U.S.S.R. and communism historical discussion.
[ Login ] [ Active ]

How much power did women hold?

Log-in to remove advertisement.
Post 28 Aug 2014, 23:23
Interestingly enough, today I had a substitute professor on the first day of class who was from East Berlin. He had said one of the achievements of the Eastern Bloc was that due to labor shortages, women were encouraged to take on unorthodox jobs, such as engineers. Additionally, he had said that throughout the Eastern Bloc there were many female judges when compared to the West. I know that women took on administrative positions. How common was it to find women taking on jobs that men typically held, such as police officers? At the time would the prospect of a female General Secretary be acceptable?
Post 30 Aug 2014, 05:05
There's a 1992 article titled "Women's Emancipation and Strategy of Development in Albania" (which is on JSTOR.) Besides the stuff on the combating of misogynistic concepts and whatnot, I'll summarize some of the statistics:

* By the end of the National Liberation War there were about 6000 women in the National Liberation Army (which had a membership of some 70,000.)
* 12% of Party members were women in 1967, a figure which rose to 30% by the early 80s. During the latter decade two government ministers (of agriculture and of education) were women, while women comprised 30% of deputies to the People's Assembly, 30% of members of the Supreme Court, and 40% of members of the People's Councils (local government bodies.)
* From less than 10% of all industrial workers in 1948 (compared to 4% ten years earlier according to another source), Albanian women constituted 42% of this workforce by 1983.
* In 1984 48% of students in primary schools were females, while students in universities were 45% females.

As far as Party politics went, there were six notable women: Nexhmije Hoxha, Vito Kapo, Fiqrete Shehu, Liri Belishova, Liri Gega and Lenka Çuko. The only one with any possible leadership pretensions was Belishova, who headed the pro-Soviet faction in 1960 together with Koço Tashko, but neither were particularly influential. Gega was executed in 1956 after being accused of conspiring with Yugoslavia. Shehu lost her influence after the downfall of her husband and died in 1988 during internment. Belishova and Çuko were the only ones with Politburo membership, lasting from 1948-60 and 1981-90 respectively.
Post 01 Sep 2014, 06:43
Those women you listed were from Albania. Was Albania the most progressive country in the Eastern Bloc when it came to women holding power?
Post 01 Sep 2014, 08:30
Soviet, the same is largely true for the USSR; women judges, engineers, construction and roadwork labourers, whose images would become famous in some Western publications about the USSR. Some would later argue about and criticize the role of women in heavy, dirty jobs, but the war did destroy a lot of men, and the country didn't have a supply of Central Asian semi-slave labourers to turn to back then. As for women in the other high skilled roles, it wasn't just a matter of labour shortages, but a matter of ideology, and the view that women could do the same intellectual work that men did. There were female police officers, but as far as I'm aware their active duty roles were confined to things like traffic police work.

As for a female General Secretary -I think it would be very unlikely for a long time, at least in a country like the USSR. There were few women in the Politburo as it was (Ekaterina Furtseva being a famous exception), and the duty of leader of the party and the country held with it the status of commander in chief, a role unlikely to be handed over to someone with limited or non-existent military experience. As to why there were few women in the highest echelons of power, some have argued that it was the result of old Russian cultural flaws carried into Soviet times, others that it was a matter of few women being able to juggle the role of mother, wife, and senior politician. Politics was a rough, exclusionary game as it was; it would be very difficult for a woman to 'break into the boys' clubhouse' so to speak.

Also, this is why I hate Trots (if not so much Trotsky, as I've learned to differentiate him from his 'followers'):

The collapse of the bureaucratic regimes had a special impact on the lives of women. It opened up great possibilities for self-expression and gave working-class women the opportunity to take collective action to change their lives...

After the overthrow of the Stalinists in the Eastern Bloc, Yugoslavia, and the former Soviet Union, the issue is now sharply posed: what type of society will best serve the interests of working-class women and lead them towards genuine liberation and the final resolution of the woman question?...

Women today, jubilant at the downfall of the Stalinists in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, can play a decisive role in shaping their future if they understand the impact of the legacy of Stalinism on their lives, resist the assaults of capitalism in crisis, and fight for a revolutionary alternative to both.
Post 01 Sep 2014, 21:02
Soviet192491 wrote:
Those women you listed were from Albania.
My entire post was about Albania, since that's pretty much my specialty.

The status of women in Albania before the revolution was uniquely bad. A large portion of Albanians were guided by what was known as the Kanun, tribal law which, among other things, allowed women to be carted around naked in a village if they dishonored their husbands, or even killed with impunity. If a pregnant woman was killed the price paid for the death of her fetus was lower if it was a female rather than a male. Besides this you had arranged marriages (wherein fathers would marry off young daughters in order to receive payments), phenomena such as "sworn virgins" (where if the husband died, the wife could "become a man" through a vow of lifelong chastity, completely foregoing her inferior identity as a woman), etc.

That's what makes the efforts at emancipating women in Albania more noteworthy than usual.

Was Albania the most progressive country in the Eastern Bloc when it came to women holding power?
Well as I said, only two women were in the Politburo. The others were in the Central Committee and held other important positions (Nexhmije Hoxha headed the Institute of Marxist-Leninist Studies of the Central Committee of the PLA which among other things was responsible for writing the official History of the Party of Labour of Albania, Fiqrete Shehu headed the V.I. Lenin Party School which trained PLA cadres), but we'd need comparisons with other Eastern European states. In the Soviet Politburo there was only Ekaterina Furtseva during the Khrushchev period, then under Gorbachev Aleksandra Biriukova became a candidate member in 1988 and Galina Semyonova became a member in 1990, neither being able to do much considering the years.
Last edited by Ismail on 01 Sep 2014, 23:16, edited 1 time in total.
Post 01 Sep 2014, 21:34
Also, this is why I hate Trots (if not so much Trotsky, as I've learned to differentiate him from his 'followers'):

You should know by know that the majority of Trotskists don't follow that line regarding the USSR.
Post 15 Dec 2014, 02:46
The Soviet Union was probably the most progressive socialist states fighting for female emancipation until Stalin ended the Cultural Revolution and during World War II. During the 1930s abortion was reintroduced, the number in leading posts declined, and the Women's Department of the Central Committee was abolished in 1930 since women issues had been "solved" (which they clearly hadn't). A department (or body) for women issues was reestablished only in 1990. In tandem, the majority of women, statistically, did not hold senior posts (Furtseva being an exception in the post-Cultural Revolution era), and in the few cases they did, they were appointed to the informal posts of second secretary... The majority of the female members in the Central Committee were appointed for symbolic purposes; the majority of them having low-level posts or being members of the token working class representation. There are also seems to be a consensus between the female CC members that climbing up the ladder was almost impossible; Lydia Lykova (member of the 20th til the 24th CC I think) and Alexandra Pavlovna Biryukova (member of the 26th til 28th CC) seems to agree on this.... The communist party (which I know off) which has taken women issues most seriously (except for the CPSU during the 1920s) is the Communist Party of Vietnam. It currently has two female members in the 11th Politburo (I can't think of another politburo in history which had two female members simultaneously); Tòng Thị Phóng and Nguyễn Thị Kim Ngân (who is quite powerful as she serves concurrently in the Secretariat). Of course, some of the problems which existed in the USSR are still seen in modern Vietnam; for instance women in general don't reach the top jobs as often as they should. An example, the two aforementioned Politburo members serve as Deputy Chairwomen of the National Assembly... THis is also shown by the fact that all the vice presidents since 1987 have been female; Nguyễn Thị Định, Trương Mỹ Hoa and Nguyễn Thị Doan. This shows two things; female are trusted with power, but that they (nearly) always have to be subordinate positions to men... In general most, if not all, ruling communist parties have had a female quota for the leading institutions such as CC, delegate to congress, and such, but they have been very low and more symbolic then anything else.... If we are to generalize you could say all the communist states have been progressive at the beginning, and then flatlined (best seen with the USSR and China)... However, this may give a wrong image; while the SED in the GDR was a mens club, women in East Germany were more progressive then their Western counterparts; .. I'm guessing one of the reasons for the GDR's feminist policies has to do with the fact that the women's right movements was fairly noticeable in the German communist scene from the get go, best represented by Rosa Luxembourg of course. In the GDR case, howevr, there were also signs of flatlining after introducing progressive policies (this is the result of men dominating the CC). In short, just as their is a limit (some may even say impossibility) of a capitalist to represent his workers interest, there is a limit for men to do the same for women (men, just like capitalist, can reduce their power of women, but why should they want to lose it all?) .. I'm not saying its on purpose, just that it may be subconsciously. Another example, high heels amongst women are extremely popular, but the good majority of women develop foot injuries from them. Why wear shoes that injury yourself? Is it a culture thing, because I find it difficult to comprehend (men don't do it, but probably would if they were told thats how they should to dress). Thinking out loud I guess.
Post 19 Dec 2014, 22:39
leftguy wrote:
During the 1930s abortion was reintroduced,
"A matter which has raised considerable doubts in the minds of many protagonists of sex-equality in this country is the law, passed in 1936, making abortion illegal except in cases where it is justified by consideration for a woman's health or the danger of hereditary disease. This change in the law has been treated as an attack on sex-equality.

It is of the greatest importance in this connection, to refer back to the text of the original law which legalised abortion in Soviet Russia in 1921. It is important to note that in this law not a word was said about sex-equality, and the right to have an abortion was never put forward as a fundamental right of the Soviet woman. On the contrary, abortion was treated as a social evil, but an evil which was likely to be less harmful when practised legally than when carried out under conditions of secrecy. Here is part of the text of the original law permitting abortion:

'During the past decades the number of women resorting to artificial discontinuation of pregnancy has grown both in the West and in this country. The legislation of all countries combats this evil by punishing the woman who chooses to have an abortion and the doctor who performs it. Without leading to favourable results, this method of combating abortion has driven the operation underground and made the woman a victim of mercenary and often ignorant quacks who make a profession of secret operations. As a result, up to 50 per cent of such women are infected in the course of the operation, and up to 4 per cent of them die.

'The Workers' and Peasants' Government is conscious of this serious evil to the community. It combats this evil by propaganda against abortions among working women. By working for Socialism, and by introducing the protection of maternity and infancy on an extensive scale, it feels assured of achieving the gradual disappearance of this evil. But as moral survivals of the past and the difficult economic conditions of the present still compel many women to resort to this operation. . .' it is allowed in State hospitals.

The essential feature of this law is that it was based on 'difficult economic conditions,' and was of a temporary nature. The right to abortion was never introduced as one of the rights of Soviet women, to be enjoyed in all circumstances. It was considered an 'evil,' and was introduced as a makeshift to combat the serious mortality rate from illegal abortions carried out under unsatisfactory conditions. There is evidence that, at the present time, owing to the increased knowledge of contraceptives on the one hand and the growing sense of economic security on the other, women will not now practise abortion in this way, and that therefore the permissive law is no longer necessary in the interests of health. Abortion in Soviet legislation has always been regarded primarily as a question of health, not of equality. Since thousands of women have been neglecting the use of contraceptives because they could obtain an abortion, the legality of the less satisfactory method of discontinuing pregnancy has actually to some extent prevented more satisfactory methods from being used of avoiding pregnancy altogether."
(Sloan, Pat. Soviet Democracy. London: Victor Gollancz. 1937. pp. 125-126.)

At any rate, the Soviet revisionists re-legalized abortion.
Post 22 Dec 2014, 22:35
I know, ment made illegal again. Big mistake there. At any rate, as you say, even revisionists can make good decisions.
Post 24 Dec 2014, 07:25
My point isn't whether it was a good decision or not, just that putting restrictions on abortion (once the material conditions existed for providing for motherhood) wasn't contrary to originally Bolshevik policy.
More Forums: The History Forum. The UK Politics Forum.
© 2000- Privacy.
[ Top ]