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Workers’ International News, May 1943


Rose Carson

The Left Wing Zionists and the Fourth International


From Workers’ International News, Vol.5 No.11, May 1943, p.14-17. [1]
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Every crisis in society finds Jewry being used as a scapegoat by reaction. The vulnerability of its position as minorities within other national states has constantly made the Jews an easy prey for every reactionary regime – Spain, Poland, Czarist Russia, and now Germany.

In holding the Bermuda Conference Britain and the United States have brought the problem of Jewry into the arena of world politics. Although the results of the Conference have not yet been made public, sufficient has been indicated by the spokesmen of both Britain and America, to reveal in advance the futility of Jewry expecting succour from this assembly. Mr. Law, for Britain, had proclaimed before the Conference that not much was to be expected from it. The Jews were warned against “premature hopes.” The difficulties of rendering assistance were heavily stressed. All that was promised was:

“Where joint action, may be possible, we may to lay the foundations for such action ... be able to work out tentatively some basis for international discussion with a view to wider national organisation and discussion.”

Concretely, this means yet another Conference. Robert Waithman, News Chronicle Washington correspondent, writes:

“The impression here is, that a number of cautious gentlemen have conducted a series of formal meetings in an atmosphere defined in advance with the aid of such clichés as ‘exploratory conversations’ and ‘formulation of preliminary proposals’”.

From this it can be seen that nothing is to be expected from the sympathy of the present Allied statesmen from which Jewry is looking for help.

But the brutal Nazi persecution of the Jews, the relentless slaughter and inhuman tortures perpetrated on helpless Jewry, and Hitler’s threat to annihilate the majority of the race in Europe poses the question, once and for all, of a real solution before the workers and intellectuals of all sections of the Zionist movement. Hashomer Hatzair, the extreme left wing of the Zionist movement, which was, until the present catastrophic period, the hope of Jewish socialist militants, has failed, together with the rest of Zionism, to understand and develop a real programme for the solution of the Jewish problem. The systematic destruction of Jewry is not merely the result of blood lust and insanity: it is rather a calculated example by which Hitler hopes to stun and terrorise the conquered peoples of Europe. It is a continuation of the same method and policy by which Hitler succeeded in Germany. The resistance of Russia and peoples of Europe, the growing strength of the Allied imperialists, have shown the hollow mockery of Hitler’s boasts of a thousand Years of the New Order. Hitler knows only one method to stave off disaster: terror and more intensified terror. The treatment of Jewry is Hitler’s horrible example to Europe. The Nazis’ choice of the Jewish race lies primarily in expediency rather than any special hatred for the race. Not only has Hashomer Hatzair failed to understand Hitler’s motive; it has failed also to show the Jewish millions the way out of their oppression.

Hashomer Hatzair’s Differences with the Fourth International

Two claims are repeatedly made by Hashomer Hatzair, one they are Marxists, and two: they fully concur with anyone who says that the ultimate solution to the Jewish question lies in the Socialist society.

It is necessary, however, to examine Hashomer Hatzair’s ideas and methods in order, either to substantiate the above claims, or refute them.

The main and most oft repeated criticism by Hashomer of the Fourth International is usually voiced in the following manner:

On viewing the policy of the Fourth International to our question, we have never found an honest attempt to formulate a transitional programme for the Jewish masses, based upon their specific situation.

From the above the following conclusions must be drawn: Hashomer Hatzair regards the Jewish question as special problem quite apart from the problems facing the international proletariat, that this special problem demands a specific transitional programme for Jewry; and that this problem can be solved prior to, and independently, of, the problems of society as a whole. In order to establishing whether these conclusions are correct, it is necessary to restate, however briefly, the history and development of modern Jewry.

In feudal times, and even during the earliest period of capitalism Jews were herded into ghettoes and permitted only certain Junctions within society. These were trading, finance and non-guild handicrafts. Their rigid exclusion from the craft guilds, their common economic status and lack of civil rights prevented them integrating into society at large, thus forcing them to remain a caste. While possessing common customs, religion and even language (Yiddish) they could not form a self contained national unit with class formations and became of necessity, minorities within other national societies. In its early progressive stage, capitalism liberated the Jew from the Ghetto, permitted him to enter commerce and the consumer industries, (where Jews are to be found primarily today) in all class layers, workers, petty bourgeois and big bourgeois.

Owing to the uneven development of capitalism in Eastern Europe, even this infiltration into the life of society was impossible. Consequently the Jews there were less emancipated and retained their caste status and quasi-national characteristics to a greater degree than elsewhere. In the decline of capitalism we see the process reversed. The Jew is forced back into the Ghetto. He is not permitted any function in society; he is the scapegoat – signifying capitalist society’s inability to solve its organic problems – and finally, he is threatened with extermination.

From the above it is clear that the economic, social and political development of the Jews has been part of the general development of modern society – opportunity and rights in the era of rising capitalism; restriction of rights and persecution, and finally threats of extermination in the period of the decline of capitalism.

Even a bigoted Zionist cannot but agree, that the conditions of the people as a whole are not so very different from this. The smashing of the working class organisations, loss of rights, the threats of mass extermination by war, civil war, and famine: these are general to Jewish and non-Jewish masses, even though the problems are sharper and more personal to the Jews, who are more vulnerable to persecution as minorities.

The repression and persecution of the Jewish masses, handicraftsmen and middle class elements of Eastern Europe, in the latter half of the last century, drove the leading intellectuals to find a solution for their plight. The best of these intellectuals turned to Socialism and played and still play, an outstanding role in the working class movement. The idea of “territorialism” found expression, however, among another section of Jewish intellectuals: This idea gave rise to all kinds of fantastic schemes and reactionary utopias. Baron Hirsch with his Angola project, and Baron Rothschild with his scheme for Uganda, first gave concrete expression to territorialism. Eventually, Dr. Theodore Herzl amalgamated the various tendencies into one political movement: modern Zionism.

After the last war, Zionism seized its opportunity of demanding a Jewish national home in Palestine, through Dr. Chaim Weitzmann as its reward for financial and military service rendered to British imperialism during the last war.

A Jewish state surrounded by a hostile Arab world, would be forced to look to Britain for protection. Such an outpost in the Near East was essential to the British Empire, quite apart from its value for trade and investment. In the Balfour Declaration of 1917, British Imperialism promised the Jews a national home in Palestine. In 1922 the League of Nations granted a mandate to Britain – and from then onwards Zionism became part and parcel of British Imperial policy.

As soon as it became clear to the native population that a Jewish state signified is Jewish majority, based upon British bayonets, there was an immediate outbreak of struggle which culminated in open warfare for nearly three years (1936-1939). British imperialism resorted to aerial bombardment, razing villages, collective fines, martial law, concentration camps – together with bribery, intrigue and corruption, such as is constantly employed by Britain as all other imperialists to subdue her colonial slaves in India and elsewhere. All these measures, however, failed to subdue the Arab people in their struggle for national liberation. Finally, in order to avoid arousing sympathetic action from the entire Arab world, Britain was forced to make concessions to the Arabs.

Partition was offered, but was unanimously rejected by Jews and Arabs. After various other attempts to arrive at a compromise, the Woodhead Commission of 1939 was set up, and on the basis of its report, Britain declared a new policy. The mandate was “modified” and a “new interpretation” was given to the Balfour Declaration. The concrete result of this was that the immigration of the Jews and the sale of Arab land was restricted.

The growth of Jewish nationalism is of course, a natural outcome and natural reaction to anti-Semitism. In general the nationalism of an oppressed people is recognised .by Marxists as progressive. But in the case of Jewish nationalism, Zionism has also its reactionary side, since it depends for the realisation of its aims upon British imperialism.

During the Arab struggles, the Zionists amply demonstrated the reactionary consequences of their dependence upon British Imperialism. The Zionists, including the Labour Union, Histraduth, and our “Marxist” Hashomer Hatzair, supported the suppression of the Arab national struggles by open scabbing and strike-breaking of every political strike called by the Arabs in protest against British brutality, imprisonment, martial law, etc.

A. Ben-Israel, in Whither Zionism, states:

“It must be now clear from all points of view, that this complicated task of transforming the abnormal” Jewish life into a normal one ... can only be brought about with world assistance. Therefore international financial support is necessary.”

To justify the establishment of the Jewish national state, Hashomer Hatzair states:

“Only the colonisation of Jewry will permit the development of a Jewish working class and peasantry. The creation of such a proletariat and peasantry makes the role of Jewry a normal one.”

From this we gather that the Jewish masses, being unable to assist in overthrowing the bourgeoisie of the particular country of which they form a minority their first task therefore, must be to obtain territory; secondly, to create a national bourgeoisie and proletariat; thirdly to lead the latter to overthrow the former. Such is Marxism a la Zionism! This is a farcical caricature of the Marxist conception of the development of the class struggle. Seriously to advocate such a programme, believing that it will make Jewry’s role a normal one, exposes an utter lack of understanding of the historical process and the nature of the present period.

In reality all that Zionism can signify is not a Jewish national home, not a refuge for persecuted Jews, not a federation of “socialist communes”, but a Jewish capitalist state as part of the British Empire. Moreover, gained at the expense of the Arab peoples. The idea, of buying land, of acquiring empty spaces on a scale commensurate with the problem, is completely fantastic in the twentieth century. It is evident that if Palestine, a tiny state, is to be built up economically so as to create a proletariat capable of taking power, it will have to compete with the great imperialist powers, and this on a shrinking world market. Since these great powers are at the moment engaged in the most destructive war in history for a redivision of this market, it follows that Palestine cannot hope to take part in such a scramble independently, but must of necessity, become a pawn within the orbit of one or other imperialist power.

Palestine cannot hope to escape the world historical process: if the international world proletariat fails to accomplish the social revolution; then inevitably fascism will triumph. The German debacle will be re-enacted throughout the entire world, and Palestine, being part of this sphere, must inevitably suffer a like fate.

Zionism’s Differences with British Imperialism.

To prove that Zionism is not a tool of British Imperialism, Hashomer Hatzair states:

“Illegal emigrations organised by Zionism is proof that Zionism is actively fighting against British Imperialism”

In the first place, it must be understood that these illegal immigrations are necessarily on a very small scale. Secondly we characterise Zionism on its general political character. Friction on minor points is no indication of diversity of interests or serious opposition. The editorial of Hashomer Hatzair February 1943, states:

“Our struggle is part of the same struggle which the Chinese and Indian masses wage today against the forces of imperialism. Our struggle is the Socialist battle for the right of self-determination of nations.”

This is a wanton distortion of the truth. The fact is, of course, that the Indian and Chinese movements, albeit dominated by treacherous bourgeois leadership, are based on real existing social classes within the existing national societies. The emancipation of the Indian. and Chinese masses depends upon a Revolutionary struggle against imperialist oppression, whereas Zionism cannot struggle against imperialism since it is forced to rely upon it for its very realisation. For Zionism, to struggle against imperialism, it would be necessary to appeal to the Arab world, which constitutes the majority in Palestine and the surrounding territory for a joint struggle for independence against imperialism. To do this, the Zionist movement would have to give up its first aim of a Jewish majority. In actual fact, Hashomer Hatzair realises that this is unreal. In Whither Zionism we read:

The grandiose plans of transferring millions of Jews to Palestine immediately after the war, are, consequently, nothing but an illusion. We have to make constructive plans over a long period of years, in order, both to absorb in Palestine, and preserve in the Gulot (exile).

This statement clearly reveals the futility of Palestine offering a solution to the Jewish problem. From the foregoing it is obvious that Lenin’s dictum “The fate of the Jews in every country is intrinsically bound up with the fate of the working class” has been borne out. Common problems demand a common programme and such a programme can only be the Transitional programme of the Fourth International and the Revolution.

Hashomer Hatzair’s Alternative

Hashomer Hatzair claims to conduct a genuine struggle against bourgeois Zionism and presents its programme as a Marxist alternative Hashomer Hatzair criticises the Fourth International for its “unreal approach”, to the Jewish problem and for its lack of a “constructive attitude”. It is necessary to analyse Hashomer Hatzair’s programmatic contribution to the solution of the problem. The Editorial of Hashomer Hatzair of February states:

“We as Jews and socialists will take revenge for this slaughter of our people by the creation of a new life through Chalutzuith.”

Through this Chahlutz Movement, (this is the Pioneer Movement), Hashomer Hatzair will create a new life. Since the Chalutzim are mainly farmers, this means that Hashomer Hatzair believes that by training a number of farmers it can solve the Jewish problem. Capitalism has brought mankind to an impasse in the present imperialist slaughter which engulfs the whole world, wipes out the populations of immense areas and affects the masses of every race and creed. This situation can only be solved by socialist revolution and emancipation of all the oppressed people. In such a situation Hashomer Hatzair offers not tested and trained revolutionaries welded under the banner of revolutionary socialism but ... A few farmers! Farmers, moreover who have very little possibility of ever tilling the soil of Palestine. This absurdity Hashomer Hatzair has the temerity to prefix “Marxism” and a “real approach.”

The reactionary character of this utopian programme is properly seen if it is taken in conjunction with the Bi-national state which is visualised by Hashomer Hatzhair. In Whither Britain, A. Ben Israel has this to say:

First our political programme is above all based upon the right of Jewish immigration into Palestine. Our claim in common with all Zionists, is to see a majority of the Jewish people in Eretz Israel.

And further,

“Our fate is historically linked up with Palestine, whether the Arabs like this or not, and we therefore can have no compromise on this question.”

In actual fact the, world Zionist Congress demands a commonwealth based upon British imperialist bayonets, and Hashomer Hatzair demands a Jewish majority with safeguards for the Arabs based upon an International Commission. There is merely a difference in formulation, except that Hashomer Hatzair covers its reactionary policy with revolutionary sounding phrases with the object of attracting the left socialist thinking Jewish youth.

All the idealist claptrap written, and spoken by the Zionists theorists and apologists has been completely exposed by the economic development of Palestine. The Jewish state which was to have been so different, the ideals of “righteousness” and “justice” learned in the hard school of experience has been exposed in all its threadbare poverty. The Iraq Petroleum Company, the Ruthenberg Electrical Scheme, the Dead Sea Concessions to the ICI are but a few of the large scale capital investments in Palestine. Palestine has been developed an the same old capitalistic way. Speculation in land, over capitalisation, extremes of poverty and wealth; the same greed, the same exploitation of the national population, the same use of the dispossessed peasants, as a source of cheap labour. There is no “difference”, nor righteousness nor can there be.

A false perspective and a false policy, far from assisting Jewry, can only help reaction. The Jewish youth must turn away from the blind alley of Zionism and its left cover the Hashomer Hatzair. They must learn to understand land and see the “Special Jewish question” as part of the general crisis of imperialist capitalism.

In Britain and in the other “democracies” there is a widespread sympathy for the European Jews who suffer under the murderous regime of Hitler. But despite this fact, anti-semitism, far from diminishing, is growing among the reactionary sections of the capitalist and middle class and even backward sections of the workers. But the next period will not be one of increasing reactionary measures against the Jews. It will be a period of civil wars and socialist revolutions. Only those who do not and will not think can close their eyes to the inevitable progressive revolutionary movements which will sweep Europe and shake capitalist Britain and the capitalist world to its foundations.

Headed by the working class, all who are progressive in the mass of the populations will march forward and solve the common task: the Socialist Revolution.

Without a revolutionary perspective, without a revolutionary programme and without a revolutionary party to teach and lead this forward march of the masses, the revolutions will be defeated singly and collectively and followed by disorientation and apathy. In such an event the “Black Hundreds” of imperialist reaction will rise again. Military dictatorships and vicious fascist regimes will become the dominant form of capitalist government. Even in the present day “democratic” metropolitan centres in Britain and the US anti-semitism will become part of the reactionary cement. The further enslavement of the Jews and possibly their almost total annihilation are the inevitable outcome of such a perspective. All the programmes of reformism will be torn to shreds in the coming battles.

Serious Jewish youth will not toboggan down the hill with closed eyes behind the banners of decadent and non-Jewish reformism. They must base themselves on the perspective of revolution and turn to the Fourth International, whose programme, the United Socialist States of Europe alone can tear mankind from the path of destruction, Only on this road lies the solution to the Jewish problem.


Note by ETOL

1. Rose Carson was a pseudonym of Rose Selner.

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