Against lesser-of-the-two-evils-ism: on the article ‘Was the Jewish Bund anti-Semitic?’

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This topic contains 19 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  ZJW 9 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #86166

    ZJW
    Participant
    The article 'Was the Jewish Bund anti-Semitic?' is of course very right to oppose the new, absurd and reactionary, definition of anti-semitism according to which anti-zionism equals anti-semitism. It would be very wrong, however, to hold up bundism as some kind of positive counter-example to zionism. Bundism, too, was nationalist, even if it was a nationalism (or at the very very least, IdPolism) that did not advocate setting up a nation-state. How else to view the notion that Jewish workers ought to politically organise separately from other workers, in their 'own' oranisation, rather than in the SDKPiL, RSDLP or other avowedly socialist multi-ethnic party? How else to understand the Bund's demand (which while recommending it for other groups, even Bauer found absurd in the case of the Jews) for non-territory-based ' national-cultural autonomy'?
           
        
    An overview of the Bund's development can be seen here:  http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/bund, in which among others, these sentences stand out:
     
     
           
    'This organization should associate itself with the non-Jewish proletariat and the all-Russian labor movement in an "indissoluble bond," but only on the basis of equal partnership and not of integration of the Jewish within the general labor movement. '
     
     
           
    'A further resolution of the fourth convention sought to reconstruct the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party on a national-federal basis. This proposal was rejected by the second convention of the Russian Social Democratic Party. In consequence the Bund seceded from it and constituted itself as an independent party.'
    #132971

    ALB
    Participant

    The article itself does make the same point:

    Quote:
    Although they were essentially Social Democratic reformists they never fell for Jewish nation-statism. They certainly weren’t anti-Semitic. In fact they were criticised by other Jewish opponents of Zionism for being too nationalist themselves.

    By, for instance, Martov, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg.

    #132973

    Marcos
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    The article itself does make the same point:

    Quote:
    Although they were essentially Social Democratic reformists they never fell for Jewish nation-statism. They certainly weren’t anti-Semitic. In fact they were criticised by other Jewish opponents of Zionism for being too nationalist themselves.

    By, for instance, Martov, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg.

    Trotsky has been accused of being a Zionist by several sources

    #132974

    ALB
    Participant

    Are you referring to this sort of argument?http://www.politicsforum.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=47950It doesn't seem convincing enough to call him a Zionist. Ironically, he seems to be taking a position that the Bundists might have accepted. Anyway, what I had in mind was his decision before 1917  to join the mainstream Russian Social Democratic Party rather than the Bund. Obviously, from what he writes here, he couldn't have joined the Bund as he says that his mother tongue was Russian not Yiddish.

    #132972

    Marcos
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    Are you referring to this sort of argument?http://www.politicsforum.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=47950It doesn't seem convincing enough to call him a Zionist. Ironically, he seems to be taking a position that the Bundists might have accepted. Anyway, what I had in mind was his decision before 1917  to join the mainstream Russian Social Democratic Party rather than the Bund. Obviously, from what he writes here, he couldn't have joined the Bund as he says that his mother tongue was Russian not Yiddish.

    pesonally. I don’t think he was Zionist.  Those accusations came from Stalinist and the pro Nazis.I asked to a person that knew him personally and she is said that he wasn’t,  his best biographer Isaac deutscher said that he was not a Zionist.  They have also accused Einstein 

    #132975

    Marcos
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    Are you referring to this sort of argument?http://www.politicsforum.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=47950It doesn't seem convincing enough to call him a Zionist. Ironically, he seems to be taking a position that the Bundists might have accepted. Anyway, what I had in mind was his decision before 1917  to join the mainstream Russian Social Democratic Party rather than the Bund. Obviously, from what he writes here, he couldn't have joined the Bund as he says that his mother tongue was Russian not Yiddish.

    Jewish consider a person to be Jews when he is born from a Jewish mother, it is called the Jews uterus, and it does not make any difference if you speak Chinese. The Catholics say that you are a Catholic even if you are an atheist or have joined another religion, you must submit an application for Apostasy and it must be approved by the Vatican, and they do not approve most of them. Most peoples become Catholics since they are 3 or 12 months old because their parent baptize them

    #132976

    alanjjohnstone
    Participant

    A very extensive reading list can be found here, scroll down to the Bund sectionhttps://www.marxists.org/subject/jewish/I fully recognise the limitations of the SS article but the main purpose was simply to demonstrate that there existed a popular Jewish movement outside of Zionism which was left-wing and part of the social democracy of the period and that the state of Israel was never the be all and end all of the Jewish people. Bund history if not forgotten has often been misinterpreted.   As for its nationalism, we have to remember that Jewish pales and ghettoes were well-defined territories for a Party to organise on the basis of. We also got to remember the importance of Yiddish as the lingua franca of many geographically diverse Jewish communities.

    #132977

    Dave B
    Participant

    i I got my understanding of the ‘Bundists’ from reading the Lenin archive particularly the circa 1905 stuff re the split between the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks and some time ago discussed it on rev-left with the anticipated outrage. They were an important part of the formation of the pre Menshevik –Bolshevik split Russian SDP. In fact most of the real workers in the party were prior to and circa 1905 were so called ‘Bundists’; which were non or anti religious and nominally or categorized ‘Jewish’ and invariably Yiddish speaking. They were in 1905 third generation proletarians and emerged as a cultural/ecomomic group from non landowning artisan type community. In 1905 they wanted to maintain there own section within the SDP because as far as they were concerned they had their own issues due to highly institutionalized and legalized racism in the Tsarist state. There was a kind South African Apartheidpass law system https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pass_laws eg    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_of_Settlement And as far as they were concerned they had already had their own established communistic type literature before the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks came along. An example would be the left internationalist Menshevik Raphael Abramovitch Rein who continued to write in Yiddish after his eventual escape from Leninist Russia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raphael_Abramovitch Lenin and his Bolsheviks in their demand for centralized control wanted the Bundists eliminated as an independent section. They were not accused of being religious ‘Jews’ or being non internationalists or Zionists. I think they walked out of the split conference handing the Bolsheviks a more majority vote. There were I think other ‘Jewish’ ‘communist’ workers parties including non religious Zionists and ‘communist’ religious Zionists‘communists’ ; If you wanted to separate them out. [and if you can make sense of that]. There is quite a vocal and active group of ultra orthodox ‘Jews’ in Israel that are implacably opposed to the idea of a ‘Jewish’ state and thus Israel until the return of the real messiah.

    #132978

    Dave B
    Participant

    iI think you can get some idea of what the bundists were from the following from 1918?  The imaginary dictatorship of the proletariat has definitely turned into the dictatorship of the Bolshevik party, which attracted all sorts of adventurers and suspicious characters and is supported only by the naked force of hired bayonets. Their sham socialism resulted in the complete destruction of Russian industry, in the country's enslavement to foreign capital, in the destruction of all class organisations of the proletariat, in the suppression of all democratic liberty and of all organs of democratic State life, thus preparing the ground for a bourgeois counter-revolution of the worst and most brutal kind. The Bolsheviks are unable to solve the food problem, and their attempt to bribe the proletariat by organising expeditions into the villages in order to seize supplies of bread drives the peasantry into the arms of the counter-revolution and threatens to rouse its hatred towards the town in general, and the proletariat in particular, for a long time to come. . . . In continuing the struggle against the Bolshevik tyranny which dishonours the Russian revolution, social democracy pursues the following aims : To make it impossible for the working class to have to shed its blood for the sake of maintaining the sham dictatorship of the toiling masses or of the sham socialistic order, both of which are bound to perish and are meanwhile killing the soul and body of the proletariat ; To organise the working class into a force which, in union with other democratic forces of the country, will be able to throw off the yoke of the Bolshevik regime, to defend the democratic conquests of the revolution and to oppose any reactionary force which would attempt to hang a millstone around the neck of the Russian democracy. . . . Forty delegates elected by workmen of various towns, to a con- ference, for the purpose of making arrangements for the convocation of a Labour Congress, have been arrested and committed for trial by the Supreme Revolutionary Tribunal, created to pass death sentences without the ordinary guarantees of a fair trial. They are falsely and calumniously accused of organising a counter-revolutionary plot. Among the arrested are the most prominent workers of the Social Democratic Labour movement, as, for instance, Abramovitch, member of the Central Executive Committees of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party and of the " Bund," who is personally well known to many foreign comrades ; Alter, member of the Executive Committee of the " Bund " ; Smirnov, member of last year's Soviet Delegation to the Western Countries ; Vezkalin, member of the Executive Com- mittee of the Lettish Social Democratic Party ; Volkov, chairman of the Petrograd Union of Workmen's Co-operative Societies ; Zakharov, secretary of the Petrograd Union of Workmen of Chemical Factories ; and other prominent workers of the trade union and co-operative movement. We demand immediate intervention of all Socialist parties to avert the shameful and criminal proceeding. (Protest of the Social Democratic Labour Party and of the Jewish Socialist Party sent to the Executive Committees of all Socialist Parties of Europe and America, August, 1918.) 

    #132979

    ZJW
    Participant

     A very extensive reading list can be found here, scroll down to the Bund sectionhttps://www.marxists.org/subject/jewish/I fully recognise the limitations of the SS article but the main purpose was simply to demonstrate that there existed a popular Jewish movement outside of Zionism which was left-wing and part of the social democracy of the period and that the state of Israel was never the be all and end all of the Jewish people. Bund history if not forgotten has often been misinterpreted.   As for its nationalism, we have to remember that Jewish pales and ghettoes were well-defined territories for a Party to organise on the basis of. We also got to remember the importance of Yiddish as the lingua franca of many geographically diverse Jewish communities. 

    alanjjohnstone wrote:
    I fully recognise the limitations of the SS article but the main purpose was simply to demonstrate that there existed a popular Jewish movement outside of Zionism which was left-wing and part of the social democracy of the period and that the state of Israel was never the be all and end all of the Jewish people.

     Ok. 

    alanjjohnstone wrote:
    Bund history if not forgotten has often been misinterpreted.

     In what way would you say it has been misinterpreted?

    #132980

    alanjjohnstone
    Participant

    The Zionist Jews look at the fate of most of the Bundists – the death camps – and ascribe to it the failure of the Bundist ideas of fighting alongside their fellow-worker in the working class rather than fleeing. It was not a failure of principles, imho, but an unprecedented and unforeseen consequence of the war.

    #132981

    ZJW
    Participant
    alanjjohnstone wrote:
    As for its nationalism, we have to remember that Jewish pales and ghettoes were well-defined territories for a Party to organise on the basis of. We also got to remember the importance of Yiddish as the lingua franca of many geographically diverse Jewish communities.

    A special language-section of an existing party (cf the 'language federations' of the De Leonist or Hillquit-Debs parties in the US ) would take care of that.  But in the event, the overlapping of parties (even leaving aside for the moment whether the Bund suffered from nationalism) resulted in the situation reported by Warski to Kautsky here on page 112, beginning 'Recently we have got to the point […]': https://books.google.com/books?id=347-digzQXMC&pg=PA110&dq=%22the+bund%22+Rosa+luxemburg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjz7_-Fk8HbAhUDmJQKHeF0DkAQ6AEIJTAA#v=onepage&q=we%20have%20got%20to%20the%20point&f=false  Of course what he says goes both for the Bund in Russia, and for its ideological homologue in Habsburg Galicia — the wrong-headedly formed The Jewish Social-Democratic Party.

    #132982

    ZJW
    Participant
    alanjjohnstone wrote:
    A very extensive reading list can be found here, scroll down to the Bund sectionhttps://www.marxists.org/subject/jewish/

    In addition: (1) A section of Otto Bauer's 1907 book 'The Question of Nationalities and Social Democracy', a PDF of which is available on libcom. Backround: the Social-Democratic Workers Party of Austria was formed in 1889. In 1897, '[f]ollowing Czech demands, the party decided to transform itself into a federative organization of six national parties (Ukrainian, Czech, Polish, German, Italian, and Slovene) with a common executive committee'.  In  1905 a split occurred in the Polish party with the universally condemned formation of the Jewish Social Democratic Party. This is the starting point of the sub-section of Bauer's book titled 'National Autonomy for the Jews?' (pages 291-308) .  He judges himself incompetant to speak of Russia and the Bund, and he is indeed is not speaking of rationales for party-formation, anyway, but of the demand for Jewish national autonomy in a somewhat re-jiggered future Austria (he was a reformist after all), but you can extrapolate from what he says that he is opposed to Jewish-exclusive organisation. The language is different, but the thesis is similar to that of Abram Leon: Jewry is not an ethnicity so much as the decaying remainder of an economic caste left over from the middle ages. So: in the interests of  working-class solidarity between Jewish and non-Jewish proletarians,  further decay — ie integration — is to be encouraged, not hindered. (2) The 1989 book 'Class and Ethnicity in the Pale: The Political Economy of Jewish Workers' Nationalism in Late Imperial Russia', by Yoav Peled, which is downloadable from a book site whose url I will not cite here but will be known many forum participants. In it, these parts are of value: The two chapters 'The Historical Setting' and 'From Emancipation to Autonomy: The Evolution of the Bund's National Programme' (ie pp 16-71). And then, for regarding some problematic peculiarites of the Jewish proletariant in the Pale, pages 73-76 (the section titled 'The Jewish Working Class'). Much of the rest of the book is  academic twaddle. And by the way, the Bund claimed to be the exclusive representative of Jewish workers not only in tthe Pale (already bad enough) but throughout the Russian Empire. (Logically meaning also of course regardless of whether said Jewish workers — whether in the Pale or outside of it — were monoglot Yiddish speakers or not.)

    #132983

    ZJW
    Participant

    And here, for those interested is a definition from an introduction to the Bauer book (not by Bauer but by some latter-day academic) of what Austro-Marxism's national autonomy meant. (As a reformist/bourgeois utopian notion, not an unattractive idea.)'In most conventional theories, national autonomy requires a territorial base for the autonomous national community, or at least the intention to build some kind of "autonomous homeland" that will serve as the territorial base. Bauer and Renner's theory, however, rests on the idea of "nonterritorial national autonomy." This means that autonomous communities are organized as sovereign collectives, whatever their residential locations within a multinational state. As in the millet system in the Ottoman Empire, peoples of different ethnic identities can coexist in the same territory without straining the principle of national autonomy. The crucial difference of Bauer and Renner's system from the millet system is, however, that the autonomous communities are organized democratically and are based on individual consent to belong and on internal democracy. The analogy used by Renner was that of religious communities. Much in the same way as Catholics, Protestants, and Jews could coexist in the same city, Renner argued, so members of different national communities could coexist with their own distinct institutions and national organizations, provided they did not claim territorial exclusivity.'

    #132984

    ALB
    Participant
    ZJW wrote:
    And here, for those interested is a definition from an introduction to the Bauer book (not by Bauer but by some latter-day academic) of what Austro-Marxism's national autonomy meant. (As a reformist/bourgeois utopian notion, not an unattractive idea.)

    I agree that some sort of non-territorial cultural autonomy is a not unttractive idea. It can be imagined that this could be applied in socialism to language groups rather than to "nations" (of course), with people speaking the same language having autonomy when it comes to education and culural (theatre, films, publishing, etc) matters; particpation in the democratic decision-making would not be based on where people lived but on what language they spoke.Although, under capitalism, it would be a reformist measure, it is not that "utopian" in the sense of unrealisable. It is applied in the inner part of Greater Brussels where people choose which language "community" to be in (Dutch or French) and voted for its bodies that administer education and culture. So people in the same street can be voting for different bodies dealing with these matters. It is certainly better than ethnic cleansing and to what applies in other parts of Greater Brussels outside the centre which are also linguistically diverse and where the minority (in some communes even the majority) of French-speakers enjoy considerably less "facilities". That's because there things are based on territory and the French-speakers find themselves on Dutch-speaking territory.

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