The German socialist women's movement 1890-1914

Reading about Rosa Luxemburg

As we go to press on 15 January 2019, it is exactly the 100th anniversary of the murder of the Polish¬German revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg. She was killed by a right-wing militia operating under the Social¬Democratic government which was heading off the German workers’ revolution.

We have a pamphlet in production on Luxemburg and the German revolution. Readers can also find a good summary of Luxemburg’s political work in two articles, from 1935 and 1938, by Max Shachtman.

Rosa Luxemburg: fiery, sharp, funny, sometimes sad

Rosie Woods reviews The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg, published in March 2011 by Verso Books.

Many women on the left have their own heroines, women from the past who have inspired them. Sylvia Pankhurst, Clara Zetkin, Minnie Lansbury... Mine has always been Rosa Luxemburg. The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg showed me her personal side.

International working women's day

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.

German socialist women’s movement - Self-organisation and class unity

During the nineteenth century, the emerging workers’ movement began to develop its policy on the “woman question”. Some of 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, a precondition for liberation.

German socialism and the “woman question”

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.

Introduction

Introducing a series of articles on the German socialist women's movement 1890-1914, by Janine Booth

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.

Organising Working-class Women

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

Education

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.

Working-class Women and Bourgeois Feminists

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

Should the Workers' Movement Have Special Structures for Women?

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

Laws against women’s organisation

After Bismarck’s Anti-Socialist Law lapsed in 1890, laws remained which restricted women’s political activity. The 1851 Prussian Association Law banned women from membership of political organisations, and from organising politically.

Conclusions

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.

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