All Conditioning Aims at That: Making People Like Their Unescapable Social Destiny[1]

Authors' Views on the Feminist Issues
The Concept of Free Unions
Motherhood and Child Rearing
List of Works Cited & Footnotes

                                        In 1917 Russia underwent tremendous political, social and economic changes as the government
                                    of people replaced its last monarch of the Romanoff dynasty. The Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir
                                    Lenin, introduced new, radical changes in all spheres of people's lives: the power was given to the
                                    proletariat; the property was redistributed among people equally; and even the attitudes toward the
                                    concept of a family changed with the new, revolutionary government. Yes, Soviet families were
                                    destined to be transformed into much more mobile units of society, for in the new state, where
                                    everyone was equal, flexibility of the family bonds was convenient for those, who were too busy
                                    building the bright future of socialism. The new leaders hoped that families would gradually "wither
                                    away," with the state taking care of the mothers and children.

                                            In the works by Alexandra Kollontai and Aldous Huxley, Love of Worker Bees, published in 1923,
                                    and Brave New World, first published in 1932, respectively, the authors present two different societies
                                    that are very similar in their portrayal of Communist views toward families and motherhood. Kollontai's
                                    work is somewhat of a manual on how to be an exemplary Communist and a wife. Huxley, however,
                                    satirically presents a fictional, distopian society, where stability is achieved by fabricating physically and
                                    mentally equal human beings preprogrammed to achieve certain goals. Nonetheless, despite the
                                    differences in their approaches, both Kollontai and Huxley regard motherhood and the family as
                                    something long extinct and unnecessary in the societies they describe.

                                        First of all, it is necessary to look into the attitudes of the authors toward women in general,
                                    beyond their roles as mothers and wives. From both of the works a reader may conclude that the
                                    authors disagree in their attitudes toward females. In Kollontai's work, women are portrayed as equal to
                                    men, living on their own and working hard just as the Bolsheviks, Lenin, Marx and Engels envisioned
                                    earlier. The main character of Vasilisa Malygina is a hard working individual, who first holds a job at a
                                    factory and later spends all of her time working for the Party, organizing her Communist house and later
                                    working in the mat factory. This character is depicted as a pure workaholic - nothing can make Vasya
                                    happy except for her work, not even the love and attention of her husband, Volodiya. In order to
                                    demonstrate how strongly Communists emphasized the importance of hard work, Kollontai describes
                                    Vasilisa in the following way: "She actually had very little time to herself, and was busy from morning
                                    until later at night with her work for the Party and the local soviet, one job just piling on top of another"
                                    (Kollontai, 23). Such dedication to work and labor Kollontai incorporates in her work for a reason. The
                                    author's intentions are to show through her characters the very ideals and roots of socialist-communist
                                    ideology, which found its beginning in the works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, who were
                                    convinced that women's emancipation from male domination would only take place through women's
                                    labor and wages.

                                            Unlike Kollontai's Love of Worker Bees, Huxley's Brave New World lacks the same cheery
                                    disposition towards women's emancipation. Huxley presents a radically distopian scenario, where the
                                    boundaries between men and women completely disappear. However, the disappearance of these
                                    boundaries does not take place due to women's desire to be liberated - in the Brave New World,
                                    individuals are simply manufactured and are already programmed to disregard differences among the
                                    sexes. Women as well as men are prohibited from procreating on their own; therefore sexuality
                                    becomes just one of the means of entertainment. The government even encourages women's sexual
                                    liberation as long as they do not reproduce, using propaganda as a way to discourage women from this
                                    activity. Due to such government disposition towards women, Huxley describes the dating activity of his
                                    main character, Lenina Crow, in the following way: "Round her waist she wore a silver-mounted green
                                    morocco-surrogate cartridge belt, bulging ... with the regulation supply of contraceptives" (Huxley, 39).
                                    Thus, although the works of both writers present the same position towards women as liberated and
                                    equal to men, the authors approach this point from completely different angles: Kollontai promotes
                                    gradual transformation towards women's emancipation, where Huxley proposes simply to program
                                    people to behave in a certain way.

                                        Furthermore, after the concept of free union, where the marriage bonds did not exist and anyone
                                    in a serious relationship was considered married, was widely propagated by Karl Marx and Frederick
                                    Engels and later accepted by Bolsheviks, this idea was further developed by both writers. Huxley and
                                    Kollontai promoted the same idea of family bonds dissolving with time in their works. However, the
                                    approach they used was quite different. Kollontai bases her views upon realistic events, which took
                                    place in the 1920's Russia. She promotes the idea of two individuals, Vasilisa and Vladimir, attracted to
                                    each other through bonds of mutual affection. And although they are regarded as a married couple,
                                    there is no official documentation proving it - a common law marriage only binds Vasya and Vladimir.
                                    Moreover, when the main heroin realizes that her marriage is failing and her love towards her husband
                                    has disappeared, Vasilisa does not struggle greatly before giving her husband up to another woman,
                                    whom Vladimir has fallen in love with. Vasilisa's letter to Vladimir's mistress proves Kollontai's attitude
                                    toward weakening family bonds existing in the earlier Soviet state: "Vladimir Ivanovich and I had a
                                    common-law marriage, so there'll be no need for a divorce. I have no grudge against you, and if I'd
                                    known before how deeply you loved each other I would have taken this step[releasing Vladimir from
                                    the marriage] long ago" (Kollontai, 176). In the Soviet Communist state, the idea of free unions was part
                                    of distributing everything equally among the people. However, literary works such as Love of Worker
                                    Bees do not take into consideration that not everyone would want to follow Vasilisa's example. Kollontai
                                    completely disregards human feelings impossible to regulate through any type of government
                                    intervention or ideology. Although Huxley's work, Brave New World, proposes a way too radical
                                    solution, the problem of resistance against free union is completely taken care of - people are
                                    programmed to live according to established by the government standards and are committed to the
                                    ideology of their leaders.

                                            Although Huxley's work may seem quite bizarre, it reflects numerous actual events that took place
                                    along the timeline of Russian history. Brave New World incorporates distopian views towards family as a
                                    unit of society. In fact, in this work, humans are discouraged from any notion of building their own nest.
                                    Families and any long-term bonds are seen as irrational and unnecessary attributes of human
                                    existence: "Family, monogamy, romance. Everywhere exclusiveness, everywhere a focusing of
                                    interest, a narrow channeling of impulse and energy" (Huxley, 29). Huxley even uses the logo "Every
                                    one belongs to every one else" in order to demonstrate the fluidity of human relations, the same
                                    concept as was introduced by the Bolsheviks. However, Huxley formulates this idea in more blunt and
                                    open terms, something Communists would not dare to do, using indirect propaganda instead.

                                        Of course, the concept of motherhood is not dismissed from either of the works. Both Kollontai
                                    and Huxley present a vision of motherhood as a concept that is completely obsolete and unnecessary.
                                    This view is clearly in support of Marx's and Engels' idea of the "withering away" of the individual family
                                    and the state assuming the parental role completely. In Love of Worker Bees, when Vasilisa finds out
                                    that she is pregnant, she is endlessly happy because it will give her a chance to raise a truly
                                    Communist child. Vasilisa's approach towards rearing her baby is establishing a communal crèche,
                                    where the whole community will have an impact on the child's upbringing. Vasilisa conversation with her
                                    friend, Grusha, regarding the rearing of her child demonstrates Kollontai's attitude towards communal
                                    child raising:
                                            "'But how are you going to raise a child all on your own?'
                                    'What do you mean, all on my own? Everything will be arranged perfectly, and we'll set up a crèche.
                                    And soon there'll be a new baby, for all of us!'
                                            'A communist baby!' 'Precisely so!'" (Kollontai, 181).

                                            Yet, Huxley's rejection of motherhood is much more radical, presenting a society where
                                    individuals are preprogrammed to dismiss motherhood as a concept completely irrational and full of
                                    imperfections. Since in Brave New World humans do not reproduce through conventional methods of
                                    giving birth and are simply manufactured and reared at Central London Hatchery and Conditioning
                                    Center, there is no need to introduce motherhood into the lives of these beings. In fact, motherhood is
                                    viewed as destructive force on the way to "Community, Identity, Stability" - the main goal of Huxley's
                                    society. The following statement demonstrates the author's distopian scenario of rejection of
                                    motherhood, a sentiment somewhat compatible with communists' vision of families and motherhood
                                    disappearing with time and the state assuming all of the motherly responsibilities: "Mother, monogamy,
                                    romance. My love, my baby. No wonder those poor pre-moderns were mad and wicked and
                                    miserable. What with mothers and lovers, what with the prohibitions they were not conditioned to obey,
                                    what with the temptations and the lonely remorses ... -- they were forced to feel strongly. And feeling
                                    strongly (and strongly, what was more, in solitude, in hopelessly individual isolation), how could they be
                                    stable?" (Huxley, 30). Huxley does not agree with communists' idea of motherhood as unnecessary
                                    and destructive, for the writer certainly makes good use of satire in order to express his opinion on the
                                    topic of motherhood, making Communists utopian ideas seem like a horrible nightmare.

                                           Through their works Love of Worker Bees and Brave New World, Alexandra Kollontai and Aldous
                                    Huxley presented two extremes in their views toward family structure, motherhood and child rearing.
                                    Throughout her work, Kollontai constantly stimulated a positive feeling towards free unions and
                                    communal motherhood, somewhat supporting communists' views. Huxley's work, on the other hand,
                                    was somewhat a parody on the existing in the Soviet Union order. Huxley presented a society that
                                    resembled a robotic army, the main goal of which is stability and rationalism. Fortunately, living in the
                                    21st century, we readers know how the story of the Soviet Union has turned out. And although this
                                    Communist state lasted for a prolonged period of time, people's perception of family life and
                                    motherhood did not change significantly. Finally, after reading Kollontai's and Huxley's works, the
                                    reader may recall how precious her family and her mother are to her.

                                [1] Huxley, Aldous.Brave New World & Brave New World Revisited. New York: Harper Colophon Books,
                                        1960. 11.

Works Cited

(Click Here to View the List of Works Cited for the Whole Site)

                                Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World & Brave New World Revisited. New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1960.

                                Kollontai, Alexandra. Love of Worker Bees. Chicago: Cassandra Editions Academy Press Limited, 1978.

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