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From Women’s Club to Group 8

Lars Gogman, 29 december 2010.

This article is part of the project Worlds of Women - International Material in ARAB’s Collections
The Separate Organization of Women within the Swedish communist Movement

Already in 1918, the first independent communist women’s organization, Sveriges Vänstersocialistiska Kvinnoklubbars Samorganisation (the Swedish Left-Socialist Women’s Clubs’ Joint Organization), was founded. The Swedish communist women have always seen themselves as internationalists. Amongst other things, they took part in establishing 8 March as International Women’s Day in order to export current communist policy, but also to serve as a reminder of international solidarity. Not only the substance of the policies, but also its form - its organizational structure - has been influenced by contacts with the International. The history of the organization of Swedish communist women shows how much room the internationalization allowed for a local formulation of the rules and structures which came from the international level. The history also shows how ideas were transformed from an international to a local context.

Birgit Jansson (1965). Editor of ”Vi Kvinnor”, SKPs womens political ombudsman. Photo: (No information). Source: ARAB, Ny Dag.

Birgit Jansson (1965). Editor of ”Vi Kvinnor”, SKP's women's political ombudsman. Photo: (No information). Source: ARAB, Ny Dag.

Membership of the Communist International (Comintern) entailed adjusting to its organizational structure. Under slogans, such as ‘communist first, woman second’ and ‘no difference between the sexes’, the separate organization of women would be eliminated. How was the women’s political work from now on to be organized? By surveying the history of the communist movement, one finds that, right from the beginning, the Swedish women objected in writing to the above decision and constantly sought, in various ways, to circumvent the decision of the International. In cases where women left the Comintern, they immediately resurrected the independent organization.

The relationship between the politically active women and the party leadership appears to have been tense throughout, and it seems as though the party rarely tried to live up to its slogans. Birgit Jansson, one of the leading communist women at the beginning of the 1960s, pointed out that this relationship stemmed from a backward un-Marxist understanding of the woman’s role.

Sveriges Vänstersocialistiska Kvinnoklubbars Samorganisation

In the spring of 1917, the political left within Socialdemokratiska Arbetarepartiet, SAP [the Swedish Social Democratic Party] broke away and founded Socialdemokratiska Vänsterpartiet [the Social Democratic Left Party]. Swedish communism sees the founding of this party as its origin.

The first social democratic women’s club, Stockholms allmänna kvinnoklubben [the Stockholm Women's Club], was founded in 1882, and there was a type of informal central leadership up until 1920 when Sveriges Socialdemokratiska Kvinnoförbund, SSKF [the National Federation of Social Democratic Women in Sweden] was founded. They published their own magazine Morgonbris, had separate women’s clubs, and held Social Democratic women’s congresses as well. No one from the Left opposition participated at the women’s congress in February 1917 and support for the SAP party leadership was voiced. (1)

With few exceptions (Kiruna, Malmberget, and Fagerviken), the women’s clubs supported their party leadership. There were reservations foremost in the party districts that voted to go with the Left opposition and in Socialdemokratiska Ungdomsförbundet [the Social Democratic Youth Federation]. In Vänsterpartiet’s newspaper Folkets Dagblad Politiken, the youth club ‘Revelj’ [Reveille] published an appeal to working-class women, in which they, in general terms, made propaganda for revolutionary Socialism as Vänsterpartiet did at its inaugural congress in April 1917.

It was first in April 1918 that ‘Vakna Viljor’ [Conscious Intentions], the women’s club in Stockholm, took the initiative to form its own central women’s organization, Sveriges Vänstersocialistiska Kvinnoklubbars Samorganisation. A steering committee was formed with Karin Adamsson from Göteborg and Anna Stina Pripp and Gerda Linderot from Stockholm. The inaugural congress was held in June 1918 and there were initially eight clubs: one in Kiruna, Malmberget, Stockholm, Göteborg, Sundbyberg, Mölndal, Tranås, and Malmö. Ella Stålbärj (Göteborg); Anna Stina Pripp, Gerda Linderot, and Mimmi Lönn (Stockholm); Petra Nilsson (Kiruna); as well as Marta Larsson (Malmö) were elected members of the central board.

In February 1919, publication of the magazine Röda Röster began, with a circulation of 3,000 printed copies, and, in May, the joint organization had twenty-four clubs and 1,300 members. When the SSKF was founded in 1920, there were 67 clubs, 4 trade unions, and 3,000 members.

Paragraph 1 in the joint organization’s constitution, which was adopted at the congress in 1918, reads:

Sveriges vänstersocialistiska kvinnoklubbars samorganisation is an amalgamation of the country’s Left-Socialist women’s organizations and has, as its aim, to instil into women an interest in and knowledge about current social issues, especially with consideration to such issues which affect the position of women within society, thereby seeking to raise them to be true fighting citizens, with a feeling of responsibility and an awareness of class and purpose.

A proposal for Paragraph 1 of the constitution for the local women’s clubs was also published in the first issue of Röda Röster:

Vänstersocialistiska Kvinnoklubbarna [the Left-Socialist Women's Clubs] are an amalgamation of Sveriges Vänstersocialistiska Kvinnor and have as their aim, that through refined social gathering, discussions, studies, etc., to instil in their members an interest in and knowledge about current social issues, especially with consideration to such issues that affect the position of women within society and thereby promoting their own development as well as strengthening and deepening their feeling of responsibility and solidarity towards their working-class sisters, and partially and, to the extent possible, to transform women’s awakening class awareness into action and thus work directly towards the goal-women’s-the working class’s liberation, the implementation of Socialism. (2)

The constitution followed the standard Swedish practice of association with a preamble. District leaders and a central board were elected. The joint organization was responsible for the finances; it elected a treasurer and auditors, and the congress was the organization’s highest decision-making authority.

International Cooperation

When the joint organization was to be founded, a sum of 1,000 Swedish kronor was received from Sveriges Socialdemokratiska Vänsterparti and 500 Swedish kronor from the International Socialist Commission, the Leftist groups’ international action centre. The joint organization joined the Comintern when the party did so.

On 19 June 1919, a pan-Scandinavian women’s committee was formed. This Nordic cooperation can be seen as part of the work with the Scandinavian section of the Comintern, which had been founded a few months earlier. On 7 December that same year, a pan-Scandinavian women’s conference was held in Stockholm where the following guiding principles were agreed upon:

  1. Mentioning large meetings and important decisions in each other’s magazines.
  2. Reading each other’s literature.
  3. Holding each other’s congresses.
  4. Exchanging female agitators.
  5. Conducting the Scandinavian work through the respective central leadership.

At the Comintern’s first congress in 1919, the matter of organizing women was hardly raised. At the second congress in 1920, an international secretary was appointed, and a so-called women’s section was organized. At the third congress in 1921, considerable attention was paid to the women’s issue. Special, separate women’s associations were openly opposed based on the principle ‘communists first, specialists second’ while, at the same time, the necessity of using the parties’ special methods to recruit women was acknowledged.

Gerda Linderot (1947) participated in Second Congress of the Communist International, a member of the SKPs Womens Committee, Member of Parliament.Photo: (No information). Source: ARAB, Ny Dag.

Gerda Linderot (1947) participated in Second Congress of the Communist International, a member of the SKP's Women's Committee, Member of Parliament.Photo: (No information). Source: ARAB, Ny Dag.

The International Women’s Secretariat in Moscow came to be the focal point of this cooperation. The Secretariat initially consisted of six women from the Soviet Union and two from other countries. They had an organizational collaboration under the executive committee and links with the various countries’ international secretaries. The monthly German-language magazine Die kommunistische Fraueninternationale was published between 1921 and 1925. Gerda Linderot, among others, spoke at the Second International Conference of Communist Women in Moscow on 9 July 1921. She maintained at the time that she had only now found out that an international secretariat existed. The lines of communication had been very poor. An important question was how best to break men’s opposition and implement the communist slogan ‘no difference between the sexes’. (3)

In 1922, 8 March began to be celebrated as International Communist Women’s Day. The decision was made at the International Women’s Congress in Moscow in 1922 based on a suggestion from the Bulgarian representatives as a remembrance of the women’s demonstration in Petrograd on 8 March 1917. International views were becoming more common in Röda Röster in articles, such as ‘Persiska kvinnornas socialekonomiska ställning’ [Persian Women's Socio-Economic Status], ‘Kommunistiska kvinnor i Indonesien’ [Communist Women in Indonesia], ‘Från Japanska kvinnorörelsen’ [From the Japanese Women's Movement], ‘En vecka i Samaras barnhem’ [A Week at the Orphanage in Samara], and ‘Hur San Franciscos kaffeuppasserskor skaffade sig en människovärdig tillvaro’ [How the Coffee-Shop Waitresses of San Francisco Acquired a Life Fit for Human Beings]. The chair of the committee was given the task of writing to Clara Zetkin, Sylvia Pankhurst, Henriette Roland, and Sigrid Sylvester to ask them to write articles which could be published in Röda Röster.

Sweden’s Communist Women

The SVP/SKP held its congress between 25 and 29 March 1921 and provisions were introduced into the constitution which made the women’s joint organization and its clubs subordinate to the party. (4) With this decision, Sveriges Vänstersocialistiska Kvinnoklubbars Samorganisation was no longer an independent organization. From then on, work would be carried out under the name Sveriges Kommunistiska Parti, Kvinnoutskottet [the Communist Party of Sweden, the Women's Committee]. This occurred as part of the centralization of the organization in accordance with the Comintern’s twenty-one conditions which had been adopted by the Second World Congress in 1920. (5)

According to the SKP’s constitution of 1921, the women’s club constituted a sub-branch of the local communist party. One female member, on the proposal of the women’s sections, was to be appointed to every district board with the specific task of working for female agitation and reporting to the central committee.

The main task of the Communist Party’s women’s committee was, together with the party’s steering committee, to publish the magazine Röda Röster, assist the women’s sections in their studies, as well as lead the agitation among the women. The committee consisted of the chairwoman, the secretary, the treasurer, as well as the editor. The women’s sections were to hold a conference in conjunction with the party congress where Kommunistiska Partiets Kvinnoutskott was also elected.

The women’s clubs which did not want to join the Comintern had the opportunity to join the minority which carried on under the same name, Sveriges Socialdemokratiska Vänsterparti, whose steering committee could make decisions about the women’s and youth clubs joining this party.

A few weeks after the SKP congress on 1-2 April 1921, the joint organization held its second congress, a congress which, in some ways, had already been abolished when Sveriges Vänstersocialistiska Kvinnoklubbars Samorganisation ceased to exist with the party congress’s amendment to the constitution.

On 21 November 1921, the women’s committee wrote a letter to the International Women’s Secretariat and asked if they really had to disband the women’s clubs; they wrote: ‘An abolishment of our clubs has unfortunate consequences for communist work here’.

One of the most important international issues concerned relief supplies to Russia. At the Liebknecht-Luxemburg Home in Samara and the Scandinavian orphanage in the territory of Tuva, in the vicinity of Kazan (Tyurlema), the work was mainly carried out together with the Norwegian Labour Party’s Women’s Committee, and they worked together with Willy Münzenberg and Frau Dr Heller from the Workers’ International Relief in Berlin to get the deliveries to the Soviet Union.

Soon, however, the relations between the women’s committee and the party’s steering committee became strained. Among other things, Signe Sillén sent a report to the International Women’s Secretariat which depicted the party’s work among the women in a negative light. After some discussion, the steering committee decided to send a new report to the International Women’s Secretariat. (6)

At the following party congress in 1923, the centralization was further strengthened so that the party’s steering committee established a women’s committee consisting of three people which would be responsible for the communist work among the women. Both men and women could be members of this committee. The women’s committee was subordinate to the steering committee, which meant the steering committee’s directives were binding and the women’s committee had a duty to report.

The Dissolution of the Party, 1924

In 1924, the Comintern further strengthened the centralism. The Norwegian Labour Party had been forced out of the International and religion was no longer a private matter. The period leading up to the dissolution of the party in 1924 was difficult as the steering committee’s representative Carl Stålbärj saw himself as being a type of chief censor for Anna Stina Pripp, the then editor of Röda Röster. In August 1924, the party’s steering committee’s minority published an appeal to the Comintern in Röda Röster which was seen as a violation of the constitution. Therefore, the steering committee dissolved the women’s committee.

Anna-Stina Pripp participated in Fourth Congress of the Communist International,  Editor of “Röda Röster” 1919-1930, a member of the SKP/SPs womens committee. Photo: (No information). Source: ARAB, Ny Dag.

Anna-Stina Pripp participated in Fourth Congress of the Communist International, Editor of “Röda Röster” 1919-1930, a member of the SKP/SP's women's committee. Photo: (No information). Source: ARAB, Ny Dag.

Those following the steering committee’s majority formed a Communist Women’s Committee at the SKP congress on 6-7 September 1924 which was represented by Hulda Sühl, Maria Cruse, Signe Brundin, and Vanja Stålheim. The women’s committee published a ‘women’s column’ in Nya Politiken, the party’s magazine, which was run by Hulda Sühl and Hillevi Dahlström. The party now abandoned the organizational principles of the Comintern, and the women were encouraged to form traditional women’s clubs. In 1924, the committee discussed working internationally with other communist opposition groups. One of the Comintern’s leading women Angelica Balabanoff had recently left.

Those following the Comintern formed their own women’s committee within the section of the SKP. During the congress which was held on 22-24 November 1924, the committee was represented by Anna Stina Pripp, Hildur Ström, and Signe Sillén.

“Bolshevization”

After the dissolution of the party in 1924, the reorganization (”Bolshevization”) was to be more deliberate. Street cells and youth and women’s clubs were to be transformed into factory cells in the workplaces. It was here where the real battle was to be fought. Men, women, and young people were to organize together in the factory cells. (7) The separate organization of women was seen as a remnant of Social Democracy. The continued agitation aimed only at women was to be organized into ‘female agitation committees’ which would be made up of both men and women.

The “Bolshevization” seems to have been met with resistance among the women. Nor does the rallying cry ‘communist first, woman second’ seem to have been held in esteem among the political leadership. For example, no woman was elected a member of the central committee at the party congress in 1927. Notwithstanding, the party publisher Fram continued publishing texts with social-political tendencies aimed specifically at women, such as ‘Hur Elsa blev kommunist’ [How Elsa became a communist] by Anna Stina Pripp, ‘Ett sunt föräldraskap’ [A Healthy Parenthood] by Marie Charmichel Stopes, and ‘Barnbekymmer eller befruktningens förhindrande’ [Concerns about Children or the Prevention of Conception] by Fritz Brupbacher. Furthermore, in 1927, the communist parliamentary group put forward a motion in the Riksdag for penalties for abortion to be abolished. During the 1920s, the communist women were also active in various union disputes involving telephone operators, shop assistants, textile workers, seamstresses, brewery workers, chocolate and confectionery workers, and so on. (8)

At the Comintern’s congress in 1928, the importance of “Bolshevization” was highlighted further and that a real counter-power to capitalism would now be formed.

The Dissolution of the Party, 1929

In 1929, the Communist Party dissolved yet again. The Comintern called for a party of ‘New Type’ social democrats who were called social fascists, and the communists were to stop working loyally within the reformist unions. The party was to prepare itself for civil war.

Those belonging to the ‘majority’ of Sveriges kommunistiska partiets kvinnoutskott continued publishing Röda Röster. Anna Ek became the chairwoman, Margit Lindström the secretary, and Anna Stina Pripp the editor. Rut Fredriksson and Hilmer Nilsson were appointed the other board members. (9)

With the party leaving the Comintern’s organizational structure, the women’s clubs quickly returned. At the SKP congress in 1932, Anna Stina Pripp and Rut Fredriksson encouraged the party’s women to start traditional women’s clubs.

In 1933, an instruction manual for women was published, in which the following could be read:

The Women’s Club is one of the party’s core organizations with the same organizational and political tasks . . . (10)

In Stockholm, among other places, the municipality had its own women’s committee which, in the middle of the 1930s, had eight clubs and in Göteborg five. The party even published its own women’s magazine Kvinnoröster.

At the congress in 1936, there were 66 women’s clubs and the number of female party members had increased to 3,000, or 18 per cent of the membership.

The Women of the Third Period

The Comintern’s loyal minority of Sveriges kommunistiska parti (a section of the Communist International) formed a new women’s committee under the leadership of Gerda Linderot. At the end of 1929, a trial issue of Arbetarkvinnornas Tidning was published. And, in the spring of 1930, Stockholms kvinnoutskott [Stockholm's Women's Committee] appointed a magazine committee (11)  which consisted of Rut Karlsson, Elise Persson, Fredrika Nyberg, Elvy Jonsson, Anna Jonsson, and Valborg Svensson. In the middle of March 1930, the following could be read in the party’s magazine Ny Dag about a planned women’s campaign: ‘Good work for Arbetarkvinnornas Tidning but otherwise poor’.

In the protocol of Stockholms kommunens kvinnoutskott [the Municipality of Stockholm's Women's Committee] from the spring of 1930, it was clear that further increasing the “Bolshevization” was being sought. In December 1930, members gathered for a nationwide conference where the unemployment among working-class women as well as the threat of war were discussed. In the women’s committee, work was to be carried out with a focus on workplaces in existing factory cells. Various factory newspapers were also distributed and a visit by a women’s delegation to the Soviet Union was planned as well. In addition to the work in the factory cells, work was to be transferred to subordinate front organizations, such as International Red Aid, the Workers’ International Relief, the Red Front Fighters’ League, and the League of Friends of the Soviet Union.

A United Front

After the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, the Comintern started to change its political course. In 1934, Gerda Linderot participated in the Paris Congress. In Arbetarkvinnornas Tidning, she quoted the delegate from the Saar:

If the enemy is standing in front of me, then I do not ask myself who my fellow warrior is; for the most important thing is that he is there with me and wants to defeat our common enemy.

Arbetarkvinnornas Tidning, no. 6 (1934)

The new policy tends to be called a ‘united front’ and this change had organizational consequences for the communist women. Now members had to work in organizations, like Svenska hjälpkommittén för Spanien [the Swedish Relief Committee for Spain] which the party did not have full control over. The party’s women’s committee also started introducing the concept kvinnoaktiv [women's initiative] with sewing circles, which greatly resembled the organizational principles which had previously been abandoned. In 1937, it was even possible to talk of a new, separate organization of women, a ‘women’s club’. The Central Women’s Committee changed its name to the Women’s Secretariat. During the Second World War, the communist women did a lot of solidarity work within Centrala hjälpkommittén för Leningrads barn [the Central Relief Committee for the Children of Leningrad[,and even Sällskapet för Främjande av Kulturella och Ekonomiska Förbindelser mellan Sverige och Sovjetunionen [the Society for the Promotion of Cultural and Economic Relations between Sweden and the Soviet Union].

After the War

In 1946, it was noted that one-third of those who had voted for the Communist Party were women while only 17 per cent of the party’s members were women. The party secretary Gunnar Öhman described this as deeply unsatisfactory. (12)

In 1947, in connection with the thirtieth anniversary of the party, a campaign aimed at recruiting more women was organized. That same year, a national congress for the Communist women was also organized. However, Arbetarkvinnornas Tidning was discontinued that year to be replaced by so-called women’s pages in the communist daily papers.

Women’s International Democratic Federation

The French communist women convened an international women’s conference in November 1945. Sweden was represented by two communists, Gerda Linderot and Margit Lindström, and Andrea Andreen from Svenska Kvinnors Vänsterförbund, SKV [the Left Federation of Swedish Women]. The conference became the starting point for the organization Women’s International Democratic Federation, WIDF. The WIDF together with the International Federation of Trade Unions, the World Federation of Democratic Youth, and the International Union of Students can be seen as so-called anti-fascist organizations which were formed after the Second World War. However, Social Democrats and non-Socialist politicians were suspicious of this ‘anti-fascism’ and saw it as a communist infiltration, and as the Cold War unfolded, the majority of non-communists left these organizations.

Svenska Kvinnors Vänsterförbund

In 1914, Föreningen Frisinnade kvinnor [the Association of Liberal Women] was founded, and, in 1931, it changed its name to the SKV, a federation which consisted of Liberals, radicals, and Social Democrats.

The SKV joined the WIDF and, thereafter, the communist women were encouraged to join the SKV. Officially, the communists did not have any influence over the SKV but, according to the communists’ opponents, the organization was considered a cover organization. The same year as Arbetarkvinnornas Tidning stopped being published, the SKV started to publish the magazine Vi kvinnor i demokratiskt världsförbund: Svenska kvinnors vänsterförbunds meddelanden. A main task of the communist women was now to work within the SKV.

The SKV had, through its membership of the WIDF, a large international exchange through conferences and congresses. The WIDF took the initiative in the formation of the World Peace Council (1949), the Commission of the Women’s International Democratic Federation in Korea (1951), the World Congress of Women in Copenhagen (1953), (13) the World Congress of Mothers in Lausanne (1955), the Fourth Congress of the WIDF in Vienna (1958), (14) as well as the Fifth World Congress of Women in Moscow (1963).

A Return to Party Work

In the middle of the 1950s, the SKP appointed a women’s commission to try and formulate a women’s political programme. The general opinion seems to have been that the programme proposal was to be presented in the party associations for discussion before the 1957 congress. The action plan of the women’s commission from the meeting on 28 November 1956 also gives an overall idea:

- The actual programme shall be drawn up in a final version using popular points [...]
- The programme shall be preceded by a “woman’s bible” where the position of women in society will theoretically be explained with the support of past experiences providing a forward-looking perspective, and if possible also with respect to what the atomic age and the people’s power can bring . . .
- The women’s movement and the SKP.

When, in 1957, the party published the book Nutid framtid about the workers’ movement’s debate about the programme, women were hardly mentioned at all, and it was the same in the congress publication from the seventeenth congress. The women’s issue is summarized there in two sentences:

Work among women and young people is being neglected in many areas. Year after year passes without it occurring to our party comrades to recruit women and young people into our organizations, let alone taking the initiative to form such special organizations.

The women’s issue, however, received higher priority at the beginning of the 1960s when Birgit Jansson was appointed the female political secretary. (15) She had previously worked on the SKV’s magazine Vi människor. In 1961, at the nineteenth congress, significantly more space was given to women in the congress document when the party chairman Hilding Hagberg clarified the importance of women to the party while, at the same time, self-critically expressing his regret that

[t]raditional and social relations, a routine and sometimes partially negative view of women have been allowed to make a definite impression on the workers’ organizations, which has delayed the process of women becoming politically active.

This is also a period when Folkpartiet [the Swedish Liberal Party] made the women’s issue an election issue and Landsorganisationen [the Swedish Trade Union Confederation] actively started working to abolish the so-called special women’s wages. In January 1962, Sveriges kommunistiska parti held a women’s political conference. Birgit Jansson expresses the party’s obvious problems in the following manner:

There is a form of overemphasis on women’s role in the coffee committee, as organizers of lotteries, sewing and knitting for the party’s tombola but underestimating women’s political work when it comes to marching against the atom bomb and petitioning for laundry rooms. This stems from a backward un-Marxist understanding of the woman’s role.

Source: ARAB, VPK documents regarding the women’s issue

In conjunction with the 1962 elections, the party also had a membership recruitment campaign specially aimed at women. In 1963, the central committee even circulated a report for consideration by the core organizations regarding the party’s family and women’s political issues. At the party congress in 1964, women’s issues seemed to have been neglected again.

The ‘New Left’

In the middle of the 1960s, a new debate about women’s emancipation began, inspired, among others, by the New Left’s Juliet Mitchell, who published the article ‘The Longest Revolution’ in the journal New Left Review. Iréne Matthis saw this text as ‘the first independent contribution to the Socialist debate on women’s issues since Alexandra Kollontai’. (16) The article was translated by the magazine Zenit and was distributed as a handout. Together with books, such as Människan och hans hustru [Man and His Wife] by Inga Lindsjö, Cornelia Edvardsson’s Till kvinna född [Born a Woman], it was endlessly discussed among the New Left in Sweden. (17) Gunnel Granlid summarizes the standpoints of the New Left in its magazine Tidsignal:

A universal solution to the question of equality can only be found in a strategy which influences all substructures (production, reproduction, the raising of children, and sexuality) of the exploitation of women. In practical terms, this entails a coherent system of demands: the right to work (not only unqualified labour, low paid); the right to an equal education; a reassessment of the role of the family; the liberation of sexuality, reproduction, and the raising of children from the forced way of bonding; the liberation of women from domestic work and housework which can only be realized when the labour market is founded upon equality. (18)

In the middle of the 1960s, Kommunistpartiet was not ready for a reorganization of the struggle for women’s rights, and a number of party members, including Barbro Backberger, Gunnel Granlid, and Louise Rydén, sought other new forms of organization. In 1968, they were involved in forming a network, Grupp 8 (Group 8). This new independent Socialist women’s organization assumed a prominent role in political life during the 1970s. Both Kommunistpartiet and its youth federation were affected and they adopted a so-called women’s political programme. Vänsterpartiet now saw itself as a Socialist and a feminist organization.

Summary

When the Communist Party was founded in 1917, it was an organization with strong roots in the traditions of the Swedish labour movement. This also applies to the women. Women organized themselves according to prevalent principles of association and formed their own independent organization. International cooperation was undertaken with their Nordic sister organizations, and the organization also joined the Comintern. With a stroke of a pen, the Comintern dissolved all separate women’s organizations, thereby breaking up the existing organizational structure.

Despite the intention of having men and women working together, this seems never to have worked. Women’s issues were only in exceptional cases a concern for the entire party, and, on many occasions, conflicts were going on between the politically active women and the party leadership.

The first thing the women did when they left the Comintern at the time of the dissolutions of the party in the 1920s was to reintroduce the old women’s clubs. The women who remained within the Comintern sought in various ways to assert their independence by organizing women’s activities, sewing circles, women’s committees, and informal women’s clubs.

Even though the Comintern was dissolved, there was still within the party an aversion to an independent women’s organization. Nor did the party start its own women’s organization. Only when the communist movement internationally formed the WIDF, were the communist women given the opportunity to join its Swedish branch, the SKV. This can partially be seen as re-establishing their own independent organization. Even the SKV was commonly viewed as the SKP’s women’s organization during the 1950s and early 1960s.

However, the friction between the women’s political work within the party and the SKV continued within the Communist Party. Influenced by the New Left, a new, more consistent social criticism was formulated. Some of the Swedish communist women formed a Socialist network in 1968 called ‘Grupp 8′ which developed into a completely independent Socialist women’s organization.


Archival materials and printed sources

Axel Jansson ARAB 265

Centrala hjälpkommittén för Leningrads barn ARAB 748

Demokratisk ungdoms världsfederation [samling] ARAB 4315

Fackliga världsfederationen [samling] ARAB 3373

Folkets Dagblad Politiken ARAB 4551

Förbundet Sverige - Sovjetunionen ARAB 4628

Grupp 8 ARAB 5165

Internationella arbetarhjälpen, svenska sektionen ARAB 2265

Internationella röda hjälpen, svenska sektionen ARAB 2266

Internationella socialistiska kommissionen [samling] ARAB 1211

Morgonbris ARAB 1810

Röda frontförbundet ARAB 4253

Socialdemokratiska arbetarepartiet ARAB 1889

Socialdemokratiska ungdomsförbundet ARAB 2315

Socialdemokratiska ungdomsklubben Revelj ARAB 0979

Socialistiska partiet (arbetarnas och jordfolkets förbund) ARAB 2262

Sovjetunionens vänners förbund ARAB 1152

Stockholms allmänna kvinnoklubb, ARAB 2651

Stockholms socialistiska arbetarkommuns kvinnoutskott ARAB 3530

Svenska fredskommittén ARAB 3036

Svenska hjälpkommittén för Spanien ARAB 1247

Svenska kvinnors vänsterförbund ARAB 4874

Sveriges kommunistiska parti, kvinnoutskottet (1921) ARAB 3528

Sveriges socialdemokratiska kvinnoförbund, ARAB 2702

Sveriges socialdemokratiska vänsterparti [1917-1921], ARAB 3176

Sveriges socialdemokratiska vänsterparti [1921-1923] ARAB 248

Sveriges vänstersocialistiska kvinnoklubbars samorganisation ARAB 4216,

Vänsterpartiet kommunisterna ARAB 2263

Journals

Die kommunistische Fraueninternationale: Monatsschrift

Morgonbris

Röda Röster

Tidsignal

Zenit

References

  1. Morgonbris, no. 5 (1917).
  2. Röda Röster, no. 1 (1919).
  3. Röda Röster, July, August, and October (1921).
  4. At this congress, the decision was taken that the SVP was to change its name to the SKP.
  5. The conditions are published in the manifesto and conditions from the Third Communist International’s Second Congress: <http://www.marxistarkiv.se/komintern/komintern1920.pdf>. Documents from Ture Nerman’s Kommunisterna: från Komintern till Kominform [The Communists: From the Comintern to the Cominform].
  6. Erland F. Josephson, SKP och Komintern 1921-1924 [The SKP and the Comintern, 1921-1924] (Stockholm 1976), p. 40 f.
  7. Jan Bolin attempts to explain the difference between Social Democratic and Communist organizational principles in Parti av Ny Typ [A New Kind of Party] (Edsbruk 2004), p. 347 ff. One can also read Arvid Wretling, Driftcellen - vår organisation på arbetsplatsen: kort handledning för klubbarnas nyorganisatoriska arbete [The Factory Cell-Our Organization in the Workplace: Brief Instruction for the Clubs' Reorganizational Work] (Stockholm 1923).
  8. Kvinnor, kamrater… Kvinnornas roll i arbetarrörelsens uppbygge till slutet av 1930-talet [Women, Comrades . . .Women's Role in the Development of the Workers' Movement until the End of the 1930s] (Stockholm 1982), <http://www.marxistarkiv.se/kvinnofragan/e-schmitz-kvinnor_kamrater.pdf>
  9. Röda Röster, no. 11 (1929).
  10. Kvinnorna för kommunismen [Women for Communism], Stockholm 1933).
  11. Vänsterpartiet kommunisterna [the Left Party-the Communists], ARAB 2263 F9:1.
  12. Sven Rydenfelt, Kommunismen i Sverige [Communism in Sweden] (Lund 1954), p. 254 ff.
  13. The congress adopted a declaration on the rights of women.
  14. This congress adopted a manifesto denouncing nuclear tests and calling for nuclear disarmament.
  15. In addition to the VPK’s and the SKV’s archive, Birgit Jansson’s documents can also be found in her husband’s, Axel Jansson’s, personal archive, ARAB 265.
  16. Juliet Mitchell, Kvinnorna - den längsta revolutionen [‘Women: The Longest Revolution'], trans. Dick Urban Vestbro and Tomas Gerholm (Zenit reprint, 2nd rev. ed., Kristianstad 1969).
  17. Tidsignal, no. 10 (1967).
  18. Tidsignal, no. 15 (1967).

Senast uppdaterad: 21 mars 2012