas of communism, are also conducting systematic written propaganda by means of special publications. In Soviet Russia at present local party newspapers publish 74 special Working Women's Supplements every week. The Central Department publishes a weekly Bulletin which contains all the instructions and resolutions of the department, the study programmes for use both with women delegates and in party schools, the theses that are to serve for propaganda work, and other guidelines and instructions. The department also publishes a monthly political magazine, Kommunistka (Communist Woman), and a special pamphlet which provides material for reproduction in the various local editions of the Working Women's Supplement.
The Central Department also has a literature board which plans the publication of brochures, pamphlets and appeals. Over the last year the Central Department has issued over 20 brochures, books on the protection of female labour, a report on the First Conference of Women Communists, a number of appeals and leaflets related to political and state campaigns.
The education of the masses in the party spirit completes and resumes the Soviet experience gained by broad masses of women workers-with the active and direct co-operation of housewives and peasant women-in Soviet construction. At present, the practical communist education of the masses both by the party and by the women's departments is being directed towards the spheres of economic construction and the revival of production.
As one of the urgent tasks now facing the Soviet Republic is the revival of production and the organisation of the national economy on communist principles, the active involvement of women in this work is now a matter of particular importance.
The transition in Soviet Russia to universal labour conscription represented a historic turning point in the position of women. The new system of organising labour based: 1) on a rigorous assessment and rational distribution of all the existing labour reserves of the republic, including women; 2) on the transition from family consumption and individual economic units to collective production and consumption, and 3) on a unified and regulated economic plan, has radically altered the basis upon which rested the former enslavement and dependence of women. The summons of all to the labour front without distinction of sex is changing the entire traditional picture of life and relations between the sexes. The former dependence of women on the capitalist boss and husband cum bread-winner has disappeared. There is now one master, whom the working man and the working woman must both equally obey in the interests of the whole working class-the Soviet Republic of Working People.
The role played by women workers and peasants in the organisation of the national economy on communist principles is becoming more and more important. As the working men have been drawn to the Red front, working women in Russia have become firmly established on the labour front, the economic front. According to the figures of the All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions, which are far from complete, of the 5.5 million workers in trade unions, the majority in a number of major branches of industry are women...
At the same time, there is no trade union that does not number women among its members, and no branch of work in which women are not involved. However, despite the fact that female labour is widely used in Soviet Russia, and that women workers outnumber men workers in many branches of production, the number of women workers in the various organs of production management, from factory committees and commissions to the central organs of economic management, is still very small. The plenum of the Petrograd Soviet, for example, consists of 135 working men, but only 25 working women. Of the 194 members of management organs supervising the textile workers' trade union in 38 provinces, only 10 are women. An exception to this rule is Kostroma, where women constitute a majority in the trade union management. In factory management, particularly with the transition to one-man management, women are a rarity, with the exception of the clothing industry and certain textile combines where women workers are members of the management organs. Women are in the minority at trade union congresses, and there are even fewer women at national economic congresses, and in central organs of management.
What is the cause of this phenomenon, and what does it tell us? One of the reasons for this lack of activity on the part of women workers in the organisation of production is the fact that the women's departments of the party have only recently set themselves the task of shifting the emphasis of their work from involving women in the construction of Soviet institutions to involving them in the rehabilitation of the national economy. This appeal was launched only this winter, and was clearly formulated for the first time at the Third All-Russia Conference of Provincial Women's Departments in December, 1920. It was then confirmed at the Eighth Congress of Soviets with the adoption of the resolution on involving women workers in all organs of management and in the organisation of the national economy. There can be no doubt that, with the increasing activity of the women's departments within the trade unions, and with the use of production propaganda not only to raise labour productivity, but also to involve women equally with men in the organisation of new forms of production, the number of women workers becoming active builders of the national economy will increase as rapidly and consistently as it is doing in the other spheres of activity connected with the reconstruction of life on new principles.
With the assistance of organisers specifically chosen to work among women in trade unions, with the help of production conferences and the skilful involvement of women workers in trade union efforts to improve working conditions at the factories for both men and women workers, we may confidently hope that the two-million-strong army of women workers can be moulded into steadfast and conscious builders of communist forms of production.
Without the participation of women workers and peasants, victory on the labour front is impossible. On the other hand, however, the complete and actual emancipation of the 70 million women of the working republic is equally impossible without the introduction and implementation of the principles of the communist economic system and the transformation of life according to new principles. The great change brought about by the Russian proletarian revolution in the hearts and minds of the workers of both sexes makes it easier to draw the broad mass of women workers and peasants into every sphere of public and economic life. That mustering of forces made necessary by the protracted civil war has steeled the will of the workers of both sexes, and has taught them to follow Marx's behest that their liberation can only be achieved by their own efforts. It is now not individuals, but masses of women workers who are joining in the task of constructing the Soviet Republic. As yet, the peasant woman is only timidly following in their wake. The women among the urban poor have become conscious of their rights and have bound their future to the future of communism. The party's task is to find the way to the mind and heart of the peasant woman.
After the peasant woman comes the 'last slave', the woman of the East, awakening from age-old slavery. The women's departments are vigorously pursuing their work in every area with the population of the peoples of the East and in all the eastern republics of Soviet Russia, in order to rally the forces of Muslim and mountain women around the banner of communism and Soviet power.
A start has also been made in the work among women engaged in non-physical labour: teachers, office workers, medical personnel, telephonists and telegraph operators.
On looking back over what has been done during these revolutionary years to organise women around the banner of communism, one cannot but note with deep satisfaction the enormous successes achieved in this difficult and painstaking work. There is now no sphere of Soviet life into which women of the working class have not been drawn. Yesterday's woman worker or peasant is today in charge of army political sections, is transport commissar, organises public catering, heads the department for the protection of motherhood, is in charge of social education, organises reading rooms, supervises canteens, joins the food detachments, and is actively engaged in all political campaigns and all the initiatives undertaken by the republic to combat the collapse of the economy, starvation and epidemics. The woman worker is the soul of the subbotniks, and wherever her duties and obligations call her, she is a full and equal citizen.
During the four years of the revolution, the movement of women workers has changed from being spontaneous, unorganised, amateurish and disunited to become a large-scale, systematic and organised phenomenon. It is increasingly clear and indisputable that, without close co-operation on the part of the women, the proletariat will not be able to fulfil its great class task. The party as a whole must now consider how to make wide-ranging and skilful use of this female force. The departments of women workers now face the task of enriching the construction of the new society by bringing to the fore those urgent and immediate issues which primarily affect women, and whose solution will deliver the final blow to their recent enslavement by the family and the outdated morals of the bourgeois world.
The proletarian revolution has achieved its objective. All arguments about the inequality of women have been swept into the past. The October Revolution has created a solid basis for the comprehensive emancipation of women...
A. M. Kollontai