Dora B. Montefiore

Women and Communism

Source: The Communist, November 4, 1920, p. 5 (758 words)
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
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.

Now that we have for three years had under our eyes to study as an object lesson the working of the Russian Soviet Republic, we women should take of what even under the most adverse circumstances, Communism can do in giving all who work for the community opportunities in life; of educating and maintaining all children to the age of adults and of caring for the old and the incapacitated when working days are over. To women, the working out of this social and economic revolution could be of special interest, because the existing Capitalist State, with its ever recurring ups and downs of life, the overwhelming anxieties of women (whether they belong to the class of workers by hand or by brain) relate always to the efficient feeding, clothing and education of their children, and to the care of the old and infirm persons dependent on them. A few weeks of unemployment or of severe illness or accident for the father of the family lowers the standard of living for the children; while the mother is carrying or nursing a baby, and has to work in order to supplement a husband’s uncertain earnings, that baby’s life is frequently doomed, or if it struggles on it becomes a C3 specimen.

Now, in Soviet Russia, where industry, instead of remaining in capitalist chaos, is organised on a communal basis, there is no unemployment, therefore, the women of Russia have no material anxieties such as those mentioned above. There is no unemployment, because the workers are not producing for employers or for a company of shareholders, but are producing for the whole community. Further they are not producing with the idea of making profits, but with the idea of making things for use. As a consequence there is no such thing as over-production in Russia. What is known as “over-production” in capitalist countries is only the result of the workers producing more than they can buy out of their weekly wages, or than their employers can sell at a profit abroad. The workers of Russia, through their Industrial Councils own and control their mines, factories, workshops, and means of transport, and, as a consequence can, and do, provide all who work by hand and brain with food, clothing, warmth, and shelter.

It is true that owing to the military and naval pressure of the Capitalist Allies only a thousandth part of what will eventually be the share of the producers has fallen to the workers in the great Russian Republic; but if the working men and women of other countries understood their own interests they would insist on their Governments making a real peace with Russia, and throwing open the Trade Routes between that vast country and the rest of Europe. If you look up Russia in any reference book you will see that before the war she exported grain, timber, tallow, hemp, hides, skins, oil, flax, eggs, wool, and leather in very large quantities. We women have only to think of our home life, with the housing shortage, the high price of bread and other necessary foods, the difficulty of providing the children with boots and warm clothing, to realise, even from a selfish point of view, the benefits we should gain by renewing trade with Russia. But when we realise further that it is this Capitalist Government (which by its impossibly ignorant “Peace” has brought all these troubles upon us) that now is doing its best to destroy the Russian Workers’ Communist Republic, every working woman should use her influence and her vote to help her Russian comrades, who are blazing the trail along which other workers must follow. Clara Zetkin, the veteran German woman comrade, who has worked all her life organising and helping German working women, writes from Petrograd: “As soon as I arrived in Russia I became convinced of the perfect order, discipline and healthy spirit of the population ... the healthy looking children and workers of both sexes.” And she remarked that, comparing conditions in Petrograd and Berlin, the advantage was on the side of Petrograd.

An American woman comrade, C. Perkins Stetson, wrote some years ago: “As women become free, economic social factors, so becomes possible the full social combination of individuals in collective industry.” That industrial freedom is what Russian women now possess; and the task that lies before English working women is to stand with their men in the ever-intensifying struggle for the ownership and control by the proletariat of the means of life.