Socialist Organizer http://socialistorganizer.org For A Workers' International Sun, 08 Mar 2015 01:25:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 Finland 1906: The revolutionary roots of women’s suffrage — an International Women’s Day tribute http://socialistorganizer.org/finland-1906-the-revolutionary-roots-of-womens-suffrage-an-international-womens-day-tribute-2/ http://socialistorganizer.org/finland-1906-the-revolutionary-roots-of-womens-suffrage-an-international-womens-day-tribute-2/#comments Sun, 08 Mar 2015 00:51:31 +0000 http://socialistorganizer.org/?p=4362

[originally published at https://johnriddell.wordpress.com/2015/03/04/finland-1906-the-revolutionary-roots-of-womens-suffrage-an-international-womens-day-tribute/]
March 8, 2015

In 1906, Finland became the world’s first nation to grant full female suffrage.[1] This watershed achievement for women was won by Finnish socialists during the revolutionary upheaval that swept the Czarist empire to which Finland belonged.

Yet this important history has been overlooked by both academics and activists. Abraham Ascher’s standard work on the 1905 revolution in Czarist Russia, for instance, completely omits any mention of Finnish suffrage and argues that “the efforts of women to achieve equality bore few concrete results during the revolution.”[2] In the few non-Finnish books that address the 1906 victory, the role of the socialist movement is generally marginalized: David Kirby writes that suffrage “was conceded virtually without a struggle” and Barbara Evans Clements portrays mainstream feminists like Alexandra Gripenberg as the suffrage battle’s main protagonists.[3]

The granting of universal suffrage owes far more to the class struggle than these works would suggest. Building off my recent research in Helsinki and new studies by Finnish feminists, in this article I trace the revolutionary roots of the suffrage victory, with a focus on the autonomous activities of the League of Working Women.[4]

A group of Finnish seamstresses, 1906

A group of Finnish seamstresses, 1906

show that full suffrage was won through a mass general strike and anti-imperial insurgency in Finland, combined with a revolution across the empire. Female socialists led the fight for women’s suffrage, while the mainstream women’s organizations supported wealth qualifications for the vote until the end of 1905. Contrary to the common claim that Marxism ignores issues of women’s oppression, Finnish socialists simultaneously fought gender, national, and class domination, decades before the emergence of theorizations of “intersectionality.” Reclaiming this lost history is long overdue.

The buildup

The year 1899 marks a crucial turning point in Finnish history. Of all the dominions of the Czarist empire, Finland had throughout the 19th century been granted the most autonomy and political freedom. But in February 1899 the Czarist regime began eliminating Finland’s special autonomous status, sparking a national movement against this so-called “Russification.” In July 1899 the Finnish Workers Party was founded as an open, legal party, signaling the break of the working class from years of bourgeois tutelage. Whether to collaborate, and on what basis, with the nationalists against “Russification” became a major ongoing debate within the labor movement.[5]

One of the central points of contention between workers and nationalists was the issue of suffrage, from which all working people — both men and women — were excluded at that time. The nationalist Finnish Party, and the Finnish Women’s Association to which it was allied, called for the extension of the vote only to women who met the same wealth qualifications then in place for men.[6] In contrast, the Workers Party demanded full suffrage for all: the right to vote and to run for office for the whole population irrespective of wealth, gender or nationality.[7] In 1903 the party adopted a Marxist program, renamed itself the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and announced that if its suffrage demands were not met, it would resort to a general strike to win them.[8]

While the labor movement consistently fought for women’s suffrage and legal equality for all, it was not free from patriarchal practices and assumptions. A precedent for women’s participation in social movements had been established in the massive alcohol temperance struggle of the era, but the membership and decision-making structures of the SDP remained overwhelmingly male—in 1899 women made up only 10.7% of the party.[9] Some early workers’ associations even explicitly excluded women.[10] While there were committed feminists such as Matti Kurikka and Edvard Valpas in the party leadership, other male leaders such as Yrjö Makelin and Matti Turkia were initially opposed to female suffrage, arguing that women would vote for priests.[11] A belief in intrinsic and essential differences between men and women was hegemonic, and was expressed through the movement’s heavy emphasis on the role of women as mothers.[12]

A group of working women, 1914

The SDP’s women members of the Finnish parliament, 1914. From left: Aura Kiiskinen, Mimmi Haapasalo, Anna Karhinen, Sofia Hjulgren, Hilja Pärssinen, Hulda Salmi, Elvira Viihersalo, Alma Jokinen, Mimmi Kanervo, Anni Huotari, Miina Sillanpää, Ida Ahlstedt.

The founding of the League of Working Women in 1900 in some ways reflected the prevalent division of labor, with women’s organizing sphere often limited to specific “female activities.” On the other hand, many women were intimidated from participating in meetings with men present, and the existence of an autonomous organization provided an important vehicle for their self-development as leaders.[13] The League’s early efforts, however, were not particularly successful. The most common urban job for Finnish women was that of maid servant, whose isolated workplaces and long hours made collective action particularly difficult.[14] The League’s 1902 congress lamented a lack of membership growth and attributed the “indifference” of women workers to a lack of consciousness and a fear of being fired.[15] In this challenging context, League activists frequently called on party men to more pro-actively involve women. At the 1904 SDP congress, Sandra Reinholdsson criticized male comrades for discriminating against their female peers, rather than involving and politicizing them.[16]

Hilja Pärssinen

Hilja Pärssinen

Among working women, as in the party more generally, there were major differences concerning collaboration with bourgeois political tendencies. Some of the most militant activists, such as Reinholdsson and Mimmi Kanervo, worked with the “constitutionalists” in illegal underground activity against the regime.[17] Others like Hilja Pärssinen, the movement’s main theoretician, advocated a strict class-against-class perspective along the lines set out by the German Marxists August Bebel and Clara Zetkin. Pärssinen’s 1903 pamphlet on women and the vote made the case for irreconcilable class conflict: bourgeois women wanted only equality with upper-class men, while women workers wanted the vote to pass laws, such as a prohibition bill, to improve their material conditions.[18]

In contrast, Miina Sillanpää, the influential leader of the maids’ association, favored close collaboration with the mainstream feminists.[19] This position, hegemonic in the early years of the movement, was steadily losing ground in the face of the elitism of the Association of Finnish Women, which continued to oppose universal suffrage. Led by the internationally famous feminist Alexandra Gripenberg, the Association argued that lower-class women were ignorant and prone to vice, therefore they had to be guided by their morally superior upper-class sisters.[20]

Cover of Palvejitarlehti (Maids' Journal)

Cover of Palvejitarlehti (Maids’ Journal)

By 1904, the initially close collaboration between labor women and the non-socialist feminists was breaking down in many regions. In the Fall, a mass strike of female workers at the Voikkaa paper mill demanding the firing of a sexually abusive supervisor sparked a polarizing debate between the socialist and nationalist press over whether working-class women were “moral” and “decent.”[21] At a November Helsinki women’s suffrage meeting of over 1,000 people, women workers, who were not getting a chance to speak, began shouting down the bourgeois speakers and succeeded in having the meeting adopt their demand for universal suffrage.[22]

The Great Strike

The revolutionary wave that swept across the Czarist Empire after the January 1905 Bloody Sunday massacre in St. Petersburg arrived relatively late in Finland. Workers’ demonstrations and clashes with police in Helsinki took place early in the year, but the revolution proper began only with the “Great Strike” in the Fall.

Inspired by the general strike in Central Russia, Finnish railway workers walked off the job on October 29, setting into motion the single most important event for the Finnish workers’ movement before 1917. By the next day all of Finland was on strike, and effective power passed into the hands of strike committees and armed guards.[23]

This “festival of the oppressed” radically transformed the consciousness of urban and rural working people. And perhaps nowhere was this transformation more pronounced than among women workers.

Palvelijatarlehti, the maids’ journal, noted:

“The strike week was a wake-up week for the rights of women. … As soon as the strike began, women started to hold special meetings in which they debated their economic position, and these meetings were flooded by people. It was as if it took the breakout of the general strike to make women realize that it would depend on them whether the status of women improved or not.”[24]

Miina Sillanpää noted that the week of general strike accomplished among the maids “more than what could have been promoted in ten years of peaceful conditions.”[25] Bourgeois society was particularly scandalized by the participation of their servants in the strike, which shattered paternalistic notions of maids as members of the host family and represented the direct intrusion of the labor movement into their homes. In daily mass meetings in a Helsinki elementary school courtyard, thousands of servants came together to formulate their demands.[26]

The call for full suffrage was legitimized by this mass female participation in all arenas of the strike, including in its top leadership; the Tampere Strike Committee, initially composed only of men, was quickly reorganized to include 10 women and 12 men.[27]

“We live in a wonderful period of time,” wrote Alma Malander in the SDP newspaper Kansan Lehti:

“Peoples who were humble and satisfied to bear the burden of slavery have suddenly thrown off their yoke. Groups who until now have been eating pine bark, now demand bread. The oppressed demand justice! … Women, who have always been subordinate, suddenly get the idea that they really are equal with the other sex.”[28]

Faced with the imminent overthrow of the regime by a paralyzing labor strike, peasant rebellions, and army mutinies, the Czar was forced on October 30 to promise civil liberties and a Parliament for the whole empire. On November 4, the Czar’s “November Manifesto” repealed the “Russification” of Finland, reestablishing the pre-1899 status quo, without guaranteeing that the new Finnish Parliament would be elected by the whole population. The bourgeois “constitutionalists,” who had actively built and participated in the strike, now pushed for an end to the action. On November 6, the SDP leadership bent to this pressure and called off the strike, against the desires of the party’s increasingly radicalized membership to fight until victory.

This ambiguous end to the Great Strike exacerbated a highly unstable situation. Having felt their power to shut down society, Finnish workers were determined to continue mobilizing to impose their economic and political demands. Immediately following the Great Strike the SDP began organizing mass demonstrations and building for a new general strike to ensure the establishment of full suffrage and a Unicameral Parliament.[29]

 

British left newspaper features interview with Hilja Pärssinen.

British left newspaper features interview with Hilja Pärssinen.

The next half year witnessed an unprecedented number of strikes, the rapid spread of socialist influence among tenant farmers and farm workers in the countryside, the creation of a workers’ Red Guard, and the deepening of Finnish socialist collaboration with Russian revolutionaries. It was during this upsurge that the self-organization of working women and the campaign for women’s suffrage reached their highest peaks.

The suffrage struggle

The 1906 suffrage decision has often been portrayed as the result of longstanding egalitarian traditions in Finnish culture. But it is far from certain that universal suffrage would have passed without the pressure of proletarian struggle and the autonomous efforts of socialist women.

Following the Great Strike, there was considerable and justifiable concern that women would be excluded in the upcoming elections. During the April 1905 suffrage reform bill discussions in the Finnish Parliament, only the Peasants Estate had supported women’s suffrage, while other Estates and the various nationalist parties all favored giving the vote only to men.[30] The chair of the Parliamentary Reform Committee chosen in November 1905 to draft the new suffrage rules was professor Robert Hermanson, an outspoken opponent of women’s suffrage. Women, he felt, were by nature emotional creatures prone to extremism and ill-suited for politics and the vote.[31]

 

Palvejitarlehti explicitly addressed the danger that their male comrades might bend to the pressure to leave out women:

Ida Ahlstedt

Ida Ahlstedt

“The rumors persist that some of our male friends are very indifferent to the right of women to vote and run for election. It has been stated that if all the other demands are met, it is not at all realistic to make a General Strike for women’s sake, because they are not so developed that the benefits of having them stand for election are worth it.”[32]

In this context, the journal argued that women had to take the initiative to ensure their demands were met:

“We [women] have to shout to the world that we are demanding the right to vote and to stand for election, and that we are not going to settle for anything less. Now is not the time for compromises, because if we are excluded now, we can be sure that it will remain that way for a long time.”[33]

This orientation was immediately put into practice. By the end of 1905, the League had organized 231 suffrage meetings across the nation with 41,333 participants.[34] The League called for a new general strike in the case that women were excluded from the vote, and it established a special women’s committee to start preparations.[35] When the local working women’s associations were polled on this issue, 82 pledged to support a new general strike, seven said they would support the majority decision, and only two voiced opposition.[36]

Mimmi Kanervo

Mimmi Kanervo

It was announced that male party members who opposed women’s suffrage would be denounced as collaborators of the bourgeoisie.[37] Some working women threatened to go on a cooking strike at home to force skeptical husbands to support their struggle.[38] And there were even public statements made that if women were left out of the suffrage, women workers would if necessary strike on their own, even against the opposition of the other party members.[39]

The influx of women into political life challenged traditional gender roles. Many men supported women’s rights, noted Palvejitarlehti, “but only within the established limits. As soon as women’s endeavors have anything to do with the emancipation of mothers from the chains binding her into home’s narrow scope, then resistance is encountered.”[40] Miina Sillanpää called on men to stay at home and watch the children to enable their wives’ participation in political meetings.[41]

Perhaps the most powerful actions of the suffrage campaign were its mass demonstrations. On December 17, 1905 the League organized protests for women’s suffrage in 63 locations across the nation, bringing together over 22,000 demonstrators.[42] A “National Women’s Declaration” written by the League’s leadership was sent out to be adopted by each rally. Highlighting the contradiction between the contribution of women’s labor to Finland and their exclusion from political rights, the Declaration tied its case for female suffrage to the interests of the Finnish working class and nation;

Maria Laine

Maria Laine

“The fate [of Finland] concerns us just as much as men. Is it any wonder that tens of thousands of us rise up to call for our rights, to demand for ourselves equality with men. A powerful cry is echoing across our country at this moment, from the large cities to the villages, showing that the majority of citizens support the heartfelt wishes of women. The demand of women for the vote and to run in elections will be silenced only when it is granted. The right to vote is a means for us to shut off the flow of alcohol, to raise the proletariat from material and psychological distress, to prepare the way for light and freedom.”[43]

At the December 17 rally of 5,000 women in Tampere, the League branch, together with the town’s other women’s organizations, adopted their own declaration, punchier in tone though similar in content. Calling the talk of excluding women from suffrage a “disgrace” at a moment when “the long-awaited future of Finland is finally being born,” it argued:

“We no longer want to be treated as … helpless creatures begging men for protection, but rather as their comrades in battle, free women of a free people, willing to bear all the consequences, whether they be light or heavy, that the future may weigh upon our nation’s shoulders.”[44]

The rallies for full suffrage continued into 1906. But a new general strike did not prove necessary to win suffrage, as the Parliamentary Reform Committee eventually announced that all women would be allowed to vote and run for office, despite considerable controversy within the Committee over the latter point in particular.[45]

How can we explain this decision by a Finnish political elite that until then had consistently opposed universal suffrage? Put simply, the balance of forces in the class struggle had shifted dramatically. The pressure of the workers’ upsurge during and following the Great Strike of 1905, and the real threat of a new general strike, proved greater than the elite’s opposition to universal suffrage.

That the suffrage decision had been imposed from below on the ruling class was openly admitted at the time by leading politician and legal scholar R.A. Wrede.[46] Similarly, the influential banker and politician Emil Schybergson told the Parliamentary Reform Committee that the Russian Revolution had forced them to rush through a decision that might otherwise have waited another fifty years.[47] And senate leader Leo Mechelin pointed to this dynamic in his report to the Czar on the proposed parliamentary reform: public opinion in Finland, he explained, supported suffrage for women and their exclusion would result in popular disappointment.[48]

This basic dynamic also holds true for the Czar’s acceptance of the Finnish suffrage proposal on July 20, 1906. Such an act would have been inconceivable without the ongoing revolutionary unrest across the empire, which flared up again that summer in a new wave of peasant rebellions and army mutinies.[49]
Conclusion

The suffrage campaign lasted all the way through 1907. In January, the League — newly renamed as the Social Democratic Women’s League — sent out a memorandum to its local branches, calling on them to ensure that the SDP electoral slates include a sufficient number of women candidates.[50] By this time, over 18,000 women had joined the SDP, close to a quarter of the total membership.[51]

The 1907 elections were swept by the SDP, which to its credit had not wavered on universal suffrage. It won 37% of the vote — the highest of any party — and of the nineteen women in the new Diet, nine were from the SDP. The latter were a remarkable group of women, all leaders of the League and most from very humble backgrounds. Anni Huotari, Maria Laine, Maria Raunio, and Sandra Reinholdsson were seamstresses; Jenny Kilpianen was a weaver; Mimmi Kanervo was a maid, as had been Miina Sillanpää; Ida Ahlstedt was a baker and boarding house operator; and Hilja Pärssinen was a school teacher.[52]

Mainstream feminists were, at best, ambivalent about the suffrage victory. They had publicly come out in favor of universal suffrage after the Great Strike, but many leaders still stressed that Finnish women were too backwards and unprepared for suffrage.[53] Alexandra Gripenberg declared to a 1907 women’s congress in Vienna that the entry of uneducated, plebeian women into Parliament was a “horrible” embarrassment.[54] Most of the socialist MPs, Gripenberg lamented, were “formerly servants, factory hands, or seamstresses. … It was a mistake that so few really able and suitable women for the work in the Diet were elected. … If we had women lawyers, merchants, physicians, scientists, and so on, women’s words would have weighed more.”[55] Gripenberg continued to tour the world in the ensuing years, speaking in the name of all Finnish women and putting forward her particular interpretation of the suffrage struggle.[56]

In contrast, the workers’ movement saw the Finnish struggle as an unqualified victory and, in the words of August Bebel, “the triumph of international socialism.”[57] Russian Marxists came to the League’s 1906 congress and declared that the Finns illuminated the road Russian women should take.[58] Similarly, Klara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai pointed to Finland as proof that women’s liberation could only be achieved through the class struggle.[59]

On this International Women’s Day we would do well to recognize that it was socialists who won full female suffrage for the first time in history. The erasure of this experience from our collective memory ultimately represents an ideological conquest for the Gripenbergs of the world. Reclaiming the roots of women’s suffrage is in this sense a political act in continuity with a battle begun over a century ago, a battle that will continue until capitalism is finally overthrown.

Eric Blanc is the author of a forthcoming monograph, Anti-Colonial Marxism: Oppression & Revolution in the Czarist Borderlands, 1881-1917 (Historical Materialism Book Series, Brill Publishers). An activist and historian based in Oakland, California, Eric can be reached at eblanc17 [at] gmail [dot] com.


Notes

[1] Neither New Zealand or Australia, the two other countries sometimes credited with being the first to pass women’s suffrage, granted all adults the right to vote and stand for office. In 1893, New Zealand granted women the right to vote, but not to run for office. In 1902, Australia allowed white women the right to vote and stand for office, but excluded all indigenous women and men. On New Zealand and Australia, see Caroline Daley, Melanie Nolan, ed., Suffrage and beyond: international feminist perspectives (New York: New York University Press, 1994).

[2] Abraham Ascher, The Revolution of 1905: a short history (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004), 62. Ascher’s longer version of the book similarly omits any mention of the Finnish suffrage victory: Abraham Ascher, The Revolution of 1905 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988).

[3] David Kirby, “The Labour Movement” , in Finland: people, nation, state, ed. Max Engman, D.G. Kirby (Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1989), 201. Barbara Evans Clements, A history of women in Russia: from earliest times to the present (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012), 175-176.

[4] Important recent works that address the suffrage struggle include Pirjo Markkola, Alexandra Ramsay, eds.,Yksi kamari, kaksi sukupuolta: Suomen eduskunnan ensimmäiset naiset (Helsinki: Eduskunnan Kirjasto, 1997); Maria Lähteenmäki, Vuosisadan naisliike: naiset ja sosialidemokratia 1900-luvun Suomessa (Helsinki: Sosialidemokraattiset naiset, 2000); Pertti Haapala et al., Kansa kaikkivaltias: suurlakko Suomessa 1905 (Helsinki: Teos, 2008); Piia Vuorinen, Tyytymättömien naisten ponnistus: helsinkiläisten työläisnaisten toimijuus suurlakosta eduskuntauudistukseen (Pro gradu -tutkielma, Turun yliopisto, 2010).

[5] Hannu Soikkanen, Sosialismin Tulo Suomeen: Ensimmäisiin Yksikamarisen Eduskunnan Vaaleihin Asti (Porvoo-Helsinki: Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö, 1961).

[6] Riitta Laine, Suomen Naisyhdistyksen äänioikeustoiminta vuosina 1884-1906 (Pro gradu-tutkielma, Tampereen yliopisto, 1995), 25.

[7] Toisen Suomen Työväen Puoluekokouksen Pöytäkirja. Kokous pidetty Forssassa elok. 17–20 p. 1903 Liite (Turku: O.Y., 1903), 105. The Finnish experience directly contradicts historian Geoff Eley’s assertion that “where neither working men nor working women possessed the vote, left-wing movements refused to back women’s suffrage until the men’s franchise was won.” See Geoff Eley, Forging democracy: the history of the left in Europe, 1850-2000, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 23.

[8] Toisen Suomen Työväen Puoluekokouksen Pöytäkirja. Kokous pidetty Forssassa elok. 17–20 p. 1903 (Turku: O.Y., 1903), 144, 145, 163.

[9] Suomen sosialidemokratinen puolue. Tilastollisia tietoja puolueeseen kuuluvista yhdistyksistä v. 1919 (Helsinki: Sosialidemokraattisen puoluetoimikunta kustannuksella, 1920), 40. On the temperance struggle, see Irma Sulkunen, History of the Finnish temperance movement: temperance as a civic religion (Lewiston: E. Mellen Press, 1990).

[10] Risto Turunen, Pumpulivallankumous – Finlaysonin tehtaalaisten maailmankuvan muutos 1800-luvulta vuoteen 1918 (Pro gradu -tutkielma, Tampereen yliopisto, 2012), 54.

[11] On Makelin et al., see Sandra Lehtinen muistelmat (Kansan Arkisto, 5 Lehtinen Sandra C-Eb), 39. On the support given by socialist men to the activities of working women, see Hilja Pärssinen, “Suomen Sosialidemokraattisen naisliikkeen kehitys”, Sosialide­mokraattinen puolue 25 vuotta Muistojulkaisu. (Helsinki: Sosialidemokraattinen Puoluetoimikunta, 1924), 208. Throughout this article I use the term “feminist” in a broad sense to refer to all those consciously seeking to end the oppression of women.

[12] Vuorinen, 2010, 30-33.

[13] In contrast, the Russian Bolsheviks did not support the autonomous organization of working women until 1918. Soma Marik, Reinterrogating the classical marxist discourses of revolutionary democracy (Delhi : Aakar Books, 2008), 290-296, 414-419.

[14] Kaarina Vattula, “Lähtöviivallako? Naisten ammatissatoimivuudesta, tilastoista ja kotitaloudesta”, in Tuntematon työläisnainen, ed. Leena Laine et al., (Tampere: Vastapaino, 1989), 14.

[15] Toisen yleisen Suomen Työläisnaisten edustajain kokouksen Pöytäkirja. Kokous pidetty Turussa heinäkuun 17 – 19 p:nä 1902 (Turku: Ammattilaisten, 1902), 11.

[16] Suomen Sosialidemokraattisen puolueen kolmannen, ylimääräisen kokouksen pöytäkirjat. Kokous pidetty Helsingissä 25—28 syyskuuta 1904 (Kotka: Kotka 1905), 159.

[17] Elina Katainen, Riitta Oittinen, “Naulaniskuja porvarin ruumiskirstuun, Mimmi Kanervo ja Sandra Lehtinen”, in Markkola, Ramsay, 1997, 86-90 .

[18] Hilja Pärssinen, Äänioikeus-asia työläisnaisten kannalta (Helsinki: Työväen Kirjapaino, 1903), 6. While the clear class divisions in the Finnish women’s rights struggle corresponded quite closely to the “orthodox” analysis of Pärssinen, Zetkin, and Bebel, elsewhere in the empire the situation was often more complex. For instance, in Central Russia and Ukraine the main non-socialist women’s organization were significantly further to the political Left that their Finnish counterparts. On Russia, see Rochelle Goldberg Ruthchild, Equality & revolution: women’s rights in the Russian Empire, 1905-1917 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010); on Ukraine, see Л. О. Смоляр, Минуле заради майбутнього: жіночий рух Наддніпрянської України ІІ пол. XIX- поч. XX століття. Сторінки історії (Одеса : Астропринт, 1998).

[19] On Sillanpää, see Irma Sulkunen, Naisen kutsumus: Miina Sillanpää ja sukupuolten maailmojen erkaantuminen (Helsinki: Hanki ja jää, 1989).

[20] Merja-Liisa Hinkkanen, Maija Lintunen, “Aleksandra Gripenberg: taistelija ja kansainvälinen naisasianainen”, in Markkola, Ramsay, 1997, 204.

[21] On the Voikkaa strike, see Sylvi-Kyllikki Kilpi, Suomen työläisnaisliikkeen historia (Helsinki: Kansankulttuuri oy, 1953), 110-112, and Aura Kiiskinen, Vuosikymmenien takaa: muistelmia (Petroskoi : Karjalan ASNT:n valtion kustannusliike, 1958), 65-66.

[22] Sandra Lehtinen muistelmat, 39. The meeting had been organized primarily by Lucina Hagman’s Women’s League, an organization born from a 1892 split in the Association of Finnish Women linked to the conflict between the “Old Finns” (Gripenberg’s camp) and the more liberal “Young Finns.” Both organizations, however, were notably elitist and only came out in support of universal suffrage after the Great Strike. Marja Kokko, Sisaret, toverit: naisten järjestäytyminen, ryhmätietoisuus ja kansalaistuminen Jyväskylässä 1800-luvun lopulta 1930-luvulle (Jyväskylä: Jyväskylän yliopisto, 1998), 67.

23 On the Great Strike, see Pertti Haapala et al., 2008.

[24] “Suurlakko ja naisten kokoukset”, Palvelijatarlehti 13-14 (1905), 147.

[25] Miina S. [Miina Sillanpää], “Suurlakko, ja palvelijain muutto”, Palvelijatarlehti 3-4 (1906), 34.

[26] “Suurlakko ja naisten kokoukset”, Palvelijatarlehti 13-14 (1905), 147-149.

[27] Väinö Voionmaa, Tampereen historia: itämaisesta sodasta Suurlakon aikoihin (Tampere: Tampereen kaupunki, 1932), 398.

[28] Kansan Lehti, December 19, 1905. In times of famine, the Finnish poor ate pine bark (pettu) to ward off starvation.

[29] On the radicalization of the working class in this period, see Jarmo Ailio, Kesken jäänyt vallankumous. Sosiaalinen mobilisaatio Helsingissä vuoden 1905 suurlakosta Viaporin kapinaan 1906 (Pro gradu-tutkielma, Helsingin yliopisto, 1999)

[30] Pirkko K. Koskinen, “Äänioikeuden lainsäädäntöhistoriaa”, in Markkola, Ramsay, 1997, 32.

[31] Eduskunnan uudistukomitean pöytäkirjat 12.12.1905 (Eduskunnan arkisto)

[32] Miina S. [Miina Sillanpää], “Kaikkien mahdollisuuksien varalta”, Palvelijatarlehti 1-2 (1906), 12.

[33] Nainen, “Yleinen ja yhtäläinen äänioikeus,” Palvelijatarlehti 13-14 (1905), 153.

[34] Kilpi, 1953, 78.

[35] “Naisten Kokous,” Palvelijatarlehti 15-16 (1905), 166.

[36] Sylvi-Kyllikki Kilpi, Aira Sinervo, Sosialidemokraattisten naisten valtiollinen toiminta (Helsinki: Sos.-dem. työläisnaisliitto, 1937), 23.

[37] Elina Kiviranta, “Tervetuloa sorretut siskot, tänne joukkoomme joutukaa”: kansanedustaja Alma Jokisen tie Tampereen Amurista punapakolaiseksi Neuvosto-Venäjälle (Pro gradu-tutkielma, Tampereen yliopisto, 2006), 45.

[38] Alli Lahtinen, 50 vuotta Kotkan sosialidemokraattisten naisten toimintaa 1899-1949 (Kotka: Kotkan sosialidemokraattinen naisyhdistys, 1949), 9.

[39] Miina Sillanpää, “Työläisnaisten toiminta ääni­oikeustaistelun aikana,” in Naiset ja sosialidemokratia Suomessa : 25-vuotismuisto. (Helsinki: Suomen sos.-dem. työläisnaisliitto, 1925), 39.

[40] E-a V-t., Mihin on työläisnaisen perheenäitinä pyrittävä, Palvelijatarlehti 3-4 (1906), 29.

[41] Vuorinen, 2010, 51.

[42] Sylvi-Kyllikki Kilpi, Suomen työläisnaisliikkeen historia (Helsinki: Kansankulttuuri oy, 1953), 78.

[43] Työmies, December 18, 1905.

[44] Tampereen naisten vaatimukset äänioikeus- ja eduskunta-asiassa, 4. (Työväenliikkeen Kirjasto 329.14-055.2, 480, Sos.dem. Naiset 8 K Tampereen)

[45] Eduskunnan uudistuskomitean pöytäkirjat 13.12.1905 (Eduskunnan arkisto)

[46] R.A. Wrede, “Vaikutelmia yksikamarisesta eduskunnasta,” in Murrosajoilta. Muistoja ja kokemuksia I. (Porvoo: WSOY, 1913), 25.

[47] Eduskunnan uudistukomitean pöytäkirjat 13.12.1905 (Eduskunnan arkisto)

[48] Laine, 1995, 102.

[49] On the depth of the revolutionary crisis in the summer of 1906 — which in Helsinki was manifest in the late July “Viapori rebellion” of Russian soldiers and Finnish Red Guards — see John Bushnell, Mutiny amid repression: Russian soldiers in the Revolution of 1905-1906 (Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1985.)

[50] Sosialidemokratinen Naisliitto Kirjelmä Naisosastoille 11.1.1907. (Sos. Dem. Naisliitto 362.86 F1, Työväen Arkisto)

[51] Suomen sosialidemokratinen puolue. Tilastollisia tietoja puolueeseen kuuluvista yhdistyksistä v. 1919 (Helsinki.: Sosialidemokraattisen puoluetoimikunta kustannuksella, 1920), 40.

[52] Short biographies of all nine can be found in Markkola, Ramsay, 1997.

[53] Laine, 1995, 92-94.

[54] Marjaliisa Hentilä, “Maa jossa piiatkin saivat äänestää Suomen työläisnaisliikkeen kuva kansain- välisessä lehdistössä 1906 — 1914”, in Laine, 1989, 174-175.

[55] Baroness Alexandra Gripenberg, Concerning Finland (Glasgow: John Horn, 1911), 6.

[56] Hinkkanen, Lintunen, 1997, 208-210.

[57] Hentilä, 1989, 176.

[58] Työläisnaisten ylimääräisen edustajakokouksen pöytäkirja. Viipurissa 8, 9, ja 10 p. lokakuuta 1906, Naisten edustajakokous 1906 (Kotka: Kyminlaakson Työväen, 1906), 45-46.

[59] On Zetkin, see Hentilä, 1989, 179. On Kollontai, see Elina Katainen, Vapaus, tasa-arvo, toverillinen rakkaus – Perheen, kotitalouden ja avioliiton politisointi suomalaisessa kommunistisessa liikkeessä ennen vuotta 1930. (Helsinki: Hansaprint, 2013), 78.

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Socialists and Electoral Politics Today http://socialistorganizer.org/socialists-and-electoral-politics-today/ http://socialistorganizer.org/socialists-and-electoral-politics-today/#comments Sun, 08 Mar 2015 00:45:41 +0000 http://socialistorganizer.org/?p=4358 For socialists, the issue of working class independence often takes center stage during elections. Socialists in recent months have been grappling with how to break the subordination of our class, and its organizations, to the Democratic Party, a party of the bosses. This subordination remains the main obstacle today to effectively resisting privatization, union busting, police brutality against Black people, and attacks on immigrants.

Many people were inspired by the 2014 election of Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant, who beat out her Democratic Party rivals for a seat on Seattle’s city council. This victory motivated an effort by a coalition of socialist groups and independent activists to form a Chicago Socialist Campaign. In New York, numerous socialists supported Howie Hawkins, a militant teacher unionist and socialist who was running for governor of New York on the Green Party ticket. And this May, a Left Electoral Action Conference has been called for in Chicago by a number of groups and activists.

It is certainly a positive development when socialists with an understanding of working class independence gain many votes and run dynamic campaigns. However an important question has been often overlooked: the need to build an independent working class political vehicle that actually expresses the labor movement, and Black and Latino struggles. This is not the same thing as building a general “Left” or “Socialist” coalition of different groups and activists. The task for Marxists is to push our class and those in oppressed communities to act independently of the Democrats and Republicans. Our main task is not regrouping the (very small) far Left.

The orientation of some socialist organizations seems more concerned about getting socialists elected than getting the labor unions, Black and Latino organizations, and women’s groups, to break with the Democrats. This orientation easily becomes a form of substitutionism by socialist organizations. This orientation ignores the potential for the labor unions, and Black and Latino organizations, to radically transform the political situation in this country.

For instance, in Chicago for months there was a major debate on electoral politics within the militant and influential Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Independent Political Organization (IPO) it formed. The task of socialists was first and first foremost to fight for these organizations to run campaigns completely independent of the Democrats. Unfortunately, many socialists were more interested in running their own socialist campaign than in focusing on pushing the CTU and IPO to break with the Democrats. This orientation was an obstacle to an effective pushback against the CTU and IPO’s current — and very problematic — support for Democratic Party politicians.

The responsibility for socialists is to clarify in every way possible the need for a clean break with the parties of the bosses. A clean break means pro-actively calling on all trade unions and organizations of the oppressed to take ownership over the project of building a new political party — beginning with local Labor-Community congresses for independent political action. A real independent labor campaign for elective office starts and finishes in the streets and on the picket line, that is, in the class struggle. It should never be separate from mass struggle — it should be its expression at the ballot box.

A clean break means refusing to endorse any Democrats — including “progressive” Democrats that take the right stand on many important issues. To these Democrats, socialists should say: if you stand with working people, then you should declare that the Democratic Party is part of the problem and you need to run as part of an independent movement.

We hope the May Electoral Action Conference will address this class perspective. Acting on such an orientation would allow the conference to become a point of leverage to help our class move out of the Democratic Party. The concrete first step in this direction — i.e., towards a working class party, a Labor Party — remains the running of independent labor-community slates across the country.

 

 

 

 

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