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Remolding Militancy The Foundation of Communist Parties


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Remolding  Militancy The Foundation of Communist Parties


Once the Bolsheviks took power and the armistice gave right-wing socialists freer rein, both extreme wings moved to institutionalize the wartime split. As Stockholm discussions faded away, Allied socialists appointed a three- person committee of their own and called a conference in Bern for February

1919  to  reestablish  the  Second  International.  In  parallel,  the  Bolsheviks launched the Third International, with a founding congress in Moscow for March 1919.2  Yet, much socialist opinion was aligned with neither—essen- tiallythe old Zimmerwald majority, greatlyexpanded now that legal pol- itics  were  back.  Some  parties  either  boycotted  the  Bern  meeting,  like  the Italians and Swiss, or else went and later withdrew. Between the First and Second Congresses of the Communist (Third) International in March 1919 and  July1920,  such  official  secessions  made  the  Second  International mainlya  northern  European  affair,  based  on  majoritysocialist  parties  in Britain,  Germany,  Sweden,  Denmark,  the  Netherlands,  and Belgium. The first  to  leave  was  the  Italian  partyin  March  1919,  followed  bythose  in Norway,  Greece,  Hungary,  Switzerland,  and  Spain.  In  early  1920,  the German USPD, the French SFIO, the British ILP, and the Austrian SPO¨  all followed suit.3

While  some  of  these  parties  gravitated  toward  Moscow, Second Inter- national  losses  weren’t  immediate  gains  for  the  Third.  Those  came  later, after the Second Comintern Congress in July1920 issued its Twenty-One Conditions  for  joining,  which  then  provided  criteria  for  defining  a  Com- munist party(CP).4  With this instrument, Grigorii Zinoviev and other Bol- shevik  emissaries  toured  sympathetic  Socialist  parties  in  winter 1920–21, cajoling the pro-Bolshevik Left into finallybreaking with their opponents, either  byexpelling  the  latter where theywere strong enough or bythem- selves forming a new party. This occurred first at the Halle Congress of the USPD in October 1920, which voted 237 against 156 to accept the Twenty- One  Conditions:  the  right  kept  340,000  members  and  most  of  the  appa- ratus, but the left claimed 428,000 members, taking 370,000 of them into the united KPD in December.5  The SFIO came next, voting at its December Congress  in  Tours  to  join  the  Third  International  and  create  the  French Communist  Party(PCF).6   In  Livorno  in  January1921,  roughlyhalf  the PSI’s  membership  left  to  form  the  Italian  Communist  Party,  and  in  May the same occurred in Czechoslovakia.7  These new parties joined the smaller CPs established around Europe after 1918 (see table 11.1).

This new round of splitting gave large groupings no international home, so  yet  a  third  international  body  took  shape,  emerging  from  two  confer-

TABLE  11.1  The Foundation of Communist Parties

CountryName of PartyYear                                    Membership

Austria      Communist Partyof German Austria (KPO¨ )   1918  3,000

Belgium      Communist Partyof Belgium (PCB)    1921        517

Bulgaria    Bulgarian Communist Party(BKP)          1919

Czechoslovakia                                              Czechoslovakian Communist Party(KSC)                        1921                                               170,000

Denmark      Danish Communist Party(DKP)         1920           25,000

Finland      Socialist Workers Party(SSTP)     1920          2,500

France         French Communist Party(PCF)       1920 109,000

Germany      Communist Partyof Germany(KPD)          1918  106,656

Great Britain                                                  Communist Partyof Great Britain (CPGB)                        1920                                               3,000

Greece         Socialist Workers Partyof Greece (SEKE)   1918

HungaryHungarian Communist Party(KMP)     1918

Iceland      Icelandic Communist Party(KFI)          1930

Ireland      Communist Partyof Ireland (CPI)         1921

ItalyCommunist Partyof Italy(PCI)  1921      70,000

Luxemburg Communist Partyof Luxemburg (CPL)    1921  500

Netherlands                                                      Communist Partyof Holland (CPH)            1918                        1,799

NorwayNorwegian Communist Party(NKP)          1923           16,000

Poland         Polish Communist Workers Party(KRPP)         1918

Portugal    Portuguese Communist Party(PCP)        1921

Romania      Romanian Communist Party(PCR)     1921          2,000

Spain           Spanish Communist Party(PCE)        1919          1,000

Sweden         Communist Partyof Sweden (SKP)   1921           14,000

Switzerland                                                      Communist Partyof Switzerland (KPS)  1921

Yugoslavia                                                        Communist Partyof Yugoslavia (KPJ)     1919

ences  in  Bern  and  Vienna  in  December  1920  and  February1921  as  the

International  Working  Union  of  Socialist  Parties.  This  Vienna  Union,  or

“Two-and-a-Half  International,”  rallied  the  left-socialist  rumps  who  re- jected  the  Twenty-One  Conditions,  including  the  USPD,  the Czech Social Democrats,  the  SFIO,  and  the  full  arrayof  Balkan  Social  Democratic groups. Theywere joined bythe Swiss Social Democrats, who first affiliated and then left the Third International in summer 1919; anti-Bolshevik Rus- sians among the Mensheviks and Left SRs; and the British ILP. The moral lead  came  from  the  Austrian  Socialists,  who  during  1919–20  stayed con- sistentlyindependent between the camps.8

The Vienna Union was exactlywhat Lenin condemned in the latter-day Zimmerwald movement, officiallydisbanded bythe Third International in March 1919—a temporaryrefuge for antireformists who couldn’t stomach a  split.  But  for  Friedrich  Adler,  its  secretaryand  moving  spirit,  it  was  a bridge to socialist unity. He brokered a unity conference in Berlin in April

1922,  to  which  each  International—the  Second,  Third,  and  Two-and-a- Half—sent 10 delegates, with the remaining executives as observers. It was perhaps remarkable that this conference—the first since the old ISB’s final meeting  in  Brussels in July1914 where all tendencies of the international

movement  were  present—met  at  all,  at  least  creating  a  “Committee  of Nine”  for  future  cooperation.  But  bythe  Committee’s  first  meeting  the following month the framework was alreadylost. The Third International withdrew, amid violent recriminations now onlytoo familiar in Left polit- ical exchange.9  Byfall 1922, the Two-and-a-Half International was in unity talks with the Second International. In May1923, theymerged as the Labor and Socialist International (LSI) in Hamburg.

This universalized the split in the socialist movement opened bythe war, a split disfiguring the Left’s politics until the flux of 1956–68 and beyond. Two camps faced each other across a minefield of polemical difference. Yet a nonaligned center had sought to escape these polarized outcomes imposed bythe Second and Third internationals, and in much of Europe still carried the Left’s hopes. Its leading voices—Friedrich Adler, Giancinto Serrati, Jean Longuet,  and  in  a  different  wayKarl  Kautsky—were infuriatinglywishy- washywhen it came to acting on their revolutionaryprinciples. ByBolshe- vik standards, parties like the USPD and SPO¨  were certainlyno advertise- ment  for  revolutionarydecisiveness.  But  in  the  light  of  later history—not just the Russian Revolution’s degeneration and the murderous stain of Sta- linism but the Left’s return in the 1970s and 1980s to classical democratic perspectives—their  scruples  deserve  to  be  taken  seriously.  However  in- effectual its bearers on a scale of revolutionarysuccess, the line from Zim- merwald to the Vienna Union charted principles of national diversityand classical democracy, which the Third International sacrificed to its cost.


Once Bolshevism was in power, Lenin had his way, and a new International was  formed.  Scope  was  initiallylimited  bywartime  communications.  In earlyFebruary1918,  a  Moscow meeting of leftists from Scandinavia and eastern Europe wanted to call a conference, but the Soviet regime’s renewed militaryproblems   supervened.   Nevertheless,   a   Federation   of   Foreign Groups  of  the  Russian  Communist  Partywas  formed  in  May,  and  plans resumed  with  the  end  of  war  and  the  central  European  revolutions.  In  a radio appeal to Europe on Christmas Eve 1918, the Bolsheviks rallied sup- porters  openlyto  the  “Third  International,”  “which,  for  all  intents  and purposes,  has  alreadybeen  launched.”10    On  21  January1919,  a  small group drafted an invitation to “the first congress of our new revolutionary International” in Moscow, broadcast three days later in the names of the Russian,  Latvian,  and  Finnish Communist Parties, the RevolutionaryBal- kan Federation, and the Foreign Bureaus of the Communist Workers’ Par- ties of Poland, Hungary, and Austria.11   Originallycalled for 15 February, the meeting actuallyconvened in the first week of March.

The  call  mentioned  39  groups  in  31  separate  countries,  all  European apart from the United States, Australia, and Japan; others from the colonial world were added later. The Congress drew 52 delegates from 35 organi- zations in 22 countries. After national reports and credentialing, proceed- ings revolved around analysis of the world capitalist order, recorded in four detailed   statements:   “The   Platform   of   the   Communist  International”; Lenin’s “Theses and Report on Bourgeois Democracyand the Dictatorship of the Proletariat”; the “Attitude toward the Socialist Currents and the Bern Conference”;  and  the  “Manifesto  of  the  Communist  International  to  the Workers  of  the  World.”  Communism  was  contrasted  with  the  moribund system of “bourgeois democracy,” which not only the “social patriots” but also  “the  amorphous,  unstable  Socialist  center”  were  now  defending.  To parliaments and classical liberal freedoms were counterposed the soviets or workers’  councils  as  “the  conditions  and  forms  of  the  new  and  higher workers’  democracy.”  The  dictatorship  of  the  proletariat  was  the  instru- ment of the workers’ class emancipation, just as “insurrections, civil wars, and the forcible suppression of kings, feudal lords, slaveowners, and their attempts at restoration” were the unavoidable medium of the bourgeoisie’s rise before. Forming an international vanguard was the utmost priority.12

There was no dissent. On the third dayof the Congress, 4 March 1919, the motion to found the Communist International, submitted byAustrian, Hungarian, Swedish, and Balkan delegations, was passed unanimouslywith one abstention. While the Congress was a small and vaguelyrepresentative gathering, in the Left’s longer historyit was a momentous occasion, whose significance needs careful explication.

The  Bolsheviks’  own  phenomenal  success,  the  central  European  up- heaval  of  fall  1918,  and  radicalization  in  Italyand  elsewhere,  fueled  the sense of an impending world-historical break. Even in the face of immediate disaster—like the German repression and the murders of Luxemburg and Liebknecht preceding the Congress—the new Communists saw contradic- tions  moving  inexorablyin  their  own  favor.  The  drama  of  the  occasion, and the sense of revolutionaryanticipation, of being on the cusp of a new era,  was  palpable.  Arriving  in  the  midst  of  the  second  day,  the  Austrian delegate Karl Steinhardt captured the mood: dirtyand disheveled, striding straight up to the podium to declare his credentials, ripping them from his tattered  greatcoat  byknife,  and  immediatelyreceiving  the  floor.  After  a stirring  and  grosslyinflated  account  of  Austrian  Communist  strength, he ended on a heroic note:

For seventeen days we have been underway from Vienna to Moscow. We travelled the whole waylike hoboes; on coal cars, locomotives, couplings, in cattle cars, on foot through the lines of Ukrainian and Polish robber bands, our lives constantlyin danger, always driven by the single burning desire: we want to get to Moscow, we must get to Moscow, and nothing will stop us from getting there!13

European  revolutionaryadvance  was  thought  to  be  imminent.  The  new International would soon be headquartered in the West, in Berlin or Paris, depending on where the breakthrough occurred.

Yet,  revolutionaryenthusiasm  aside,  what  exactlythe  Congress  repre- sented  was  unclear.  Despite  the  search  for  appropriate  affiliates  and  the Credentials Commission’s meticulous standards so familiar from pre-1914 international socialist culture, the Moscow meeting was an arbitrarymis- cellanyof self-appointed radicals. Simplydisseminating the invitation was a problem, given the Allied blockade of Soviet Russia, the Civil War, and the Soviet government’s diplomatic isolation, which lasted into late 1919. The call appeared in Austria and Hungaryas earlyas 29–30 January1919 but wasn’t properlypublished in Germanyuntil a month later. Some two dozen  emissaries  tried  to  carrythe  invitation  through  the  blockade,  but onlya few reached their destinations. Most participants resided in the So- viet Republic itself.14

This  problem  of  representation—of the Communist International’s ac- tual,  rather  than  rhetorical,  relationship  to  an  international  movement— becomes clearer from the overall picture of the Congress. Delegates fell into five categories. With the exception of the Germans and Hungarians, those representing Communist parties alreadyin existence came exclusivelyfrom the Russian empire’s former territories, including Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,  Belorussia,  Poland,  Ukraine,  and  Armenia.  Second,  nationalist intellectuals spoke for areas of the Middle and Far East, where Communist organization  barelyexisted,  including  Turkestan,  Azerbaijan,  the  Volga Germans, and the United Group of the Eastern Peoples of Russia, together with Turkey, Persia, China, and Korea. A special case was Georgia, where the socialist intelligentsia had exceptional popular support but took a Men- shevik rather than a Bolshevik path.

Next  came  small  left-wing  sects with little working-class support, per- haps  calling  themselves  Communist  parties,  but  not  particularly“Com- munist” in character: groups from Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Swe- den,   and   the   United   States,   plus   the   Balkan   RevolutionarySocial Democratic Federation. Fourth, a few delegates came from mainstream so- cial democratic parties, including those in Norway, Switzerland, Bulgaria, and  France.  Last,  several  delegates  alreadyin  Moscow—from  the  Czech, Bulgarian, Yugoslav, British, and French Communist Groups—represented onlythe  Russian  party’s  Federation  of  Foreign  Groups  rather  than  any distinct connections at home.

There  was  thus  a  big  gap  between  the  International’s  revolutionary e´lan—its sense of purposeful forward momentum—and the European labor movement’s  continuing  allegiances.  The  spread  of  radicalism  was  patent enough,  but  how  to  capture  it  for  Communist  parties,  and  indeed  what defined “Communism” in the first place, remained unclear. The new Inter- national’s opening toward the colonial world was a far stronger distinction. A quarter of the delegates, 12 out of 52, came from Asia, and in this sense

the  Russian  Revolution  brought  anticolonialism  freshlyinto  the  heart  of the Left. The Bolsheviks’ earlyinternational policyincluded an audacious bid to revolutionize the non-Western world, turning its sights deliberately

“toward  the  Orient,  Asia,  Africa,  the  colonies,  where  this movement [for national  self-determination]  is  not  a  thing  of  the  past  but  of  the  present and  the  future.”15   Here,  the  Congress  launched  a  vital  longer-term tradi- tion, to which the Baku Congress of the Peoples of the East in September

1920 became the bridge.

The Congress also marked the arrival of a younger activist generation. One categoryof delegates, from Russia itself and eastern Europe, had be- come  social  democrats  in  their  teens  and  twenties,  either  in  the founding upsurge of eastern socialist parties in the 1890s or during the radicalizing experience of  1905. But  most of  the  rest  were formed bythe First World War, including the western Europeans, Transcaucasians, and broader Asian contingent.  Here  the  contrast  with  the  prewar  Second  International Con- gresses—and  with  the  Bern  Congress  of  February1919—was sharp: “In- stead  of  all  the  well-known  ‘esteemed’  fathers  of  international Social De- mocracy; instead of the theoreticians, hoary with age; instead of the leaders of  the  workers’  movement  of  the  previous  half-century;  here,  with  a  few exceptions,   were   gathered   new   people,   whose   names   were   still   little known.”16

But  neither  these  youthful  energies  nor  the general revolutionary opti- mism could conceal the fledgeling International’s dependence on events in Russia.  Bolshevik  leaders  assumed  that  the  Moscow  headquarters  were temporary.  Zinoviev  anticipated  “transferring  the  Third  International’s place of residence and executive committee as quicklyas possible to another capital, for example, Paris.” He was echoed byTrotsky: “to Berlin, Paris, London.”17   But  despite  this  genuine  internationalism,  Bolsheviks retained the decisive voice, particularlywhen pan-European revolutionism subsided after 1921. Once defending the Soviet Union became an overriding priority for  Communists  elsewhere,  the  Comintern  dwindled  unavoidablyinto  a resource for Soviet foreign policy.


Given  the  uncertainties  of  the  Third  International’s  relation  to  the  Left countrybycountry,  the  big  unanswered  question  concerned  the  kind  of Communist parties to promote. Lenin’s “Theses . . . on Bourgeois Democ- racyand  the  Dictatorship  of  the  Proletariat”  defined strict criteria for af- filiation with the Comintern, incorporated into the “Platform” of 6 March. Here,  Communist  politics  meant  soviet  as  against  parliamentarystate forms.  Yet  this  prescription  worked  onlywhile  insurrections  were  on  the agenda. Once theyreceded, the Left again faced participating in the existing order—parliaments, elections, and the general institutional world of “bour-

geois democracy.” Lenin would find himself, willy-nilly, conceding the im- portance of parliamentary, trade union, and other “legal” fields of action, however tactical, subordinate, or cynical these concessions claimed to be. Furthermore, the Third International’s impact beyond the Soviet Union’s own borders and contiguous areas of the colonial world required making serious  inroads  into  Europe’s  established  socialist  movements.  Its  success depended on breaking into these existing formations and their popular sup- port,  just  as  Zimmerwald  had  needed  the  broader  antiwar  sentiments  of the much maligned center. Lenin might hammer on the need for a new start and  a  clean  break.  But  new  parties  couldn’t  be  fashioned  from  nothing. Theyneeded  to  reshape  existing  traditions  and  contexts  of  militancy. Where such parties were launched into a vacuum, without splitting an ex-

isting movement, theyseldom escaped sectarian marginality.

This  gave  the  Comintern  a  dilemma.  Once  the  affiliated  groups  ex- panded in 1919–20, particularlywith the hemorrhage of support from the Bern International and the possible regroupment of the socialist center, the ambivalence of the Comintern’s potential supporters over soviet versus par- liamentarydemocracycouldn’t be ignored. By1920 and the buildup to the Second  Congress,  the  affiliated  parties  embraced  the  gamut  of  left-wing politics, from parliamentarysocialism of the prewar kind, through council communism,  to  syndicalism  and  an  extreme  ultraleftism  that  refused  all truck  with  parliaments.  Resolving  this  question  became  the  Third  Inter- national’s keydilemma as it entered its second year.

The Twenty-One Conditions of July 1920 were only a partial solution. These  were  certainlyeffective  in  drawing  the  lines  more  sharplyagainst reformists, digging a deep ditch between Communist parties and the older social democratic ones still shaping the Left in Scandinavia, the Low Coun- tries,  and  Britain.  But  theybrutallyexcluded  a  much  wider  range  of  so- cialist  opinion  and  support,  that  expressed  through  the  short-lived  Two- and-a-Half  or  Vienna  International,  which  included  not  onlyMensheviks and other defeated factions, or smaller Left parties like the British ILP, but also  the  prestigious  Austrian  Socialists  and  larger  left-socialist  groupings from  Germany,  Czechoslovakia,  and  France  unhappy  with  the  discipline and  loyalty  the  Third  International  now  required.  Over  the  longer  term, the new CPs could onlyprosper bywinning the confidence of these group- ings and their support. For most of the 1920s and 1930s, however, Com- munists onlyaccentuated their differences, driving left-wing socialists back into the arms of the social democratic right.

Equallyserious,  the  most  impressive revolutionaryinsurgencies during

1919–21  reflected  violent,  volatile,  and  localized  forms  of  working-class radicalism, which the new parties had little abilityto organize or control. This was clearest in Germany, Italy, and Czechoslovakia, where the strong- est CPs faced mobilized workers angrilyresistant to anyleadership seeking to implement national strategyor develop a coordinated political line. In- deed, as much activism existed beyond the organized frameworks of Com-

munist  and  left-socialist  allegiances  as  within  them:  in  late  1920,  for  in- stance, as the 78,000 KPD members awaited the influx of former USPDers, the  council-communist  KAPD  and  its  associated  General  Workers’ Union mayhave counted another one hundred thousand supporters, not to speak of the kaleidoscopicallyshifting patterns of unaffiliated neosyndicalist mil- itancy.18   These  working-class  mobilizations  simultaneouslysustained  and frustrated  Communist  revolutionaries,  producing  the  most  reckless  chal- lenges to authoritybut without lasting supralocal effect. This was the infant Communist parties’ thorniest dilemma: how successfullytheyshaped such militancywould  decisivelyinfluence  the  kind  of  Communist  parties  they would become.

for   women   in  the  revolutionaryyears, the  ambiguities  of  change  were  acute.  The war’s  end  brought  the  first  breakthrough  of female enfranchisement. Before 1914, women voted  in  onlyFinland  (1906)  and  Norway

(1913),  but  by1918  theyshared  in  Europe’s democratization.  First  in  Russia,  then  in  the central  European  revolutions  of  Czechoslo- vakia,  Austria,  Hungary,  Poland,  and  Ger- many,  and  finally  in  Ireland  (1922),  the new states  included  women  as  voting  citizens,  as did the liberal polities of the north—Denmark and  Iceland  (1915),  Sweden  (1918),  Britain

(1918),  Luxemburg  (1919),  and  the  Nether- lands (1920). If women’s suffrage wasn’t uni- versal—in Belgium, France, and Italyreforms were blocked—the trend was clear.1

In   contrast,   women’s   economic   depen- dencywas  scarcelyimproved.  Wartime entry into  protected  male  occupations  was  crudely reversed.  Women  stayed  in  waged  jobs,  be- cause  working-class  households  still  needed their incomes, but the priorityof demobilized male  “breadwinners”  was  quicklyrestored. Right  and  Left  shared  a  desire  to  restabilize gender  relations  upset  bythe  war.  In  short, while  winning  constitutional  gains,  women became the objects of social policies implying that little reallyhad changed.


In  a  nutshell:  women  were enrolled into citi- zenship   and   men’s   and   women’s   political

rights finallygrew the same, onlyfor social policies to reassert their differ- ence. The leading edge of this gender politics was maternalism—ideas and policies foregrounding motherhood as crucial for the nation’s public health, global  competitiveness,  and  moral  order.  Two  intersecting  anxieties were involved. One was the war’s demographic catastrophe. Europe lost 50–60 million to militaryand civilian casualties, starvation and disease, and war- induced birth deficits, and 20–25 million were permanentlydisabled, leav- ing a stark gender imbalance among younger women and men. Second, the war disordered “normal” familylife. It snatched husbands and fathers from patriarchal roles and required new female responsibilities—not just the ob- vious  burdens  but  ambiguous  freedoms  and  opportunities  too.  Added  to demobilization  and  men’s  reentryinto  the  labor  market,  which  spurred talking about women’s place, these effects harnessed attention to the health of the family.

Population policybecame an obsession of interwar public life. The sur- plus  of  women  and  shortage  of  men,  the  declining  birth  rate,  the  war’s visible human wreckage, and fears of social degeneration all combined with women’s  new  political  rights  and  the  enhanced  welfare  state  to  bring women  to  the  political  fore.  Pronatalist  policies  for  raising  the  birth  rate and  the  qualityof  society’s  human  resources  and  maternalist  policies  for strengthening  women’s  familyroles  converged.  The  resulting  policyre- gimes—and the debates and battles surrounding them—varied countryby countryin  complex  ways  but  described  a  space  of  political  intervention common  to  interwar  Europe.  Questions  of  reproduction  (birth  control, abortion, sterilization), child welfare, medical advice, household efficiency, and social services composed the shared battleground of politics. Theyin- cited  diverse  projects  of  social  policing  and  improvement,  with  openings not onlyfor the efficiency-maximizing ambitions of bureaucracies and ex- perts but also for the altruism of reformers, from professionals and social activists  to  labor  movements and women’s organizations, as well as ordi- narywomen themselves. Consequently, it mattered enormouslywhat par- ticular balance of political forces pertained.2

The  Right  sought  to  confine  women  at  home,  invoking  “traditional” familyvalues or nationalist demands for “purifying” the population pool, for  which  Nazism’s  racialized  policies  in  1933–45  became  a  terrible  ex- treme.  But  this wasn’t the prerogative of the  Right  alone. Whether in the USSR, the French Third Republic’s population policies, Fabian social pol- icies  in  Britain,  or  sex  reform  in  Weimar  Germany,  the  Left  were  active too. Biological politics—removing issues from contention by“naturalizing” them, referring them to medical and scientific expertise rather than demo- cratic debate—were common ground of discussion for welfare issues, child- raising,  public  health,  sexuality,  and  sex  differences  between  the  wars.3

Other public discussions also revolved round this central theme, from the memorializing  of  the  First  World  War  to  the  linking  of  patriotism  with masculine ideals of virilityand domesticized images of female patience and

virtue.4   The  “feminizing”  of  social  policy,  education,  and  family  life  into women’s distinctive domain reflected this syndrome too.5

Left and Right occupied a single frame. Familyreform implied women’s advancement,  whether  via  positive  recognition  as  wives  and  mothers  or recruitment into voluntaryagencies and “caring” professions for the same familial needs. In the meantime, analyses of fascism and post-1968 feminist critiques  have  explored  the  disempowering  consequences  of  such  biologi- callybased  familialism  confining  women  to  the  home.  Seeing  women’s emancipation in a “separate sphere” of familial, domestic or feminine vir- tues has become more problematic in light of these critiques, because sep- aration undermined civic and legal equalityas often as securing it. But in

1918,  these  issues  were  blurred.  Even  the  strongest  radicals, like the Bol- shevik  Aleksandra  Kollontai,  retained  some  notion  of  a  “natural division of labor” affecting women’s innate roles as mothers.6

Initially, validating motherhood and domesticity could be empowering. Social  feminism—protection  for  motherhood,  family-oriented  social  poli- cies, education for girls, protective labor legislation, a politics of women’s special nature—had focused feminists’ vision of women’s emancipation be- fore  1914  as  much  as  legal  equalityand  the  vote.7   “Advanced”  thinking among emancipated women and men enlisted eugenicist ideas for regulating human procreation, blurring the lines between feminist control over repro- duction and “national efficiency” arguments for survival of the race. Unless reforms made motherhood more attractive, it was commonlyargued, only

inferior mothers would have children.

There  was  one  last  complication.  If  tensions  endured  between  civil equalityand  constructions of sexual difference, theyalso defined the new consumerism—between social policies confining women to the familyand consumer  promises  tempting  them  out.  Housewives  became  household managers, joining the public sphere as purchasing agents for husbands and children. Even more destabilizing, a new culture of cheap entertainment— in  dream  palaces  and  dance  halls,  and  the  lure  of  lipstick,  smoking,  and fashion—captured  attention.  Younger  women  found  an  expressive  inde- pendence,  a  stylistic  escape  from  domestic  and  public  oppressiveness  of male  control,  in  a  commercially  driven culture of possibility, “playing on fantasyand  desire.”8   Advertising  and  the  cinema  transported  this  reality from the sociallyrestricted culture of the metropolis to the general topog- raphyof women’s imaginations.9

How the Left reacted to the commercial culture of mass entertainment became a keyquestion of politics. For feminists and socialists alike, young women  embodied  this  challenge.  On  the  one  hand  theywere  egregiously neglected  bythe  Left;  on  the  other  consumerism  offered  an  escape  from domesticity. Feminist campaigners dimissed the new fashions as distraction, while male socialists slipped easilyinto misogynist contempt. The pleasure- seeking young had no place in the socialist imaginary—those “silly girls in their  synthetic  Hollywood  dreams,  their  pathetic  silk  stockings  and  lip-

sticks,  their  foolish  strivings.”10   Yet  consumerism,  like  the  politics  of  the familyand  welfare,  described  a  keysite  of  politics.  These  were  the  new realities  the  war  and  the  contemporarytransformations  of  capitalism en- gendered. Theyelicited a new right-wing political repertoire, to which the Left had a remarkablyslow response.


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