Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Monday, October 31, 2005

Marxism and domestic duties

Presumably for socialist women like Rosa Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin, the question of whether or not to do things like the washing up did not really arise. However, I am interested in collecting together a file on what other leading Marxists did or did not do to help out around the house. I am aware this is not a burning issue of historical materialism, still less of the movement, but hey, I am allowed to indulge in trivialities and irrelevancies if I like. I will put up the references I have found so far (limited to Trotsky and his followers I am afraid) but if anyone knows anything about anyone else then send em in and I'll put em up. Quite what this will achieve I do not know, but here goes.

Leon Trotsky in France - Summer, 1933:

'There was the chore each evening of washing the dishes. One evening Trotsky decided to give us a hand. He wiped each plate or glass with such extreme care that the operation went on late into the night, and everybody was much more tired than if he had not helped us'.

From Jean Van Heijenoort, With Trotsky in Exile, (London, 1978), p. 28.

Max Shachtman, American Trotskyist leader, 1944:

'At the end of the meal Jessie Glaberman proposed that he [Shachtman] wash the dishes. Max, with much posturing with his arms, intoned, "I think, you wash dishes."'

C.L.R. James, Trinidadian Marxist, 1940s America:

'On another occasion the same proposition was put to CLR James. He simply got up and washed the dishes. Some time later when Raya Dunayevskaya found out about this she berated us for making James do the dishes. He, however, took it all in stride.'

Both from Marty Glaberman's 'Introduction' to Glaberman (ed.), Marxism for Our Times. CLR James on Revolutionary Organisation (Mississipi, 1999), p. xv.

New entry! George Galloway MP, 2006, British Celebrity Big Brother.

'If George is a leader, he should try doing some washing up' - Michael Barrymore.

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At 7:41 pm, Blogger minifig said...

love it - want to know more. how were lenin and stalin with the household chores? would tony benn have mucked in?

At 2:22 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

The question is, Minifeg, if you had the honour of having Tony Benn round to dinner, would you really say afterwards - 'oh Tony, do you mind just doing the washing up like?'

It would be interesting to know about Stalin - pre-revolution he must have done it a fair bit - but after about 1925 I reckon if anyone suggested he do it then it would be an almost guaranteed way to find yourself in exile in Siberia...


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