Alexandra Kollontaj, real name Alexandra Michajlovna Domontovic, nicknamed Sura, is a Russian revolutionary of Marxist and feminist orientation, the first woman in history to have held the position of minister and to be ambassador to European countries.
Alexandra was born in 1872 in St. Petersburg to a family of Russian high society, so she received an excellent private education. Destined for an arranged marriage, she decides to go against the family by marrying an engineer (whose surname she will keep). The marriage is short-lived, but it allows her to attend the factories and learn about the reality of the workers. This is how she became passionate about their cause and decided to enroll in the Faculty of Economics at the University of Zurich (which in 1867 was the first in the world to allow women to attend its courses). During this period Alexandra studied Marxist theory, finding in it what she had seen in the factories. She returns to Russia worried that the new European revisionist theories could undermine the revolutionary cause, which according to her had to remain faithful to Marxism.
In Russia she became one of the most influential agitators and began to take an interest in women's rights: her basic theory was that the women's question was inevitably linked to the class question and that the women's movement could not exist without also fighting to overthrow the system.
In 1907 she tries to create a women's division in the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party, with the aim of dealing with the fact that women are overburdened with work as workers, housewives and mothers. This attempt goes wrong, she is accused of feminism by the party leadership, referring to the European feminism of the bourgeoisie, guilty of not embracing the communist cause; precisely those from which Kollontaj tries in every way to dissociate herself. A proof of dissociation from such movements is her analysis on the relationship between the sexes, on sexuality and romantic love, identifying in them the root of female oppression and investigating the conflict between public and private. Love, then, is an expression of the domination of one class over another, not only of the bourgeois over the proletarian, but also of man over woman. Hierarchy insinuates itself within the family, assigning the woman the care of the home and the man the wage labor, but also in sexual roles, revealing a relationship between oppressed and oppressor that is ignored in the class struggle. The most striking example of sexual inequality is the bond of fidelity: mandatory for women but not for men. The direct consequence of such an ideological structure is that overcoming the bourgeoisie would also imply a rethinking of intimate, love and sexual relations.
The Party ignores her ideas, considering them subversive.
From 1908 to 1917 Alexandra leaves Russia because of the political persecution of the Tsar, in addition to the cultural and political isolation in which she finds herself: in the Party no one took her proposals seriously, not even Lenin who wanted her both in the Executive Committee of the Petersburg Soviet and, after the victory of the Revolution, as people's commissar (i.e. minister) for social assistance. Period in which she distributed to the peasants the lands belonging to the monasteries, established the state kindergartens and maternity care.
Kollontaj begins to distance herself more and more from the Bolshevik party both for political reasons and for the devaluation of her ideas on the female question. In 1920 she was totally marginalized politically, she was even prevented from attending the conference of the Third Congress of the Communist International (Comintern) because of her hostility to the NEP, the new economic policy that partially restored private trade and that Kollontaj believed could give new impetus to the exploitation of prostitution, against which she fought fiercely. The fact that she was removed from the Central Committee did not prevent her from being one of the organizers of the First Congress of Russian Working Women from which Zenotdel was born (an organization for the promotion of women's participation in public life, for social initiatives and the fight against illiteracy). Thanks to its initiatives, women obtained the right to vote and to be elected, the right to education and a salary equal to that of men. Divorce is introduced, the right to abortion (removed by Stalin and reintroduced after his death).
He dies in 1952 in Moscow.
Kollontaj remains, even today, an unwelcome figure in the memory of the Soviet Union, precisely because of her determination to denounce the patriarchal mentality: the proletariat is not made up of men only, but also of women, who in addition to fighting against the master must also fight against their own husbands, who are in fact their masters. Convinced that with the Revolution of 1917 women enter the era of their liberation both from capitalist exploitation and from the condition of exploitation and inferiority as women.