Kerala | Former health minister K.K. Shailaja on why Russian revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai’s book The Soviet Woman is particularly relevant today


KK Shailaja, or Professor Shailaja as she is fondly known, was Kerala's Minister for Health, Social Justice and Women and Child Development from 2016 to 2021.  2016 to 2021 as Minister of Health, Social Justice and Women and Child Development of Kerala.

KK Shailaja, or Professor Shailaja as she is fondly known, was Kerala’s Minister for Health, Social Justice and Women and Child Development from 2016 to 2021. | Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

of the Russian revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai Soviet woman, which I read again this year, can help us in our attempts to deal with the social and political puzzles of our time. The distinction between bourgeois feminism and socialist feminism, as she explains with great care, is more relevant today because we see almost everyone, dressed as a feminist, fighting against progressive ideals that would bring change in society. His thoughts can strengthen the fight against gender inequality and decadence, if they do not promote free sex in a bourgeois society.

Alexandra Kollontai was People's Commissar for Welfare in Vladimir Lenin's government in 1917-1918.

Alexandra Kollontai was People’s Commissar for Welfare in Vladimir Lenin’s government in 1917-1918. | Photo: Wiki Commons

The only woman elected to the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party during the Russian Revolution of 1917, Kollontai was People’s Commissar for Welfare in the first Soviet government. However, they did not give him the importance given to Marxist male thinkers and historians. Perhaps the feudal-capitalist system we live in has never really prepared us to accept the progressive thoughts that permeated its social analyses, which were mostly misinterpreted. This explains the importance of his book, published in 2017 by LeftWord Books, with a remarkable introduction by Parvathi Menon.

Kollontai’s views on women’s liberation, socialist society and socialist family relations need to be further explored in light of the decadence of the present times. Students of politics cannot ignore his work in three areas: socialist concepts of women’s liberation and pragmatic interventions to make it happen; His views on the reconstruction of society after World War; and studies of family, marriage, love and sex in different social systems.

a society without exploitation

While bourgeois feminists advocate equal gender rights, including the right to be exploited, in a capitalist society, the working class proposes a society without exploitation, where men and women have equal rights. In addition, socialist feminism requires special attention to childbirth, child care, etc.

Kollontai’s interpretation of family, love, marriage, sex and morality must be read against the backdrop of the sexist and exploitative patriarchal characteristics of family relations in a feudal-capitalist society. We are troubled by news of social evils such as dowry deaths, cruelty by domineering lovers, honor killings and rapes, most of which stem from our society’s wrong view of the relationship between men and women. Usually, in a feudal-capitalist society, marriage is based on convenience, not on love, and it results from an exploitative, loveless and unequal partnership between the sexes, resulting in a sexual crisis, ‘ownership’ and a ‘sense of ownership’.

In a socialist society, man and woman would strive to express their love not only through kisses and hugs, but also through joint creativity and activity. The task of proletarian ideology is to educate sexual relations in the spirit of friendship.

(as told by S. Anandani)

anandan.s@thehindu.co.in

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