Clara Zetkin

The Marxists on oppression

Published on: Wed, 10/04/2013 - 10:30

The fourth part of a review article looking at the themes of John Riddell’s new book of documents from the early communist movement.

The week Paul Hampton looks at how they debated women’s liberation and other issues of oppression.

The early Communist International’s focus was on working class self-liberation and this was reflected in the time spent on discussions on party building, work to transform the labour movement and on the specifics of class struggle strategy.

But the Bolsheviks had made their reputation as tribunes of the people, taking up any and every matter of injustice and

The workers' government

Published on: Wed, 27/03/2013 - 10:36

This is the third part of a review article looking at the themes of John Riddell’s new book of documents from the early communist movement. This week Paul Hampton discusses the idea of the workers’ government.

Probably the most wide-ranging and rancorous discussion at the Fourth Congress concerned the transitional slogan of a workers’ government.

This debate is of exceptional importance to the tradition represented by the AWL, yet outside our ranks it is rarely discussed or propagated at present. Translations of the theses and debates at the Fourth Congress were published by our predecessors

Reclaim International Women's Day!

Published on: Wed, 28/03/2012 - 17:57

On International Women’s Day, 8 March, Workers’ Liberty women in London helped organise a meeting to celebrate the original, militant tradition of the day. What tradition?

International Women’s Day — founded in 1911 as International Working Women’s Day — was first proposed by Clara Zetkin and other socialist women. It was a response to the 1907/8 demonstrations of women workers in New York demanding shorter hours, better pay, union rights and the vote, and to the “Rising of the 20,000”, a 13-week strike of women garment makers in 1909.

By 1917 it was well-established enough in the

International working women's day

Published on: Wed, 09/03/2011 - 12:27

I had resolved to avoid reading the Guardian on Tuesday 8 March. I knew they would be publishing a “100 most inspiring women list” on this, the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. And I had no desire to revisit the taste of my breakfast on my way into work.

The list had been trailed in the paper some weeks before and promised to include Margaret Thatcher, Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton. Hence the anticipation of nausea. In the event, the list was not as bad as I expected, just boring and predictable.

And the Guardian did not bother to enquire about or explain the origins of this

Clara Zetkin on the workers' government, 1922

Published on: Fri, 20/02/2009 - 13:19

Clara Zetkin

"The workers' government", by Clara Zetkin, December 1922. First published in 'Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale', Heft 9/10. Translated by Bruce Robinson. Text from: Clara Zetkin, 'Zur Theorie und Taktik der Arbeiterbewegung' , Reclam
Verlag, Leipzig, 1974.

Who was Clara Zetkin?

Published on: Sun, 05/03/2006 - 11:25

Clara Zetkin (1857-1933) pioneered the idea of a working class-based women's movement. In 1891 she became editor of the German Social-Democratic Party (SPD) newspaper for women "Die Gleichheit" (Equality) which she produced for 25 years (circulation 112,000 in 1912). Zetkin also edited the women's supplement in the leftwing "Leipziger Volkszeitung". She became secretary of the International Socialist Women in 1910 and was one of the founders of International Women's Day, which is still observed around the world.

The followers of Ferdinand Lassalle, the main ideological rivals of
the Marxists

German socialism and the “woman question”

Published on: Fri, 21/10/2005 - 18:34

During the nineteenth century, the emerging workers’ movement began to develop its policy on the “woman question”. The early, “utopian” socialists argued strongly for women’s liberation. Ferdinand Lassalle led the “proletarian anti-feminists”, opposing votes for women and urging male workers to strike against women’s entry into industrial labour. Marx and Engels opposed Lassalle, arguing that women’s work was a step forward, and a precondition for liberation.

In 1875, the Socialist Labour Party of Germany — later to become the Social Democratic Party (SPD) — was formed. In 1879, imprisoned SPD

Organising Working-class Women

Published on: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 11:13

The second in a series of articles about the German socialist women's movement 1890-1914, by Janine Booth


German socialist women placed strong emphasis on education. They set up education clubs for women and girls (Frauen- and Madchen-Bildungsverein), which held meetings, hosted lectures, published articles and pamphlets, and gathered information on women’s working conditions. Each club had between 50 and 250 members, who paid a small monthly fee.

By 1905, 3,000 women were members of education clubs. From 1908, women’s reading evenings (Leseabende) operated in around 150

Working-class Women and Bourgeois Feminists

Published on: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 11:03

The third in a series of articles about the German socialist women's movement 1890-1914, by Janine Booth

What is often seen as one issue - referred to at the time as the ‘woman question’ - actually developed quite differently amongst women of different classes.

Bourgeois women

Women of the new capitalist class had a sharp experience of sexist discrimination, living alongside men of their own class who had achieved many of the political, educational and economic rights that they were still, as women, denied. These were women who did not share all the privileges of aristocratic women; but


Published on: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 10:44

The last in a series of articles about the German socialist women's movement 1890-1914, by Janine Booth

Divided loyalties

Socialist feminists are continually accused of ‘divided loyalties’, challenged to declare which is our priority: class or sex. It makes a lot more sense to direct this challenge at feminists who defend capitalism, or at socialist men.

All working-class people share a common interest in overthrowing capitalism and achieving socialism. Nevertheless, some groups enjoy a degree of privilege within capitalism. Their benefits may be marginal and short-term, but could still

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