Donald and Lydia join human rights lawyer and fellow Marxist Anne McShane to discuss her recent PhD thesis on the Zhenotdel, the women’s department of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. They discuss the origins of the Zhenotdel, how it attempted to solve the shortcomings of the women’s movement in the second international and its role in women’s liberation after the October Revolution. The conversation then pivots to the specific focus of Anne’s thesis: the changing role the Zhenotdel played in women’s emancipation in the Central Asian Republics. They discuss how the Zhenotdel related to and incorporated indigenous women into organizing, the Central Committee’s takeover of Zhenotdel policy that resulted in the hujum campaign of mass unveiling and the disastrous reaction that followed, how this campaign can be contextualized within the rise of Stalinist policies. They end the episode with the final dissolution of the Zhetnodel in 1930 and the sanitization of Nadezhda Krupskaya’s figure.
Anne’s research interest is in women’s liberation. Check out her Weekly Worker pieces among which we highlight: A barometer of Progress, Soviet Russia and Women’s emancipation, The Will to Liberate and How Women’s Protests Launched the Revolution. Her PhD thesis can be found in the University of Glasgow’s repository.