Workers Vanguard No. 1041

7 March 2014


Communism and the Family

(Quote of the Week)

International Women’s Day, March 8, originated in 1908 among female needle trades workers who marched in New York City for the eight-hour day, for an end to child labor and for women’s suffrage. To mark this proletarian holiday, we print an excerpt from a work by leading Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai that describes the early Soviet workers state’s perspective to eradicate women’s oppression, which is based on the institution of the family. The revolutionary regime understood that the full emancipation of women was dependent on qualitatively raising the material level of backward Russia, requiring the extension of proletarian power to the wealthy industrialized countries. Never having known genuine freedom, we cannot predict how human relations will unfold in a communist society. But Kollontai’s projection provides a useful point of departure.

There is no escaping the fact: the old type of family has had its day. The family is withering away not because it is being forcibly destroyed by the state, but because the family is ceasing to be a necessity. The state does not need the family, because the domestic economy is no longer profitable: the family distracts the worker from more useful and productive labour. The members of the family do not need the family either, because the task of bringing up the children which was formerly theirs is passing more and more into the hands of the collective. In place of the old relationship between men and women, a new one is developing: a union of affection and comradeship, a union of two equal members of communist society, both of them free, both of them independent and both of them workers. No more domestic bondage for women. No more inequality within the family. No need for women to fear being left without support and with children to bring up. The woman in communist society no longer depends upon her husband but on her work. It is not in her husband but in her capacity for work that she will find support. She need have no anxiety about her children. The workers’ state will assume responsibility for them. Marriage will lose all the elements of material calculation which cripple family life. Marriage will be a union of two persons who love and trust each other. Such a union promises to the working men and women who understand themselves and the world around them the most complete happiness and the maximum satisfaction. Instead of the conjugal slavery of the past, communist society offers women and men a free union which is strong in the comradeship which inspired it.

—Alexandra Kollontai, Communism and the Family (1920)