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Jack Weber

Histadrut in Its 20th Year in Palestine

(April 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 15, 12 April 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Internationalists feel a bond with every group that expresses itself in the accents of labor. Our sympathies go out all the more readily when an oppressed people like the Jews are involved. We have noted with interest that the Palestine organization of Jewish labor, the Histadrut, is now celebrating its twentieth anniversary.

It would seem from the aims of this organization that we speak a common language. Berl Locker writes in Jewish Frontier:

“The Jewish working class in Palestine, however, is to a very large extent self-made; it has come and continues to come into existence by the purposeful resolve of masses of youth in the Diaspora to change the basic conditions of life of the Jewish people by becoming workers in Palestine ... Becoming a worker is for them the fulfillment of a great mission in the history of their people ... It is this ideal (of work) which inspires them in the daring attempt to create the nucleus of a new economic and social order in the midst of a world built on the conception of personal advantage as the dominating driving force of economic incentive and success.”

Good! Here is the desire for a socialist society based on the labor of all. Counting the families of workers, Histadrut embraces in its membership forty per cent of the Jewish population of Palestine. Thus we deal, not with any small Utopian group on the order of a Brookwood Farm or what-not, but with an authentic mass movement. Here we will not raise any question about its accomplishment; nor even about the possibility of building socialism in one country and that country Palestine.

Our attention is drawn, in common with everybody’s the world over, by the Second Imperialist War which is affecting Palestine very directly. We note that the Jewish community has hailed with delight the release of the fifty-three youth who had armed themselves for self-defense in spite of the efforts of the British Government to keep them unarmed. Britain now would like the help of these same youth, this time with arms; so it releases them.

Simultaneously, the secretary of Histadrut, Remez, addresses a Jewish unit that is being sent to join Wavell’s Army and asks them to remember that they will be “fighting shoulder to shoulder with Britain in the cause of freedom and democracy”. Shertok, head of the Jewish Agency tells us that “the issue of the participation of Jews from Diaspora countries in the war effort alongside Britain, has not yet been dropped.” That is, the formation of a European Jewish Legion. How does all this jibe with the ideal of Histadrut?

Britain Is No Friend of Jewry

We must ask a few questions. Is Churchill interested in Palestine in order to permit Histadrut to build socialism? Is he even faintly interested in a homeland for the Jews? What country can we blame most of all for hindering the development of both Jews and Arabs in Palestine – if not England! You propose to fight for Churchill’s democracy: that is for capitalism but, far worse, for an imperialism that refuses any kind of democracy to half the world’s people. Is India so far off that you cannot hear its voice demanding freedom from that self-same democracy you propose to defend?

The youth in Palestine have come from every corner of Europe. They had to flee from the most unbearable conditions, not only in Germany and Austria but in Poland before Hitler took it over and in all the so-called democratic countries. Do you absolve England from having, with all its imperialist policies, maintained these conditions in Europe? Who created post-war Europe in the first instance? Was it Hitler or Lloyd George”? And finally as to Hitler himself, who gave him aid? You are far too intelligent not to know that Churchill would as soon support another Hitler in Germany than permit the workers to take power there.

What are the aims of Churchill and of Roosevelt too? Will they set up, if they win, another Poland? Is that what you defend? Of course you will tell us that you don’t propose to defend imperialism and its purposes. You want to defend the future of the Jews in Palestine. The trouble is, however, you are not under labor’s orders but under Churchill’s. Least of all can you defend your future that way! For the future holds in store the sweeping away of all imperialism and with it, all that clings to it.

What you Zionists say to Churchill is virtually: “Churchill, we will put ourselves at the disposal of British imperialism if you will just let us go on with our purposes. You may do as you please with the rest of the world but help us in Palestine.” That is the obvious contradiction into which you fall the moment you support, under whatever false guise, British “democracy”. That means that you become so absorbed in the single problem of Jewish emancipation that you fail to think through the entire question correctly.

Jewish emancipation, and the sweeping away of anti-Semitism which Palestine alone, as you admit, cannot possibly solve, is bound up with the sweeping away of all imperialism, the fascist type and the false-faced democratic which will soon turn its authentic hideous face to the world.

You are correct when you seek salvation in labor. But you must seek it not merely in Jewish labor in Palestine. You must seek it through giving aid and tying the Jewish movement to the world’s working class.

Only the proletariat can emancipate all the oppressed thru the proletarian revolution. Your “leaders” like Remez and Ben Gurion are playing power-politics. They should study more carefully the fate of the Russian Revolution to see what happens when the historic interests of the proletariat of the world are sacrificed for an apparent temporary “realistic” gain. You must break with such leaders.

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