Women and Politics


This edition of Women and Politics has been translated, prepared, and revised for digital publication by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism under the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Switzerland on the basis of the edition published in the Collected Works of Mariategui, First Peruvian Edition, Volume 14, Biblioteca Amauta.


This is an article written by J.C. Mariategui in Lima, Peru. It was first published in Variedades on the 15th of March, 1924.

#Workers and oppressed people of the world, unite!


#J.C. Mariategui
#Before the 15th of March, 1924


One of the substantive developments of the 20th century is the acquisition by women of the political rights of men. Gradually, we have reached political and legal gender equality. Women have entered politics, parliament, and government. Their participation in public affairs has ceased to be exceptional and extraordinary. In Ramsay MacDonald's Labour cabinet, one of the portfolios has been assigned to a woman, Miss Margaret Bondfield, who rises to government after a laborious political career: she has represented England at the International Labour Conferences at Washington and Geneva. And Russia has entrusted its diplomatic representation in Norway to Aleksandra Kollontaj, former People's Commissar in the Council Government.

Miss Bondfield and Madame Kollontaj are, for this reason, two very topical figures on the world scene. The figure of Aleksandra Kollontaj, above all, has not only the contingent interest conferred by current events. She is a figure who has been attracting European attention and curiosity for some years now. And while Margaret Bondfield is not the first woman to occupy a State ministry, Aleksandra Kollontaj is the first female ambassador.

Aleksandra Kollontaj is a protagonist of the Russian revolution. When the council regime was inaugurated, she already held a high-ranking post in the Majoritarian Party. The Majoritarians elevated her, almost immediately, to head a people's commissariat, that of hygiene, and gave her, on one occasion, a political mission abroad. Captain Jacques Sadoul, in his memoirs of Russia, a moving chronicle of the historic days of 1917-18, calls her the «Red Maiden of the Revolution».

The history of the Russian revolution is, in fact, closely connected with the history of the achievements of feminism. The Council Constitution grants women the same rights as men. Women in Russia are electors and eligible for election. According to the Constitution, all workers, without distinction of gender, nationality, or religion, enjoy equal rights. The Communist State does not distinguish or differentiate between genders or nationalities; it divides society into two classes: bourgeois and proletarians. And, within the dictatorship of their class, proletarian women can exercise any public office. In Russia, there are innumerable women working in the national administration and in the municipal administrations. Women, moreover, are frequently called upon to serve in courts of law. Several women, Krupskaja, for example, collaborate in Lunacarskij's educational work. Others intervene conspicuously in the activity of the Communist Party and the Third International, Angelica Balabanoff, for example.

The councils greatly encourage and stimulate women's collaboration. The reasons for this feminist policy are well known. Communism found in women a dangerous resistance. Russian women, peasants mainly, were elements spontaneously hostile to the revolution. Through their religious superstitions, they saw in the work of the councils only an impious, absurd, and heretical work. The councils understood, from the first moment, the necessity of a shrewd work of education and revolutionary adaptation of women. To this end, they mobilized all their adherents and sympathizers, among whom were, as we have seen, some women of great intellect.

And it is not only in Russia that the women's movement appears markedly in solidarity with the revolutionary movement. Feminist demands have found in all countries energetic support from the Left wing. In Italy, the Socialists have always advocated women's suffrage. Many Socialist organizers and agitators come from the ranks of the suffragette movement. Sylvia Pankhurst, among others, having won the battle for the vote, joined the Far Left of the English proletariat.

But these victorious feminist conquests are actually the fulfilment of the final stage of the bourgeois revolution and of the last chapter of the ideology of Liberalism. In the past, the relation between women and politics was anything but set in stone. In feudal society, women had only exceptionally, inconsequentially, and indirectly any influence on the workings of the State. But, at least, women of royal blood could get to the throne. The divine right of the monarch extended to women as well as to men. The French revolution, on the other hand, inaugurated a regime of political equality for men, but not for women. Quite appropriately, what today are known as «human rights» were then known as the «rights of man». Under the rule of the bourgeoisie, women became much more alienated from politics than under the rule of the aristocracy. Bourgeois democracy was an exclusively male democracy. However, its course of development was, of necessity, intensely favourable to women's emancipation. Capitalist civilization gave women the means to increase their abilities and to improve their position in life. It enabled and prepared them to conquer and make use of the same political and civil rights as men. Today, finally, women are acquiring these rights. This fact, which has been sped up by the emerging proletarian-socialist revolution, is still an echo of the individualist, Jacobin revolution. Before this fact came into existence, political equality was neither complete nor total. Society was divided, not only according to classes, but also according to gender. Gender determined whether one's political rights were affirmed or negated. This inequality now disappears at the same time as the political trajectory of democracy is coming to an end.

The first result of political gender equality is the entry of some women into politics and economic management, who constitute a vanguard. But the revolutionary significance of this fact is much greater than that. Troubadours and lovers of female frivolity have every reason to worry. The type of woman produced by a century of capitalist refinement is condemned to decadence and decay. An Italian writer, Pitigrilli, classifies this type of modern woman as a type of luxury mammal. And, well, this luxury mammal will be gradually depleted. As the socialist system replaces the individualist system, luxury and feminine elegance will decline. Luxury and socialism are incompatible and enemies. Humanity will lose some luxury mammals; but it will gain many women. The costumes of the women of the future will be less expensive and sumptuous; but the status of those women will be more dignified. And the axis of female life will shift from the individual to the social. Fashion will no longer consist in the imitation of some Madame de Pompadour dressed in pearls. It will consist, perhaps, in the imitation of some Madame Kollontaj. A woman, in short, will cost less, but will be worth more.

The literary enemies of feminism are afraid that women's beauty and grace will suffer as a result of the feminist conquests. They believe that politics, university, and the courts will turn women into unattractive and even unfriendly beings. But this belief is unfounded. The biographers of Madame Kollontaj tell us about how, during the dramatic days of the Russian revolution, this illustrious Russian woman found both the time and the spiritual disposition to fall in love and get married. She did not seem to find an irreconcilable antagonism between her honeymoon and her post as a people's commissar.

We are already indebted to the new women's education for numerous reasons. Poetry, for example, has been greatly enriched. Women's literature in these times has a female accent which it did not possess before. In former times, women's literature was non-gendered. It was generally neither male nor female. It represented, at most, a gender-neutral genre of literature. Today, women are beginning to feel, consider, and express themselves as women in their literature and art. A particular and essentially female literature has emerged. This literature is discovering until now unknown rhythms and colours. Do not the Countess of Noailles, Ada Negri, and Juana de Ibarbourou sometimes speak in an unusual language that reveals a new world to us?

Felix del Valle has argued, in a quite mischievous and original way, in an essay that women are evicting men from the genre of poetry. Just as they have replaced men in various jobs, women now seem to replace them in the production of poetry as well. In short, poetry is becoming a women's craft. However, in truth, this is a humorous thesis. It is not true that male poetry is becoming extinct, but rather that we, for the first time, are seeing characteristically female poetry. And this gives women a very advantageous but temporary edge in their poetic competition with men.