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Culture and Society

W o m e n under C o m m u n i s m
Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal

of free love, economic independence for

Women in Russia. Dorothy Atkinson, Alexander Dallin, Gail War- women, and communal living were assimi-
shofsky Lapidus, eds. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1977, lated into the bloodstream of radical ideol-
410 pages, $18.75 ogy, first the populist form of socialism, and
then the Marxist. From the 1870s on, ad-
Women under Communism. Barbara Wolfe Jancar. Baltimore: Johns herents of women's liberation were divided
Hopkins University Press, 1978, 291 pages, $16.00 between radicals (mostly socialists) and
feminists. Radical women considered ser-
Women in Soviet Society: Equality, Development, and Social vice to "the people" more important than
Change. Gail Warshofsky Lapidus. Berkeley: University of Califor- loyalty to their own sex.
nia Press, 1978, 391 pages, $17.50 Stites points to the real political risks
feminists incurred, praises them for paying
The Women's Liberation Movement in Russia: Feminism, Nihilism, attention to the plight of the prostitute at a
and Bolshevism, 1860-1930. Richard Stites. Princeton: Princeton time when most " d e c e n t " people scorned
University Press, 1978, 464 pages, $37.50 her, and credits them with real victories
such as opening higher education to women.
As the " w o m a n question" emerged in But his sympathy is clearly with the
entist, places Soviet policy toward women
19th century Europe, two "solutions" took radicals. Maintaining that feminism and
in a developmental perspective; Barbara
shape: feminism and socialism. Challeng- nihilism were limited ideologies, that femi-
Jancar, also a political scientist, treating not
ing the subjugation of women to men, nism was class-based and nihilism lacked a
only Russia but Eastern Europe and China,
feminists and socialists argued that for political dimension, he draws an "ideologi-
maintains that the communist system itself
equality, women must work. But feminists cal line" between "those who were anxious
places inherent limitations on women's
advocated legal equality within the existing to help the victims of the social cancer
equality. Articles in Women in Russia treat
[prostitution] and those who wanted to find
capitalist system, while socialists argued particular aspects of the history and con-
that economic and social equality (as dis- the permanent cure." Condescending to-
temporary situation of Russian women in
ward the feminists, he considers the radicals
tinct from " m e r e " equality before the law) detail. The picture that emerges from these
at a higher stage of development.
could be achieved only by restructuring the four volumes is substantially the same: Rus-
entire society along socialist lines. In con- sian women have made tremendous strides A new generation of women activists
temporary terminology, feminists were for toward equality since 1917, but full equal- came of age between 1881 and 1917, but the
"equality of opportunity" while socialists ity, defined in terms of money, power, and, radical (by now socialist)-feminist split per-
were for "equality of results." Recent con- most indicatively, social status, has eluded sisted and became even more bitter. Femi-
troversies about woman's rights, role, and them. nists, like their counterparts in the West,
nature resurrect arguments used by Stites, discusses the three "solutions" to concentrated on achieving the suffrage,
feminists and socialists in the nineteenth and the " w o m a n question" promulgated be- while radicals pressed for total revolution
early twentieth centuries. The history and tween 1855 and 1881: feminism, nihilism, and hoped to bypass parliaments entirely.
experience of women in Soviet Russia is of and bolshevism. He views feminism as the Stites's thorough account of the two
obvious importance as a test case, par ex- classically liberal approach to the problem, movements is blighted by his condescend-
cellence, of woman's equality under so- concerning itself mainly with problems such ing attitude to feminism. The reader is led to
cialism. as prostitution and the inability of women to believe that after 1905 feminism was mori-
The four books discussed go over much get jobs; higher education for women was bund while radicalism retained its vitality;
the same ground, using the same sources one of its main goals and women helping actually, both movements were in ideologi-
and sometimes even the same long quotes, women its most prominent technique. The cal disarray after the disappointing results of
but are written from different perspectives. nihilists, he claims, were broader in their the Revolution of 1905, and both revived
Richard Stites, a historian, traces the history outlook, more oriented toward the problems after 1912. More importantly, Stites over-
of women's movements in Russia from of society as a whole. Nihilism was essen- states the class nature of the feminist pro-
1860 to 1930; Gail Lapidus, a political sci- tially out of favor by 1870, but its doctrines gram. Members of feminist organizations

November/December 1979 0147.2011/7g/1115-0016502.25/i 73

9 1979 Transaction, Inc.
were educated or professional women, but exonerate the Bolshevik regime from The "Stalinist synthesis" that emerged in
women of all classes saw the suffrage as a blame, he downplays the importance of the the 1930s combined woman's traditional
means to advance their interests. From 1905 legal framework that enabled a man to roles as mother and wife with the socialist
on, moreover, a younger generation of " w a l k off, happily whistling, leaving emphasis on women working. W o m e n
feminists began to propagate their ideology woman and children behind." gained the worst of both worlds. Unskilled,
to factory women, whom, as Rose Stites ends his study in 1930, the date poorly paid female labor allowed for a rapid
Glickman shows in her article in Women in Zhenotdel, the woman's section of the expansion of the labor force at relatively low
Russia, male Marxist agitators neglected, Communist Party, was abolished and an cost. Unpaid female labor (babushka-
considering them unenlightened and back- identifiable women's movement ceased to grandma) relieved the regime of the neces-
ward. It was precisely because feminists exist. Zhenotdel, founded shortly after the sity of investing large sums of money in
were transcending their class base that Bolshevik Revolution, was never intended day-care centers and communal facilities.
Lenin, fearing a split in the workers' move- to serve as an interest group. Its function Overworked and exhausted, few women
ment along sex lines, finally heeded the was first to mobilize women for the revolu- were in a position to take advantage of the
pleas of his wife (Nadezhda Krupskaia), tion and the Civil War that followed and new opportunities for upward mobility
Alexandra Kollontai, and Inessa Armand to then, during the 1920s, to gain women's opened up by industrialization. Termination
develop a program for the woman worker. support for the new regime by raising their of legal abortion in 1936 (and failure to
Enjoining women to fight for socialism consciousness, teaching them literacy and manufacture contraceptives) meant that
"hand in hand" with men, Bolsheviks ap- other skills, and acting as their advocates in motherhood was virtually mandatory. Fac-
pealed to women both as workers and as factories and villages. tory managers, expecting women to be fre-
mothers. They advocated communal facili- Stites considers the Russian women's quently pregnant, hesitated to train or to
ties (laundries, kitchens, dormitories, movement the most successful in the world. promote them. The affirmative action pro-
child-care centers) to relieve women of Although he admits to "Accounts Unset- grams that had been a feature of the first five
"domestic drudgery" and enable them to tled" and to the serious problems still facing year plans and which required a specified
work, legislation to forbid physically haz- the Soviet woman, he is convinced that the number or percentage of women in factory
ardous or strenuous work for women, laws radical solution which subsumed feminism training schools, technical institutes, and
preventing dismissal from a job on account to socialism was the correct one and that university departments, were dropped. Two
of pregnancy, paid maternity leave before equality will yet be attained. tiers of women developed: a small elite of
and after delivery, and work breaks for In contrast, Lapidus and Jancar both be- university graduates and a mass of unskilled
nursing mothers. Condemning birth control lieve that the limits of equality within the laborers employed at the most menial jobs.
as "Malthusianism," they believed that Soviet system have been reached. Going The pattern was modified somewhat by
women who deliberately avoided mother- over some of the same ground as Stites in World War II; women were trained and
hood were selfish and irresponsible. her first three chapters (the new legal struc- promoted, but as late as 1955, the over-
Once in power, the Bolsheviks abrogated ture, Zhenotdel, and the unresolved sexual whelming majority of unskilled manual
the Tsarist marriage and divorce laws and question), Lapidus demonstrates that the laborers were women. By and large the pat-
instituted a new family code based on most basic changes in the situation of Rus- tern still obtains.
equality of both partners in marriage and on sian women took place in the 1930s, the Tracing how the "Stalinist synthesis"
the assumption that women would work. decade of the first five year plans. Believing has worked itself out, with modifications,
Divorce was made easy to obtain by either that Marxism contains an egalitarian and a since Stalin's death, Lapidus provides a de-
partner, and child-support was the responsi- developmental strain and that in the Leninist tailed examination of women in the labor
bility of both parents. But economic col- version development took precedence, she force, the political hierarchy, and in the
lapse and civil war militated against build- also notes that women's liberation is not as family. Life has become-easier and hard
ing the communal facilities vital to the Bol- central to Marxism as is sometimes thought physical labor for women is being phased
shevik program; the facilities that existed Its achievement, therefore, was never the out. Women, better educated than their
were of such poor quality that only people Bolsheviks' top priority. She argues that mothers, are tending to occupy the middle
with no other choice used them. Protective "the transformation of women's roles was ranks of the job hierarchy; and while the
labor legislation was a dead letter. By 1921, to a considerable degree the indirect result number of women professionals is truly im-
Russian women were closer to the feminist [my italics] of the inauguration of the First pressive, the number of women in the upper
"solution" (equal rights) than to the so- Five Year Plan in 1928, the collectivization reaches of the economic and political hier-
cialist. Indeed, all through the twenties, the of agriculture that accompanied it, and the archy remains small, especially when com-
major change in women's lives was a " s e x - emergence of new patterns of authority pared with the number of women working
ual revolution" that was neither designed under Stalin." Stressing the labor shortage and in view of the fact that women comprise
nor desired by the regime. Near-doctri- created by industrialization and the crisis 65% of the leadership age cohort. Soviet
naire promiscuity sapped the energy of the atmosphere permeating Soviet society at the female earnings average only between
young and resulted in the victimization of time, she shows that the " n e w roles as- two-thirds and three-fourths of male earn-
women and children. Underestimating the sumed by women were neither accidental ings, partly because of a tendency toward
importance of the male deficit created by nor random." They were intimately linked occupational segregation that she docu-
years of war as a factor in the revolution in to a strategy of industrial development in ments, and partly because of other factors
morals, Stites fails to note that the sexual which women were not merely the be- such as male resistance to women in author-
revolution was a worldwide phenomenon neficiaries but also the instruments and ity and the "second shift" of housework
and makes no attempt to compare the situa- shock absorbers [my italics] of a particular women must perform that serve to limit their
tion in Russia with that of other nations, pattern of political, economic, and social advance. The assumption that a family's
especially Weimar Germany. Eager to modernization." second income amounts to two-thirds of its

primary one is so widespread in Soviet eco- beneficial to women: affirmative action in tion and reap comparatively few of the ben-
nomic writings as to be virtually axiomatic. training schools and universities, promoting efits. Deprived of the protections of the old
Demonstrating that Soviet women have women in factories and the new collective order, but without the equality promised by
been only partially liberated, and on terms farms. These innovations were not just a the new, women pay a high price in personal
defined from above rather than by women product of the strategy of development that terms: sexual exploitation in postrevolu-
themselves, Lapidus expects (as does this was chosen, but an attempt to overturn old tionary Russia, rape, prostitution, and mur-
reviewer) a growing differentiation in sex patterns of authority, reverse old habits, and der by kinfolk in Central Asia in the 1920s,
roles. The economy is developed; a male destroy old clusters of power in order to murder and suicide in China in the wake of
deficit does not exist for the under-40 age forge new lines of patronage and develop the new marriage law of 1950, miscarriages
group; the Soviet Union now has a relatively new client groups, new men and new and permanent impairment to Chinese wo-
saturated elite, and the regime is tremen- women with a stake in Stalinism. Once he men's health because of tasks too strenuous
dously concerned with the low birth rate. had achieved hegemony over the Party, for them.
Chronicling recent discussions on what Stalin's pro-woman policies ceased. But Jancar is relatively optimistic about the
public policy on sex roles should be, Lapi- under his successors, as part of their de- future of Chinese women for several rea-
dus notes that the regime may well pay stalinization policies, women again became sons. The cultural revolution prevented a
women to stay home while the children are an issue, for similarly pragmatic reasons "maintenance period" from developing,
young, with resultant stereotyping of sex and a similar goal: gaining power. Abortion modernization means that China must go
roles, and states that Soviet women are so was legalized and women were promised against the values of her own past, and the
overworked that some of them might even more consumer goods to ease their lot. size of China's population seems to militate
welcome this. Khrushchev, hoping to weaken the hold of against the pro-natalist policies of the Soviet
Lapidus's thesis that woman's status was Stalinism and of surviving Stalinists on the Union and Eastern Europe. But Jancar does
a function of the chosen developmental party apparatus, pushed the promotion of not know Chinese, did not visit China, and
strategy results in an emphasis on quantita- women. the Chinese regime has not published the
tive analysis that inevitably eliminates fac- It may be argued that revolutions in gen- kind of data she needs.
tors that do not show up in charts, graphs, eral--communist or not--tend to mobilize Her optimism, guarded though it is,
and statistics. Clearly aware of psychologi- women as part of their struggle for power. In seems premature, especially because her re-
cal factors limiting woman's equality such China, Cuba, Algeria, women fought for search was done before recent changes that
as resistance to women in authority, ambiv- the new order, were promised equality, but, seem to be inaugurating a Chinese version
alence on sexual freedom for women, male once victory was achieved, were thrust back of Lenin's New Economic Policy (limited
reluctance to do " w o m a n ' s work," she to a socialized version o f " w o m a n ' s work;" capitalism as an incentive for productivity).
does not discuss these factors at length, day-care centers, elementary schools, hos-
probably because of the difficulty of docu- pitals, laundries, cafeterias, social-cultural
mentation. work, all marginal positions in terms of po- In Gods We Trust
Even more difficult to document is the litical " c l o u t , " prestige, or even remunera- New Patterns of Religious Pluralism
use of women as pawns in political strug- tion. Jancar, noting this pattern in Russia, in A m e r i c a
gles, but it is surprising that Lapidus, a Eastern Europe, and China, argues that it is
political scientist, does not even raise the inherent in the communist version of wom- E d i t e d by Thomas R o b b i n s a n d
issue. In no society do contenders for power an's liberation. Centralization of economic Dick Anthony
ordinarily admit to tawdry motives or to the and political power, she demonstrates, is a
manipulation of disadvantaged groups as two-edged sword. Concentrated power T h i s is a basic c o l l e c t i o n of p a p e r s de-
commands rapid change in target areas; a l i n g w i t h t h e v a r i e t i e s of a s p e c t s of c o n -
potential allies. In a socialist society, it is
t e m p o r a r y r e l i g i o u s f e r m e n t in
virtually compulsory to speak in terms of the traditional marriage and divorce laws are
good of the whole, and economic develop- eliminated by legislative fiat. But attitudes
T h e v o l u m e is c h a r a c t e r i z e d by out-
ment can certainly be justified in such cannot be changed by fiat. After the post-
s t a n d i n g c o n t r i b u t o r s w h o are o n t h e
terms. If one looks at the timing of the revolutionary mobilization phase is over, a c u t t i n g e d g e of the s o c i o l o g y of r e l i g i o n ,
" w o m a n question" in Russia, a pattern "maintenance period" begins. With only a at t h e l e v e l of s c h o l a r l y a n a l y s i s for-
emerges that coincides with modernization. few exceptions, positions of power are m u l a t e d in t e r m s a c c e s s i b l e to t h e i n t e l l i -
Still, the two are not synonymous, and the monopolized by men, who hold, even if g e n t lay reader. It offers p r o v o c a t i v e ,
struggle for power would probably recur unconsciously, traditional attitudes on n e w s u r v e y f i n d i n g s as w e l l as c o m -
regardless of the developmental strategy women and women's role. Indeed, these p r e h e n s i v e d i s c u s s i o n s of t h e legal,
chosen. attitudes are all the more powerful because c u l t u r a l , a n d p o l i t i c a l a s p e c t s of c o n -
The Bolshevik program for women they are unconscious. Not only do these t r o v e r s i e s c o n c e r n i n g cults, brain-
evolved in the context of a conscious and men drag their feet on implementing equal- w a s h i n g , a n d the c i v i l - r e l i g i o u s c o n c e p t
deliberate struggle with the feminists and ity, they perpetuate and enforce their own
their liberal allies. Lenin overcame his sus- biases. Thus the dearth of women in leader- 170 pp. August 1979
picion of separate organizations for women ship positions and the feminization of job ISBN:0-87855-746-6 (paper) $4.95
and sanctioned the creation of Zhenotdel categories, with concomitant lower salaries,
because the exigencies of the struggle for in every one of the Communist countries she
Order from your bookstore or prepaid from
power required it. Even though Stalin de- studied. Once the "maintenance period"
Transaction Books
stroyed Zhenotdel, practical and purely begins, culture prevails over ideology; Box 978,
pragmatic exigencies of the First Five Year communism turns into a conservative doc- Edison, NJ 08817
Plan argued in favor of policies objectively trine. Women bear the brunt of modemiza- i

November/December 1979 75
Even before these changes, however, she Explaining the failure of the socialist path sacrificed their personal desires and com-
notes that women in power seem to owe to women's equality, Lapidus stresses the forts for the sake of " t h e people." Since the
their positions to family connections, developmental strategy chosen in Russia populists did not win, the question of power
another example of the prevalence of culture and Jancar points to the concentration of and rewards after the revolution never came
over ideology. She seems unaware, more- power implicit in the authoritarian nature of up.
over, that Chinese policy toward women has communism itself. But neither points to the Marx, Engels, and August Bebel sym-
fluctuated from 1942 on (the Communists most important issue of all: the possible pathized with women as an oppressed
were in control of large areas since 1931) so dangers for women implicit in socialism it- group, but considered feminism "frivol-
that while the main thrust has been to em- self. o u s " and shared many of the Victorian pre-
phasize "working woman as a revolution- suppositions of their age. Strong-willed
The injunction to sacrifice one's own de-
ary force," there were periods in the 1950s women who refused to subordinate femi-
sires and needs for the good of society, built
and '60s when slogans such as " L e t ' s be nism to Marxism such as Victoria Wood-
into socialism, renders women particularly
pretty" and "Housework is glorious too" hull, Lily Braun, and Guillaume-Schach
vulnerable to exploitation. Traditional soci-
predominated. The Chinese Women's Fed- were read out of the Party. Prominent
eties condition women to sacrifice them-
eration, a counterpart to Zhenotdel, is only women Marxists such as Clara Zetkin at-
selves for husband and children, to be self-
mentioned rather than discussed at length, tacked feminism; Rosa Luxembourg denied
effacing; men learn to expect this behavior
and Jancar does not indicate that its dissolu- that a " w o m a n question" existed at all, and
from women and to condemn women who
tion, during the cultural revolution, occur- Alexandra Kollontai, the most militant of
are aggressive and demanding. But it can be
red in the context of a power struggle be- the Marxist-feminists, spoke approvingly of
(and was) a very short step from exalting
tween Liu Shao-Ch'i and Mao Tse-Tung. " w o m a n ' s special proneness to make sacri-
sacrifice to expecting and then demanding
(The Women's Federation was revived in fices." Operating in such a framework,
it. Socialist women, having themselves ac-
1973). Finally, Jancar underestimates the Zhenotdel activists, accused all during the
cepted the injunction to sacrifice, then
severity of the cultural bias Chinese women twenties of being more feminist than Marx-
found themselves psychologically unequip-
will have to overcome: foot-binding, female ist, were not in a position to press for wom-
ped to resist such demands. The subordina-
infanticide, selling girl children into pros- tion of the " w o m a n question" to the "so- en's needs, with the exception of a special
titution, and the Confucian ideology of case, the Moslem women of Central Asia.
cial question," which Stites applauds, is an
"five subordinate relationships" including In the thirties, when economic necessity
example of the way in which women them-
wife to husband. The issues are more com- dictated cuts in the budget, it seemed the
selves held back on their own demands for
plex than Jancar makes them appear and are most natural thing in the world to view
the sake of some larger good. It is not just a
further bedeviled by the lack of unanimity matter of combining feminism with so- women's needs as luxuries, and, just as nat-
among the w o m e n t h e m s e l v e s . Like urally, to cut them first.
cialism, as Lapidus and Jancar seem to sug-
Lapidus, Jancar leans to the feminist solu- gest. It is a matter of two value systems Woman's traditional role as sacrificer
tion that assumes an identity of interests was simply transferred to a new situation.
which are not merely incompatible, but on a
among all women. But by focusing on the collision course. Except for the aristocracy, Russian women
effects on women inherent in centralization had always worked hard; they had never
of power, and not merely the strategy of Feminism is a liberal rather than a radical been on a pedestal. Almost alone in Europe,
modernization chosen, Jancar has made a philosophy. It is individualistic, achieve- Russia lacked any tradition of courtly love.
major contribution to the debate between ment-oriented, advocating self-fulfillment; Women of all classes placed their own needs
feminists and socialists. its thrust is for "equality of opportunity" last. Under the Soviets women continued to
That socialism has not created political or rather than "equality of results." In con- sacrifice; it was merely the object and pur-
economic equality for women is proven by trast, socialism is contemptuous of personal pose of sacrifice that changed. Women were
Lapidus, Jancar, and by articles in Women concerns. It insists on the primacy of so- "liberated" to release their labor power for
in Russia. Joel Moses points to the marginal ciety. Socialism's founders, moreover, as- social production. Perceived as a means to
position women occupy in the party hierar- suming an egalitarian society, failed to revolutionize society, their own needs, if
chy; Norton Dodge, Janet Chapman, and confront (or predict) the issues of w'ho does any were indeed recognized, were forgot-
Michael Paul Sacks document the emer- what kind of work and the elitism inherent in ten.
gence of definite women's fields (paying planning, issues that would arise especially A similar pattern can be seen in woman's
less than fields dominated by men) in all in a technological society that requires ex- role as mother. Early Marxism considered
sectors of the economy, including the pro- perts. motherhood a social duty and attacked birth
fessions. Ethel Dunn discusses abiding bias Russian populists and Marxists alike control as "Malthusianism," unnecessary
against women in the countryside; Richard condemned egoism as a sin and scorned under socialism. Less than thirty years ago,
Dobson analyzes sexual stereotyping in the comfort as "bourgeois." Living like a sec- "Malthusianism" was one of Stalin's fa-
schools (girls take cooking, boys take ular order of monks and nuns, populists vorite whipping boys. Sex for pleasure was
shop), and Mollie Rosenhan shows that in renounced personal pleasures for the sake of frowned upon. Lenin considered free love a
children's readers women are mothers first "the people." Intelligentsia leaders such as "bourgeois, not a proletarian demand" and
and workers second; they have jobs but men Peter Lavrov and Michael Bakunin attacked advocated revolutionary sublimation. Fear
have careers. Bernice Madison, detailing feminism and nihilism for their innate indi- of sexual liberation, especially of the sexu-
social services for women, concludes that vidualism; to them "careerist" was a term ally liberated woman, was a prominent
while matters have improved since Stalin, of opprobrium. Radical students opted for theme of the 1926 marriage law debates.
promise still exceeds reality. Peter Juviler professions needed by the people: medicine, Even Kollontai, the most prominent
depicts a double standard, with good and teaching, science. Woman populists were spokesman for the sexually liberated
bad effects for women, in laws pertaining to treated as equals by their male comrades, woman, believed that a woman should bear
sexual relations and marriage. but their respect was due to the fact that they many children and nurse them herself. After

that, society would take over; communal women themselves on what a woman's role not exist in either the United States or the
childrearing and other facilities would free should be. Except for a few bromides such Soviet Union. Soviet planners still stint on
the woman for "productive work." Ap- as "equal pay for equal work," American women's needs; daily shopping and long
palled by "maternal egoism" (a mother's women disagree on just what their needs and lines consume an inordinate amount of a
pride in her offspring), Kollantai implied interests are. Some of the most vehement woman's time. Consumerism, Lapidus
that a woman bore children not for her own opponents of ERA and legal abortion are rightly notes, is a genuinely feminist issue in
gratification, but for society. Calls for rev- women. D e t e r m i n i n g who speaks for Soviet society. But the niggardliness of the
olutionary sublimation became louder and women is not easy, but in a pluralistic so- child-care tax credit in the United States, the
more numerous from 1927 on and culmi- ciety, where freedom of choice is valued, it difficulties of passing ERA, and the elec-
nated in Stalin' s sexual counterrevolution of is not crucial. toral victories of the would-be sexual coun-
1936, which abolished legal abortion but Planners tend to believe that they know terrevolution, the so-called "right to life"
did not provide for manufacturing contra- best and, to insure that their plan succeeds, movement, indicate that Americans are no
ceptives in the Five Year Plan. Lenin had are tempted to restrict the range of alterna- more eager to extend "equality of opportu-
opposed birth control but did not advocate tives of those for whom they plan. In plan- nity" to women than the Soviets are to
prohibiting it. But Stalin's exclusion of ned societies, even democratic societies, realize "equality of results."
contraceptives from the plan, in a society economic questions become political ques- Wittingly or unwittingly, the books dis-
where all private economic transactions tions: who makes the plan, whose needs and cussed indicate the limits of socialism for
were illegal, was a de facto prohibition. interests are represented and whose are not, women. Paid employment has not, by itself,
Near-mandatory motherhood in Stalin's who gets the good jobs and who does the led to equality in all spheres of life; the
Russia, virtually mandatory late marriage, dirty work, and, if austerity is indicated, founders of socialism underestimated the
birth control, and abortion in Mao's China who will sacrifice. But historically, women difficulties of changing consciousness (in-
(which in the early '50s went through an have been weakest in the political arena, We cluding their own), and socialism poses
anti-Malthusian period), in different ways, have noted their weakness in Communist special dangers for women that its propo-
treated woman's maternal instinct as a systems, but the situation is not much dif- nents have ignored. But feminism also has
faucet to be turned off and on as required by ferent in the United States or in the demo- its limits. The solution, or solutions, to the
the "good of society" as defined by a male cratic socialist countries of England, Swe- " w o m a n question" must still be found.
elite. den, and Israel. Women who achieve politi-
Feminists sometimes assume that if cal power tend not b e " typical" women, for Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal is associate
women were included in the elite, woman's it is the " t y p i c a l " woman, struggling to professor of history at Fordham University
needs would be accommodated. But women balance the claims of children and job, who and has written extensively on Russian and
radicals, populists as well as Marxists, has the least time for political activity. A Soviet social and intellectual currents.
willing to sacrifice themselves, did not hes- planned society thus raises the danger of a
itate to sacrifice others. Once in power, small group of women, childless or able to A permanent
Marxists, including women Marxists, were afford help, presuming to speak for all record of
not inclined to shrink from draconian mea- women. In a democratic socialist society,
sures, nor to weigh their cost in human suf- even one with a powerful feminist move-
fering. Even more important, they were ment, women would face the same prob-
subject to a new temptation, the ability, as lems of equality they face under contempo-
the ruling elite, to pass on the costs of suf- rary capitalism. But c o n t e m p o r a r y
fering to those unable to resist. capitalism, at least, is pluralistic; engen-
The planning implicit in socialism, even dering a live-and-let-live ethos, it tolerates,
democratic socialism, also poses dangers even though it does not welcome, different
for women, for the thrust of planning is life-styles.
toward uniformity, toward allocation of Yet the problems facing American and ON
roles and tasks, rather than the pluralism, Russian women are increasingly similar.

the free choice, women want and need. The two-salary family that has been the
Women are neither an interest group, nor a norm in Russia since the 1930s is rapidly
class, nor a caste in the usual sense in which becoming the norm here. In the Soviet
these terms are used. In any society, their Union it was the result of deliberate decision
actual position varies widely from the op- by socialist planners who, recognizing the CAN BE OBTAINED FROM
pressed to the privileged and all points be- need for labor power, kept the husband's
tween. Their needs and interests, therefore, wages low so that the wife would have to BELL HOWELL
may diverge, even conflict, not only as a work; in the United States, inflation is ac- e.rheJtl l(., lm ~'l~Jple)
function of class, but as a function of life- complishing the same result. Two salaries
styles, attitudes, and values that transcend are a necessity for the middle class and the Old Mansfield Road
economic interest. The latter factors, more- working poor, and the same factors are Wooster, Ohio 44691
over, dealing with identity, self-esteem, driving down the birth-rate. Appliances and
deeply felt conceptions of right and wrong,
are unconsciously held and emotionally
charged, far less amenable to rational solu-
tions or compromise than are economic is-
supermarkets make housekeeping easier in
the United States, but in both countries the
demands of motherhood militate against the
flexibility in scheduling top jobs require.
sues. Recent discussions in the Soviet Finally, the popular mandate to create the
Union indicate deep divisions among conditions necessary for full equality does

November/December 1979 77