Zetkin, Clara


Zetkin, Clara
(1857–1933)
   Born in Saxony, Zetkin was one of the foremost figures in the German workers’ movement, and an activist in the campaign for women’s rights. Zetkin had her political baptism as a member of the German Social Democrat Party (SPD), serving as a left-wing member of the National Executive from 1895. In 1896, despite German laws decreeing that women were to be prevented from joining trade unions, she became the provisional international secretary of the Tailors and Seamstresses Union. In the same year, when speaking at the SPD conference, Zetkin espoused for the first time her rejection of contemporary bourgeois feminism of the time that advocated the restriction of votes by property or income. Here Zetkin began the mobilization of the first mass emancipation movement for working-class women in the world, the policies of which were expounded in Die Gleichheit magazine under her editorship from 1892 to 1917. In 1899 Zetkin gave an account of the struggle of working women under capitalism at the founding congress of the Second International in Paris. Zetkin then assisted in the formation of the International Women’s Socialist Congress in 1907, a radical group poles apart from the reformist SPD, so much so that when in 1908 a new law was passed granting women the right to organize politically with men, the party saw fit to end separate women’s associations. Zetkin worked tirelessly to convert socialist parties across Europe to the cause of universal suffrage, and she created the Conference of Socialist Women whose earliest achievement was the establishment of International Women’s Day (8 March) in 1910.
   The outspoken German’s opposition to World War I led to her expulsion from the SPD, and in 1917 she joined the newborn German Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD). Zetkin’s membership, however, lasted just two years, as in 1919 she left the party to play a key role in the formation of the German Communist Party (KPD) alongside Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht with whom she had worked as a member of the Spartacists during World War I. She was soon elected to the KPD leadership, and appointed editorin-chief of the party newspaper, Die Kommunistin, and in 1920 she was elected a Reichstag deputy. Zetkin’s activism was ended only by her death in 1933, up to which point she had been steering the women’s movement within the Third International (Comintern) from the Soviet Union, where she had moved in 1924. The foremost activist and theoretician of the “women question” in her time, Zetkin was regarded as a MarxistLeninist, a perception given credence by the publishing in 1929 of her fond reminiscences of her meetings with Vladimir Ilich Lenin. Zetkin bridged the gap between the struggle for women’s liberation and Marxism, linking the rise of patriarchal order to the rise of private property, and placing emphasis on the class-based nature of the women’s movement. She was committed to the principle of a general strike as a prologue to social revolution rather than reformism, though in 1923 she persuaded Lenin not to support left-wing uprisings in Germany.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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  • Zetkin, Clara —    nee Eissner (1857 1933)    Marxist and feminist; one of the few radicals to hold an SPD office. She was born in Niederau, a village near Chemnitz. Her father was a Jewish schoolteacher; her mother awakened Clara s interest in women s* rights.… …   Historical dictionary of Weimar Republik

  • Zetkin, Clara — orig. Clara Eissner born July 5, 1857, Wiederau, Saxony died June 20, 1933, Arkhangelskoye, Russia, U.S.S.R. German communist leader. She joined the Social Democratic Party in 1881, and she later married a Russian revolutionary exile, Ossip… …   Universalium

  • Zetkin, Clara — orig. Clara Eissner (5 jul. 1857, Wiederau, Sajonia–20 jun. 1933, Arjánguelskoie, Rusia, URSS). Dirigente comunista alemana. Se unió al Partido Socialdemócrata en 1881 y luego se casó con un exiliado revolucionario ruso, Ossip Zetkin (n. 1848–m.… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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