Women and revolution: Alexandra Kollontai, a leading fighter for women’s liberation

In the first of two articles, Anne McShane looks at the Bolsheviks’ most famous writer on the women’s question

Alexandra Kollontai has been referred to a number of times in the current debate over feminism and women’s rights. She has been described both as a trenchant anti-feminist and an outstanding fighter for women’s rights. The quotation used to demonstrate her view of feminism is taken from her 1909 pamphlet, The social basis of the woman question. In this pamphlet Kollontai famously asserted that the “women’s world is divided, just as is the world of men, into two camps; the interests and aspirations of one group bring it close to the bourgeois class, while the other camp has close connections with the proletariat, and its claims for liberation encompass a full solution to the woman question.”1 An image is conjured up of loyal Bolshevik women standing alongside their male comrades united for female emancipation and against feminism. The truth, however, is a lot more complex, interesting and challenging.

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