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Jewish Radicals

Jewish Radicals: A Documentary History

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Jewish Radicals
    Book Description:

    Jewish Radicals explores the intertwined histories of Jews and the American Left through a rich variety of primary documents. Written in English and Yiddish, these documents reflect the entire spectrum of radical opinion, from anarchism to social democracy, Communism to socialist-Zionism. Rank-and-file activists, organizational leaders, intellectuals, and commentators, from within the Jewish community and beyond, all have their say. Their stories crisscross the Atlantic, spanning from the United States to Europe and British-ruled Palestine. The documents illuminate in fascinating detail the efforts of large numbers of Jews to refashion themselves as they confronted major problems of the twentieth century: poverty, anti-semitism, the meaning of American national identity, war, and totalitarianism. In this comprehensive sourcebook, the story of Jewish radicals over seven decades is told for the first time in their own words.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6346-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction: The Jewish-Socialist Nexus
    (pp. 1-24)

    1890: New York City’s knee-pants workers go on a general strike, forcing their bosses to sign union contracts for the first time. 1892: an anarchist attempts to assassinate one of America’s leading industrialists. 1916: eight hundred workers assemble in a Philadelphia hall to hear a Yiddish lecture on “Revolutionary Motifs in World Literature.” 1919: an up-and-coming labor lawyer is elected to the New York State Assembly on the Socialist Party ticket, only to be expelled, along with four other Socialists, a year later. 1929: a Los Angeles judge sentences five women to San Quentin for flying the Soviet flag at...


    • [Part I Introduction]
      (pp. 25-26)

      How did young men and women first encounter socialism? What did socialism mean to them? To shed light on these questions, this section features excerpts from the autobiographies of five prominent radicals. The Communist leader Alexander Bittelman became radicalized as a thirteenyear-old boy in his hometown of Berdichev in the Russian Empire. His father, although a pious man, had grown close to the Bund and enrolled the young Usher, Alexander’s given name, in the local party organization. Bittelman originally perceived socialism as “dream-images of some bright and joyful future, something like what would happen when the Messiah arrived.” He soon...

    • 1 “When I Went Home I Was Aflame” (memoir; c. 1925)
      (pp. 27-40)

      One fine day—it must have been in the month of April [1886]—Mother came from the butcher shop and informed us all at the shop that there was going to be a meeting in De Koven Street Hall. I asked her what the meeting was and she said she didn’t know but it was her understanding that everybody would come together in that hall on Saturday afternoon. I asked her who told her and she said she didn’t know except the women in the butcher shop spoke about it.

      On the next Saturday afternoon I went over along with...

    • 2 “I Saw a New World Opening Before Me” (memoir; 1931)
      (pp. 41-48)

      It was the 15th of August 1889, the day of my arrival in New York City. I was twenty years old. All that had happened in my life until that time was now left behind me, cast off like a worn-out garment. A new world was before me, strange and terrifying. But I had youth, good health, and a passionate ideal. Whatever the new held in store for me I was determined to meet unflinchingly.

      How well I remember that day! It was a Sunday. The West Shore train, the cheapest, which was all I could afford, had brought me...

    • 3 The World of Socialism and Revolution (memoir; 1963)
      (pp. 49-58)

      [. . .] The Bund, of which I became a member on a certain memorable day, was an underground organization of Jewish workers of a socialist and revolutionary nature. Its full name was The General Jewish Labor Alliance of Lithuania, Poland and Russia. The “ Bund” is the Jewish [word] for “Alliance.”

      I was 13 years old at the time. Naturally, I couldn’t yet know or fully understand the program and theory of the “Bund.” But I knew Isaak— the man who enrolled me into membership. I knew him as the man who used to come to my father’s house,...

    • 4 “Rebellion Raged within Me” (memoir; 1948)
      (pp. 59-69)

      Father had lived in Chicago during his first, brief stay in America. My mother’s brother, whom Father had helped across the border, was living there, and so were other relatives, pioneers who had blazed the trail from Korostyshev to the metropolis of the Middle West. The dominant figure on the group was Aunt Yente Chave, a sister of Grandmother Broche’s scholarly husband.

      On his second arrival in the United States, Father remained in New York. Here he had no relatives and no friends. By trade he was a silversmith, and frequently he could find no job. He felt helpless and...

    • 5 “It Wasn’t Difficult for Me to Reject Judaism” (memoir; 1965)
      (pp. 70-80)

      I didn’t become a radical because my early childhood was unpleasant or because I suffered from anti-Semitism. My parents were nonintellectual middle-class German Jews who had emigrated to the United States in the years before World War I and spoke English with only a faint accent. Both of them came from the mercantile rather than the scholarly tradition, and when I was born in 1918 my father was prospering in the importand-export business. The standards held up for us to emulate were always those of the rich and prominent German-Jewish families of New York, who were envied models for my...


    • 6 “Strong, Firm, and Correct Propaganda” (1886)
      (pp. 83-85)

      The Jewish worker, who makes good use of what little free time he has, spends a few cents on a Yiddish newspaper.

      What does he look for in a newspaper? What does he wish to find there?

      As a worker, his situation is directly connected to all workers of the world; his destiny hinges on the destiny of other workers; his future is the future of all his comrades; his hopes are the same as theirs. He sees, knows, feels that in the chain that binds the labor world together, he is a ring equal to all others, and that...

    • 7 “Socialism Is Not a Dream” (1888)
      (pp. 86-87)

      We in New York live at a remarkably fast pace. In a single day you often experience so much, as much as you would experience and ponder in five whole years in the calm, peaceful city of Cincinnati. In this letter, I want to share with you all the impressions that have flooded into me, like a boiling hot southern storm, from nearly the first day I came here. A new life, new energies, new truths, self-education, and an avid striving for light are noticeable here, especially in Jewish circles. But I’m not going to speak about that now. I...

    • 8 The Birth of the Knee-Pants Makers’ Union (memoir; 1924)
      (pp. 88-90)

      Of all the most important and exciting strikes by Jewish workers in 1890, the most interesting and characteristic one was the knee-pants makers’ strike.

      Nine hundred knee-pants makers went on a general strike with the demand that bosses and contractors provide sewing machines for their work. Until then, every knee-pants maker had to bring, in addition to their own feet and hands, their own “katerinke” [sewing machine], needles, thread, and so on to work. You used to work in sweatshops for small contractors who would get work from large clothing manufacturers. The knee-pants operators had to change bosses all the...

    • 9 “The Whole City Seethed” (1892)
      (pp. 91-92)

      The socialist demonstration in New York, which took place on Saturday evening, was a glowing success. The whole city seethed with marching workers who walked to the huge gathering in Union Square under the red flag. According to the newspapers, between 8,000 and 10,000 people assembled. The demonstration of Jewish workers was especially successful. At 6:00 p.m., Rutgers Square was black with people who arranged themselves into columns for the parade. At 7:30 p.m. the procession left Rutgers Square. Marching in the first division were the organizations of Districts 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the Socialist Labor Party, the...

    • 10 Working Women Unite (1893–1894)
      (pp. 93-94)

      Under this name, a group of more or less goal-oriented women have established a society in Paterson to cultivate the spirit of freedom in working women. The first meeting took place at the Proletariat Club, 59 Hamburg Ave. It was decided that, on every Saturday evening, formal readings and business meetings should take place at the Proletariat Club. All women are invited to the large mass meeting on Sunday, July 2, where Comrade Leontieff¹ will hold a lecture on The Women’s Question.

      Source: Di fraye arbeter shtime, June 23, 1893, p. 4.

      Last Friday evening, the Workingwomen’s Society held its...

    • 11 The Attempted Assassination of Henry Clay Frick (memoir; 1912)
      (pp. 95-96)

      The door of Frick’s private office, to the left of the reception-room, swings open as the colored attendant emerges, and I catch a flitting glimpse of a black-bearded, well-knit figure at a table in the back of the room.

      “Mistah Frick is engaged. He can’t see you now, sah,” the negro says, handing back my card.

      I take the pasteboard, return it to my case, and walk slowly out of the reception-room. But quickly retracing my steps, I pass through the gate separating the clerks from the visitors, and, brushing the astounded attendant aside, I step into the office on...

    • 12 The Prophet Karl Marx (c. 1910s)
      (pp. 97-98)

      Marx was a prophet, no less so than Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel. With honest conviction and courage he proclaimed the economic liberation of humanity. He appealed to the workers of the world and inspired them with his conviction that they are destined to fulfill the great task of abolishing poverty, thus putting an end to wars between nations and classes, and, in doing so, realize the great thousands-year-old dream of human brotherhood. Basically, Marx’s vision of a social order rooted in justice and equal opportunity for all, and whose blossoms are the joy of fellowship and brotherliness, were no less...

    • 13 “Our Mecca” (memoir; n.d.)
      (pp. 99-103)

      Properly speaking, Union Square—where Broadway meets Fourth Avenue and crosses 17th and 14th Streets—is not a part of the Lower East Side. But it was the Lower East Side that gave it life.

      The Square was our Mecca; the place where East met West, . . . where Uptown came Downtown. We gathered to make revolution and stayed to talk. And how we talked—anarchism, atheism, against the military, for birth control, against injustice, for socialism, for the rights of the workers to organize. Hardly a subject was left untouched by our excitement, by our passions, by our...

    • 14 “The Right to Control Birth” (1916)
      (pp. 104-108)

      We have met here in protest against the law which operates to keep the knowledge of contraception from the mothers of the poor and blinks the fact that the comfortable classes obtain that knowledge from their highlypaid physicians and from one another. We demand that the law which is a dead letter for the rich also become a dead letter for the poor, and declare that we shall continue in ever-increasing numbers to honor this law by breaking it. The poor and the physicians of the [poor], and those who realize the immediate necessity of spreading contraceptive knowledge, will not...

    • 15 A Personal and Confidential Letter to Louis Marshall (1917)
      (pp. 109-110)

      In reply to your kind inquiry of this date concerning the policy of the Jewish Daily Forward, I wish to say that it has been its desire to stand for strict obedience to the laws of the land. Whatever its policy may have been before the enactment of any particular law, it regards it to be its duty as well as that of its readers to observe unreservedly any and every law after its enactment. This policy has not been intentionally departed from.

      As the editor of the paper I propose in its future management to continue this policy and...

    • 16 Gangsters and Socialists on Election Day (memoir; 1944)
      (pp. 111-119)

      Election Day in this age of the voting machine is the day when a popular candidate, even if he belongs to a minority party, casts his vote to the click of news cameras and relaxes from the strain of his campaign. But when I first encountered politics, New York elections were often dirty and unsavory things, and a Socialist candidate on Election Day went through the experiences of a minor war.

      The polling places were generally in some untidy barbershop or in the elevating atmosphere of a funeral parlor. It was a common occurrence for toughs and gangsters to lounge...

    • 17 “If I Were a Colored Man What Would I Do?” (1919)
      (pp. 120-123)

      If I were born of Negro parentage, either full blooded or only mixed in part with the blood of other races, [. . .] I would hold high my head and steady my feet and say very proudly, very happily, very plainly: It is my best fortune to be counted one of those that are not the exploiters, the commercial robbers, the arrogant persecutors, the malicious egoists, but rather one of those that are the offspring and progenitors of the downtrodden, the unjustly persecuted, the dusky skinned or lighter skinned children of the persecuted Negro people.

      I would deem myself...

    • 18 The Meaning of Labor Day (1921)
      (pp. 124-125)

      In point of fact, the radical labor unions in this country have two labor holidays to celebrate. On May First they demonstrate their solidarity with the workers of the entire civilized world who adopted the first day of Spring as the day of demonstration and protest, a day on which they reassert their determination to wrest from life all they are rightfully entitled to as the builders and producers of all social wealth. Our second labor day is the first Monday in September, chosen many years ago by organized labor in America as a day for demonstrating its power, its...

    • 19 An Encounter with a Klansman (memoir; n.d.)
      (pp. 126-128)

      At the end of 1925, following the Fifth Convention of the Worker’s (Communist) Party,¹ I was invited to remain in Chicago where the National headquarters was situated, to serve as a member of the National Committee of the Communist youth movement. I found the atmosphere unbearable. The intrigue and the conniving of one group against the other occupied the entire time of the National leadership. The Communist youth movement was not growing. In the course of one of the meetings the question arose of doing more work in the field. Most members of the National Committee refused to leave Chicago...

    • 20 Communist “Criminals” in Los Angeles (1929)
      (pp. 129-132)

      Southern California has acquired another lot of political prisoners. What a sense of security and relief must have been in the homes of the “orange belt” when they opened their belovedTimesand read that five Russian Jewish working women have been sentenced to San Quentin, one for a period of from one to ten years, and the other four, from six months to five years, for the felony of conducting a summer camp for working children with the flag of Soviet Russia flying over it!

      I witnessed the scene in the courtroom, full of court officers and strict attorneys...

    • 21 “Unions with Brains” (1930)
      (pp. 133-134)

      The two most interesting trade unions in the United States today are in the garment trades. The Amalgamated Clothing Workers in the men’s clothing industry and the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union in the field of women’s wear have consistently applied brains to the solution of the practical problems facing them and have at the same time kept untarnished the social idealism of their Jewish socialist theories. As a result they have managed to give fresh hope to those who believe that labor organization is essential to a modern democratic society.

      The older union technique consisted in organizing the workers...

    • 22 In Defense of the Kentucky Miners (1932)
      (pp. 135-136)

      The following is a resolution unanimously passed at our Special Meeting held on Jan. 15, 1932, at Aristocrat Hall, 69 St. Marks Place, at which our Delegates reported about the Conference for the Defense of the Kentucky Miners¹ called by the General Defense Committee, held on Jan. 6, at the Labor Temple, 14th St. and Second Ave., New York, N.Y.:

      “We endorse the stand taken by our delegates to invite all other Labor organizations, regardless of their political beliefs, to join in the defense of the Kentucky Miners as well as of all political prisoners. We believe—as [do] our...

    • 23 “The Obligations of Youth Today” (1932)
      (pp. 137-139)

      Slaves, working, sweating, dying from the strain. This was the period when the Jews who were slaves in Egypt called for a leader. The Youth, the militant section of a people of a class realized that something was wrong. When a situation calls for a leader—a leader comes. Moses came. The Jews with their militant, thoughtful youth and a leader solved the problem before them. They became free again.

      Leaders and practical, thinking people are needed today more than ever before. Today we find that the people know something is wrong but there are few who know how to...

    • 24 “Some Vital Problems of Negro Labour” (1935)
      (pp. 140-143)

      In the past a great deal of criticism has been directed against organized labor for its alleged lack of interest in the special problems that face Negro workers. Much of this criticism, however, came from Negro leaders who possessed little or no understanding of the structural and functional nature of organized labor and less sympathy with its recognized aims and purposes. I speak as one who has definitely identified with the organized labor movement on both the industrial and political fields for over twenty years.

      To say that organized labor is without blame in these premises would be similar to...

    • 25 “Charlatans and Gangsters and Pompous Racketeers” (1938)
      (pp. 144-145)

      Three years ago I went to work at Rosman & Sheer’s shop. As a faithful union member I regularly attended meetings of the local. Often I heard Brother Gold, trade manager of Local 25, and Brother Hollander, General Manager, appeal to the workers not to break union regulations against overtime. In my shop they worked three and four hours overtime besides Saturdays. So one Friday I went to the union office to inform the Business Agent, Brother Weiner, as to what was going on. He was out, but an investigating committee was sent and found the shop working full blast....

    • 26 “With Nazism We All Are at War” (1942)
      (pp. 146-150)
      J. B. S. HARDMAN

      I rise to speak for the people of my father and my mother, the Jewish people.

      The record of Hitlerian atrocity, of the total destruction of the Jewish people in the Hitler held countries, destruction in cold blood and systematically carried out, is more than tragic. It is ghastly.

      The Nazis and their camp followers have used Jewish blood to lubricate the wheels of their vehicles, riding to conquest in country after country, to world conquest as they see it in their dreams.

      The record is ghastly. The facts I submit come from authoritative sources, the Czech Government-in-Exile, the Polish...


    • 27 “Their Intense Desire to Study” (1893)
      (pp. 153-156)

      Most men, if asked what class of immigrants they considered the least desirable, would answer, the Russian Jews. There is a preconceived idea that because most of the Russian Jews are dirty, cannot speak the English language, and live closely crowded in unwholesome, ill-smelling tenement quarters, they therefore form an objectionable part of our population. These facts are the chief cause of the popular prejudice against them. To these causes there might be added that vague, indefinite phrase that they do not assimilate with our people. Thus even those who are willing enough to admit our indebtedness to immigration in...

    • 28 The Power of Speech and Education (1893)
      (pp. 157-158)

      The New Haven Educational Club (1893) The New Haven Educational Club held a banquet specifically for the intelligent public. Comrade Leontieff¹ spoke to our group two weeks ago with so much success that we decided to invite him to give another lecture on Sunday, Dec. 17, 3:00 p.m. The gathering and banquet will be only for select attendees who want to learn something. [. . .] We state this clearly to those who will perhaps not be able to understand [Leontieff’s lecture] because we are not making this a mass gathering. We have decided to hold a series of scientific...

    • 29 “For That, We Found Time” (interview; 1965)
      (pp. 159-161)

      I recall on Saturday nights we’d gather in each other’s apartments and try to read English. We were limited, naturally enough, because none of us went to school. We tried to go to school, and then overtime [at work] would interfere. Evening classes, when they were available, were useless because it was a question of attending school or keeping a job. And naturally we chose to keep the job because that meant making a living.

      The things we liked most of course were the things that more or less reflected or symbolized our own feelings of conditions and life in...

    • 30 A Lower East Side Vacation (1903)
      (pp. 162-167)

      “Green fields, fair forests, singing streams, pine-clad mountains, verdant vista—from the monotony of the city to the monotony of nature. I wanted a complete change, and so I went to the East Side of New York for my vacation. That is where I have been.”

      Thus did our friend explain his strange disappearance and unusual absence from Boston for a whole week. For the first time since he came here from New York he had been missing from his home, his regular haunts, such as the cafés, Jewish book-stores and the debating club, and none of those whom I...

    • 31 “Jewish Working People . . . Have Lost All Interest in the Synagogue” (1905)
      (pp. 168-173)

      When I came to America, at the age of fifteen, I was fully equipped with a prayer-book, phylacteries, a “four-corners,” promising forelocks—with everything, in short, to indicate my strict orthodox training, and to insure its preservation in the “New Wanton World,” as America is often styled in Russia. I remember distinctly how cynically my older brother, who brought me here, smiled when he saw me armed with this religious ammunition, ready to go to the synagogue.

      “All right,” he said, while packing his lunch-box; “if you want to go to a synagogue, I’ll take you there. It is on...

    • 32 “Peripatetic Philosophers” (1910)
      (pp. 174-178)

      There is Scriptural authority for the statement that the ancient Athenians were never content unless discussing some new thing. New York, all Pantheon-less as it is, is in this respect the legitimate successor of the glory that was Greece. It is the talkiest city in the world. There are more new ideas set forth to a benighted universe in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx (the Bronx especially must not be omitted) than in any area of similar size on the globe.

      Not only does this town of ours follow in the path of the philosophical Athenians, but they have a...

    • 33 Yiddish Lectures in Philadelphia (1916)
      (pp. 179-182)
      A. FAYNMAN

      I want, at the request of the Arbeter Ring’s National Education Committee, to give a brief overview of the lectures we have arranged this season.

      It is true that we haven’t had the opportunity to complete the entire program we worked out. But we have our city’s policemen to thank for that because they did not allow us, not even for a single instant, to raise money on Sunday (thereby desecrating the holiness of the day of rest), which we had hoped would enable us to continue the work for the rest of the season. Therefore, we were forced to...

    • 34 “A Language That He Wants to and Must Forget” (1918)
      (pp. 183-184)
      B. SHEYFER

      Permit me to say a couple of words about the educational work of the Arbeter Ring.

      I think that the work, as now conducted, is wasted. As far as the Arbeter Ring’s courses go there can be no discussion. I cannot imagine there is a single member of the Arbeter Ring interested in studying “geology” in Yiddish, if he already knows a world language. The same applies to “political economy” and “physiology.” [. . .] These words are simply foreign. Show me a member of the Arbeter Ring who can pronounce the word “geology” without stammering? In the old country...

    • 35 “America’s Most Interesting Daily” (1922)
      (pp. 185-190)

      Which is the most vital, the most interesting, the most democratic of New York’s daily journals? If one should ask this question of one hundred New Yorkers and suggest that the answer involved the name of a foreign language newspaper there would be indignant protests. A good many votes would be cast for theWorld,and theGlobewould doubtless run well. Yet in my judgment the truth is that theForwardoutshines them all—and the vast bulk of New Yorkers does not know that any such journal exists, much less that it has 200,000 paid circulation. The reason...

    • 36 “The Strongest Weapons in the Hands of Jewish Workers” (1924)
      (pp. 191-193)

      Comrades! The United Jewish Workers’ Cultural Society has finished its first year of activity.

      Twelve months ago the Cultural Society was no more than the sincere wish of a few to bring light and soul into the hardened life of the local Jewish working masses. Now it is the cultural expression of the healthiest part of the Chicago Jewish working class and its grass-roots intellectuals.

      Over the course of the past year the United Jewish Workers’ Cultural Society has become an important factor in the cultural life of the local revolutionary Jewish workers—a solidly rooted cultural institution, which now...

    • 37 The Aims of Workers’ Education (1926)
      (pp. 194-197)

      The function of Workers’ Education is to assist in the all-important task of making our world a better place for all. The truth is clear that it is the mission of the workers themselves to abolish the inequalities and injustices which they suffer, and that they can accomplish this only through organization. But it is equally clear that economic strength is much more effective if directed by intelligent, well informed, clear thinking men and women.

      The purpose of the educational activities of the I.L.G.W.U. is to provide the Labor Movement with such men and women. The courses arranged by the...

    • 38 Sexual Relations from a Communist Standpoint (1928)
      (pp. 198-198)
      N. GLASS

      We, a group of comrades, turn to you with a request to clarify for us the following question: what is Communist morality regarding married life? Is a couple, legally married or not, obligated [to be faithful] to one another? [. . .] Is it moral, from a Communist standpoint, to have sexual relations with one person when one is bound to another? Should one’s conscience play some role in such a case? Does one side, which wants to be freed from the other, but cannot because of various reasons, have a right to engage in sexual relations with a stranger?...

    • 39 “Sow the Field of Yiddish Cultural Tradition” (1939)
      (pp. 199-203)

      At this difficult time, our hearts, wills, and might have been strengthened to withstand adversity and, with persistence, to build and establish a healthy, productive Jewish life. This persistence has also intensi-fied our desire to study, to learn the Yiddish language and its literature, and to bring the “Yiddish word” into homes where it is now unfamiliar.

      It is truly wonderful that just at this distressing moment, the Jewish woman and Jewish mother take an interest in the Yiddish word, eagerly taking to Yiddish literature and familiarizing themselves with Yiddish cultural production. What’s especially gratifying is how the Jewish woman...

    • 40 “The Responsibility of English-Speaking Jewish Intellectuals” (1946)
      (pp. 204-208)

      Among many educated Jews today, Jewish culture is treated like an unwanted “poor relation.” When “important” guests, such as the cultures of other nations, arrive and are ceremoniously entertained in the parlor “the poor thing” is obliged to slink away and hide itself in the kitchen.

      This attitude is more widespread than one would be led to think. It is perfectly understandable in the case of the bourgeois assimilationists. They have a cowardly compulsion to deny, ignore, or gloss over their Jewish origin because the stock of their identity has very low market value on the fascist exchange. Vulgar opportunists,...


    • 41 In Honor of Red Sunday (1906)
      (pp. 211-213)

      The first anniversary of “Red Sunday,” of Jan. 22, 1905, when thousands of Russian workingmen were shot down in St. Petersburg while endeavoring to submit an appeal to the Czar, was celebrated in New York yesterday.

      Between 5,000 and 6,000 Polish, Roumanian, German, and Russian Jews gathered at Rutgers Square, in East Broadway, and to the step of the “Marsellaise” marched through the lower east side up to Union Square, where they assembled to hear half a dozen speeches denunciatory of the Czar and to adopt resolutions calling for Russian freedom.

      There had been expectations that at least 50,000 men...

    • 42 Leon Trotsky on Second Avenue (memoir; 1944)
      (pp. 214-218)

      Back in 1917 the Café Monopole, at the corner of Second Avenue and Ninth Street in downtown New York, was the hub of the social life of the East Side intelligentsia. Flowing ties, odd costumes, variegated beards and silver-topped walking sticks, set the habitués of this hangout apart from their more conservatively attired fellows. Teachers, journalists, actors, ex-actors, would-be actors, painters, and sculptors constituted for the most part its colorful clientele. Unpublished writers rubbed shoulders with recognized literary lions. They gossiped and chattered; but most of all they argued. They sat at their tables consuming enormous quantities of Russian tea...

    • 43 “These Glad Days of Russian Freedom” (1917)
      (pp. 219-220)

      In these glad days of Russian freedom my thoughts were with you many times. [. . .] It was Thursday afternoon March 15. I lay in bed racked by a crunching pain in the back; my throat was sore and my heart beat irregularly under the stress of fever. [. . .] Suddenly, Jay² came in and beaming with joy held out before me an evening edition of a newspaper with large headlines reading: Revolution in Russia, Czar abdicates, etc.

      Throat, back and heart were obliterated, I felt calm at first, took in the news as a matter of fact...

    • 44 New York Socialists Contribute to Chaos in Russia (1917)
      (pp. 221-223)

      That some of the radicals who went from New York to join the Bolsheviki in Petrograd may have violated the passport regulations of the United States was alleged in a statement issued yesterday by the American Alliance for Labor and Democracy,¹ of which Samuel Gompers² is the head. The statement identified some of the men who have gone from New York to Russia as being leaders in the radical socialist movement here and linked their going Russia with the so-called People’s Council,³ a pacifist organization, with headquarters in the city.

      That there is a direct line of communication between the...

    • 45 “The New Man” (1921)
      (pp. 224-227)

      [. . .] Perhaps the most striking feature of the new man is intrepidity. All those doubts, queries, forebodings which torture the old intelligentzia are unknown to him. His philosophy is quite definite, the philosophy of economic materialism. His social conceptions amount to a firm conviction of the possibility and feasibility at the present moment of a socialist state in all the modern countries the world over. His dislike of the bourgeoisie is not the fruit of altruistic emotions but it is part of his nature. He is not aware of theoretical profundities. He cares little for religion. He is...

    • 46 Communism and Freedom of Speech (1925)
      (pp. 228-238)

      Minutes of the Secretariat (Jan. 17, 1925)

      Present: [Alexander] Bittelman,¹ [Max] Bedacht,² [Earl] Browder³Abramovich Campaign

      Communication from the CI [Communist International] advising of Abramovich visit to United States for purpose of launching propaganda against Russia, and outlining counter-campaign.

      Motion by Bittelman:

      Program to combat the counter-revolutionary mission of the emissary of the Second International to the U.S., Mr. Abramovich.

      In view of the fact that the mission of Mr. Abramovich [. . .] is to carry on a campaign for moral, financial, and political support against the Soviet Republic, against the international unity movement of the trade unions, and...

    • 47 A Revolutionary Returns (1929)
      (pp. 239-248)

      I had a very close friend in New York years ago. When the split between the Left Wing and Right Wing in our movement happened, he became a Leftist.¹ He never belonged to the Communist Party, but he was friendly toward it, attended its gatherings, gave money, in a word, helped in respects. He worked as a dentist and earned very well. In 1922, he decided take his wife and child back to Russia. Before leaving he came to say goodbye to me. I pleaded with him: “Motl, don’t go!” But he didn’t listen. He gave me only one answer:...

    • 48 Building Communism in the Ukraine (interview, 1981–1982)
      (pp. 249-253)

      I arrived in Leningrad on December 1st, 1931. There were winter skies in Leningrad, you have an everlasting mid-night there during that period, so in wandering the streets, wet with snow, slushy, no lights, no store fronts lit so you look in the windows to see what they were selling and we saw cheeses but no foods and in another shop it looked like second hand clothes. But you saw shabby poverty in the streets, the buildings and the people, because in 1931 they were suffering a famine period and this was the end of the first five year plan...

    • 49 “G.P.U. Intrigues in America” (1938)
      (pp. 254-257)

      That the G.P.U.¹ maintains its spies in foreign countries has been known to many, but it was generally assumed that their main activities centered upon the tasks of informing on and denouncing each other or keeping track of the latest Moscow line. But several occurrences in the past few years have revealed the astonishing and horrible fact that the Stalinist octopus has extended its tentacles far beyond the courtroom walls and the G.P.U. dungeons of Moscow. Its human victims are seized on the shores of Geneva, on the Barricades of Barcelona, even on the streets of New York, and transported...

    • 50 Fighting Stalinists and Chasing Girls (memoir; 1965)
      (pp. 258-263)

      All of the headquarters looked alike and had the same general atmosphere. On the wall hung large pictures of Marx and Engels, sometimes flanked by photos of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, the martyrs of the 1918–19 German revolution. But the places of honor on the walls of our headquarters were always reserved for a picture or drawing of Lenin and one of Leon Trotsky. We called Trotsky the Old Man, using the phrase not to refer to his age but to the place he held in our consciousness as the commander of our forces.

      The drabness of the...

    • 51 The Murder of Ehrlich and Alter (1943)
      (pp. 264-267)

      The Stalinist crimes against the international labor movement have not ceased with Hitler’s invasion of Russia. Nor has the preoccupation with the greatest war in Russian history eliminated murder as a political weapon in the labor movement by the infamous regime of Cain Stalin. This was once more brought to light with the announcement, a few weeks ago, that Henryk Ehrlich and Victor Alter, leaders of the Jewish Workers Party of Poland,¹ seized by the GPU when the Red Army invaded Poland, were secretly executed as agents of Hitler’s Gestapo!

      The mystery of this case was cleared up when William...

    • 52 The Soviet Union Reappraised (1956)
      (pp. 268-276)

      The wiping out of Soviet Jewish culture, confirmed in the past few months, horrified us. The revelations also impose obligations upon us. Why did this magazine in the past eight years fail to raise questions concerning the shutting down of Jewish cultural institutions in the Soviet Union? Why did we not suspect foul play in the disappearance of leading Soviet Yiddish writers?¹ Why did we not detect the anti-Semitism injected in the Prague trial?²

      Answers to these questions constitute our form of apology to our readers for having failed them in these important respects.

      We feel sorrow and resentment—but...


    • 53 “The Whole Thing Is Ridiculous” (1906)
      (pp. 279-285)

      The newest stream of Jewish immigration, driven to these shores by waves of the Russian Revolution, and its counterpart, the atrocious massacres of Jews, has brought in its wake an undercurrent of new ideas and ideals which of late has excited the interest of the Jews in their old homes.

      As a result the little world in the so-called Ghetto is teeming with new life, new aspirations, new problems and new hopes.

      Until recently the intellectual life of the great East Side of New York was absorbed mainly in social questions of a general nature, or, to be more correct,...

    • 54 “The Jewish Militant” (1906)
      (pp. 286-287)

      [. . .] The Jewish militant faces a difficult struggle to liberate the Jew from his dual suffering as both a Jew and a human being. Even so, he will break down the walls of the old ghetto and those of the new ghetto,¹ and unite with freedom fighters of all nations to struggle for the equal rights of all people, regardless of sex, color, and nationality, and for the humanization of all people and their unification in one large family of peoples—humanity! The motto of all militants is, “In struggle shall your freedom be achieved!” And “If I...

    • 55 Zionism and Transnationalism (1916)
      (pp. 288-293)

      Before the American people at the present time there are two ideals of American nationalism, sharply focused and emphasized by the war. One is that of the traditional melting-pot, the other is that of a co-operation of cultures. The first is congenial to the ruling class, the nativist element of our population; the second appeals, however vaguely, to the leaders of the various self-conscious European national groups which have settled here. The idealism of the melting-pot would assimilate all Europeans, as they are received into the American social and economic scheme, to a very definite type, that of the prevailing...

    • 56 “Should We Change Our Stance toward Zionism?” (1918)
      (pp. 294-297)

      We are living in a time of confusion, just like the generation after Babel. We doubt accepted truths. We reappraise old values.

      It is understandable that we are reappraising the values whose worth has in recent times been somewhat shaken. But in our devastating critique we even dare to take on those truths whose value has not at all changed.

      We have in mind here our stance toward the Zionist movement.

      Our main argument against the Zionist movement is that it is a nationalist, not class-based, movement. It is an example of petit-bourgeois, not proletarian, struggle.

      And it remains as...

    • 57 “The Pogroms in Palestine” (1929)
      (pp. 298-300)

      The pogroms against Jews in Palestine have taken on the character of a bloody catastrophe. Murderous attacks by Arabs against Jews have occurred several times in recent years. The hateful mood, which has recently been incited against Jews in Palestine, is also known. But nobody had imagined that such a fire of blood and hatred would break out in the Land of Israel. Nobody had imagined that such would be possible under English rule and in a land where the Jewish population consists entirely of a creative, constructive element.

      It will still take time for all the facts behind the...

    • 58 A Revolt of the Oppressed Arab Masses (1929)
      (pp. 301-303)

      The Zionists and Jewish nationalists and chauvinists of all kinds led a demonstration yesterday on the streets of New York as a protest against the events in Palestine. Against whom did the Jewish nationalists protest? What have they demanded?

      The Zionists, the longtime agents of British imperialism in Palestine, are looking to present the events in Palestine as an outbreak of “half wild Arab bandits, which . . . have in one week destroyed and ruined that which has taken many years for the Jews to build”—so writes the Zionist bourgeois newspaperDer tog

      They have protested, that is,...

    • 59 “Jew and Arab” (1934)
      (pp. 304-307)

      In Palestine I asked myself many times have I told the truth about Palestine? Was I justified in claiming for years that we have not harmed the Arabs economically; that the Arabs were better off with us than without us?

      I made no scholarly study of the question. For that I had neither the time nor the specialist’s knowledge. However, while traveling about the country—visiting towns and villages, houses and hovels, observing women and children—I came to an inescapable, no longer theoretical conclusion: the closer an Arab settlement lay to the zone of Jewish colonization, the better fed...

    • 60 “Give Up the Illusion of Building a Jewish Homeland” (1936)
      (pp. 308-311)

      The present situation in Palestine is the result of the three-cornered conflict between Jews, Arabs and English imperialism, a conflict of some years, and one which is growing steadily more severe. The situation must be considered in the light of the historic background from which the conflict began. The main forces responsible for that conflict must be defined and effort made toward a solution of this problem. [. . .]

      The old Roman motto, “divide and rule” is practiced in a complete form by English Imperialism in Palestine.

      In consonance with this strategy the chauvinistic impulses of the Arab and...

    • 61 Jewish Upbuilding Is Revolutionizing Palestine (1939)
      (pp. 312-315)

      [. . .] Since 1920, the Jewish community in Palestine was subjected to four pogrom-attacks—each more violent than the preceding one. Now, if we have learned anything from Jewish history, we learned this: no pogrom occurs in any country whose government does not want it to occur. Surely, British imperialism, which rules over a quarter of the globe, could find a way to cope with the small terrorist bands in Palestine, especially when the Palestinian Jew is not at all ready to be slaughtered without a fight.

      The pogroms were never unexpected. The air was charged before each attack....

    • 62 “The Jewish Problem Will Be Solved as Soon as the Jews Again Become a Normal Nation” (1943)
      (pp. 316-318)

      Certain benevolent people like to ask us: “Why do you bother us with the so-called Jewish question? After the fall of Fascism and the victory of Democracy (or Socialism, or Communism) everything will be all right. The Jews will enjoy equal rights with everybody else and will no longer constitute a special problem.”

      The victory of Democracy (or Socialism, etc.) can achieve much and improve many things, but it will not produce one major result, i.e., the abolition of existing nations of mankind. To have a hope that one day all the nations of the world will disappear and that...

    • 63 The Final Emancipation of the Jews Is the Struggle for Socialism (1946)
      (pp. 319-321)

      The development of anti-Semitism, the result of definite social and historic causes, is producing the spread of Zionist nationalism among the despairing and declassed petty bourgeois Jewish masses. The brutal equalization of Jews of all strata in the extermination camps sharpened nationalism even among Jewish workers, in the degree that international solidarity remained too weak on the part of the workers of other nations. It is up to those who find themselves in a favored position as compared with the Jewish workers to take the leadership now and bring about freedom of immigration into their countries for their survivors. This...

    • 64 Jewish National Aspirations Are Not a Violation of Marxist Principles (1947)
      (pp. 322-326)

      The reaction of the official Fourth Internationalist organization to the Jewish question and the problem of Palestine in the new situation produced by Hitlerism and the war is a measure of their incapacity to free themselves from outlived theories and political positions. This results in a dreary reaffirmation of old ideas and programs accompanied by the repetitious explanation that “there is no reason to change our position” since “there is nothing new in the situation.” Thus it is the same with the Russian question, the national question and the Jewish question. For the most part, these organizations, most notably the...

    • 65 Israel and the World Struggle for Peace and Democracy (1948)
      (pp. 327-332)

      The emergence of the state of Israel at this time is of considerable international significance. For the Jewish people this marks a great milestone in its history.

      It can be safely assumed that the struggles of the Jewish masses against national discrimination and for equal rights in countries where Jewish communities suffer from anti-Semitic persecutions and inequality, will become intensified and strengthened because of the rise of Israel. Depending upon the degree of influence which the anti-imperialist and labor forces in Israel will be able to exercise upon the policies and development of the new state, Israel may in time...

  10. Recommended Reading on Jewish Radicals
    (pp. 333-334)
  11. Index
    (pp. 335-348)
  12. About the Editor
    (pp. 349-349)