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Labor Action, 20 June 1949


A. Findley

CP Defense on Anti-Semitism Flops

Stalinist Apologizers on Anti-Jewish Campaign
in Russia Duck Facts, Contradict Themselves


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 25, 20 June 1949, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Stalinist counter-offensive on the question of Russian anti-Semitism is under way. After a long interval during which they prudently kept silent, their propaganda channels are going full-blast in an attempt to prove that the whole thing is a “hoax.”

One of the most ambitious tries has been a recent series of articles by one Tom O’Connor in the new New York daily, the Daily Compass. (This alleged newspaper is edited by T.O. Thackrey, lately ousted from his co-editorship of the N.Y. Post because of his pro-Stalinist line; it has taken over the most blatant pro-CP writers of the old PM and Star, added a crew of others, and reads like a washed-down version of the Daily Worker.)

“You Ducked!”

The very first “argument” put forward by O’Connor brings to mind the old tale: Johnny threw a stone at Jimmy. Jimmy ducked and the stone broke a window. “Look what you did!” said Jimmy. “It’s your fault,” yelled Johnny – “you ducked!”

O’Connor actually argues that people who expose anti-Semitism in Russia are helping the anti-Semites, who can now say: “See, even the Russians tried and couldn’t get along with those people ...” But if anti-Semitism actually exists under Stalin, what does this line mean? “It’s your fault – you ducked!”

Don’t expose the fact of anti-Semitism in Russia, says O’Connor, because that gives heart to the enemies of the Jews. We’ve heard that line before, but not from Stalinoids like O’Connor. They are ready to yell at the top of their lungs (and justifiedly) at the least sign of Jim Crow or anti-Semitism in any country of the world, provided that country is not Stalin’s dubious paradise.

It is not the protesters who help anti-Semitism but the Stalin regime which is fostering that ancient evil.

Gives U.S. a Weapon

It is perfectly true, as the Stalinists and Stalinoids say, that the great publicity accompanying the exposure of anti-Semitism behind the Iron Curtain is being used as a weapon of U.S. imperialism in the cold war against Russia. If this were the honeymoon days of U.S.-Russian alliance during the late imperialist war, the same agencies that are busy exposing the scandal would be just as concerned with hushing it up, or would be persuaded to hush it up, in order not to embarrass our “noble ally.”

But neither consideration ought to sway any socialist or liberal in examining the facts and making them known to those who are duped by the Russian tyranny.

If the scandal is a U.S. weapon in the cold war, it is Stalin and his regime which has put that weapon in its hand. Liberals and socialists have no reason to remain silent about an injustice simply because reactionaries may exploit it for their own purposes. The Stalinists should remember that the Nazis made effective propaganda use of lynchings in the U.S.

Last March, BEFORE Newsweek magazine and the N.Y. Times trumpeted the story, the convention of the Independent Socialist League, in resolutions, took up and pointed to the development of anti-Semitism in Russia and denounced the current campaign. This was also weeks BEFORE the series of articles by Frederick Woltman in the N.Y. World-Telegram.

We intend to press this exposure of the Stalin regime, at the same time that we yield to no one in our opposition to capitalism and American imperialism.

For some time the Stalinists had nothing to say about the specific charges, as contained, for example, in articles in the Times by Harry Schwartz. O’Connor expresses this when he says that at first Schwartz’s articles seemed to be based on a scholarly reading of the Russian press. (Their silence was no doubt also based on fear: Who knows? maybe it’s all more than true ... Remember Duclos’ bombshell ...)

But a boner by Schwartz in the Times gave them courage to raise a dust-cloud. Schwartz reported that Krokodil (Russian humor magazine) had used the offensive term “Zhid” (a derogatory form of “Jew”) in a cartoon. It turned out that this was a transliteration of “Gide” – André Gide, the French writer – and the Daily Worker made hay, without taking up the other charges. The incident indicated, at any rate, that this boner was the only charge they were ABLE to answer.

Two Lines of Apology

The Morning Freiheit (CP Jewish-language newspaper in New York) now admits the dissolution of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. But while they proclaim that they have no pipeline to Moscow, their writers assure us that some new organization will be set up – after a lapse of eight months during which two million Jews had NO organization.

And this new organization will not be set up by the Jewish people in Russia but by the same government which dissolved the others. It will in no sense be an organization of the Jewish people, a representative of them, but only a sop to allay protest and a straitjacket to keep them in line.

As to the fall from grace of all leading Yiddish writers, the Stalinists maintain absolute silence: this despite the fact that Gropper (of the Freiheit) is in Moscow and is writing dispatches from there.

In the May 13 issue of the Freiheit, Novick published a lengthy article containing two main lines of apologetics. The first emphasizes that Jews still occupy some positions of importance in Russia. The second claims that there is no anti-Semitic bias involved in the practice of giving the real names of Jewish writers in parentheses when they are accused of “cosmopolitanism.”

Pen Names and Real Names

While not saying so, Novick gives the impression that it is common practice in Russia to give real names after pen names. He cites one non-Jew, Kalos, whose real name is thus given in the Stalin awards for 1948. (George Fowler, a student of Russian affairs, found about eight such cases.) In these exceptional cases, the real name probably did serve the purpose of identification, since there is reason to believe that they were known to their audience under their original name.

Novick also digs up a Jewish writer who is listed by his real name with his pen name given in parentheses. It seems there is no difference to Novick when a name is given for the sake of identification, and when it is given to brand an accused person in order to associate him with the “crime” of “cosmopolitanism.”

Novick claims to have counted 65 Jewish names among the award winners. The Daily Worker boosted the count to 80 and the Daily Compass improved the figure to 99. It is obvious that none of them is doing anything but guessing. But more important, they make no mention of what proportion these Jews are in the total number of winners, in contrast to the proportion they occupy among those purged.

Only Beginning

Novick claims that Jews with Jewish names have not been ELIMINATED from Russian life, because they occupy some important positions. But no one has as yet charged total elimination and exclusion. The fact is that Russian anti-Semitism is fairly recent and only in its beginnings.

Labor Action of April 11 went out of its way to emphasize that point: “It is NOW when Stalinist anti-Semitism is only in its beginnings that a vigorous protest and publicity can be most effective and perhaps prevent a full-blown development of Stalinist anti-Semitism.”

The pro-Stalinist party in Israel, Mapam, has not yet reacted in writing to the new developments, as far as we have so far seen. But Mapam’s Jacobi reports a conversation with an American representative. He admitted that Jews in Russia were being shunted from positions of influence.

But he maintained that, while in the U.S. this would be a manifestation of anti-Semitism, in Russia the government was doing this in order to – protect the Jews. How does this protect the Jews? It avoids provoking anti-Semitism by keeping the Jews out of the public eyes, etc.

No prosecutor could object to such a defense.

Ignorance And Heat

The apologia in the Daily Compass is the longest and presumably the most complete. Tom O’Connor’s ignorance of the subject is, of course, an advantage for him. He can generate heat where even the Stalinists dare only tread lightly. Everybody (with the exception of the SLP’s newspaper, the Weekly People, which has repeated the Stalinist line about the “hoax” of Russian anti-Semitism, without going into the facts at all) – everybody who has read these articles, including writers in the Jewish press who AGREE with O’Connor, have labeled his production “nonsense.”

O’Connor’s general tenor is: Does not the Soviet constitution outlaw anti-Semitism? Didn’t Stalin HIMSELF denounce anti-Semitism in 1931?

This, of course, need not even be taken seriously as a defense. Using that kind of evidence, one can prove that complete free speech and political democracy exist in all departments of Russian life. By the same token one could prove that no racial discrimination can exist in the U.S.: doesn’t the Declaration of Independence declare that “All men are created equal,” doesn’t the Constitution have a Bill of Rights, and don’t the leaders of the U.S. denounce intolerance?

(Incidentally, Stalin’s quoted pronouncement against anti-Semitism was solely for export. The statement was made to, and published in, the FOREIGN press in 1931, but NO Russian ever saw it until five years later in 1936, when the propaganda war between Russia and the Nazis made it usable.)

(To be continued next week)

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