In 1926, the Soviet Union had redefined marriage once already, and was considering redefining it further. The effects of the first change, essentially no-fault divorce, left a trail of human wreckage. Anonymous reports:
When the Bolsheviki came into power in 1917 they regarded the family, like every other “bourgeois” institution, with fierce hatred, and set out with a will to destroy it. “To clear the family out of the accumulated dust of the ages we had to give it a good shakeup, and we did,” declared Madame Smidovich, a leading Communist and active participant in the recent discussion. So one of the first decrees of the Soviet Government abolished the term “illegitimate children.” This was done simply by equalizing the legal status of all children, whether born in wedlock or out of it, and now the Soviet Government boasts that Russia is the only country where there are no illegitimate children. The father of a child is forced to contribute to its support, usually paying the mother a third of his salary in the event of a separation, provided she has no other means of livelihood.
“In the event of separation” became not the exception, but the rule, as men whose sexual capital had continued to rise as their wives’ sexual capital fell cashed in.
At the same time a law was passed which made divorce a matter of a few minutes, to be obtained at the request of either partner in a marriage. Chaos was the result. Men took to changing wives with the same zest which they displayed in the consumption of the recently restored forty-per-cent vodka.
“Some men have twenty wives, living a week with one, a month with another,” asserted an indignant woman delegate during the sessions of the Tzik. “They have children with all of them, and these children are thrown on the street for lack of support! (There are three hundred thousand bezprizorni or shelterless children in Russia to-day, who are literally turned out on the streets. They are one of the greatest social dangers of the present time, because they are developing into professional criminals. More than half of them are drug addicts and sex perverts...)
Fatherless feral gangs are a byproduct of devolving responsibility from sex. A feminist proposes abortions to stop the problem dead in its tracks—or birth canal. A traditionalist proposes restoring sex to its proper role in life and love.
Several peculiar abuses sprang up in the country districts in connection with the shifting marriage regulations. Many women of light behavior found marriage and childbearing a profitable occupation. They formed connections with the sons of well-to-do peasants and then blackmailed the father for the support of the children. In some cases peasants have been obliged to sell their last cow or horse in order to settle such alimony claims. The law has created still more confusion because it is retrospective in its operation, so that women can claim support for children born many years ago.
Other peasants took advantage of the loose divorce regulations to acquire “summer brides.” As the hiring of labor in Russia is hedged about with difficulties and restrictions for the private employer, the richer peasants in some districts took to the practice of marrying a strong girl for the harvest season and divorcing her as soon as the work in the fields was over.
Some members of the League of Communist Youth, an organization which now numbers between a million and a half and two million young men and women, regard the refusal to enter into temporary sex relations as mere bourgeois prejudice, the deadliest sin in the eyes of a Communist. Some of the provincial branches of the League went so far as to organize “Down with Shame” and “Down with Innocence” circles; but these were sharply condemned as rowdy aberrations in the official report on the activities of the League at the last Congress of the Communist Party.
Both in the villages and in the cities the problem of the unmarried mother has become very acute and provides a severe and annoying test of Communist theories. In the early stages of the Revolution the Communists held the theory that children should be reared and cared for by the State. But it soon became evident that the State, especially in war-torn and impoverished Russia, was financially quite incapable of assuming such a heavy burden of responsibility. The figure of ten thousand foundlings, reported for thirty-two provinces of the Soviet Union over a period of six months, illustrates the danger that the present large number of vagrant homeless children may be swelled because of the inability or unwillingness of parents to provide for the offspring of temporary connections.
All of this sounds very familiar.
Further toying with definitions, the proposed change in 1926 would have legally equated unregistered marriages (trysts) to marriages. Also “wife and husband would have an equal right to claim support from the other.”
A working woman from Kostroma, with a shawl over her head, added her voice of general chorus of opposition. “In our factories,” she said, “you notice something very unpleasant. As long as a young man doesn’t participate in public activities he respects his wife. But as soon as he moves up a little, gets a little more education, something comes between them. He leaves his wife with a child, lives with another woman, and brings poverty and misery to both. I ask the working women to pass a law that will stop the practice of having many husbands and many wives.”
Mrs. Gypova, a peasant woman from Kursk Province, insisted that men and women must not be permitted to live like gypsies, continually changing their mates. The children suffered too much. “Many husbands who lived peacefully with their wives for twenty years suddenly begin to cry: ‘We have freedom now. Give me a divorce.’”
So much complaining. Mrs. Gypova hadn’t learned yet her life belonged to the revolution, not to God, not to family, not even to country. The breakup of the family and its many consequent miseries is the price of emancipation from the patriarchy. Enslavement to the totalitarian state is the price of liberty.
Emancipation from cause and effect has a price. Once men were given license to divorce, the options the liberated sexual marketplace provided made their previously content arrangement miserable by comparison.
Forty years later, the progressives and feminists spread the Communists’ success to America.