Alexandra Kollontai: biography of this Russian politician and thinker

With the October Revolution, many social changes took place in Russia. The country went from a tsarist regime to a communist regime, the founding of the Soviet Union and the recognition of various workers’ rights.

But as is often the case in much of the world, if women want their rights to be recognized, they must breach society, fight for them and, if they are lucky, overthrow the system. patriarchal from within, which Alexandra Kollontai was about to achieve.

Today, we will discover the life of this pioneering feminist, a key figure in the recognition of women’s rights in the Soviet Union and who had the honor of being the first ambassador of a modern nation, through a biography of Alexandra Kollontai.

    Brief biography of Alexandra Kollontai

    Alexandra Mikhailovna Kollontai is one of the most important figures of Marxism and her political and intellectual influence is present in many feminist and left movements. Here we are going to review his career.

    first years

    Alexandra Mikhailovna Kollontai, born Alexandra Mikhailovna Domontovich, was born on March 31, 1872 in St. Petersburg., When Russia was still a Tsarist Empire.

    His family was aristocratic, of Ukrainian descent who emerged in the 13th century. His father was Mikhail Domontovich, a general in the service of the Tsar, and his mother was Alexandra Androvna Masalina-Mravinskaya, from a Finnish peasant family of great fortune thanks to the lumber industry.

    Thanks to the financial resources available to her family, young Alexandra had access to private teachers who educated her throughout the year. When summer arrived, he spent his days reading on the family farm in Karelia, a region of Finland under Russian rule. like that, From a young age, Alexandra Kollontai was steeped in the lives of farmers and farm workers.

    Alexandra has always been very close to her father who instilled in her an interest in history and politics from a liberal perspective. Instead, she didn’t have such a great relationship with her mother and on more than one occasion they had conflicts, especially when the young woman showed interest in furthering her education. Alexandra’s mother deemed it inappropriate for a woman to devote her life to studying or earning her intellectual living.

    At 19, Alexandra met her future husband, her cousin Vladimir Ludvigovich Kollontai. Although the young fell in love, the mother opposed the marriage, because Vladimir was a young engineering student of humble origins. They also managed to get married and, after giving birth to their first child Mikhail, Alexandra Kollontai she began to feel great disillusionment with married life, as she saw it as a trap which did not allow him to develop his intellectual activity, especially to be able to write.

    A free and socialist woman

    She still loved her husband and son, in 1896 Alexandra decided to join the Socialist Party and went to study in Zurich, Switzerland, Leaving his family behind. The Swiss city was a real opportunity for Kollontai, as it had become the nerve center of students interested in socialism and, being there, decided to study political economy.

    At this time he became acquainted with the ideas of Karl Marx and Vladimir Ilich Lenin, as well as with the thought of Karl Kautsky and Rosa Luxemburg. At this time, he wrote his first article, in which he examined the influence of the environment on the development of children, and his first book studied the living and working conditions of the Finnish proletariat in relation to industry. The book was published in 1903 in St. Petersburg, where it attracted the attention of the most revolutionary sectors.

    In 1899 he joined the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ PartySomething that would begin her busy life as a revolutionary woman and a key figure in Russian society of her time. This will lead him to take part in the revolutionary events of 1905 after seeing the massacre of workers in front of the Winter Palace.

    During World War I, Kollontai openly protested against this. The reason was that he saw that the conflict was nothing more than another large-scale action marked by imperialist motives in the service of the ruling class. In this sense, he participated in the Zimmerwald conference of 1915 and, after several events in Imperial Russia, participated in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

      Under Lenin’s shadow

      Alexandra Kollontai joined the Bolshevik movement in 1914, known to be the most radical faction of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party., To be established by Lenin himself. From 1915, Kollontai was Lenin’s assistant, which is a great honor for a woman who wanted gender equality to be achieved. A few months before her arrival in October 1917, Kollontai became the first woman elected member of the Party Central Committee.

      After the October Revolution and the Bolsheviks came to power, Alexandra Kollontai was appointed village commissioner for social protection. She was also elected member of the executive committee of the Petrograd Soviet, the new name of St. Petersburg. Kollontai actively supported Lenin in his vision of the Soviets as agents for the exercise of power and keys to leaving bourgeois society behind.

      After all this, Alexandra Kollontai immersed herself in the leadership of the Soviet Women’s Organization in 1920, known as Zhenotdel. This important step in her career as a feminist referent was due to the fact that Lenin had promoted her appointment, making her a woman with a great capacity to initiate social change from within.

      Alexandra Kollontai she defined her social and feminist policy by moving it away from the family structure. According to the Marxist ideas he followed, the bourgeois family was the center of the oppressive and immoral social structures of capitalism, so it was necessary to change this institution or overthrow it directly to achieve greater citizen freedom. She and many socialists believed that the idea of ​​the patriarchal family should be overturned, making custody of children and the home the task of all of society.

      That is why Kollontai, with the support of Lenin, plan a network of institutions that would function as nurseries, nurseries, restaurants and public laundries, Services that would free women from custody of children and the home traditionally assigned to them. This almost utopian ideal aimed to make society act like one big family in which all its citizens were protected.

      Leveraging her power within the Zhenodtel, Alexandra Kollontai enacted several feminist laws. He made marriage a civil and egalitarian institution between spouses, facilitated access to divorce for both parties and obtained state protection for mothers and children, as well as free maternal assistance in wedding hospitals.

      Kollontai was changing his society, in which women had been subordinated to men, institutions themselves, making it legally binding. The Revolution succeeded in laying the foundations for real equality between men and women, but it was Alexandra Kollontai who made it concrete through legal means. Taking advantage of her influence, she tried to raise awareness of female sexual liberation in two works, Not without controversy: the new woman and love in communist society.

      Disputes with the party

      But while this was largely what Kollontai managed to mobilize from the institutions themselves, he made several mistakes. The first was to depend too much on the figure of Lenin. By losing his support and being ousted from the Zhenotdel, all of Kollontai’s political influence collapsed like a house of cards. As much as it was difficult for him to recognize Kollontai, the main character of his time was a man and needed him to carry out his reforms. revolutionary.

      The reason Lenin stopped supporting her was his defense of female sexual freedom. Kollontai he wanted women to move away from traditional family life and achieve sexual freedom, not just having children as a primary goal. vital. The problem with this was that no matter how revolutionary the newly formed Soviet Union was, its ideas were too radical, even for other socialist women, who had deeply rooted traditionalist ideas.

      The other mistake was to think that he would succeed in replacing the idea of ​​the traditional family with that of a socialist state that would take care of domestic roles, regardless of Lenin’s support. Post-revolutionary Russia was still recovering from civil war, facing famine, death and desolation, forcing citizens to take refuge with their families so they could move on. The family was an institution which, although traditional and patriarchal, was the most resilient and secure of all.

      The first ambassador

      Kollontai’s views began to be disturbed within the party, especially by Joseph Stalin, Which he criticized explicitly. Many of her socialist colleagues accused her of bigotry and she was even threatened with expulsion from the party. This is why, in 1922, Alexandra Kollontai had already lost practically all of her political force in Russia and Lenin relegated her to diplomatic functions.

      Becoming an ambassador was not a shame, on the contrary: she had become the first woman ambassador in the world. He represented the Soviet Union in Sweden, Norway and Mexico and was also part of the Soviet delegation to the League of Nations, an institution similar to the modern UN.

      last years

      Taking advantage of her diplomatic work, Alexandra Kollontai traveling over 20 years across Europe and the United States, Defend and extend its socialist feminist theses. But while convincingly defending his revolutionary ideas abroad, the Soviet Union was changing again, this time against him. Joseph Stalin took advantage of his absence to overturn several of the laws adopted by Kollontai, doing away with everything that was achieved by revolutionary feminism.

      In 1945, after the end of World War II, he returned to the Soviet Union. A year later, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She spent her last years in Moscow, writing her memoirs and being an advisor to the Russian Foreign Ministry.. Alexandra Mikhailovna Kollontai died on March 9, 1952 in Moscow, at the age of 79.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Kollontai, A. (2015) Autobiography of a sexually emancipated woman and other texts on love, Hours and Hours, Madrid. ISBN 978-84-96004-62-7
      • Kollontai, A. (2018) Fourteen lectures at Sverdlov University of Leningrad, Cienflores, Madrid. ISBN 978-987-45535-1-5
      • Kollontai, A. (2008) Love of worker bees, Alba, Barcelona. ISBN 978-84-8428-419-2
      • Kollontai, A. (2017) Love and the New Woman, Cienflores, Madrid. ISBN 978-987-4039-08-8
      • Kollontai, A. (2017) Socialist feminism and revolution, Federico Engels Foundation, Madrid, 2017. ISBN 978-84-16285-27-3
      • Kollontai, A. (2008) The Bolsheviks in Love, Txalaparta, Tafalla. ISBN 978-84-8136-509-2
      • Kollontai, A. (2011) Sexual Relations and the Class Struggle, In Struggle, n / a, 2011. ISBN 9789588926667
      • Kollontai, A. (2016) Women and the class struggle, Viejo Topo, Barcelona. ISBN 978-84-16288-78-6

      Leave a Comment