Joseph Nedava, Trotsky and the Jews.

Quotes & comments by Peter Myers, April 27, 2001; update December 30, 2012. Selected footnotes are included; bold emphasis added; my comments are shown {thus}.

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The publication date 5732 means the year 5732 in the Jewish Calendar - implying a date from Adam. This is the official dating (Calendar) used in Israel. Non-theistic Jews, who object so much to religious fundamentalism in the West, have not campaigned against this religious dating-system in Israel.

Joseph Nedava, Trotsky and the Jews (The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 5732/1972):

{p. 8} He definitely would not subscribe to Moses Hess's dictum - though Hess was an authoritative exponent of socialism, a friend of Marx and Engels, the "Rabbi Moses of the Communists" - to the effect that "the entire history up to our day has gone through a struggle of races and a struggle of classes. The struggle of races is the primary phenomenon." {endnote 4 on p. 233: Moses Hess, Rom und Jerusalem (Tel Aviv, 1935), p. 199} Naturally, Trotsky regarded anti-Semitism as a passing scourge to be cured by enlightenment and the institution of the collectivist economic system. Even though anti-Semitism had been in existence from time immemorial, he did not consider it an atavistic organic heritage of humanity, and therefore ineradicable.

{p. 9} The slow pace of Jewish assimilation drove the Soviet authorities into accepting some patchwork Jewish territorial solutions (Crimea and Biro-Bidzhan), and some pro-Communist enthusiasts in the Western world were too quick in declaring the inauguration of the Jewish millennium in the Soviet Union. Trotsky was not taken in by the false dawn, simply because he doubted that the Stalin bureaucracy could realize such a project.

And what was more important, in 1926 Trotsky changed his stance concerning the possibility of extirpating anti-Semitism from the soil of Russia. Indeed, he was the first to declare openly that Stalin was using anti-Semitism as a foul weapon in the struggle for power.

{p. 11} Freud was similarly at a loss to define the term Jew, for he, too, was an unbeliever and did not harbor in his soul any specific feeling of Jewish "national pride"; yet he spoke of enough remaining "emotional powers all the stronger the less they could be expressed in words, as well as the dear consciousness of an inner identity, the familiarity of the same psychological structure." He also referred to Jewishness as "that miraculous thing in common, which [is] inaccessible to any analysis so far."

Trotsky was never called upon to define the term Jew in general and the extent of his own Jewishness in particular. Not having a positive base to build on, one has to attempt a negatively posed approach. He belonged to that category of Jews who brought with them to the public arena very little of their Jewish heritage. Yet not being self-conscious (as many of their coreligionists were) of their origin, they were constantly perplexed about their ambivalent attitude. In essence their Jewishness connoted a sort of moral counterbalance to anti-Semitism.

{p. 36} He soon discovered that by not being acquainted with the Bund literature he was at a disadvantage. "He therefore decided to teach himself to read Yiddish, and it did not take long before he began reading the Bund literature in Yiddish."24 {see note 24 below}

We also find confirmation of this in an interview Trotsky granted to the socialist Jewish Daily Forward on his arrival in New York in January 1917. Trotsky expressed his regret over not knowing Yiddish fluently. "He had even applied himself once to the study of Yiddish in order to be able to understand the Jewish revolutionary literature. At that time, too, he even had a greater desire to master Hebrew, but unfortunately he had no time for that. His knowledge of Hebrew and Yiddish is therefore far from deep. Nevertheless, he understands Yiddish well."25 {see note 25 below}

A Jewish journalist who knew Trotsky from the period of his stay in Vienna ("when he used to play chess with Baron Rothschild in Cafe Central and frequent Cafe Arkaden daily to read the press there") is even firmer on the Yiddish issue: "He [Trotsky] knew Yiddish, and if at a later date, in his autobiography, he pretends to know nothing about Jews and Judaism, then this is nothing but a plain lie. He who had visited at Cafe Arkaden for years on end must have mastered both these matters to perfection. The language in greatest use at that Cafe was - besides 'Viennese-German' - Yiddish."26 {see note 26 below}

Trotsky of course had no objection to the Yiddish language as such (as Hebraists, for instance, had, contending that Hebrew was the only national language of the Jews); this appears from his reply to Lazar Kling, the editor of the Jewish Trotskyite organ in New York (Unzer Kamf - Our Struggle):

You ask, what is my attitude to the Yiddish language? - As to any other language. If indeed I used in my autobiography the word "jargon," it is because in my youth the Jewish language was not called "Yiddish," as it is today, but "jargon." This is how the Jews themselves called it,

{notes 24, 25 & 26 to the above are on p. 237:}

{p. 237} 24. B.-Z. Hofman ("Tsivyon"), Far Fuftsig Yor [Fifty years ago] (New York, 1948), pp. 262-63.

25. "A Geshprech Mit Genose Trotsky" [A talk with Comrade Trotsky], 16 January 1917, p. 5.

26. M. Waldman, "Trotski be-Vina-Zikhronot" [Trotsky in Vienna - reminiscences], Ha'olam (Jerusalem) 27, no. 55 (2 October 1940): 864. Trotsky was a keen chess player; Ziv, Trotsky, p. 76. At those Vienna cafes he learned the colloquial Yiddish word kibitzer - "an onlooker ... especially one who volunteers advice" (Webster's New World Dictionary). In a speech in Moscow he once said: "I lived as an emigre in Vienna for several years, and there they use a word which, it seems to me, cannot be found in any other language - kibitzer. Remember this word - it will prove useful to you. This word designates a man who, seeing two people playing chess, takes without fail a seat nearby and always knows the very best move, and if you sit down to play a game with him, he proves to be an ignoramus after the first move"; Pravda, no. 219, 20 October 1922; and L. Trotsky, Pokolenie Oktyabrya (Moscow, 1924), p. 77. {end note 26}

{p. 37} at least, in Odessa, and they have injected into this word absolutely nothing of slight. The word "Yiddish" has been made of common use, in any case, in France, for instance, only for the last 15-20 years.

Incidentally, Kling was one of the first to discern a somewhat greater interest by Trotsky in Jewish matters following his realization that Stalin had adopted anti-Semitism as a means to fight the Opposition in 1926. In a conversation in New York in 1969, Kling told me that he first became acquainted with Trotsky in 1917 through Grigori Weinstein, an associate editor of the New York Russian daily Novy Mir. He met Trotsky for the second time in Moscow in 1926. Kling meant to settle in the Soviet Union for good and was appointed an official at the Department of the Concessions Committee, headed by Trotsky. But he soon encountered hostility because of his association with the Opposition and decided to return to the United States. He had a long conversation with Trotsky, who outlined to him in general terms the work which could be done among the American workers; he pinned great hopes on the Jewish workers. The role of the Jews in the movement was discussed in general terms. On his return to New York, after he was appointed editor of the Jewish biweekly Unzer Kamf, Kling started corresponding with Trotsky on matters of policy concerning Jewish questions.

Trotsky never tired of stressing his internationalism. He assures us that he had no qualms in choosing between Jewishness and concern for mankind. He had wholeheartedly sided with the underdog from whatever people, and he would not permit Jewish parochialism to warp his "universal judgment." Whenever it appeared to him that his Jewish commitment, by virtue of the sheer circumstance of birth, was antithetical to his profound social consciousness, he did not for a moment hesitate to discard the former.

"In my mental equipment," he wrote in his autobiography, "nationality never occupied an independent place, as it was felt little in everyday life ... it was lost among all other phases of social injustice. It never played a leading part, not even a recognized one in my list of grievances."

{p. 102} In the first Soviet government (Sovnarkom - Council of People's Commissars), set up immediately following the October Revolution, Trotsky was the only Jew.

{As to claims that Trotsky was "the only Jew", Benjamin Ginsberg wrote, "Three of the six members of Lenin's first Politburo - Trotsky, Kamenev, and Zinoviev - were of Jewish origin."  (The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1993, p. 30): ginsberg.html. And although Lenin was of mixed ancestry, he identified as Jewish: lenin-trotsky.html.}

In the second government, which was a coalition government between the Bolsheviks and the Left Social-Revolutionaries, another Jew was appointed as commissar of justice, I. N. Steinberg (December 12, 1917). Steinberg was a great contrast to Trotsky, for he was a strictly religious Jew. When he was arrested for revolutionary activity in tsarist times, he used to wear phylacteries in his cell and even celebrate Passover night there, in all the customary detail. In later years everybody in his town of Ufa knew that when he went to a Duma session on the Sabbath, a Gentile used to carry his briefcase for him (according to Jewish Law, one is forbidden to carry even light things on the Sabbath in public places); and "people also told of a fiery leftist speech he made to the peasants on Yom Kippur eve, and about tears and strict fasting in the synagogue on Yom Kippur."

Steinberg was a disciple of non-Marxist socialism. He believed that socialism and Judaism (to his mind, identical with the "socialism" of the Jewish prophets) were complementary. When asked how he could reconcile socialism and religion, he replied that he had been a member of the Social-Revolutionary party, which stood for the distribution of land to the peasants. This accorded with the Torah's prohibition of private ownership of land. He then cited Leviticus: "For the land is mine, saith the Lord."

Trotsky and Steinberg clashed on the crucial question of the use of terror. Steinberg's "liberal weakness" was not entirely to Trotsky's liking. ...

{p. 103} It would have suited Trotsky's temperament and his Jewish background not to be involved in any measures taken by the Bol shevik regime to extirpate religion in the Soviet Union. Yet he stepped out of his expected neutrality to lead, in the years 1921-1922, the "Society of the Godless." Maybe he was pressed by Lenin into accepting this job, as he himself tells us in his autobiography: "Among the some dozen or so jobs that I was directing as part of my party work - that is, privately and unofficially - was antireligious propaganda, in which Lenin was much interested. He asked me insistently not to let this work out of my sight." While Lenin was convalescing, Stalin was successful in undermining Trotsky's position as director of the antireligious campaign, replacing him with his own man, Emilian Yaroslavsky (also a Jew, and later one of Stalin's sycophant biographers).

Deutscher commented that Trotsky led the Society of the Godless "in a spirit of philosophical enlightenment which was least likely to produce those excesses, offensive to the sentiment of the believers, which marred the Society's work under Yaroslavsky." {note 12 on p. 252: I Deutscher, The Prophet Unarmed: Trotsky 1921-1929 (New York, 1959), 2:28} This task required much tact and tolerance. Trotsky also headed a secret commission for the confiscation of ecclesiastical treasures with which to buy food for the famine-stricken zones on the Volga.

Active Jewish participation in this antireligious campaign increased anti-Semitic feelings considerably, "for the Russian knew that the rulers of the country are Trotsky, Zinoviev, and other Jews." This was particularly the case after Zinoviev, the chairman of the Petrograd soviet, confirmed the death sentence passed by a Soviet court on Metropolitan Veniamin. Certain ecclesiastical authorities refused to comply with the Soviet decree that the churches, mosques, and synagogues surrender their gold, silver, and jewels in order to buy imported food for the hungry. Many clergymen were brought to trial. The climax was reached in the trial of "The Fifty-four" in Moscow. Many were sentenced to death

{p. 104} (including Metropolitan Veniamin), and in most cases the sentence was carried out. When the death sentence was confirmed by a Jewish commissar, it was only thanks to the watchfulness of the Soviet authorities that pogroms were averted, "but the anti-Semitic poison remained."

By pleading for leniency in the antireligious campaign, Trotsky was merely trying to work out a commonsense policy. He felt that by closing down houses of prayer and persecuting the believers by sheer administrative measures, nothing would be accomplished. It was the social structure that would have to be changed, and new forms of life introduced. The new conditions created by the regime would as a matter of course break down the "antiquated" institutions and customs. In this he was no innovator but merely acted on the basis of the party program of March 1919, adopted at the eighth congress. (Trotsky was a member of a committee of seven empowered to formulate the program.) The religious plank read:

{quote} The All-Russian Communist Party is guided by the conviction that only the realization of conscious and systematic social and economic activity of the masses will lead to the disappearance of religious prejudices. The aim of the Party is finally to destroy the ties between the exploiting classes and the organization of religious propaganda, at the same time helping the toiling masses actually to liberate their minds from religious superstitions, and organizing on a wide scale scientific-educational and anti-religious propaganda. It is, however, necessary carefully to avoid offending the religious susceptibilities of believers, which leads only to strengthening of religious fanaticism. {endquote}

Strange as it may seem, it was Trotsky who was soon to be called on to curb Jewish antireligious fanaticism. But first something should be said about a special Jewish institution created by the Soviet government to deal with Jewish affairs: Evsektsia (the "Jewish section" of the Communist party).

The October Revolution brought about a tremendous upheaval in Russian Jewry. Consisting mainly of the urban middle class, it was ruined economically; naturally it could not be sympathetic

{p. 105} to the new regime. The Soviet authorities found it extremely difficult to deal with the large Jewish population of about three million persons, who proved intractable and could not be assimilated overnight. Russian Jewry was in a peculiar position. In contrast with most other nationalities in the Soviet Union, they had no territory of their own. This led to an almost immediate and total disruption of Jewish cultural and educational institutions. Faced with such a state of affairs, the Soviet government had to modify somewhat its previous attitude to the Jews and endow them with a separate - albeit fictitious - nationality. This recognition found its expression in the appointment of both a special Jewish deputy in the People's Commissariat of Nationalities (under Stalin) and the establishment of a Jewish section within the Communist party.

{p. 106} Since Trotsky would not intercede in behalf of his coreligionists, the latter had to look for other sources of relief. The most prominent among these men were Commissar of Education Lunacharsky, the writer Gorky, member of the Politburo and chairman of the Moscow soviet, Lev Kamenev, Lenin himself, and even Felix Dzerzhinsky, the head of the Cheka, short for Chrezvychainaia Komissiia (Extraordinary Commission for Combatting Counterrevolution and Sabotage, the Soviet secret police).

During what was perhaps the most crucial year of "war communism," 1921, a group of twelve Jewish writers, headed by C. N. Bialik, wished to leave the Soviet Union for Palestine, now that Russia was officially bent on strangling any manifestation of Jewish spiritual creativity. Permission for this was required from the Soviet authorities. The first attempt was made to reach Trotsky through his former brother-in-law, Yuli Sokolovsky (Trotsky's first wife's brother) a well-known journalist writing under the pseudonym "Sedoi." After sending out some feelers to Trotsky, Sokolovsky informed the group that he could do nothing and advised them to contact Lenin through Gorky. This was done. Bialik met Gorky in Moscow on March 30, 1921, and soon afterwards Lenin instructed Dzerzhinsky to issue the permit.

Much more helpful to the suffering Jews in those dire days was Trotsky's sister, Olga Kamenev, wife of the influential Bolshevik

{p. 107} leader Lev Kamenev {one of the triumvirate who succeeded Lenin, with Zinoviev and Stalin; of the three, only one was non-Jewish}. To be sure, she too subscribed to her brother's concept of internationalism; she "thought of herself as one of the family of mankind and to be a Jew was therefore to seclude one's self from the common life." She was chairman of the Soviet commission through which the government dealt with foreign relief organizations, one of the most important of which was the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. "She cared for Jews as people and not as brethren exclusively hers," wrote Dr. Bogen, a representative of this relief organization; "they were brethren, to be sure, but as the Tatars were brethren, as the Bashkirs were brethren. But in unguarded moments hidden recesses of her heart opened to reveal a deep affection for the people of whom she was born."

Kamenev himself was a converted half-Jew (his father was Jewish, his mother, Russian), yet he never failed to help Jews in distress and often pointed the way out of difficulties. He was a close friend of Professor David Shor, and he courteously received delegations of Jewish rabbis, even when he could do very little for them.

{p. 130} Trotsky refuted the arguments of the minority faction in the American Trotskyite party. He attacked its two leading members, James Burnham and Max Shachtman, charging one with not recognizing the dialectics and the other with attributing no importance to them in political conclusions. He set forth his stand on the "defense of the USSR unconditionally" and explained the Finnish "dilemma":

dquote} A vulgar petty-bourgeois radical is similar to a liberal "progressive" in that he takes the USSR as a whole, failing to understand its internal contradictions and dynamics. When Stalin concluded an alliance with Hitler, invaded Poland, and now Finland, the vulgar radicals triumphed; the identity of the methods of Stalinism and fascism was proved. They found themselves in difficulties however when the new authorities invited the population to expropriate the landowners and capitalists - they had not foreseen this possibility at all. ... The Soviet-Finnish War is evidently already beginning to be completed with a civil war in which the Red Army finds itself at the given stage in the same camp as the Finnish petty peasants and the workers, while the Finnish army supports the owning classes, the conservative workers' bureaucracy and the Anglo-Saxon imperialists. {endquote}

But soon the Jewish issue cropped up. Who were the "vulgar petty bourgeois" to whom Trotsky was referring? Was it not a euphemism, clearly referring to the Jewish element of the minority group? Trotsky also spoke of the "Abern, Bern, Burnham, Shachtman" group, indirectly projecting the preponderance of Jews in its leadership.

When in the course of the acrimonious controversy Shachtman charged that Trotsky had injected the question of the concentration of petty-bourgeois individuals, Trotsky no longer found it necessary to mince words and finally brought the Jewish facet into the discussion explicitly. In his polemical article "From a Scratch - to the Danger of Gangrene," Trotsky quoted from a letter he wrote on October 10, 1937, to James A. Cannon, the leader of the American Trotskyite party, in order to prove that he was already

{p. 131} then concerned about the undue predominance of the "petty-bourgeois" element in the party, and that it could not therefore have been a recent innovation of 1939-1940:

{quote} The party has only a minority of genuine factory workers, [he wrote in 1937]. The nonproletarian elements represent a very necessary yeast. ... But ... our party can be inundated by nonproletarian elements and can even lose its revolutionary character. The task is, naturally, not to prevent the influx of intellectuals by artificial methods, but to orient practically the entire organization toward the factories, the strikes, the unions. ... You have, for example, an important number of Jewish nonworker elements in your ranks. They can be very valuable yeast if the party succeeds by and by in extracting them from a closed milieu and ties them to the factory workers by daily activity. I believe such an orientation would also assure a more healthy atmosphere inside the party. ... If we seriously establish such a general orientation we will avoid a great danger - namely, that the intellectuals and white-collar workers might suppress the worker minority, condemn it to silence, transform the party into a very intelligent discussion club but absolutely not habitable for workers. {endquote}

In his 1940 article Trotsky then went on to say that in 1937 he could not have had in mind primarily the "nonexistent" Abern faction, yet even then he had found "it was absolutely necessary, in order to cleanse the atmosphere of the party, that the Jewish petty-bourgeois elements of the New York local be shifted from their habitual conservative milieu and dissolved in the real labor movement."

In its arguments the minority group also brought up charges against the "clique with a leader cult" (referring to the Cannon faction), the "bureaucratic apparatus," and the "systematic undercover campaign to poison the minds of party members ... in terms often of the most fantastic slanders," and the anti-New York propaganda (where, of course, most of the members were Jewish), "which is at bottom a catering to prejudices that are not always healthy."

{p. 164} After the October Revolution and until the Bolsheviks firmly established themselves, the government in the Ukraine changed hands some twenty times. Sometime in 1918, while the Ukraine was under German occupation, the rabbis of Odessa expressed the prevalent Jewish animosity to bolshevism by ceremonially anathematizing Trotsky, Zinoviev, and other Jewish Bolshevik leaders in the synagogue.11 {see note 11 below} Evidently Trotsky's prominence increased anti-Semitism throughout Russia, particularly in the Ukraine. He was an easy target; one could put the blame on him for all the ills that had befallen the country. He was regarded as an outsider fanatically bent on the eradication of the institutions and spirit of traditional Russia. To most anti-Bolshevik forces, the White Guardists in all their forms, he was the personification of "detested Jewry."

{note 11 to the above is on p.265 & p.266}:

{p. 265} 11. Bezbozhnik [The godless], no. 20 (12 September 1938). Zinoviev cynically referred to this in his eulogy of Uritsky (the chief of the Petrograd Cheka, assassinated on August 30, 1918): "When we read that in Odessa, under Skoropadsky, the rabbis assembled in {p. 266} special council, and there these representatives of the rich Jews, officially, before the entire world, excommunicated from the Jewish community such Jews as Trotsky and me, your obedient servant, and others - no single hair of any of us has turned gray because of grief"; Zinoviev, Sochineniia, 16:224. {end of note 11}

{p. 167} In his diary the noted Jewish historian Simon Dubnow reflected agonizingly the share of the Jews in the October Revolution:

{quote} The revolution has bogged down in the quagmire of the lowest instincts. ... Somehow we shall come out of this bloody interregnum alive, but we shall never be forgiven for the share that the Jewish speculators of the revolution have taken in Bolshevist terror. The Jewish companions and fellow workers of Lenin - the Trotskys and Uritskys - eclipse even him - the Smolny Institute is secretly called Centerzhid. Later on this will be talked about aloud, and anti-Semitism will be rooted deeply in all parts of Russian society. The soil is ready for cultural anti-Semitism. {endquote}

When in 1921 the chief rabbi of Moscow, Rabbi Jacob Maze, appeared before Trotsky to plead for the Russian Jews, Trotsky was reputed to have answered him, as he had done on various previous occasions, that he was a Bolshevik revolutionary and did not consider himself a Jew. To this Rabbi Maze replied: "The Trotskys make the revolutions, and the Bronsteins pay the bills."

{p. 168} CHAPTER 11

Anti-Semitic Overtones in the Struggle for Power

ONE OF THE MOST ENIGMATIC CHAPTERS in Trotsky's political life was the loss of power to Stalin following Lenin's death in January 1924, although many explanations have been attempted. The general background was one of succession under dictatorships and totalitarian regimes, where no orderly procedures for transfer of power obtain. Even so, Trotsky's case remains inexplicable to this very day.

Max Eastman, Trotsky's translator and close associate, suggested that Trotsky simply "did not want to fight for power. He sidestepped the power at every vital turn." Another writer expressed the view that Trotsky was "too proud and, in one sense, too idealistic to be hardened in the political 'kitchen.' Journalists who watched the struggle for power at close quarters have ascribed the outcome to a single incident: Trotsky's absence from Lenin's funeral. Others have suggested that some of the most prominent old Bolsheviks were simply afraid of a Trotsky dictatorship.

A. V. Lunacharsky, the people's commissar of education and for some time a close friend of Trotsky, pointed to Trotsky's "colossal arrogance," and, indeed, it would seem that his treatment of people had much to do with his losing power. He himself admitted to his defect: "In my inner life ... individuals occupied a lesser place than books and ideas. ... For a long time people passed

{p. 168}  through my mind like random shadows." Moreover, "I frequently trod on the toes of personal prejudice, friendly favoritism, or vanity. Stalin carefully picked up the men whose toes had been trodden on." Trotsky's closest friend, Adolf Yoffe, found fault with Trotsky's newly developed trait of "Hamletism."

Still others believed that Lenin's mantle fell on Stalin's shoulders simply because the people of Russia reacted adversely to Trotsky's internationalism and idealistic dream of a world revolution; they were categorically opposed to new "adventures," and yearned "to settle and bite into the fruits of the revolution." The pejorative designation "rootless cosmopolitans," or "cosmopolitans without ancestry" (Bezrodnye kosmopolity), was a somewhat later invention, but the unpleasant nuance in the term internationalism was already quite palpable. Internationalism was also identified with Westernism, with alien influences. Trotsky was in the last analysis considered an outsider. He was a European Marxist not only by tradition, but also mentally. He was a citizen of all countries and therefore a citizen of none, not even of Russia. He typified the wandering Jew - in modern garb, perhaps, but that "legacy of the past" was definitely laden on his back. At first the Stalin clique might not have been consciously anti-Semitic, but soon the anti-Jewish undertones had to come to the surface. By contrast, Stalin (though a Georgian by birth) was very much at home in Russia; he was not an emigre revolutionary, but a product of the Russian soil. He may also, perhaps, have resented the intellectual super-sophistication of people like Trotsky, and he naturally attracted around him the vast multitudes of the simple folk.

{p. 174} Trotsky dealt only cursorily with the origins of Stalin's anti-Semitism, but he wrote extensively on the vicious anti-Semitic campaign that Stalin conducted against him throughout the various stages of the struggle for power.

In his essay "Thermidor and Anti-Semitism," which he wrote in 1937, Trotsky analyzed in retrospect the development of the anti-Semitic trend from its early beginnings:

{quote} Between 1923 and 1926, when Stalin, with Zinoviev and Kamenev, was still a member of the troika, the play on the strings of anti-Semitism bore a very cautious and masked character. Especially schooled orators [Stalin already led an underhanded struggle against his associates] said that the followers of Trotsky are petty bourgeois from "small towns," without defining their race. Actually that was untrue. The percentage of Jewish intellectuals in the Opposition was in no case any greater than that in the party and in the bureaucracy. It is sufficient to name the leaders of the Opposition for the years 1923-1925: I. N. Smirnov, Serebryakov, Rakovsky, Piatakov, Preobrazhensky, Krestinsky, Mura- lov, Beloborodov, Mrachkovsky, V. Yakolev, Sapronov, V. M. Smirnov, Ishtchenk~fully indigenous Russians. Radek at that time was only half sympathetic. But, as in the trials of the grafters and other scoundrels, so at the time of expulsions of the Opposition from the party, the bureaucracy purposely emphasized the names of Jewish members of casual and secondary importance. This was quite openly discussed in the party and, back in 1925, the Opposition saw in this situation the unmistakable symptom of the decay of the ruling clique.

After Zinoviev and Kamenev joined the Opposition, the situation changed radically for the worse. At this point there opened wide a perfect chance to say to the workers that at the head of the Opposition stand three "dissatisfied Jewish intellectuals." Under the direction of Stalin, Uglanov in Moscow and Kirov in Leningrad carried through this line systematically and almost fully in the open. In order the more sharply to demonstrate to the workers the differences between the "old" course and the "new," the Jews, even when unreservedly devoted to the general line, were removed from responsible party and Soviet posts.

Nevertheless, the fact is that Jews were all along conspicuous among the Opposition, very few were to be found in the Stalin

{p. 175} entourage, and fewer still in the rightist faction of Bukharin. Being mainly urban, they moved in the comparatively small intellectual circles and, marked by their "Jewish" characteristics, could be easily pointed at. Also, they were by their very nature and revolutionary upbringing closer to Trotskyism than to Stalinism. They repudiated the idea of "socialism in one country" as too small a prize to fight for. They would accept nothing less than world revolution. Thus the Stalinist identification of the Opposition with Jewishness had some justification in fact. In later years the designations "Opposition" and "the Evreskaia" were almost interchangeable.

This realization, apparently, was also what psychologically motivated George Orwell to give a Jewish coloring to the Opposition in his nightmarish Oceania in 1984. In this book the leader of the Opposition and the writer of "The Book" (The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism), which attempts to answer the un-answerable question of "Why?," is Emmanuel Goldstein. "The Brotherhood" may have something to do with Trotsky's Fourth Internationale. It should also be recalled that Orwell was a member of the Trotskyite P.O.U.M. during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, and he was certainly acquainted with Trotsky's writings. Deutscher is of the opinion that "it was from Trotsky-Bronstein that he [Orwell] took the few sketchy biographical data and even the physiognomy and the Jewish name for Emmanuel Goldstein; and the fragments of 'the book,' which take up so many pages in 1984, are an obvious, though not very successful, paraphrase of Trotsky's The Revolution Betrayed." 27

{endnote 27 on p. 268: I. Deutscher, Russia in Transition (New York, 1960), p. 261.}

In 1926 the surreptitious Stalinist anti-Semitic propaganda work was conducted mainly on the lowest level of the party organization - in the cells and in the factories.

{quote} Not only in the country but even in Moscow factories the baiting of the Opposition, back in 1926, often assumed a thoroughly obvious anti-Semitic character. Many agitators spoke brazenly: "The Zhids are rioting." I received hundreds of letters deploring the anti-Semitic methods in the struggle with the Opposition. {endquote} 28

{endnote 28 on p. 268: The Trotsky Archives, T. 4106.}

Jewish members of the cells, adherents or sympathizers of the Opposition, found it difficult to carry on their party activity. They

{p. 176} were sneered at and were met with the derisive "Here are the Jews!"

Trotsky tried to take the matter up with the higher organs of the party:

{quote} At one of the sessions of the Politburo I wrote Bukharin a note: "You cannot help knowing that even in Moscow in the struggle against the Opposition, methods of Black Hundred demagogues (anti-Semitism, etc.) are utilized." Bukharin answered me evasively on that same piece of paper: "Individual instances, of course, are possible." I again wrote: "I have in mind not individual instances but a systematic agitation among the party secretaries at large Moscow enterprises. Will you agree to come with me to investigate an example of this at the factory 'Skorokhod' (I know of a number of other such examples)." Bukharin answered, "All right, we can go." In vain I tried to make him carry out the promise. Stalin most categorically forbade him to do so. {endquote}

But Trotsky would not let go, and a fortnight later he brought the matter up at the Politburo, doubting that anything real would come out of it, but intent on putting his protest into the official record. He voiced his indignation at the generation of the revolution for openly allowing and officially sanctioning anti-Semitic manifestations. Members of the Politburo, Stalin's allies, failed to respond. Some not only denied any knowledge of the malicious campaign on a cell level, but even pooh-poohed the sugestion that there was need for an investigation into the matter. Bukharin was ill at ease, yet could do nothing but go along with his associates.

Alienation of Opposition leaders and agitators from the cells was part of Stalinist policy. Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev were barred from addressing the workers. Stalin's henchmen, such as N. Uglanov, who had been in charge of the Moscow party organization since Kamenev's break with Stalin, kept the Opposition away by all kinds of devices. In a letter to Bukharin (then a member of the new rightist triumvirate with Stalin), dated March 4, 1926, Trotsky described the new climate engendered, at Stalin's behest, by the party bureaucracy:

{quote} You know, of course, that in line with Uglanov's policy against me a semi-behind-the-scenes war is being conducted in Moscow with all

{p. 177} sorts of stratagems and insinuations which I have no wish to characterize adequately here.

By all kinds of intrigues - very often unworthy and injurious to the organization - I am prevented from addressing workers' meetings. At the same time, a rumor is being circulated in workers' cells to the effect that I read lectures "for the bourgeoisie," while refusing to appear before the workers. {endquote}

Trotsky then quoted from one of the numerous letters he had received from factory workers (in this instance, a Jewish worker) to illustrate how he (Trotsky) was being slandered ("Why do you organize lectures where high admission fees are required, such as workers cannot afford?"), on the one hand, and how a regime of fear was created, threatening that workers would be thrown out of their jobs at factories should "they try to verify the infamous slander leveled against a member of the Politburo," on the other hand. "Some secretary of a certain cell - and again, this was not at all accidental - said that 'in the Politburo the Zhids are rioting.'" No worker would, of course, dare to complain about this, for fear that he would be driven out of the factory. Other calumnies spoke of "Jews agitating against Leninism," and the same Jewish worker who wrote to Trotsky inquired whether it was true that he was selling his speeches and writings to the bourgeoisie. In his note to Bukharin, Trotsky further wrote:

{quote} In other words: members of the Communist party are afraid to report to the organs of the party about Black Hundred agitation, considering that they - not the Black Hundreds - will be thrown out [italics in the original].

You will say: exaggeration! I wish I could think so too. Therefore I suggest to you: let's go together to the cells and verify it. I think that what binds us - two members of the Politburo - is still quite enough for us that we try quietly and conscientiously to verify the matter: is it true, is it possible that in our party, in MOSCOW, in WORKERS' cells, vicious and slanderous propaganda on the one hand, and anti-Semitic, on the other hand, can be carried on with impunity, and that honest workers are afraid to make inquiries, or verify, or try to disprove nonsensical rumors - lest they are thrown out into the street with their families.

{p. 178} Of course you can direct me to the instantsia ["Establishment"]! But this would only have meant to close a vicious circle.

I wish to hope that you would not do this, and just because of this hope have I dictated this letter. {endquote}

The impact of the Trotsky-Stalin contest was felt throughout the Soviet Union. In 1926 the party's Central Committee, through its trusted henchmen, started turning party cells into Stalinist strongholds. The rank and file were bidden to be vigilant and urged to oust followers of Trotsky and Zinoviev from their midst. The latter were branded as "alien elements." The popular mood following Stalin's anti-Semitic propaganda is reported by Professor Merle Fainsod, as taken from the Soviet files captured at Smolensk. A typical peasant reaction to the power struggle is quoted in a party report (1926):

{quote} Our good master, Vladimir Ilich [Lenin], had only just passed away when our commissars began to fight among themselves, and all this is due to the fact that the Jews became very numerous, and our Russians do not let them have their way, but there is nobody to suppress them. {endquote}

In a similar vein an OGPU report stated that

{quote} some workers in Bryansk were saying that Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and others were Jewish by origin and that when Lenin died, Trotsky wanted to lead the state, that is, to take Lenin's place and put Jews in all responsible positions, but Trotsky and his opposition were unable to do this, and that is why they were fighting against the Central Committee of the party. {endquote}

In his essay "Thermidor and Anti-Semitism," Trotsky goes on to explain:

{quote} In the months of preparations for the expulsions of the Opposition from the party, the arrests, the exiles (in the second half of 1927), the anti-Semitic agitation assumed a thoroughly unbridled character. The slogan "Beat the Opposition" often took on the complexion of the old slogan "Beat the Jews and save Russia." The matter went so far that Stalin was constrained to come out with a printed statement which declared: "We fight against Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev not be- cause they are Jews but because they are Oppositionist," etc. To every

{p. 179} politically thinking person it was completely clear that this consciously equivocal declaration, directed against "excesses" of anti-Semitism, did at the same time with complete premeditation nourish it. "Do not forget that the leaders of the Opposition are - Jews." That was the meaning of the statement of Stalin, published in all Soviet journals.

When the Opposition, to meet the repressions, proceeded with a more decisive and open struggle, Stalin, in the form of a very significant "jest," told Piatakov and Preobrazhensky, "You at least are fighting against the C. E. [Central Executive Committee] openly brandishing your axes. That proves your 'orthodox' action. [The word used by Stalin in Russian refers to the Greek Orthodox Church, thus contrasting these two non-Jewish leaders of the Opposition with Trotsky, the Jew.] Trotsky works slyly and not with a hatchet." Preobrazhensky and Piatakov related this conversation to me with strong revulsion. Dozens of times Stalin attempted to counterpose the "orthodox" core of the Opposition to me. {endquote}

Trotsky pointed out that in "stooping to fish in the muddied waters of anti-Semitism," Stalin also had recourse to the pictorial side of the press: "I recall particularly a cartoon in the Rabochaia Gazeta [Workers' Gazette] entitled 'Comrades Trotsky and Zinoviev.' There were any number of such caricatures and doggerels of anti-Semitic character in the party press. They were received with sly snickers."

In June 1927 Trotsky had an opportunity to come to grips with anti-Semitism openly. It was occasioned by his appearance before the presidium of the Central Control Commission to answer two charges made against him and Zinoviev: one, that they had dared to carry an internal party controversy beyond the party by appealing to the executive of the Internationale; second, that they had organized a "demonstrative" farewell for the deported Opposition leader I. Smilga on the eve of his departure from the Yaroslavl Station in Moscow.

The presidium took up the question of the expulsion of Trotsky and Zinoviev from the Central Committee. In his speech of defense, Trotsky said:

{quote} The devil only knows what is already being said about the Opposition at meetings, particularly at "meetings of workers" and peasants' cells.

{p. 180} Questions are raised as to the "resources" used by the Opposition to carry on its "work." It may be that illiterate and unconscious workers, or your own plants, are sending up such questions as are worthy of the Black Hundreds. {endquote}

And again, the "Platform of the Opposition," written by Trotsky in anticipation of the fifteenth party congress in 1927, has this passage: "Not only are careerism, bureaucratism and inequality growing in the party in recent years, but muddy streams from alien and class hostile sources are flowing into it - for instance, anti-Semitism."

In view of the approaching fifteenth congress, meanwhile, Stalin intensified his drive against the Opposition. In the Trotsky Archives there is a protocol of a meeting held in September 1927 in a party cell at Sokhondo, Zabaikal Province, at which a report was heard about the Trotsky-Zinoviev Opposition. Comrade Rusak "pointed out that Trotsky had long ago begun to conduct a divisive policy. Trotsky cannot be a Communist; his very nationality shows that he needs to speculate.' Trotsky and Zinoviev "mistook the Russian spirit" and therefore forfeited "the following of the Russian worker and peasant." For the sake of "steely Leninist unity" it was resolved to expel both of them from the Comintern and the party.

The contents of the Sokhondo protocol was brought up by the Opposition at the fifteenth congress, held in December 1927, and Yaroslavsky, Stalin's unofficial mouthpiece, took up the cudgels in defense of his "master":

{quote} I know that the struggle of the Opposition has let loose very many unhealthy symptoms. Comrade Stalin absolutely rightly underscored the need to draw serious attention to the fight against anti-Semitism which has struck little roots here and there. However, the Opposition gives this question more attention than this unhealthy matter deserves; it exaggerates it, seeking to suggest that anti-Semitism is a method for fighting the Opposition. {endquote}

He then castigated the Opposition for basing the entire Opposition program on anti-Semitism. The Sokhondo episode had been blown

{p. 181} up out of all proportion. It concerned a party cell in faraway Zabaikal, and, in fact, party members were not involved, only candidates for membership. He admitted that anti-Semitism could not be tolerated by communism and said: "I wrote about it ... in both Rabochaia Gazeta and Pravda." Moreover, immediately upon the receipt of the protocol, an instructor was sent to Sokhondo to investigate the matter, and as a result it was resolved to strengthen the "educational work" on the spot. Yet he regarded the Opposition's allegation that there was anti-Semitism in the party a "poisonous weapon and a disgraceful calumny." {endquote}

A month before the fifteenth congress, on November 7, 1927, the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution, the Opposition organized demonstrations in Leningrad and Moscow. They both failed miserably. Stalin was ready for them, and his police dispersed the demonstrators without much difficulty. Trotsky was not even able to address the crowd. He was assailed, and from the crowd there were such shouts as "Down with Trotsky, the Jew, the traitor!"

To what extent Stalin's persistent drive was successful in inculcating anti-Semitism in the Russian workers can be gathered from Yurii Larin's account of a "Seminar on Anti-Semitism" which he conducted in Moscow in August 1928. The seminar was attended by workers in key positions in the Soviet Union, active agitators, leaders of the youth movement Komsomol, and active trade unionists. Most of the questions the instructor was asked were tinged with a definite anti-Semitic bias:

"Why is it that Jews don't want to do heavy work?"

"Why were the Jews in the Crimea given good land, while the land the Russians get is not so good?"

"How is it that Jews always manage to get good positions?"

"Why is 76 percent of the Opposition within the party made up of Jews?"

"Why are there so many Jews in the universities? Isn't it because they forge their papers?"

"Won't the Jews be traitors in a war? Aren't they evading military service?"

{p. 182} "Should a person who jokingly uses the term Zhid be called an anti-Semite? How do such jokes have to be judged in general?"

"Should not the cause of anti-Semitism be sought in the Jewish people itself, in its ethical and psychological upbringing?"

It is doubtful that Trotsky would have been victorious in the power struggle with Stalin even if he had not been of Jewish origin; he had enough "faults" besides his Jewishness to cost him Lenin's mantle. But it is beyond all doubt that Stalin made great use of anti-Semitism in his campaign to beat his rival.

{p. 195} Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the future Zionist leader, related in his autobiography that "Switzerland - and this meant chiefly Berne and Geneva - was, at the turn of the century, the crossroads of Europe's revolutionary forces. Lenin and Plekhanov made it their center. Trotsky ... was often there." But at that time the Zionist students were a mere handful.

My resentment of Lenin and Plekhanov and the arrogant Trotsky was provoked by the contempt with which they treated any Jew who was moved by the fate of his people and animated by a love of its history and its tradition. They could not understand why a Russian Jew should want to be anything but a Russian. They stamped as unworthy, as intellectually backward, as chauvinistic and unmoral, the desire of any Jew to occupy himself with the sufferings and destiny of Jewry.

Trotsky must have followed very closely the Sixth Zionist Congress at Basle in 1903. Shortly after the close of the Second Social-Democratic Congress in London he arrived in Switzerland, at the very time when the Zionist Congress was taking place, in August. It should be noted that this congress marked the zenith of Dr. Herzl's activities, and the Zionist Organization was granted an international status following the diplomatic negotiations which had been carried on by the British government with its representatives. Preparations for convening the Zionist Congress were well publicized by the world press, and Trotsky was attracted - either on his own account or through his Bundist acquaintances - to

{p. 196} attend its proceedings. He read the Zionist organ Die Welt, as well as the general press, which reflected the keen interest in the Zionist movement even among non-Zionist and non-Jewish circles.

The movement stood at a crossroads, facing one of its deepest crises. It discussed heatedly, almost hysterically, the so-called Uganda Project (the East African territory which the British colonial secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, offered to Dr. Herzl in fulfillment of Jewish national aspirations). Both Dr. Herzl and his close friend and collaborator, the famous thinker and publicist Dr. Max Nordau, were inclined to accept the offer and regard the African territory as a temporary refuge for Jews fleeing from the East European pogroms. But the Russian Zionists were bitterly opposed to even a provisional substitute for Palestine as a national home. The congress was on the verge of breaking up. Toward its end a split seemed unavoidable. It was only thanks to Dr. Herzl's gracious and idealistically selfless demeanor - he came down, uninvited, to the gathering of the naysayers and took the ancient oath: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!" - that a precarious unity was preserved. (He was soon to die, in July 1904, leaving the movement at a low ebb. )

Groups hostile to Zionism, such as the Bund, saw in this congress "the final disruption and bankruptcy of the whole Zionist movement." Two leading representatives of the latter organization, Abramovich and Medem, went to the Sixth Zionist Congress as unofficial observers in its behalf. Medem was given the assignment of writing a special brochure about the crisis in Zionism.

In the wake of this Zionist crisis, Trotsky published his only full-length article on Zionism, which, to a considerable extent, also takes the Bund to task. The article, "Razlozhenie Sionizma i ego vozmozhnye preemniki" (The Decomposition of Zionism and Its Possible Successors ) was published in Iskra on January 1, 1904. It was unsigned. In a footnote to his article, Trotsky stated that "the recent attempt on the life of Max Nordau made by a Russian Zionist student is a new reminder of the Zionist strife, exacerbated at the autumn [actually summer] Basle Congress."

{p. 197} Trotsky began where the author of the Bund's pamphlet on Zionism ended, namely, with the thesis that the Zionist movement was in a state of decomposition, and would soon disappear.

The last Zionist Congress was a demonstration of impotence. People gathered from all ends of the world to declare aloud: "We have not progressed a single step. We have exhausted ourselves. We have spent all the resources of confidence placed in the conduct of our activities. And we see nothing in front of us. The sultan fondled Herzl (though who has seen this?)"; maybe he will fondle him again - but what next?

He then considered the consequences of hopelessness. Because the movement was groping in the dark, not having "a realistic reply" to the question of what it was going to do next, its "psychology of despair prompts it to a fiction." This was, to his mind, at the root of Herzl's search for a new territory in Africa, in aid of which he conducted negotiations with Chamberlain and King Edward VII. Trotsky then launched a merciless attack on Herzl's personality.

It is not the first time that he solicits the aid of the princes of the world for the sake of "his" people. This shameless adventurist has nevertheless reaped stormy applause at the Basle Congress. At the congress of the representatives of the "Jewish people" there was not found a single hand to shake the whip of indignation at this repulsive figure.... Only the hysterical sobbings of the romanticists of Zion, who cried out at a certain moment in the meeting hall: "Herzl promised Palestine - but did not deliver it," testified to the wretched position of Zionism.

Trotsky then dwelt on the way Herzl had explained his tactics. "'The leader' does not renounce Palestine. His going to Africa is merely a military (or, better, commercial) diversion." In this Trotsky saw "devilish perfidy," "impudence," and "diplomatic chicanery and deceit." Based on such premises, "Herzl can still, for some time, go on asking the price of this or that 'fatherland'; tens of intrigue-mongers and hundreds of simpletons may still go on supporting his adventure, but Zionism, as a movement, is already doomed to a deprivation of all its rights for the future. This is clear as noon."

{p. 204} On his arrival in Mexico in January 1937, Trotsky granted several interviews to the press, in which he expressed his views on Jewish problems. He admitted that with Hitler's rise to power in Germany, things had altered considerably for European Jewry. Agonizingly he had to reappraise his former assumptions:

During my youth I rather leaned toward the prognosis that the Jews of different countries would be assimilated and that the Jewish question would thus disappear, as it were, automatically. The historical development of the last quarter of a century has not confirmed this view. Decaying capitalism has everywhere swung over to an intensified nationalism, one aspect of which is anti-Semitism. The Jewish question has loomed largest in the most highly developed capitalist country of Europe, Germany.

Trotsky still did not concede that the Jewish question could be solved within the framework of the capitalist system; but assimilation, as a kind of self-regulating process which might have taken care of the problem over an extended period of time, could no longer be relied upon; its pace was not speedy enough to cope with the appearance of such radically destructive movements as nazism. Palliatives, therefore, had to be sought, and Trotsky was driven to admit the existence of one of them - territorialism. "The Jews of different countries," he said, "have created their press and developed the Yiddish language as an instrument adapted to modern culture. One must therefore reckon with the fact that the Jewish nation will maintain itself for an entire epoch to come." The admission of the existence of a "Jewish nation" was a weird recantation on the part of Trotsky, unless it was a mere semantic slip of the tongue.

Admitting in 1937 the need for a palliative solution to the Jewish problem but realizing, of course, that Zionism was basically a territorial movement. Trotsky took issue with it, not on the grounds of substance, but rather practical viability. He said so explicitly:

We must bear in mind that the Jewish people will exist a long time. The nation cannot normally exist without common territory. Zionism springs from this very idea. But the facts of every passing day demon-

{p. 205} strate to us that Zionism is incapable of resolving the Jewish question. The conflict between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine acquires a more and more tragic and more and more menacing character. I do not at all believe that the Jewish question can be resolved within the framework of rotting capitalism and under the control of British imperialism.

In his interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Trotsky recalled that he had been inclined toward the idea of assimilation of Jews, but had changed his attitude because of "historical developments."

He then brought up a new concept, which had never before preoccupied the minds of Marxist doctrinaires: emigration. Orthodox socialism, which claims to be anchored in the underlying fraternity of the human race, does not envisage the need for transplanting peoples in order to solve social problems. Trotsky, however, admits to the peculiarity of the Jewish problem in this respect too:

Socialism will open the possibility of great migrations on the basis of the most developed technique and culture. It goes without saying that what is here involved is not compulsory displacements, that is, the creation of new ghettos for certain nationalities, but displacements freely consented to, or rather demanded, by certain nationalities or parts of nationalities. The dispersed Jews who would want to be reassembled in the same community will find a sufficiently extensive and rich spot under the sun. The same possibility will be opened for the Arabs, as for all other scattered nations. National topography will become a part of the planned economy. This is the great historic perspective as I see it. To work for international Socialism means to work also for the solution of the Jewish question.*

{Why does Trotsky mention the Arabs, if not implying that Palestine would be given to the Jews? H. G. Wells also envisaged mass migration in his world state: hgwells.html#when they are free to move}

Here Trotsky may have prophetically adumbrated the national renascence which sprouted among wide sections of Soviet Jewry, which, following the Six-Day War of 1967, has assumed the form of a persistent struggle for the right of immigration to Israel.¥

* Jewish Teleglaphic Agency, 18 January 1937.

¥ It is noteworthy that P. B. Akselrod anticipated Trotsky by many years in defending the idea of Jewish immigration to Palestine. See Deich, Yiden in der Rusisher Revolutsie, 1:9.

{p. 206} In June 1937 Mrs. Beba Idelson, a Russian-born Jewish socialist Zionist leader in Palestine, visited Trotsky in Mexico. First she participated in a press conference at Diego Rivera's residence and then had a long conversation with Trotsky in his study. The following are some of her recollections of that conversation:

I told him who I was, and that at the time I had been expelled from Russia as a Zionist-Socialist. If he was interested, I would tell him about our life in Palestine. Trotsky got up from his chair, asked me to wait awhile, and soon returned with his wife. He introduced me to her and asked me to tell him everything. He wanted to know about Palestine and was happy to hear a report from a person living there.

I talked to him not as one talks to a stranger. A feeling accompanied me all the time that he was a Jew, a wandering Jew, without a fatherland. This brought me closer to him, aroused in me confidence that my story was addressed to a man who was able to understand. I interrupted my story several times, asking him whether he was sure he had the time to listen to me, and he urged me to continue, jotted down some points, and then began to question me: How many Jews are there in Palestine? Where do they reside; is it only in towns? He asked numerous questions about the kibbutzim and the Histadrut. Are we able to work in harmony with the employers within the framework of the Zionist Organization; how do we bring Jews to Palestine and how do they join our party; how is our young generation being brought up and what is its language? He asked me to say a few sentences in Hebrew and smiled at the sound of the language. He wrote several words and noted down mainly the names of the Zionist leaders, the parties, the Histadrut, and various places in Palestine. He showed interest as if he were a man hearing about an unknown land, but I was under the impression that the subject absorbed his thought and heart.

The conversation lasted nearly three hours. After telling how we were fighting for Jewish immigration into our country, and he was deeply immersed in thought, I asked him: "Here is a country that is ready to admit you; perhaps you, too, will go to Palestine?" I felt that a shiver ran through his spine. He replied with a calm question: "Wouldn't you be afraid to accept me?" I answered: "No, we won't be afraid, for our idea is stronger than any fear of any man, even of a man like you." Trotsky came over to me, pressed my hand, and said: "Thank you. It is a long time since I have felt so good. But you should know that I have friends throughout the world. We have not renounced our views,

{p. 207} even though I am rejected by Stalin and his Oprichniks [this is Trotsky's expression, referring to the special corps created by Ivan the Terrible to fight treason which instituted the reign of terror]. I have friends, and they are also persecuted." I told him that his persecuted friends lived in their own countries, whereas he had no country of refuge, for he was a Jew. Trotsky nodded agreement.

We had lunch together. His wife showed no interest in our conversation. From time to time she would address questions to him, but he would put off his reply and then turn to me with further questions about matters relating to Palestine. He was particularly interested in our relations with our Arab neighbors. He asked me whether there were Communists in Palestine, and why they did not go to Russia instead of staying in a Zionist country. He also wanted to know whether the Communist party was legal, big or small. When I told him that the Communists were not among the builders of the kibbutzim ("communes," as Trotsky called them), he laughed, commenting: "They do not have this in Russia, either." He was very interested in the status of women in Palestine, and also asked a personal question - how I had arrived in Mexico and what the nature of my mission was. He showed me his library, which filled a large hall, consisting of books in various languages; I realized how spiritually attached he was to this single possession of his in exile. Iasked him: "Should you be obliged to leave Mexico - what will you do with this library: perhaps you would transfer it to Palestine?'

When we renewed our conversation after the meal, he listened attentively to what I told him about the cultural work being carried on in our country, about the libraries in each and every settlernent, about the National Library in Jerusalem, about the Hebrew press. I can no longer recall all his questions, but I cannot forget how attentively he listened to what I told him about our children, the sabras, and their love of their fatherland. I noticed that my words penetrated deep into his heart, that he was glad to hear about a world from which he had dissociated himself. I sensed 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.

At the end of our conversation Trotsky asked me not to publish the fact of our meeting and its contents: "Let the matter remain between us. The world will not understand. People will seek in this, too, grounds for accusing me of harboring alien views, and perhaps even sympathy for Zionism." I promised him this and kept my promise for nineteen years.

{p. 212} To do justice to Trotsky one should state that he would not admit to an ideological about-face but merely to the adoption of political expediency, a short-term panacea. He switched from acceptance of Kautsky's thesis that Jews were a social caste and was now ready to turn the Jewish question into a national question in a socialist world - but not as a long-range solution. This change came about when he realized that catastrophe was imminent for European Jewry. Since there wasn't enough time to bring about world revolution, the Jews should be given a temporary national shelter.

However, Trotsky came to this conclusion rather late in the day, in the 1930s, when he no longer had any influence in the Soviet Union.

As early as 1923, while Lenin was still alive, a plan was proposed to settle Jews in the Crimea and southern Ukraine and to grant them sovereign rights within the Soviet Federal Republics, as was the case with the larger nationalities. A Jewish republic would ultimately have evolved. {note 6 on p. 275: Margolin, The Jews of Eastern Europe, p. 63.} The project soon found some very enthusiastic advocates, one being a well-known Jewish Communist leader, Abraham Bragin. He submitted a detailed plan to the Soviet government and urged it to bestow the necessary lands. His intention was to solve the entire Jewish problem in Russia, and the projected area was also to have included Odessa and Nikolayev. After all he argued, the former Jewish colonies in this part of Russia had established a tradition and a pattern to be followed. He could also count on the aid of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. {note 7 on p. 275: Bogen, Born a Jew, p. 352}

{p. 213} The Soviet government was impressed and began examining the plan in detail, but opposition was suddenly encountered from various quarters. Zionists abroad were opposed to any plan that would compete with the reestablishment of Jewish independence in Palestine. The Reform Jews of America objected too, but from the opposite point of view. Hardly reconciled with the first project for building up a nationalistic identity, they would not subscribe to yet another; they were willing to recognize Soviet Jewry in a religious status only. The Orthodox Jews opposed the project because they wanted to have nothing to do with godless communism, even if the proffered solution to the Jewish problem assumed the form of some kind of Jewish independence. In Russia itself there was considerable opposition from leaders of the Evsektsia, who were doing their utmost to erase all remnants of Jewish national identity. And, although no written record is available, Trotsky is reputed to have opposed the Crimea Colonization Plan on the flimsy grounds that "should anti-Semitism manifest itself there, it would be exploited for purposes of anti-Soviet propaganda by the neighboring - and hostile - countries in the Black Sea area."

{note 8 on p. 275: Z. Y. Gitelman, "The Jewish Sections of the Communist Party and the Modernization of Soviet Jewry" (Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1968), p. 551, quoting a former Evsektsia activist who served in its highest positions. It is noteworthy that Breshkovskaia, on the contrary, found it most useful and urged the Jews to take Crimea and turn it into a state for themselves within the framework of the Soviet Union. See Maor, She'elat ha-Yehudim, p. 231.}

A much more concrete step toward settling Jews on the land in the Soviet Union was taken in 1926, in the Far Eastern area known as Biro-Bidzhan. The project had the official blessing of the Soviet government. Whatever the motivation for it, the man who was symbolically entrusted with piloting it through was Michael Kalinin, president of the Soviet Union (his official title was president of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets ), an honorific rather than a substantive position as far as policy-making was concerned. Kalinin was "a man of limited horizon and simple, homely ways ... a symbol of the proletarianized peasantry whence he had sprung." By his insistence on Jewish rights he often caused embarrassment to the leaders of the Evsektsia. His exhortations suggested to them that he was "more Jewish than the Jews." A memoirist recorded that at the second conference of the Evsektsia, when Kalinin "began to speak of the pogroms, he broke down and cried and could not complete his address."

Kalinin favored the idea of self-determination for the more than

{p. 214} three million Jews of the Soviet Union and desired their "Palestine" to be built for them right in the USSR. He said words to this effect in his address to the first conference of OZET (Association for the Rural Placement of Jewish Toilers - GEZERD in Yiddish), held on November 17, 1926:

{quote} It is completely natural that the Jewish population - a lively people, its masses quite cultured politically and socially in the constant struggle for its existence - also discovers itself, also strives to find its national place in the Soviet Union. ... I believe that the Soviet Union must become the fatherland of the Jewish masses, ten times a more genuine fatherland than any bourgeois Palestine. {endquote}

Biro-Bidzhan was officially designated as a Jewish settlement on March 28, 1928, and on May 7, 1934, was declared a "Jewish Autonomous Region."

The declaration was received with mixed feelings throughout the Jewish world. Various theories were advanced concerning Stalin's ulterior motives in granting the Jews some form of constitutional autonomy. Some suggested that it was mainly intended for foreign consumption - to solicit the goodwill of liberals and Jews abroad. Others thought it was merely a means to combat the old foe, Zionism, and thus make it easier for the vast majority of Russian Jews, who would not care to migrate to the Far East region, to assimilate. Others saw it as a means of reducing the stream of Jews to the cities, where they were competing for employment and intensifying existing anti-Semitism. Jacob Lvavi (Babitsky), who did a most comprehensive and painstaking research on the BiroBidzhan Project, stated that "not the settlement of the Jews, but rather the development of the region with a view to strengthening it strategically and politically were the decisive reasons for proposing and approving the Biro-Bidzhan Project." It was to serve as a kind of buffer state against Japan.

Yet another reason was put forward: "It was meant to check the anti-Jewish sentiments that, abetted by the struggle for power between Stalin and Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev, was spreading alarmingly, penetrating the ranks of the party."

{p. 215} The Biro-Bidzhan Project had wide repercussions and was quite sympathetically received by certain leftist circles in the United States. At a crowded Madison Square Garden rally held on June 2, 1934, the famous Hebrew-Yiddish writer Reuben Brainin declared: "I am thankful that fate has granted me the privilege of living through this great hour when Biro-Bidzhan was officially declared by the Soviet government as a Jewish autonomous territory." The famous Jewish Social-Revolutionary leader Dr. Chaim Zhitlovsky, an advocate of territorialism, said in praise of the project: "The Bolshevik revolution of October 1917 has immensely strengthened the national process within all nationalities." He accepted both Biro-Bidzhan and Palestine as countries in which normal Jewish life could develop, neither having precedence.

The purges of Yezhovschina (1936-1938) decimated three successive administrations in Biro-Bidzhan, killed off most of its Trotskyite leaders, and left it barely in existence. {note 15 on p. 276: Epstein, The Jew and Communism, p. 316.} In mid-1937, the Soviet ambassador in Washington, Troyanovsky, informed the representatives of the Ambijan (American--Biro-Bidzhan) Association, which was collecting funds in the United States to transport Jews from outside Russia to the autonomous region, that a widespread pro-Japanese espionage network had been discovered, and consequently the transport of Jews to the region had to stop.

Despite early reports of purges in Biro-Bidzhan, and even thouh he never visited the region, Lion Feuchtwanger, overzealous admirer of the Soviet Union that he was, could say in 1937 that "no one denies any longer that the most difficult part is accomplished and that thc alleged utopia has become reality. The Jewish socialist Republic of Biro-Bidzhan exists."

Indeed, the official name "Jewish Autonomous Region' still appears on the maps of Asiatic Russia, but Biro-Bidzhan's Jews number only about 20,000 out of a total population of 175,000.

When the subject of Biro-Bidzhan was first publicly broached in the Soviet Union in Kalinin's speech, Trotsky was totally involved in the decisive contest with Stalin and was seemingly uninterested in the specifically Jewish side issue. When the Soviet

{p. 216} government gave its official approval in March 1928, Trotsky had already been at Alma-Ata, near the Chinese border, for two months.

His first recorded reaction to Biro-Bidzhan came in the form of a reply to an inquiry by Lazar Kling. Trotsky's letter is dated January 28, 1934:

{quote} As for Biro-Bidzhan - its fate is tied up with the whole future destiny of the Soviet Union. In any case, as it is, what is involved is not the solution of the Jewish question as a whole, but only an attempt to solve it for that part of the Jewish people living in the USSR. The entire Jewish historical fate being what it is, the Jewish question is an international one. It cannot be solved through "socialism in a separate country." Under the circumstances of the present vile and detestable anti-Semitic persecutions and pogroms, the Jewish workers can and should derive revolutionary pride from the knowledge that the fate of the Jewish people can only be solved through the full and final victory of the proletariat. {endquote}

A few months later Trotsky had an opportunity to elaborate his stand on Biro-Bidzhan somewhat, in reply to an inquiry sent to the Paris editorial office of the Bulletin of the Opposition, the organ of the Russian Bolshevik-Leninists, by a group of Jewish Left Oppositionists working underground in the Soviet Union. The letter was signed "Ykslagor," the name Rogalsky in reverse. In his reply of October 1934, Trotsky wrote:

{quote} With respect to the letter by Ykslagor; the statement that Biro-Bidzhan is "Left Zionism" seems to me to be completely incorrect. Zionism draws the workers away from the class struggle by means of unrealizable hopes of a Jewish state under capitalist conditions. But a workers' government is duty bound to create for the Jews, as for any nation, the very best circumstances for cultural development. This means, among other things: to provide for those Jews who desire to have their own schools, their own press, their own theater, etc., a separate territory for self-adminitration and development. The international proletariat will behave in the same way when it becomes master of the whole globe. In the sphere of the national question there must be no restraint; on the contrary, there must be all-round material assistance for the cultural needs of all nationalities and ethnic groups. If this or that national

{p. 217} group is doomed to go down (in the national process) then this must proceed in the same way as a natural process, but never as a consequence of anv territorial, economic, or administrative difficulties. {endquote}

The views expressed here by Trotsky are a far cry from those he had held in the past; in fact, they constitute a reversal of what might be considered his prior doctrinal principles. He is willing to accord to Russian Jews the status of a nation, thereby renouncing Otto Bauer's and Kautsky's fundamental tenets regarding the Jewish problem. Indeed, Trotsky is now willing to accept the Bund's platform which he so bitterly fought at the second congress in 1903. His argument strongly echoes the bitter controversy around the Georgian question in 1922, which strained Lenin-Stalin relations to the breaking point.

Trotsky's reply was late in coming, and as the Jewish Oppositionist group in the Soviet Union was hard pressed to take a stand as regards the Biro-Bidzhan Project, it apparently renewed its inquiry and coupled with it another query: Should it rejoin the GEZERD and actively participate in the upbuilding of Jewish autonomy in the Far East?

The following reply was made by "Schwartz" (pen name of Lyova [Leon] Sedov, Trotsky's son):

{quote} Your letter was duly received, and if we did not answer you immediately, this was due only to the fact that we are working under exceptionally difficult conditions. In connection with your question about Biro-Bidzhan we wanted to give you an authoritative reply. The author of this reply, as you know, lives and works under the most difficult conditions. [Trotsky must have been living then either at Saint Palais or Barbizon, France.] This is the explanation for the lateness of our reply to you. With regard to your other question, about rejoining the GEZERD - we are not in a position to give our opinion, due to scanty information. We shall try our best to reply on this question as soon as we receive the necessary information. {endquote}

In his press interviews following his arrival in Mexico in January 1937, Trotsky's attitude to Biro-Bidzhan was noncommittal, but he was not yet ready to reject it out of hand:

{p. 218} {quote} On Biro-Bidzhan I can give you no more than my personal evaluation. I am not acquainted with this region and still less with the conditions in which the Jews have settled there. In any case, it can be no more than a very limited experience. The USSR alone would still be too poor to resolve its own Jewish question, even under a regime much more socialistic than the present one. The Jewish question, I repeat, is indissolubly bound up with the complete emancipation of humanity. Everything else that is done in this domain can only be a palliative and often even a two-edged blade, as the example of Palestine shows. {endquote}

In a somewhat later interview (April 2, 1937), S. Wolos, of the Jewish Daily Forward, asked Trotsky whether he thought the development of Biro-Bidzhan followed a Soviet strategic plan aimed at the fortification of the Far Eastern zone against a possible attack by Japan, or whether it represented a genuine attempt at creating a Jewish autonomous republic. Trotsky replied:

{quote} Both tendencies have played a role since the creation of Biro-Bidzhan. Under a regime of Soviet democracy Biro-Bidzhan could undoubtedly play a serious national-cultural role in regard to Soviet Jewry. Under a Bonapartist regime which nourishes anti-Semitic tendencies, Biro-Bidzhan threatens to degenerate into a sort of Soviet ghetto. {endquote}

Trotsky treated the Biro-Bidzhan Project in its much wider and deeper ramifications, and subscribed to it with some reservations, in his article "Thermidor and Anti-Semitism," written on February 22, 1937:

{quote} Some would-be pundits have accused me of suddenly raising the Jewish question and of intending to create some kind of ghetto for the Jews. I can only shrug my shoulders in pity. I have lived my whole life outside of Jewish circles. I have always worked in the Russian workers' movement. My native tongue is Russian. Unfortunately, I have not even learned to read Jewish. The Jewish question, therefore, has never occupied the center of my attention.

But that does not mean that I have the right to be blind to the Jewish problem which exists and demands a solution. "The friends of the USSR" are satisfied with the creation of Biro-Bidzhan. I will not stop at this point to consider whether it was built on a sound foundation and what type of regime existed there (Biro-Bidzhan cannot help reflecting all the vices of bureaucratic despotism). But not a single pro-

{p. 219} gressive thinking individual will object to the USSR designating a special territory for those of its citizens who feel themselves to be Jews, who use the Jewish language in preference to all others, and who wish to live as a compact mass.

Is this or is this not a ghetto? During the period of Soviet democracy, of completely voluntary migration, there could be no talk of ghettos. But the Jewish question, and the very manner in which settlements of Jews occurred, assume an international aspect. Are we not correct in saying that a world socialist federation will have to make possible the creation of a Biro-Bidzhan for those Jews who wish to have their own autonomous republic as the arena for their own culture?

It may be presumed that a socialist democracy will not resort to compulsory assimilation. It may very well be that within two or three generations the boundaries of an independent Jewish republic, as of many other national regions, will be erased. I have neither time nor desire to meditate on this. Our descendants will know better than we what to do. I have in mind a transitional historical period when the Jewish question, as such, is still acute and demands adequate measures from a world federation of workers' states.

The very same methods of solving the Jewish question which under decaying capitalism will have a utopian and reactionary character (Zionism) will, under the regime of a socialist federation, take on real and salutary meaning. This is what I want to point out. How could any Marxist or even any consistent democrat object to this? {endquote}

By envisioning an "independent Jewish republic," Trotsky in fact placed the Jewish problem in the Soviet Union on the same basis as the Ukrainian problem. During the last year of his life Trotsky came out openly in favor of the establishment of "a united, free, and independent workers' and peasants' Soviet Ukraine." He was willing to go the whole way of granting self-determination to the Ukraine, even to the extent of separation from the Soviet Union. "The fervid worship of state boundaries is alien to us. We do not hold the position of a 'united and indivisible' whole. After all, even the constitution of the USSR acknowledges the right of its component federated peoples to self-determination, that is, to separation." He expected that such an independent Ukraine "might subsequently join the Soviet federation; but voluntarily, on conditions which it itself considers acceptable."

{The coup against Gorbachev was prompoted by his plan for a referendum on a Union Treaty, which also offered the possibility of secession. He was following - whether he knew it or not - the path set out by Trotsky above. But whereas Trotsky countenanced the breakup of Stalin's USSR, would he have done so if he himself were in charge?}

{p. 220} Finally Trotsky lost faith entirely in the Stalinist regime's sincerity and ability to engage in effective Jewish settlement, and he called the Biro-Bidzhan Project "a bureaucratic farce."

In sum, in 1937 and 1938 Trotsky was in favor of a territorial solution for the Jewish problem in the Soviet Union with the prospect of a Jewish republic in Biro-Bidzhan in years to come; but at the same time he was convinced that under the Stalinist bureaucracy such a project stood no chance of realization.

{end of quotes}


{p. 288} In the early 1920s, when the Bolshevik regime was first establishing itself, there was a preponderance of Jewish names in administrative positions at all levels ... In 1922 and 1923 there was a rapid roundup of the leaders of all Jewish and other nationalist underground groups. ... The crackdown included the Jewish Bund, a socialist organization that was a member of the Socialist International.

The Jewish Communist party, a splinter group from the Jewish Bund, was also dissolved. This was the Bolshevik policy, to eliminate any political national splinter group in or out of the Communist party. The separatist Ukrainian Communist party was also dissolved.

{end quotes from Nedava}

Although Trotsky was assassinated by Stalin, he himself had helped to inaugurate the Red Terror, and even wrote the book Terrorism and Communism in 1920 to justify it. He showed no more pity for his victims than Stalin showed for him; both lived by the sword and died by it. Trotsky's followers scapegoat Stalin for the evils of Communism, whitewashing the role of Lenin and Trotsky in establishing those evils. The Trotskyist intellectuals in the top universities of the West deny the Bolshevik Holocaust.

The problem of Jews living among non-Jews has been worst when the majority population has been of the Christian or Islamic religion, both historically derived from Judaism. Jews in China and India had no such problems; neither did they try to dominate the Indians or Chinese; why then has Israel tried to get them too, and the Ethiopian Jews, to move to Israel? Is messianic religion not the real driving force? The grievance against Jewish domination within the early USSR, is that Jews were pursuing their own liberation at the expense of non-Jews. Zionism was offered as a solution to this; yet the creation of Israel as a Jewish nation with a Jewish civilisation has not reduced grievances over Jewish domination in the West, especially in academia, the media and intellectual life, by which viewpoints and values are set and information gathered.

Must the homeland in Israel be at the expense of the Arabs? Did Israel have to build settlements in the West Bank and Gaza? Must Israel demolish the Dome of the Rock, to build the Third Temple in its place? Is not religion the driving force, pressuring the Jews to separate themselves from non-Jews, maintaining the "Jewish problem"?

The Jewish identities of Lenin and Trotsky: lenin-trotsky.html.

The early Soviet Union - after Lenin and Trotsky, but before Stalin's ascendancy: soviet-union-early.html.

Trotsky says Stalin using "Anti-Semitic" tactics against the Opposition: trotsky.html#1.

The definitive study of family life in the Soviet Union: H. Kent Geiger, The Family in Soviet Russia. The "feminist" West is following the same path: sex-soviet.html.

Pavel Sudoplatov on the plan for a Jewish Republic in the Crimea: sudoplat.html.

Writings of James Burnham: burnham.html.

To purchase Joseph Nedava's book Trotsky and the Jews via Abebooks:

Write to me at contact.html.