Women and Revolutionary Violence, 1916-21
Project responsable Veronika Helfert
Team member Tiina Litunen
Abstract Women’s opposition to militarism did not necessarily preclude their involvement in revolutionary violence, whether directly as bearers of arms, or indirectly, as smugglers of weapons and providers of logistical support to left-wing insurgents fighting in Dublin, Berlin, Vienna, Munich, Budapest, the Ruhr and elsewhere in 1916-21. Indeed, for some revolutionary women, support for violence was not only essential to defeat counter-revolution, but also an important means of disassociating their anti-war/anti-imperialist activism from ‘bourgeois’ pacifism. Much of the previous historiography has focused on men as the perpetrators and women as victims of post-war political/paramilitary violence, as seen in the work of Klaus Theweleit and, more recently, Mark Jones. On the other hand, political militancy during this period is usually associated with extreme nationalist women; left-wing women’s direct participation in revolutionary violence outside Russia is dismissed as a right-wing ‘myth’ or reduced to a ‘performative gesture’ without direct or lasting political significance. Yet as this chapter will show, younger revolutionary women in particular felt that they had been brutalised by their experience of war, poverty, the death or imprisonment of male relatives, and the ferocity of pre- and post-war police repression of their anti-war activism. They were determined to take part in armed struggle for, or in defence of, revolution and the open-ended possibilities for democracy and social justice that the end of the war entailed; and to criticise and challenge male prejudice against women’s presence on the frontline in the physical as well as the political battle against militarism and reaction.
Keywords Revolution, women, socialism, violence, first world war
Type of project Dissertation project
Research area History
Status Ongoing
Start of project 6-6-2019
End of project 31-7-2021
Contact Clotilde Faas