Russian Revolution fought for women’s equality, access to work, culture, rights

July 11, 2022

The following is an excerpt from The Revolution Betrayed by Leon Trotsky. It describes how the Russian Revolution set out to create conditions to advance the fight for the emancipation of women and how this course was set back by imperialist-fueled civil war and overthrown by Stalinist counterrevolution.


The October revolution honestly fulfilled its obligations in relation to woman. The young government not only gave her all political and legal rights in equality with man, but, what is more important, did all that it could, and in any case incomparably more than any other government ever did, actually to secure her access to all forms of economic and cultural work. …

The place of the family as a shut-in petty enterprise was to be occupied, according to the plans, by a finished system of social care and accommodation: maternity houses, crèches, kindergartens, schools, social dining rooms, social laundries, first-aid stations, hospital, sanatoria, athletic organizations, moving-picture theaters, etc. The complete absorption of the housekeeping functions of the family by institutions of the socialist society, uniting all generations in solidarity and mutual aid, was to bring to woman, and thereby to the loving couple, a real liberation from the thousand-year-old fetters. …

It proved impossible to take the old family by storm — not because the will was lacking. … Society proved too poor and little cultured. … You cannot “abolish” the family; you have to replace it. The actual liberation of women is unrealizable on a basis of “generalized want.”

[After the Stalinist reaction overthrew Lenin’s revolutionary Bolshevik program and policies, the new bureaucratic rulers moved to outlaw abortion.] These gentlemen have, it seems, completely forgotten that socialism was to remove the cause which impels woman to abortion, and not force her into the “joys of motherhood” with the help of a foul police interference in what is to every woman the most intimate sphere of life.