Bread, Roses & Hormones is launching our first ever Socialist Feminist Summer School this June! We will meet every two weeks online and in regional groups, starting Wednesday, June 2nd, 7:00pm. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to join.
The purpose of the summer school is to introduce trans people to our practical work alongside a theoretical study of the histories and strategies of women in the socialist revolutions of Russia, China, and Cuba. The object of our study is the following question: What does a revolution in the sphere of reproduction look like?
Through our experiences of organizing, we have realized that white, male-dominated socialist organizations and approaches treat gender and race oppression as secondary to class exploitation. We have also realized that feminist politics is dominated by middle-class women’s consciousness, institutions, and interests. The solution to these problems is to reground feminist politics in the needs and consciousness of working class women and trans people. This project will take capable trans militants who are versed in both practical organizing skills and revolutionary theory.
The goal of our summer school is to study the history of women in three socialist revolutions towards a theory and strategy for revolution in the sphere of production and reproduction. We hope summer school participants find the lessons in these readings helpful for the organizing work they are taking on today.
Our first class is a critical reading of Friedrich Engels’ foundational text The Origin of Family, Private Property, and the State. We believe it is necessary to study Engels’ insights and errors, including his colonial, racist, and sexist distortions, because the socialist feminist tradition departs from Engels’ premise that history is propelled by the “production and reproduction of immediate life.”
Following from this, we will read about three revolutionary socialist experiments, focusing on gender dynamics and women’s political leadership. We begin with the Russian Revolution of 1917 and its attempt to “socialize” the private labour of the home. While these efforts represented a massive shift in the lives of women in the USSR, they did not liberate women from their traditional roles: women were still burdened with doing the socialized reproductive labour. Furthermore, with the rise of Stalinist reaction, the gains of women, gays, and trans people were reversed.
In our class on the Chinese Revolution, we focus on what scholar Judith Stacey calls the “New Democratic Patriarchy”: the democratization of patriarchal power among the male peasantry in the New Democratic period (1937-53) of the revolution. We will also examine strategies developed by revolutionary women in the Party’s women federations to make the Chinese Revolution a women’s revolution too.
Finally, we will study the Cuban Revolution, which transformed from a national revolution against American imperialism to a socialist revolution over the course of 30 years of continuous struggle. Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro famously described women as leading a “revolution within the revolution,” fighting not only for socialism but also a social transformation between men and women. The Cuban Revolution worked to convince the masses that it was in their interest to volunteer their energies to social transformation. This approach was responsible for significant change in the lives of women, but had its limits too.
After we complete our summer school, we will hold a wrap-up reflection and celebration. Depending on the state of the pandemic and the weather, this will either be online or in person. BRH will provide food, snacks, and beverages (alcoholic beverages for a small charge, which will go to the BRH campaign fund). We hope out of this reflection and celebration that we can synthesize an answer to the course question, plan publishing and further study work, and rejoice in the work we accomplished over the summer together!
Introduction to practical organizing and theoretical study: The unity between theory and practice
Overview of Bread, Roses & Hormones politics and strategy
- Trans Power is Built in the Streets: the development and purpose of the BRH survey
- Introduction to course outline and readings
Class one: Foundations – Reading and challenging Engels
June 2nd, 7pm.
- Frederick Engels, The Origin of Family, Private Property and the State
Class two: The Bolshevik feminist attack on the nuclear family
June 16th, 7pm. Download the full printable package here.
- Judy Cox, The Women’s Revolution: “Chapter 1: Where are the Women?” and “Chapter 4: 1905: A Festival of the Oppressed” to “Conclusion: Tribunes of the Oppressed.”
- Alexandra Kollontai, Communism and the Family (PDF version)
- Clara Zetkin, Lenin on the Women’s Question (PDF version)
Class three: Stalin’s recuperation of traditional gender roles
June 30th, 7pm. Download the full printable package here.
- Marcelline Hutton, Resilient Russian Women in the 1920s and 1930s: Chapter 6, Peasants: Section D-6: “Factors in Peasant Resistance,” Chapter 7: Section C: “Hard Lives During Industrialization,” Chapter 9: Section C-D: “Purges of Social Revolutionaries, Purges of Communist Party Members”
- Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed: Chapter 7: Family, Youth and Culture: Section: Thermidor in the Family (PDF version)
- Leslie Feinberg, Lavender and Red: Chapters 12, “1920s Soviet Union: Rights for lesbians, transgenders, transsexuals” to Chapter 15, “Progress and Regression: Sex and gender in 1930s USSR”
- Josef Stalin, “International Women’s Day,” March 8, 1925 speech
Class four: The Chinese Revolution’s “New Democratic Patriarchy” and the women’s federations
July 14th, 7pm. Download the full printable package here.
- Frances Conway, Women in the Chinese Revolution: “The Women’s Associations” section
- Judith Stacey, Patriarchy and Socialist Revolution in China
- Wang Zheng, Feminist Contentions in Socialist State Formation: A case study of the Shanghai Women’s Federation
- Mao Zedong, “Report on the investigation of the peasant movement in Hunan,” 1927.
- Mao Zedong, “Women,” from The Little Red Book.
- Zhong Xiu, “You should value marriage,” Women in China magazine, 1979, pg 12-14.
Class five: Cuban women’s “Revolution in the Revolution”
July 28th, 7pm. Download the full printable package here.
- Nancy Stout, “Celia leaves the Underground,” from Nancy Stout, One Day in December: Celia Sanchez and the Cuban Revolution
- Yolanda Ferrer, “What it meant to be female began to change,” from Espin, de los Santos, and Ferrer, Women in Cuba: The making of a Revolution within the Revolution
- Lois M Smith and Alfred Padula, Sex and Revolution: Women in Socialist Cuba, Chapter 1, “Women in Pre-Revolutionary Cuba,” Chapter 10-13, “Sexual Discrimination in the Workplace,” “Day Care and other Services,” “Family and Revolution,” and “Family Dynamics”
- Lois M Smith and Alfred Padula, “Family and Revolution,” from Sex and Revolution: Women in Socialist Cuba
- Documents of the First Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, 1975. See especially the following excerpts from Raul Castro’s opening speech:
- “The mistakes that have been made,” pg 114-123
- “The new constitution,” pg 165-171
- “The mass and social organizations,” pg 175-190 (with section on the Cuban Women’s Federation)
- “The Party,” pg 216-213
- Closing speech from Fidel Castro