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Labor Action, 27 June 1949


Al Findley

Concluding Part of a Reply to Stalinist Apologetics
on Russian Anti-Jewish Drive –

CP Defense on Anti-Semitism Flops


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 26, 27 June 1949, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


(Continued from last week)

O’Connor does make two valid points which are freely granted. One is on the aforementioned boner by Harry Schwartz about Gide and Zhid in a Krokodil cartoon. Taking advantage of this one thing which he can actually prove, he goes on to deny the obvious fact that the “cosmopolitans” portrayed in Krokodil cartoons have accentuated hooked noses. This is set off against the portrayal of good defenders of Russian movies, given a short nose and blond hair. (The fact that the cartoonist himself is a Jew is in the tradition of Stalinism.)

The second valid point made by O’Connor is that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. This is entirely true, but it is beside the point, since the evidence points not only to anti-Zionism (nothing new in Russia) but to anti-Semitism in addition.

The statements of Nahum Goldman, conservative Zionist, to the contrary are not very convincing. Goldman is attempting to save as much as possible of the declining pro-Russian position in Israel. He is afraid that exposure of Russian anti-Semitism will enrage the Russians and lead to the cutting off of ALL emigration to Israel from the satellite countries. These are the reasons for the cringing attitude of the official Zionist organizations.

Jews Singled Out

What about the facts of increasing Russian elimination of Jews? Is it true or not that the creeping discrimination that began with the Stalinist consolidation in the late ’30s has now become a galloping disease? Is it true that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Trade have become almost completely “Judenrein” – the Nazi term for the “purification” of Jews from their


IS it true that NO Jews are accepted for diplomatic training? Is it true that military and engineering schools accepted only a limited QUOTA of Jews? Is it true that whereas until last year Jews constituted the overwhelming majority of movie directors, art critics, literary critics and dramatic critics, a survey of the current Russian press shows that less than one out of ten current appointees is Jewish?

To all this O’Connor answers: Is Russia anti-Semitic because it refuses to force Jews into certain occupations? This is the worst kind of a transparent dodge. What is actually happening is that Jews are being prevented from entering occupations of their own choice.

What about the charge that Jews in Russia are being forcibly denationalized? O’Connor in one breath denies assimilation of Jews in Russia, and in the next comes up with the brilliant argument: Is Russia anti- Semitic because it does not force Jews into ghettoes and segregated social life? He then goes on to say that the Jews of Russia are assimilating as a result of equal treatment.

But, alas, he here contradicts both the Stalinist line and the facts. The Stalinist line is that the Jews want to live separately in Birobidjan and that Yiddish culture is flourishing in Stalinland. The facts are that the striking feature of Jewish cultural life in Russia is not a gradual voluntary assimilation but forced denationalization by government ukase. If all nationalities were deprived of their cultural rights (as in Czechoslovakia) one could lay the development to reasons other than anti-Semitism.

But when all minority cultures are encouraged and only the Jews deprived of their rights, the only conclusion is that here is bias of an anti-Semitic nature.

The Bolsheviks, in the revolutionary days of Russia under Lenin and Trotsky, encouraged and supported the development of secular Yiddish culture. This policy was not seen reversed even by the Stalin counterrevolution. As late as 1933, there were 135,000 students in Yiddish schools in the Ukraine, and 35,000 in White Russia. There were numerous Yiddish papers and publishing houses. Yiddish organizations were active, including the foreign organization ORT.

In 1938 all this changed. All Jewish organizations were dissolved, the Yiddish press suppressed, and the publishing houses curtailed. An iron curtain fell on the Yiddish schools; and observers believe they were simply not reopened after vacations. Only the theater escaped destruction.

During World War II, the Stalinists founded the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee to get help from world Jewry. Two papers, Einikeit and Der Shtimme, were started.

Jewish Organizations Nixed

Today almost nothing exists. There are no Yiddish papers of ANY kind in Russia (with the possible exception of Birobidjan). Not a single Jewish organization, not a single Yiddish publishing house! The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee has been dissolved, with many arrests among its leaders and members. Also arrested are all leading Yiddish writers, like Bergelson, Nester, etc.

Yiddish is now the only minority language in Russia that has NO time whatsoever on the radio. There are no Yiddish schools outside of a few in annexed territories (last heard of in 1946) and some in Birobidjan. Even the two theaters left are in great danger. A reporter in the Jewish Morning Journal (New York) for June 1 says that the director of the Moscow Yiddish State Theater has been arrested and that the theater itself will soon be closed.

What about the evidence that the drive against “cosmopolitanism” is directed against the Jews as a group? O’Connor, as well as the open Stalinists, implies that it is mere accident that the culprits are Jews. But if it is a mere arithmetical coincidence, the coincidence is too great (49 out of 50) to be swallowed by the non- gullible. In the Stalinist mind, it is the Jews who are associated with this “crime” of cosmopolitanism. As far back as the beginning of 1946, Pierre Hervé, a prominent French Stalinist journalist, wrote in an article: “It is natural that as a result of their situation the Jews are more susceptible to cosmopolitanism.”

Familiar Stereotypes

The striking features of the anti-Jewish campaign take it out of the class of the usual run-of-the-mill purge and stamp it as a centrally directed campaign of thinly veiled anti- Semitism: the fact that virtually all the accused are Jews, that their Jewish origin is stressed, that they are treated as. a unified conspiracy, that the attacks are wide in scope and clothed in hysterical language.

O’Connor’s disingenuous attempt to make out that only anti-ZIONISM is involved runs up against the facts which he ignores: the use of the slanderous stereotyped expressions applied to the Jews which have been part and parcel of Eastern European anti-Semitic terminology – “traders,” “shopkeepers,” “passportless wanderers,” “rootless,” “landless,” etc. The charge of “cosmopolitanism” was used as a pretext for anti-Semitic measures in Czarist Russia. On all this, O’Connor is prudently silent.

There is an interesting case of the use of parenthetical real names in the Russian press which again shows that these are not for the purpose of Identification.

This is the case of Normano, a German-Jewish economist, now dead, who is accused of having influenced the thinking of three purged “rootless cosmopolitans,” Russian-Jewish economists. The magazine Bolshevik refers to him as “Normano (Levine),” repeating the Nazi statement that Normano’s real name was Levine. Nobody else ever knew him by that name or ever took the Nazi claim to heart.

On the Muddy Waters

On this matter of names, O’Connor makes explicit what Novick only implied: the claim that it is a common Russian practice. He cites the cases mentioned above with regard to the Stalin awards. We have already pointed out the probable reason for the exceptions. In any case, the decisive fact is this:

NEVER were any of those attacked referred to in public print by their Jewish names. Only when attacked for cosmopolitanism – which is a “crime,” and moreover a crime to which Jews are considered especially suspectible – only then are their Jewish names given and emphasized.

The Stalinist defense will not wash. Russian reaction, organized in the neo-barbarism of the Stalin regime, has embarked on the muddy waters of anti-Semitism, like its reactionary forebears of other stripes.

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