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Labor Action, 11 April 1949


Al Findley

Anti-Semitism Growing in Stalin Government


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 15, 11 April 1949, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Slowly there has seeped out a mass of evidence to prove the existence of strong anti-Semitic tendencies behind the Iron Curtain in Russia. The evidence shows that the Stalinist bureaucracy is practising discrimination against the Jews and slowly but surely eliminating them from public life. The question that puzzles most observers is what this policy means. Is the government accommodating itself to prejudices and adopting a shortsighted method of minimizing anti-Semitism by hushing it up and keeping Jews out of the public eye? Or does this signify a conscious and direct adoption of anti-Semitism as a governmental policy?

The events of the past few months clearly indicate that the creeping discrimination and anti-Semitism that began in the late 1930s has now become governmental policy.

The fact that this program is only in its inception and that little is permitted to be known should not blind us to the real danger. For the first time, Stalinism has emerged as an anti-Semitic force that places a question-mark on the survival of the Jews of Russia. Unbelief of the facts and a wait-and-see attitude may doom Russian Jewry.

An incredulous world finds it hard to believe that the Stalinists, who make such a furor about the lack of race hatred and the illegalization of anti-Semitism in Russia should now embark on a conscious and centrally-directed anti-Semitism. As late as 1944, the world and even some socialists refused to believe that the avowedly anti-Semitic Nazis were actually engaged in an exterminationist program against the Jews.

Trend Reversed

Once in a decade is enough. The error of waiting must not be repeated. Especially since it is NOW, when Stalinist anti-Semitism is only in its beginnings, that a vigorous protest and publicity on the part of Jewish

organizations and the labor movement can be most effective and perhaps prevent a full-blown development of Stalinist anti-Semitism.

Czarist Russia, and especially the western provinces of the czarist empire, were infested with anti-Semitism. The Russian Revolution outlawed anti-Semitism and combated it in every form. With the exception of the NEP period, anti-Semitism steadily declined and reached its low point in 1935–36.

The consolidation of Stalinist totalitarianism reversed this trend. A “new” anti-Semitism arose, reflecting the tendencies by various bureaucratic groups to eliminate the Jews from influential positions and to reduce the proportion of Jews in occupations reserved for the elite. No mass movement from below, this “cold war” was effective and also contributed to the spreading of anti-Jewish feelings in the masses.

The great purges that accompanied the consolidation of the Stalinist counter-revolution had as their main targets old-guard Bolsheviks, among the most distinguished of whom were Jews – Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Radek. For a short period during the purges, anti-Semitism broke into the open. Stalin was not above using anti-Semitism as a weapon. But this was only a flash in the pan. Postpurge anti-Semitism was not open, but to the extent that personnel data on the Stalinist elite can be found, the cold and silent squeezing out of Jews stands out as a definite trend.

In 1940, in the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR from Western Ukraine, White Russia and Poland, an area inhabited by millions of Jews, not a single Jew was elected. In occupied territories, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (February 25, 1940), there was “not a single Jew in an important position.” “Jews in Eastern Galicia are accepted only in SMALL NUMBERS in the military school system, and as state engineers.” In the rest of Russia, analysis of personnel figures to the extent that they give clues shows a decided and unexplained drop in the percentage of Jews in the preferred positions and occupations in Stalinist Russia of this period.

These anti-Semitic tendencies were heightened as a result of the Stalin- Hitler Pact. In the period between the signing of the pact and the Nazi attack on Russia, all mention of Nazi atrocities against Jews was eliminated from the press. There were many reports of sympathetic discussion of Nazi race theories among leading Soviet groups. (Jewish Morning Journal, March 1940)

After the Nazi attack the situation changed. There was plenty of publicity given Nazi atrocities but rarely were Jews mentioned. Their numbers were always included as Russians, Ukrainians, etc. Russian nationalism and patriotism were given almost exclusive attention. With the exception of the Russian-Yiddish press, the Nazi atrocities against the Jews and the struggle against anti-Semitism were not given even a minor place – only a microscopic position. This same attitude of almost complete silence on the tragedy of the Jews continues in post-war official reports.

Nor was the situation different in regard to the Jewish contributions toward winning the war. Newspapermen, war correspondents, fiction writers, etc., in language other than Jewish, systematically refrained from mentioning performances of Jews in the conduct of the war. So complete were the Jews removed from sight that there can be no doubt that there was a strict government directive on this subject to the Russian writers.

Exclusion Policy

After the war, the anti-Semitic pattern of exclusionism, begun in the late 1930s and reinforced by the war, continued and deepened everywhere, except in the Ukraine. An exception was made of the Ukraine in order to combat the active nationalist movement which used anti-Semitism as an anti-Russian weapon. When the Ukraine was retaken, at first Jewish officials were prevented from returning to their posts. Later this policy was abandoned. Under Lazar Kaganovich, many Jewish party officials, managers, etc., returned to the Ukraine. This was true, however, only in the higher ranks; little attempt was made to restore Jews to jobs where they came into contact with the rest of the population.

In the rest of Russia, the policy of exclusion was greatly increased. The percentage of Jews elected to both houses of the Russian parliament dropped much below their relative standing in the population, even after taking into account the decimation of the Jews by the Nazis. This is in sharp contrast with the previous pattern, where Jews had a slightly higher representation than their relative proportion in the population.

In recent years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has become almost completely “Judenrein” (as the Nazis put it). There have been continuous reports that NO Jews are accepted for training in foreign service. While a few Jews remain officially as vice-ministers, Litvinov, Losovsky and Maisky, none of these are ever heard of in connection with important diplomatic receptions or events.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not the only place where Jews have been eliminated. The same holds true for the Ministry of Foreign Trade and to a lesser extent in the armed forces.

Russian nationalism has been made the dominating motif in post-war Stalinist Russia. This nationalism no longer pretends to be Soviet nationalism, but is more and more assuming the character of “Great Russian” nationalism. The sharpest form this nationalism has taken is the violent purge of the arts and sciences. The slogan is “Love the Fatherland – Hate Cosmopolitanism.”

Anti-Semitism at Work

Most people are familiar with the comic claims of the Russians to have discovered everything .from airplanes to Henry Wallace’s hybrid corn. But what few people know is that this campaign is NOW being used PRIMARILY against Jewish writers, critics, etc., and used in such a way that there can be no doubt that this is a centrally directed governmental anti-Semitic program.

Of the 50 intellectuals publicly attacked during the last two months, 49 are Jewish. Where the Jewish origin of the accused is obscured by an adopted Russian name, the original Jewish name is quoted by the Russian press in parentheses. Where extended references are made to a writer, his pen-name is used only once; the rest of the time his Jewish name is stressed. The only time this happened before was during the great purges, when Kamenev’s and Zinoviev’s Jewish names were stressed.

An article in the February 12 Literary Gazette refers to a “malignant putrid story written by homeless cosmopolitan Melnikoff (Mehlman).” Another article in the same issue twice mentions the “cynical impudent activities of B. Yakovleff (Holtzman).” In a subsequent issue a literary critic with the good Russian name of Kholodoff is revealed as “homeless cosmopolitan” Meyrovitch. In the February 19 Pravda Ukrainy three noted literary critics, I. Stebun, Ya Burlachenko and L. Sanoff, are identified as “homeless cosmopolitans” Katzenelenbogen, Berdichevsky and Schmulson respectively.

The Jewish publishing house Ernes has been closed and the only Yiddish language daily, Einigkeit, suspended. There exists today in Russia NOT A SINGLE Yiddish paper or publishing house for the two to three million Jews who live in Russia. A number of Jewish intellectuals have been arrested. Among them is believed to be Johann Altman, a literary critic, described in a recent issue of Soviet Art as a “double dealer, a man with the dark soul of a traitor, a servant of the imperialist West, a diversionist in art.”

The homeless cosmopolitans are accused of the usual offenses: decadence, bourgeois materialism, and admiration for things foreign. But the bitterness, viciousness and spite of the onslaught are unparalleled. According to playwright Safronoff, the homeless cosmopolitans have even “utilized the experience of the anti-Soviet underground.”

N.I. Gussaroff, secretary of the Byelorussian Communist Party, in a speech February 17 declared; “Only one theater in the Byelorussian Republic – a Jewish one – puts on unpatriotic plays in which life in America is praised.”

Czarist Language

The anti-Semitic nature of these attacks is greatly enhanced when one takes into consideration the fact that Jews from all fields of creative endeavor are lumped together and treated as a collective unit; that the attackers are exclusively Great Russians, and no other nationalities like Ukrainians, Armenians, etc., are permitted to do the job; that the czarist government often justified repressive measures against Russian Jews by referring to them as cosmopolitans; that the terminology of the attackers – shopkeepers, merchants, landless, passportless – is the stereotype used by all European anti-Semites.

The evidence of Stalinist anti-Semitism is only beginning to be accumulated. The need of the Stalinists to pose as friends of minorities in order to gather some popular support will probably never permit an OPEN anti-Semitism, but they will continue to use such charges as cosmopolitanism, etc. Other pretenses may be more difficult to pierce. It is also not excluded that in their cynicism the Stalinists may exile the Jews to Siberia and proclaim to the world that they have solved the Jewish problem. The time to stop them is now!

[Sources used for the above article: Yiddishe Kempfer, March 17–18, 1949; Solomon N. Schwarz: Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, Newsweek, April 4, 1949.]

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