Miss Marina Koren of The Atlantic is at pains to present her ignorance as enlightenment. Her article, for the Science section of her publication, entitled “The Soviet Space Program Was Not Woke”, where she claims that “sending the first woman into space isn’t the same as developing an astronaut program that values equality”, is completely devoid of scientific thinking, historical understanding and research objectivity and amounts to nothing more than a shameless and laughable display of the capitalist bias of her liberal attitudes.
The author criticises the case of Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova, the Soviet cosmonaut, who in 1963 became the first woman in space and broke the highest of glass ceilings, as a “propaganda exercise”. Liberal sensitivities are so eager to wave the American flag around the supposed egalitarian nature of their imperialism that masquerades as “wokeness” (alertness to social injustice) and take offence at the proved successes of the first socialist state in the world.
The writer of The Atlantic laments the fact that the secretary general of the Soviet Communist Party’s preferred pronouns were not “they-theirs” and it appears that she would prefer the segregation of the US in the 1960s rather than admitting the superiority of a system that trained a farmer’s daughter as a factory worker, then a pilot and finally as a member of the Soviet Cosmonaut Academy. Perhaps, if the choice of personal pronouns was not the ultimate proof of emancipation and equality in her head, Miss Koren would be able perceive the trailblazing triumph of the Soviet Union were women were educated for free by the state and worked as directors of factories, film-makers, artists, scientists and astronauts, instead of aiming to marry a rich man to secure the American dream of an ideal stay-at-home consumerist woman, looking after her working husband and children.
It takes a lot of capitalist bigotry and an aversion to historical research not to acknowledge how Tereshkova was not the exception but the rule of socialist construction. In socialist society, firstly, women’s formal-legal equality was seen as a first priority by the state, not as a tokenism and a concession, and secondly, women’s practical material equality was realised in the everyday, since the basis of women’s inequality was eradicated in the real economy (and not just in self-identification). In bourgeois society that Miss Koren celebrates as woke, women’s practical equality can never be realised because it is not in the interests of the bourgeois state. The fundamental difference, and one that the likes of Miss Koren cannot grasp, is that under socialism the interests of raising, educating, training, giving work and paying women equally to men are also the interests of the proletarian state.
It would be useful to dispense some insights from Soviet history to truly enlighten those interested to fight inequality beyond woke grammar. It was as early as 1918 that the Constitution of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic gave equal civic rights to women with equal family rights like the right to divorce. All the unfair laws discriminating against women were scrapped then and there. The Soviet Union was the first country were single-motherhood was accepted and where motherhood was honoured and protected practically and not only in rhetoric. It was also the first country that beyond legal and voting rights, took practical measures to achieve social equality; bringing women out of the unpaid private domestic sphere and into social production where their work is remunerated materially and valued socially and culturally. The only way to ensure that women are no longer vulnerable victims is to enable them to work, and this is precisely what the USSR did for every female citizen.
Women’s isolation in the home is against the basic interest of socialist economy. Consequently, by 1941, women workers in the USSR were 45% of the workforce, a percentage nowhere to be seen in the capitalist world. Soviet women were financially independent and not forced to marry for survival. No capitalist nation can rival this achievement of the Soviet society. Financial independence together with excellent educational foundations gave Soviet women the freedom to expand their horizons in spheres traditionally reserved for men, becoming doctors, train drivers and scientists. In 1940, when there was not a single female engine driver in the rest of the world, 4.000 Soviet women worked as engine drivers, but this is not a fact we are taught in our schools. They don’t teach us about the system that in 1940 educated and employed 70,000 women engineers, not to mention the heroic and unprecedented participation of Soviet women in the Red Army during World War 2 and their role in the defeat of fascism (for example, the legendary “Night Witches”, the all female military aviators of the Soviet Air Forces composed of female volunteers in their late teens and twenties).
Miss Koren, so keen to educate us on progressive politics, is uneducated as to the participation of Soviet women in politics. She is unaware of the existence of 5 women elected to the Supreme Soviet in 1922, who increased to 277 by 1946. Whilst so enthusiastic to inform us that NASA caught up and beat the Soviet space programme by sending 50 women to orbit, she is oblivious to how the USSR helped every single woman in its territory by socialising homework and childcare, how it took women out of the orbit of never-ending domestic drudgery and liberated them by building nurseries, kindergartens, after-school clubs, public laundries and dining rooms that provided high quality services either free or below cost. The Atlantic and its Science section does not impart any scientific knowledge as to how jobs that pay decent wages and public services that socialise the everyday tasks of motherhood mean that women are given the option to pursue jobs that satisfy them and the material needs of all workers like them, instead of sacrificing university degrees and dreams because they cannot afford childcare, as is currently happening in the capitalist West.
We understand it is hard for The Atlantic to acknowledge the inferiority of the system they defend as egalitarian, a system that has no qualms celebrating army personnel that kills innocent people in imperialist wars, as long as they are gender-fluid. But to their chagrin, the Soviet example and its record will always be there to testify about the socialist vanguard of humanity, in technology, in science, art and space exploration.
At a time when the economic recession and the pandemic falls hardest on women, racial and ethnic minorities (due to a last-hired-first-fired attitude towards workers seen as disposable), Miss Koren will find it increasingly hard to convince us that she is not in desperately trying to distract us from the failures of capitalism by slandering socialism.
Let us remind The Atlantic and its readership since they care so much about women’s equality, that the recession and the catastrophic handling of the pandemic means that more jobs have been lost in service industries and occupations where women are disproportionately represented, while women have also shouldered more responsibility for the challenges to family health, school closures and other disruptions from the pandemic. Are these women saved by wokeness? In this climate, no amount of “NASA won the space race with rainbow rockets” will hide the departure from the labour force of so many young, educated women who could be productive and helpful to society but are instead held hostages to an ineffective economy such as the American. How many of them can afford to dream of becoming cosmonauts, when their everyday existence is so precarious, when their education is so devalued?
America’s younger women in the first stages of career and family formation have seen the sharpest drop in jobs. The blow has fallen hardest on women from ethnic minorities. Since 2020, the number of Hispanic women in the U.S. labour force has fallen nearly 7 percent, the number of Black women declined 5.6%, and the number of white women by nearly 3%. That compares to a drop of just 1.7% for white men and less than 1% for Hispanic men. The drop for Black men was more than 4%. Let us keep these numbers in mind when talking about how alert to racism and social injustices American liberals are and how urgently they are needed to prop up a system that is collapsing with their recycled Cold War propaganda.
Left: Rare group photo of the five women cosmonauts selected in 1962: from left, Ponomaryova, Kuznetsova, Solovyova, Tereshkova and Yorkina (left); right, at the State Commission meeting just before the Vostok 6 flight, the official crew designations are made, from left, Ponomaryova as second backup, Solovyova as first backup, and Tereshkova as prime.
Credits: RKK Energiya