My tribute to Krupskaya
I have been reading this one book, called Midwives of the Revolution. Its a book about the roles that women played in the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the events leading up to it. I had been very hesitant about learning more of Russian revolutionary history for several reasons. Even though I know there are relevant lessons to be learned from it that are still important today, I associated it very much with the lives of men like Lenin and Trotsky, men who were seemingly obsessed with theory and big ideas, stern and martyred, abstract and distant. I realized in my interactions with many leftists that the ability to quote Lenin or spit the facts of the Russian Revolution became somehow a marker of how knowledgeable, how theoretical, how MACHO one is. I associated it with the division between mental and manual labor, somehow that those who could think of the big theories were always more integral and valuable to an organization than those who did the work of interacting with everyday people in mass organizations, who related with others, etc. It was a hierarchy of talents rather than an acknowledgment that experience and practice feed theory and vice versa. There is another word for it: macho ego-dripping intellectual masturbation disguised as revolutionary activity.
This impression of the Russian revolution, and what I would still say is an accurate depiction of the macho left had alienated me from people around me, as well as the important lessons of the Russian revolution. I am starting to overcome that. I am trying to make that history less irrelevant, less theoretical, less abstract to me. I want to study who mortal Lenin was, not demigod Lenin. I wanted to study how women were involved in the movement. It's not cos I can't study anything that doesnt involve women, but more so that learning for me is as much an emotional as it is an intellectual process. I needed to know that the Russian revolution was created by people who had raw emotions like me and everyone else I know, people who had to struggle between family and politics, people who had to counter the patriarchy of the political organizations and broader society that they belonged to, people who were accused of being irrational, excessively emotional, illogical, when they were actually trying to express indignation against oppression. I needed to see how revolution is a concrete phenomenon based out of everyday working womens' desires and struggles to live fully as human beings; and not simply imagined and debated out of some genius's isolated neurological activity...
It is with this impulse that I turned to this book, Midwives of the Revolution. I was particularly struck by how the authors describe the way Krupskaya has been remembered. It makes me wonder: how much must women do to have a place in history? How much more must women give up before they have a seat at the same table with the Lenins and the Trotskys of the world, in various political organizations?
Krupskaya was the wife of Lenin. She was also the secretary of the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks party. When they were in exile, Krupskaya was largely responsible for corresponding with the underground Bolsheviks, organizing the logistics for them to communicate with the party, reporting back about the activity of the workers, taking care of their emotional needs during the stresses of political organizing, so much so that both her and Lenin always had their ears to the ground about the labor movement in Russia, always knowing what their cadre members needed.
Krupskaya had also been politicized way before she met Lenin. She had been involved in doing educational work with workers and their families. She helped Lenin build connections with workers that she had built strong relationships with. She was a revolutionary, who married Lenin because she knew he would also play an important role in the revolution she was trying to build. Her marriage was in itself also a political act.
Yet, the written literature of Krupskaya, is that of a woman without her own mind. It is that of a woman who was the "bride of the revolution," a woman who was a shadow of Lenin, who was happy to let him take the lead. A woman whose only talents were doing administrative work, brainless, routine and uncreative.
Now, what makes me even more mad, is I could not find ANY POLITICAL BIOGRAPHY OF HER!! The only thing that seems to stand out about Krupskaya was: how was she able to stay with Lenin despite the fact that he was allegedy involved in an affair with Inessa Armand?
I mean, for real? That's all that these drippy phallus heads could say about Krupskaya? That's all she counted for? Her ability to keep her jealousy in check was all that counted? That makes me mad. Krupskaya gave her life to the revolution, all aspects of it. And all that these historians could say about her was that she was a brainless robot. It's reflective of many patriarchal writers and revolutionaries' own prejudice with the theoretical over the everyday. Its the separation of the mind and the body.
Knock that damn pedestal off. It's time someone made this woman their hero.
Posted by jomo at 3:59 pm