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February 01, 1980 - Image 28

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1980-02-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

28 Friday, February 1, 1980

Trotsky Biography Traces Russian Anti-Semitism

The

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A biography of Leon
Trotsky is especially timely
in this era of the renewed
cold war.
In the instance of a biog-
raphy with emphasis on his-
torical data, the text be-
comes especially valuable
as a guide for an under-
standing of the current de-
velopments.
Ronald Segal, in "Leon
Trotsky" (Pantheon Books)
traces the background of
oppression and anti-
Semitism under which the
famous Communist leader
grew into world eminence.

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"Odessa, a city with
theaters and libraries,
and even a stock ex-
change, was regarded by
Jews in the Pale as the
very Paris of southern
Russia. Yet Jews had
been massacred there in
1820, 1859 and 1871, and
might at any time be mas-
sacred again. Through-
out the Pale, pogroms
were becoming ever
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name was Lev Bronstein.
His father attained status
in farming just before the
Russian restrictions pre-
vented massive pos-
sessions by Jews.
His family did not speak
Yiddish. Their language
was a Russian and Ukrai-
nian mixture. Leon (Lev)
was sent to a Hebrew day
school, then was enrolled in
a gymnasium in Odessa
where he experienced the
prejudice directed against
Jews and where he began to
show his independence as a
thinker and potential
leader.
Segal refers to the anti-
Semitic policies of the Rus-
sian government at that
time. He points out that
"whatever the actual prop-
ortion of Jews among the
revolutionaries in Russia, it
was certainly much larger
than the proportion of Jews
among Russians in gen-
eral." This is what dis-
turbed the Russian oligar-
chy as indicated in this his-
torical note in Segal's "Leon
Trotsky":
"Jews lived under the
ever-present threat of pog-
roms. Mobs. often led by
priests, would attack
Jewish districts, pillaging
homes before setting them
aflame, raping and killing,
while uniformed police took
care to be beyond call or
stood watching with indif-
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definitive comment on
Trotsky's attitude towards
Jews. His rejection of
nationalism is the basic fac-
tor of his ideology.
Segal pays a glowing
tribute to Trotsky, who was
murdered by a Russian
agent in Mexico. He states:
"In the end, the fear of
Trotsky is the fear of that
very revolution which
the rulers of the Soviet

courage discontent or to '
deflect it from them-
selves.

Vyacheslav
"Count
Plehve, the Minister of the
Interior, lectured a Jewish
delegation from Odessa in
1903:
"'In Western Russia some
90 percent of the revolu-
tionaries are Jews, and in
Russia generally — some 40
percent. I shall not conceal
from you that the revolu-
tionary movement in Rus-
sia worries us ... but you
should know that if you do
not deter your youth from
the revolutionary move-
ment, we shall make your
position untenable to such
an extent that you will have
to leave Russia, to the very
last man!'
To a second delegation,
he was more specific. 'Com-
pel your men to stop the
revolution, and then I shall
stop the pogroms.' "
Thus Trotsky later at-
tained leadership in the
Russian Social Democratic
Labor Party, with Lenin
and the major personalities
who were to become the do-
minant factors in the Com-
munist ranks.

Trotsky was involved
in the disputes over the
Bund, the Jewish
Socialist group which
had fought Zionism and
was the subject of fre-
quent controversies.

Segal recalls that in the
early decade of the century
Jules Martov first conceived
the idea of forming an inde-
pendent organization of
Jewish workers which
gained an important role in
the Russian Socialist ranks
as the Bund, but after the
Bund was formed, Martov,
who became closely allied in
friendship with Lenin "then
discardea his own concept
for that of an integrated
Russian revolutionary
movement."
An important historic
occurrence involving the
Bund is recorded by Segal in
his account of the Russian
Socialist Labor Congress
held in London in 1903.
Segal records:
"Dominating the early
sessions was the issue of the
Bund, affiliated to the
party, but more and more
concerned to preserve and
develop its own identity. At
its third conference, in
1900, the Bund had limited
its political claims to 'civil,
not national, equality of
rights' for Jews. Then, at its
fourth, in the following
year, it had switched sig-
nals: it declared that Russia
would need to be reconsti-
tuted as a federation of na-
tions, with the Jewish
people as one of them, and
possessed of no less au-
tonomy than the others.
"In part, this was an at-
tempt by the Bund to arrest,
with a nationalist appeal of
its own, the spread of sup-
port for Zionism among
Jewish workers. But Jewish
nationalism itself was at-
tracting recruits from the
ranks of the Bund, in re-
sponse to the anti-Semitic
policies of the regime, and to
the apparent indifference

LEON TROTSKY
with which even professing
liberals in Russia had re-
garded recent pogroms.
"Martov, on behalf of

Union have abandoned
in all but name. And
Trotsky speaks to them in
its threatening voice. He
speaks for the power of
people against those who
speak for the power of
the state.

the Iskra board, initiated
the assault on the Bund's
attitude: he tabled a reso-
lution which urged 'the
closest unity of the
Jewish proletariat with
the proletariat of those
races amongst whom it
lives ... in the interests of
its struggle for political
and economic emancipa-
tion and for the social
democratic struggle
against all chauvinism
and anti-Semitism.'

"He speaks against
privilege to those who speak
for the subservience of
others. He speaks for the
liberation of ideas, to those
who speak only for the con-
finements of their own. He
speaks for the will to resist,
regardless of cost, to those
who know only how to speak
for the intimidation of dis-
sen ,I tt .

Were Jews alone to be
entitled to agitate and or-
ganize among Jewish work-
ers? Were non-Jewish
members of the party to be
accordingly excluded?
" 'To accept such condi-
tions would mean that we
acknowledge the bank-
ruptcy of our political mor-
ality; it would mean com-
mitting political-moral
suicide. The congress will
not do this.' And the con-
gress would not. There were
43 delegates, disposing of 51
votes. The Bund had five
delegates with voting
rights. Martov's resolution
was carriedby 40 votes to
five, with some absten-
tions."
is perhaps the most

believed, hopelessly
bed-ridden.

is in the voice of this
revolution, too, rejecting
and
offering,
that Trotsky
"But it was Trotsky who
speaks still for humanity.
rose again and -again in the
As he spoke when millions
debate to batter the
of men marched, for the con-
arguments of the Bund:
flict of their countries, to the
beating down all attempts
resolution of the bayonet
to reach a compromise and
proclaiming, to the fury of and the machine-gun, he
speaks now to a world of
delegates from the Bund,
multiplied nationalisms
that the 12 'Jewish com-
and nuclear weapons.
rades' who had signed Mar-
tov's resolution, 'while
"He speaks to a world
working in the All-Russian
where within particular
party, regarded and still re-_ states, storehouses contain
gard themselves also as
such hoards of surplus food
representatives of the
that terms are borrowed
Jewish proletariat.'
from geography to describe
"For the delegates of the
them; while a few jet hours
Bund, Trotsky might well
away, famine crosses the
have seemed to be assailing
frontiers of sovereignty
the rights of Jewish without recognizing the re-
nationalism with a suspici-
quirement of a passport.
ous ardor. And, to be sure,
And he will speak for as
the Jewish anti-Semite was
long as wealth is no more
not unknown in revolution-
than the obverse of want, in
ary record.
the coinage of a system that
"But Trotsky was never to
proclaims itself the source
betray that peculiar moral
of personal freedom and
astigmatism that saw no
that provides instead the
justification for the
imprisonments of property.
nationalism of the Jew
"It is a voice that does
while seeing clearly enough
how to defend the not recite the doctrines of
the
past. Trotsky himself
nationalism as a denial of
the revolutionary commit- qualified the perceptions
of Marx, and history has
ment to unite mankind in a
qualified the perceptions
socialist brotherhood.
of
Trotsky. Capitalism
"He had, he declared at
the congress, no wish to de- was not, as Trotsky main-
to the end of his
tained
stroy the Bund. He wished
It
only to destroy any special life, in its death throes.
was not even, as Fascism
position for it in the party.

"In the years since it got
to its feet to fight the Second
World War; it has produced,
and wasted, more material
wealth than in all the many
decades of its previous de-
velopment. It has dis-
covered remedies for some
of its ailments.• And it has,
as an essential part of the
process, so transformed the
labor force of industrical
advancement that this
bears scarcely any re-
semblance to the proletariat
of the revolutionary texts.
"Trotsky believed that
men had only to recognize
the cage around them to
means
of making
se c am
p e e.
h
their the

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