First Published: Jewish Socialist, #12, Winter/Spring 1988.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The recent changes in the Soviet Union with regard to freedom of expression, civil rights and a more open society are welcomed by democrats, socialists and people of goodwill all over the world. As democratic socialists, we hope these new developments under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev are not merely temporary, but that they are real steps towards a more free and democratic society.
Glasnost is encountering difficulties and opposition from some of the Soviet bureaucracy who don’t want to lose their privileges and positions of power. Significant numbers of reactionaries in the capitalist countries would also prefer to see this experiment fail. They believe that the worse the situation in the Soviet Union, the better for the western world – a malicious and dangerous approach!
We believe that a democratic Russia offers new possibilities for detente, coexistence and peace in the world.
Although there have been positive changes with regard to the interior and foreign policies of the Soviet Union, no concrete changes can be seen with regard to the Jewish people. On the question of emigration, some improvement has taken place: hundreds of political prisoners, so-called refuseniks among them, have now been released from prisons and gulags and many of them have been granted emigration visas. But there has been not a murmur about reviving the institutions of Jewish culture which were once so massively developed and so ruthlessly destroyed.
The Jewish people expect not mere statements, but an official change of attitude towards the Jews as a nation.
A historical manifestation of glasnost for the Jews would be the reinstatement of secular Jewish culture in Soviet Russia.
The slogan of official Jewish circles in Israel is “Let my people go!”– a call to evacuate all Soviet Jews to Israel. This absurd idea is not only in complete opposition to the interests of the two million Soviet Jews, but it also undermines the foundations on which Jewish life is built in all free countries.
We say: free emigration for the Jews who wish to leave the Soviet Union and settle in Israel or in other countries – yes! Emigration or evacuation of our people – no!
We Bundists still cherish the ideals of the pioneers of the Bund who helped the freedom-loving Russian workers’ movement to topple Tsarism. We are, therefore, most interested in the future of freedom and democracy in the Soviet Union.
Many years after the forcible liquidation of the Bund in the Soviet Union, the ideas of Bundism were still deeply entrenched in the hearts of the Jewish masses there.
It is high time now, in the days of glasnost, to give some sign that a new era of development in Jewish life is beginning. In the spirit of glasnost, the World Co-ordinating Committee of the Bund demands from the present leaders of the Soviet Union:
1. Free emigration for those Jews who wish to leave the Soviet Union, in conformity with the Helsinki Agreements.
2. The rehabilitation of Jewish culture which was liquidated at the time of Stalin.
3. In conformity with the Soviet constitution, the restoration of full national rights for the Jews – the same rights as for all the other peoples of Russia.
4. The creation of proper conditions for the re-establishment of Yiddish schools, Yiddish theatre and Yiddish literature through the free activity of the Jewish masses.