Monday, January 08, 2018


The children of the socialist community will no longer be possessions of their parents.
When babies are born, they will belong to the whole community of adults until they are old enough to be independent. During the first year or so a human baby needs so much caring for that after a 'honeymoon' period of a few days or weeks spent with her mother she will be cared for, loved, and nursed by all the nursing mothers in the parents' (or parent's) social circle. Most mothers will spend a lot of time with their babies and will not experience feelings like resentment, guilt, and depression that so often beset new mothers in capitalism. A new mother in the socialist community, knowing that she has a large pool of other nursing mothers upon whom she can call when she wants to do something away from her own baby, will be able to relax and enjoy the support of the women's council.
As the socialist-born babies grow older, the care that they need will become less intensive and continuous. Their naps will become predictable. They will sleep more at night until eventually, they sleep longer than their parents. Most of them will love to be nursed and most of their mothers will love to nurse them. Some will wean early, some late -- whenever they are ready. There will be no pressure. If a mother wants to return to work at something out of the baby's crying range, often she will be able to come to some arrangement with someone else who enjoys being at home. Money will not be a factor, of course, but many people will want to stay in daily touch with the group they were working with before the baby came. Many others will feel like starting on some other interesting project. In socialism, people will make their own schedules (or choose not to make schedules).
In some socialist areas, enough women will enjoy the special intimacy of breastfeeding to form a nursing mothers' council -- a place where nursing babies of all ages can be brought to receive a socialist form of daycare. Some mothers whose own babies have weaned before they wanted them to will be able to spend some hours at the nursing mothers' council, getting their 'baby fix' while at the same time helping others.
In capitalism, it happens only occasionally that a woman nurses another woman's baby. In part, probably, this is because the system tends to benefit from keeping ordinary people isolated from one another. The trend in modern capitalism has been for the extended family to give way to the nuclear family and for everything to be turned into a commodity. Mothers who can't or don't want to breastfeed can buy a commodity called infant formula; mothers who want 'time off' from mothering can use daycare or (if they can afford it) hire a nanny. The possibility of sharing the very pleasant task of breastfeeding is never even acknowledged.
Family groups will be much more flexible in socialism because no one will be financially dependent on anyone else anymore. No one will have to go to work. The division between 'work' and 'play' will blur as the capitalist motivation of 'earning a living' is replaced by the motivation of seeking social approval and feeling satisfaction with a job well done.
In the socialist community, parents will be able to spend as much time with their family as they wish. Unless a person feels obligated to or responsible for a particular project no one will have to stick with their previous activity if they prefer to stay home. That will be a choice that no longer has anything to do with access to what they need. In socialism, you will not have to 'earn a living.' Your living -- your life -- will be yours to live however you choose: it will not have to be 'earned.'
Many socialist citizens who have babies will spend a good chunk of time being together with family. That will benefit the community and confer social approval. For the first time in human history the interests of global society will be identical with the interests of ordinary people.
In socialism, on the other hand, people will have real freedom of choice. Social arrangements will be much more flexible and diverse. In capitalism, whatever the form of government, very few individuals are in a position to make meaningful choices about their own lives. In socialism, everyone will be able to do so, except for the babies (until children are old enough to be responsible for themselves adults are obliged to make the choices that are best for their safe development).
Karla Rab (1940 -- 2017)


Anonymous said...

The first couple of sentences here are especially problematic. How on earth can it be said now how children 'WILL' be raised in socialism given that this is a very personal choice affecting billions of people in different circumstances in a hypothetical future society? The important point, also made in the article, is that socialism will enable people to choose how to bring up children, and the current constraints on this won't apply.

ajohnstone said...

It should have been indicated that this is a speculative article, along the tradition of August Bebel's 'Women and Socialism' where he discusses future family.

I believe the author was trying to add some meat to the common phrase "That it takes a village to raise a child"

"The bourgeois family will vanish as a matter of course when its complement vanishes, and both will vanish with the vanishing of capital.
Do you charge us with wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents? To this crime we plead guilty.
But, you say, we destroy the most hallowed of relations, when we replace home education by social." Communist Manifesto

Trevor Goodger-Hill said...

It is an interesting well thought-out speculation of the changes in child-rearing under a different economic system which, as we know, changes the material circumstances, and thus the ideas.

I did not know who the author was until I reached the end of the article, when to my surprise I discovered it was a very long and close friend of mine. She was a graduate nurse and for many years worked in a woman's clinic -- until government funding was cut off by a right-wing American government.

I think Karla Rab was writing from the point-of-view of young motherhood and the needs of babies, perhaps by her own professional experience. Without putting words in her mouth I believe she advocated the rearing and education of older children through allowing the child to follow its own interests, choosing teachers from the adult community able and willing.

If I remember correctly when we were once discussing raising children, and their insatiable need for attention and guidance, I said each child should have six "parents" (mutually chosen) to provide love and guidance as demanded. She was perhaps amused but in principle in agreement. She certainly did well by her own children.

Athana said...

This article is about child rearing as it affects and aids mothers. I'm wondering if anyone has written about changes in child rearing necessary to make a socialist society work? I suspect that part of the reason socialist societies have failed is that children continue to be raised to fit into capitalist culture.