Gilad Atzmon’s war on the Bund

Following up from this post, anti-Zionist Tony Greenstein writes about the ex-Israeli Holocaust denier Gilad Atzmon and his war against the Bund.

It is a great tragedy that although Gilad Atzmon became revolted at what he saw in the Lebanon War of 1982, he accepted the basis premise of Zionism that it is indeed the sole representative of Jewish identity…  But he also attacks those manifestations of past Jewish identity which don’t fit in with his schema.  In particular the Bund, which as I pointed out last night and he accepted, represented 85% of the Jewish Council seats in Warsaw in 1938 are more detestable to Atzmon than Zionism.

Atzmon despicably attacks the Bund and that small remnant who weren’t wiped out by the Nazis who made their way to Israel in 1948.  A film has been made about them, a very sad and tragic film.  The Bund in Israel sought both to keep the memory of their fight in Poland alive and stay together to cherish their heritage.  I doubt if there are many Palestinians who would resent or oppose these survivors of the holocaust settling in Palestine as it then was.  Just as today Black Africans have formed a community in south Tel Aviv and been the victims of the most appalling pogroms and racist abuse. [see Xenophobia in Tel Aviv, ‘We must not let nationalism, threatened sense of identity turn us into old-time Europe’ Daniel Feldman]

The remnants of the Bund came as refugees not colonisers.  The Zionists came as colonisers and used the Jewish refugees as a battering ram, actively campaigning against their admission to the USA and elsewhere in the world.  Yet Atzmon attacks this tiny remnant who sought to preserve their socialism in the midst of a contradiction of being Jewish in a ‘Jewish’ state.  In fact the Produce Eran Torbiner, a young late 40s Bundist is a supporter as he told me of the Boycott Within.  Yet Atzmon seems to attack these of all people. Gilad Atzmon: The Bund- A Disturbing Jewish Political Exercise (must watch) 

Atzmon cites Yaacov Belek, an elderly Bundist, that “The Bund was a unique Party. It wasn’t like any other party… it was an empire. A bund member was a different kind of person. … For years we grew bigger and bigger. Before the beginning of WWII it was the largest party in Poland. We possessed everything. We had the youth, future, SKIP, sport, so many schools, we were the new type, we were the new man’   This is an example of ‘Jewish Power’  The absurdity should be obvious to anyone.  The Bund actively worked with the Polish Socialist Party.  They led the Warsaw ghetto resistance.  They campaigned against the Zionists and represented the Jewish oppressed which Atzmon terms a ‘Jews only’ party.  Well yes, the oppressed do have the right to organise separately.  Do we call the Black Panther movement in the USA ‘Blacks only’ as if it and not the KKK were the racists?  Perhaps Atzmon could consult David Duke about all of this!

Published in: on June 17, 2012 at 9:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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Poumastica

Remember Bayard Rustin

A Zionism/anti-Zionism special:

James Bloodworth: Trotskyists and the State of Israel

Eric Lee: Israeli ‘apartheid’ and the ghost of Bayard Rustin

M Ezra: Stalinist Roots of Left-Antisemitism

Unrelated:

Max Weber: Can anarchists be legal scholars?

Brandon Storm: Dying Breeds: Moderate Republicans and Spanish Socialists

Musical accompaniment:

Marxist Dia-tonic?

Published in: on May 13, 2011 at 4:22 pm  Comments (2)  
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Meretz event in London on Sunday on refugees

A very interesting event this weekend, which I read about here. It is organised by Meretz UK and looks at the connections between refugees in Britain, Israel/Palestine and elswhere, at the time of the 1905 Aliens Act, the kindertransport, and today.

One of the speakers, of whom Poumista is a fan:

David Rosenberg: is a teacher and writer who also leads guided walks on London’s radical history (http://www.eastendwalks.com/). He is on the National Committee of the Jewish Socialists’ Group and on the editorial committee of the Jewish Socialist Magazine. During the 1980s he was co-ordinator of the Jewish Cultural and Anti-Racist Project and then worked for the Runnymede Trust – a research and information body dealing with issues of racism and discrimination.

Meretz, by the way, are part of the extended Poumista family, in that, although a member of the reformist social democratic Socialist International, it was born from the Poale Zion Left (the Marxist wing of the pre-WWII Zionist movement) and Hashomer Hatzair Workers Party. The latter, a socialist binationalist movement in Palestine and the Jewish diaspora, was affiliated to the “Three-and-a-half” International, the International Revolutionary Marxist Centre (also known as the “London Bureau”), and was thus a sibling party of the POUM. Lenni Brenner writes:

Only one Zionist tendency, the Hashomer Hatzair, ever tried to grapple with the deeper implications of the Spanish revolution. Its members had devoted considerable efforts to try to win over the British Independent Labour Party (ILP) to a pro-Zionist position, and they closely followed the fate of the ILP’s sister party in Spain, the Partido Obrero de Unificacion Marxista (POUM). The political failure of the Popular Front strategy in Spain prompted a broad critique of the Stalinists and Social Democrats. However, there is no evidence that any of their members went to Spain, certainly not in an official capacity, or that they did anything for the struggle there beyond the raising of an insignificant donation, in Palestine, for the POUM.

More here, here, here and here – the latter actually inaccurate, as it was HaPoel members, not Hashomer members, who were in Barcelona; I am not sure which militias they fought with.

From the archive of struggle no.38: YIVO special feature

Today’s feature archive is YIVO. Founded in 1925 in Vilna as the Yiddish Scientific Institute, YIVO was the national research institute and archive of Yiddishland. Salvaged from the ruins of European Jewry in 1940, YIVO was re-founded in New York, where it now as an excellent archival collection, and some cool digital collections.

Here are some of the extraordinary materials you will find. Click on the objects to see them in their contexts.

When these streets heard Yiddish:


Bek, a Yiddish translation of The Call of the Wild by Jack London, published by the Kultur Lige (Jewish Workers Cultural Association) in Kiev, 1925.

Union of Jewish Writers and Journalists of Warsaw membership card of Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904–1991)

An appeal to vote for the Bund in the municipal elections (Vilna, date unknown)

May Day demonstration jointly organized by the Jewish Socialist Bund and Poalei-Zion Left (Warsaw, 1936).

Poster for the socialist organization Zionist Tseirei Zion: “The Land of Israel for the People of Israel!” (Vilna, date unknown).

“Join the Tsukunft” recruitment poster for the Bundist youth organization (Warsaw, 1936).
Yiddish music:
The Bundist song, Di Shvue sound (“The Oath”)… penned in 1902 by S. An-ski (Shlomo Zanvil Rapoport), the Russian Jewish writer. This Yiddish song, whose melody source also is unknown, exhorts Jews to unite, and to commit themselves body and soul to the defeat of the Russian Tsar and of capitalism… [The partisan song Zog nit keyn mol ] sound

In Love and In Struggle: The Musical Legacy Of The Labor Bund:

Text: David Edelshtat (1866-1892)
Sung by Adrienne Cooper

Edelshtadt’s Arbeter-froyen addresses women in its protest of the hardships of factory work. The song sounds a call to oppressed women workers to join the labor movement in its fight for justice and equality. Published in the New York newspaper Freie Arbeiter Stimme (Free Voice of Labor) in 1891, it was also sung by striking workers in Russia and Poland.

Text: Szmerke Kaczerginski (1908-1954)
Music: Basya Rubin (n.d.)~
h Children’s Chorus, The New Yiddish Chorale, and the Workmen’s Circle Chorus

Vilna poet and partisan Szmerke Kaczerginski wrote this stirring march song for the youth movement in the Vilna ghetto. Many of the young people who took part in the ghetto’s active resistance movement later also became combatants in the partisan units that fought the Nazis in the forests.

Here and Now: The Vision of the Jewish Labor Bund in Interwar Poland:

Members of the Tsukunft Self-Defense Group carry the Socialist flag on May Day, Warsaw. 1930s.

Kalman Reisen, socialist and Yiddishist:

Chicago 1912 – Outdoor portrait of the Jewish Socialist Self-Education Club — Includes Abraham Reisen
The Power of Persuasion: Jewish Posters from Prewar Poland:
“Jewish Woman‚ Vote for the Women’s Slate, Slate Number 3.”

***

From the archive of struggle no.38:

Tendance Coatesy:

* Chris Harman: extracts from “Party and Class” (1969), “The  Prophet and the Proletariat” (1994), “Spontaneity, Strategy, Politics” (2004) – makes the interesting case that Harman’s political legacy is the libertarian streak in the IS/SWP tradition, the element that is worth valuing and preserving. Chris Harman died last week. RIP.

World Socialist Website:

* Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter: “Overthrow the Stalinist bureaucracy! Build workers’ councils in East Germany!”, October 18, 1989 (Parts I, II, III).

International Communist League:

*Socialist Workers League: “War Is Here—What Now?” (September 1939)

The rest are via Entdinglichung, with some annotation.

Archive.org:

* Leon Trotsky: The Bolsheviki and world peace (1918). [For an authoritative text version of this, as The War and the International, go to MIA. The introduction is by Lincoln Steffens, a muckracking journalist associated with the Progressive Party who became a Communist fellow traveller after a visit to the Soviet Union in 1919 with the Swede Karl Kilbom. I believe he later embraced Mussolini. This book, published by a mainstream American publisher, shows the extent to which Trotsky was considered a great hero of the revolution world-wide; he was the object of cult-like reverence, a figure of great romance in the West.]

* Bertram Wolfe: Marx and America (1934). [Wolfe was a founder-member of the CPUSA and active in the Comintern. He was close to the majority faction of the CPUSA around CE Ruthenberg and Jay Lovestone, who fought against the Foster-Cannon faction, a leftist minority. By 1934, however, he was an oppositionist, part of Lovestone’s Independent Communist Labor League in America and the Communist Party Opposition internationally. Wolfe was the Lovestonite’s chief theorist, and argued for “American exceptionalism”. In this erudite pamphlet, he makes the argument by drawing on Marx’s scattered writings about the US, showing that America posed a special case for the communist movement.]

* International Communist Opposition (ICO): International Class Struggle, Spring 1937. [The ICO, often known as the “Right” Opposition, initially had a pretty robust organisation. Zinoviev, a “Rightist”, had been the chair of the Comintern from its founding until 1926, but Nikolai Bukharin, the chair until the end of the Second Period in 1928, was the real leader after Lenin’s death. Bukharin was the intellectual hero of most of the ICO leadership, and it was Bukharin’s fall from grace under Stalin that prompted the break of the ICO from the mainstream. ICO leaders were therefore already well networked internationally, and able to hit the ground running organisationally, in contrast to the much slower moving “Left” Opposition. However, the ICO tended to lack a mass base in the labour movement, although there were some exceptions to this (the Lovestone-Wolfe group had a strong base in the Yiddish sections of the ILGWU; Steffens’ erstwhile friend Kilbom’s Communist Party of Sweden was pretty big; in Spain the BOC (one of the POUM’s predecessors, was important). This, along with the right-ward drift of many of their key thinkers, was probably the main reason they atrophied by WWII.

This is the ICO’s American journal, vol. 1, no.3, and it includes a fraternally critical letter to the POUM from the bureau of the ICO; a piece on the CIO by George F Miles, the Lovestonites’ labour expert; “D. Swift” on proletarian novels, particularly contemptuous of James T Farrell; an account of the German CPO’s underground existence under Hitler; a critical account of Leon Blum’s Popular Front in France; and a cruel attack on Jean Juares as a prototype of the Popular Front policy. No. 1 and No. 2 are also on-line at archive.org, but I haven’t looked at them yet.]

* Leon Trotsky on labor party: stenographic report of discussion held in 1938 with leaders of the Socialist Workers Party (1968). [A long introduction by Fred Meuhler and Tim Wohlforth draws on Engels and Lenin to argue for an American Labor Party. Then a transcript of Trotsky’s conversation in Mexico with James Cannon, Max Shachtman and Vincent Dunne. By 1938, the Right Opposition were in decline globally, and the Left Opposition was on the rise. However, it is interesting that the American SWP, which was led precisely by James Cannon, Lovestone and Wolfe’s rival in the early CPUSA, had come around to a version of the “American exceptionalism” thesis, and were now calling for an American Labor Party.]

(more…)

Jews versus Stalinists in the Spanish Civil War

In the last three decades, since the publication of Albert Prago’s Jews in the international brigades in Spain in 1979 by Jewish Currents, there has been considerable interest in the massive role of Jewish fighters in the Spanish civil war. Most of them were within the orbit of the official Communist movement, which controlled and dominated the International Brigades – and also the narration of its later history.  As Gerben Zaagsma and Martin Sugarman argue, the Stalinist version of that history obscured the specifically Jewish dimension to their motivations. This Jewish dimension was retrieved in the 1970s and 1980s by Jewish radical groups like Jewish Currents in the US and Jewish Socialist in the UK. However, their important commemorative work tends to focus on the Communists of the International Brigades. Lenni  Brenner’s polemic Zionism in the Age of Dictators approached the issue from a different angle: showing that the Zionist movement had no interest in anti-fascism in Spain. However, although he also provides some interesting exceptions, his emphasis confirms the Stalinist historiography in marginalising the specifically Jewish motivations and the non-Stalinist participants.

In this blog post, I want to simply mention some of the Jewish participants in the Spanish Civil War who were also part of the anti-Stalinist movement, and specifically participants who were associated with the “Three and a Half International”, the anti-Stalinist socialist international that also included the Spanish POUM and the British ILP. The information is taken from Martin Sugarman, of AJEX, Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, and his booklet Against Fascism. I have added hyperlinks. Material in italics comes from other sources, as given at the end of the extracts. (more…)

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