BOLSHEVIK FEMINIST: The Life of Aleksandra Kollontai by Barbara Evans Clements

BOLSHEVIK FEMINIST: The Life of Aleksandra Kollontai

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The first scholarly, English-language intellectual and political biography of a woman who was more an ""anarchist Marxist"" than a Bolshevik and who never considered herself a ""feminist"" (a petty bourgeois notion). Clements assistant professor of history at the University of Akron, obviously sympathizes strongly with the current women's movement and allows her own feminist convictions to color her generally objective treatment of the Russian ""socialist feminist."" Most of the book focuses on the first 50 years of Kollontai's life, and in particular on the period between 1900 and 1923; it was then that Kollontai developed her most important ideas on socialism, female emancipation, and ""Winged Eros"" and came to play a vital role in the Russian Social Democratic Party, first as a Menshevik and opponent of Lenin, and later as a Bolshevik and ""wholehearted"" supporter of Lenin. Clements is particularly good in tracing the development of Kollontai's socialism and feminism and in revealing how the two were interrelated. Much weaker and far shorter is Clements' treatment of the period after 1923, when Kollontai gave up her opposition to the party, assumed the ""role of an obedient Communist,"" and ceased to write on the women's question. Moreover, Clements tends to gloss over those less revolutionary and less flattering events in Kollontai's life (her attack on Trotsky and Bukharin in 1927, her silence on the purges of the 1930s, and her ""abject homage to Stalin"" in 1937), which suggest that she was also an apparatchik capable of forgetting her own ""hatred of compromise"" when the party so demanded. Notwithstanding these occasional lapses into apologetics, Clements does succeed in providing a readable and scholarly, if somewhat too admiring, portrait of an important figure in the Bolshevik Revolution.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Indiana Univ. Press