CULTURAL REVOLUTION WITHIN THE SOCIALIST PARTY
To the consternation of male Socialists, the Socialist women waged their sex struggle within the Socialist party as well as within mainstream society. Indeed, their agitation generated far more controversy within the SP, where they were quite visible, than in the suffrage movement, where they remained largely unnoticed. The Socialist women, in effect, demanded a cultural and structural revolution within the Socialist party as a precursor of social revolution.
The Socialist women championed important doctrinal changes in orthodox Marxist philosophy. The concept of a "sex struggle" undermined another key SP tenet besides the class struggle, that of economic determinism. Lida Parce's Economic Determinism, rather than being a rigorous application of historical materialism, inadvertently revealed the vast influence of ideas, technology, individual personality, and pure chance on events. Parce's belief that women and men possess distinct mental capacities and different forms of reason (and that the female versions were superior) necessarily complicated any simple reduction of history to merely economic changes, interpreted as class relations to the means of production. If most women were members of the working class, as all Socialist women asserted, then not all working-class consciousness was formed the same way. Whether a working-class woman worked for her husband, for his employer, or, as Conger-Kaneko said, for both (as well as for her own employer when she worked for wages outside the home), her experience, and thus her consciousness, would differ even from that of the man in her own household. Part of this difference would stem from her unique relation to the means of production, but a large part would derive from her relationship to her husband and family, her experience of her body, and her relationships with her neighbors and to the legal structure.
Acknowledgement that gender differences were fundamental would itself weaken any simplistic base/superstructure theory. At the least it would require incorporation of gender into the base. This would imply the relevance of other forms of cultural identity, such as race, nationality, and non-class (in the sense of relationship to the means of production) factors such as education and skill. Even if gender were acknowledged as a distinct and semi-autonomous part of the base, a woman's dual role as a worker and a woman would generate a dual consciousness separate from that of men, as well as raise the question of still other forms of consciousness based on other cultural identities. How this would resolve itself in any single individual would remain necessarily indeterminate; the predictive value of the simple base/superstructure dogma would be severely undercut.
This predictive value was a major advantage of the base/superstructure model based on a purely economic determinism. If class relations alone determined history, Marxists felt assured that their prediction of inevitable Socialism triumph was validated by the immanent tendencies of capitalist society. The increasing concentration of wealth in few hands, the growth of monopoly and the destruction of the middle class, and the immiseration of the workers would generate proletarian revolution. But if other factors such as gender, race, nationality, and religion acted as independent forces which helped determine history's outcome, then the future was no longer as certain. Identities based on factors other than class could theoretically postpone or even defeat Socialist revolution. Even if Socialism did triumph, its nature would vary depending upon cultural variables that were far more important than mere epiphenomena of class. This, in turn, would undercut a key psychological support which helped motivate Socialist activists. Such activists braved persecution, jail, and the threat of death, serene in the conviction that History was on their side (or, more precisely, that they were on History's side). Their sacrifices, therefore, could not be in vain, but would assuredly bear fruit.
The Socialist women's skeptical questioning of the base/superstructure dogma, therefore, challenged a basic philosophical and psychological support of orthodox Marxism. Writers for The Socialist Woman, nevertheless, argued that the base and superstructure actually resembled a force-field of mutually-interacting factors, each of which were both cause and effect, more than a simple one-dimensional and monocausal cause and effect. Gender identities were not superstructural epiphenomena, but as essential a part of society's basis as was class. Elsa Untermann strongly stated this view, although, perhaps aware of the incendiary nature of her utterance, put it in a story and in the mouth of an apparition. "Your economic factor is not the only factor in the growth of human society," she proclaimed. "There are many forces that build universal life, and as human beings are a part of the universe these react on them and thereby affect 'economic conditions'.... More forces were instrumental in the formation of that desire [of men to control women, and to invent religions to justify and facilitate this] than mere economic determinism.... It is extremely important that sex peculiarities be taken into consideration.... All the forces of the Cosmos intermingle, supplement each other, and interact on all things. And he is more than human who professes to know where the effect of one or another begins and ends."
Untermann's heterodox analysis evoked protest, as had The Masses editor Max Eastman's similar modification of the simplistic, orthodox formulation of economic determinism and historical materialism in his theoretical essay "Towards Liberty." The next month Untermann replied to her critics. She praised the concept of economic determinism as providing a scientific basis for the working-class self-emancipatory struggle, but added that "I do not object to this doctrine because of what it contains, but because it omits something it should not." Creating new life was as essential an economic and human principle as sustaining life through productive work. "Therefore I think that there should be included in the materialistic conception of history a statement to the effect that the forms which society assumes depend also upon which sex is dominating." Women suffered from a "double slavery"; human liberation required gender as well as class freedom. Writing in The International Socialist Review, Parce agreed, saying that "Both historically and logically the question of the status of woman is prior to the question of economic organization." Retreating from the more incendiary consequences of this idea, Parce added that "I have not said 'more important;' I have said 'prior.' But it if it prior it cannot be less important."
Lena Morrow Lewis concurred, and condemned equally Socialists who ignored gender issues and feminists who obfuscated class oppression. "Just as there are some Socialists who have studied the class struggle so intently and believe that the doctrine of economic determinism is not only the dominant factor, but the only factor that determines the actions of men and women and therefore cannot see anything in the sex struggle, so there are some enthusiastic workers in behalf of women's emancipation, that are so absorbed in this movement that they know nothing of the class struggle." She cautioned Socialists that ideas could attain permanent, autonomous agency, even when detached from the original causes which had given them birth. "The argument is made that all sex differences can be traced back to economic causes. That economic dependence is the basis of all other kinds of slavery or bondage. Whatever truth there may be in this claim, the prejudice against women having all the rights and privileges of a human being is so deeply rooted and grounded in the minds of some men that it has all the virtues of a primary rather than a secondary principle." Eleanor Wentworth agreed that women's oppression originated in her economic servitude, but warned that "the cause of its continuance, the source of its endurance, is the ethical idea that grows out of such a condition--the sense of inferiority attached to dependent persons. And the dependent ones help to bolster this conception by acquiescence."
Socialism, therefore, would not automatically end women's oppression; separate, sustained, and organized feminist struggle was necessary. Parce even lamented that if Socialism triumphed soon, "the result would be a parasitism of the female sex" because both women and men wanted a society characterized by a male breadwinner out in the world and a female homemaker confined in the patriarchal household. If men suddenly, in a Socialist society, kept the full product of their labor without a feminist restructuring of working-class consciousness, "the men would, almost without exception, prefer to see the women of their families remain in their domestic sphere," subordinate and dependent. And the working-class women, fearful of the rigors of wage work, would concur. "Socialism will give woman her opportunity," Parce exclaimed. "She must prepare herself to claim that opportunity," but "she cannot reclaim her powers under the constant assertion of her inferiority."
In a striking reversal of received male doctrine, Parce denied that Socialism would necessarily liberate women. Rather, she asserted that a liberated womanhood would inevitably inaugurate Socialism. "Capitalism was built upon the subjection of women," she said. "No other foundation could have supported the structure. The freedom of woman is the overthrow of capitalism. While a large measure of Socialism could be established without securing the freedom of woman, the freedom of woman would absolutely end capitalism." The sex struggle trumped the class struggle; it was not only older and more basic, but victory there automatically ensured the victory of the working class, while the contrary was definitely not true. Feminism required, and generated, a more far-reaching revolution than did Socialism.
Conger-Kaneko undercut traditional dogma in another way, by doubting that Socialism would finally triumph at a specified moment in time, or even that it had a single fixed meaning. She conceptualized Socialism rather as a potentiality that could take many forms, depending on human volition and will, and would never fully arrive. Answering men who demanded that women remain quiescent until after the Revolution, Conger-Kaneko asserted that "there isn't going to be any 'day after the revolution.' The revolution will continue as long as the race continues, and Socialism won't be established in its entirety in a week--nor in a hundred years.... Better begin your [women's] liberation business TODAY if you want to see anything done in your lifetime." She warned that "the woman question is going to be one of the last things to get settled--unless the women get busy about it now."
Helen Untermann penned the most definitive statement of this heterodox view. Untermann claimed that sex consciousness "is the awakening of a sex to its positions and obligations in life, just as class consciousness is the awakening of a class to its position and obligations in society." Men who claimed that economic equality would automatically liberate women, and that women should remain for now quiescent, ignored the fact that they same argument could justify Socialist and working-class inactivity. (The anarchists, ironically, bitterly complained that the Socialist doctrines of economic determinism and historical materialism did in fact lead to quietism, lethargy, and a formalistic reliance on bourgeois legal forms among Socialists--a view in which many historians, especially of the SPD, concur.) But the idea that Socialism, or feminism, could triumph "without educating the people as to its meaning" was false. In a startling and unorthodox passage, much more typical of a later, chastened Socialism faced with the onslaught of Nazism than of the optimistic pre-war orthodoxy, Untermann denied that History had a foreordained trajectory. Rather, she asserted that human intelligence, will, and values decisively affected the contours of the future society. "Although industrial development will bring about a new order of society," she said, "it is not readily shown that this society will be Socialism, if we neglect the important matter of educating the workers into class- and social-consciousness. We cannot jump from the present system into a matured stage of Socialism. A constant growth, development and education are necessary to accomplish this. An everlasting transformation is going on. We thoroughly realize that the awakening of class- and social-consciousness, which we teach under the present system, will determine the type of the coming age.... Socialism will be the reflection of the mental standard which we achieve at the present time." Untermann demanded that the SP educate women in the here-and-now; otherwise, even economic equality between the sexes would not necessarily generate genuine equality in all spheres of life. Creatively applying the Socialist doctrine that capitalist society created the prerequisites of Socialism, Untermann asserted that "As the present education determines to a large extent the form of the new society, so will the manner of relation and comradeship between men and women under the new regime depend to a large extent upon the developed consciousness of womankind, achieved under the present order."
The Socialist women, then, despite their promises of Party loyalty, were led ineluctably by their position as women in a deeply patriarchal society (and Socialist party) to major innovations in doctrine and philosophy as well as in strategy and tactics. None of their innovations were totally unprecedented; indeed, their power lay precisely in their utilization of ideas and assumptions latent in orthodox doctrine, and which occasionally found their way into the party press, for the cause of a radical, feminist version of Socialism. Yet the Socialist women's denial of the cherished doctrines of economic determinism and Socialism's inevitable triumph must have seemed almost treasonous to hard-pressed Socialist activists facing capitalist terrorism and violence. Indeed, the more desperate the objective situation--capitalist hegemony, busted unions, a minuscule SP--the more necessary the doctrine of inevitable triumph must have seemed.
Yet the Socialist women undercut male Socialist complacency in another important fashion. Just as the Socialist women's promise of happy Socialist homes was counterpoised by the threat and actuality of sex struggle within the working-class family, and their professions of party loyalty counterbalanced by doctrinal heresies, so their professions of party loyalty was offset by their importation of the sex struggle into the Socialist party itself. For The Socialist Woman, necessarily and despite itself, advocated a cultural revolution within the Party they hoped to win for themselves and their cause.
Indeed, The Socialist Woman, the WNC, and the local women's committees acted as embryonic consciousness-raising groups. After recounting Socialist men's ridiculing of a New York Socialist Women's Conference, Malkiel asserted that "women who did not know one another before the conference kissed at parting [and] made appointments to meet socially." The conference "will live forever in the hearts of those who participated in it." Male opposition may indeed have intensified this female bonding. Another women, describing a woman's meeting in Indiana, said that (sharply contrasting with men's gatherings) "no one has seemed to be a leader. The women have made their growth together."
Woman's groups and meetings voiced--and thus crystallized and intensified--the inchoate dissatisfactions of women with the Socialist party and with their Socialist husbands. that The Socialist Woman's bitter strictures against the patriarchal household and the slave marriage contract could not have remained idle theory; they must have fomented discord within Socialist homes. When the Socialist women demanded that men perform their share of childraising and household duties, this was an "immediate demand" that began at home. Soliciting subscriptions for its readers, The Socialist Woman asserted that "we all know who carries the 'change' in most families and often the woman feels that she is a penniless dependent upon this change-bearer; but even this woman can manage to get hold of ten cents a month, with which to create discontent in the minds of enslaved and dependent womanhood." In demanding a dime for a subscription, the enslaved woman could become more conscious of the hitherto unconscious and subterranean sex struggle within her own Socialist home. One writer demanded that the husband "occasionally wash the dishes or take care of the baby" so that his wife could read Socialist-feminist literature; another vowed that she would attend the Socialist women's meeting "whether we have any supper at home that evening or not."
Socialist women routinely asserted that Socialist wives, concerned with more important matters, would spend less time on inessential housework. The Socialist Women awakened the latent spirit of revolt in women just as the Socialists sparked rebellion in the working class; in giving a women's embryonic resentments a voice, making them vivid and concrete, and demonstrating that others shared her oppressions and her outrage against them, it would generate concrete action. The nearest, most intimate, and most reachable source of oppression for the typical Socialist woman was her own husband. Socialism might be years or even generations away, but revolution within the individual household could commence immediately.
The Socialist women, furthermore, made no secret of their demand that the husbands reform and even remake themselves. Malkiel thundered that "really free woman will never countenance the mean and unclean types of men whom she consents to accept today. This, however, will lead to the evolution of a more ideal manhood." Her denunciation of marital rapists concluded that after the wife had secured her rights, "the time would soon come when man would cease to be a vampire." Anita Block--in what was surely a self-defeating argument--declared that "there is less of the sex-bond between the husband and wife who are both active Socialist workers than between any other man and woman" because both parties were "absolute and complete equals" in the SP, where the wife found "all stigma of inferiority on the basis of sex" removed. Although Block hailed such "refining and ennobling equality," husbands would predictably differ. Even the promises of Socialist women might sound like threats. May Walden said that under Socialism women would marry for love, not money, and that the man would for the first time "find out if he is being loved for himself alone." Many men--justly insecure because of their psychological and sexual abuse of their wives--would have dreaded such a prospect.
The revolution in the Socialist household would accompany that in the Socialist party itself. Anticipating the very grievances which helped launch the left-feminist movement of the late 1960s, Socialist women complained of their subordinate position in the Socialist movement. Eleanor Hayes, closely paralleling Emma Goldman's "The Tragedy of Woman's Emancipation," proclaimed the necessity of women's personal and psychological self-liberation. "Even under Socialism women cannot be free, save as they have developed the power of freedom in themselves.... So long as we are happy just in doing the menial work for the party that we have done in our homes for thousands of years, just so long do we stamp ourselves with the brand of inferiority, and a dozen planks in our platform could not force equality upon us." She rejected the traditional role of women in the Socialist party of sponsoring ice-cream socials and similar functions and demanded an end to women's status as "a supplement, a tail-end, a dishwashing contingency, even to the Socialist movement. Such a position in itself signifies the inability to be free and equal." Malkiel similarly complained that women were "tired of their positions as official cake-bakers and money collectors of the party," and eagerly sought "active work." Winnie Branstetter complained that the men used women for boring, routine tasks, but discouraged their attendance at Socialist lectures or business meetings. She told Socialist men that "if your idea of woman's place in the Socialist local is of being simply an aid society to the party, you have another guess coming. We are tired of dishing ice cream and serving coffee. We are tired of being tacked onto an organization as a sort of side show. We are tired of sitting at the feet of men and listening to the wisdom that falls from their lips. We are tired of being petted and flattered when you want us to help you raise money or sell tickets." Branstetter warned Socialist husbands that their wives would participate in Party affairs, "and the chances are that some evening you will not have even your regular supper, let alone ice cream. But you can afford to get your own supper if we sell tickets for the lyceum."
The Socialist women claimed that they would not only increase Socialist membership and votes but rejuvenate the party locals by transforming their very nature. The Socialist women not only reformulated major Socialist doctrines, they also ridiculed male indulgence in theological squabbling and concomitant neglect of concrete action. Conger-Kaneko asserted that "dreams of revolution and of liberty will never take the race anywhere. Women, as a rule, are practical," and would enhance the drive towards Socialism. On another occasion she said that "while our men are bravely splitting hairs over the meaning of 'capital," 'economic determinism,' the 'Marxian theory,' etc., let us get some women at work agitating in the kitchens of the poor for better food.... and all the common, necessary things that lie at the bottom of life, and with which women deal every day of their lives." A large female membership, Conger-Kaneko asserted, "will make you men members long on action and short on talk." Another writer agreed that the men "knew no more after they were through than when they began" their vapid theoretical disputations. Beginning in late 1911, the Socialist party was embroiled in a bitter faction fight concerning the merits of industrial unionism, the IWW, and illegal tactics. The male leadership took this controversy with deadly seriousness, even if only a small fraction of the party membership voted in the referenda that amended the Party's constitution and recalled Wobbly leader William Haywood from the National Executive Committee. The Progressive Woman, however, belittled this doctrinal squabble as a distraction from meaningful practical concerns. Socialist women perceived themselves as ecumenical, pluralistic, and non-dogmatic; but this itself was a definite philosophical stance that risked alienating all other sides in the heated debates that consumed male SP leaders.
The Socialist women also implicitly demanded affirmative action that would ensure female representation in both the upper echelons of Party machinery and the locals. They sometimes implied that a male standard was unsuited for judging women. In January 1910 Conger-Kaneko boosted Lena Morris Lewis's campaign for the SP's National Executive Committee. "Don't let this term pass without a woman on the N.E.C.!" she admonished her readers. Lewis was as competent as any man, "if that is the standard" by which competence was judged. When Lewis was elected the first woman member of the N.E.C., The Progressive Woman commented that the women did not want anyone elected simply on the basis of her sex, "but we believe that men and women in all the walks of life give a better balance, and a better balance to society, than if men, or women alone, fill the places.... Especially must we have this balance in our Socialist organization." This, however, clearly implied that the Party should elect women upon the basis of their sex. How else could under-represented groups secure important positions so that they could appeal to the special needs and experiences of their group? The rationales for both The Socialist Woman and the Woman's National Committee included the idea that men could not understand or convert women, who had distinct needs, experiences, and values that only other women could comprehend.
The cumulative changes advocated by the Socialist woman would have radically transformed the Socialist party. They would change the Party's immediate political demands, strategy, tactics, doctrine, and composition, as well as abolish the gendered assignment of tasks within the organization. As the Socialist women recognized, the Socialist party functioned as a sort of men's club for its members, an alternative version of a fraternal, literary, and debating society. Sexual integration of the Party, as of other exclusively or predominantly male institutions, would in itself transform its character. One Socialist woman, in fact, justified separate women's organizations as an alternative to revolutionizing the party itself. "The Socialist woman who is a member of her ward branch has come to realize that she must revolutionize her branch--turn it from a business meeting into an educational one--or she must do double duty--work within her branch and also organize a separate society for educational purposes." She favored organizing a separate organization, as easier than revolutionizing the local; but Socialist men themselves insisted that women recruited by the Women's Committees join their regular branches. Socialist men must have wondered which was worse--women organizing separately, with some independence from the regular party apparatus, or women inundating and feminizing the Locals? Socialist men ostensibly opposed separate organizations on the grounds that women should join the regular local; but their real reason, as evinced by their inhospitality to women who did join, was a fear of female participation on any terms.
And Socialist men did actively oppose or passively subvert the entry of women into the party. The Socialist Woman, like the IWW press, printed no direct arguments against female equality or participation. (Some Socialist women did oppose separate organizations.) Yet they did reply to male arguments and complained about male hostility, ignorance, indifference, and obstruction. Many men, rejecting all evidence, complained that the Woman's Committees were autonomous rather than under regular party control. Socialist women bitterly assailed prominent Socialist leaders and publications for remarks belittling women and complained that husbands forbade their wives to attend Socialist speeches and meetings. One local, thinking that "we women should devote our energies to washing dishes and selling tickets for their meetings," ridiculed the women's committee and changed the night of the Local's meeting to conflict with it. The women, torn between love of their husbands and devotion to the Party, disbanded their committee. Socialist women constantly complained that Socialist men did not recruit their wives into the Party, or make them welcome at meetings; indeed, they deliberately made women uncomfortable. Socialist women also complained that the Party virtually ignored its suffrage plank and sidestepped other women's issues. Parce castigated male party members for vaunting "the same old mixture of sentimentality and superstition on which the vanity of both man and woman [has] been fed from the days of chivalry." Attacking those Socialists who claimed that Socialism would take women out of the factory and return her to her position as queen of the home, Parce said that "the reigning business in particular has suffered a sharp drop in popularity among those women who are in a position to choose whether they will 'reign' or not. What women want, and will have, is free scope for the exercise of their faculties.... She will not be taken out of any place, nor put into any place; nor will she be made to do anything." The Progressive Woman complained that in the 1912 elections in Wisconsin, Socialist Congressional candidate Victor Berger had carried many precincts which voted against women's suffrage by a two-to-one margin. As another indicator of Milwaukee Socialism's ignorance of gender issues, The Progressive Woman had previously denounced the Woman's Page of Berger's Social-Democratic paper, The Milwaukee Leader, as a frivolous insult to any intelligent person.
Socialist men even vaguely aware of The Socialist Woman's ideological predilections undoubtedly feared that the sex consciousness of Socialist women would not only undermine class consciousness, but also find expression primarily in demands that Socialist men change themselves and their party. Socialist men criticized sex consciousness as a form of particularism which deviated from the Socialist universalistic claim that people were everywhere much the same, differing only because their shaping environments varied. Yet most Socialist men themselves remained intensely sex (and race) conscious. They belittled women's issues as trivial distractions from the real fight, assumed the naturalness of traditional gender roles, and touted the return of wage-earning women to the patriarchal household as a major benefit of Socialism. Those who acknowledged the essential sameness of the sexes did so, as The Socialist Woman bitterly pointed out, in terms of unreconstructed masculinity, demanding that women jettison their own values and capacities and totally assimilate those of men. Socialist women were surely correct in their assertions that the sorry condition of the world undermined such a complacent reliance on traditional male values.
SP standard-bearer Eugene Debs illustrated the problems besetting Socialist women. Unlike many other prominent party figures, Debs was a staunch proponent of women's rights. He frequently castigated the party and its men for their neglect of women's issues and, in his frequent contributions to The Socialist Woman, asserted the necessity of women's own self-activity. Yet his articles generally ended with a statement that class, not gender, was the over-riding issue into which all other oppressions resolved. His almost schizophrenic position here resembled his stance on race. He acknowledged the terrible and extraordinary oppressions visited upon blacks, over and above those inflicted on the white male working class; he also attacked the racism and sexism of white male workers and of the Socialist party itself. In the face of such acknowledgements, his insistence that in the final analysis only class was relevant, remains puzzling and contradictory. Debs acknowledged the different experiences of both women and blacks but never revised his Second-International orthodoxy to confront racial and gender discrimination on either a theoretical or programmatic level. In 1914, the very year which saw the final demise of Conger-Kaneko's Socialist-feminist journalism, the International Socialist movement demonstrated beyond all doubt that murderous nationalistic hatreds and superstitions had deformed and destroyed Socialist pretensions of an international working-class brotherhood. Marxian theoretical pronouncements could not account for, much less predict or assuage, the fatal attraction of the particularistic loyalties they had so assiduously ignored.
Many male Socialists wanted to bolster rather than abolish the patriarchal household, which they viewed as a venerable institution devastated by capitalism. For such men Socialism was a revitalization movement rather than a call for cultural revolution. Socialism meant democratic control of the means of production by an exclusively male work-force. When the male worker retained the full product of his labor, he could support his wife and family in comfort. Such a man would fulfill his traditional role as the family's breadwinner who could support and control his wife and family and confine them in the patriarchal household. This was the antithesis of the Socialist women's demand that women should engage in social production and use their product to secure their own independence not only from parasitic capitalists, but from exploitative and domineering husbands. Socialist men talked of dignity and equality at the point of production; Socialist women spoke also of the kitchen, nursery, and bedroom. These female and male versions of Socialism were not merely different but contradictory and incompatible. It was a difference not of emphasis, but of the entire meaning and significance of the Socialist enterprise. Even the motives of women and men for recruiting women into the SP could be diametrically opposed. The Socialist women hoped that an increased female presence would give women more power in the party, and their issues more prominence in the party's electoral and agitational campaigns. Men wanted helpmeets, companionate wives who would remain understanding and subordinate comrades in the party and the home. The Socialist women, it will be remembered, appealed to Socialist men on precisely the ground that Socialist wives would create more loving and comfortable Socialist homes. No wonder the sex war in the SP was so intractable.
Socialist men, as other males, benefitted in concrete ways from patriarchy. Although the capitalist subordination of women divided the working class and undercut male wages and unions, most Socialist husbands probably did exploit their wives, extracting labor, sexual services, and additional luxuries and leisure from their unpaid and incessant labor in the home. The Socialist women's wrath is inexplicable unless based on personal experiences as well as ideological commitments. A husband was master in his own domain, however constricted and dilapidated; he gained the psychological satisfactions of mastery over his small brood as a bogus compensation for the degradations, indignities, and insecurities inflicted upon him at work. Home was, for him, a "haven from a heartless world," even if his rest and peace were extracted from the backbreaking labors of the wife he claimed to love.
Who benefitted most from patriarchy, we may well ask--the capitalists or the male workers? Working-class men bore the costs of lower wages, weakened unions, and a fragmented working class; but many a man might have voluntarily paid this price in exchange for his wife's legal, economic, and sexual subordination in the home. Because women's lower wages rendered women dependent on men at home, men might not favor equal pay for equal work even if the men benefitted by their own higher wages and that of their working wives. Higher women's wages would make a man's wife more independent, so that the husband, far from sharing in the higher wages of his wife, might lose her altogether. Although capitalists and male workers both favored lower wages for women, the working men did so for two contradictory reasons. One stemmed from their own situation under capitalism, where jobs (and especially good jobs) were scarce, and workers fiercely competed with one another. The men wanted the good jobs for themselves. The other stemmed from their patriarchal interests as men. Socialist feminism would directly benefit working men only by abolishing the first category of reasons, but at the cost of undermining their supremacy at home. "Men," as Heidi Hartmann later said, "have more to lose than their chains." They did suffer from false consciousness, but even (or especially) if aware of their actual economic situation might prefer the psychological and material comforts of patriarchy to those theoretically winnable by working-class solidarity. Ironically, working men could benefit even under capitalism from equal pay for women. The capitalists, male chauvinists themselves, would often hire men if women demanded an equal wage. For this very reason, men who did demand equal pay for women usually did so precisely because this would drive women out of the labor market.
It is by no means clear, therefore, that Socialist men would have willingly sacrificed the advantages of patriarchy in exchange for the benefits of a cross-gender class alliance against capitalism. That Socialism was perhaps distant and uncertain, while female demands for equality were imminent and close to home, only intensified their reluctance. Working-class men, denied the real satisfactions of dignified labor, economic security, and social recognition, were least likely to voluntarily dispense with what little prestige and power they considered their right as males. Feminism only further undermined their sense of self, already battered by the relentless progress of an industrial capitalism which had expropriated or lessened their skills, power at the workplace, economic security, social prestige, and income. Ironically, capitalist husbands could more readily acquiesce in the liberation of their wives because the capitalists could hire servants to fulfill the wife's traditional tasks of housework and childcare. Their own sense of personal dignity was grounded in solid reality: economic prosperity and security, modern consumer products as the outward sign of inward grace, the control of other men at work and in society, challenging jobs that afforded scope for the exercise of their faculties, and social prestige. The achievements of an elite man's wife were adornments to him, rather than threats to his masculinity. Within broad limits, the prosperous define what is de rigueur by their very lifestyle choices; they cannot, almost by definition, suffer social humiliation or devaluation by their choices.
Despite these problems, the Socialist party was by far the most feminist party in the United States at the time. The quasi-feminist philosophy of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels reinforced the general Socialist emphasis on human dignity and solidarity to ensure this. Socialist men, however, confronted a far less pliable electorate, and found that electioneering is an intrinsically conservative method of social change. The quest for votes debases the most radical causes and individuals and mires them in a quagmire of necessary compromises with widespread social prejudices and superstitions. This led the SP into deadly complicity with racism and patriotism as well as sexism. Socialist women confronted an intractable dilemma: If women could indeed expect no more help from men than workers could expect from the middle classes, where did that leave Socialist women--and Socialist men? It was no answer that Socialist men were exceptions to the rule, for the SP proposed to win a majority of voters for Socialism. If that majority were not feminists, could the SP win more quickly by hectoring them until they became so, or by downplaying gender issues in favor of the industrial and class issues which most directly afflicted the enfranchised, male working class? The answer, unfortunately, seemed all too clear.
A similar dynamic partially explains the indifference of most working-class women to both Socialism and feminism. Capitalist mass murder and control of the media, churches, and professional classes were, of course, vital in repressing and hegemonizing working-class women as well as men. The capitalist state and company thugs beat, shot, and starved striking women, while the capitalist press distorted the Socialist message as one of free love and sexual anarchy. Yet the Socialist-feminist attack on traditional housewives as slaves, prostitutes, and breeding machines did not resonate with women who had few alternative vocations, and who emphasized their hoped-for status as respectable citizens rather than as impoverished victims of oppression. Working-class women hated factory work as an intolerable burden superimposed their household chores; to the chagrin of Wobblies as well as Socialist-feminists, they regarded marriage as their salvation from wage work. Many working-class women, (realistically, considering their options), regarded the home as their refuge as well as the man's, a place where, for the vast times when the husband was at work or otherwise absent, she was mistress of her own small domain. Her work was tedious, difficult, and sometimes dangerous, yet she worked without direct supervision and to some extent at her own pace. Socialist women's critiques of housework implicitly compared it to well-paid, satisfying professional jobs rather than the dangerous, tedious and undervalued jobs that working-class women and men performed. For most working-class women, as for most men, the denigration of and threat to traditional motherhood and the home explicit in Socialist-feminism probably seemed far more immediate than the utopian promises made by the Socialist women. The professionalization of childcare and of housework promised far more to educated, professional women such as those who wrote for The Socialist Woman than for working-class women. After all, such a transformation would liberate elite, educated women for challenging careers; working-class women would lose their individual control over their household tasks and become the cooks, laundresses, and housecleaners in a socialized economy. They would perform work for strangers, under the supervision of others--even if, under Socialism, they themselves elected their bosses--rather than for their own children and husbands. This could hardly seem realistic, or advantageous, to most impoverished women. As Kate Richards O'Hare said (greatly exaggerating the joys of housework), "Labor is a joy when we perform it for those we love and reap the fruits of our industry, but is a curse when we labor for a master and the wealth we create means added misery for us and our loved ones and added power to despoil for our masters." Socialism would ensure that the professional housecleaners and child-tenders would not enrich a capitalist master; but women would still work collectively and under supervision. The end of isolation might not compensate for the increased regimentation of such paid employment.
The Socialist women often asserted that a woman's work was never done and that the wife worked more hours than her husband. Although some of this work was superfluous--a Socialist wife would eliminate unnecessary housework and devote time to SP affairs--most was necessary, productive labor. Social realities--lack of birth control, socialized childcare, flexible work schedules, and labor-saving devices such as refrigerators, washing machines, and convenience foods--presented almost insuperable barriers to the employment outside the home of married working-class women. When a typical workman toiled for 50 or 60 hours, and his wife labored even more hours within the tenement, how could the wife also work at a paying job without massive social changes outside the home as well as cultural changes and role redefinitions within it? The Socialist women, of course, demanded the structural changes that would effectively liberate the housewife; but until those social changes were firmly in place, individual working-class wives could only slightly change their predicament. The Socialist women, like Emma Goldman, unintentionally demanded psychological and lifestyle changes in working-class women before achieving the requisite social transformations that alone could allow such changes.
Working-class women, as men, clung to their inherited forms of social identity as refuges from the frightening economic and social changes occurring around them. They wanted their role of mother and wife restored to its old revered position, rather than abolished. They viewed religion as a source of power for the otherwise powerless; Christianity, even while validating male supremacy in household and society, established standards of behavior for husbands much higher than those which a woman could enforce at law or win by her economic position. The Socialist Woman's attacks on religion could only have alienated most working women.
On a more mundane level, the Socialist women encountered the problems endemic to any insurgent group which bores from within an existing institution. Like Socialists working within the AFL, or Wobblies within the SP, or, later, women seeking fulfillment of the promises made by the CIO, Socialist women found that the group whose transformation they sought existed for purposes different from their own. In each case the established institution possessed its own pre-existing institutional structure, procedures, and leadership. The old constituency suspected the new members as potentially disloyal and their agenda as a distraction and possibly an albatross. The internal structure of power was conducive to achieving the old purposes rather than furthering the new goals. The leadership was usually set in the ways that had won it its position, and felt threatened by any sudden accretion of new and different members with distinct ideas, especially if these new members were organized and conscious of themselves as a group. The old leaders preferred additional members from the same social base, sharing the same hoary values and ideas, and whose loyalty and deference was assured. The established leadership obviously cared little for the new members or their agenda, or they would have wooed the new constituency and fostered their ideas earlier. The newcomers lacked an autonomous base and recognized leadership within the organization with which to push their agenda, but necessarily worked under the glare of old-timers, upon whom they depended for recognition, authority, and the power to achieve their own innovative goals. The Socialist women epitomized all of these dilemmas; they responded by building an alternate, parallel structure within the regular party yet dependent upon it for recognition and support.
The Socialists within the AFL at least had their own institutions and press outside the AFL with which to gather their forces, discuss their problems, and plan strategy. Socialist women also needed such an autonomous base. Partly because of male opposition and partly because women themselves desired full and equal incorporation in the SP rather than segregation in auxiliary institutions, however, they eschewed autonomous groups in favor of women's committees within the SP. As a result, the Socialist women never achieved a "free space" where they could meet, talk, and plan outside of the ideological and organizational supervision of uncomprehending, indifferent, or hostile males. Socialist women did not justify the women's committees on the grounds that women needed an autonomous institutional base from which to construct their own ideology free from the prohibitory or condemnatory male gaze. Rather, they argued for the WNC on the grounds of women's alleged, and temporary, inferiority. Women, it was asserted, needed preparation before they could enter the party locals as equals. Mainly, they must acquire confidence in debate, a grasp of parliamentary procedure, and leadership skills. Personal transformation would make them, in some respects, exactly like the men who inhabited the regular SP locals.
The Socialist women encountered a contingent problem related to the factional alignment within the SP. The left wing of the Socialist party, comprising the cultural radicals of the IWW and the intelligentsia of Greenwich Village, was much more stridently feminist than the right wing. The left bitterly criticized American traditions, values, and institutions, and was radically countercultural in its orientation. Yet the left wing de-emphasized electoral politics--a stance directly related to its cultural radicalism--in favor of revolutionary industrial unionism, radical tactics such as sabotage, and attacks on patriarchy, white supremacy, patriotism, and other legal, cultural, and institutional obstacles impeding working-class unity. Yet the left generally downplayed or opposed most immediate demands in the SP electoral platform, branding them as bourgeois sops that defused the class struggle and invited co-optation. The Socialist men most receptive to feminism, therefore, were precisely those who ridiculed grubbing for votes, cared least about the party platform, and exalted the "larger aspects of socialism" much as Kiichi Kaneko emphasized its philosophical and spiritual side.
That many of these left-Socialists were also intransigent believers in the class struggle did not dilute their feminism; most of them strongly supported women's equality, as the experience of the IWW and The Masses demonstrates. Their very class consciousness led them to fight for, rather than belittle, struggles for gender and racial equality. But both groups of leftists were somewhat peripheral to the mainstream of the SP. Those backing the IWW were repudiated when the party anathematized sabotage and illegal action in 1912 and recalled Big Bill Haywood from the National Executive Committee in 1913. Large numbers of radicals accepted this invitation to resign at precisely the time when The Progressive Woman encountered deep financial trouble and lost key support in high party echelons. The other main group of leftists, the "lyrical radicals" clustered around such publications as The Masses and The New Review, were individualists blithely and loftily unconcerned with party discipline or the nuts and bolts of precinct organizing.
The right wing of the party, on the contrary, utilized traditional values in the service of Socialism and as a mechanism for winning Socialist votes. These conservative men were precisely those most interested in the specific contours of the SP platform and with conciliating the electorate and winning elections. The Socialist women, therefore, found that their natural base within the SP consisted in those members with least concern for and influence over its electoral platform and campaigns, exactly the means by which the SP as a party most influenced national debate. The Socialist women themselves, moreover, more closely resembled the lyrical radicals than any other party group: they were relatively prosperous, extraordinarily well-educated, and radically countercultural. They spoke for a constituency that was not yet in the party in large numbers, was almost everywhere ineligible to vote, and was largely excluded by their lack of skill, temporary position as workers, and male hostility from the permanently organized working class. The Socialist women were therefore atypical of both the male Socialists and the working-class women whose support they needed
The Socialist women also suffered from an inability to evolve a distinctive praxis. In the larger society, they battled mostly for reformist goals they shared with other feminists--suffrage, unionization of female workers, social welfare and child-protection legislation--and usually fought in implicit alliance with non-Socialist organizations such as NAWSA, the Woman's Trade Union League, or the Consumer's League. However, their efforts at converting mainstream feminists to socialism were largely ineffectual. Similarly, they never considered radical actions such as rent strikes, food riots, or illegal union tactics. Even their opposition to restrictive birth control laws remained largely rhetorical, never graduating to the civil disobedience and open lawlessness practiced by Margaret Sanger, Emma Goldman, and the IWW. Just as reformist feminists found more powerful allies in mainstream organizations, revolutionary feminists could readily join the IWW, the anarchists, or Margaret Sanger's birth control activists. Within the SP itself, skeptical men asked what Socialist women could do in their own committees or their own publication that they could not do in regular locals, and suspected that the main answer resided in complaining about the SP, its male members, and their own husbands.
The Socialist women's attempted cultural revolution within the Socialist party, therefore, only alienated the predominately male membership, which was both culturally conservative and orthodox in its Marxism. The Socialist women undermined Marxism's belief in a class-based economic determinism and its corollary, the inevitable triumph of Socialism; they not only denied that Socialism would automatically liberate women, but claimed that a feminist society would inevitably inaugurate Socialism. They therefore privileged gender over class as both an analytical construct and a guideline for action. They ridiculed and contested male supremacy in the workplace, the home, and the SP itself, even as their philosophy and vision of the future threatened the values and lifestyles of most working-class wives and mothers (themselves a culturally conservative group). The Socialist women, world-class intellectuals fully positioned to take advantage of the changes they advocated, faced a world full of persons totally unlike themselves. In addition, they faced a looming practical issue which soon divided the Socialism women even among themselves.
 Lida Parce, Economic Determinism, Chicago, Charles H. Kerr and Company, 1913.
 Untermann, "The Mitigator, II," PW June 1910.
 Untermann, "The Mitigator, II," PW July 1910.
 Lida Parce, "The Relationship of Socialism to the Woman Question," ISR, November 1909.
 Lewis, "The Woman Suffrage Movement," PW March 1911; Wentworth, "Woman, Wages, and the Ballot," PW March 1913.
 Parce, "The Examiner's Glass," SW November 1911.
 Parce, "The Examiner's Glass," SW November 1908.
 JCK, squib, PW June 1909.
 Untermann, "Sex Consciousness," PW April 1910. Untermann was proven correct when the "objective preconditions" for a renewed women's liberation movement did not generate such a movement until the Civil Rights and New Left movements sparked such a revival. See Chafe, The Paradox of Change and Evans, Personal Politics.
 TM, "Some Impressions of the New York Socialist Conference," SW, August 1908; May Strickland, "A Practical Effort to Reach the Women," SW, August 1908.
 Squib, SW October 1908; Nellie M ----, "Boys, Elect a Woman's Committee," PW December 1910; May McDonald Strictland, "A Practical Effort to Reach the Women," SW August 1908.
 TM, "The Free Woman," SW October 1908; TM, "The Vampire," PW April 1910; Anita Block, "The Paradox of the Socialist Wife," in "Symposium of New York Women on Suffrage," PW March 1910; Walden, "True Homes Under Socialism," SW January 1908.
 Hayes, "Socialist Women in the United States," SW November 1907; TM, "Some Impressions of the New York Socialist Conference," SW, August 1908; Branstetter, "How Mrs. Brown Put the Kibosh on the Ice Cream Supper," PW September 1912.
 JCK, "The National Movement," SW November 1909; JCK, "Three Years Old This Month," PW June 1910; ad, PW May 1913; "Sarah Jane Perkins Writes to Mary," PW March 1911; "The New Year," PW January 1913; Braverman, "The Tale of the Plutocrat World," CN November 1913; "A Few Words Kindly Spoken," PW November 1913; squib on Czolgosz, PW October 1910. As early as 1909, JCK complained in an editorial squib that in Socialist locals "there is too much quibbling over names and tactics. In some places organizations have been practically destroyed by this haggling method. Terms, symbols, flags--these are not Socialism."
 Editorial squib, PW, January 1910; "Woman Member of the N.E.C.," April 1910.
 "The Matter of Woman's Organizations," SW June 1908.
 Ellen F. Wetherell, "To The Editor: What Constitutes Success," SW July 1908; May Beals-Hoffpauir, "Sketches of Russian Heroines, II" November 1909; Parce, "'Doing Things' With Women Under Socialism," SW May 1908; "When's a Socialist not a Socialist?," PW January 1913; squib, PW February 1912.
 Nick Salvatore, Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1982.
 Hartmann, "The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: Towards a More Progressive Union," in Lydia Sargent, Women and Revolution, South End Press, 1981, Boston.
 O'Hare, "Priscilla at Her Loom," (an excerpt from The Sorrows of Cupid), SW July 1908.