populism

Alex Trotter uburoi at panix.com
Fri Feb 3 22:16:22 MST 1995



On Fri, 3 Feb 1995, Rebecca Hill wrote:

>    Populism, because it is organized around the notion of a people vs. a
> rather conspiratorally conceived "ruling class" or foreign class of
> international capitalists easily lends itself to Anti-semitism in
> particular. The Narodniks, (the Russian populists) carried out pogroms
> against Jews in Russia regardless of class, on the basis that by
> eliminating Jews, the "people" would eliminate the bourgeoisie from Russia.

I think you are oversimplifying the definition of populism; there are,
after all, many different versions of it. In the case of Russian
populism, you're inaccurate if not outright wrong to say that the
populists "carried out pogroms against Jews...regardless of class." I
assume you are referring to the riots/pogroms that followed the
assassination of Czar Alexander II in 1881. The populists of the People's
Will Party most certainly did not instigate the pogroms, although they
were accused of doing so by the very government on whom the blame really
rested. It's true that there was a certain equivocation in attitude taken
by the People's Will, and doubtless there were some members who had
anti-Semitic leanings, but it was not an anti-Semitic movement. Among the
revolutionary groups in Russia anti-Semitism was an aberration; the real
Jew-hating groups like Black Hundreds were run by the state to divert the
anger of the peasants away from the czar. The Socialist Revolutionary
Party, organized with a program that was essentially a compromise between
marxism and *narodnichestvo*, was in no way an anti-Semite party, and
neither was the Union of Maximalists that split out of the S.R.'s after
1905. The original Narodnik movement had a slavophile orientation and so
did not appeal much to Jewish revolutionaries, but Jewish participation
in the movement was not unknown.
	As I pointed out earlier, there is significant evidence to
indicate that Karl Marx actually preferred the program of the populists
to that of his own self-styled followers in Russia, because he had come
to believe that communism in Russia would come about through a different
path than in western Europe. If it were true that the Russian populists
were anti-Semites, then you would have to accuse Marx of being one too,
or at least of demonstrating a willful blindness toward it. Marx had his
faults, but I don't think that was one of them.

--AT

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