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A Review of “Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism”
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Part One • 2,600 Words

Introduction

Alain Brossat and Sylvie Klingberg’s Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism was first published in France in 1983. A revised edition appeared in 2009 and an English translation in 2016. Intended for a mainly Jewish readership, the book is essentially an apologia for Jewish communist militants in Eastern Europe in the early to mid-twentieth century. Brossat, a Jewish lecturer in philosophy at the University of Paris, and Klingberg, an Israeli sociologist, interviewed dozens of former revolutionaries living in Israel in the early 1980s. In their testimony they recalled “the great scenes” of their lives such as “the Russian Civil War, the building of the USSR, resistance in the camps, the war in Spain, the armed struggle against Nazism, and the formation of socialist states in Eastern Europe.”[A1]Alain Brossat & Sylvie Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism (London; Verso, 2016), xii. While each followed different paths, “the constancy of these militants’ commitment was remarkable, as was the firmness of the ideas and aspirations that underlay it.” Between the two world wars, communist militancy was “the center of gravity of their lives.”[A2]Ibid., 59.
(Alain Brossat & Sylvie Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism (London; Verso, 2016), xii.)

While communism in Europe in the early- to mid-twentieth century was characterized by economic dysfunction, systematic oppression, summary executions, and the elimination of entire ethnic groups, Brossat and Klingberg wistfully recall it as a time when European Jewry “failed to achieve its hopes, its utopias, its political programs and strategies.” Instead, the messianic dreams of radical Jews were “broken on the rocks of twentieth-century European history.” A product of their ethnocentric infatuation with the “romance” of Jewish involvement in radical political movements, Revolutionary Yiddishland is Brossat and Klingberg’s hagiographic attempt to resurrect a history that is today “more than lost, being actually denied, even unpronounceable.”

Alain Brossat
Alain Brossat

The unstated reason for this omission lies in the determination of Jews to absolve their co-ethnics of any responsibility for the crimes of communism, and to ensure the advent of German National Socialism is always framed in a way that conduces to a simplified narrative of saintly Jewish victimhood and German (and by extension White European) malevolence. Maintaining this narrative is supremely important for the legions of Jewish “diversity” activists and propagandists throughout the West, given the status of “the Holocaust” as the moral and rhetorical foundation of today’s White displacement agenda. Invocation of this narrative is reflexively used to stifle opposition to the Jewish diaspora strategies of mass non-White immigration and multiculturalism. By contrast, free discussion of the Jewish role in communist crimes undermines Jewish pretentions to moral authority grounded in their self-designated status as history’s preeminent victims. This polarity accounts for the fact that, since 1945, over 150 feature films have been made about “the Holocaust” while the number of films that have been made about the genocide of millions of Eastern Europeans can be counted on one hand — and none have been produced by Hollywood.

The critical importance of suppressing discussion of this unsavory aspect of Jewish history was underscored by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen in his 2013 screed The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise of Global Antisemitism (reviewed here). For Goldhagen, any claim Jews were responsible for the Bolshevik Revolution and its predations is a “calumny,” and morally reprehensible because “If you associate Jews with communism, or worse, hold communism to be a Jewish invention and weapon, every time the theme, let alone the threat, of communism, Marxism, revolution, or the Soviet Union comes up, it also conjures, reinforces, even deepens thinking prejudicially about Jews and the animus against Jews in one’s country.”[A3]Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, The Devil That Never Dies (New York NY; Little, Brown & Co., 2013), 291; 126. It is therefore imperative the topic remain taboo and discussion of it suppressed — regardless of how many historians (Jewish and non-Jewish) confirm the decisive role Jews played in providing the ideological basis for, and the establishment, governance and administration of, the former communist dictatorships of Central and Eastern Europe.

In a recent article for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, journalist Cnaan Liphshiz, while noting that the Goldhagen approach of absolute denial constitutes “a logical strategy” for Jews, admits the facts do “reaffirm in essence” the assessment of those like “promoter of Holocaust denial” Mark Weber who observed that: “Although officially Jews have never made up more than five percent of the country’s total population, they played a highly disproportionate and probably decisive role in the infant Bolshevik regime.” Liphshiz notes how Russia’s main Jewish museum has, since 2012, “tackled head on the subject of revolutionary Jews” in an exhibition that “underlines unapologetically how and why Jews became central to the revolution.” Knowing that outright denial of the pivotal Jewish role in the Bolshevik revolution and the murderous regimes it spawned is intellectually untenable, a growing number of Jewish historians concede the point, but insist this leading role was morally justified because it was essentially “defensive” in nature.

Thus, while freely admitting Jews had “an outsized role in the revolution,” Boruch Gorin, chairman of Moscow’s Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, insists that “there were very good reasons for this,” with “anti-Semitism” being foremost among them. For Gorin, the revolution, while offering “Russia’s Jews many opportunities, equal rights and education and a chance to fill the vacuum left by the elite that was forced into exile,” most importantly offered a haven from a “wave of pogroms” in the Ukraine and elsewhere that “some historians call a dress rehearsal for the Holocaust.” According to this conception, a Jew in 1917 “had two choices: revolution or exile.”

Boruch Gorin
Boruch Gorin

Andrew Joyce has explored how Jewish historians and activists have distorted and weaponized the history of “pogroms” in the former Russian Empire. The mythos forged around these events, crystallized in the Russo-Jewish Committee’s propaganda pamphlet The Persecution of the Jews in Russia (1881) and reporting in Jewish-controlled newspapers throughout the West, was pivotal in accelerating the development of modern, international Jewish politics. This narrative revolves around certain claims: that Jews were oppressed for centuries in Russia; that the Pale of Settlement was a virtual prison; that tsarist authorities actively organized and directed pogroms; that pogroms were genocidal and extremely violent in nature; and that Russians were uncivilized and barbaric savages. Contemporary Jewish historians like Simon Sebag Montefiore continue to credit lurid tales of pogroms where Jews were “massacred in such gleefully ingenious atrocities — disemboweled, dismembered, decapitated; children were cutleted, roasted and eaten in front of raped mothers.”[A4]Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Romanovs 1630-1918 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2016), 50. Joyce notes how the dissemination of such pornographic accounts were key to ensuring “that mass Jewish chain migration to the West went on untroubled and unhindered by nativists. After all, wasn’t the bigoted nativist just a step removed from the rampaging Cossack?”

Uncritically drawing on this bogus narrative, establishment historians typically ascribe the pogroms to irrational manifestations of hate against Jews, tsarist malevolence, the pathological jealousy and primitive barbarity of the Russian mob, and the “blood libel.” The real underlying causes of peasant uprisings against Jews, such as the Jewish monopolization of entire industries (including the sale of liquor to peasants on credit), predatory moneylending, and radical political agitation, are completely ignored, despite tsarist authorities having repeatedly expressed alarm over how “Jews were exploiting the unsophisticated and ignorant rural inhabitants, reducing them to a Jewish serfdom.”[A5]John Klier, Russians, Jews, and the Pogroms of 1881-2 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 5. Initiatives to move Jews into less socially damaging economic niches, through extending educational opportunities and drafting Jews into the army, were ineffective in altering this basic pattern. With this in mind, even the revolutionary anarchist Mikhail Bakunin concluded that Jews were “an exploiting sect, a blood-sucking people, a unique, devouring parasite tightly and intimately organized … cutting across all the differences in political opinion.”[A6]Robert Wistrich, From Ambivalence to Betrayal: the Left, the Jews and Israel (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012), 186.

In Revolutionary Yiddishland, Brossat and Klingberg posit the “Jewish Bolshevism as morally justified ethnic self-defense” thesis, insisting that “anti-Semitism” was “an insidious poison hovering in the air of the time” that comprised “the sinister background music to the action of the Yiddishland revolutionaries.”[A7]Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 85. The real causes of anti-Jewish sentiment among the native peasantry are, once again, comprehensively ignored. Rather than seeing Jewish communist militants as willing agents of ethnically-motivated oppression and mass murder, the authors depict them as noble victims who tragically “linked their fate to the grand narrative of working-class emancipation, fraternity between peoples, socialist egalitarianism” rather than to “a Jewish state solidly established on its ethnic foundations, territorial conquests and realpolitik alliances.”[A8]Ibid., ix.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 85.)
In other words, they mistakenly held communism rather than Zionism to be best for the Jews.

Determined to absolve their co-ethnics of any culpability for communist crimes, Brossat and Klingberg assure us that the militancy of their informants “was always messianic, optimistic, oriented to the Good — a fundamental and irreducible difference from that of the fascists with which some people have been tempted to compare it, on the pretext that one ‘militant ideal’ is equivalent to any other.”[A9]Ibid., 56.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 85.)
In other words, tens of millions may have died because of the actions of Jewish communist militants, but their hearts were pure. Regarding such arguments, Kevin MacDonald observed how Jewish involvement with Bolshevism “is perhaps the most egregious example of Jewish moral particularism in all of history. The horrific consequences of Bolshevism for millions of non-Jewish Soviet citizens do not seem to have been an issue for Jewish leftists — a pattern that continues into the present.”[A10]Kevin MacDonald, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth‑Century Intellectual and Political Movements, (Westport, CT: Praeger, Revised Paperback edition, 2001), xl.

Jewish participation in Bolshevism as ethnic revenge

That their motivations were far from pure, and that ethnic animosity and desire for revenge were key factors driving the large-scale Jewish support of, and participation in, communist movements was obvious to the Jewish historian Norman Cantor who made the following observation:

The Bolshevik Revolution and some of its aftermath represented, from one perspective, Jewish revenge. During the heyday of the Cold War, American Jewish publicists spent a lot of time denying that — as 1930s anti-Semites claimed — Jews played a disproportionately important role in Soviet and world Communism. The truth is until the early 1950s Jews did play such a role, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. In time Jews will learn to take pride in the record of the Jewish Communists in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. It was a species of striking back.[A11]Norman Cantor, The Jewish Experience: An Illustrated History of Jewish Culture & Society (New York; Castle Press, 1996), 364.

This corresponds with Kevin MacDonald’s assessment in Culture of Critique that the disproportionate participation of Jews in Bolshevik crimes was, in large part, “motivated by revenge against peoples that had historically been anti-Jewish.” One of the (non-Jewish) pioneers of the Dada movement, Hugo Ball, immediately recognized the obvious agenda behind the lopsided Jewish role in the Bolshevik Revolution and resulting Soviet administration. Observing the make-up of the first Bolshevik Executive Committee (four out of six of whom were Jewish), he noted that “it would be strange if these men, who make decisions about expropriation and terror, did not feel old racial resentments against the Orthodox and pogrommatic Russia.”[A12]Albert Boime, “Dada’s Dark Secret,” In: Washton-Long, Baigel & Heyd (Eds.) Jewish Dimensions in Modern Visual Culture: Anti-Semitism, Assimilation, Affirmation, (Waltham MA: Brandeis University Press, 2010), 96.

Leading Jewish communists, like founder of the Mensheviks Yuli Martov, who became a close associate of Lenin and Trotsky, made a point of recalling his childhood experiences of Russian and Ukrainian anti-Semitism. The 1881 Odessa pogrom was his “first taste of primitive Russian anti-Semitism,” and Martov was “shaken to the depths of his being by the pogromist barbarity of Tsarist Russia.” The event left a “permanent mark on his impressionable mind,” and he later underlined the connection between this experience and his subsequent revolutionary career, posing the question: “Would I have become what I became if the Russian reality had not imprinted her coarse fingers on my plastic, youthful soul in that memorable night and carefully planted under the cover of that burning pity which she aroused in my childlike heart, the seeds of a redeeming hatred?”[A13]Robert Wistrich, Revolutionary Jews from Marx to Trotsky (London: George G. Harrap & Co Ltd, 1976), 178.

While Trotsky, the architect of the Bolshevik insurrection and creator of the Red Army, claimed his Jewish origins and Jewish interests did not guide his attraction to Bolshevism, his biographer Joshua Rubenstein disagrees, noting that he “was a Jew in spite of himself,” who “gravitated to Jews wherever he lived,” and “never abided physical attacks on Jews, and often intervened to denounce such violence and organize a defense.”[A14]Joshua Rubenstein, Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary’s Life (New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 2013), 67; 78; 52. As leader of the Red Army during the Civil War, Trotsky “had to deal with the anti-Semitic attitudes among the population,” and “successfully recruited Jews for the Red Army because they were eager to avenge pogrom attacks.”[A15]Ibid., 113.
(Joshua Rubenstein, Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary’s Life (New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 2013), 67; 78; 52.)
At the same time, he “voiced his concern over the high number of Jews in the Cheka, knowing that their presence could only provoke hatred towards Jews as a group.” Trotsky was feted by Jews worldwide as “an avenger of Jewish humiliations under Tsarism, bringing fire and slaughter to their worst enemies.”[A16]Wistrich, Revolutionary Jews, 199.

Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky

Ethnic revenge was also a motivation for Lazar Kaganovich, the Jewish member of the Politburo who presided over the forced famine that took the lives of millions of Ukrainian peasants and the mass deportation of “anti-Semitic” Cossacks to Siberia in the 1930s. Kaganovich had “battled the chauvinistic and anti-Semitic Black Hundreds, especially strong in Kyiv, both before and after the 1911 Beilis affair, the Russian version of the Dreyfus affair.”[A17]Hiroaki Kuromiya, Russia’s People of Empire: Life Stories from Eurasia, 1500 to the Present (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012), 276. The assassination of the Russian Prime Minister Stolypin in the same year resulted in the Black Hundreds attempting “to whip up a pogrom.” In response, the “Bolsheviks took measures to protect themselves and to rebuff this threat,” and “Kaganovich only joined the party after these momentous events.” He studied Lenin’s works at this time, and the Bolshevik leader’s article “Stolypin and Revolution” which depicted Stolypin as “an organizer of Black Hundred gangs and anti-Semitic pogroms” made a “big impression” on him.[A18]E. A. Rees, Iron Lazar: A Political Biography of Lazar Kaganovich (Anthem Press, 2013), 6.

Kaganovich later became known as the “butcher of the Ukrainians.” As Soviet leader in the Ukraine he received reports documenting “widespread dissatisfaction among workers fuelled by high unemployment, with widespread anti-Semitism, with workers and peasants denouncing the ‘dominance of red nobility of Yids.’” Kaganovich played a “highly visible” role in suppressing this “nationalist deviation” in 1925–28, and later oversaw the forced collectivization of 1932–33, conceived as part of an “assault on the Ukrainian nationalist intelligentsia.” The country was sealed off and all food supplies and livestock were confiscated with Kaganovich leading “expeditions into the countryside with brigades of OGPU troopers” who used “the gun, the lynch mob and the Gulag system to break the villages.”[A19]Myroslav Shkandriij, Jews in Ukrainian Literature: Representation and Identity (Yale University Press, 2009), 137. The secret police, led by Genrikh Yagoda (also Jewish) exterminated all “anti-party elements.” Furious that insufficient Ukrainians were being shot, Kaganovich set a quota of 10,000 executions a week. Eighty percent of Ukrainian intellectuals were shot. During the winter of 1932–33, 25,000 Ukrainians per day were being shot or left to die of starvation.[A20]Lesa Melnyczuk, Silent Memories, Traumatic Lives (RHYW, 2013), 25.

The Bolsheviks mounted murderous campaigns against entire ethnic groups. The Soviet government killed at least 30 million people, most in the first 25 years of the regime’s existence during the height of Jewish power. The Jewish intellectual, G.A. Landau, writing in 1923, was stunned by the “cruelty, sadism, and violence” of Jewish functionaries in the Red Army and secret police “who yesterday did not know how to use a gun” but who “are now found among the executioners and cutthroats.”[A21]Yuri Slezkine, The Jewish Century (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 183. I.M. Bikerman was similarly shocked at the “disproportionate and immeasurably fervent Jewish participation in the torment of half-dead Russia by the Bolsheviks.”[A22]Ibid., 183.
(Yuri Slezkine, The Jewish Century (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 183.)
In response to attempts by Jews to disassociate their ethnicity from such figures, the Jewish intellectual I.A. Bromberg noted the cognitive dissonance in the Jewish “passion for seeking out and extolling the Jews famous in various fields of cultural life,” and especially “the shameless circus around the name of Einstein,” while simultaneously distancing themselves from Jewish communist criminals. D.S. Pasmanik agreed, noting how “Ethnic Jews not only do not denounce an Einstein or an Ehrlich; they do not even reject the baptized Heine and Boerne. And this means they have no right to disavow Trotsky and Zinoviev.”[A23]Ibid., 184.
(Yuri Slezkine, The Jewish Century (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 183.)

Part Two • 4,000 Words
Cover of the original 1983 French edition of Revolutionary Yiddishland
Cover of the original 1983 French edition of Revolutionary Yiddishland

The Pale of Settlement

The Revolutionary Yiddishland of the book’s title refers to the former Pale of Settlement which was comprised of twenty-six governorships in Eastern Europe where Jews were allowed to live, but only in cities and towns. Out of the eleven million Jews in the world in the early twentieth century, Russia held more than five million, and of these, four and a half million resided in the cities and towns of the Pale. For the authors, this “Yiddishland” was not just a geographical territory, but a “social and cultural space, a linguistic and religious world.”[B1]Alain Brossat & Sylvie Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism (London; Verso, 2016), 29. According to historian John Klier, the much-maligned Pale of Settlement was the only response the tsarist authorities could come up with when faced with how to deal with the “fanaticism of ultra-Orthodox Jewry” which was “unassimilable to official purposes.”

The social hierarchy of Jews in the Pale was, according to Brossat and Klingberg, made up of a wealthy financial bourgeoisie, a middling bourgeoisie which was “intellectual and commercial,” and “an immense Jewish proletariat.”[B2]Ibid., 1.
(Alain Brossat & Sylvie Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism (London; Verso, 2016), 29.)
The use of the term “proletariat” to describe poorer Jews in the Pale is questionable given that they typically operated as petty traders rather than industrial employees. Jewish peddlers were notorious throughout the Pale as smugglers of contraband (as referenced in Gogol’s Dead Souls). This large number of poorer Jews was the direct result of the Jewish population explosion in Eastern Europe in the nineteenth century when their numbers grew from about 1.5 million at the beginning of the century to almost eight million by 1913.

This Jewish “proletariat,” a hotbed of radicalism characterized by “powerful organization,” played a “decisive part” in the “strikes and insurrections that broke out right across the Pale in the course of the 1905 Revolution.” Regarding revolutionary agitators at this time, Tsar Nicholas II claimed that “nine-tenths of the troublemakers are Jews” who also dominated the newspapers where “some Jew or another sits … making it his business to stir up passions of people against each other.”[B3]Anne Applebaum, Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine (New York NY: Doubleday, 2017) 114.

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw millions of these poorer Jews migrate to destinations as diverse as North and South America, France, South Africa, Australia and Palestine. The ideological zealotry of these Jewish migrants directly influenced American immigration policy around this time, with Muller noting:

The image of the Jew as Communist played an often overlooked role in the history not only of Jews in America, but of the millions of Jews in Eastern Europe who would have liked to emigrate to the United States after World War I, but who were prevented from doing so by the immigration restrictions enacted in the early 1920s, culminating in the Reed-Johnson Act of 1924. For those restrictions were motivated in part by the identification of Jews with political radicalism.’[B4]Jerry Z. Muller, J.Z. (2010) Capitalism and the Jews (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010), 161-62.

The prominent Jewish intellectual and writer Chaim Bermant observed that “To many minds, at the beginning of this [twentieth] century, the very words ‘radical’ and ‘Jew’ were almost one, and many a left-wing thinker or politician was taken to be Jewish through the very fact of his radicalism.”[B5]Chaim Bermant, Jews (London; Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1977), 160.

From the 1860s the effects of the Enlightenment and the rise of capitalism throughout the Pale overturned the traditional structures of Jewish life. The Jewish population became increasingly concentrated in urban centers as Jews migrated from the shtetl to the cities. This geographical shift was accompanied by an intellectual shift involving “a break with the rigidity of the traditional Jewish life that invaded every sphere of existence.” This break caused tensions and conflicts in Jewish families across and beyond the Pale — mainly between traditionalist parents and their children who abandoned traditional Judaism to embrace Marxism. Brossat and Klingberg note how “the theme of generational conflict, the clash between the old and the new within the family structure, returns like a leitmotiv in the statements of many of our witnesses.”[B6]Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 37.

The progression of young Jews from religious fanaticism to political fanaticism was often a psychologically seamless process, with the Messianic creed of Marxism being grafted, without much difficulty, onto traditional Jewish paradigms. All the various branches of Jewish radicalism, the Bund (a Jewish socialist party), Poale Zion (a socialist Zionist party), and communism “sprang from the same root: the great utopia of a new world, the New Covenant that was prefigured by the writings of the socialist thinkers of the second half of the nineteenth century.”[B7]Ibid., 56.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 37.)
The European left was in large measure a Jewish creation. In Germany in the mid-nineteenth century Marx, Hess, and Lassalle, all three of Jewish origin, founded and shaped the socialist movement.

Interviewee Max Technitchek recalled how his traditionalist father, through exposure to radical literature, became convinced “that socialism was a good thing, that a day would come when everybody would be happy. Of course the good Lord still had a hand in it — the Messiah, socialism, the vision of future happiness for the Jews and all humanity — all this tended to melt together in his convictions.”[B8]Ibid., 47.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 37.)
Here we see the conception of Judaism as a self-perceived universalist, morally superior movement — the “light unto the nations” theme that has recurrently emerged as an important aspect of Jewish self-identity since antiquity and especially since the Enlightenment. This despite the fact that Jews have frequently served oppressive ruling elites in traditional societies throughout history.

The religious father of communist militant David Szarfharc expressed sympathy for communism because, for him, “the prophets were precursors of Marx.”[B9]Ibid.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 37.)
It was thus not uncommon for the Marxist sympathies of traditionalist parents to “beat the path to radicalism and revolutionary commitment for their children.”[B10]Ibid.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 37.)
Another attraction of Marxism was “its replication of Judaic traditions of book-learning, exegesis and prediction.”[B11]Robert Service, Comrades! A History of World Communism (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2010) 123. Sachar notes how “its intellectual sophistication appealed to Jews,” though its chief allure lay in the fact it “rejected all forms of chauvinism and nationalist xenophobia. In short, it rejected anti-Semitism.”[B12]Howard M. Sachar, A History of the Jews in the Modern World (New York NY: Knopf, 2005) 151.

For many in the younger generation, communism was seen not a rejection of Judaism but its logical extension. For the vast majority of Jewish communists, “their commitment to the movement was not a sign of forgetting or denying their identity; they participated in it as Jews, drawing Jewish workers into the great movement of universal emancipation.” Brossat and Klingberg’s informants’ accounts of their transition from the closed world of religion to the open world of modernity was “not expressed in terms of violent rupture, rather of evolution, reconciliation” between Judaism and Marxism. For the authors, the testimony of their informants revealed “the plasticity, capacity for evolution and basic internal dynamism of the Jewish world of Eastern Europe.”[B13]Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 46.

Jewish support for the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917

Jews naturally welcomed the February Revolution of 1917 which led to the abolition of all legal restrictions on Jews starting with the Pale of Settlement. At this time, most Jews did not support the Bolsheviks, but other more overtly pro-Jewish groups like the Bund, Poale Zion, and the Mensheviks. This changed after the Bolsheviks seized power in October 1917 and launched a campaign to wipe out all traces of anti-Semitism in the former Russian Empire. Brossat and Klingberg note how “the Bolsheviks equated anti-Semitism with counterrevolution” and applied the rigors of martial law to “pogromists.” This attracted huge numbers of Jews into the ranks of the new Bolshevik regime, who “provided very many cadres to both the provincial administrations of the new regime and the army.” The prevalence of Jews in the new administration was such that the “Soviet government [effectively] made anti-Semitism a proxy for anti-Bolshevism.”[B14]Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (Cornell University Press, 2001), 43.

Jewish Bolshevik supporters during the October Revolution
Jewish Bolshevik supporters during the October Revolution

Once the Civil War began, Jewish support for the new regime became even more pronounced. By March 1919 a large majority of the members of the Jewish Bund “pronounced in favor of the Soviet dictatorship.” Key to this support was the fact the Bolsheviks had

proclaimed the definitive abolition of all forms of national discrimination; the Soviet government waged an effective struggle against anti-Semitism. The abolition of the Pale of Settlement enabled Jews to move freely across the whole Russian territory; the proclamation of the equality of all citizens opened the doors of the new administration to them; the proclaimed desire of the new power to contribute to the rehabilitation of all cultures and nationalities oppressed by Great Russian chauvinism under the tsarist regime gave them hope for the yiddische gass, the “Jewish street,” of Russia. Was not the presence of so many Jews in leading positions in the new state apparatus a tangible guarantee, a deposit in the future?[B15]Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 183.

Solomon Fishkowski, a Poale Zion militant in Kolno, Poland, enthusiastically welcomed the revolution. After being briefly imprisoned for distributing propaganda leaflets in 1918, he enlisted in the Polish army. When the Polish-Soviet war broke out he deserted and joined the Red Army “to rally to this revolution that had proclaimed the end to all discrimination against Jews.”[B16]Ibid., 192.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 183.)
Haim Babic, a faithful activist of the Bund in Poland, claimed that Polish Jews like him “demanded immediate and radical solutions, which pressed us to turn towards the east, the USSR.”[B17]Ibid., 66.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 183.)
Babic became convinced that “Polish Jews would never escape from their misery without a worldwide overthrow.”[B18]Ibid., 67.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 183.)

When, after the chaos of World War I, revolutions erupted all over Europe, Jews were everywhere at the helm. The old order in Hungary was overthrown by the Hungarian Soviet Republic of Bela Kun (Cohen) who seized power in March 1919 and lasted for only 133 days before succumbing to invading Romanian troops. Of the government’s forty-nine commissars, thirty-one were Jews.[B19]Ibid., 153.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 183.)
After seizing power they acted in enthusiastic accord with their radical political principles:

Statues of Hungarian kings and national heroes were torn down, the national anthem was banned, and the display of the national colors was made a punishable offense. … Radical agitators were dispatched to the countryside, where they ridiculed the institution of the family and threatened to turn churches into movie theatres. … Antipathy soon enough focused on the Jews. Young revolutionaries of Jewish origin had been sent to the countryside to administer the newly collectivized agricultural estates; their radicalism was exceeded only by their incompetence, reinforcing peasant anti-Semitism. The Jesuits, for their part, interpreted the revolution as Jewish and anti-Christian in essence. … Rumors abounded that the revolutionaries were everywhere desecrating the Host. In Budapest as in the countryside, opposition to the regime, defense of the church, and anti-Semitism went hand in hand.[B20]Muller, Capitalism and the Jews, 156-57.

An eyewitness account of the Hungarian Soviet Republic was published in 1921 by the visiting French brothers Jean and Jérôme Tharaud entitled When Israel is King. Interspersed with accounts of the confiscation of wealth by the revolutionaries, and the replacement of Hungarian professors with young Jewish intellectuals, were reflections like: “A New Jerusalem was growing up on the banks of the Danube. It emanated from Karl Marx’s Jewish brain, and was built by Jews upon a foundation of very ancient ideas.”’[B21]Ibid. p. 160
(Muller, Capitalism and the Jews, 156-57.)

Bela Kun in 1919
Bela Kun in 1919

Reflecting on this history, Zsolt Bayer, co-founder of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz Party, last year posed the question in an op-ed: “Why are we surprised that the simple peasant whose determinant experience was that the Jews broke into his village, beat his priest to death, threatened to convert his church into a movie theater — why do we find it shocking that twenty years later he watched without pity as the gendarmes dragged the Jews away from his village?”

A Jewish cultural renaissance in the USSR

After the Bolshevik Revolution the national rights of the Jewish population were fully recognized. This was manifested in the opening of Yiddish-language schools, the publication of books and periodicals in that language, and the creation, in January 1918, of a sub-commissariat of Jewish affairs.[B22]Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 189. Brossat and Klingberg claim a “Jewish cultural renaissance” occurred in the USSR in the 1920s, which was associated with a “remarkable flourishing of Jewish theater in this period, by an intense and varied production of Yiddish literature, the establishment of Jewish schools etc.” The sudden changes introduced by the revolution “precipitated the eruption of these communities into modernity, bringing to birth the features of a new Jewish identity in the USSR.” Synagogues were rebranded “cultural circles” where meetings were held on the dates of religious festivals which “denounced outdated beliefs and celebrated the cult of the revolution.”[B23]Ibid., 199.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 189.)

It is a testament to Judaism’s tenacity as a group evolutionary strategy that Jewish ethnic continuity was unaffected by the official assimilationist ideology of the new regime. The rejection of religious traditionalism was instead “accompanied by a ‘self-affirmation,’ a ‘rejection of assimilation’ by the new public that recognized itself in this original cultural production.”[B24]Ibid., 194.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 189.)
Accordingly, the “massive revolutionary commitment” of Jewish youth in the early twentieth century “cannot be equated with a flight from the Jewish world, an unqualified rejection of this world.” Their commitment was “not a sign of forgetting or denying their identity; they participated in it as Jews” and Marxism-Leninism only “consolidated them in their Jewish identity.”[B25]Ibid., 51.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 189.)

Pre-revolutionary Jewish schools were almost entirely traditional heder that taught the Bible and Talmud: the post-revolutionary schools were secular institutions impregnated with communist ideology. Despite this, instruction was in Yiddish and the new schools continued to segregate Jewish children from the surrounding goyische society. Here was clear evidence that the Jewish advocacy of radical, universalist ideologies like communism was compatible with Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy. Kevin MacDonald notes in Culture of Critique how the Bolsheviks “aggressively attempted to destroy all vestiges of Christianity as a socially unifying force within the Soviet Union while at the same time it established a secular Jewish subculture so that Judaism would not lose its group continuity or its unifying mechanisms such as the Yiddish language.”[B26]Kevin MacDonald, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth‑Century Intellectual and Political Movements, (Westport, CT: Praeger, Revised Paperback edition, 2001), 58.

It took opponents of the Bolsheviks little time to notice the overwhelmingly Jewish nature of the new regime. Jews were a primary target of tsarist loyalists who “mobilized under the banner ‘For Holy Russia, against the Jews!’”[B27]Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 184. Jews were attracted to communism in the 1920s to an extraordinary extent and their prominence, not only in the Bolshevik political leadership in the period from 1917 to 1922 but especially in the secret police, only “nourished anti-Semitism.”[B28]Robert Wistrich, Revolutionary Jews from Marx to Trotsky (London: George G. Harrap & Co Ltd, 1976), 199. Soviet propaganda demonized Ukrainian nationalist leaders like Petliura as an “anti-Semite” and “linked Ukrainian nationalism to looting, killing and above all pogroms.” Petliura was murdered in Paris in 1926 by a Russian Jew, Sholom Schwatzbard, who, “inspired by Soviet propaganda” claimed to be “taking revenge for the pogroms.”[B29]Applebaum, Red Famine, 188. Schwatzbard was hailed as a hero by Jews around the world.

The sudden appearance of large numbers of Jews in leadership positions throughout the ranks of the new Soviet regime, a “revolution in the revolution,” had an electrifying effect on Jewish youth throughout Eastern Europe. Esther Rosenthal-Schneidermann, a Jewish communist from Poland who arrived in Moscow in 1926 to take part in the first congress of activists specializing in the field of education, recalled her emotional reaction to discovering this new reality:

Up till then, I had never seen a Jew in the role of high official, not to say an official speaking our everyday mamelosh [mother tongue], Yiddish. And here on the podium in the congress hall of the People’s Commissariat for Education there were top officials speaking Yiddish, in the name of the colossal Soviet power, of Jewish education that the party placed on a footing of equality with the cultural assets of other peoples.[B30]Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 186.

Rubenstein notes how “In a country where Jews had been persecuted and marginalized for so long, it must have been unnerving for millions of people to see Jews among those in charge of the country.”[B31]Joshua Rubenstein, Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary’s Life (New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 2013), 113-14. After the revolution, Jews quickly moved into “important and especially sensitive positions in the bureaucracy and administration of the new regime,” and, as a result, the first encounter with the new regime for many Russians “was likely to be with a commissar, tax officer, or secret police official of Jewish origin.” Muller notes that:

with so many Bolsheviks of Jewish origin in positions of leadership, it was easy to consider Bolshevism a “Jewish” phenomenon. And if Winston Churchill, who was personally remote from anti-Semitism, could regard Bolshevism as a disease of the Jewish body politic, those who had long conceived of Jews as the enemies of Christian civilization quickly concluded that Bolshevism was little more than a transmutation of the essence of the Jewish soul.[B32]Bermant, Jews, 139.

Or, as Kevin MacDonald has conceptualized it, a post-enlightenment manifestation of Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy. Following the dramatic reversal of fortune for Russian Jewry under the Bolsheviks, many Jews who had left tsarist Russia to migrate to North America or Western Europe returned to witness the “unbelievable.” It was “a topsy-turvy world” said one such onlooker, A.S. Sachs, where “the despised had come to sit on the throne and those who had been the least were now the mightiest.” He noted with jubilation that “The Jewish Bolsheviks demonstrate before the entire world that the Jewish people are not yet degenerate, and that this ancient people is still alive and full of vigor. If a people can produce men who can undermine the foundations of the world and strike terror into the hearts of countries and governments, then it is a good omen for itself, a clear sign of its youthfulness, its vitality and stamina.”[B33]Ibid. 171-72.
(Bermant, Jews, 139.)

Jewish power in Stalin’s Soviet Union

Brossat and Klingberg note how the situation of Jews in the early decades of the Soviet Union is often framed in terms of their victimhood at the hands of Stalinist “totalitarianism” — emphasizing the social and political repression that struck individual Jewish intellectuals, artists and activists. With the purges of the mid-1930s and Stalin’s rejection of “cosmopolitan internationalism” in favor of socialism in one country, the political landscape did change significantly for Jews. Their confidence “in the dialectic of history” was shaken by Stalin’s “restoration of the Great Russian chauvinism.” Stalin was, according to the authors, “a dyed-in-the-wool anti-Semite” who

had never completely settled accounts with the national obscurantism that had poisoned the social atmosphere under the old regime [i.e. tsarist anti-Semitism] — in contrast to Lenin, who had a horror of racism and denounced national prejudices throughout his life. In 1907, Stalin was highly amused by the joke of a certain comrade Alexinski who, noting that Jews were particularly numerous among the Mensheviks, suggested that it would perhaps be time to “conduct a pogrom in the party.” When the factional struggle broke out in the mid-1920s, opposing Stalin and Bukharin to the left led by Trotsky and Radek, soon joined by Zinoviev and Kamenev, the latter were amazed to discover that Stalin and his clique had no hesitation, in the heat of the battle, in coming out with sly allusions to their enemies’ “exotic” origins and drawing on chauvinist prejudices that remained anchored in the consciousness of Soviet workers.[B34]Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 211.

Despite pointing out and condemning Stalin’s hostility to Jews, the authors erect a moral firewall between Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Third Reich. Doubtless with Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism in mind, they lament that the “prevailing discourse on ‘totalitarianism’ generally assimilates Nazi and Stalinist anti-Semitism, viewing them as equivalent and basically sharing the same features.” Such a stance, they insist, fails to appreciate how “anti-Semitism fulfilled different functions in the Nazi and Stalinist systems” and only leads to “error” because “even in the worst days of Stalinist repression, under Yezhov in the late 1930s or under Beria in the early 1950s, Stalin did not “practice the kind of racial discrimination and repression that the Nazis had made a precept, the very pivot of their system” — a view that ignores the interests of non-Jewish Russians who were the main victims of Bolshevik horrors, entirely. They note how attempts to frame Jews as wholesale victims of Stalin’s anti-Semitism also ignores the fact that most Jews in the 1930s remained loyal to the Soviet Union and “the idealism and messianism of their actions [was] still just as great.”[B35]Ibid., 61.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 211.)
Furthermore, Jews remained an elite group in the USSR during this period, and most of the women around Stalin and many of his closest collaborators, from Yagoda to Mekhlis, were Jewish.

Josef Stalin
Josef Stalin

For the authors of Revolutionary Yiddishland, it is “impossible to understand the scope of subsequent disappointments without stressing how strongly the majority of the Jewish population rallied to the Soviet regime in the course of the Civil War, and the attraction that the ‘utopia’ of the new state power continued to exert on several generations of Jewish socialist militants of Eastern Europe.”[B36]Ibid., 191.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 211.)
Jews like Bronia Zelmanovicz continued to avidly propagandize for communism in Poland in 1937 (the highpoint of Stalin’s purges in the USSR). Talking to fellow Jews she “explained to them that there was no more anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union.” She rapidly came to the attention of the Polish police and was ultimately imprisoned. She noted how “I found myself together with thirteen other young women — militants or communist sympathizers — twelve of whom were Jewish.”[B37]Ibid., 72.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 211.)

Brossat and Klingberg use the term “revolutionary heroism,” to describe the “militant courage” of these Jewish communists in Poland. The Polish Communist Party was perceived by most Poles as the party of the foreigner, of Poland’s hereditary enemy, “the ‘fifth column’ that had supported the Red Army’s advance on Warsaw in 1920.”[B38]Ibid., 71.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 211.)
This was when the concept of “Judaeo-Bolshevism” (zydeokommuna) was coined by the nationalist right. Jewish membership of the Polish Communist Party fluctuated between 22 and 35 percent of the total. Jews were even more heavily represented in the party leadership: in 1935 they constituted 54 percent of the field leadership and 75 percent of the technika (responsible for propaganda).[B39]Bernard Wasserstein, On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War (Profile Books, 2012), 64. According to militant Yaakov Greenstein, “The worse misery, anti-Semitism and political repression grew in the 1930s, the more convinced I was that socialism was the only possible solution for us. The communist movement was a fountain at that time for the Jewish youth in Poland.”[B40]Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 62.

The unswerving commitment of Galician Jew, Shlomo Szlein, to Stalin was grounded in his identification of Soviet communism with philo-Semitism:

We were on the border of the USSR, and the way in which the national question had been solved in Soviet Russia or Byelorussia, especially the Jewish question, struck us as extraordinarily positive. Younger Jews, in the late 1920s, had joined the communist movement in eastern Galicia on a massive scale. The movement’s power of attraction was that it seemed to promise to resolve both the social question and national question in a short space of time. There was such a high proportion of Jewish youth in the communist movement here that you could almost say it was a Jewish national movement. In any case, the question of stifling or denial of Jewish national identity absolutely didn’t arise. The majority of Jewish young people joined it with a Jewish national consciousness.[B41]Ibid., 61.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 62.)

Accusations of “anti-Semitism” directed at Stalin by Trotskyists were indignantly dismissed by leading American Jews in the 1930s. The journalist B.Z. Goldberg responded with anger, claiming “In order to beat Stalin, Trotsky considers it right to make Soviet Russia anti-Semitic. … For us this is a very serious matter. … We are accustomed to look to the Soviet Union as our sole consolation as far as anti-Semitism is concerned.” Even Rabbi Stephen Wise, the most famous rabbi of his generation, regarded Trotsky’s claim of anti-Semitism against Stalin as a “cowardly device.”[B42]Rubenstein, Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary’s Life, 176. During the 1920s and throughout the 1930s, the Soviet Union accepted aid for Soviet Jews from foreign Jewish organizations, especially the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee which was funded by wealthy American Jews like Warburg, Schiff, Kuhn, Loeb, Lehman, and Marshall.[B43]MacDonald, Culture of Critique, xxxix. During the 1930s, when millions of Soviet citizens were being murdered by the Soviet government, the Communist Party USA took great pains to appeal to specific Jewish interests, and glorified the development of Jewish life in the Soviet Union which was seen as “living proof that under socialism the Jewish question could be solved. Communism was perceived as good for Jews.”[B44]Ibid., xl.
(MacDonald, Culture of Critique, xxxix.)

Part Three • 3,100 Words

The psychological impact of the Hitler Stalin pact

Radical Jewish militants were deeply traumatized by the pact between Hitler and Stalin just prior to the start of the World War II. The dilemma facing Jewish communists, the contradiction between their “visceral anti-fascism” and what was now presented to them as an imperative of realpolitik for the USSR, repeatedly cropped up in testimony of those interviewed for Revolutionary Yiddishland. One of these, Louis Gronowski, recalled:

I remember my disarray, the inner conflict. This pact was repugnant to me, it went against my sentiments, against everything I had maintained until then in my statements and writings. For all those years, we had presented Hitlerite Germany as the enemy of humanity and progress, and above all, the enemy of the Jewish people and the Soviet Union. And now the Soviet Union signed a pact with its sworn enemy, permitting the invasion of Poland and even taking part in its partition. It was the collapse of the whole argument forged over these long years. But I was a responsible Communist cadre, and my duty was to overcome my disgust.[C1]Alain Brossat & Sylvie Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism (London; Verso, 2016), 139-40.

For many radical Jews, Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 provided a sense of “relief that was paradoxical but none the less immense. They had finally found their political compass again, recovered their footing; in short, they would be able to launch all their forces into the struggle against the Nazis without fear of sinning against the ‘line.’”[C2]Ibid., 141.
(Alain Brossat & Sylvie Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism (London; Verso, 2016), 139-40.)

In late 1941, with the outcome of the battle for Moscow uncertain, Stalin, contemplating the possibility of defeat, acted decisively to ensure the field was not left open for the former Trotskyist faction. He ordered the execution of two historical leaders of the Bund, Victor Adler and Henryk Ehrlich, just after Soviet officials had offered them the presidency of the World Jewish Congress. For Stalin, “all the militants of the Bund and other Polish Jewish socialist parties who were refugees in the USSR were considered a priori political adversaries — particularly when they refused to adopt Soviet nationality — and treated accordingly.”[C3]Ibid., 225.
(Alain Brossat & Sylvie Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism (London; Verso, 2016), 139-40.)

These executions caused international uproar, with Jews around the world protesting, and the furor not dying down until the establishment of a Jewish organization, the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC), dedicated to winning the favor of American Jews. In Culture of Critique, Kevin MacDonald notes how American Jewish leaders, such as Nahum Goldmann of the World Jewish Congress and Rabbi Stephen Wise of the American Jewish Congress “helped quell the uproar over the incident and shore up positive views of the Soviet Union among American Jews.”[C4]Kevin MacDonald, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth‑Century Intellectual and Political Movements, (Westport, CT: Praeger, Revised Paperback edition, 2001), xxxix.

Stalin controlled the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee at a distance. The JAC was headed by leaders of the Soviet Jewish intelligentsia like Solomon Mikhoels and Ilya Ehrenburg whose principal task was to “develop support for the USSR at war among Jewish communities abroad, and especially in America.”[C5]Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225. Interviewee Isaac Safrin recalled hearing “on the radio that a Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee had just been set up. Ilya Ehrenburg made a great speech, very emotional, and we began to cry. The woman [he was staying with] didn’t understand what had affected us, and we had to explain to her that it was because he was Jewish.”[C6]Ibid., 230.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)
For the six years of its existence 1942–8, the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee “stood at the center of an intense reactivation of Jewish life,” and many of the interviewees were “struck by the revival of cultural activities, even of national assertion, on the part of the Jewish community, which was encouraged by the regime in the course of the war.”[C7]Ibid., 232.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)

The wartime revival of Jewish identity in the USSR culminated in a revival of Zionist hopes for a reversal of Stalin’s opposition to the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. Alarmed by the “triumphant welcome Moscow’s Jews extended to the first Israeli ambassador, Golda Meir, Stalin dissolved the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in 1948 and a few months later, prominent Jewish writers, artists and scientists were arrested, and Jewish newspapers, libraries and theatres were closed.

Golda Meir mobbed by ecstatic Jews in Moscow in 1948
Golda Meir mobbed by ecstatic Jews in Moscow in 1948

Meir’s rapturous reception in Moscow reinforced that every Jew in the USSR was potentially an Israeli citizen, and that the Soviet authorities were right to distrust a community that, apart from its official nationality, bore another homeland in its heart. The authors note how:

Even in the Soviet dictionary, the word “cosmopolitan” was given a new meaning; instead of “an individual who considers the whole world as his homeland” (the 1931 definition), this was now “an individual who is deprived of patriotic sentiment, detached from the interests of his homeland, a stranger to his own people with a disdainful attitude towards its culture” (the 1949 definition). The official press poured scorn on “vagabonds without passports,” people “without family or roots,” always in anti-Semitic tones.[C8]Ibid., 234.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)

Stalin’s campaign against “Jewish cosmopolitans” famously culminated with the “Jewish doctors’ plot” of 1953 where leading Soviet doctors, for the most part Jews, were accused of plotting to kill Stalin. Arrested and threatened with trial, they owed their salvation to Stalin’s death (under highly suspicious circumstances) the same year. Having surveyed these events, Brossat and Klingberg view the “failure of Soviet policy towards the Jews” under Stalin as stemming from “the application of a reactionary policy that broke fundamentally with the program of the October Revolution.”[C9]Ibid., 236.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)

Jewish radicals who remained in Europe after WWII

For the Jewish radicals who remained in Europe after 1945, the predominant feeling was, with the defeat of fascism, history was now “on the march” and the triumph of the Red Army meant that “the great socialist dream seemed finally within reach.” The order of the day was “the building of a new society in those countries of Eastern and Central Europe liberated from fascism by the Red Army.” Brossat and Klingberg note how “these militants rapidly found themselves drawn into the apparatus of the new states being constructed.”[C10]Ibid., 264.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)

Jewish communist cadres were “systematically entrusted with even the most senior positions in the army, the police, the diplomatic corps, economic management etc.” Jews were deliberately placed in key positions because Soviet authorities feared a resurgence of nationalism in the countries they now occupied. Jews could be trusted to carry out their plans and were seen as least likely to form an alliance with the local populace against the hegemony of the Soviets, as Tito had done in Yugoslavia. In the newly conquered nations of Eastern and Central Europe, the Soviets had few reliable supporters, and “because they were familiar with local conditions and fanatically antifascist, Jews were often chosen for the security police.”[C11]Ibid. 171.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)
According to Adam Paszt, the Soviet authorities “knew that the population was anti-Semitic, so they tried to conceal the fact that there were Jews in leading positions.” Jews were thus “encouraged to change their names.”[C12]Ibid., 267.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)
The authors note how:

Few of our informants could resist the siren call. Though well established in France, where he lived with his family, Isaac Kotlarz agreed nonetheless to return to Poland; he was a disciplined militant, and the party appealed to his devotion. Adam Paszt, for his part, had already lived for some years in the USSR, and although the scales had fallen from his eyes, he still had hopes. “I told myself that the USSR was a backward country, that in Poland, a more developed country, the way to socialism would be different.” Those who had been shattered by the defeat in Spain and the discovery of Soviet reality were freshly mobilized by the new situation; this upsurge of utopia, this summons from history.[C13]Ibid., 265.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)

Bronia Zelmanowicz recalled that “When I returned to Poland I joined the party. Almost all the Jews did so. Some profited from the opportunity to rise higher than their abilities or their education should have let them. This was called ‘rising with the party card.’ It did a great deal to tarnish the image of Jews among the Polish population. The same phenomenon was seen in the USSR.”[C14]Ibid., 267.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)
The new regimes in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Hungary “needed these experienced Jewish militants, who thus turned from revolutionaries into officials, privileged people in countries that had a hard time rising from their ruins.” The loyalty of these Jewish militants to the new regime was “based not only on conviction, but also on the material advantages that it gave.”[C15]Ibid., 267-8.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)

After World War II, Hungary offered an extreme example of the Jewish domination of the new regime brought to power by the Red Army. The key post of general secretary was occupied by a Jew, Mátyás Rákosi, who billed himself as “Stalin’s best pupil.”[C16]Ibid., 173.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)
The next five major positions were filled by Jews and a third of higher police officials were Jewish, and many departments of the security apparatus were headed by Jews. Many had spent years, even decades, in the Soviet Union, while others “had returned from concentration camps or who survived the war in Budapest” and who, as well as regarding the Soviets as their liberators, nursed “a burning desire for vengeance” against the Hungarians who had collaborated with the Nazis. Muller notes how “By moving into the army, the police, and the security apparatus, these young Jewish survivors put themselves in a position to settle accounts with the men of the Arrow Cross.”[C17]Ibid., 175.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)

Jewish Stalinist leader of Hungary Mátyás Rákosi
Jewish Stalinist leader of Hungary Mátyás Rákosi

Jews played central roles in building societies that “obeyed the strictest canons of Stalinism, and it was with an iron broom that the new administration consolidated its power against the ‘forces of the past,’” which involved “‘getting their hands dirty’ in this new phases of history, to bend to the Stalinist precept that you do not make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”[C18]Ibid., 268.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)
The conspicuous role played by Jews in the brutal Sovietization of Hungary led to anti-Jewish riots in 1946. The oppressive nature of the new regime can be gauged by the fact that between 1952 and 1955 “the police opened files on over a million Hungarians, 45 percent of whom were penalized,” and “Jews were very salient in the apparatus of repression.”[C19]Ibid. 178-9.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)

Ultimately it was the very Stalinism these Jews so zealously implemented throughout the countries of the Warsaw Pact that served to “crush them, or at least some of them, a few years later, so that today they have the sense of a great swindle.”[C20]Ibid., 268.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)
Stalin’s abandonment of revolutionary internationalism alienated many Jewish operatives throughout Eastern Europe. The authors note how, in the context of this new stance where internationalism tended to be “reduced to the obligatory reverence towards the guardian power, Stalin’s USSR, Jewish militants very often felt out of place.”[C21]Ibid., 272.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)

Another reasons for the Jewish abandonment of the communist utopia was “the direct discovery at their own expense, not only that socialism did not put an end forever to anti-Semitism” but at times willingly used it, as in Poland in 1968, as a political tool. There an “unbridled campaign against ‘Zionists’ on Polish radio and television poisoned public life, with Jewish cadres being silently dismissed.” In 1968 restrictions on emigration were abolished and thousands of Jews left Poland. In Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Romania, the trials and liquidations of the 1950s “also had an anti-Jewish connotation, sharper or less so as the case might be.”[C22]Ibid., 275.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)
Pierre Sherf related his experience in Romania:

I returned to Romania with my wife in December 1945. We were at the same time naïve and fanatical. We had a deep sense of coming home, finally leaving behind our condition of wandering Jew. I was appointed to a high position in the foreign ministry, but after the foundation of the state of Israel one of my brothers became a minister in the Israeli government, and I was suddenly removed and transferred to another ministry. When Ana Pauker was dismissed in 1952, I felt the net tighten around me. My superior in the hierarchy was arrested and a case against me was opened. As in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the USSR, veterans of Spain were fingered as “spies.” …

I never hid the fact I was Jewish, and the Party needed us, as it needed cadres belonging to other national minorities living in Romania. But it was afraid the population would resent the large number of Jews in the party leadership. Like many others, I had therefore to “Romanize” my name. I now called myself Petre Sutchu instead of Pierre Sherf. During the trials of the 1950s, the specter of “Jewish nationalism” was brandished, as in other countries. The suspicion was scarcely belied by future events. Later a member of the political bureau was eliminated because his daughter had asked to immigrate to Israel. In Spain, in the Brigades, there was an artillery unit named after Ana Pauker, but when she was dismissed, it was given a different name in the official history museums.[C23]Ibid., 375-6.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)

Sherf later applied for an emigration visa and left for Israel. For Jewish communist functionaries like him “the European workers’ movement and socialism had failed to resolve the Jewish question in its national dimension — not just in Europe but in the whole world.” After this failure Jewish history seemed to “present itself as an eternal recurrence founded on the permanence of anti-Semitism.”[C24]Ibid., 277.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)
According to this conception, the differences between Jews and non-Jews “swells to the dimensions of an essential and irreducible alterity. As in the preachings of the rabbis, the non-Jewish world, the universe of the goyim, tends once more to become a perpetually threatening other and elsewhere.”[C25]Ibid., 285.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)
This sense of betrayal was the key to their subsequent disenchantment which would ultimately “lead the great majority of them far from communism.”[C26]Ibid., 268.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)

After 1948 many of the Yiddishland diaspora migrated to Israel, some reluctantly, some less so. Brossat and Klingberg note that their decision to interview only former Yiddishland revolutionaries living in Israel was arbitrary, and how the same task could have been undertaken in Paris or New York. The particular situation of their informants did, however, highlight one essential factor: “the gaping, radical break between the world that they lost and the arrogant new Sparta within whose walls they have chosen to live.”[C27]Ibid., 241.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)
These onetime militants for socialist internationalism, who had “waged a bitter struggle against every kind of nationalism” now pledged their allegiance to “the state of Israel, expression of triumphant Zionism” which “has carved on the pillars of the rebuilt Temple the principles of a Manichean view of the world, a system of thought founded on simple oppositions, a binary metaphysics: just as the world is divided in two, Jews and goyim.”[C28]Ibid.
(Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.)

Conclusion

Revolutionary Yiddishland is another example of that incredibly prolific literary genre: Jewish apologetic historiography. Despite this, the book is worthy of attention because, intended for a Jewish readership, its discussion of the roots and motivations of Jewish radicalism and militancy is unusually candid. It illuminates aspects of Jewish radicalism that are usually concealed from non-Jews, such as how the pursuit of Jewish ethnic interests was the primary motivating factor for Jewish participation in and support of communism in the first half of the twentieth century. When addressing non-Jewish audiences, Jews typically ascribe their disproportionate involvement in leftist politics to the impulse of tikkun olam — a desire to heal the world which naturally flows from the inherent benevolence of the Jewish people. Appeals to non-Jews to serve Jewish interests by fighting for universal “human rights” have been a consistent and incredibly successful feature of Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy in the modern era. Millions of White people (who are likely genetically predisposed to moral universalism) have been enlisted to fight for Jewish interests (and against their own ethnic interests) on the assumption they are upholding the “universal brotherhood of man.”

In the post-Cold War era, the Jewish revolutionary spirit chronicled and lionized in Revolutionary Yiddishland has been redirected into the Cultural Marxist assault on White people and their culture. As with the older generation of Jewish revolutionaries, the pursuit of Jewish ethnic interests remains the central motivation for this new revolution which revolves around the demographic and cultural transformation of European and European-derived societies. This motivation is fully evident in a review of the book by leftist Jewish activist Ben Lorber, who, placing the White heterosexual male enemy firmly in his sights, raved that “the Left faces a terrifying fascist threat unseen since the era of Yiddishland, with the rapid embrace of far-right politics engulfing Europe and culminating … with the startling seizure by Donald Trump of the most powerful political position in the world. As we combat mounting attacks on Muslim and Arab communities, black folks, immigrants, Jews, women, LGBTQ folks and more.”

Reflecting of the older generation of radical Jewish activists, Lorber insists “we have much to learn from the boundless optimism, the fearless advances and the terrifying retreats of those who struggled before.” Rather than decrying his radical Jewish forerunners as handmaidens and direct practitioners of oppression and genocide, Lorber fondly looks to them for inspiration, contending that “We need to draw hope from this previous generation of radicals who believed, against all odds, that a new sun was dawning in the sky of history. Revolutionary Yiddishland lets this generation speak, and helps us to listen.” Prey to the same ethnocentric infatuation with the “romance” of Jewish radical revolutionaries as the authors, Lorber “cannot help but look upon the passionate, almost messianic optimism of early-20th century radicals with a strange sense of dislocation and longing.”

Another Jewish reviewer extolled Revolutionary Yiddishland as “a marvelous bitter-sweet book” with the sweetness coming from “understanding the depth and vibrancy of the revolutionary socialist movement, from listening to the voice of the interviewees, and from the matter of factness of their everyday heroism and commitment.” The pro-Palestinian website Mondoweissdescribed the book as “a memorial to a missing world,” and claimed that “as an aesthetic composition, it is beautiful.” The Jewish Chronicle also praised the book but thought it was insufficiently apologetic and resented its “occasional anti-Zionist animus” (i.e., its very tepid criticisms of Israel) which “mars an otherwise absorbing account.”

The most telling (though entirely predictable) feature of the Jewish responses to Revolutionary Yiddishland was the absence of any reservations having been expressed over Brossat and Klingberg’s glorification of Jewish communist militants who enthusiastically founded and served regimes that destroyed millions of lives. This provides another reminder, if any were needed, that Jewish involvement with communism remains the most glaring example of Jewish moral particularism in all of history. It yet again underscores the fact that Jews have no problem setting aside moral consistency in pursuit of their group evolutionary interests.

Footnotes • 700 Words

[A1] Alain Brossat & Sylvie Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism (London; Verso, 2016), xii.

[A2] Ibid., 59.

[A3] Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, The Devil That Never Dies (New York NY; Little, Brown & Co., 2013), 291; 126.

[A4] Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Romanovs 1630-1918 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2016), 50.

[A5] John Klier, Russians, Jews, and the Pogroms of 1881-2 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 5.

[A6] Robert Wistrich, From Ambivalence to Betrayal: the Left, the Jews and Israel (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012), 186.

[A7] Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 85.

[A8] Ibid., ix.

[A9] Ibid., 56.

[A10] Kevin MacDonald, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth‑Century Intellectual and Political Movements, (Westport, CT: Praeger, Revised Paperback edition, 2001), xl.

[A11] Norman Cantor, The Jewish Experience: An Illustrated History of Jewish Culture & Society (New York; Castle Press, 1996), 364.

[A12] Albert Boime, “Dada’s Dark Secret,” In: Washton-Long, Baigel & Heyd (Eds.) Jewish Dimensions in Modern Visual Culture: Anti-Semitism, Assimilation, Affirmation, (Waltham MA: Brandeis University Press, 2010), 96.

[A13] Robert Wistrich, Revolutionary Jews from Marx to Trotsky (London: George G. Harrap & Co Ltd, 1976), 178.

[A14] Joshua Rubenstein, Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary’s Life (New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 2013), 67; 78; 52.

[A15] Ibid., 113.

[A16] Wistrich, Revolutionary Jews, 199.

[A17] Hiroaki Kuromiya, Russia’s People of Empire: Life Stories from Eurasia, 1500 to the Present (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012), 276.

[A18] E. A. Rees, Iron Lazar: A Political Biography of Lazar Kaganovich (Anthem Press, 2013), 6.

[A19] Myroslav Shkandriij, Jews in Ukrainian Literature: Representation and Identity (Yale University Press, 2009), 137.

[A20] Lesa Melnyczuk, Silent Memories, Traumatic Lives (RHYW, 2013), 25.

[A21] Yuri Slezkine, The Jewish Century (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 183.

[A22] Ibid., 183.

[A23] Ibid., 184.

[B1] Alain Brossat & Sylvie Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism (London; Verso, 2016), 29.

[B2] Ibid., 1.

[B3] Anne Applebaum, Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine (New York NY: Doubleday, 2017) 114.

[B4] Jerry Z. Muller, J.Z. (2010) Capitalism and the Jews (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010), 161-62.

[B5] Chaim Bermant, Jews (London; Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1977), 160.

[B6] Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 37.

[B7] Ibid., 56.

[B8] Ibid., 47.

[B9] Ibid.

[B10] Ibid.

[B11] Robert Service, Comrades! A History of World Communism (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2010) 123.

[B12] Howard M. Sachar, A History of the Jews in the Modern World (New York NY: Knopf, 2005) 151.

[B13] Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 46.

[B14] Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (Cornell University Press, 2001), 43.

[B15] Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 183.

[B16] Ibid., 192.

[B17] Ibid., 66.

[B18] Ibid., 67.

[B19] Ibid., 153.

[B20] Muller, Capitalism and the Jews, 156-57.

[B21] Ibid. p. 160

[B22] Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 189.

[B23] Ibid., 199.

[B24] Ibid., 194.

[B25] Ibid., 51.

[B26] Kevin MacDonald, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth‑Century Intellectual and Political Movements, (Westport, CT: Praeger, Revised Paperback edition, 2001), 58.

[B27] Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 184.

[B28] Robert Wistrich, Revolutionary Jews from Marx to Trotsky (London: George G. Harrap & Co Ltd, 1976), 199.

[B29] Applebaum, Red Famine, 188.

[B30] Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 186.

[B31] Joshua Rubenstein, Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary’s Life (New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 2013), 113-14.

[B32] Bermant, Jews, 139.

[B33] Ibid. 171-72.

[B34] Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 211.

[B35] Ibid., 61.

[B36] Ibid., 191.

[B37] Ibid., 72.

[B38] Ibid., 71.

[B39] Bernard Wasserstein, On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War (Profile Books, 2012), 64.

[B40] Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 62.

[B41] Ibid., 61.

[B42] Rubenstein, Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary’s Life, 176.

[B43] MacDonald, Culture of Critique, xxxix.

[B44] Ibid., xl.

[C1] Alain Brossat & Sylvie Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism (London; Verso, 2016), 139-40.

[C2] Ibid., 141.

[C3] Ibid., 225.

[C4] Kevin MacDonald, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth‑Century Intellectual and Political Movements, (Westport, CT: Praeger, Revised Paperback edition, 2001), xxxix.

[C5] Brossat & Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland, 225.

[C6] Ibid., 230.

[C7] Ibid., 232.

[C8] Ibid., 234.

[C9] Ibid., 236.

[C10] Ibid., 264.

[C11] Ibid. 171.

[C12] Ibid., 267.

[C13] Ibid., 265.

[C14] Ibid., 267.

[C15] Ibid., 267-8.

[C16] Ibid., 173.

[C17] Ibid., 175.

[C18] Ibid., 268.

[C19] Ibid. 178-9.

[C20] Ibid., 268.

[C21] Ibid., 272.

[C22] Ibid., 275.

[C23] Ibid., 375-6.

[C24] Ibid., 277.

[C25] Ibid., 285.

[C26] Ibid., 268.

[C27] Ibid., 241.

[C28] Ibid.

(Republished from The Occidental Observer by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: History, Ideology • Tags: Bolshevik Revolution, Communism, Jews 
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