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Author photo. Bust of Clara Zetkin, Dresden, Germany.  Photo by Daniel Weigelt / Wikimedia Commons.

Bust of Clara Zetkin, Dresden, Germany. Photo by Daniel Weigelt / Wikimedia Commons.

Clara Zetkin (1857–1933)

Author of Fighting Fascism: How to Struggle and How to Win

Includes the names: Klara Zetkin, Zetkin Clara, Цеткин К.

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Clara Zetkin was born Clara Josephine Eissner in a village in Saxony, now Germany. Her father was a schoolmaster and church organist. Clara studied in Leipzig to become a teacher and made friends within the women's movement and the labor movement. In 1878 she joined the new Socialist Workers' Party (SAP), later called the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), whose meetings were banned by Chancellor Bismarck. She went into exile in Paris, where she played an important role in the founding of the Second Socialist International. She adopted the surname of her lover, Ossip Zetkin, a Russian revolutionary, with whom she had two sons. After his death in 1889, Zetkin went back to Germany. She became a close friend of Rosa Luxemburg and campaigned for socialism and women's rights, including the right to vote. From 1891 to 1917 she edited the SPD women's newspaper Die Gleichheit (Equality). She established the first International Women's Day on March 19, 1911. During World War I, she was arrested for her anti-war activities several times and in 1916 was taken into government "protective custody" for a time. That same year, she was one of the co-founders of the underground Marxist Spartacist League with Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht and others, who had split from the SPD in protest at its pro-war stance. She participated in the Spartacist Rising in Berlin in 1919, but escaped the capture and death of some of her comrades. She helped form the German Communist Party (KPD) and served on its central committee. She represented the KPD in the German Reichstag during the Weimar Republic from 1920 to 1933. With the rise of the Nazi regime in 1933, the Communist Party was banned and Zetkin went into exile for the last time, to the Soviet Union, where she received a hero's burial at her death. Three volumes of collected works, Ausgewählte Reden und Schriften (Selected Speeches and Writings), were published from 1957 to 1960.
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