Lenin on the 'Liberation' of Women

The following remarks on women's liberation by V.I. Lenin are taken from the record of his meeting with Clara Zetkin in Moscow in the Autumn of 1920, reprinted as "My Recollections of Lenin, (An interview on the Woman Question)" in The Emancipation of Women: From the Writings of V. I. Lenin (New York: International Publishers, 1966), pp. 97-123.

the new woman"Women's incipient social life and activities must be promoted, so that they can outgrow the narrowness of their philistine, individualistic psychology centred on home and family ... In the sphere of sexual relations and marriage, a revolution is approaching ... There can be no real mass movement without the women ... We cannot exercise the dictatorship of the proletariat without having millions of women on our side. Nor can we engage in communist construction without them. We must find a way to reach ... the mass of women, who feel themselves exploited, enslaved and crushed by the domination of the men ... They should all know that the proletarian dictatorship will mean to them complete equality of rights with men, both legal and in practice, in the family, the state and in society, and that it also spells the annihilation of the power of the bourgeoisie ... The government of the proletarian dictatorship - jointly with the Communist Party and the trade unions of course - makes every effort to overcome the backward views of men and women and thus uproot the old, non-communist psychology. It goes without saying that men and women are absolutely equal before the law. A sincere desire to give effect to this equality is evident in all spheres. We are enlisting women to work in the economy, the administration, legislation and government. All courses and educational institutions are open to them, so that they can improve their professional and social training. We are organising community kitchens and public dining-rooms, laundries and repair shops, crêches, kindergartens, children’s homes and educational institutions of every kind. In brief, we are quite in earnest about carrying out the requirements of our programme to shift the functions of housekeeping and education from the individual household to society. Woman is thus being relieved from her old domestic slavery and all dependence on her husband. She is enabled to give her capabilities and inclinations full play in society. Children are offered better opportunities for their development than at home. We have the most progressive female labour legislation in the world, and it is enforced by authorised representatives of organised labour. We are establishing maternity homes, mother-and-child homes, mothers’ health centres, courses for infant and child care, and the like. We are making every effort to provide for needy and unemployed women ... Under the proletarian dictatorship the emancipation of women through the realisation of communism will proceed also in the countryside. In this respect I expect much from the electrification of our industry and agriculture. That is a grand scheme! The difficulties in its way are great, monstrously great. Powerful forces latent in the masses will have to be released and trained to overcome them. Millions of women must take part in this ... They are in ferment. They have been set in motion. Their distressing worries about securing a livelihood and the search for the purpose of life confront them with problems which most of them had hardly suspected and only a small minority had grasped in the past. Bourgeois society is unable to provide a satisfactory answer to their questions. Only communism can do it. We must rouse the broad masses of women in the capitalist countries to consciousness."