The following is a note presented to the Editorial Board of Revolutionary History on the 1972 Russian edition of Kollontai's 'Selected Articles amd Speeches'. Translation from the Russian by Jj Plant - use at your own risk.


 

Contents of the Russian edition. The Russian edition contains a lot more material than the English Language version of 1984. Items which appeared in the English edition are marked with * below. I acquired a very cheap remaindered copy in Dom Knigi ("The house of books", the largest Moscow bookshop) in 1996.

On the question of class war, 1904
Who are the social - democrats, and what do they want ? 1906
The Finnish bourgeoisie and proletariat, 1908
*Introduction to the book "The social basis of the woman question", 1908
* The international socialist conference of women workers, 1907-1910
The international proletariat and war, From speeches at Stockholm, 1/5/12
* Womens day Feb 1913
A great fighter for justice and women's freedom (Recollections of August Bebel), 1913
And in Russia it will be Women's Day ! Feb 1914
* The war and our immediate tasks. Nov 1914
Jean Juares. Dec 1914
* Who needs the war ? 1915
* Why was the German proletariat silent in the July days ? Sep 1915
* Preface to the book "Society & Motherhood". 1915
* The Statue of Liberty. End of 1916
Results of the Election Campaigns in the USA. End of 1916
Who needs the Czar, and can we disregard him ? Feb 1917
* Our memorial to the fighters for freedom. March 1917
Where is "revolutionary defencism" leading ? April 1917
* Our tasks. May 1917
Speech to the 9th Congress of the SD Party of Finland. 17/6/17
Speech to the All-Russian Congress of Soviets of workers and soldiers delegates on the Finland question. 20/6/17
The reorganisation of the administration of production. Sep 1917
When will the war end ? Sep 1917
The bankrupt slogan "civil peace". Oct 1917
Why the Bolsheviks must win. Dec 1917
"The cross of maternity" and the Soviet republic. Sep 1918
Old age - not a curse but a deserved rest. Oct 1918
Letter to the women workers of red Petrograd. Nov 1918
Time to do away with "black nests". Nov 1918
Priests are still at work. Dec 1918
How and for whom the 1st Russian Congress of Women Workers was convened. 1919
Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg - fighters, heroes & martyrs. Feb 1919
Whom have women workers lost ? (Memories of YM Sverdlov) 21/3/19
Declaration to the workers among women at the 8th Congress of the RCP(B). 22/3/19
* What are we fighting for ? May 1919
The struggle against the Czar-famine. May 1919
Whose will be the golden harvest ? July 1919
* On the history of the movement of women workers in Russia 1905 - 17. 1919
Speech to the 2nd All-Russian Congress of Communist Youth. 5/10/19
Crisis in the countryside. Nov 1919
The 1st International Conference of Communists. 1920
Tasks of the Departments for Work Among Women. Nov 1920
Conference of Women Communist Organisers of the East. April 1921
Trade unions and women workers. May 1921
Women workers and peasants in Soviet Russia. May - Nov 1921
The 2nd International Conference of Communists. June 1921
The Czar-famine and the Red Army. Aug 1921
The international treaties and women workers. Nov 1921
Norway and our trade balance. Nov 1923
The Mexican revolution. Sep 1927
* What the October revolution has done for women in the West. Oct 1927
The Opposition and the party masses. Oct 1927
The great constructions. Nov 1927
Women fighters in the great October revolution. Nov 1927
* Soviet woman - a full equal citizen of her country. 22/9/46
* Lenin thought of both great and small. Jan 1946
* Lenin at Smolny, Oct - Nov 1917. 1947
Memories of Krupskaya. Feb 1949


The additional material available in this collection does not add to our knowledge of Kollontai, (Holt was able to use it in preparing the bibliography to her edition of "Selected Writings". As a 1972 edition, it could not realistically be expected to reproduce material of the Workers Opposition, or Kollontai's speeches to the 7th Congress opposing peace with Germany and siding with the Left-Communists - although the biographical notes admit that both of these things happened. (And we always need to be on guard against corruption of the text in publications of this period.)

At the same time it provides material from Kollontai's Menshevik period (everything before 1915, according to Daniels), while not acknowledging, indeed deliberately seeking to obscure the fact, that she was ever a Menshevik. Nor is there any mention of her regular writing for "Nashe Slovo" before 1915. Particularly difficult to interpret is the extent, pace and timing of her accommodation to the Stalinist power, given the paucity of material from the mid-1920s. "The Mexican revolution" is a very odd document, published by a Moscow evening daily newspaper and making a popular introduction to the people of Mexico. It seems to propose a strategy of pressure on the Mexican "labour" government and support for it against the USA, through trade and cultural relations, prefiguring many aspects of official Stalinist diplomacy in later decades. At the same time it has unexpected flashes of leftism - "The coloured races declare to the white their right to existence".

jjp
28 March 1996

 

Alexandra Kollontai in English (recently) 1. Selected Writings (ed Alix Holt), Alison & Busby, London, 1977
2. Selected Articles and Speeches, (complied I.M. Dazhina et al), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1984.
3. Communism & the Family, Hera Press, Cleveland (also in 1 above)
4. Women Workers Struggle for their Rights, Falling Wall Press, Bristol, 1971 (includes some notes by Sheila Rowbotham on Kollontai material available in English
5. The Workers' Opposition, Solidarity, London (1973, reprinted in Holt)
6. International Womens Day, Hera Press, Cleveland
7. Sexual Relations in the Class Struggle, Love and the New Morality, Falling Wall Press, Bristol, 1972
8. Love of Worker Bees, Virago, 1977
9. Autobiography of a Sexually Liberated Woman, London, 1972


The following is a note presented to the Editorial Board of Revolutionary History on the 1972 Russian edition of Kollontai’s Selected Articles amd Speeches. Translation from the Russian by JJ Plant – use at your own risk.


Selected articles and speeches, Alexandra Kollontai, Moscow 1972

Contents of the Russian edition. The Russian edition contains a lot more material than the English Language version of 1984. Items which appeared in the English edition are marked with * below. I acquired a very cheap remaindered copy in Dom Knigi (“The house of books”, the largest Moscow bookshop) in 1996.

On the question of class war, 1904
Who are the social-democrats, and what do they want? 1906
The Finnish bourgeoisie and proletariat, 1908
*Introduction to the book The social basis of the woman question, 1908
* The international socialist conference of women workers, 1907-1910
The international proletariat and war, From speeches at Stockholm, 1/5/12
* Womens day Feb 1913
A great fighter for justice and women’s freedom (Recollections of August Bebel), 1913
And in Russia it will be Women’s Day! Feb 1914
* The war and our immediate tasks, Nov. 1914
Jean Juares, Dec. 1914
* Who needs the war? 1915
* Why was the German proletariat silent in the July days? Sep. 1915
* Preface to the book Society & Motherhood, 1915
* The Statue of Liberty, End of 1916
Results of the Election Campaigns in the USA, End of 1916
Who needs the Czar, and can we disregard him? Feb. 1917
* Our memorial to the fighters for freedom, March 1917
Where is “revolutionary defencism” leading? April 1917
* Our tasks, May 1917
Speech to the 9th Congress of the SD Party of Finland, 17/6/17
Speech to the All-Russian Congress of Soviets of workers and soldiers delegates on the Finland question, 20/6/17
The reorganisation of the administration of production, Sep. 1917
When will the war end? Sep. 1917
The bankrupt slogan “civil peace”, Oct 1917
Why the Bolsheviks must win, Dec. 1917
“The cross of maternity” and the Soviet republic, Sep. 1918
Old age – not a curse but a deserved rest, Oct. 1918
Letter to the women workers of red Petrograd, Nov. 1918
Time to do away with “black nests”, Nov. 1918
Priests are still at work, Dec. 1918
How and for whom the 1st Russian Congress of Women Workers was convened. 1919
Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg – fighters, heroes & martyrs, Feb. 1919
Whom have women workers lost? (Memories of YM Sverdlov) 21/3/19
Declaration to the workers among women at the 8th Congress of the RCP(B), 22/3/19
* What are we fighting for? May 1919
The struggle against the Czar-famine, May 1919
Whose will be the golden harvest? July 1919
* On the history of the movement of women workers in Russia 1905-17, 1919
Speech to the 2nd All-Russian Congress of Communist Youth, 5/10/19
Crisis in the countryside, Nov 1919
The 1st International Conference of Communists, 1920
Tasks of the Departments for Work Among Women, Nov. 1920
Conference of Women Communist Organisers of the East, April 1921
Trade unions and women workers, May 1921
Women workers and peasants in Soviet Russia, May-Nov. 1921
The 2nd International Conference of Communists, June 1921
The Czar-famine and the Red Army, Aug. 1921
The international treaties and women workers, Nov. 1921
Norway and our trade balance, Nov. 1923
The Mexican revolution, Sep. 1927
* What the October revolution has done for women in the West, Oct. 1927
The Opposition and the party masses, Oct. 1927
The great constructions, Nov. 1927
Women fighters in the great October revolution, Nov. 1927
* Soviet woman – a full equal citizen of her country, 22/9/46
* Lenin thought of both great and small, Jan. 1946
* Lenin at Smolny, Oct.-Nov. 1917, 1947
Memories of Krupskaya, Feb. 1949


The additional material available in this collection does not add to our knowledge of Kollontai, (Holt was able to use it in preparing the bibliography to her edition of Selected Writings. As a 1972 edition, it could not realistically be expected to reproduce material of the Workers Opposition, or Kollontai’s speeches to the 7th Congress opposing peace with Germany and siding with the Left-Communists – although the biographical notes admit that both of these things happened. (And we always need to be on guard against corruption of the text in publications of this period.)

At the same time it provides material from Kollontai–s Menshevik period (everything before 1915, according to Daniels), while not acknowledging, indeed deliberately seeking to obscure the fact, that she was ever a Menshevik. Nor is there any mention of her regular writing for Nashe Slovo before 1915. Particularly difficult to interpret is the extent, pace and timing of her accommodation to the Stalinist power, given the paucity of material from the mid-1920s. The Mexican revolution is a very odd document, published by a Moscow evening daily newspaper and making a popular introduction to the people of Mexico. It seems to propose a strategy of pressure on the Mexican “labour” government and support for it against the USA, through trade and cultural relations, prefiguring many aspects of official Stalinist diplomacy in later decades. At the same time it has unexpected flashes of leftism – “The coloured races declare to the white their right to existence”.

jjp
28 March 1996


Alexandra Kollontai in English (recently)

1. Selected Writings (ed. Alix Holt), Alison & Busby, London 1977
2. Selected Articles and Speeches (complied I.M. Dazhina et al.), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1984.
3. Communism & the Family, Hera Press, Cleveland (also in 1 above)
4. Women Workers Struggle for their Rights, Falling Wall Press, Bristol, 1971 (includes some notes by Sheila Rowbotham on Kollontai material available in English
5. The Workers’ Opposition, Solidarity, London (1973, reprinted in Holt)
6. International Womens Day, Hera Press, Cleveland
7. Sexual Relations in the Class Struggle, Love and the New Morality, Falling Wall Press, Bristol 1972
8. Love of Worker Bees, Virago, 1977
9. Autobiography of a Sexually Liberated Woman, London 1972

Alexandra Kollontai (1872-1952) joined the revolutionary movement in the nineties; she took an active part in the battles of the October Revolution in 1917. She was a close friend of Lenin's.

After the October Revolution she became People's Commissar for Social Security, then secretary of the International Women's Secretariat of the Comintern and, later, Soviet Ambassador to Norway, Mexico and Sweden.

Alexandra Kollontai's reminiscences of the 1917 revolution have been published several times in the U.S.S.R. They provided the writer Daniil Granin with material for his script of the film The First Visitor, produced by the Leningrad Studio.

THE FIRST BENEFIT

October 1917 was windy, the sky grey and overcast. The wind thrashed the tops of the trees in the garden of the Smolny Institute, and in the building with the endless maze of passages and its big, light, scantily furnished halls, the work going on was of an intensity such as the world had never before witnessed.

Two days before, power had passed into the hands of the Soviets. The Winter Palace was occupied by workers and soldiers. Kerensky's government no longer existed. We all realised, however, that this was only the first rung of that difficult ladder leading to the emancipation of the working people and to the creation of a new, hitherto unknown, republic of labour.

The Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party was squeezed into a little side room with a plain table in the middle, newspapers on the windows and on the floor, and a few chairs. I do not remember what brought me there, but I do remember that Vladimir Ilyich did not even given me a chance to ask my question. When he saw me he decided immediately that I ought to do something far more useful than I had intended to.

"Go immediately and take over the Ministry of Social Security. That has to be done at once."

Vladimir Ilyich was quite calm, almost merry. He joked about something and then straight away began talking to some other people.

I do not remember why I went there alone; but I remember very well the damp October day when I drove up to the doors of the Ministry of Social Security in Kazanskaya Street. A tall, grey-bearded, impressive-looking porter with lots of gold braid opened the door and looked me over from head to foot.

"Who's in charge here?" I asked him. "Reception hours for applicants are over," snapped the important-looking, gold-braided old man.

"I'm not here about any application for aid. Which of the chief clerks are here?"

"I told you in plain Russian - applicants are received from one to three; look, it's past four already."

I insisted and he reiterated his refusal. Nothing was any help. Reception hours were over. He had been ordered not to let anyone in.

I tried to go upstairs despite the prohibition, but the stubborn old man stood like a wall in front of me and would not allow me to take a step forward.

And so I went away empty-handed. I had to hurry to a meeting. In those days meetings were the most important thing. They were basic. There, among the urban poor and the soldiers the question of "to be or not to be" was being decided, whether the workers and peasants in army uniforms would he able to maintain Soviet power or whether the bourgeoisie would gain the upper hand.

Very early the next morning there came a ring at the door of the flat in which I had been staying after my release from Kerensky's prison. It was an insistent ring. The door was opened. There stood a typical peasant - sheepskin coat, bast shoes, beard, all complete.

"Is it here that Kollontai, commissar from the people, lives? I have to see him. I have a note .to him from their chief Bolshevik, from Lenin."

I looked at the scrap of paper and saw that it really was written in Lenin's hand.

"Pay him out of the social security fund whatever is due to him for his horse."

In his unhurried, peasant way he told me the whole story. At the time of the tsar, just before the February Revolution, his horse had been requisitioned for war purposes. He had been promised "good value" for his horse. But time passed and there was no sign of any recompense. So the peasant came to Petrograd and for two months had been haunting the institutions of the Provisional Government. No results. The old man was chased here and there, from one office to another, he had no patience and no money left. Then he suddenly heard about some people called Bolsheviks, heard that they were giving back to the workers and peasants everything the tsar and the landowners had taken away from them and everything the people had been robbed of during the war. The only thing you needed was a note from the chief Bolshevik, from Lenin. And our peasant found Vladimir Ilyich in Smolny, woke him up long before dawn and managed to get a note from him. It was this note that he had shown me, but he had no intention of giving it up.

"I'll give it to you when I get the money. In the meantime I'll keep it - that's the surer way."

What was I to do with that peasant and his horse? The ministry was still in the hands of the Provisional Government's civil servants. Those were strange times - power was in the hands of the Soviets, the Council of People's Commissars was a Bolshevik body, but the government institutions continued to run on the political rails of the Provisional Government, like railway coaches running away downhill.

How were we to take over the ministry? By force? The clerks would run away and I would be left without any staff.

We arrived at a different decision. We summoned a delegate meeting of the trade union of junior (technical) employees under the chairmanship of Ivan Yegorov, a mechanic. This was rather a special trade union. It consisted of people of different trades, of all those who were employed at the ministry in a purely technical capacity - messengers, nurses, stokers, book-keepers, copyists, mechanics, printers and care-takers.

They discussed the situation. They discussed it in a businesslike manner. They elected a council and next morning went to occupy the ministry.

We went in. The porter in gold braid did not sympathise with the Bolsheviks and had not attended the meeting. He disapproved but allowed us to pass. As we went upstairs, we were met by a flood of people coming down - clerks, typists, accountants, heads of departments.... What a hurry they were in! They would not even spare us a glance. We came in and the staff went out. The sabotage by officials of the civil service had begun. Only a few people remained. They said they were prepared to work with us, with the Bolsheviks. We entered the ministerial offices and the general offices. All empty. Typewriters had been abandoned, papers were lying about everywhere. The books had been cleared away. Locked up. And no keys. No keys to the safes, either.

Who had them? How could we work without money? Social security is an institution whose work cannot be held up; it includes orphanages, and disabled soldiers, and artificial limb factories, and hospitals, and sanatoriums, and leper colonies, and reformatories, and girls' institutes, and homes for the blind.... A tremendous field of work! Demands and complaints come in from all sides. . . . And no keys! The most persistent of all was that peasant with a note from Lenin. Every morning he was at the door by daybreak.

"What about paying me for my horse? A fine animal, it was. If it hadn't been so strong and hard-working I wouldn't have taken so much trouble over getting paid."

Two days later the keys turned up. The first payment made from the social security fund by the People's Commissariat of Social Security was compensation for a horse that the tsarist government had confiscated from a peasant by force and by deception and for which that persistent peasant received payment in full in accordance with his note from Lenin.

Translated by George H. Hanna