Alexandra Kollontai (1872-1952) was a leading Bolshevik and the earliest champion of women’s rights under the new Soviet government. From an aristocratic background, she was attracted to left wing ideas as a student and in 1899 joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, under which name the communists were first organized. Kollontai devoted her energies, in exile and in Russia, to develop strategies for the organization and education of women and their involvement in the struggle against tsarism and capitalism, in unity with and as an equal partner of men. She also sought to liberate women’s sexuality as part of the liberation of women in general and promoted ideas that may appear to be quite acceptable now but which were somewhat advanced for the immediate post-feudal era in Russia (‘sexuality is a human instinct as natural as hunger or thirst’). Although Kollontai encountered much resistance by her male comrades, she nevertheless persisted and earned the support by Lenin. While she was eventually banished to a diplomatic post because of her factional struggle against bureaucracy as a member of ‘The Workers Opposition,’ her ideas heavily influenced the Soviet agenda on women and family issues. It is believed that one of the reasons that she survived the Stalin purges was because of her popularity.
In an article, ‘Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism’ in the New York Times of August 12, by Kirsten R. Ghodsee, a Professor of Russian and East European studies at the University of Pennsylvania, recognition was given to the role of Alexandra Kollontai. The writer said: “After the Bolshevik takeover Vladimir Lenin and Alexandra Kollontai enabled a sexual revolution in the early years of the Soviet Union with Kollontai arguing that love should be freed from economic considerations.” The ideological foundation for women’s equality had been laid by earlier writers such as August Bebel and Frederic Engels. Thus, suffrage was extended to women in 1917, immediately after the revolution and three years before the US. This was followed by the liberalization of divorce laws and freedom being given to women over reproductive rights. Unwanted pregnancies were reduced by extensive sex education.