...In the early 20th century, Eastern European Jews had two love affairs - with Communism and with Zionism. But the Communists betrayed them. The Hungarian intellectual, Arthur Koestler, compared his time as a Communist with the deception practised on Jacob when he slept with the ugly Leah instead of Rachel.
Early Communists didn't want to be bothered with Jewish issues which, they thought, would be automatically resolved under socialism. By the 1920s, Stalin was using antisemitism to defeat his opponents in the party, many of whom were Jewish. One, Karl Radek, asked: "What's the difference between Moses and Stalin? Moses took the Jews out of Egypt. Stalin takes them out of the Communist Party".
By the 1930s, Stalin's great opponent, Trotsky, had come to believe that Jews might well not assimilate after all. He began to speak of "the Jewish nation". A socialist Zionist who met him in 1937 thought her words "penetrated deep into his heart, that he was glad to hear about a world from which he had dissociated himself". She thought that "he was listening not like a man who placed himself above all nationality," and that, "our great idea found an echo in his heart". Trotsky's biographer and disciple, Isaac Deutscher, a self-confessed "non-Jewish Jew", later admitted that, had he urged Jews in the 1930s to go to Palestine, many, including his own family, would have been saved.
The non-Communist left was more sympathetic to Zionism. Ralph Miliband, father of Ed and David, insisted, in a long correspondence with a Belgian socialist, Marcel Liebman, that his kind of socialism did not preclude recognition of Jewish identity. "What right do the Jews have to be in Palestine… Their right stems from the fact that the world is what it is". Perhaps there is no better answer.
(Simply Jews)stumbled across this, sort of, on the Standpoint website. It's Nick Cohen's review of Colin Shindler's "Israel and the European Left". Actually, (Simply Jews) was chasing down a link in a comments thread elsewhere, but what matters is that (Simply Jews) found it!(Nick Cohen, Colin Shindler and left antisemitism)
Cohen starts off with a set of general comments on the original ideological links between Communism and Zionism, before they became, in his own words, separated at birth. Then he comes to Shindler's book. Almost his first direct comment on it is the following: "If [Colin Shindler] has not produced a secret history, then it is a history of a secret in plain view; an account of facts that are available but not discussed. After (Brian Goldfarb) interviewed him at Jewish Book Week, members of the audience said they had never before heard anyone examine the racist strain in left-wing thinking, even though it was there from the beginning."
Of course, the readers of this and similar sites will not be at all surprised that this strain, as Cohen puts it, in left-wing thinking. If we weren't aware, we wouldn't be here in the first place. Anne's opinions (another Israel based website, in English) was kind enough to post a longish article By (Brian Goldfarb) on the Jewish Book Week, including his reactions to the Shindler/Cohen session.(How the Left Turned Against the Jews | Standpoint)"You cry out against Jewish capital, gentlemen?" cried one. "You are against Jewish capital and want to eliminate the stock manipulators. Rightly so. Trample the Jewish capitalists under foot, hang them from the street lamps, stamp them out."Ruth Fischer sounded like a Nazi. She used the same hate-filled language. She wanted to murder Jews. But Hitler would never have accepted her. Fischer was a leader of the German Communist Party. She made her small differences of opinion with the Nazis clear when she went on to say that her audience should not just trample Jewish capitalists to death, but all capitalists.Unconcerned by the contradiction, Hitler said the Jews were at once a "Judaeo-Bolshevik" conspiracy and a capitalist conspiracy. In Fischer's case, he was half right. The rabble-rouser who wanted to hang Jewish capitalists was a Jewish Communist, the sister of Hanns Eisler, who wrote music for some of Brecht's early plays. Eisler and Brecht fled the Nazis in 1933. A sense of self-preservation triumphed over ideology, and they found permanent sanctuary in America rather than in Stalin's Soviet Union. Hanns could not have been surprised when the House Committee on Un-American Activities demanded his deportation. He was a prominent Communist composer who worked for Hollywood, which the American Right considered a nest of reds. Eisler was perhaps more surprised to discover that his own sister Ruth was a witness for the prosecution when the McCarthyites arraigned him in 1947. Supporters of Stalin had denounced her as a "Left oppositionist" Trotskyist. She responded by not only going over to the "capitalist camp" but by providing evidence against Hanns, and against a second brother, Gerhart, who was a leading agent in the Comintern.(MORE)(How the Left Turned Against the Jews | Standpoint)Shindler is a properly impartial historian, but when his beliefs show through he reveals himself to be a social democrat rather than an Israel-firster or man of the Right. The left-wing press won't like it for the same reason Caliban did not like the sight of his face in the mirror.(MORE)Beyond the ideological divide lies the almost taboo nature of Shindler's subject. Conventional wisdom does not regard Communism with the same abhorrence as fascism, even though if you want to be an accountant about it and add up the skulls of the dead, you will find that the Communists murdered many more people than the fascists did, began murdering before fascists came to power and carried on murdering after the fascists had gone. Yet few can bring themselves to see fascism and Communism as moral equivalents. Even Robert Conquest, who mapped the crimes of Stalin, and had been mocked by the know-nothing Left of his day as a Cold War fantasist, said he thought the Nazis were worse than the Communists. He couldn't explain why, they just felt worse.(How the Left Turned Against the Jews | Standpoint)The movements for Jewish self-determination and Russian Communism were twins separated at birth. The First Zionist conference met on August 27, 1897, to discuss the escape from anti-Semitic Europe to Palestine. The General Jewish Labour Bund held its first conference in Vilnius on October 7, 1897, to organise the Russian Empire's Jews in a united socialist party. The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, from which the Bolsheviks split, held its first conference in March 1898. Naturally, the Bund sent delegates. For liberal and left-wing Europeans of the late 19th century, no regime was more repellent than Tsarist autocracy, and nothing better symbolised its reactionary nature than its anti-Semitic pogroms. Jews responded to the terror by keeping their Jewish identity and joining Jewish socialist movements, such as the Bund, or by becoming entirely assimilated Communists, as Trotsky and many others did.(MORE)(How the Left Turned Against the Jews | Standpoint)The coincidences of history do not end there. On November 2, 1917, Arthur Balfour sent his declaration to Baron Rothschild that the British Empire would allow the Jewish people to find a home in Palestine "it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities". On November 7, 1917, the Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace.(MORE)(How the Left Turned Against the Jews | Standpoint)As so often the theory was one thing and the practice another. The belief that Communism was better than Nazism stops us seeing that the Bolshevik Revolution was an insane idea from its inception. A "vanguard" party, composed of a tiny band of professional revolutionaries, could hold on to power only by terrorising the subject population. The Bolsheviks had to crush independent Jewish organisations, as they had to crush all other independent organisations. Yet even before the Bolsheviks produced a left-wing variant of the Nazi conspiracy theory, the Jews were a special case in the old Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks recognised other minorities as minorities with homelands. They never said that there should be a Jewish homeland in their empire. Socialist Zionism was a particular threat to the new regime. If Jews succeeded in building a socialist state in Israel, it would be a rival. Lenin set a loyalty test. Before he came to power, he purged the Communist movement of supporters of the Bund. The only Jews he permitted to remain were Jews who were so thoroughly assimilated that they were barely Jews at all.(MORE)(Trotsky: heartfelt echo By Colin Shindler, Continuum, £17.99 Review: Israel and the European Left | The Jewish Chronicle By Vernon Bogdanor) Unlike Lenin, Stalin was an anti-Semite and understood the uses of irrational hatred. His crimes took the forms of the sins of omission and commission. The omission was not to see Nazism for what it was, and ally with it in the Hitler-Stalin pact of August 1939. It remains one of the most hypocritical and stupid acts in the annals of diplomacy, where examples of hypocrisy and stupidity are not hard to find. Throughout the 1930s Communist writers, poets and propagandists had denounced fascism and urged a popular front against the Hitlerian menace. Then in August 1939 Stalin stood on his head and announced a Soviet reconciliation with Nazi Germany so they might partition Poland between them. Stalin believed in Hitler. Solzhenitsyn speculated in The First Circle that Hitler was the only man he ever really trusted. The complete surprise Hitler achieved when he invaded an unprepared Soviet Union in 1941 suggests that Solzhenitsyn was right. By signing the pact, the Soviet Union agreed to hand over the Jews of western Poland to the Nazis. Although conventional historians lazily say that the pact shocked a generation of leftists, Shindler points out that membership of the British Communist Party actually rose after the tyrants had cut a deal, and hardly anyone worried about the fate of Polish Jewry. Those who had shouted loudest about the dangers of fascism from 1933 to 1938 were as willing as Chamberlain and Halifax to appease it in 1939.(MORE)It's gotta be the shoes