Clara Zetkin

German politician, editor (1857-1933)

Clara Zetkin (5 July 1857 – 20 June 1933) was a German Marxist theorist, communist activist, and advocate for women's rights.

Clara Zetkin circa 1920


  • The woman of the proletariat has achieved her economic independence but neither as a person nor as a woman or wife does she have the possibility of living a full life as an individual. For her work as wife and mother she gets only the crumbs that are dropped from the table by capitalist production.
    Consequently, the liberation struggle of the proletarian woman cannot be – as it is for the bourgeois woman, a struggle against the men of their own class. She does not need to struggle, as against the men of her own class, to tear down the barriers erected to limit her free competition... The end goal of her struggle is not free competition with men, but bringing about the political rule of the proletariat. Hand in hand with the men of her own class, the proletarian woman fights against capitalist society.
  • Where there’s a will there’s a way. We have the will to world revolution, therefore we must find the way to reach the masses of the exploited and the enslaved women, whether the historical conditions make it easy or difficult.
  • The liberation of the workers can only be the work of the working class itself, it can never accomplish this gigantic and terrible work of history, however, if it is torn in two halves by the sex distinction. As the men and women of the proletariat are united body and soul in their crushing life of misery, so must they also unite a burning hatred of capitalism with a more confident, more daring will to fight for the Revolution.
  • [About Rosa Luxemburg] With a will, determination, selflessness and devotion for which words are too weak, she consecrated her whole life and her whole being to Socialism. She gave herself completely to the cause of Socialism, not only in her tragic death, but throughout her whole life, daily and hourly, through the struggles of many years ... She was the sharp sword, the living flame of revolution.
    • As quoted in Rosa Luxemburg, Ideas in Action (1972) by Paul Frölich, p. x
  • [About Rosa Luxemburg] Rarely was heard on her lips the phrase, “I cannot”; more frequently were heard the words, “I must.”

Quotes about Clara ZetkinEdit

  • March 8 was designated International Women's Day by the International Socialist Conference in 1910, upon the initiative of Clara Zetkin, the heroic German Communist leader, who later electrified the world with her brave denunciation of the Nazis in Hitler's Reichstag in 1933.
    • Claudia Jones: Beyond Containment: Autobiographical Reflections, Essays, and Poems
  • Despite her writing and speaking experience during the 1880s, as well as her general political experience working within the socialist movement, not even the active support of the party's leader August Bebel and its chief theoretician Karl Kautsky could secure for Zetkin any more creative work within the party than soliciting advertisements for the party press.
    • Karen Honeycut in European Women on the Left edited by Jane Slaughter and Robert Korn (1981)
  • "La mujer," one of the articles that Luisa Capetillo published in 1912 in Cultura obrera, was later included in the anthology, Voces de liberación (Voices of Liberation), published in 1921 by Lux Editorial from Argentina. Printed for the purpose of gathering the libertarian voices of the most progressive women in the world, the book contains short essays by Rosa Luxembourg, Clara Zetkin, Emma Goldman, Louise Michel, and various Latin American women including Margarita Ortega, a Mexican revolutionary, María López from Buenos Aires, and Rosalina Gutiérrez from Montevideo. The editorial note introducing the authors states, "These voices of liberation are a call to women by their own compañeras to think more and act together with men in the struggle for human emancipation."

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