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Frigga Haug

Mothers in the Fatherland

In spring 1987, a political document caused a stir in the Federal Republic
of Germany: the Mothers Manifesto produced by a section of women in
the Green Party. Some passed on to the business of the day with a feeling
of kindly satisfactionthere was no longer much to fear from the political strength of the Green women. Others set angrily to work to restore the
unity of left women with a scathing critique, and yet others warned with
righteous dismay of the threat of fascism and the impending extinction of
Rainbow Culture. After all, the Nazi cult of motherhood is firmly fixed
in historical memory. Even those who know hardly anything about the
period are as familiar with the Mothers Cross as with the title of Hitlers
Mein Kampf. No one wants to have anything to do with all that, except
perhaps on Mothers Day, when the younger generation still shamefacedly
tries to strike an uneasy balance between disavowal of the fascist legacy
and a bad conscience over neglect of their mothers.
But what is so alarming about the Mothers Manifesto of the Green
Women, apart from the fact of mothers appearing as a political subject at
all? The text itself reveals a movement still in its infancy; it is as uneven,
contradictory and given to compromise as the grouping that drew it up.
Frequently it is possible to grasp the intended meaning only from what it
is articulated against. To that extent, a reduction of the Manifesto to one
or two principal theses does it an injustice. Nonetheless, the essential
point seems to me the demand for a renewal or overturning of society in
the name of mother and childa society for the child at ones side. Public life is to be organized in such a way that it can accommodate children.
Mothers should be able to find places where, by exchanging child-care
time with other mothers, they can lead a life of their own with children. A
partnership in which fathers participate in child-raising is no longer a
demand, since evidently this is taking too long to become a reality.
Postponed or discarded are the following goals of the womens movement: the necessity of womens paid employment; the dominance of questions of individual development and individual happiness; the reduction
of the problems of motherhood to the socialization of child-raising, at
least as a common task of the sexes; the emphasis on education and professional training; the question, above all, of equal rights. Priority is now
attached to a direct demand for social structures which will provide a
feminine sphere for mother and child. However, society will have to be
transformed from its very foundations if the motherchild relationship is

to be made the standard of all values. Such protest can be anti-capitalist.

But the set of demands is such that it is possible to conceive of practical
reforms here and now, while structural change remains a mere utopia. In
this way, a great number of viewpoints can be brought together in the
motherhood formula.
The Mothers Manifesto is a provisional outcome of earlier struggles
among Green Women and is intended to be the platform for the newly
formed Arbeitsgemeinschaft (working group)which means money, delegates and political influence within the party. The trigger for the mothers
movement in the Federal Republic was Chernobyl, an event of worldwide importance that had direct effects on everyday activity and was
beyond the distinction between capitalism and socialism. The scandal
made it evident that mothers could not discharge their allocated task
taking care of the health of future generationswithout governmental
power of their own and without policies on technology, in short, without
regulating the world as a whole. In a flash it became general knowledge
that decisions about the food on the dinner-table are not made in the
kitchen, and this realization took practical shape in the protest against
nuclear energy. Since milk and vegetables were most affected at first,
mothers literally did not know what to give their children to eat without
poisoning them. The protests of the womens movement, which interpreted the destructive powers in the male intellect and in male technology
as gender-specific, were still familiar. Drawing on this, the mothers
outcry became a political force which for several months disrupted political meetings, events and speeches. Men, it was said, have no right whatsoever to participate in the discussion about Chernobyl, because they do not
know what is at stake. As with the subsequent Mothers Manifesto,
women with and without children belonged to the mothers fraction, just
as there were many mothers among its alarmed opponents. It was a question of principle.
It is politically absurd to question the right of an emerging movement to
exist oras in a common response of the working-class movement to the
new womens movementto condemn it as essentially divisive and
middle class. On the other hand, it is just as questionable simply to
observe events, for history demonstrates that popular movements are not
necessarily emancipatory, or need not remain so. To that extent, it is an
appropriate moment to study the question of women and mothers at a
focal point of history, in fascism.
Claudia Koonzs Mothers in the Fatherland is a really excellent starting
point.1 Her questions are addressed to history out of the womens movement; her doubts about the existing historiography are simultaneously
doubts about the historical innocence of women. Her position allows her
to see in the very denial of female guilt that same old male pen which
continues the oppression of women in general. While the archives are full
of the acts of male Nazis, she only rarely found women there, and then
only as exceptions: as the mistress of a Nazi leader or a quite untypical
heroine, as a pilot or as witch of Auschwitz. The actions of the millions
of women who made up the everyday normality of fascism remained as

Claudia Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family and Nazi Politics, Jonathan Cape 1987 (hbk.),
Methuen 1988 (pbk.)


nameless and faceless as ever. Koonzs book shows that such an absence
to be made the standard demonstrates the fruitfulness of research guided
by theory. If women were not present in the politically recognized sphere,
then perhaps they were to be found where their social activity found
acknowledgement: in church welfare organizations and community work.
Her research was carried out in church archives and with survivors of the
Race and Gender

Koonzs principal thesis runs as follows: not race alone, but race and gender were the pillars upon which National Socialism was erected. This
combination allowed an integration across, and in spite of, class barriers.
Germanic life of the future, according to a contemporary communication, will be dominated by two absolute axioms: laws concerning race
and laws regulating the polarity between the sexes (205). As the biological
replaced historical struggles over the relations of production, it was relatively simple, on the basis of the existing biological difference between
men and women, to legitimate the same kind of distinction in the question of race. The aim was to expel Jews from political society. This thesis
is both provocative and productive. It leads on to her central question:
How was it possible to gain the consent of millions of women to a politics
and an ideology which were profoundly hostile to women?
Koonz is determined to discover women as actors in historyeven if on
the wrong sideand not as mere victims of male violence. Using the
example of fascism to draw out the fundamental role of gender relations
in the reproduction of domination, she thus sets out to search for witnesses from the past. As has already been mentioned, she finds nothing
significant in the archives. In a womens bookshop in Berlin, however,
she chances upon Frauen im Dritten Reich (Women in the Third Reich), a
book by Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, Reichsfrauenfhrer (Reich Womens
Leader), reprinted, without commentary, in a new edition. That it appeared
to be a book written by a woman for women was enough for the bookshop to take an interest in its dissemination. This experience helped to
form Koonzs approach and the nature of her questions. To what extent,
she asked, is the feminist movement, through its discussions, demands
and perspectives, pursuing a project of liberation which is truly resistant
to the crimes of fascism? In other words, has the contemporary womens
movement learned enough from history?
The relationship of women to state, politics and public life becomes the
strategic pivot of Koonzs work. The main body of the book opens with a
quotation from Marx on the contradiction between public and private,
which is the foundation of the state, and a further one from Virginia
Woolf, which sees the tyrannies and the servilities of the one sphere in the
other. It is prefaced by an interview with Reich Womens Leader ScholtzKlink forty years after. Here too the politically documented life of an
individual can be read symptomatically. Scholtz-Klink, who was placed
above millions of other women, was absent from the Nazi Whos Who
until 1936 and from British documentation of senior Nazi figures (182).
She seems to have altered her views as little as her book has been subject
to criticism. Margaret Thatcher does not seem to her a solution to the

women question, nor does the way in which the new womens movement
denigrates the life of the housewife. On the contrary, what is required is
to seek out women in their everyday lives and to strengthen them there, as
housewives and mothers.
Behind this rejection of the new womens movement (insofar as it does
not itself relate to mothers) can be seen the movement of the Weimar
period, against which the National Socialist articulation of the womens
question was directed. Koonz first of all points to the soil on which
Nazism flourished: the new beginning of Weimar and the economic
crisis; first steps towards womens liberation; hope and mass unemployment, war. Weimar, according to her, was an unparalleled cultural blossoming, manifested in Nobel prizes, literature and art and above all in the
feminism of the cities, in womens education and an image of the new
woman which has been influential up to the present day: autonomous,
successful, sexually liberated, socialist. This inventory makes the question
as to how it was possible for the new woman to be replaced by the Nazimother all the more acute. Her answer is a little too abridged: given Germanys late industrialization these women were exotic forerunners (178).
The majority of the population of the country was poor, a large part was
rural. Women were conservative. They saw emancipated women as an
evil contributing to Germanys decline. The promise of participation in
the salvation of Germany called forth a response from female reactionaries. For more liberal women there was, in addition, disappointment
over the political defeat of Weimar emancipation and the struggle over
scarce jobs with men coming home from the war. Given this set of conditions, the National Socialist revival was successful because it emphasized
two essential elements: self-activity of the masses and anti-Communism.
Koonz quotes a number of speeches, texts and slogans which unambiguously demonstrate that under National Socialism women were intended
to do no more than live at a mans side, or rather, behind him, strengthening his combative spirit, keeping a warm home and bearing children
for the nation. An exemplary collection of maxims could be put together
from Hitlers speeches and writings, justifying the strength of the German
male in terms of the womans natural weakness and need for protection.
Koonz explains the enthusiasm of millions of women for his project as
due to the practical social importance now accorded the activities which
they carried out anyway. To be a mother for the Fatherland, to save Germany, to put an end to wantthe ideals interlocked, became synonymous
with being a woman. Consequently, politics, military affairs and science
could be left to men, because hearth and home did not simply promise
women something private but made the familiar world of the private
itself a public sector. The disturbing and simultaneously convincing
aspect of Koonzs book is that she demonstrates how the effectiveness of
the fascist project was based on a radical division of societys total
productive labour into gender-specific spheres. Household, culture, childraising, psychology and social work on the side of women; politics, military matters, science on that of men.
The Realm of Women

Non-interference and the cultivation of difference between the sexes

these were at once a promise and a practice on the basis of which women

could erect their own realm, sufficiently free and autonomous for its
explicit subordination to the male sphere not to weigh so heavily. The
movement gripped housewives, white-collar workers and peasant women
in all parts of the country. Koonz showsthrough case-studies and from
the work of four National Socialist agitatorsthat up to the point of the
seizure of power itself, millions of women were carried along by the
enthusiasm of doing something important together, without ever becoming members of the party. (The NSAPDs female membership was
approximately five per cent of the total in 1932.) The author is able to
establish that it was precisely the absence of a coherent womens project
within the Nazi Party which gave the many agitators within the Partys
area of influence the latitude and autonomy which allowed the movement
to develop organically. Nevertheless, individual convictions were quite
diverse, fusing atheism and Fhrer-cult or else God and Fhrer, organized Christians and women workers, traditional anti-intellectualism or a
valuing of education, and so on. Common to all was the enthusiasm for a
specific womens sphere, for motherhood as the feminine contribution to
the national community. Women developed their own strategies (collectively buying a sewing-machine and sewing flags, or clothes for the poor);
they had their own newspapers; women believed themselves to be the
stable element in the masculine total renewal, they were the ones who
picked up the thread of life (71). They left politics to the men, because
they had more important things to do, they fed the holy flame of motherhood; at last they could call one another sisters (87). Womens special
spiritual powers, rather than equality, were to be developed (142). The
proposition that women are anyway more fundamental to the community, because they live the community, whereas men are involved in egoistic competition (88), is also to be found once more in our contemporary
womens movement.
Koonz gives a convincing account of the creation of a vast Nazi womens
organization. It combines extensive study of sourceselectoral statistics,
public speeches, laws, correspondencewith close attention to tradition
and culture. Guided by theory without being dogmatic, she points to the
sources of individual dimensions and to the kind of soil on which they
become productive. We learn in passing that a population policy which
crucially honoured and rewarded mothers did not originate under
National Socialism but had existed in France since 1920 as well as in
Stalins Soviet Union (149)but at the same time she allows us to understand the peculiar mixture which became explosive in Nazism. A further
important idea is that domination does not become potent in a simple
relationship of cause and effect, but depends on the binding together, the
coalescence, of already existing elements. Hitler as campaigner derived
his power from his ability to mobilize people to do what they had wanted
to do in the first place. His art consisted of sharpening what already
existed in a way that was effective with the masses, of releasing their
energy (751)what today we would call populism. Koonz also presents
material to show how Hitlers ideological war-leadership depended on a
constant alternation between feminine and masculine dimensions of the
social, in gesture, enunciation and vocabulary: the masculine will leading
a weak nation, the hands of a virgin imploring heaven for help against
the Jewish vipers, etc. She calls his mode of address emotional transvestism (67).

The centre of Koonzs book is not womens hysterical enthusiasm at the

sight of Hitler, a perspective familiar from many studies, but the conviction they showed in carrying out ordinary daily tasks. In her view, the
commitment to motherhood could remain effective as a historical programme so long as its practical fulfilment was not itself tested on a large
scale: among young people, while camping, and in the sport and health
programmes for girls; in the experience of female comradeship; and in
the numerous public activities of womens groups. Here she discerns the
first contradiction. The traditional rural family which inspired the Nazi
ideal, and in whose name the mother had become a heroine, no longer
existedindeed, its last remnants were simultaneously being eliminated
by Nazi policies (178). Millions of women, men and young people
engaged in public activity in order once more to propagate the family as
a perspective. The glue which was supposed to hold the pieces together
was the explosive blowing them apart. At the same time, the ideological
foundation was fissured: expansion, especially in the armaments sector,
required women in the factories. Blessed Motherhood turned into the
usual hybrid as working mothers sacrificed themselves for Fhrer and
Fatherland. In sober figures that meant that in the second half of the
thirties more women were in paid employment than during the Weimar
Republic, although they now almost entirely occupied subordinate positions and consistently earned only half of what men were paid for the
same job (198).
After Hitler was installed in power, a struggle broke out over the womens
leadership. Koonz argues that only a pragmatic woman, an obedient
maid-servant who did not dispute mens authority or wish to avail herself
of political power, who placed herself under the protection of a man and,
above all, who had no womens programme of her own, was the only
possible occupant of this position in a National Socialism which foresaw
no political role for women. Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, who had come late to
the Nazis and had not participated in the enthusiastic womens mobilization, was perfect for this role. Whereas the other women leaders disappeared, Scholtz-Klink remained almost unchallenged at the top, or rather
on that subordinate elevation which a Reichsfrauenfhrer could attain.
Religion and the Nazi Regime

While the material is presented clearly and authoritatively up to this

point, Koonz is less persuasive when she tackles the depressing question
why the many independently active women not only committed themselves to being mothers for the Fatherland, but also supported the persecution of the Jews and helped carry forward the Nazis racial policies.2
The active consent of many women was required for the notification of
hereditary defects, as it was for the exclusion of Jews from circles of
friends and acquaintances (143 passim). Koonzs tenacious search for the
banality of evil in womens everyday lives is certainly correct, but her
theoretical explanation that what counted now was the consolidation of a
good inner world against an evil outer one, sounds flat and questionable
2 Cf. W.F. Haugs analyses in Die Faschisierung des brgerlichen Subjekts. Die Ideologie der gesunden
Normalitt und die Ausrottungspolitiken im deutschen Faschismus, Argument Sonderband, West
Berlin 1986.


(191). She fails to explain how in the shape of life itself, in the acceptance
of the womans sphere, the contradictionshere between love and hate
maintain an unstable but viable balance. Now Koonz shifts to the
different and important terrain of the attitude of the churches, and
especially of religious women, to National Socialism. In fact, this is just
another view of the same question, since at the beginning of National
Socialism approximately 95 per cent of the population were Protestant or
Catholic (227). She sketches Hitlers tense relationship with organized
religion, from Concordat to the attempt to unite both confessions in a
single state church, and thereby gains a yardstick for judging the resistances within the church itself as a struggle for autonomy (e.g. in the shape of
the Confessing Church) and not, for example, against the persecution of
the Jews (231).3 According to the same pattern she demonstrates that the
vast majority of Protestant womenespecially their leadersrecognized
their own anti-emancipatory values, as well as their anti-communism, in
Nazism and, given a degree of autonomy, were willing to comply with
them. (Even words like spiritual rebirth and frequent reference to fate
were current in Protestantism.)
The potential compassion of religion had disappeared in the melting pot
of a traditional scheme of values. Industrialization, modernism, womens
emancipation, sexual liberation and atheism were to be brought to a halt.
To the church authorities motherhood appeared to be a good and stable
alternative to these threats (231). Conclusion: the Protestant Church was
opportunist because it inhabited a polarity of Christian nationalism and
socialist atheism (263); it never really resisted and never quite surrendered. During the course of his fight against the Protestant Church, however, Hitlers tone changed from solicitous bridegroom to killer (263).
Catholic women were more resistant to Nazism than the Protestants.
Koonz assumes that the cult of the Virgin Mary gave women a strong
identity and that their unconditional faith and obedience prevented their
institutional networks from negotiating independently or making alliances with Nazi womens groups (267ff.). These explanations are somewhat
laboured, since ultimately the contrast that Koonz draws between Catholic and Protestant women goes no further than a relative autonomy of the
two groups. Even the initial demand of Catholic women, not to limit
womens rights to motherhood alone, but to extend them to employment
as well, is left out of account. The refusal to include racial hygiene in
courses for mothers appears only once (279). According to the author,
Catholic women were culturally accustomed to misogyny through Biblical
tradition; their conservative values meant that their politics was not
incompatible with National Socialism; but life also belonged to their
values whatever suspicions there were of its genetic make-up. For all the
centralism of the Church, Hitlers agreement with the Pope never led
Catholic women to pursue the Nazification of their institutions. So their
structure was potentially resistant to state incorporation. Women leaders
whose lives had been dedicated to organization-building used every
means at their disposal to preserve these networks, and they looked to the
church hierarchy as their fortress against Nazi paganism (280).

A careful analysis of the behaviour of the churches is offered by Jan Rehmann, Die Kitchen im NSStaat, Argument Sonderband, 1986.


Nevertheless, Koonz is surprised how little either womens group had

used their organizations for resistance. At the same time she suspects that
women responded altogether more quickly either with resistance or at
least with a sense of fear, because the reproduction policies of the Nazis
directly affected womens lives. She describes the protests against a
limited biological conception of motherhood and against the call from
within Catholic ranks to dissolve the womens organizations. Fifty years
later such passages might have been framed more convincingly if the
author had more strongly emphasized the state-oriented and reactionary
role of the Catholic Church in history, instead of expressing surprise that
a great institution whose banners bear the word humanity has all too little
to show when it is really needed. Koonz sums up finally that while each
individual act of resistance was courageous, it remained relatively ineffectual and that it was precisely womens strength that was their weakness.
After all, they assented to a structure which accorded them a distinct
womens sphere. Resistance, when it did arise, was directed against
attacks on the boundaries of this sphere, not towards society as a whole.
Forms of Resistance

In the chapters on resistance, Koonz recounts the fates of individual

women: their work, at first in open groups, then underground, abroad,
their arrest, their execution. Their names form a chainwomen who
courageously did the obvious when the obvious was outrageous, and were
murdered because of it. To learn about them is heartening because they
bear witness that resistance was possible; their life-stories are also horrifying and crippling because they show that resistance was impossible.
Koonz turns her attention to this contradiction. She reminds us that the
great institutions from which the resistance fighters cameprincipally
Communists, but also Socialists and Catholicsdid not call for organized
resistance against Hitler. The HitlerStalin Pact and the Concordat with
the Pope even tied down the enormous international power which these
institutions should have had at their command. The consequence was
individual heroism without strategy, creating countless martyrs.
The author examines these womens acts, about which the history books
have, as usual, little or nothing to say. She searches through the court files
and does indeed find fewer women than men among those sentenced (a
relationship of roughly 1:5). She investigates what counted as an act of
resistance. Her conclusion: because of social prejudice about their position and character, women were particularly suited to the dangerous and
important work of passing on information. Their coffee parties allowed
them to meet without arousing suspicion; prams and shopping bags were
convenient means of transport. The view that women were above all
mothers, capable of expressing warmth but not provided with great
intelligence, meant that it was some time before the security organs paid
any attention to them.4 She concludes that the womens resistance network was closer and more effective than historians describe. Besides passing on information, their work consisted of looking after people on the

The special suitability of women for underground work, precisely because of their political exclusion, is
a theme explored in literary form in Brechts The Mother. See also Ruth Werners Autobiogaphie einer
Spionin. Sonjas Report, Berlin, GDR 1977. In her view, children provided the best cover.


run and aiding escape in general. What they did seemed just as selfevident to them as the fact that they said no to Nazism at all. It was only
from ex-Nazis and from so-called internal exiles that she heard appeals
to values, morality and an abstract ethics.
Strangely, Koonz asserts that the history of the Jews under fascism has
been erased from collective memory and historical work, in contrast to
the persecution of Communists and Socialists. I was a pupil at a girls
Gymnasium after the war, and the only thing we did learn about fascism
was the persecution of the Jews, whereas the elimination of virtually the
whole leadership of the working class was wrapped in silence. And that
has always seemed to me symptomatic of the history of the construction of
the Federal Republic.
The materials presented in the chapter on Jewish womenthe lengthy
hesitation, the disbelief among middle-class Jews at the racial decrees, and
the delay before the persecutors turned their attention directly to Jewish
womenare well known. Koonz indicates both the hesitations and the
possibilities open to those who had enough money or sufficiently influential relatives to enable them to escape, and the fate of the nameless, who had to
remain and die. She sketches some individual lives and explains that Jewish
women had far less influence in a masculine world than any other group and
that consequently their absence from the archives could hardly be compensated by other forms of research. Instead, an interview with an Auschwitz survivor takes the place of a more general reconstruction.
My disappointment concerns the nature of the theoretical approach, a
requirement that probably does not do justice to the work of a historian.
Koonz has brought the material together and presented it in a way that
makes a strategic critique possible. But she does not produce this critique. She demonstrates that the great womens organizationsparticularly those of the churchesfailed in the face of fascism, not least because
the conception and practice of culturally distinct womens spheres, with
motherhood and family at their centre, suited them. She shows that the
organizations of the working class failed, not only because international
opposition had been blunted by the HitlerStalin Pact, but also because
they recognized far too late the threat of a politics which did not deal in
terms of class and property, but whose whole propaganda effort was
directed towards the sphere of reproductiontowards the reproduction
of a pure, healthy race. This politics was oriented towards womens
everyday lives; it elevated them by drawing their activities into the public
sphere, and degraded them because at the same time they remained in
subordinate and biologically determined areas. The elevation meant that
they did not experience fascism only as a threat, and that organized resistance, the only kind which could have been successful, did not take place.
In her final reflections Koonz concentrates on the peculiar role which the
family played in Nazism: as the football of a politics grounded on race
and gender, it was both a private space which protected individuals from
public life and a field of state penetration. Here Koonz appears to be
arguing for greater privateness.
If the author had included the economic sphere, or even the role of the
large companies, in her account of the development of fascism, her

analysis would have pointed in another direction. Her material suggests

that neglect and underestimation of the spheres occupied by women are
likely to result in defeat for socialist forces if these spheres themselves
become central political factors. To conceive the relationship between the
sexes itself, especially in the context of the general division of labour
within society, as the basis of the reproduction of domination, throws
further light on the possibility and the perpetuation of fascism. The continuation of gender-specific spheres can function as a reference-system:
what is absent in one area does not have to be claimed there, but can be
anticipated in others and perhaps even lived in them. In this way, hopes
for the society as a whole are confined within the womens spheresa
situation which protects each individual man from social transformation, just as it makes each individual woman guilty, and so can secure
her obedience. Koonzs feminist approach teaches us, without itself drawing such a conclusion, that womens protest against fascism would have
consisted of joining together the spheres politically; the sphere of reproduction should neither be abandoned, nor merely be given public recognition. Its tasks have to be articulated in a political context and
distributed as work for the whole of society irrespective of gender, but in
relationship to other tasks. Every gender-specific solution shifts the
relationship of the production and administration of the means of life
into a kind of natural tension so that in the end even the destruction of
the environment, and toxins in food appear as male acts and not as the
logical consequence of a mode of production which is indifferent to life
itself. To relate this specific indifference to the racial policies of fascism
reveals what is reactionary about the separation of the sexes as the basis
for policies of domination. It makes it possible to study the specific
capitalist underpinning of fascism, without thereby neglecting the question of gender.

What lessons can be learned from Koonzs book for the dispute about the
Mothers Manifesto? It would certainly be unreasonable to take the
experience of fascism and to apply it without taking the socio-economic
context into consideration. It is also questionable to cry fascism whenever
mothers play a socio-political role at all. They do so in every country in
which population policies become important. They also do so in religion
and in the hopes of nations for a better collective life. Undoubtedly, energies promoting both stability and change are explosively condensed in the
mother figure. Its confinement wthin the private is reactionary under any
circumstances; its entry into the political is a welcome step. Koonz also
teaches us that it is not individual elements but only the conjunction of
several factors that is dangerous. One such conjunction was the genderspecific division of labour, its elevation in the values associated with the
mother figure and the family and the promulgation of these areas as the
cultural, feminine spherethe consequence being a more or less forced
renunciation of womens employment and its subordination to the male
political sphere. Here, at least, the Mothers Manifesto is unambiguous. It
presents demands which, starting from needs experienced in everyday
life, imply changes and upheavals in society as a whole. But there is also
this withdrawal into a feminine motherly sphere, in which mothers seek
to cultivate a sheltered public zone.

Not only the experience of fascism but the whole crisis-ridden history of
capitalism teaches us that such a separation, upheld by the relationship
between the sexes, allows energies which are resistant, and oriented
towards a future community, to fizzle out internally. So instead of
struggling to make public the traditional feminine sphere, we should
formulate a politics which places the whole civilization model of contemporary capitalism in question. It cannot be our aim to separate off the
male-based centrality of production organized for profit by a withdrawal
to feminine productive activities and areas of responsibility. Rather, the
time has come to review again the whole social division of labour, and as
its crises come to a head, to organize it differently. The pragmatic
demand for the reduction of working hours might be a starting-point, one
which would at least allow us to discuss the redistribution of aggregate
labour among all members of society, while simultaneously incorporating
lessons learned in the womens movement and the debate on motherhood
as a conscious part of our strategy. A second step would be the establishment of gender quotas for all workplaces, associations and areas of political activity. This apparently harmless and reformist demand for an equal
share in society by the sexes in fact undermines all the taken-for-granteds
that secure domination. It is therefore a precondition for any fundamental transformation of society. And it should at last be possible to include
the political, the responsibility for the social whole, in everyones normal
working time. Such a movement, drawing on the initiative of every member of society, would prevent us being stuck with a voiceless do-it-yourself,
a situation familiar from fascism and once more of direct concern today.