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.

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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…)