Leon Trotsky

On The Jewish Problem


Written: 1934.
First Published: 1934.
Source: Class Struggle, Official Organ Of The Communist League Of Struggle (Adhering to the International Left Opposition), Volume 4 Number 2, February 1934.
Translated: B.H.
Online Version: Vera Buch & Albert Weisbord Internet Archive
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Albert Weisbord Internet Archive/David Walters.

I. Question: Does the Left Opposition have to make special demands to win the Jewish working class in America?

Answer: The role of the foreign-born Jewish worker in the American proletarian revolution will be a very great one, and in some respects decisive. There is no question but that the Left Opposition must do all it can to penetrate into the life of the Jewish workers.

II. Question: What is your attitude towards the Jewish language. Why do you in your autobiography characterize it as “jargon”?

Answer: My attitude towards the Jewish language is similar to that of all languages, If I really used, in my autobiography the term “jargon”, it is because in the years of my youth in Odessa the Jewish language was not called Yiddish, as today, but “jargon” Such was the expression of Jews themselves, who did not consider it a sign of superciliousness. The word Yiddish is in universal use for the last 15-20 years. I can see this even in France.

III. Question: In the Jewish circles you are considered to be an “assimilator”. What is your attitude towards assimilation?

Answer: I do not understand why I should be considered as an “assimilator”. I do not know, generally, what kind of a meaning this word holds. I am, it is understood, opposed to Zionism and all such forms of self-isolation on the part of the Jewish workers. I call upon the Jewish workers of France to better acquaint themselves with the problems of French life and of the French working class. Without that it is difficult to participate in the working class movement of that country in which they are being exploited. As the Jewish proletariat is spread in different countries it is necessary for the Jewish worker, outside of his own language, to strive to know the language of other countries as a weapon in the class struggle. What has that to do with “assimilation?”

IV. Question: The official Communist Party characterized, without question, the Jewish-Arab events in 1929 in Palestine as the revolutionary uprising of the oppressed Arabian masses. What is your opinion of this policy?

Answer: Unfortunately, I am not thoroughly familiar with the facts to venture a definite opinion. I am now studying the question. Then it will be easier to see in what proportion and in what degree there were present those elements such as National Liberationists (Anti-imperialists) and reactionary Mohammedans and Anti-Semitic Pogromists. On the surface, it seems to me that all these elements were there.

V. Question: What is your attitude about Palestine as a possible Jewish “Homeland” and about a land for the Jews generally? Don’t you believe that the anti-Semitism of German Fascism compels a different approach to the Jewish question on the part of Communists?

Answer: Both the Fascist State in Germany, as well as the Arabian Jewish struggle bring forth new and very clear verifications of the principles that the Jewish question cannot be served within the frame work of capitalism. I do not know whether Jewry will be built up again as a nation. However, there can be no doubt that the material conditions for the existence of Jewry as an independent nation could be brought about only by the proletarian revolution. There is no such a thing on our planet as the idea that one has more claim to land than another.

The establishment of a territorial base for Jewry in Palestine or any other country is conceivable only with the migrations of large human masses. Only a triumphant Socialism can take upon itself such tasks. It can be foreseen that it may take place either on the basis of a mutual understanding, or with the aid of a kind of international proletarian tribunal which should take up this question and solve it.

The blind-alley in which German Jewry finds itself as well as the blind-alley in which Zionism finds itself is inseparably bound up with the blind-alley of world capitalism, as a whole. Only when the Jewish workers clearly see this inter-relationship will they be forewarned against pessimism and despair.

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Last updated on: 8 February 2016