From New International, Vol.12 No.9, November 1946, p.264.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
With this issue of The New International we open a discussion of the Jewish question from the point of view of Marxist theory and politics. Our discussion will not present the first Marxist writings on the question. It has been the subject of lively polemics upon several occasions in the history of the Marxist movement. What makes our discussion so necessary, even urgent, is the entirely changed situation of the Jewish people, especially those of Europe, as a result of the rise of Nazism and its aftermath.
Marxists have been traditionally assimilationist and anti-Zionist. However, much of what was written from that approach no longer applies. The promise of assimilation ushered in by the bourgeois revolutions came to an end when the continued existence of capitalism required the destruction of bourgeois democracy. The Jews of Germany, once pointed to by Lenin as a model of assimilation, became pariahs in the country they had come to accept fully as their own. Just as the retrogressive tendencies unloosed by declining capitalism caused the re-appearance of a national question in Europe, so they once more called into question the relationship of the Jewish people to the nations of which they were a part. Jewish national consciousness became a mass phenomenon and Jewish nationalism became the concern of masses of Jews, rather than as was the case in pre-Hitler Europe, the concern of sects of Zionist politicians.
This changed situation of the Jews makes much of what Marxists once wrote on the question invalid. However, Marxists do not approach the problem from scratch. Marxism has an accumulated arsenal of knowledge and developed tools of scientific method that enable it once more to establish its theoretical bearings and work out its political program on the Jewish question.
There are two possible approaches to the problem before us. Each has been demonstrated in past Marxist treatments of the question. One finds its protagonist in Karl Kautsky who summed up his studies of the Jewish question in his book Are the Jews a Race? The other finds its protagonist in Lenin who dealt with the Jewish question as part of his innumerable polemics on the national question, especially in those directed against the Jewish Bund and its theory of national cultural autonomy.
The approach of Kautsky gives the appearance of extreme profundity and thorough scholarship. However, its net value as a guide to Marxists in the political struggle is slight. Despite its many valuable contributions, it is a work ponderous pedantry.
Lenin, on the contrary, seized hold of the Jewish question, not out of an academic interest, but as a burning political problem in Czarist Russia. He sought to give a political answer to the problem at hand, rather than write the definitive answer to the past, present and future of the Jews. However his treatment did not confine itself to the particularism of the Jewish question as it existed in Eastern Europe. Basing himself upon the world trends of Jewish development and upon the teachings of Marxism on the national question he established a firm theoretical justification for the political solutions he offered to the Jewish proletariat and the Jewish people as a whole. Lenin could not conceive of a problem like the Jewish question unrelated to its specific historical context. We earnestly recommend that our contributors approach the problem in the same spirit of political relevance.
We open the discussion with the presentation of the following documents: (1) a resolution adopted by the National Committee of the Workers Party, (2) a resolution submitted Comrades Edward and Albert Findley and (3) an article presented by Comrade W. Brooks. The three documents present, as our readers will readily ascertain, three different points of view. We welcome comment from our readers in the form of letters or articles not exceeding 1,000 words in length. Contributions of greater length will be published only by special agreement between the contributor and the Editorial Board.
Last updated on 14.11.2005