Clara Zetkin was a journalist, theoretician, editor of several significant Marxist women’s publications, a leading member of the radical wing of the SPD, chair of the first meeting of socialist women

Clean breaks and clear principles

Today’s left largely misunderstands and therefore misrepresents Clara Zetkin’s contribution to the politics of Marxism. Ben Lewis provides an excerpt from the introduction to a newly translated pamphlet

The women’s and women workers’ question of our time (1889) - translated into English in this pamphlet for the first time - marked the beginning of Clara Zetkin’s meteoric rise in the German and international workers’ movement. Her command of English, French, German and Italian facilitated her emergence as a highly respected leader, whose extraordinary career spanned almost four stormy decades of work and struggle in various countries.

Born in Saxony, she lived for several years in exile in Paris thanks to Otto von Bismarck’s Anti-Socialist Law and spent most of her later life in the Soviet Union, where she eventually died in 1933, just months after the National Socialists had taken power in Germany.

Zetkin was a journalist, theoretician and editor of several significant Marxist women’s publications, such as the Social Democratic Party’s Die Gleichheit (1892-1917), the women’s supplement to the Leipziger Volkszeitung (1917-19), the Communist Party of Germany’s Die Kommunistin (1919-26) and the Communist International’s Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale (1921-25). She was a leading member of the radical wing of the SPD, chair of the first meeting of socialist women anti-war activists in 1915, a member of the anti-war Independent Social Democracy (USPD), a communist Reichstag parliamentarian (1920-33), a pedagogue, historian, art and literature critic, a translator, member of the Communist International’s executive committee, president of the proletarian solidarity group, Rote Hilfe (Red Aid), secretary of the Socialist Women’s International (1907-17), co-organiser of the first International Women’s Day in 1911 and a permanent feature of every SPD party congress of the Second International from 1889 until 1914.

Her wide-ranging activities earned her something akin to celebrity status within the international movement of her time, with even some of her fiercest political opponents holding her dedication, wide-ranging knowledge and political acumen in high esteem. And, although she amended, developed and deepened her ideas on the question of socialism and women’s liberation in particular throughout her life, this pamphlet - her first - serves as a reliable compass for navigating the entirety of her subsequent political career. Until her last breath, this career was informed by the conviction that the historically conditioned oppression of women could only be consigned to the status of a footnote in human history by the overthrow of capitalism. Only this could dispense with production for production’s sake and thereby transcend the alienated social relations between all human beings, by creating the conditions in which all could become fully-rounded individuals (Vollmenschen) for the first time.

Crucially, this required the working class as a whole - women alongside men - uniting in internationally coordinated revolutionary parties with the aim of overthrowing the political rule of the bourgeoisie and ushering in a new social order. As she puts it, “… we must not place the interests of male and female workers in hostile opposition to each other, but must unite them both into a unified mass that represents workers’ interests in general, in opposition to the interests of capital.” And it was this belief that explains her emphasis on the need to establish a distinct social democratic women’s movement, independent of pro-capitalist women’s associations and clubs, to struggle against the rise of opportunism within the SPD and the Second International, and to uphold the erstwhile revolutionary spirit of the SPD and the International in the face of their collapse following the outbreak of war in 1914. In that sense, Zetkin is a powerful symbol, a representative of the hundreds of thousands of social democratic workers internationally who remained faithful to the axioms of revolutionary social democracy.

The fact that it has taken over 130 years for this pamphlet to be translated into English reveals something significant about the fate of Zetkin’s legacy during the 20th century, which mirrors the decline of Marxist thought in the workers’ movement in particular and in society more generally. And, while formal equality between men and women is a significant established fact in various countries across the world, the radical Marxist driving force and inspiration behind such key gains as female suffrage, reproductive rights, social and welfare provisions and even International Women’s Day itself has largely been expunged from popular consciousness. Well-heeled representatives of the establishment in politics, media and academia pass off such hard-fought freedoms as somehow intrinsic to the capitalist mode of production. What is more, Zetkin’s project of achieving the full socio-political equality of men and women is far from being realised even in countries where the struggle for women’s emancipation has made the greatest inroads. Ongoing bigotry and prejudice, the gender pay gap, exploding childcare costs, attacks on women’s reproductive rights, domestic, sexual and anti-trans violence - these are just some of the various ugly manifestations of sexual oppression.

Revisiting the life and work of Zetkin, one of the founders of the socialist women’s movement, can help shed light on the nature of the exploitation of women and women’s labour under capitalism, challenge the cosy pro-capitalist consensus dominant in today’s mainstream women’s movement and provide fresh impetus for the left in approaching a question that it has either misconstrued, unappreciated or simply ignored. Indeed, while Zetkin’s life would suggest itself as an obvious point of reference for the left in seeking to reformulate a socialist politics of women’s emancipation, it is only recently that we have witnessed something of a modest revival of interest in her legacy. But recent scholarship and translation efforts are only beginning to scratch the surface of her vast theoretical and journalistic output, which was highly controversial during her time and remains so to this day.

It is above all the contentious nature of Zetkin’s personality and her ideas that makes her legacy as ambivalent as it is disputed, as complex as it is divisive, today. This is particularly evident when it comes to the thorny relationship and fierce theoretical, strategic and intellectual clashes between feminism and Marxism. Zetkin played a pioneering role in these disputes by calling for a clear line of political demarcation - a “clean break” - between the bourgeois movement of the “women’s rightists” [Frauenrechtlerinnen] and the Marxist women’s movement that she helped to establish and then lead as a movement of millions.1 With some prescience, she warned of the futility of seeking equality without striving to transcend the capitalist mode of production:

The bourgeois women’s movement raises the principal demand for the full legal and social equality of women and men. Its leaders claim that the realisation of this demand would have, indiscriminately, the same emancipatory significance for all women. This is wrong. The [bourgeois] women’s rightists do not see, or do not wish to see, the fact - the decisive one when it comes to achieving a society based on full social human freedom or slavery - that an irreconcilable class antagonism splits bourgeois society, which is based on the capitalist mode of production, into the exploiters and rulers, on the one hand, and the exploited and ruled, on the other.

In the last instance, it is the class to which the woman belongs that determines her situation and lifestyle - not the community of the same sex, which, to varying degrees, is deprived of rights and oppressed in the interests of the dominant and privileged position of the man. Formal equality with the male sex in legal documents thus brings women of the exploited and oppressed class just as little actual social and human freedom as that enjoyed by the men of her class, despite the fact that these men share the same sex as the men of the bourgeoisie.2

Women and men thus have to join forces within the framework of the workers’ movement, and crucially within the revolutionary party, the duty of which is to “awaken the class-consciousness of the broad mass of proletarian women, to suffuse them with communist ideas and to rally them as fighters and collaborators for communism, who are determined for action, willing to make sacrifices and clear about their aims”.3

Western distortion

Inter alia, Zetkin has been described as: “the most dangerous witch” of the second German empire (Kaiser Wilhelm II); “an anti-feminist and dogmatic communist”;4 “an old witch” (Joseph Stalin); the “best friend of the Soviet Union and babushka kommunizma (grandmother of communism)”;5 a woman who “sowed division and preached division” to the detriment of the women’s movement and the socialist movement (Marilyn Boxer);6 a “marionette” of the Bolshevik leaders (Angelica Balabanova); a “museum figure who is hardly of interest to anybody” (the German weekly, Die Zeit); and as the embodiment of a “new woman” in Louis Aragon’s Bells of Basle.

So how is it that somebody so admired by her contemporaries has largely been ignored by subsequent history? How is it that many militant and committed activists for women’s rights who gather on International Women’s Day every March 8 probably do not even know who Clara Zetkin was?

During the cold war, it was Zetkin’s proximity to Lenin and Bolshevism in particular that made her persona non grata in the west and her former party, the SPD, ignored her to all intents and purposes. Florence Hervé notes that in the young Federal Republic of Germany after World War II, the March 8 demonstration - one of Zetkin’s major achievements - was deemed “an event of the devil”.7 Only the Communist Party of Germany (KPD, swiftly banned in 1952) and a small number of women’s groups commemorated March 8 and “evoked the name of its founder”.8

In the 1960s, in a slightly more relaxed political environment and with the rise of new social movements, there was a feminist rediscovery of Zetkin (of sorts) in West Germany - albeit one that was not exactly flattering to her. Why? Zetkin was, quite correctly, viewed as somebody who rejected notions of a cross-class ‘universal sisterhood’ of all women and who deployed much of her polemical skill in the struggle against this and similar feminist ideas. As such, Zetkin was posthumously held responsible for splitting the women’s movement along class-political lines. For feminist thinkers, such an approach stunted and weakened the struggle for women’s rights, but for Marxists this must surely count as one of her greatest theoretical and practical contributions to the cause of women’s emancipation and to the history of Marxism.

According to Hervé, the first German ‘socialist-feminist’ groups of the 1960s did take a closer look at the (then barely available) writings of Zetkin on the emancipation of women, as well as those of August Bebel, Friedrich Engels and others. But what they mainly drew from these works was not the need for the organisational unity of men and women in a revolutionary party, but chiefly her arguments in favour of women’s work (the importance of which Zetkin always stressed, as she does in this pamphlet) at a time when women were being portrayed as destined for housewifery. In the 1980s, following two conferences dedicated to this issue, the German Communist Party (DKP) published a pamphlet with some of Zetkin’s texts that made similar points.

And in 1980, the weighty German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB) decided not to take part in International Women’s Day “for the sake of trade union unity” - after all, March 8 was “inspired by the resolution of the second International Women’s Congress in Copenhagen in 1910” and is therefore a “political party day”.9 Yet this line did not hold: more and more resolutions from individual trade unions and their branches demanded that March 8 be celebrated and eventually it was. True to opportunist form, a number of local SPD organisations would later have the temerity to produce posters for women’s day that bear Zetkin’s face and proclaim: “Our contribution to International Women’s Day: International Women’s Day!”

The fate of International Women’s Day in a core state of the capitalist west is most telling: whereas it was once ignored as a marginal event of the loony left, the powers-that-be have taken it over in an attempt to reinvent themselves as consistent advocates of women’s rights, thereby tearing March 8 from its roots within the revolutionary workers’ movement. This went hand-in-hand with attempts to erase Zetkin from history altogether. In 1994, for instance, Helmut Kohl, then German chancellor, intervened to ensure that a street near the Reichstag in Berlin would not bear Zetkin’s name. He claimed that Zetkin had played a part in the “destruction of the first German democracy, the Weimar Republic”. Instead, the street name was changed to that of the supposed democrat and pioneer of women’s liberation, princess Dorothea von Brandenburg.

Zetkin in the east

A rather different picture of Zetkin emerged in the German Democratic Republic, where she was idolised in typical ‘official communist’ fashion. She appeared on medals, stamps and banknotes and both she and March 8 were annually celebrated in a ritualistic manner.

In the early 1950s, Luise Dornemann wrote a biography of Zetkin under the watchful eye of the GDR’s leaders, who were seeking to forge their own path of development following the turmoil of World War II.10 This work set the tone for the reception and dissemination of Zetkin’s ideas in East Germany. The fact that a study of this kind was produced so early after the founding of the GDR in October 1949 underscores Zetkin’s centrality to that state, with a carefully cultivated image of her life presented as a model to be dutifully emulated by its citizens. There was praise for Zetkin’s outstanding achievements as a revolutionary and as a woman who was - in the title of another GDR study - “an epoch ahead”11 of many of her contemporaries. There was also a recognition of the fact that her life spanned several key stages of the German workers’ movement.

For the GDR historian and pedagogue, Gerd Hohendorf, Zetkin’s life was “like a bridge that reaches from the founders of scientific socialism - she knew Friedrich Engels personally - to Lenin and those who began to build a new, human system in the Soviet Union”.12 Such an attempt to establish a lineage linking the leading lights of the pantheon is similar to the foundation myths of many states, religions and political organisations. But the notion that this “bridge” is at best wobbly - and at worst replete with faults and gaps - is not even entertained by any of the GDR historians writing about her life and work. Ideological instrumentalisation is also obvious. For example, the early GDR state’s perceived needs and self-image surely account for the fact that, on the occasion of Zetkin’s 100th birthday in 1957, Inge Meyer, national secretary of the GDR’s Democratic Women’s League of Germany (DfD) amazingly referred to Zetkin as a “shining patriot” (my emphasis).13

What is striking about Zetkin’s reception in the early GDR is that she was placed on a pedestal - not only when it came to the ‘larger’ questions of Marxist strategy, tactics and theory, but also in terms of her understanding of, and involvement in, what might be viewed as the more prosaic or ‘everyday’ issues: education, the upbringing of children, the training of young socialists, the theory of teaching and the teaching of theory.

At first sight, this portrayal of her life as a shining example to be emulated by younger socialists appears to be quite innocent, not least when it is accompanied by Dornemann’s and Hohendorf’s twee descriptions of her life as a talented young girl roaming the local countryside around her hometown of Wiederau, playing with the boys and developing her life-long passion for nature and discovery. But, given what we know about the GDR’s practices of indoctrination and the significance of the notion that ‘The party is always right’ (Zetkin’s political life revolved around demonstrating how the exact opposite was the case), we see a much darker side to this instrumentalisation of her legacy. This is particularly evident when it comes to the emphasis on her ‘discipline’, selflessness and (purportedly) uncritical devotion to the cause of socialism in the eastern bloc, where the claims of having ushered in the liberation of women did not match the harsh reality of women facing the ‘triple burden’ of work, family and party-political commitments.

Further, the concomitant of her Stalinist deification is that the controversies during the twilight years of her life - her fallings out with the KPD (not least over the leftist ‘third period’ disaster and the condemnation of the social democrats as ‘social fascists’),14 her annoyance at having her correspondence monitored, her frosty relationship with Uncle Joe Stalin and so forth - were simply buried by researchers in the east, where most of her private papers and correspondence were held under lock and key. This was standard practice for ‘unreliable’ historical figures. For example, it has only recently transpired that Zetkin’s son, Maxim, compiled a complete, 34-volume collection of her “speeches and writings”, which the ruling Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) in the GDR refused to publish and which has since gathered dust in the Bundesarchiv in Berlin alongside her correspondence.

The highly sanitised image of Zetkin in the GDR should come as no surprise, because in her letters in particular she did not pull any punches, when it came to the consequences of Stalin’s policies for the KPD and for Germany. As she put it in a letter to Ossip Piatnitsky, “Developments are catastrophic. The ‘line’ [imposed by the Stalin leadership on the KPD] destroys everything that Marx’s theory has taught us and what Lenin’s practice has shown to be historically correct.”15

That being said, it cannot be denied that some of Zetkin’s weakest writings sometimes revolve around a rather desperate defence of ‘Soviet democracy’ - even after the collapse of the Left-Socialist Revolutionary/Bolshevik coalition government in 1918, the enormous strains of the civil war and the erosion of the soviets as organs of popular, democratic self-governance. And, while she was no fan of Stalin, she certainly threw her weight behind the campaign to marginalise sections of the opposition, including figures such as Leon Trotsky, Lev Kamenev and Grigory Zinoviev. In a private letter, she likened their political approach to that of “lunatics or criminals”.16

Moreover, her internationalism was tainted by her continued attachment to the fallacious idea that socialism could be achieved with the boundaries of the Soviet Union alone, albeit - as she always stressed - as a step on the road to the increasingly remote idea of world revolution. There is undoubtedly a tragic aspect to her powerlessness in the face of the Stalinist bureaucracy. But even as late as 1932 she wrote a letter to Maria Reese in Germany which was scathing about the Stalinist ideologues’ distortion of the history of the left wing of the Second International. Such literature sought to claim that Lenin and the Bolsheviks had created a ‘party of a new type’, and that the SPD left should have split from the SPD before World War I and become a qualitatively different party. As she points out, this was certainly not Lenin’s position, but rather was a reflection of a bureaucratised and authoritarian regime that was replacing historical inquiry with “hero worship” and quote-culling ... what she deems “obsequious cowardice” before Stalin and his acolytes.17

Not a feminist

As we alluded to above, a major factor in Zetkin’s marginalisation is that her ideas were largely unpalatable to the feminist movement of the 1960s-70s. Zetkin was a trenchant and outspoken critic of bourgeois ‘women’s rightism’ or ‘feminism’ and upheld the need for independent working class politics throughout her life. This strident stance has led to a certain ambiguity in her reception: Marxist and feminist thinkers alike are divided on whether to call Zetkin a ‘feminist’ and over the extent to which her legacy can or should be appropriated by either movement today.

Zetkin’s anti-feminism has not prevented modern-day authors on both sides of the dividing line from presenting her as a ‘feminist’, with some even attempting to unite the two interpretative strands by referring to her as a “socialist feminist”, “Marxist feminist” or “red feminist”. This attempt to ‘red-wash’ feminism is, of course, not restricted to Zetkin, but also applied to other pioneering communist women, such as Inessa Armand, Alexandra Kollontai and Nadezhda Krupskaya.18 Such approaches are completely misleading and reflect the current weakness of Marxist ideas and organisations.

For a start, Zetkin could not have been a “socialist feminist”, because sozialistischer Feminismus did not exist as a political category in her time. The terms Frauenrechtlerin or Frauenrechtlerinnen are often misleadingly translated, by projecting today’s language back onto her times, as ‘feminists’ or ‘feminism’. This seemingly minor historical-linguistic mistake has fed into the feminist distortion of Zetkin’s life and legacy today. For, although in the Dutch and French literature of the time the term ‘feminist’ (féministe) is used to describe the activities of the bourgeois women’s movement, this is not the case in the literature of the German proletarian women’s movement. Here, the bourgeois women’s movement is referred to in derogatory terms as “Frauenrechtlerei” in order to create political distance from its aims and activities.19 In fact, Zetkin had to argue for such organisational and political distance not only in the face of the opponents and enemies of the SPD, but also against some within the ranks of the party - not least Lily Braun and her supporters in its ‘revisionist’ wing - who accused Zetkin of “dogmatism” and who sought to blur the lines of demarcation between the proletarian women’s movement and the bourgeois ‘women’s rightists’.

Zetkin was forthright in her response: “The class-conscious proletariat cannot and must not tolerate the emergence of ‘women’s-rightist’ views within its ranks that cloud and overrun the socialist point of view, nor can it tolerate the struggle between the sexes replacing the struggle between classes.”20 I have not encountered a single instance where Zetkin used the term, ‘socialist feminism’. And only in the later years of her life did she use the term, ‘feminism’, which is referred to pejoratively. Describing the activity of the pro-capitalist, social democratic women’s movement in 1928, for instance, she wrote:

The social democratic women’s movement has been bourgeoisified. It differs from feminism in the contest for loyal members only in its phraseology, not its essence. It no longer takes the lead in the political parties and trade unions with which it is associated by clarifying the problems of the women’s question, by stimulating and enriching practice. It is the docile handmaiden of these organisations in the service of the big bourgeoisie.21

These fundamental points must be kept in mind if we are to approach Zetkin’s legacy with fresh eyes today, free from some of the distortions to which it has been subjected. Leftwing feminists such as Florence Hervé and Jean Quataert, for instance, not only use the term Feminismus in an ahistorical fashion, but compound the confusion by painting Zetkin and her comrades as “reluctant feminists”, whose political work “appears … decidedly feminist”.22 Why? Once again, they project categories and definitions backwards in time by spuriously claiming that the term, ‘feminist’, should apparently apply “to all those in the 19th century who supported express efforts to ameliorate the conditions of women through public organised activity, be it for educational, legal, political, economic or social purposes”.23

This ahistorical and homogenising approach effectively erases the key class and political divisions between the two women’s movements and what was distinct about Zetkin’s revolutionary, working class approach to women’s liberation. From a feminist perspective, this is quite understandable, because Zetkin’s project is, at best, of its time and, at worst, responsible for what is perceived as largely unnecessary and unhelpful divisions within the movement for women’s liberation - a project that is supposed to “transcend class”.24

But it is far more problematic when self-declared revolutionary Marxists follow the lead of those like Hervé and Quataert in describing Zetkin as a “socialist feminist”. In so doing, they give expression to a certain regression in Marxist thought and historical self-understanding. The Trotskyist historian, Nathaniel Flakin, for instance, correctly points out that, because of its wide-ranging revolutionary content, Zetkin’s Die Gleichheit was no “women’s magazine” in the “bourgeois sense”. Further, he adds, it was

no feminist magazine, either. Zetkin always maintained that there were as many women’s movements as there were classes in bourgeois society. The two main women’s movements - the bourgeois and proletarian movements - were thus irreconcilably opposed.

This notwithstanding, Flakin takes the distortions of feminist historiography - consciously or otherwise - as good coin, describing Zetkin as “The Grande Dame of Feminism” and a “legendary socialist feminist”.25

Much ink has been spilled on the controversial relationship between feminism and socialism that goes well beyond the scope of this brief introduction. But it is striking that many on the left have come to accept feminism’s claims that Marxism approaches women’s emancipation as a kind of “secondary concern, overshadowed by the larger task of the class struggle and preparation for the new society”.26 But, for genuine Marxism, “the fight against women’s oppression, racism and chauvinism, and the struggle for peace and ecological sustainability are just as much working class questions as pay, trade union rights and demands for high-quality health, housing and education”.27

In the continued absence of direct access to the entirety of Zetkin’s work in English, those of us seeking to interrogate her ideas are not yet in a position to assess her political life as a whole - ie, to grasp the evolution of her ideas on questions like the party, imperialism and women’s organisation across her entire career. Yet acquiring a fuller picture of the life of such a towering figure is essential. Although she was active in a different social and political context, at a time when the left was a real force to be reckoned with, many of the controversies that surround her name feed into the burning questions of our movement today. Fully grasping both her significance and shortcomings as a revolutionary also necessitates confronting much of the misleading, anti-Marxist ‘common sense’ that abounds in the discussion of her life and times across the political spectrum.

The women’s and women workers’ question of our time is available in paperback (£8) and on Kindle (£5) from rosapublishing.co.uk

  1. C Zetkin, ‘Reinliche Scheidung’ Die Gleichheit Vol 4, No8, April 18 1894.↩︎

  2. C Zetkin, Zur Geschichte der proletarischen Frauenbewegung Deutschlands (1928): www.projekt-gutenberg.org/zetkin/prolfrau/chap010.html.↩︎

  3. C Zetkin, ‘Guidelines for the communist women’s movement’: marxismtranslated.com/?p=838.↩︎

  4. Ibid.↩︎

  5. Ibid (p44).↩︎

  6. MJ Boxer, ‘Clara Zetkin and France: eight-year exile, eighty-year influence’, in ibid (p21).↩︎

  7. F Hervé, ‘Defamed in the west, idealised in the east? On the reception of Clara Zetkin in Germany after 1945’, ibid (p45).↩︎

  8. Ibid.↩︎

  9. Ibid (p47).↩︎

  10. L Dornemann Clara Zetkin: Leben und Wirken Berlin 1955.↩︎

  11. See Pädagogische Hochschule Clara Zetkin, Forschungsgemeinschaft Geschichte des Kampfes der Arbeiterklasse um die Befreiung der Frau (ed), Clara Zetkin: um eine Epoche Voraus Verlag für die Frau 1970.↩︎

  12. G Hohendorf Clara Zetkin, Lebensbilder großer Pädagogen Berlin 1965.↩︎

  13. ‘Clara Zetkin zum 100 Geburtstag’ Lernen und Handeln. Funktionärorgan des Demokratischen Frauenbundes Deutschlands June 1957, p4.↩︎

  14. Hohendorf, for instance, alleges that the Reichstag elections of June 31 1932 saw the KPD pursue a line of “consistent anti-fascism”, which supposedly led to it gaining 12 more parliamentary seats; G Hohendorf Clara Zetkin, Lebensbilder großer Pädagogen p120.↩︎

  15. G Badia Clara Zetkin: eine neue Biographie Berlin 1994, p255. The original French title of Badia’s biography misleadingly portrays Zetkin as a “feminist without borders”: G Badia Clara Zetkin, féministe sans frontières Paris 1993.↩︎

  16. G Badia Clara Zetkin: eine neue Biographie p258. Publicly, she praised the contribution that the three figures had made to the revolution, but nonetheless went along with their expulsion. See, for instance, Zetkin’s article, ‘Trotsky’s “exile” and social democracy’ (1928): www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/archive/zetkintrot.htm.↩︎

  17. See B Lewis, ‘Clara Zetkin’s spicy letter on party history’: marxismtranslated.com/2023/02/clara-zetkins-spicy-letter-on-party-history-1932.↩︎

  18. See, inter alia, B Evans Clements Bolshevik feminist: the life of Aleksandra Kollontai Bloomington1979; R Carter Elwood Inessa Armand: revolutionary and feminist Cambridge 1992; K Ghodsee Red Valkyries: feminist lessons from five revolutionary women London 2022. In his purple praise for Red Valkyries, Slavoj Žižek remarkably describes it as a book that will help “feminism to rejoin its radical past”: www.versobooks.com/en-gb/products/2880-red-valkyries.↩︎

  19. In German Marxist literature of the time, the noun suffix ‘lerei’ was often used for derogatory and polemical effects. Rosa Luxemburg, for instance, referred to Eduard Bernstein’s revisionist politics as ‘Bernsteinlerei’. Translating these terms as ‘women’s rightism’ and ‘Bernsteinism’ respectively does not quite do justice to the derisive tone of the original German.↩︎

  20. C Zetkin, ‘Noch einmal “reinliche Scheidung”’ Die Gleichheit Vol 4, No15, July 25 1894, p115.↩︎

  21. C Zetkin, ‘Zur Geschichte der proletarischen Frauenbewegung’ (1928): www.projekt-gutenberg.org/zetkin/prolfrau/chap011.html (emphasis added). Many thanks to Daniel Gaido for bringing this late use of the term ‘feminism’ to my attention.↩︎

  22. M J Boxer and JH Quataert, ‘The class and sex connection: an introduction’, in Boxer and Quataert (eds) Socialist women: European socialist feminism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries New York 1978, p6.

    Ibid p6.↩︎

  23. Ibid p5.↩︎

  24. JH Quataert Reluctant feminists in German social democracy, 1885-1917 Princeton 1979, p11.↩︎

  25. www.exberliner.com/politics/clara-zetkin-berlin-history-the-grande-dame-of-socialist-feminism. This approach amounts to something akin to ‘common sense’ among today’s far left.↩︎

  26. JH Quataert Reluctant feminists in German social democracy, 1885-1917 Princeton 1979, p13.↩︎

  27. ‘CPGB: what we fight for’, communistparty.co.uk/what-we-fight-for.↩︎