The German socialist women's movement 1890-1914

Reading about Rosa Luxemburg

Published on: Wed, 16/01/2019 - 12:33

As we go to press on 15 January 2019, it is exactly the 100th anniversary of the murder of the Polish¬German revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg. She was killed by a right-wing militia operating under the Social¬Democratic government which was heading off the German workers’ revolution.

We have a pamphlet in production on Luxemburg and the German revolution. Readers can also find a good summary of Luxemburg’s political work in two articles, from 1935 and 1938, by Max Shachtman.

The 1938 article is in print as an item in our book In Defence of Bolshevism. Much more on Rosa Luxemburg on

Rosa Luxemburg: fiery, sharp, funny, sometimes sad

Published on: Wed, 14/09/2011 - 12:22

Rosie Woods reviews The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg, published in March 2011 by Verso Books.

Many women on the left have their own heroines, women from the past who have inspired them. Sylvia Pankhurst, Clara Zetkin, Minnie Lansbury... Mine has always been Rosa Luxemburg. The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg showed me her personal side.

Here are letters written to a variety of friends, lovers and comrades, dating from 1891 until 1919, the last written just four days before her murder by the Freikorps (German far right paramilitaries). They are an interesting and at times very moving insight into her

International working women's day

Published on: Wed, 09/03/2011 - 12:27

I had resolved to avoid reading the Guardian on Tuesday 8 March. I knew they would be publishing a “100 most inspiring women list” on this, the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. And I had no desire to revisit the taste of my breakfast on my way into work.

The list had been trailed in the paper some weeks before and promised to include Margaret Thatcher, Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton. Hence the anticipation of nausea. In the event, the list was not as bad as I expected, just boring and predictable.

And the Guardian did not bother to enquire about or explain the origins of this

German socialist women’s movement - Self-organisation and class unity

Published on: Fri, 04/11/2005 - 09:48

During the nineteenth century, the emerging workers’ movement began to develop its policy on the “woman question”. Some of the early, “utopian” socialists argued strongly for women’s liberation. Ferdinand Lassalle led the “proletarian anti-feminists”, opposing votes for women and urging male workers to strike against women’s entry into industrial labour. Marx and Engels opposed Lassalle, arguing that women’s work was a step forward, a precondition for liberation.

In 1875, the Socialist Labour Party of Germany — later to become the Social Democratic Party (SPD) — was formed. The party went on

German socialism and the “woman question”

Published on: Fri, 21/10/2005 - 18:34

During the nineteenth century, the emerging workers’ movement began to develop its policy on the “woman question”. The early, “utopian” socialists argued strongly for women’s liberation. Ferdinand Lassalle led the “proletarian anti-feminists”, opposing votes for women and urging male workers to strike against women’s entry into industrial labour. Marx and Engels opposed Lassalle, arguing that women’s work was a step forward, and a precondition for liberation.

In 1875, the Socialist Labour Party of Germany — later to become the Social Democratic Party (SPD) — was formed. In 1879, imprisoned SPD

Introduction

Published on: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 11:24

Introducing a series of articles on the German socialist women's movement 1890-1914, by Janine Booth

During the nineteenth century, the emerging workers’ movement began to develop its policy on the ‘woman question’. The early, ‘utopian’ socialists argued strongly for women’s liberation. Ferdinand Lassalle led the ‘proletarian anti-feminists’, opposing votes for women and urging male workers to strike against women’s entry into industrial labour. Marx and Engels opposed Lassalle, arguing that women’s work was a step forward, and a precondition for liberation.

In 1875, the Socialist Labour

Organising Working-class Women

Published on: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 11:13

The second in a series of articles about the German socialist women's movement 1890-1914, by Janine Booth

Education

German socialist women placed strong emphasis on education. They set up education clubs for women and girls (Frauen- and Madchen-Bildungsverein), which held meetings, hosted lectures, published articles and pamphlets, and gathered information on women’s working conditions. Each club had between 50 and 250 members, who paid a small monthly fee.

By 1905, 3,000 women were members of education clubs. From 1908, women’s reading evenings (Leseabende) operated in around 150

Working-class Women and Bourgeois Feminists

Published on: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 11:03

The third in a series of articles about the German socialist women's movement 1890-1914, by Janine Booth

What is often seen as one issue - referred to at the time as the ‘woman question’ - actually developed quite differently amongst women of different classes.

Bourgeois women

Women of the new capitalist class had a sharp experience of sexist discrimination, living alongside men of their own class who had achieved many of the political, educational and economic rights that they were still, as women, denied. These were women who did not share all the privileges of aristocratic women; but

Should the Workers' Movement Have Special Structures for Women?

Published on: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 10:50

The fourth in a series of articles about the German socialist women's movement 1890-1914, by Janine Booth

Laws against women’s organisation

After Bismarck’s Anti-Socialist Law lapsed in 1890, laws remained which restricted women’s political activity. The 1851 Prussian Association Law banned women from membership of political organisations, and from organising politically.

The application of the law varied between different states, but throughout Germany, women’s political activity was severely curtailed. In general, women were not allowed to attend any meeting at which public affairs

Conclusions

Published on: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 10:44

The last in a series of articles about the German socialist women's movement 1890-1914, by Janine Booth

Divided loyalties

Socialist feminists are continually accused of ‘divided loyalties’, challenged to declare which is our priority: class or sex. It makes a lot more sense to direct this challenge at feminists who defend capitalism, or at socialist men.

All working-class people share a common interest in overthrowing capitalism and achieving socialism. Nevertheless, some groups enjoy a degree of privilege within capitalism. Their benefits may be marginal and short-term, but could still

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