Gorman Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

William Gorman

Zionist Congress Fails to Meet
Major Jewish Issues

(20 January 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 3, 20 January 1947, pp. 3 & 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The first World Zionist Congress in seven years concluded recently. Lasting for seventeen days, the Congress was a dramatic proof of the bankruptcy and growing disintegration of the Zionist movement. Search as one might, it is impossible to find another world political gathering that evidenced such pandemonium, bitterness and futility. A. Alpern, correspondent for the Jewish Day, described it as a “disastrous Congress.” In the same paper, Dr. S. Margoshes wrote that “the two last days of the Congress were filled with sound and fury signifying nothing.”

It is necessary to recall that the Congress met after seven of the most momentous years of world history and Jewish life. The European continent has become a huge coffin for millions of Jews. The few hundred thousand still remaining are doomed to a slow death. The doors to immigration have been shut everywhere, particularly in Palestine. To speak of that country as “a Jewish National Home” is to make a tragic joke. For Palestine, hardly larger than New Jersey, is besieged by more than a hundred thousand British troops.

In desperation large sections of Jewish youth are turning to acts of individual revenge against the British. Palestine, pictured by the Zionist propagandists as a land of orchids, grain fields and prosperous villages, is in reality an armed camp at the brink of a gigantic bloodletting.

The Three Major Problems

Against this background the Zionist Congress convened. It faced three major problems: whether or not to accept a British invitation to another Palestine conference; whether or not to accept the plan for partitioning Palestine into three states – British, Jewish and Arab; and the election of a new leadership.

The Congress was filled with fiery speechmaking. After nearly thirty years’ experience with British oppression in Palestine, this speechifying is the extreme limit of Zionist militancy. Moshe Sneh, head of the Haganah, the biggest underground army in Palestine, stunned the delegates with the remarks, “Our slogan is surrender or capitulation. Britain has nothing more to offer Zionism.”

The reply to this view was made by Weitzman, the most famous figure in world Zionism, who is particularly noted for his abject subservience to British rule. Weitzman claimed that salvation still depended upon British imperialist benevolence. He condemned violence as “immoral” and said that while violent actions were the means of liberation used by other peoples, the Jewish struggles were different. Against the immorality of British violence, Weitzman offered a sermon. Weitzman’s pleas for piety and passivity only provoked anger among the delegates.

On this central question of attitude toward British rule, the Congress split into two camps, cutting across party lines. The leaders of the Religious Zionists, General Zionists, and Labor Zionists desperately attempted to unite their parties, but without success.

The large and vociferous opposition declared itself against participation in the London conference, against partition of Palestine and against the leadership of Weitzman. This opposition veers dangerously close to the line pursued by the Revisionists, the extreme right-wing, anti-labor, anti-Arab and anti-socialist group in the Zionist movement. They are the sponsors of the terrorists, whose activity has proven completely ineffectual in overthrowing British tyranny in Palestine.

A Political Program Needed

What is obviously required first is a political program, which could mobilize both Jews and Arabs in Palestine, which could gain the support of the neighboring colonial countries and the sympathy of the workers of the world. But the semifascist, chauvinistic Revisionists are completely incapable of providing such a program. They offer mere sabre-rattling.

The largest group of organized Jewish workers, the Labor Zionists, was hopelessly split in half, some dragging behind Weitzman and some behind the Revisionists.

Special mention must be made of Hashomer Hatzair which boasts of its “left-wing Socialism” point of view. The main role played by this group was to boost the Stalinist party line at the Congress. Most Zionists recognize the “Big Three” control over Palestine in the form of a trusteeship, would only triple the burden of oppression which Palestine now suffers from Britain alone. Not so Hashomer Hatzair. If proposed in effect, the intervention of Stalinist totalitarianism in the Palestine situation. After this pernicious proposal failed to gain support, Hashomer did little but drag behind Weitzman.

Much closer to the solution was the speech of Zrubavel, representing the small working class party “Left Poale-Zion.” He stated “The best chance for the realization of Zionism lies in the hands of the workers of the world, British and Arab included, who do not agree with their rulers.” Zrubavel and his followers fail to realize, however, that it is utterly impossible to expect the Jewish bourgeoisie which controls the Zionist movement to join hands with the workers of Britain and the Arab countries. Only the Jewish workers themselves can do this. But they must first break decisively with the Zionist organization, its bourgeoisie leadership and its chauvinistic ideology.

Results of the Congress

The Basle Congress was merely one more development in the speedy decline of the Zionist movement. The actual decisions taken by the Congress are of no great importance. No sooner had the Congress voted against participation in the London Conference, then a desperate search began for a formula which would make such participation possible. As for partition, if Britain offers a plan, such true and tried servants of the British Empire as Goldman, Weiss and Lipsky will accept it immediately. The other leading Zionists would complain bitterly, but finally accept partition since they have no realistic alternative.

Finally, Weitzman failed to gain control of the World Zionist presidency for the first time in nearly twenty-five years. He was succeeded by a co-executive of David Ben-Gurion and Rabbi Silver, who make more vigorous speeches but whose program is not much different from their predecessor.

Meanwhile zero hour approaches in Palestine. Recently young Jewish boys were flogged by British police. The Jewish terrorists who retaliated by flogging British soldiers may believe they have saved national pride but they have in no way saved Palestine’s Jews from further repressions. Thousands of British troops are arriving weekly.

The Jewish masses in Palestine must be profoundly disappointed in this Zionist Congress which consisted of splits, expulsions and endless speeches. They must begin to look elsewhere – to the peoples of Egypt, India, Indo-China, Burma, Malay, the Philippines, Indonesia – all of whom are struggling valiantly to free themselves from imperialist exploitation and terror. When the Jewish people join in this decisive struggle, it will sound the final death knell of’ political Zionism, and the beginning of national and social liberation.

Gorman Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers’ Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 27 November 2020