Jewry under Bolshevism

Jeffrey Booth booth2 at husc.harvard.edu
Fri Jun 28 08:28:41 MDT 1996


Dear Louis G.,
		Although I've often disagreed with you, big-time, in the
past; your post below is really interesting and useful.  I was wondering
if you've ever read:  Zionism False Messiah by Nathan Weinstock and The
Jewish Question by Abraham Leon?  If so, what did you think of them?
	
			-- Jeff Booth			

On Thu, 27 Jun 1996, Louis R Godena wrote:

>
> Came across Lionel Kochan's The Jews in Soviet Russia since 1917 (Oxford UP
> 1970) in my (still largely unread) marxist library at my dad's.
>
> Is anyone here familiar with it?    I am finding it quite useful.    The
> Jews in Soviet Russia is a collection of wide-ranging essays, both
> historical and analytical, by Jewish writers on various aspects of
> anti-semitism in Russia and the Soviet Union.    It has an exhaustive
> demographic study on the Jewish population by Alec Nove and J.A. Newth.
> The book avoids almost completely the facile anti-Sovietism of later western
> Jewish scholars and actiivists.    Its main thesis, that since about 1930
> the Jews as a group had never been able to feel themselves secure in the
> Soviet environment,  begs provisionally the larger question:  were the Jews
> less secure, at any rate during certain periods, than many other sections of
> the population?
>
> The answer, of course, is yes, and for a wide variety of reasons,  though an
> unexpected concession,  striking in its simplicity,  emerges discursively
> from  Leonard Schapiro's remarks (which, as in any good introduction, sets
> the tone for the rest of the book):  "...no serious scholar....would go so
> far as to equate the position of the Jew in the Soviet Union today with the
> oppression of the Jew in the Russia of 1883 or 1903."    Probably not, but
> the fact remains that, despite, say,  the toleration, even encouragement,
> afforded  the use of the Yiddish language in the 1920s,  and the periodic
> denunciations by Soviet leaders, especially Stalin, of the growth of
> anti-semitism in Soviet society,  feelings against the Jews suffused
> important segments of Russian political life, and especially, the Communist
> Party.
>
> During the intra-party struggles of the 1920s, for example,  hints appear to
> have become widespread that Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev, were Jews, and
> that their opponents (and upholders of the official line), Stalin, Molotov,
> and Bukharin, were not.     This followed, of course, the unlamented demise
> of NEP, as the world of trade and finance was squeezed out of existence, or
> driven underground, with a concomitant refurbishing of the old image of the
> huckstering, exploited Jew, and the fanning of new prejudices.    Such
> prejudices were to burst into flame again and again throughout the Soviet
> era, and were to grow especially virulent in the period immediately
> following the demise of the USSR.
>
> While Marx saw the Jewish way of life as essentially a product of capitalism
> ("the Jewish problem is non-existent except as a problem of capitalism"), in
> eastern Europe this picture did not hold.   The Jews remained a caste apart,
> so that it was not difficult to stir up enmity against them.    In the West,
> the nineteenth century brought liberation and assimiliation to the Jews: in
> eastern Europe it was a century of oppression and isolation.    To locate
> the roots of Soviet anti-semitism, therefore, is to re-live the whole
> history of eastern Europe's antipathy to the Jews.
>
> The Bolsheviks, it must be remembered, did not originally regard the Jews as
> constituting a nation.   In the first place, they accepted the Western
> European rather than the German concept of the nation, which defined a
> nation by the possession of, among other things, of a national territory.
> Lacking this qualification distinguished the Jews from all other national
> minorities in the Soviet Union.    Secondly, the Bolsheviks regarded the
> differences in racial and religious background between Jew and Gentile as
> basically irrelevant, and believed that the destiny of the Jew was to be
> assimiliated with the population among which he lived.    This belief was
> shared not only by the Mensheviks (who had an even larger proportion of Jews
> among their members than the Bolsheviks), but by virtually all liberals, and
> by very many influential Jews, throughout Western Europe.    The Jewish
> Marxists themselves believed that the ultimate goal and destiny of Jewry was
> unqualified unity with non-Jews in the socialist society of the future.
>
> This belief did not easily survive the Holocaust,  the apotheosis of
> European anti-semitism, or, in its turn, the establishment of the Jewish
> State in Palestine in 1948.    In fact, the later history of Soviet
> anti-semitism seems to be an odd mixture of historic eastern European
> prejudice against Jews, together with an intensification of hostility toward
> the anti-socialist milieu of modern Zionism (subject in the early 1920s to
> sparodic persecution, and, later, banned outright).    True, Stalin did
> briefly, in 1947-48, give active support to the creation of Israel, but one
> could argue, as is done here, that this emerged from a desire to see the
> weakening of British Power in the Middle East and, perhaps, the birth of a
> new state which might be sympathetic to the Soviet Union.   If so, it was a
> colossal miscalculation.    The rapid assimilation of the new state into the
> orbit of American and British imperialism could not be precipitate, in time,
> a new round of anti-Semitism within the Soviet camp.
>
>
>
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