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Kollontai and the Family

written by: Donavan N. Johnston

When a person is stays in the shadows, other people begin to forget them. When they lay there, other people do not see them or they seldom hear from them. They make no impact and often do not change anything around them.  In contrast, we never forget an outspoken individual and we recognize that person for the type of person he or she is.  Though they may not instantly want the spotlight, other people force them to become leaders and bring them out of the shadows.  Here they are given a showcase for their ideas and values and a chance to make a stand and to let others hear them.  When this type of person emerges from the shadows and becomes a force, they can receive opposition against them from those who oppose the ideas of the emerging person. 

            During the Russian Revolution, there were many great leaders that emerged to fight for Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and the Tsarist. Chief among the Bolshevik leaders was Vladimir Lenin. For the most part the Bolshevik leaders had one thing in common, they were all males.  Female leaders were far few between.  Nevertheless, one female leader stood out of the shadows and became the voice for women and their cause.  Her name was Alexandra Kollontai. She was a person who came from a modest beginning. Yet because of her ideas, she was propelled into a light for the female cause and began to focus on her ideas.  One of the ideas Kollontai was most concerned about dealt with the family. Because of the values she held about the family, and how the government valued the family, Kollontai became the voice of the women cause and movement.

            To discover whom Kollontai was and why she became such a leader, first let focus in on her background and up bringing.  Born Alexandra Mikhaylovna in St. Petersburg in 1872 to Mikhail Domontovich, a titled landowner, she spends part of her youth growing up in Russia and Bulgaria.  In 1888, she becomes qualified to teach history and literature.  It is during this time that she meets Vladimir Kollontai, a distant cousin, of whom her family does not approve.  The family tries to discourage the relationship by sending her off to Sweden. [1] 

It is during this time Alexandra first reads the Communist Manifesto and is given her introduction to Marxism.  After her time in Sweden, she returns to Russia and discovers the bond between her and Vladimir Kollontai is still strong and in 1893, she and Kollontai marry.  The marriage is unfulfilling and in 1898, she leaves her husband and goes to Switzerland where she begins to study economic and social sciences.  Remarkably, she still keeps his last name.  In 1905, two major events occur in her life. First in March, she published her first major writing, “What constituent Assembly.”  The second major event that occurs in middle of November is that she meets Vladimir Lenin and his wife and Nadezhda Krupskaya at a meeting of Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. Five years later, in 1910 Kollontai attend the International Conference of Socialist Women where she delivers a speech dealing with the protection of the mother and child.  It is during this same conference that, along with Clara Zetkin she proposes the establishment of International Day of Working Women. [2]

            During the first part of the 1910’s Kollontai makes a few trips to different countries trying to inspire other women to the Communist cause.  The places she visited include Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark and the United States.  During this time, Kollontai starts to gather support and people begin to know who she is.  In 1912, Alexandra Kollontai and Lenin began writing to each other, as she expresses her ideas and concerns for what is occurring in the party.  On March 1, 1917 she receives word of the February Revolution in Russia and makes plans to return and help fight for the cause of Communism and the rights of women. [3]

            Now the question could be asked why it is important to write on Kollontai, and if she is well known, what have other people written about her?  In researching the topic of Kollontai, I came across four different papers that have given history and incite into what type of person Alexandra Kollontai was.  The articles come from different journals and all four journals are written before the fall and collapse of Communism in Russia.

In looking for articles on Alexandra Kollontai a few unique characteristics appear.  The first of these is that there is a tremendous amount of information available.  This information is mostly written before the collapse of Communism.  Four articles I examined were all written before the collapse that occurred in the early 1990’s.  In addition, several other articles published before the end of the Soviet Union.  On sharp contrast, the articles written after the archives were open do not explore the nature of which Kollontai was as a person rather they explore the human side of her.  These four articles, also mainly suggest that when it came to dealing with issues for women, Kollontai was the only one who stood out and that everyone came to look at.

            The first article by Anne Bobroff was published in Soviet Studies in the October of 1974. Entitled “The Bolsheviks and Working Women” the article highlights a couple of the female political leaders, but she focuses that on Kollontai, giving insight into what type of person she was and why Kollontai emerged as the women’s leader. The article starts by discussing how in the 1910 Kollontai has tried to get a foothold into the system. The Social Democrats tried to control the lands and factories but because their party was illegal, they did not systematically endeavor to organize the female workers.  However, because of Kollontai insistence in 1914 and 1915 female workers began to organize into groups and started to look for and compete for jobs.[4] Kollontai started to persuade people to accept her cause even knowing that the Communist party regarded her words either with skepticism or with indifference.  This attitude, as the author points out, was especially prevalent among the old party revolutionaries who perceived Kollontai’s work as a harmful deviation towards feminism.[5] Women’s political groups became one of the items Kollontai supported.  In them, she organized lectures and discussions to support and arouse the working women to participate in political life.  She fought hard for the establishment of these groups, and she did gain political power for them.  For example in 1916, these groups gathered enough signatures establishing electoral rights for women.[6] This gave female leaders like Kollontai a chance for legitimate political power.

            The author of this article makes it clear that Kollontai did receive opposition to her ideas.  Bobroff stresses that Kollontai often had to go underground and hide from the Tsarist police and government.  During this time, no other female leader rose to the prominence that Kollontai held.  Later in 1917, a conference was held in Petrograd for the All-Russian Women.  Although Kollontai faced severe opposition from those in the high rankings of the communist party, she did come to the conference.  Kollontai held the preparations for the meeting in total secretly and eventually the conference did come about.[7] Kollontai did a great deal of work in the planning and organizing this conference, and was willing attend it , even though her life was in jeopardy, and had to flee Russia soon after.[8]  This journal article is useful in that it clearly shows Kollontai’s determination and her willingness to work and sacrifice her own life for her cause.

            A second article found in American Historical Review by Beatrice Brodsky Farnsworth entitled “Bolshevism, the Woman Question and Aleksandra Kollontai” provides further historical perspective into Alexandra Kollontai and the woman question the Bolsheviks had.    This article came out 1976, two years after the Bobroff article. Farnsworth makes her opinion clear that Alexandra Kollontai is the central figure in the socialist women’s movement and that she fought single-mindedly for the socialist cause.[9]   Kollontai often found herself completely isolated in her ideas and demands which made her realize of how little concern women’s issues were for the Social Democratic party.[10]  One of the struggles Kollontai had to deal with is how feminism appeared to be a separate movement from that of Marxism, and was developing as a threat to Marxism.  The article illustrates how Kollontai was forced by leaders of the Bolsheviks such as Iakov Sverdlov, in the early 1910’s into exile on the basis of her beliefs and how had she remained it would not have been healthy for her life.[11]

            After her exile into Western Europe, Kollontai spent time writing books and formulating how to get the books back into the Russia.  With the outbreak of the First World War, she came back to Russia and in 1915 joined the Bolsheviks. It was during this time that she reached the height of her popularity.  Through all her time in exile and often in her return to Russia, Kollontai remained optimistic and upbeat about the women’s situation.[12]

Both this article and Bobroff deal with Kollontai’s personality and style.  In this, they agree that she never gave up on her beliefs.  After all in 1925, according to Farnsworth, Kollontai was still involved with what had become a defunct revolutionary practice of fighting for women.[13]  Both authors also agree that she always remained positive about having bent sent into exile, and kept focused on the bigger picture at hand while working to improve the situation around her. Again, in 1925 when the government was forming a new set of laws and code for marriage, she was there giving her opinions on what needed to be included.  This was done to make sure that the male dominated government remembers the women’s perspective. Farnsworth also states that young women looked up to Kollontai and her values.  Some even aspired to imitate her because of the example she set for other women.[14]

In September of 1980 author James C. McClelland wrote an article in Slavic Review that briefly mentions the works of Alexandra Kollontai.  Entitled “Utopianism versus Revolutionary Heroism in Bolshevik Policy:  The Proletarian Culture Debate” this article is a sharp contrast to the first two articles in that there is nothing mentioning about Kollontai’s view of women.  The primary focus of the article deals with the Utopianism versus Revolutionary Heroism, and only one section that deals with Kollontai.  In this section, the author James C. McClelland describes Kollontai as energetic person striving for unsuccessful goals for the family life.  The author also points out that while Kollontai’s views were similar to some of the male leaders like Leon Trotsky, they also provided a striking difference between those who wanted a utopian society and those who were after a heroic tradition.[15]  Therefore, which type was she? The author while not directly specifying her position, he does mention the heroic tradition more then the utopian society. The author notes that Kollontai believed that the workers should have control over the production process instead of their former capitalist or bourgeois leader, so that they would be able to control and maintain the output level of the job.[16]

            The biggest change in this section of the article compared to the first two is that it looks at Kollontai from a very different point of view.  The first two articles focused on her work related to the women’s movement.  McClelland on the other hand, provided a cut and dried look at how her political policies compared to those of other leaders of this time.

The fourth article by Birgittia Ingemanson was published in the Slavic Review in the Spring of 1989.  Entitled “The Political Function of Domestic Objects in the Fiction of Aleksandra Kollontai’ this article does not focus on who Kollontai was as political person, nor does it look at her direct views on what women should be trying to work for.  Instead, it discusses the fictional writings of Alexandra Kollontai.  The author of this article uses Kollontai’s writings to explain the logic and reasoning behind Kollontai’s base.  In this article, Kollontai instructs the public that “the struggle of the bourgeois morality for the emancipation of women” is the most important issue of social life.[17]

            Indirectly Ingemanson uses the writings of Kollontai to show her political beliefs.  In the article, Ingemanson discusses Kollontai’s views more in detail, than did McClelland. One of Kollontai’s main central political beliefs is that idea of a two-way influence between the domestic sphere and society. In these sections Birgittia Ingemanson stresses that in Kollontai’s fiction without women there is no revolution and that woman in the domestic sphere is everything to the man.  The author tries to imply that all of the character’s feelings in Kollontai’s novels were based on Kollontai’s own personal struggles. One example of this occurs when a female character in the story Vasillsa Malygina finds out that her common law husband is sleeping with another woman. The story then follows the actions of the wife in her efforts to find the underlying cause of the situation.[18]  This story draws a comparison to Kollontai and her life, because her husband has also been sleeping with another woman.  This article also sets up and defines people in the story, and shows us how they correlate to items mentioned in readings and life.

            Each of these articles is unique in style and content.  The Bobroff article was about who Kollontai was and why the women selected her as a leader.  The Farnsworth article agrees with most of Bobroff but gives more detail on how the women looked up to Kollontai and what the type of leader she was.  The McClelland article, moved away from the issues that the first two articles reason, focusing on Kollontai’s political views.  Finally, the Ingemanson article explains Kollontai’s political nature by exploring her fiction.  All of these issues are worthy of consideration.  However, these four authors do not address many other issues.  Including Kollontai’s stance on sexual activities and the children that result from them, and her policies on abortion or adoption.  They have ignored these subject to focus on what has mostly been given to the public and that is her political views and social views in helping further the cause for all women. 

            None of these articles discusses Alexandra Kollontai’s views of the family.  Yet she wrote a tremendous amount about the family and how it should work with the new government.  Before looking at the family and her views on it, for a moment let us first examine why the family may not be vital to the communist government. 

One of the main concerns with the issue of the family comes in dealing with the conflict of men.  On the outside looking in, what these women want to do is creating a new heavy burden on the men.  Kollontai was usually not called a feminist because she was not anxious to see a segregating system inducted into her country, the men pulling one way and the women pulling the other. She believed in the friendship among the sexes and used the women’s congresses as her only means of attacking and solving the problems that direct affected women, like motherhood.  In every other instance she believed the women should be equal with man. Instead of their women staying at home and cleaning, cooking, and raising the family, under the idea of the government the women does not have this burden and therefore is free to go and spread their wings.[19]

A second main concern and conflict deals with the burden a government-controlled family has upon the government.  Giving the Communist the power and the authority to dictate and run the family there becomes an increased burdened on the government.  Now instead of laying down guidelines on how students should be raised and taught, the government was given the charge of not only establishing the guidelines, they were in charge of implementation of the program and making sure it succeeds. She also worked for to have more women in the government with her motto, “Be mother not only to your child, but to all the children of workers and peasants.”  In 1920 in front of  the Eighth All-Russian Soviet Congress she presented and approved  for all the local Soviets to elect more women and send them to responsible posts, teaching them to work in a practical sense for the building up of the new State.[20]

Another group feared the change in the status quo of the system were the peasants. In the countryside, the peasants also expressed their fears of the Bolshevik program for female emancipation by accusing the party of trying to undermine village morality.  They formed this opinion because they believed the Bolsheviks were city people, women said, loose living atheists whose women bobbed their hair and smoked cigarettes. Bolshevik women were said to have sexual deigns on the married men of the village; some peasants charged that the party was even trying to destroy marriage itself.  There were stories circulated of good family men who had gone to town to work with the Bolsheviks, and who then took up with young women and refused to support their country-bound wives and children.  Although it was not entirely inaccurately, rumors spread that the Bolsheviks wanted to take children away from their parents and put them in nurseries.  In 1921, one meeting of peasant women unanimously passed a resolution vowing “to refuse to open and organize kindergartens and nurseries, since among us there are no mother who would give up the rearing of their children.”[21]

The leaders of the Communist party also started to defend their stance that they were protecting womanhood and their rights.  In June of 1919, Vladimir Lenin while speaking to a group of people expressed himself on the subject of womanhood in Communism:

Take the position of women.  Not a single democratic party in the world, not even in any of the most advance bourgeois republics, has done in this sphere in tens of years a hundredth part of what we did in the very first year we were in power.  In a sense we did not leave a single brick standing of despicable laws which placed women in a state of inferiority compared with men, of the laws restricting divorces, of the disgusting formalities attending divorce proceeding, of the laws on illegitimate children and on searching for their father. [22]


This stance by Lenin shows that his party was actively engaged in the women’s movement even without the help of people like Kollontai.  This statement by Lenin shows another issue that was being delt with, that of the Communist moral stance.  By stating, they are doing more for the work of a woman in a year than the rest of the world had done tens of years, Lenin shows off the superiority of Communism compared to the western world.

When looking at Kollontai and the family there a four keys areas to focus on. First her views of the family and how her views related to the government. The second is how her views delt with the women’s role in society. Third what others have written on Kollontai’s view of the family. Finally, why these views other have gave of Kollontai helped to empower her as a leader.

Therefore, what are her views on the family? Her views come from looking at the place of the women in the family. Second how the man and women need to be equal in treatment and work. Finally, how this equality affects the children in the family.  In a speech given in 1920 entitled “Communism and the Family”, Kollontai gives her views about position of the women in the family.  She starts by arguing that the normal family in which the man controls everything and the women have nothing is almost outdated. [23]  This idea has become outdated by the fact that many people have stopped looking for their “soul mate” that were a source of comfort for them. [24] People are starting to move in a different direction in life.  No longer is there a need for one person to fulfill and take care of another person.  In this new Communist government, each family was to be there to take care of each other.  Kollontai states that one of the main reason the new government will be for the betterment of the family is that capitalism has failed the family.  It used to be the husband would go out, work, while the wife stated at home to nurture, and raise the children.  Yet with the fall of capitalism, a necessity has been created to have the wife go out and work which intern increases her burden.  With the increase burdened to provide for the family, her household duties are neglected and the family begins to fall into disarray. [25]

Another concern that Kollontai had dealt with maternity and the affects it held on society. A year before the October Revolution, Alexandra Kollontai published a lengthy treatise, Society and Maternity in which she suggested ways in which the ideal society of the future might make maternity less burdensome for working class women.   Kollontai hoped that society would change to help the women in her maternity. She advocated an extensive program of governmental assistance to both pregnant and nursing women and called for the establishment of kindergarten and day care centers as well as the institution of shorter workdays.  She argued that maternity had to be “purged” of “everything that now transforms it into a ‘cross’ too heavy for women to bear.”  Using exactness Kollontai stated, “society will have to eliminate everything onerous, excruciating and unpleasant connected with maternity; it must leave a woman only the smile of joy implicit in association with the heal, normal developing, tender and helpless being to whom she has given birth.”[26]

The neglect of children becomes another problem that came from the former capitalist government.  Under the capitalist regime, instruction of the child has ceased to be the duty of the parents.  Children are sent to school when of age and then the parents begin to breath easier because now their responsibly has shifted to another person. [27]  This creates a burden on the society and gives the parents an out when their child has messed up in life.

However, under the new Communist government family items start to change.  Under communism, according to Kollontai the care of children consisted of three distinct parts.  The first is the care necessarily devoted to very young babies.  The second is the bringing up of the child and the third is the instruction of the child.  This is seen as the Communist party coming to the aid of the family. [28]  Yet how is to be implemented is not given by Kollontai.  The base of her argument for the family having the time to take care of the children is that under the old system the women are forced to work at home, run, and maintain the system.  While at the same time, her husband is out doing what he wanted.  Under this new system, the Communist leaders will mold the children into these leaders and prominent people who have the knowledge of raising children.  The children will be given the chance to thrive and be productive at school and therefore become role models when they return to the people. [29]

So what becomes of the mother, now that the leaders are raising the children?  Kollontai explains that the state charges itself with the duty of assuring a livelihood to every mother, married or not, as long as she has a suckling child. [30]  Later, the big happy family of society would help women with childcare.  As Kollontai stated, “Children will grow up in the kindergarten, the children’s colony, the crèche and the school under the care of experienced nurses.” [31]  Kollontai did not advocate taking children away from their parents permanently.  Parents would be able to see their children whenever they felt inclined.  However if the parents did not have the time to go and see their children, they could rest easy knowing their children were in the safe hands of the government.

To help the women with the problem of childcare, Kollontai actually supported the idea of a state run child daycare.  This daycare would help the women in two ways.  First, it would provide a place for women who wanted to work in the factories and the mills to put their young children where they would be taught and cared for.  The second manor in which this program helped the women’s movement is that it provided an opportunity for the women who did not want to work in the factories to raise and teach children.  Women, she believed, would be more easily attracted to projects which affected them directly and by setting up the services they needed, women would lay the foundations or their own emancipation, raise their consciousness, and participate in building socialism.[32]

Kollontai stressed the idea of the government providing childcare services for women who wanted to get out and start working.  It was at this time that the idea of the government taking care of the children and not the parents sounded radical idea that only people who did not love their children would suggest.  However, is this idea so radical now?  In the American society, we are putting our children into daycare, family childcare, and after school programs to raise our children. In an article written by Rachel A. Gordon and P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale for Demography entitled “Availability of Child Care in the United States: A Description and Analysis of Data Sources” the authors discuss how there has been in the last fifteen years an increase in childcare services in the United States a free non communist country.  Kollontai belived that the government should help to finance these childcare providers.  In this article the authors states that in the last fifteen years the government has increased their subsidized help for the childcare providers[33].

There is the notion that in our current state we are following the ideas of communisim proposed for the family.  In the modern United Stated society thre has been an increase into the amount of women who are working and the taks they are performing. Over the last fifteen years there has been an increase in the amount of singel mothers who are out in the workforce having no other option then to send their child to the governement and state run daycare systems.  If there was not state run daycare the mother would be forced to either work, or take care of the child, or give the child up for adoption.  Because our western society has started to imbrace the idea that there a need for government sponsered daycare, these women do not have to make that choice.[34]

Another area that would fall under the government ideas of child daycare comes in the after school programs.  According the research of Gordon and Chase-Lansdale, in these last fifteen years there has been more programs for the children after school.  These programs were established to help the parents when they needed to work later then the school day, and so the parents could provide for the children.  These after school programs, sponsored by the government help to give the students a chance to work on projects they would not have in the time of school.  The after school program works with the parents to provide a safe environment were the parents can come anytime to see their children, and can pick them up from class whenever they are ready.  Again back in the 1910’s when Kollontai suggested the idea of the government run daycares and nurseries it sounded radical and the world would come to an end.  Yet we have these programs now in our Western non-Communist countries and they are taken as normal everyday life.[35]

            Now how does Kollontai wanting the state to control the education of the children relate to her role in becoming the dominate leader for the women’s movement? The first main purpose for state run childcare is that it removed the double burden from women and freed up their opportunities to go out and work.  Once the state was raising children in schools and daycares, women became free to explore new opportunities and challenges in their lives.  The second way this new stance that Kollontai had helped women is that for those who did not want to have change, or who feared change.  This new system gave other women a chance to slowly move into the workforce by taking care of children and raising them, while providing for the state and of the government.[36]

 In Kollontai personal writings, she gave proof that the government can work for the people and that Kollontai is the instrument of the change.  Kollontai provides examples of a few women who have gun to make the change due to her work.  Let us first look at these women and then the changes that Kollontai made in them and how she women took the influence of Kollontai.  The first example she cites is a young bourgeois woman named Magda, who always lived in her family and did as she told.  Having met Kollontai, Magda begins to change her life.  She begins to break the traditions of her family by wanting to set out for who she is and find that person she wants to become.  In Magda’s own words, “I am I am and what I am, I became on my own ability.”  According to Kollontai, it is because Kollontai helped Magda in finding that she is, she now able to set her own course and become that woman she wants to be.[37]

A second example of how the women can become free by following Kollontai came from a person named Theresa.  Theresa is an Austrian socialist.  She has been to prison a few times for her actions.  For Theresa the love of work is her life because she has followed the teaching of Kollontai.  She goes everyday to work and puts her heart and soul into it.  There are times when Theresa becomes overwhelmed by her work, but she puts a smile on her face, accepts her role, and knows she is working for the greater cause for the state.  In her personal life, she sees the males and as only, a brief respite on the path of life, because she has been influenced by Kollontai to do the betterment of the work for the state she currently resides[38].

A final example of a new woman influenced by Alexandra Kollontai is Agnes Petrovna.  Petrovna was a single women working hard as an editorial secretary.  Before meeting Kollontai, she could not figure out why she was working hard at her job.  She considers herself a working human being, because all she did was work. Any other thoughts that come to her mind were not allowed to stay because then it detracted from the work.  After meeting Kollontai, Petrovna came to realize why her work was important and that she needed to keep centered on her work.  Even when it comes to men, she gives them her full attention when they are around.  Kollontai cites her as an example of the type of women the people need.[39]

These three women have a common theme.  All of them after meeting with Kollontai came away with knowing how important their work is.  All of them have become centered on work and working for the betterment of the state.  From Magda finding herself and being able to work hard to influence those around her, to Agnes figuring out why she needed to work so hard in her career, all of these women found themselves.  Now does Kollontai take total credit for this change?  No, she admits that she provided the way, and they preformed the actions to make the change[40].

Now that we have seen her views of the family how do they relate to the role of the government?  Kollontai substantially agreed with Lenin and stood much closer to him than many of his older followers and friends.[41]  Therefore, she tried to create programs on the family that would work side by side with Lenin is government. When the Bolshevik government was formed, she was appointed as the People’s Commissar of Social Welfare.  She was the first woman ever to be recognized in a government leadership position.  In this position, she is allowed to formulate her plans more richly.[42]  This increased her standing and helped define her role as a leader.

            In this position in the government, she has other items she needs to take care of that help to broaden her power and her influence.  Among Kollontai’s duties were providing a welfare and pension system for the war-disabled.  Kollontai was also responsible for finding housing for the homeless, creating homes for the aged and orphans, hospitals for the needy, and making sure the workshops that made artificial limbs were well stocked.  On top of this, she created a whole series of educational institutes for young women, supervised by her ministry.  Kollontai described her new responsibilities as grueling work, yet worth it.[43]  These programs and plans all helped in the working of the family and helped to establish Kollontai as a leader among the people.

In terms of Kollontai’s main goal is to show women that they have a valuable role in society.  Previously, the work of the women has been limited to raising the family and keeping the house in order.  Kollontai saw this in her own house growing up as her mother would do what her father wanted and try to appease him.  Now she wanted women to be free to explore their roles in society.  They could become the breadwinners of the house and work in those jobs that influenced the nations.  In former times, the women were held down  by having to raise children.  Now the state could take care of them, and the woman could have the time to explore her potential.

            The next main goal that came about is it changed how the family looked at.  The family before the influence of Kollontai was very traditional in its style.  The women stayed at home, as the man worked.  Now the women could feel a release from her motherly duties and begin to develop her own sense of self and knowledge.  No longer did she have to rely on a male to help her or to influence her opinions.

These views helped to empower Kollontai as a leader because they spoke to something deep inside the women who listened to her.  Kollontai told these women that there would be no more domestic servitude or equality in the household.  Many these women listened to Kollontai and believed what she was telling them.[44] 

Similarly, when Kollontai spoke of the state to form new relations between the sexes, women started to accept that idea. She discussed the possibility of new joy, peace and freedom in quality behavior in the sexes.  This giving Kollontai more room to expand her influence.[45]

A third area in which Kollontai helped to influence women concerned the elimination of prostitution.  For years, married women feared that when their man was not at home he would be out with a prostitute.  Kollontai blamed this “evil” on the economic system now in force, will automatically disappear once the Communist economics had been established.  The trade of prostitution would stop because both women and men would be needed to work and would not have the for such activities. This allowed the working women to cease worrying about were her husband was at night, because he would be out working for the state.  It also would increase the production of the women in that they now had one less thing to worry about.  This promise for the women helped to influence other women and believe what Kollontai was stating could become reality. [46]

            Finally, Kollontai allowed people to see the benefits of work and how would it relate to their children.  Kollontai knew that some mothers would fear the state taking away their children. Thus, Kollontai stressed the fact that the mother need not fear that possibility.  By easing this tension, Kollontai hoped to ease the difficulties of life for women so that they could become useful and effective workers for the state. [47]

            Kollontai fought for her ideas but in the end the leaders who promised to bring that change did not hear her voice. Her prediction that under full communism there would be an equal balance among the men and women in both the work place and at home seamed utopian.  Now in our modern society many of her ideas have came to fruition as our society allows more people to decide on their own course, instead of plotting how people should live their lives.  From the women being able to have the choice of raising a family, or having the government help to raise their children, woman is now more open to having the choices she wants. Part of this comes from Kollontai’s ideas that Kollontai insisted upon that made her the leader of the women’s movement, and made her the only one that stood.  It also made her a spokesperson for the new family, and how it would work under communist rule.  Set against the world Kollontai fought back and her ideas made her whom she became[48].

            Despite trials and tribulation, in Kollontai we see a person who believed in herself and her people.  She became an inspiration to thousands of women in the Socialist sector.  From the very beginning of her life, she saw the inequities around her and the injustice for females.  When her fathers moved from place to place and did not care if her mother wanted to or not, Alexandra saw this and started to believe she could make a change for the rights of women.  She was oppressed when it came to the one she loved, by being sent to a foreign land.  However, she came back, succeeded, and for a time did marry him.

            She became a light on a hill for the many women. For whom she offered a chance to hope for something greater. When Kollontai was introduced to the Marxism, she found an opportunity for her to come in and fight for her ideas for the women’s movement.  In Communism Kollontai believed, she had found the way for women and men should be given the chance to be treated equal.  Therefore, she invested her time and energy to support both the leader of Communist revolution, while at the same time she gave all she had to fulfill her goal of women’s equality.  Communism spoke all the right words in proclaiming equality and Kollontai believed in its principles.  In the end however, she found out that those with the power did not budge for those people not in power.


[1] Alexandra Kollontai,  Alexandra Kollontai: Selected articles and speeches (New York: International Publishers, 1984), 200-201

[2] Ibid., 200-204

[3] Ibid., 206-209

[4] Anne Bobroff, “The Bolsheviks and Working Women” Soviet Studies Vol. 26, No. 4 (October, 1974),542

[5] Ibid., 542

[6] Ibid., 543

[7] Ibid., 544

[8] Ibid., 545

[9] Beatrice Brodsky Farnsworth, Bolshevism, the Woman Question and Aleksandra Kollontai The American Historical Review Vol. 81 No. 2(April, 1976), 292

[10] Ibid., 293

[11] Ibid., 295

[12] Ibid., 302

[13] Ibid., 302

[14] Ibid., 303

[15] James C. McClelland, Utopianism versus Revolutionary Heroism in Bolshevik Policy:  The Proletarian Culture Debate Slavic Review Vol. 39 No. 3 (September, 1980), 419

[16] Ibid., 420

[17] Birgittia Ingemanson, The Political Function of Domestic Objects in the Fiction of Aleksandra Kollontai Slavic Review Vol. 49 No. 1 (Spring, 1989),  74

[18] Ibid., 76

[19] Isabel de Oyarzâabal, Alexandra Kollontay, ambassadress from Russia. (Toronto: Longmans Green and Co. Inc. 1947), 114

[20] Ibid., 125

[21] Barbara Evans Clements, Working-Class and Peasant Women in the Russian Revolution, 1917-1923 Signs Vol. 8, No. 2 (Winter, 1982), 219-220

[22] Isabel de Oyarzâabal,, 115-116

[23] Alexandra Kollontai, Communism and the family. (London: The Workers’ Socialist Federation, 1920), 2

[24] Alexandra Kollontai, Sexual relations and the class struggle: love and the new morality (Montpelier, England: Falling Wall Press. 1972), 4

[25] Kollontai, Communism, 4

[26] Alexandra Kollontai, Obshchestvo i materinstvp (Society and maternity). (Petrograd: Zhizn’ i  Znanie. 1916), 571, 576

[27] Kollontai, Communism, 14

[28] Ibid., 15

[29] Ibid., 16

[30] Ibid., 17

[31] Alexandra Kollontai, “Working Woman and Mother” in Selected Writings of Alexandra Kollontai, edited and translated by Alix Holt, (London: Allison & Busby limited, 1977), 134

[32] Barbara Evans Clements, Bolshevik Feminist: The life of Aleksandra Kollontai. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1979), 151

[33] Rachel A. Gordon; P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale Availability of Child Care in the United States: A Description and Analysis of Data Sources Demography, Vol. 38, No. 2. (May, 2001)., 300-302

[34] Ibid., 303

[35] Ibid., 307-311

[36] Melissa Anne Hawk, The baby cult: the influence of peasant tradition on the work of Alexandra Kollontai. (Virginia: University of Virginia, 1991), 47-48

[37]Alexandra Kollontai, The autobiography of a sexually emancipated Communist woman. Edited by Iring Fetscher. Translated by Salvator Attanasio. (New York: Herder & Herder. 1971), 58-59

[38] Ibid., 60-61

[39] Ibid., 61-62

[40] Ibid., 62-63

[41] Kollontai, Sexually, 27

[42] Ibid., 35

[43] Ibid., 35-37

[44] Kollontai, Communism, 19

[45] Ibid., 21

[46] Ibid., 20-21

[47] Hawk, 53

[48] Alexandra Kollontai, Love of worker bees. Translated by Cathy Porter. (Chicago: Academy Press. 1978), 19-20