Jewish and Palestinian workers unity in Israel today bodes well for future struggles

Monday, July 30, 2018

Defeat in victory, victory in defeat: The Non-Jewish Jew: And Other Essays Isaac Deutscher







The Non-Jewish Jew: And Other Essays
Isaac Deutscher

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The Non-Jewish Jew gives us not the great Deutscher, the biographer of Trotsky. Some of the merely topical pieces offered in this collection rise episodically to the lapidary and aphoristic heights of his books on Stalin and Trotsky. But most of Deutscher's work as a jobbing journalist came from probing the motivations of the Malenkovs, Khrushchevs, and Nassers.

The finest pages in The Non-Jewish Jew offer beautiful generalizations about Marx, Freud, and Marc Chagall.

Worth it for that alone.

Jay
30 July 2018


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Excerpts




Who is a Jew?
The Jewish Quarterly (London, 1966)

....modern society was supposed to be shedding its particularist and nationalist traditions.

....Nor was it a meshumad's malice that caused Marx to say that the Jews' real God was Money. He intended this not as a moral condemnation of Jewry, but as a factual statement about the Jews' particular function in Christian society.

....He went on to say that Christian society, as it grew more and more capitalist, was becoming more and more 'judaized'. He was firmly convinced that, as European society moved from capitalism to socialism, both the Christian and the Jew would cease to be 'Jewish', or, for that matter, Christian. And in Marx's lifetime, which was the age of assimilation, the Jewish identity was indeed in the process of vanishing, at least in Western Europe.

....Classical Marxism reckoned with a healthier and more normal development of our civilization in general, i.e. with a timely transformation of the capitalist into a socialist society.

....either international socialism or barbarism—tertium non datur. Probably they themselves did not know just how right they were and just how real the alternative was.

....Nazism was nothing but the self-defence of the old order against communism. The Nazis themselves felt that their role consisted in this; the whole of German society saw them in this role; and European Jewry has paid the price for the survival of capitalism, for the success of capitalism in defending itself against a socialist revolution. This fact surely does not call for a revision of the classical Marxist analysis—it rather confirms it.

....Auschwitz was the terrible cradle of the new Jewish consciousness and of the new Jewish nation.

....For those who have always stressed Jewishness and its continuity, it is strange and bitter to think that the extermination of six million Jews should have given such a new lease of life to Jewry.

....It was from the ashes of six million Jews that the phoenix of Jewry has risen. What a resurrection!

....Religion? I am an atheist. Jewish nationalism? I am an internationalist. In neither sense am I, therefore, a Jew. I am, however, a Jew by force of my unconditional solidarity with the persecuted and exterminated. I am a Jew because I feel the Jewish tragedy as my own tragedy; because I feel the pulse of Jewish history; because I should like to do all I can to assure the real, not spurious, security and self-respect of the Jews.

....To speak of the 'Jewish community' as if it were an all-embracing entity, then, is meaningless, and for a Marxist doubly so

....the 'Jewish community' contains not only antagonistic social classes; it has also been divided, so to speak, geographically.

....An unrepentant Marxist, an atheist, an internationalist—in what sense am I then a Jew? What is it that brings me near that 'negative community'?

....Paradoxically, I come unexpectedly close to the fears of an orthodox Jew
and a Zionist. I do not believe that anti-semitism is a spent force. I fear that we may be living in a fools' paradise in our Western welfare state. The trustful feeling of freedom from anti-semitism may well be one more illusion, a particularly Jewish one, engendered by our 'affluent society'.

....What is so striking about the Jewish intellectuals in the West is precisely their extraordinary conformism, political, ideological, and social.

....this society of ours with its undigested barbarity.

The Jewish Quarterly (London, 1966)


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The Russian Revolution and the Jewish Problem
(The text of a lecture given to the Jewish Society of the London School of Economics Students' Union on 29 October 1964.)

....still carried on a kind of primitive trade such as had been practised in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries; and their religious taboos and rites were equally archaic and anachronistic.

....up to the revolution the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, and even the Social Revolutionaries—absolutely all currents of Russian socialism—were agreed on the approach to the Jewish problem. In this the Russian Bolshevik Lenin and the Menshevik Jew Martov or the Jew Trotsky were of one mind. They took over their ideas about the Jews from Western Marxists and from Marx and Engels in particular. In one of his famous essays on the Jewish problem, written in the 1840s, Marx said that the question of the emancipation of the Jews no longer existed as an independent issue: all endeavours should be directed towards the emancipation of European society, especially Western society, from capitalism. Once the heavy yoke of capitalist oppression was thrown off, all members of society, including the Jews, would achieve equality and freedom.

....Marx and Lassalle. But again, towards the end of the nineteenth century, as anti-semitism began to grow even in Western society, the whole socialist movement became seriously preoccupied with the Jewish problem; it was then that August Bebel, the great leader of the German Social Democracy, wrote his famous work on anti-semitism calling it 'the socialism of the fools'. This was more than a brilliant paradox or a witty epigram. The fact was that the conspicuous role of the Jews among the bankers and the merchants did arouse antagonism towards the Jews among the poorer classes of western society. Bebel and the other socialists, among them Kautsky, tried to explain to the workers that they should direct their fight not just against the Jewish bourgeoisie which was, after all, only a small section of the capitalist class, but against the bourgeoisie as a whole. This was real socialism; only fools sought to change the social system by turning against some members—the Jewish members—of the oppressing class. In retrospect we can see how farsighted were Bebel and his comrades, when they pointed out that the capitalists of Western Europe were ready to sacrifice their Jewish brothers as scapegoats and were even prepared to incite workers, the
Lumpenproletariat, and the petty shopkeepers against the Jewish bourgeoisie to save their own life and property. This would be the cheapest way of turning away from themselves the pent-up hatred of the oppressed masses.

....in the East the problem was much tougher than in the West, precisely because the Jewish paupers, workers, and the lower middle classes lived in isolated areas, in compact ghettoes, cultivating and perpetuating their own mode of life. In spite of this, Lenin and Martov, Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, were absolutely determined to draw the Jewish workers into the struggle of their Russian comrades against Tsardom and against the old order that ruled in Eastern Europe. The same view was held by that great woman revolutionary of Jewish origin, Rosa Luxemburg, who was even more bent on the assimilation of the Jews than either Lenin or Martov.
develop as a political movement, drawing its support mainly from the Jewish communities in Western countries. It should be realized that the great majority of Eastern European Jews were, up to the outbreak of the second World War, opposed to Zionism. This is a fact of which most Jews and non-Jews in the West are seldom aware. The Zionists in our part of the world were a significant minority, but they never succeeded in attracting a majority of their co-religionists. The most fanatical enemies of Zionism were precisely the workers, those who spoke Yiddish, those who considered themselves Jews; they were the most determined opponents of the idea of an emigration from Eastern Europe to Palestine. In Poland, in 1939, the Jewish population was for the last time electing the leaders of its communities, the Kehilahs. The communists, who were then very influential, regarded the Kehilahs as clerical institutions and boycotted the elections. The fiercely anti-Zionist Bund (Jewish Workers Party) took part and polled the great majority of the votes. (Only a relatively small sector of the socialist movement, the Poaley Zion, tried to combine socialism with Zionism.) Jewish opinion in the West very often equates anti-Zionism with anti-semitism. According to this view the Jews of Eastern Europe in their great majority, were just anti-semites. But this conclusion, of course, is an absurdity.

....This Jewish opposition to Zionism was a tragic opposition—it failed and ended in the perdition of the Jews. In the idea of an evacuation, of an exodus from the countries in which they had their homes and in which their ancestors had lived for centuries, the anti-Zionists saw an abdication of their rights, a yielding to hostile pressure, a surrender to anti-semitism. To them anti-semitism seemed to triumph in Zionism, which recognized the legitimacy and the validity of the old cry: 'Jews, get out!' The Zionists were agreeing to 'get out'.

....when the revolution did come, the sudden transformation of society had also a painful and disintegrating impact on a considerable segment of the Jewish population.

....The great majority, with their urban tradition and a level of education higher, on the whole, than that of the Russian population, became white-collar workers, and entered en masse into the ranks of the post-revolutionary bureaucracy, into the party and state offices and institutions.

....in the backwardness, the benightedness, and the illiteracy of the masses of Russian muzhiks, and even of some sections of the urban workers as well. There was the fatal influence of the Greek Orthodox Church, the most obscurantist of all the Churches in Europe. There was the deeply ingrained Christian myth about the Jews as the crucifiers of Christ; that myth which, we now realize, has permeated the mind of the whole Christian civilization much more thoroughly than people had imagined even fifty years ago.

....Jewish intellectuals or white-collar workers who occupied higher positions in party and state, in army and civilian institutions, in the educational system, and those prominent in the press, the cinema and the theatre, evoked a certain envy and jalousie de metier.

....Bolsheviks took an over-optimistic view of the chances of solving the Jewish problem.

....they imagined that all the progressive forces of Germany and France would help them to move forward; that the sickness of anti-semitism would disappear in a rationally organized, healthy socialist Europe. This was not to be. The Russian revolution remained isolated; the German one was defeated. Europe did not come to the rescue. Russia was left alone to stew in her own juice of backwardness inherited from Tsardom, from centuries of Greek Orthodoxy, illiteracy, poverty, and barbarism. In these conditions all existing antagonisms in Russian society became accentuated, and among them the antagonism between the Jew and the non-Jew. One should not imagine that the Jewish problem existed, so to speak, in a vacuum, that it was independent of what was going on in Soviet society. It was embedded in the structure of that society and closely tied to its development and evolution, to its growth and progress, to retrogression and new progress.

....still carried on a kind of primitive trade such as had been practised in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries; and their religious taboos and rites were equally archaic and anachronistic.

....At this period Zionism too....

....All Jewish parties—the Bund, the Poaley Zion, and other Zionist groupings were suppressed. To some extent, and with a great deal of justification, Zionism might have been considered as an ideology alien, or at least unfavourable, to the revolution....

....there was no objective reason why Zionism should have been declared a dangerous and subversive doctrine. The argument that 'Zionism threatened the Russian revolution' was spurious and ridiculous in view of the utter impotence of all Jewish groupings in Russia.

....most fanatical advocates of the suppression of Jewish parties were by no means the Russians; they were the Jews themselves, the Jewish communists, the Yevsektsia (Jewish Section of the Communist Party).

....Jewish communists felt that they had to be more orthodox, more 'kosher', and more determined than their Russian colleagues.

....With the single party system came the development and crystallization of Stalinism. The years of isolation, the frustrated hopes of help from outside, the defeat of communism in Europe—all this prepared the ground on which Stalin's doctrine of socialism in one country could take root. To Russia's isolation the Bolsheviks reacted with an ideology of isolation. They made a virtue out of necessity....

....anti-semitism invariably worms its way to the surface in times of reaction and feeds and grows on nationalist emotions and hatreds. Stalin, never fastidious in the choice of means, did not shrink from exploiting anti-Jewish tendencies in his struggles with the Opposition.

....there were many Jews among the Stalinist bureaucracy too. At the head of the forcible collectivization in the Ukraine, where it was carried out in the most cruel and bloody way, stood the Jew Kaganovich.

....there were many Jews among the Stalinist bureaucracy too. At the head of the forcible collectivization in the Ukraine, where it was carried out in the most cruel and bloody way, stood the Jew Kaganovich. And here you have the tragic impasse in which the Jews were trapped. In town they were persecuted as 'rootless cosmopolitans' opposed to the progress of socialism in Russia; in the countryside they were hated by the peasants who saw in the Bolshevik Jew Kaganovich their chief tormentor.

....short-lived conciliation and pact between Hitler and Stalin....

....Something like racial contamination was blowing over from Germany to Russia.

....Then came 21 June 1941 and the champion of anti-semitism became the implacable enemy of Soviet Russia again.

....Despite all of Stalin's crimes we must remember that it was on his orders that two and a half million Jews from the invaded territories of Russia were helped to move towards the interior of the country and thus were saved from Nazi concentration camps and gas chambers.

....Whatever Stalin's calculations, it was to him that Israel, paradoxically, was indebted for its independent existence. And it was from Stalinized Czechoslovakia, from the Czech arms factories, that the main arsenal of the Haganah came.

....What Stalin, in his crudity, never asked himself was the most fundamental question: How is it that so many decades after the revolution there were still people in Russia whose loyalty to the Soviet regime could be in doubt? If it were true that they were 'unreliable', then perhaps not the Jews should have been blamed but the Soviet government?

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Remnants of a Race
The Economist, 12 January 1946.

....European Jewry's desire for a new exodus is undeniable. Zionist organizations, especially of the extremer kind, are stimulating it; and they are trying to force its pace before the survivors of European Jewry again strike root in their old countries.

....Anti-semitism invariably reflects or foreshadows a diseased condition in European civilization. Its rise and fall is perhaps the most sensitive index of Europe's moral and political sanity.

....What bourgeois liberalism achieved for Jews in western Europe, only Bolshevism was able to achieve for them in eastern Europe.

....The grave of the Jewish middle class became the cradle of a new gentile middle class in eastern Europe. At the height of the slaughter a Polish paper wrote: 'The Nazis are solving the Jewish problem in our favour in a way in which we could never have solved it.'

....These new 'middle classes' are undoubtedly suffering from a guilt complex which makes their temper extremely nervous and brutal. They look tensely and anxiously into the faces of the few Jews who now seek to return home. Has the rightful owner of the shop come back? Or his child or relative?

....Possession is in any event nine-tenths of the law—zoological anti-semitism provides the last tenth.

....what has the civilized world to offer the survivors of Belsen, Auschwitz, Dachau, and Majdanek? After the first World War it offered the Jews two hopes: the Balfour Declaration on the Jewish Home in Palestine and the Protection of Minorities by the League of Nations. The Protection of Minorities has proved to be a scrap of paper. The scheme for a Jewish Home has met—as could easily have been foreseen—with the overwhelming opposition of the Arab world. Is it possible that the great, democratic nations of the world should have become so helpless that they cannot offer the Jews a strip of land somewhere on the globe or a few hundred thousand entry visas to their countries?


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Israel's Spiritual Climate
The Reporter, April-May 1954.

....While in the West socialism, liberalism, and Zionism were benevolently related to one another, in Eastern Europe they bitterly competed for the loyalty of the Jewish masses. A deep cleavage always existed there between the Zionist and the anti-Zionist Jew. The anti-Zionist urged the Jews to trust their gentile environment, to help the 'progressive forces' in that environment to come to the top, and so hope that those forces would effectively defend the Jews against anti-semitism. 'Social revolution will give the Jews equality and freedom; they have therefore no need for a Zionist Messiah', this was the stock argument of generations of Jewish left-wingers. The Zionists, on the other hand, dwelt on the deep-seated hatred of non-Jews towards Jews and urged the Jews to trust their future to nobody except their own State. In this controversy Zionism has scored a horrible victory, one which it could neither wish nor expect: six million Jews had to perish in Hitler's gas chambers in order that Israel should come to life. It would have been better had Israel remained unborn and the six million Jews stayed alive—but who can blame Zionism and Israel for the different outcome? Israel is more than a spiritual colony of the Eastern European ghettoes. It is their great, tragic, posthumous offspring fighting for survival with breathtaking vitality.

....The young Jew who in Kiev, Odessa, and Warsaw distrusted the Russo-Polish revolutionary ideologies and longed to pioneer for the Jewish State in Palestine was as a rule hypnotised by the ideologies from which he fled; and he found this out after he had landed in Palestine. He came to Palestine with the crumbs from the table of the Russian revolution; and he used those crumbs as the seed with which to sow the sacred desert of Galilee, Samaria, and Judea.

....Since 1948 the population of Israel has more than doubled. The newcomers are not like the idealists of the previous Aliyahs; they are the wrecks of concentration camps, the flotsam and jetsam of European Jewry, and the masses of Oriental Jews, refugees from Arab hatred and revenge. To many new immigrants the ideals of the Zionist Pilgrim Fathers are alien and incomprehensible. A little rickety junk shop or a tobacconist's stand somewhere in town seems to them a thousand times more desirable and respectable than all the collectivist wonders of the kibbutz and than even its relatively high standard of living.

....Israelis who have known me as an anti-Zionist of long standing are curious to hear what I think about Zionism. I have, of course, long since abandoned my anti-Zionism, which was based on a confidence in the European labour movement, or, more broadly, in European society and civilization, which that society and civilization have not justified. If, instead of arguing against Zionism in the 1920s and 1930s I had urged European Jews to go to Palestine, I might have helped to save some of the lives that were later extinguished in Hitler's gas chambers.

....Whatever their cleavages, grievances, and frustrations, the Jews of Israel are animated by a fresh and strong sense of nationhood and by a dogged determination to consolidate and strengthen their State by every means at their disposal. They also have the feeling—how well justified—that the 'civilized world', which in one way or another has the fate of European Jewry on its conscience, has no moral ground to stand on when it tries to sermonize or threaten Israel for any real or imaginary breaches of international commitments.

....From a burning or sinking ship people jump no matter where—on to a lifeboat, a raft, or a float. The jumping is for them an 'historic necessity'; and the raft is in t is just another Jewish tragedy that the world has driven the Jew to seek safety in a nation-state in the middle of this century when the nation-state is falling into decay.a sense the basis of their whole existence. But does it follow that the jumping should be made into a programme, or that one should take a raft-State as the basis of a political orientation?

....The State of Israel has had explosives—the grievances of hundreds of thousands of displaced Arabs—built into its very foundations. One cannot in fairness blame the Jews for this. People pursued by a monster and running to save their lives cannot help injuring those who are in the way and cannot help trampling over their property.


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Israel's Tenth Birthday
The Observer, April 1958.

....Before the advent of Nazism, and even after it, the overwhelming majority of Jews refused to respond to the appeal of Zionism. Even in Eastern Europe, where they formed large and compact communities, spoke their own language, developed their own culture and literature, and suffered from savage discrimination, they considered themselves citizens of the countries in which they lived, and tied their future to the future of those countries, not to that of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine. A good half of Eastern European Jewry, especially its large and vigorous Labour movement,
viewed the idea of such a Homeland with conscious and irreducible hostility. Zionism there was the nationalistic mystique of the Jewish middle class, which was not, however, willing to abandon its established positions and to uproot itself for the sake of its Zionist dream. Yet Eastern European Jewry formed the main reservoir from which Zionism drew its support—from there came most of its leaders, pioneers, and recruits. Elsewhere the response to Zionism was incomparably weaker.

Zionists may say—and who can deny it? that European Jewry would have survived if it had followed the call of Zionism. The fact is that the European Jews' hostility or lukewarmness towards the idea of a Jewish Homeland sprang from their trust in the nations among whom they lived, and from their deep confidence in the humanitarian traditions and prospects of European civilization. Zionism saw no future for the Jews in Europe—it was the political epitome of the Jewish distrust of the gentile world.

To Europe's eternal shame, that distrust has proved itself all too well justified. Only after this had become horribly clear, after six million out of the fifteen million European Jews had perished in gas chambers, and after Israelis had seen the British chase from the shores of Palestine ghost-like ships loaded with the wreckage of European Jewry, did the State of Israel become a reality.

....The rise of India, Burma, and Ghana, etc., from colonial subjection to independent statehood has been an organic, social, and political process in a way in which the rise of Israel was not. What is worse, Israel has found itself in conflict open or latent, with so many of the rising nations of Asia and Africa. Israel cannot have it both ways: it cannot present itself as one of these nations and claim for itself the rights due to them and, at the same time, pursue its own interests, real or imaginary, in steady opposition to them or in haughty aloofness.

....at its very birth it could not help trespassing upon the rights of the Arabs. But in its own interest Israel could and should have done everything in its power to assuage the Arab grievance and mitigate the antagonism. Instead, Israel has done nearly everything to exacerbate and perpetuate the antagonism—and through nothing so much as through the invasion of the Sinai.


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The Israeli-Arab War, June 1967
From an interview given to the New Left Review on 23 June 1967.

....A man once jumped from the top floor of a burning house in which many members of his family had already perished. He managed to save his life; but as he was falling he hit a person standing down below and broke that person's legs and arms. The jumping man had no choice; yet to the man with the broken limbs he was the cause of his misfortune. If both behaved rationally, they would not become enemies. The man who escaped from the blazing house, having recovered, would have tried to help and console the other sufferer; and the latter might have realized that he was the victim of circumstances over which neither of them had control. But look what happens when these people behave irrationally. The injured man blames the other for his misery and swears to make him pay for it. The other, afraid of the crippled man's revenge, insults him, kicks him, and beats him up whenever they meet. The kicked man again swears revenge and is again punched and punished. The bitter enmity, so fortuitous at first, hardens and comes to overshadow the whole existence of both men and to poison their minds.

....it was the Arabs who were made to pay the price for the crimes the West committed towards the Jews. They are still made to pay it, for the 'guilty conscience' of the West is, of course, pro-Israeli and anti-Arab. And how easily Israel had allowed itself to be bribed and fooled by the false 'conscience money'.

....even the nationalism of the exploited and oppressed should not be viewed uncritically, for there are various phases in its development. In one phase progressive aspirations prevail; in another reactionary tendencies come to the surface. From the moment independence is won or nearly won, nationalism tends to shed its revolutionary aspect altogether and turns into a retrograde ideology.

....the Israelis appear now in the role of the Prussians of the Middle East. They have now won three wars against their Arab neighbours. Just so did the Prussians a century ago defeat all their neighbours within a few years, the Danes, the Austrians, and the French. The succession of victories bred in them an absolute confidence in their own efficiency, a blind reliance on the force of their arms, chauvinistic arrogance, and contempt for other peoples. I fear that a similar degeneration—for degeneration it is—may be taking place in the political character of Israel. Yet as the Prussia of the Middle East, Israel can be only a feeble parody of the original.

....The Germans have summed up their own experience in the bitter phrase: 'Man kann sich totsiegen!' 'You can drive yourself victoriously into your grave.' This is what the Israelis have been doing. They have bitten off much more than they can swallow.

....Ben Gurion, the evil spirit of Israeli chauvinism....

....we must exercise our judgment and must not allow it to be clouded by emotions and memories, however deep or haunting. We should not allow even invocations of Auschwitz to blackmail us into supporting the wrong cause.

....On a deeper historical level the Jewish tragedy finds in Israel a dismal sequel. Israel's leaders exploit in self-justification, and over-exploit Auschwitz and Treblinka; but their actions mock the real meaning of the Jewish tragedy.

....European Jews paid a horrible price for the role they had played in past ages, and not of their own choosing, as representatives of a market economy, of 'money', among peoples living in a natural, money-less, agricultural economy. They were the conspicuous carriers of early capitalism, traders and money lenders, in pre-capitalist society. The image of the rich Jewish merchant and usurer lived on in gentile folklore and remained engraved on the popular mind, stirring distrust and fear. The  Nazis seized this image, magnified it to colossal dimensions, and constantly held it before the eyes of the masses.

....The Jews were to cease to be unproductive elements, shopkeepers, economic and cultural interlopers, carriers of capitalism. They were to settle in 'their own land' as 'productive workers'.

....Yet they now appear in the Middle East once again in the invidious role of agents not so much of their own, relatively feeble, capitalism, but of powerful western vested interests and as protégés of neo-colonialism. This is how the Arab world sees them, not without reason.

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