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NELLES, Dieter. "Anarchosyndicalism and the Sexual Reform Movement"
Article published on 8 March 2008

by r-c.
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Written for the workshop ‘Free Love and the Labour Movement’
Second workshop in the series ‘Socialism and Sexuality’
International Institute of Social History
Amsterdam, 6 October 2000

“All workers’ organizations are concerned almost exclusively with economic and
political issues. Both the parties and the unions view the issue of sex as being
insignificant, irrelevant. There once was a time when it was considered to be un-
respectable to publicly address problems concerning sexual relations. And yet it
is so tremendously important that the sexual issue be addressed without any trace
of reticence, just as is the hunger issue. For hunger and love are the two poles
around which all human life and drive revolve. These two issues are so closely
entwined that is hardly possible to discuss one without considering the other.” [1]

In 1925, the German anarchosyndicalist Max Winkler wrote these words as a pre-
face to the pamphlet Das Geburtenproblem und die Verhütung der Schwanger-
schaft (The Population Problem and the Prevention of Pregnancy) in which the
methods of contraception then popular were described matter-of-factly and in
detail. Winkler’s programmatic demands were taken seriously in the Freie Arbeiter
Union Deutschlands, the FAUD (Free Worker’s Union of Germany). The FAUD
embraced the fundamental premise that the "sexual issue [...was] not a private
affair” but belonged “in the public eye and on the agenda of all workers’ organizations.” [2] This conviction is illustrated not only by the many contributions on a
broad range of aspects concerning sexuality found in FAUD publications, but more
importantly by the major involvement in the sexual reform movement of many
anarchosyndicalists, both men and women, in lay organizations, which developin the 1920s into mass organizations with more than 150,000 members. [3]

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Notes :

[1Max Winkler, Das Geburtenproblem und die Verhütung der Schwangerschaft (Amsterdam, 1925), p. 1.

[2Reference to the issue of the birthrate) to be found in Der Syndikalist, Organ der Freien Arbeiter Union
Deutschlands
, 3 (1921), no. 12

[3See Atina Grossmann, Reforming Sex. The German Movement for Birth Control and Abortion Reform,
1920-1950
(New York, 1995); Cornelie Usborne, Frauenkörper – Volkskörper. Geburtenkontrolle und Be-
völkerungspolitik in der Weimarer Republik (Münster, 1994), pp. 159-168.


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