Eleanor Marx

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By LUIZ BERNARDO PERICAS*

The female question and the class struggle.

A pioneer of socialist feminism, Eleanor Marx, according to her biographer Rachel Holmes, “changed the world”. Born in 1855 in a cramped little two-bedroom flat in Soho, London, Tussy (as she became known), the author's favorite daughter The capital, played a very important political role throughout its 43 years. The life of this revolutionary writer was, in Holmes's words, nothing less than "one of the most significant and interesting events in the evolution of social democracy in Victorian Britain". After all, among her multiple activities, she translated Madame Bovary, by Flaubert and works by Plekhanov, Liebknecht and Lissagaray (with whom he had a love affair); she was one of the first and most energetic union activists of the time; one of the introducers of Ibsenism on the island (she translated some plays by the Norwegian playwright into English); she fought for gender equality; she began writing her first biography of her father (never completed), was friends with George Bernard Shaw, Sylvia Pankhurst and William Morris; she deplored anarchism; and was a tireless promoter of the work of Marx and Engels, having editedRevolution and counterrevolution in Germany (1896)The Eastern Question: A Reprint of Letters written 1853-56 dealing with the events of the Crimean War (1897) Value, Price and Profit, addressed to Working Men (1898) Secret Diplomatic History of the Eighteenth Century(1899) and The story of the life of lord palmerston (1899), the last two volumes, released the year after her suicide.

Her “feminism” was quite different from that defended by contemporary thought.mainstream of the second half of the XNUMXth century. Although many of her friends were suffragettes, the campaign for the vote, in Eleanor's view, important as it was, would be a limited objective. Electoral reform for middle-class ladies within capitalist society was not enough to resolve the broader social debate, as, according to her, “the so-called issue of 'women's rights'… is a bourgeois idea. I proposed to deal with the Sexual Question from the point of view of the working class and the class conflict”. the rights of women and of the proletariat were part of the same struggle.

Holmes claims that Tussy would have been responsible for creating the political philosophy of “socialist feminism”, explained in her treatise “The Woman Question: From a Socialist Point of View”, co-authored with her partner Edward Aveling and published in Westminster Reviewin 1886 (a text that should have figured in importance alongside Claiming the rights of women, by Mary Wollstonecraft, The origin of the family, private property and the state,by Friedrich Engels and A roof of your own,Virginia Woolf).

The biographer recounts in detail Eleanor's formative years and the stimulating dynamics of her family environment: the many and varied books she read; her arguments and chess games with the Moor (whom she nearly always won); her intimate relationship with Engels (regarded as a second father to her); interest in the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and Garibaldi; his admiration and deep knowledge of Shakespeare's work; the cigarettes and liquor she'd enjoyed since her early teens, her enthusiastic support of Irish Fenians; his passion for the theater; the beginning of her political activities she was one of the few people who could understand Marx's difficult handwriting and transcribe his texts. In fact, she became a kind of “secretary” and research assistant to her parent (conducting source surveys especially in the field). British Museum).

The last decade of the author of Campaign Against Child Labor it was intense. She continued to contribute to media outlets such as Time: A Monthly Miscellany, Justicee New Zeit,translating various articles and editing the works of the Rhenish philosopher, in addition to maintaining her multiple activities as a political activist. Invited by Plekhanov and Zasulich, she became a British correspondent for the Russian periodical Russkoye Bogatstvo. Eleanor Marx killed herself in 1898, shaking most of the labor movement and British socialists at the time, surprised by the tragic news. Her life and her legacy, however, continue to be remembered to this day, in part through Rachel Holmes' fascinating book, Eleanor Marx: A Life (Bloomsbury Press), a work that certainly should be translated and published here at some point.

* Luiz Bernardo Pericas He is a professor in the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of Caio Prado Júnior: a political biography (Boitempo).

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