Dora B. Montefiore

Book Review

Mrs. Swanwick on Women

Source: The Communist, December 10, 1921.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Ted Crawford
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.

Women in the Socialist State
Mrs. H. M. Swanwick
National Labour Press
3s. 6d.

THERE is abundant proof in the pages of this book that it has been written with sincerity by a woman who has pondered on the many and perplexing social problems of the day, more especially as they affect her own sex. But the reader is never quite sure whether Mrs. Swanwick’s suggested solutions of the problems are to be applied after or before the revolution, though she obviously (on page 70) realises that some sort of “revolution” must come. “But if the great revolution were made with a wise economy of force”; such is the guarded phrase in which the writer peeps round the corner, as it were, to reassure herself that too many eggs are not being broken in making the revolutionary omelette. And on the very same page she writes of the “new poor” as likely to be very useful (presumably after the revolution of wise force) in “helping in the conversion of small-scale to large-scale home industry.”

What she fails to understand is that the “new poor” are not poor at all in the sense that the workers are poor, because these former are still living on rent, interest, or profit; and that, as such, they must, together with the “new rich,” be swept into the ranks of producers, so as to rid Communal production and distribution of their parasitic incubus. The producers by hand and brain will, after the forces now being generated under Capitalism have done their revolutionary work and have destroyed the existing “State” (as Engels in his classic work on Women interprets) reorganise on an entirely new social basis, industry, distribution, administration and “large-scale home industry,” find this period of reorganisation will be under the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Mrs. Swanwick has not yet succeeded into thinking herself into this new Communal sphere. She comes to her task still too much wrapped around with the rags and tatters of “Capitalist State” thought. She writes of the possible “establishment of a number of co-equal Parliaments,” of “women being educated to take more interest than they ever have in Free Trade,” and, when writing about the future civic employment of middle-aged women under a “Socialist State,” she considers that “from them would be recruited a large proportion of those who would serve on representative bodies, parliaments, councils, guilds, committees and so forth.” Co-option is not explicitly mentioned, but the idea peeps out, and a more than faint aroma of Sydney Webbism is wafted around.

It is a pity that Mrs. Swanwick, before publishing her studies on “Women in the Soviet State,” did not first visit the great Soviet Republic of Russia, and study at first hand how women, working by hand and brain are, with their men comrades (and in the face of every outside difficulty organised by Capitalist States) raising the Communal standard of life, and gaining social freedom for all. Her only reference to Soviet Russia is, when on page 40, she acknowledges “that in Bolshevik Russia prostitution has ceased,” and she has the fairness to suggest that “freedom” (such as has been gained in that country) “has justified the relations of men and women.” Mrs. Swanwick is a trained and courageous thinker, and another volume on the same subject, after the writer has been able to extend her studies into Bolshevik Russia itself, might be of value to all Revolutionaries.