The Comintern, Communist women leaders and the struggle for women's liberation in Britain between the wars: a political and prosopographical investigation, part 1

McIlroy, John and Campbell, Alan (2022) The Comintern, Communist women leaders and the struggle for women's liberation in Britain between the wars: a political and prosopographical investigation, part 1. Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory, 50 (1) . pp. 51-105. ISSN 0301-7605 [Article] (doi:10.1080/03017605.2022.2050532)

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Abstract

The literature on Communist women is sparse and touches tangentially on the lives of female activists, even those who participated in the Communist Party leadership. This is the first part of a two-part article which examines 15 of the 18 very unusual women who figured on the Central Committee (CC) of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) between 1920 and 1939. It outlines Communist perspectives on women's liberation documenting their roots in the Marxist analysis associated with Frederick Engels, August Bebel and Clara Zetkin, pioneered in the Second International and the German Social Democracy (SPD), taken up by the Bolsheviks, and adopted in the early 1920s by the infant Comintern. It discusses the strengths and weaknesses displayed by this theoretical tradition and its critique of its rival, feminism. It traces attempts to translate it into practice in Britain thwarted by the resilience of conventional consciousness and the development of Stalinism. In that context, the article adopts a prosopographical approach. It provides a statistical survey of the leading women who made up a mere 13% of CC membership between the World Wars. High turnover hindered female cadre building; 83% of our subjects served only a single term. The cohort was more middle-class than male CC representatives or women in the party at large. While 60% had Communist partners, in a surprising 70% of these cases the woman was more prominent politically. Children and family did not preclude high levels of activism and greater loyalty to the CPGB measured by longevity of party membership than their male CC counterparts. The second part of the paper explores the lives and careers of individual women leaders.

Item Type: Article
Keywords (uncontrolled): Gender, Comintern, Communist Party of Great Britain, Prosopography, Feminism, Women's Liberation
Research Areas: A. > Business School
Item ID: 36621
Notes on copyright: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory on 2 Jan 2022, available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/03017605.2022.2050532
Useful Links:
Depositing User: John Mcilroy
Date Deposited: 18 Oct 2022 15:34
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 17:37
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/36621

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