Labour Monthly

A Useful Study of the Jewish Question

Review by H.F.

Source : Labour Monthly June, 1935, No.6.
Publisher : The Labour Publishing Company Ltd., London.
Transcription/HTML : Salil Sen
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2010). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.

The Intelligent Man's Guide to Jew-Baiting. George Sacks. (Gollancz, 5s.)

It is a significant fact that, although British Imperialism has under its heel numerous nationalities and races, whose territories and cultures are ruthlessly plundered and destroyed, English Marxists have seldom applied themselves especially to a theoretical exposition of the National Question, which is of such vital importance to the British working class movement. Apart from various articles by Stalin and by Lenin on the National Question, pub¬lished in the LABOUR MONTHLY (several of the latter together with others now to be found in book form, Lenin and Britain), and a booklet by Rysakoff, very little on the subject has appeared in English.

Particularly to-day is clarity needed on this subject, both because of the growth of Fascism, which uses and fosters racial and national prejudices to further its counter-revolutionary aim; and because lack of clarity is keeping many workers and intellectuals from the revolutionary movement, especially those whose race or nationality is the subject of fierce attack by the imperialists and their agents.

It is therefore with pleasure that one turns to a book like this, whose author has made a serious attempt to deal with one aspect of this problem that has, with the advent of Fascism, come more into the forefront, the Jewish Problem. Let no one be stopped from reading this book because of its stupid and flippant title, for it is an excellent contribution to a subject that has become, with the formation of a "National Jewish Home" in Palestine under the "protection" of British Imperialism, a matter for deeper study by us.

The author has accepted the Leninist conclusion that only under the dictator¬ship of the proletariat can the national question be solved, and has applied this to the Jewish Problem.

The Jewish question is not a thing apart from the problems of other minor nationalities under capitalism. On the contrary, it can only be seen correctly when viewed from the same angle. In essence it is a class problem, and can only be solved on the basis of the class struggle. Any attempt to place it outside of society, as a sort of Hegelian Thing-in-itself, as the Bund and many Zionists do ("The Jewish race has always been persecuted, and always will be," "it is the fate of the Jew to be persecuted," this common remark amongst Jewish orthodoxy is being taken up more and more now that pogroms have been put on the order of the day by the ruling class) must be ruthlessly fought against. The Jewish question is used, as all national and religious questions are used by the bourgeoisie, to split the ranks of the working class, and to side¬track the class struggle into the "safer" channel of racial and religious battles (Jew and Arab in Palestine: Hindoo and Muslim in India, etc., etc.)

The capitalists, says Lenin, are tireless in their endeavours to stir up enmity between the workers of different faiths different nations and different races. The rich Jews, like the rich Russians and the rich of all countries, are united in trampling upon, oppressing and dividing the workers.

To look at the Jewish problem from any other point of view is playing into the hands of the bourgeoisie.

Sacks dwells at great length upon the class nature of Jewish persecution, and makes an interesting historical survey in order to reveal the intimate connections that exist between attacks upon the Jews and the social unrest and economic crises of the period. Speaking of the pogroms under Feudalism, he says:

The 14th century, with its social revolutionary struggles, the Jacquerie in France and the Peasants' revolts in England, Germany and Flanders, left its mark on Jewish history. The Black Death had aggravated social and economic discontent, and for this the Jews were blamed -- just as to-day there is no con¬ceivable catastrophe in which the anti-semite does not detect the Jewish Hand. Exploitation by the nobles, severity of taxation, filching of the common land, at last roused the peasantry to rebellion, and, as in modern times, there were not wanting astute rulers who could lay the blame on the Jew .... for is it not always easier to see the enemy in human form rather than in a system? (Page 174-175).

At the same time Sacks is careful to point out that it is not only the Jew who suffers during these periods of social and economic struggles, but that:

It should be noted that what appears to us to be unbelievable cruelty was not solely the fate of the Jews. Torture on the rack, death by burning, and destruction of home were the fate of all heretics and Social Revolutionaries,

and who can say, with the full knowledge of events in Germany, Austria and Spain, that this is not as true to-day?

The question of Jewish culture receives good treatment, the author using with good effect Stalin's speech at the 16th Congress of the C.P.S.U. "Lenin regarded national culture under the domination of the bourgeoisie as a reactionary slogan," says Stalin. "... It is bourgeois in its content, and national in its form, the purpose of which is to poison the masses with nationalism and to strengthen the domination of the bourgeoisie. What is national culture under the pro¬letarian dictatorship? It is socialist in its content, and national in its form, the purpose of which is to educate the masses in the spirit of internationalism and strengthen the proletarian dictatorship." Using this statement as a basis, Sacks replies very effectively to the Zionists, who state that only in the Jewish National Home (controlled by Jewish and Arab capitalists and landowners, and dominated by British Imperialism) can the Jewish spirit flourish, whilst they bitterly bewail the fact that in Birobidjan the Jewish "soul" is denied because Yiddish is used as the official tongue and not Hebrew. This despite the fact that Yiddish is the language of the proletarian Jew, and that in the ghettos of England and Poland, Hebrew as a daily spoken language is practically unknown, except amongst small sections of Zionists.

Says Sacks:

Yiddish was spoken by practically 90 per cent. of Russian Jews. I doubt if 10 per cent. could speak Hebrew with any degree of fluency. (p.201.)

The concluding chapters deal with the methods of the Bolsheviks in solving the National problem within their borders, the author very correctly showing how successfully the Leninist theory is being worked out in practice. (Biro¬bidjan, etc.)

It is in this section of the book that a serious mis-statement occurs. Sacks says that:

A strong body of opinion within the C.P.S.U. looks with disapproval upon what they call pandering to bourgeois nationalism, and fails to give the authority from whom he draws so remarkable a statement. He refers to the 16th Congress of the C.P.S.U., but a perusal of this will show that in this Congress Stalin specifically states that opposition scarcely exists, "these deviations (on the national question) are not so noticeable or insistent .... they might be called creeping deviations" (Leninism, vol. 2, p.397). Where then does Sacks get his information about "the strong body of opinion, etc."?