Bolshevik Feminist


from Barbara Evans Clements, Bolshevik Feminist: The Life of Aleksandra Kollontai (Indiana University Press, 1979), pp. 117-118:

Kollontai’s political fortunes rose with those of the Bolsheviks. At the Sixth Party Congress in late July, while she sat in jail, she became the first woman elected to the Central Committee, polling the sixth highest vote. In nominating her a Bolshevik candidate to the Constituent Assembly, Stalin placed her fifth on the list, after Lenin, Zinoviev, Trotsky, and Lunacharskii. When she was released from prison, Proletarii, the party newspaper, welcomed her back by declaring: “Greetings to the fighter, returned to our ranks.” Requests came in to the Petrograd offices for her pamphlets, and colleagues acknowledged her as one of their best orators. Pitirim Sorokin, a Socialist Revolutionary who was later to become an eminent sociologist, wrote after losing a debate with her:

As for this woman, it is plain that her revolutionary enthusiasm is nothing but a gratification of her sexual satyriasis [sic]. In spite of her numerous “husbands,” Kollontai, first the wife of a general, later the mistress of a dozen men, is not yet satiated. She seeks new forms of sexual sadism. I wish she might come under the observation of Freud and other psychiatrists. She would indeed be a rare subject for them. [Pitirim A. Sorokin, Leaves From a Russian Diary (Boston: Beacon Press, 1950), p. 59]

Sorokin’s anger at Kollontai and the Bolsheviks’ admiration for her sprang from the same source—Kollontai’s talent as a speaker. She had never been more effective in presenting Bolshevik demands for “peace, bread, and land” and “all power to the soviets.” Bolshevik popularity was greater than ever before, and Kollontai, buoyed by sympathetic audiences and by her party’s success, rushed happily from meeting to meeting. Her speeches, she felt, “expressed the general striving, the united mass will,” of the crowds who shared her radicalism. The final push by the people toward freedom and community had begun. Both then and later, Kollontai hailed the spontaneity of the revolution. She attributed the party’s success to the fact that it simultaneously expressed the will of the people and led their historically determined march.

— posted by Roger W. Smith

     May 2023


Author: Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor at St. John’s University. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; classical music; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Sites on WordPress hosted by Mr. Smith include: (1) (a personal site comprised of essays on a wide range of topics) ; (2) (covering principles and practices of writing); (3) (devoted to the author Theodore Dreiser); and (4) (devoted to sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin).

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