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.
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.
after the concept of free union, where the marriage bonds did not exist
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
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.
course, the concept of motherhood is not dismissed from either of the works.
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
"'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.
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.
Kollontai, Alexandra. Love of Worker Bees. Chicago: Cassandra Editions Academy Press Limited, 1978.
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