Alexandra Kollontai reports on Soviet work among women of the East after September, 1920’s Baku Conference.
‘The Last Slave’ by Alexandra Kollontay from Soviet Russia (New York). Vol. 4 No. 16. April 16, 1921.
For centuries the woman of the East was silent; the mighty tocsin of the Proletarian Revolution in Russia was needed to bring her out of her secular stagnation. The proclamation of Communism, of universal labor and comradeship, of the equality of the sexes, and of general solidarity, penetrated the distant East as an irresistible appeal, awakening its many colored and variegated masses. The Orient has begun to move. The poor, with all the hatred that has accumulated in their hearts against the satraps and rich, have begun their ascent toward the Red flag, a symbol of liberty, equality, and work for all. For the first time in history, the woman of the Orient has heard the appeal addressed to her, to her the most oppressed of all the oppressed. She who was hardly more than a thing, hardly more than a household chattel, a humble and voiceless instrument, has been awakened by the Red flag of Communism, which has called her to equality and to the enjoyment of all the conquests of the Revolution.
The woman of the East, for the first time in centuries, has thrown aside her veil and has joined the revolutionary throng marching toward the symbol of liberation, toward the Red flag of Communism.
Each month of the existence of the Soviet Republic, by laying more securely the foundation of Communism is increasing the ferment among the women of the East. For the first time she appears in history at the Bureau of the Congress of Eastern Peoples at Baku. In all the regions of Soviet Russia in which there is a predominant Mussulman population, in the Eastern republics, a great work of enlightenment is going on among the masses of women. The Soviet idea is a sort of magic ring which attracts all the disinherited, which causes the barriers separating these races from the others to crumble, which unites the scattered forces. The women are demanding their right to instruction. About the sections for public instruction the Eastern women, who have cast aside the veil, are now rallying. The Tartars, the Persians, the Sarts, are struggling against this unhygienic attribute. At Teheran, where capital has already prepared the soil for a future — of Communism, a conference of women was held with this slogan: “Away with the Veils!”.
Turkestan, with its small household industry, each day witnesses the increase of the movement that is engaging the wives of the workers. The number of divorce cases coming before the tribunals is increasing daily. Woman, strong in the be- ginning of her economic emancipation, more and more categorically demands her right to an independent existence.
In Azerbaijan the Mussulman women, under the guidance of the Communist Section, have organized a club, a kindergarten, a sewing circle, a public dining room, and a school.
In Transcaucasia regular meetings of women are being held, just like the Councils of the Deputies in Russia. There is a “Union of the Needle Trade” which brings together the Mussulman and Russian women.
At Samarkand, the woman’s section of the Communist Committee has a group of Mussulman women. There are women’s sections at Bukhara. The Executive Committee of Turkestan includes four women, but not all have drawn aside the veil.
In Bashkiria, among the Kalmuck and Kirghiz women, in the Tartar Republic, and even in the distant regions of the north, at Tiumen, the movement is extending among the Mussulman women; the women’s sections of our party are taking firm root.
The Eastern women, particularly the portion living in the territory of Soviet Russia, has awakened and is moving toward her complete liberation. All we have to do to obtain new defenders for the great Communist idea is to aid them.
At the Third All-Russian Congress of Women’s Sections a special section of Oriental women was present. This special section decided not only to intensify this portion of our work, but also to meet on February 1, a date which was later postponed to April 1, a first All-Russian Congress of Eastern women. In all the provinces there will be created organization committees for the preparation of the Congress. The committees will consist of representatives of the Mussulman Bureaus, workers’ sections, and Committees of Communist Youth. The same course of action will be pursued in the districts. Tracts, posters, proclamations, are being prepared. Teachers, physicians, Communist groups, all sorts of educative Mussulman associations, are being utilized.
In the autonomous republics, the preparation of the Congress is also incumbent upon the women’s sections. Proletarian conferences are called in the provinces and the districts. A great propaganda is being carried on. The following is the order of the day of the Congress: (1) present day questions; (2) the Soviet power and Eastern women; (3) the legal status of the Eastern women formerly and now; (4) small industry and the Eastern women; (5) the protection of maternity and childhood; (6) public education and the Eastern women.
The Congress will be general in its form, without party considerations; its aim is to set in motion an as yet untouched mass, to interest the female population in the acts of the Soviet Government, to educate the Eastern women in the Communist spirit, and to strengthen them in the struggle against the enemies of the workers. But as it is necessary to reckon with all the economic and traditional peculiarities of the East, it has been decided, to call, after the Congress, a conference of Communist Mussulman women, who are to go into the various questions of organization and platform concerning the liberation of the Eastern women.
Our efforts are to be concentrated on two principal points: to gather and unite the scattered forces of the female workers in the localities in which industrial capital has already laid its heavy hand on the Eastern proletariat, to gather the agricultural semi-nomad, or nomad elements around the agricultural cooperatives, and, in addition, to draw the masses of women into the educational and later political action of our section for public education. More than anywhere else, learning and education will be the surest instrument of liberation in the East. A close union between the women and the educational organs is a necessity dictated by life itself.
The more the activity of our women’s sections extends among Oriental women, the more will Communism establish itself in the East, and the more decisive will be the blow dealt to western imperialism by the united forces of the Eastern proletariat, awakened from its torpid sleep of centuries.
Soviet Russia began in the summer of 1919, published by the Bureau of Information of Soviet Russia and replaced The Weekly Bulletin of the Bureau of Information of Soviet Russia. In lieu of an Embassy the Russian Soviet Government Bureau was the official voice of the Soviets in the US. Soviet Russia was published as the official organ of the RSGB until February 1922 when Soviet Russia became to the official organ of The Friends of Soviet Russia, becoming Soviet Russia Pictorial in 1923. There is no better US-published source for information on the Soviet state at this time, and includes official statements, articles by prominent Bolsheviks, data on the Soviet economy, weekly reports on the wars for survival the Soviets were engaged in, as well as efforts to in the US to lift the blockade and begin trade with the emerging Soviet Union.
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