Soviet power and the status of women
In November 1919, two years after the Russian Revolution and the establishment of a workers' state, Marxists Internet Archive.looked back on the gains, particularly regarding the liberation of women, in this article for Pravda. This text is republished from the
THE SECOND anniversary of the Soviet power is a fitting occasion for us to review what has, in general, been accomplished during this period, and to probe into the significance and aims of the revolution which we accomplished.
The bourgeoisie and its supporters accuse us of violating democracy. We maintain that the Soviet revolution has given an unprecedented stimulus to the development of democracy both in depth and breadth, of democracy, moreover, distinctly for the toiling masses, who had been oppressed under capitalism; consequently, of democracy for the vast majority of the people, of socialist democracy (for the toilers) as distinguished from bourgeois democracy (for the exploiters, the capitalists, the rich).
Who is right?
To probe deeply into this question and to understand it well will mean studying the experience of these two years and being better prepared to further follow up this experience.
The position of women furnishes a particularly graphic elucidation of the difference between bourgeois and socialist democracy, it furnishes a particularly graphic answer to the question posed.
In no bourgeois republic (i.e., where there is private ownership of the land, factories, works, shares, etc.), be it even the most democratic republic, nowhere in the world, not even in the most advanced country, have women gained a position of complete equality. And this, notwithstanding the fact that more than one and a quarter centuries have elapsed since the Great French (bourgeois-democratic) Revolution.
In words, bourgeois democracy promises equality and liberty. In fact, not a single bourgeois republic, not even the most advanced one, has given the feminine half of the human race either full legal equality with men or freedom from the guardianship and oppression of men.
Bourgeois democracy is democracy of pompous phrases, solemn words, exuberant promises and the high-sounding slogans of freedom and equality. But, in fact, it screens the non-freedom and inferiority of women, the non-freedom and inferiority of the toilers and exploited.
Soviet, or socialist, democracy sweeps aside the pompous, bullying, words, declares ruthless war on the hypocrisy of the "democrats," the landlords, capitalists or well-fed peasants who are making money by selling their surplus bread to hungry workers at profiteering prices.
Down with this contemptible fraud! There cannot be, nor is there nor will there ever be "equality" between the oppressed and the oppressors, between the exploited and the exploiters. There cannot be, nor is there nor will there ever be real "freedom" as long as there is no freedom for women from the privileges which the law grants to men, as long as there is no freedom for the workers from the yoke of capital, and no freedom for the toiling peasants from the yoke of the capitalists, landlords and merchants.
Let the liars and hypocrites, the dull-witted and blind, the bourgeois and their supporters hoodwink the people with talk about freedom in general, about equality in general, about democracy in general.
We say to the workers and peasants: Tear the masks from the faces of these liars, open the eyes of these blind ones. Ask them:
"Equality between what sex and what other sex?
"Between what nation and what other nation?
"Between what class and what other class?
"Freedom from what yoke, or from the yoke of what class? Freedom for what class?"
Whoever speaks of politics, of democracy, of liberty, of equality, of socialism, and does not at the same time ask these questions, does not put them in the foreground, does not fight against concealing, hushing up and glossing over these questions, is one of the worst enemies of the toilers, is a wolf in sheep's clothing, is a bitter opponent of the workers and peasants, is a servant of the landlords, tsars, capitalists.
In the course of two years Soviet power in one of the most backward countries of Europe did more to emancipate women and to make their status equal to that of the "strong" sex than all the advanced, enlightened, "democratic" republics of the world did in the course of 130 years.
Enlightenment, culture, civilization, liberty--in all capitalist, bourgeois republics of the world all these fine words are combined with extremely infamous, disgustingly filthy and brutally coarse laws in which woman is treated as an inferior being, laws dealing with marriage rights and divorce, with the inferior status of a child born out of wedlock as compared with that of a "legitimate" child, laws granting privileges to men, laws that are humiliating and insulting to women.
The yoke of capital, the tyranny of "sacred private property," the despotism of philistine stupidity, the greed of petty proprietors--these are the things that prevented the most democratic bourgeois republics from infringing upon those filthy and infamous laws.
The Soviet Republic, the republic of workers and peasants, promptly wiped out these laws and left not a stone in the structure of bourgeois fraud and bourgeois hypocrisy.
Down with this fraud! Down with the liars who are talking of freedom and equality for all, while there is an oppressed sex, while there are oppressor classes, while there is private ownership of capital, of shares, while there are the well-fed with their surplus of bread who keep the hungry in bondage. Not freedom for all, not equality for all, but a fight against the oppressors and exploiters, the abolition of every possibility of oppression and exploitation--that is our slogan!
Freedom and equality for the oppressed sex!
Freedom and equality for the workers, for the toiling peasants!
A fight against the oppressors, a fight against the capitalists, a fight against the profiteering kulaks!
That is our fighting slogan, that is our proletarian truth, the truth of the struggle against capital, the truth which we flung in the face of the world of capital with its honeyed, hypocritical, pompous phrases about freedom and equality in general, about freedom and equality for all.
And for the very reason that we have torn down the mask of this hypocrisy, that we are introducing with revolutionary energy freedom and equality for the oppressed and for the toilers, against the oppressors, against the capitalists, against the kulaks--for this very reason the Soviet government has become so dear to the hearts of workers of the whole world.
It is for this very reason that, on the second anniversary of the Soviet power, the sympathies of the masses of the workers, the sympathies of the oppressed and exploited in every country of the world, are with us.
It is for this very reason that, on this second anniversary of the Soviet power, despite hunger and cold, despite all our tribulations, which have been caused by the imperialists' invasion of the Russian Soviet Republic, we are full of firm faith in the justice of our cause, of firm Faith in the inevitable victory of Soviet power all over the world.