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Irving Howe

Stalinism Stands Exposed as
an Inciter of Anti-Semitism
in Europe and the Near East

(15 July 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 28, 15 July 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Striking evidence has recently come from all parts of the world that the Stalinist parties have taken a position towards the Jewish question which, if not openly anti-Semitic, is certainly a dangerous kind of flirtation with that poisonous racial doctrine. Were each of these incidents taken alone, it might be brushed off; but together they form a pattern which cannot be considered a mere accident.

Here is the evidence on which we base these charges:

(1) Reports in the daily press this past week told of the harrowing story of a new pogrom in Poland. In the town of Kielce 23 Jews were murdered and many others injured. This pogrom, reminiscent of the worst days of Polish anti-Semitism, took place in a country ruled by a Stalinist-dominated government – and one, furthermore, in which there are hundreds of thousands of Russian army troops. Now it is impossible to say exactly who inspired these pogroms.

The Warsaw government charges that they were the work of the underground armies which remain loyal to the former government-in-exile. The latter in turn hint that the pogroms were the work of agents of the Warsaw government and of the Stalinist GPU, who deliberately provoked the pogroms in order to use them as a political weapon by blaming them on their opponents.

Both charges can well be true. There are numerous anti-Semites among the followers of General Anders, who is opposed to the Warsaw government. And it is possible that the pogroms were instigated by the Stalinists – that isn’t incredible when one remembers the methods they have used in the past in and out of Russia: political gangsterism, terrorism, assassination, mass imprisonments and deportations.

Where Is “Red” Army?

But one thing is clear: Poland is ruled by the so-called “Red” army. There are hundreds of thousands of Russian troops scattered through that country. These troops, with their GPU appendages, are remarkably efficient in smashing any attempt at independent proletarian political organization. The Russians, it will be remembered, kidnapped and murdered the two famous Polish Jewish Socialist leaders, Ehrlich and Alter.

We therefore ask: if the Russians were so efficient in persecuting socialists, if they were so efficient in persecuting dissidents, why are they so lax in stamping out anti-Semitism? The N.Y. Times reports that it is unsafe for Jews to live in the smaller Polish towns and villages. Why? Where is the “Red” army? Why can it not afford protection to the few remaining Jews of Poland?

This much is certain. If the “Red” army were as vigilant in its attitude towards anti-Semitism as in its pursuit of dissident-revolutionists, anti-Semitism could not exist in Poland. And that is a damning indictment of Stalinism!

(2) We ask you to read most carefully the statement of the leading French Stalinist journalist, Pierre Hervé, printed in a box adjoining this article. This man writes a daily column in the French Stalinist paper, L’Humanité. He is a responsible spokesman for French Stalinism. If you read through the mass of verbiage in this statement, you see clearly the vicious anti-Semitism of this Stalinist leader. For what does it mean to insinuate that 80 per cent of the Trotskyist leaders are Jews? (What difference does it make what percentage are Jews? It’s the policy that counts.) To say that is to indulge in the same kind of anti-Semitism which the American reactionaries indulge in when they accuse the Communists of being Jews.

We repeat: Pierre Hervé is a leading responsible spokesman for French Stalinism. What he writes is no mere quirk. How can the Stalinists explain this? What have they to say?

Anti-Semitism in Ukraine

3) In an article in the Sunday Times, July 7, Brooks Atkinson, recently returned from Moscow, reports the presence of widespread anti- Semitism in the Ukraine. Let us grant that this anti-Semitism is not stimulated by the Stalin government. But if Atkinson’s report is true, then what is one to say of the widespread Stalinist ballyhoo that they have effectively eliminated anti-Semitism from Russia? Surely the fact that there’s a law against anti-Semitism in Russia is not important; there’s a law granting free speech in Russia, and everyone knows how little of that there is! The Stalinist bureaucracy has not succeeded in eliminating anti-Semitism from among those whom it rules, despite its 20-year rule.

4) In its July 8 issue, Labor Action reported that at a session of the Refugee Committee of the United Nations a motion was introduced by the Lebanese delegate that would PREVENT Jewish immigration to Palestine. The Ukrainian delegate spoke for the motion and the entire bloc of Stalinist-dominated countries – Russia, Poland, Ukraine, White Russia, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia – voted for the motion.

What explanation do the Stalinists have for their scandalous behavior at the Refugee Committee of the United Nations?

The above are damning facts. But think of them against the background of previous Stalinist behavior on the Jewish question.

Remember the Stalinist refusal only a few years back to admit Jewish refugees from Hitler Germany.

Remember the references of Lombardo Toledano, Mexican Stalinist leader, to Leon Trotsky as the “Jew Trotsky.”

Remember the fact that at the infamous Moscow Trials all defendants who were Jewish and who for reasons of revolutionary security had decades ago adopted pseudonyms were then called by their original Jewish-sounding names.

Stalinist workers reading this article may recoil with indignation and say: “We are not anti-Semites; we hate anti-Semitism.” That is true of course. The masses of workers who follow Stalinism are opposed to anti- Semitism.

But the above facts, all of them irrefutable, indicate that Stalinism is not above using or flirting with anti-Semitism when it is convenient for it. Every Stalinist worker owes it to himself to inquire about these matters, to insist upon an explanation from his leadership. These matters are too grave to be ignored.

* * *

The Voice of French Stalinism

“... I consider the assertion of Jewish particularism as nefarious.

“... It is normal that, as a result of their situation, the Jews should be more receptive than others to the cosmopolitan which seems to be becoming the offensive ideal of a certain overseas mercantilism. To the extent that Jewish particularism detaches the French Jews from the interests of the Frenchmen taken as a whole and renders them more receptive to propaganda which might threaten our independence, I consider this a dangerous fact.


(Extract from an article by Pierre Hervé, daily contributor of L’Humanité, published in the paper Fraternité, February 21, 1946.)

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