<h3>95 Years Young
Jews, Marxism and the Worker's Movement

Mike Heiser

95 Years Young

First Published: Jewish Socialist, #28, January-March 1993.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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New York, late October 1992. The Bush administration had but a few days left to run. The trees in Central Park were russet brown. And there I was in New York to attend the 8th World Congress of the Bund, coupled with the 95th anniversary of its founding.

Bundist organisations exist in many countries, in the United States and Canada, in Australia, in Israel and in South America. A Dr. Berman turned up from the Ukraine, a deputy of the People’s Congress, speaking of the respect in which Jewish culture was held there and full of plans to found a Bundist organisation, with young people who were enthusiastic for Yiddish.

Resolutions were passed on socialism and on Jewish matters specifically but the major point of contention at the conference concerned Zionism. The Bund has ever since its foundation had a position which sharply delineates it from the Zionists, in its support for Jews to be Jews in the countries where they live, rather than being concentrated territorially in one particular land. One tendency at the conference, led by Bundists from New York, did not seek to turn its back on this history but considered that Bundists had to work within Jewish communities and not to take positions which marginalised them. According to them, this meant a ’positive attitude’ to Israel. On the other hand others, including the Israeli organisation of the Bund, made it clear that they had long supported a position of justice and equality for all citizens in Israel and the Occupied Territories, including Palestinian self-determination. If that placed them outside the Israeli national consensus, well that was a position they would just have to live with. In the end both resolutions were remitted to the new Coordinating Committee.

The highlight was the 95th anniversary lunch, held in a hotel in mid-town Manhattan. If one could choke thoughts back of the irony of an originally revolutionary proletarian organisation celebrating its anniversary with a $30 a head meal in the very heart of capitalism, it was a moving occasion, for the fiery speeches, affirming their belief in the Bundist ideals of democratic socialism. And singing the Bund’s hymn, the ’Shvue’, with 300 others affirming its words about ’we swear an oath of blood and tears, was for me one of the highlights of the trip.