Communism, the New York Times, and “reproductive rights”

It doesn’t take much to satisfy the modern progressive feminist these days.

A statue in Volgograd of two Soviet collective farm women (us.fotolia.com/Pavel)

A fascinating piece appeared on August 19 in the New York Times, a timeless organ of outrageousness that never ceases to amaze with its ideological asininity. I’m tempted to say that this piece is beyond the pale even for the Times, but that bar long ago was set unsurpassably high. Still, this piece is another stunner, one that deserves attention if only to appreciate the depths of the left’s ideological perversity. But beyond that, it merits our attention so we can know what leftists are up to in their mis-education of children in government schools and their unconscionably expensive universities.

Titled, “Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism,” the piece made me think of Malcolm Muggeridge’s description of communism as “unresisting imbecility.” So it goes for the left’s infatuation with communism/socialism (words that communists and socialists frequently use interchangeably). It is unresisting imbecility. The author of the article is a University of Pennsylvania professor, who I’ll leave unnamed in order to try to avoid my sharp and sarcastic criticisms being too personal. (Besides, like communism/socialism, so many of these leftist professors are frequently interchangeable.)

“When Americans think of Communism in Eastern Europe, they imagine travel restrictions, bleak landscapes of gray concrete, miserable men and women languishing in long lines to shop in empty markets and security services snooping on the private lives of citizens,” begins the Ivy League professor, in a statement of the obvious. “While much of this was true, our collective stereotype of Communist life does not tell the whole story.”

And what is this wondrous rest-of-the-story? I confess that I, too, think of bleakness and misery when it comes to an ideology whose greatest achievement is 100 million dead. What beauty am I missing? The professor supplied an answer, courtesy of a hefty platform at the venerable Times: “Some might remember that Eastern bloc women enjoyed many rights and privileges unknown in liberal democracies at the time.”

Did they now? We’ve forgotten? And what were these “rights” and “privileges”? Surely they did not include freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, and property — to name but a few?

No, those rights obviously didn’t exist. But look at what these ladies did have, the professor informs us: These “rights” and “privileges” for the female masses included “major state investments in their education and training, their full incorporation into the labor force, generous maternity leave allowances and guaranteed free child care.” And that’s just the tip of the Siberian iceberg: “But there’s one advantage that has received little attention,” claims the professor. “Women under Communism enjoyed more sexual pleasure.”

Whoa. Even Joe McCarthy would be taken aback by that one. Say that again, comrade?

The Penn professor cited a “comparative sociological study of East and West Germans conducted after reunification in 1990” that found that Eastern Bloc women allegedly had “twice as many orgasms” as Western women. (One must marvel at the methodology for that study.) The professor noted that West German women might have had the benefits of a “roaring capitalist economy. But they had less sex, and less satisfying sex, than women who had to line up for toilet paper.”

The professor quoted a Bulgarian woman she interviewed for her book, a woman who slaved for over four decades under communism: “Sure, some things were bad during that time, but my life was full of romance. After my divorce, I had my job and my salary, and I didn’t need a man to support me. I could do as I pleased.”

If you’re a liberal, and especially a feminist, this is a great thing.

The professor gave other examples of sexually satisfied commie women. She also (accurately, I must add) underscored these crucial early roots of the Bolshevik state: “After the Bolshevik takeover, Vladimir Lenin and Aleksandra Kollontai enabled a sexual revolution in the early years of the Soviet Union.”

That’s true. Kollontai was a piece of work. Basically the Bolshevik version of Eleanor Roosevelt, she was the best-known early Marxist-Bolshevik feminist, a forerunner to the likes of Betty Friedan and Kate Millett. I imagine it’s only a matter of time before our nation’s illustrious universities start initiating endowed chairs in the name of Comrade Kollontai in their Women’s Studies and Critical Theory programs.

At this point, the article in the Times was bad enough, but then the professor offered this especially strange insight: “Russia extended full suffrage to women in 1917, three years before the United States did.”

Seriously? Suffrage to do what? To vote for either Lenin or Lenin, or Stalin or Stalin, or Khrushchev. The Soviet Union was a one-party state where the only legal political party under the Soviet constitution (Article 6) was the Communist Party. So, women had the right to vote for essentially nothing. Their choice was one of one choice — meaning no choices.

But such political prattle by the professor was mere beating around the bush. Next in the article she laid bare what she likely most admired about communist women: “The Bolsheviks also liberalized divorce laws” and “guaranteed reproductive rights.”

Ah, there we go. The real why in this conundrum: “reproductive rights.” For the liberal, the progressive, such “rights” sit mightily and unimpeachably atop the totem pole of priorities. The USSR could be a monstrous slave state, literally killing people by the tens of millions, but all sins are washed clean at the altar of “reproductive rights.”

And speaking of killing millions, in this progressive moral calculus, Stalin is — notably — found to be a bad guy, after all. How so? Because Stalin, the professor notes, actually did something really bad: “In the 1930s, Joseph Stalin reversed much of the Soviet Union’s early progress in women’s rights — outlawing abortion and promoting the nuclear family.”

Yes, correct. Stalin did do those things. The only good things he ever did. Stalin indeed banned abortion, because abortion became so out of control by 1936 that he feared there would be no USSR if abortion continued at the astronomical rate it did. (Even Margaret Sanger was shocked by the number of abortions in Moscow when she visited there in the summer of 1934.) Stalin feared the women of the USSR aborting the USSR out of existence. It would be hard for communism to secure the world revolution if female communists were aborting those who would secure the future revolution. Thus, even a mass murderer liked Stalin stopped this form of slaughter.

Eventually, Nikita Khrushchev would re-legalize abortion in 1955. By the 1970s, the USSR was aborting 7-8 million babies per year, an astonishing ghastly feat without precedent in human history.

The professor went on, courtesy of the New York Times, hailing more things that she sees as good about communism: “Communist women enjoyed a degree of self-sufficiency that few Western women could have imagined. Eastern bloc women did not need to marry, or have sex, for money. The socialist state met their basic needs and countries such as Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and East Germany committed extra resources to support single mothers, divorcées and widows.”

Now that is pure hogwash. These communist countries were broke and poor and backward and everyone knows it. Give me a break! Enough. And Western women, conversely, had to marry or have sex to have money? Please.

And then this again from the University of Pennsylvania professor, who again showed her cards, revealing what she really liked most about communism for women: “With the noted exceptions of Romania, Albania and Stalin’s Soviet Union, most Eastern European countries guaranteed access to sex education and abortion.” Ah, yes.

Leave it to the New York Times, ladies and gentlemen, to publish this, to find and promote in deadly communism/socialism an aphrodisiac. Ideological Viagra. If you find all of this absurd, that’s because it is. But sadly, it also isn’t new for the left. Quite the contrary, the left is now pushing this propaganda hard.

Ironically, as this article was being posted at the Times, I was speaking to a group of high school students at a Young America’s Foundation conference in Santa Barbara on the subject of communism, socialism, and the far left’s takedown of family and marriage. As I did, more than one student complained of current teachers repackaging communism to them as — indeed — an ideology that is good for women and also for minorities and civil rights. I told them I wasn’t surprised. I’ve noticed this for some time. In fact, when I recently finished the manuscript for a book to be published this October, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism, I included a chapter titled, “We Commies Love Blacks — and Women!” I had to. I’ve seen this coming. I first saw this Communism-is-just-great-for-women! canard painfully firsthand about 20 years ago when doing a commissioned survey of high-school civics textbooks. I reviewed dozens of texts (the authors are always university professors) used by school districts throughout the country. And in those texts, there was not only no condemnation of communism vis-à-vis women, but, rather, praising of communism as something good for women.

Many texts proclaimed that women “won equal rights” with men as a result of the changes by the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union in 1917 and by Mao’s communists following their 1949 takeover in China. One text, titled The World’s History (Prentice Hall, 1998), said of life under Soviet communism: “legally speaking, Russian women were better off than women anywhere in the world.”

I was speechless at that claim, staring at the text in amazement, bracing myself for an explanation of how anyone could make such a ludicrous claim. Which fabulous rights did Russian women gain that had made them “better off” than women anywhere else? The text provided an explanation in the next sentence: Russian girls as early as 1920 had access to abortion.

Of course! What other right does a gal need?

There was also in these texts an unquestioned assumption that Soviet women were grateful for communism because it ushered them into the labor force. It was assumed that their entry into the workforce was desired by every woman, that it was neither coerced by the state nor by dire economic circumstances.

And yet, for a real idea of what Soviet communism did for women, one is better served looking to the labor of the gulag rather than the office place. From 1934-38 one of every eight Soviet women and men perished in the gulag. In the Ukraine alone in the early 1930s, millions of women starved to death as a result of Stalin’s forced collectivization of agriculture. A typical form of labor for a Soviet woman was waiting in line for food.

Another reason so many Soviet women entered the workforce was that the Bolsheviks lifted the divorce prohibition when they seized power. For some women, this enabled them to break a bad marriage. For many women, however, the option of easy-divorce was a curse rather than a blessing. It enabled their husbands to abandon them, leaving them to fend for the family themselves. Divorce rates sky-rocketed under Soviet communism, blowing away numbers seen in America today or any society. The Soviet family was the biggest casualty.

Thanks to other Bolshevik changes, a Russian bride saw the government turn her chapel marriage ceremony into a strictly civil ceremony, where God was banished. This was likewise true for the baptisms of the babies of Russian mothers, which were verboten. Instead, the mothers of newborns would publicly promise to raise their children “not as slaves for the bourgeoisie, but as fighters against it,” to become a worthy “builder of communism.” Young mothers would declare: “The child belongs to me only physically. For his spiritual upbringing, I entrust him to society.” This was Soviet communism.

For the true Soviet experience for women, go to an eyewitness rather than an American academic in 2017 pontificating from the faculty lounge: “The throats of our women are constricted with tears,” wrote Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

Consult works like Solzhenitsyn’s majestic The Gulag Archipelago, or less-known works such as the recent (and chilling) Children of the Gulag, on Stalin’s orphans, the tormented children taken from their mothers during the Great Purge after their fathers were jailed or murdered by the state. Or take Lena Constante’s The Silent Escape, about her eight years in solitary confinement in a Romanian prison. Or read Janusz Bardach, author of Man Is Wolf to Man: Surviving the Gulag, recall meeting a young girl in the gulag who explained to him that she was there because she had been 15 minutes late to work. Or dig into a truly heartbreaking volume: Veronica Shapovalov’s stirring Remembering the Darkness: Women in Soviet Prisons.

Communism was not good for women, just as it wasn’t good for men or any human being.

But tragically, the New York Times — with atrocious articles like this one — aids and abets this horrible political-ideological agitprop and nonsense. It’s a shame. And it isn’t a surprise.

(This article originally appeared on The American Spectator site and is reprinted here by kind permission of Dr. Kengor.)

About Dr. Paul Kengor 45 Articles
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism, Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century, and, most recently, Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage.

8 Comments

  1. Now and then its heartening for someone to fire a bombastic blast at the asinine. Although I subscribe and read the Times some of its opinions and editorials deserve a good blast of well established reality. Can anyone name one prominent woman during the long Stalin era. Molly Wolanski published an anthology of authors who studied the role of women during the Soviet era and nothing stands out regarding their role apart from the Marxist ideology of women in the fields, factories. Rights? Kengor marks the right to abortion as a crowning achievement for women in Communist Russia. And for feminists. The Times exec editor recently expressed intent for more varied open journalism. So far that needs to be seen. A great article well researched.

    • Father, in regard to the subscription to the NYT; “you’re judged by the company you keep.” But I’m sure your mom already told you that.

      • Greg I appreciate your humor (I hope). It’s welcome during these trying times. Perhaps it’s the only tenet of this Pontificate I follow. We need to be among the sheep. Let us not forget the goats.

  2. So, until we find a way to distinguish abortion from female emancipation we will have lost the battle, regardless of whether its a Communist, Fascist or Capitalist Trojan horse (or any other ideology), its a lie no matter how it infects a society.

    The issue of female oppression, which is still a global problem (if less so in the West) has to be firmly and fairly addressed (resolved) in order for abortion to slither back into the darkness, from where it emanates.

  3. I remember reading somewhere in my travels that Soviet woman had an average of 5 abortions in her lifetime. Devastating. I don’t know the time period, or the source, but only how hard that struck me. How damaged the women, and therefore the men too, and a country that is made of such stuff.

  4. The population of Russia is now under 200M and falling. Putin’s alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church seems to be benefiting neither party. As far as the NYT; Carlos Slim, the Mexican gazillionaire with bought into the rag and is losing money every day on it, deserves exactly what he got because of his incredible stupidity.

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