The Third International after Lenin

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Prostitution: a Marxist view

After the Russian Revolution of 1917 the Bolsheviks believed that
prostitution was incompatible with the aspiration for sexual
equality. They revoked all laws concerning prostitution and the
first All Russian Congress of Peasants and Working Women adopted
the slogan “A woman of the Soviet Labour Republic is a free
citizen with equal rights, and cannot be and must not be the
object of buying and selling.” Despite these proclamations
prostitution in Russia grew after 1917, mainly due to the harsh
economic circumstances that prevailed. It was dealt with
inconsistently with brothels operating openly in some areas, while
in others prostitutes were arrested.

Kollontai’s view was that prostitution was wrong, not on moral
grounds, but because it stopped women contributing to the
socialist society. Further, she argued that prostitution
represented a threat to the new socialist morality because it
destroyed solidarity and comradeship in the working class.
Therefore the struggle against prostitution took place on two
fronts: the first to secure economic equality for women and their
participation in the labour force, the second to undermine the
existence of the family as the source of women’s oppression by
introducing collective canteens, laundries and nurseries.27

There was also a lively exchange on the issue of prostitution and
sexuality between German socialist and campaigner for women’s
rights Clara Zetkin and Lenin. Lenin recognised that prostitutes
were double victims of bourgeois society—”victims, first of its
accursed system of property and secondly of its accursed moral
hypocrisy”. However, he condemned the efforts by a Communist woman
in Hamburg to organise prostitutes as a “morbid deviation”. He
argued that socialists should focus on organising women where they
had collective power, in the workplaces, and thus transform the
whole of society. Zetkin was herself contemptuous of the “empty
chatter of bourgeois women” who moralised about the evils of
prostitution—she argued that without well paid work for women, any
discussion of abolishing prostitution was nonsense.28


No comments:

Post a Comment