First Published: Jewish Affairs, Vol. 3, No. 6-7, June-July 1972.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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(The following is an excerpt translated from the Yiddish pamphlet How Long Can the Truth Be Hidden? A second excerpt will appear in our next issue.)
The editors of the Morning Freiheit are realizing that some of their enlightened readers are vexed by their nationalism, so they have started a partial retreat. Paul Novick stated in an article on March 26, 1972:
... a majority of the leaders of this party (the Sneh, Mikunis, Vilenska renegade group which calls itself Maki) has begun to make concessions in the direction of annexationism. We pointed out, on a few occasions, that we disagree with Maki on this important question. We have published articles concerning peace [in the Middle East] by only those leaders who are in the minority in the Central Committee – Sh. Mikunis and Esther Vilenska. Printing their articles, we pointed out that we fully agreed with their position.
It hardly needs saying that we are dealing here with a subterfuge. The MF has supported the Maki line since 1967, without reservations, and has constantly helped to spread the insidious propaganda of this splinter group. Let us examine the position of Mikunis, whose views P. Novick fully supports. He writes in the MF (August 29, 1971): “We have always desired, and desire now, to make peace with our neighbors. . . on the basis of UN Resolution 242. . . . We are against the placing of preconditions by either side. . .the most important thing is an agreement, the recognition by both parties of the legitimate rights of either side. Peace among equals, with equal rights.”
In this pronouncement we see a complete reiteration of the line that was the cornerstone of Dr. Sneh’s “peace program.” Mikunis’ demand for “negotiations without preconditions” and “a peace agreement on the basis of the UN Resolution” (not the full acceptance of the resolution on the part of Israel) are a complete duplication of the statements which M. Sneh used to make (Sneh, who was the chairman of Maki, died March 1, 1972). The true purpose of these demogogic “peace proposals” is to cover up the connivance of Maki with regard to annexation of Arab territories by Israel, although they profess to be against annexation. How can one speak about “peace among equals” at a time when the Israeli army occupies 26,000 square miles of conquered lands of its Arab neighbors? If the leaders of Maki were veracious in their claim that they are striving for a just peace, would they acquiesce to such an aggression?
Let us remember Lenin’s struggle against the deceitful, chauvinistic social-democratic leaders during the First World War who, as he pointed out, agreed to the aggression of their “own” bourgeoisie on “patriotic” grounds and became traitors to the working class and proletarian internationalism. By his “new” theses, Mikunis tries to conceal the indisputable fact that the only possibility for the Israeli government to achieve peace is through the implementation of the UN Resolution 242 of 1967, that calls for withdrawal from the conquered Arab lands.
Participating in the discussion that was conducted by Maki prior to its 17th Congress, Mikunis stressed, again and again, that he fully adhered to the principles which were formulated by Moshe Sneh. He said in a discussion article in Frei Yisroel (April 3, 1972):“Getting ready for our 17th National Congress we have lost our dear Comrade Sneh, Chairman of the Central Committee of our Party. The theses which he was able to draw up a short time before his death have been adopted by our Central Committee by a large majority vote. This was the last contribution to our party and its future course by our departed comrade.
In the discussion Mikunis supported Dr. Sneh’s chauvinistic line that the 1967 War was a “war of self-defense.” He declared: “Those who believe that the struggle which took place on June 6-10, 1967, as well as the harassment war of March 1969, were wars of self defense cannot negate or reject the urgent need for a front of national defense. This is a corollary of the ABC of Marxism-Leninism.” Mikunis pursues the chauvinistic propaganda of a “war of self-defense” and a “national defense front,” which Dr. Sneh was trying to spread in progressive Jewish ranks, under the guise of “Marxism-Leninism.” In view of this, how can the leaders of the MF assume that Mikunis disagrees with the chauvinist revisionist line that Maki has been following under the leadership of Moshe Sneh and is following at the present time? Why are they telling the MF leaders that there are significant ideological differences in Maki?
Even the Jerusalem Post has to admit that nothing has changed in the ideology of Maki. In a report on the 17th Congress of this group we read: “The spirit of the late Maki chairman, Dr. Moshe Sneh, presided over the opening session of the 17th Israel Communist Party Congress yesterday, over a month since Dr. Sneh’s death.” In an earlier report we read: “The Sneh loyalists yesterday won overwhelmingly in the internal party vote for delegates to the 17th Congress of Maki, the Israel Communist Party, which opens here next Thursday.”
The MF spokesmen constantly proclaim that they are “objective,” have a “balanced opinion” and are the true followers of Marxism-Leninism, and that those who criticize their ideological deviations “want to destroy the Morning Freiheit.” But the fact is that the aim of those in the progressive Jewish movement who maintain a principled Marxist-Leninist position is not to harm the MF, but to strengthen it by calling attention to its ideological errors. These consistent Marxists plead with the leaders of the Morning Freiheit to free themselves from their bourgeois nationalist deviations and bring the MF back to its role as a fighting organ of the progressive Jewish masses who have, with such great devotion, built and supported this newspaper during the past fifty years.
The present trend of the MF, the anti-Soviet stance that its leaders frequently take, their condoning of Zionism, their misinterpretation of the 1967 UN resolution – all this causes a great deal of distress to progressive Jewish ranks in our country and in many other countries. From time to time we find in the prestigious Soviet Jewish magazine Sovetish Heimland a sharp rejoinder to the ideological errors of the MF. A critical commentary on its deviations was published by Sovetish Heimland in its March 1972 issue, under the title: “What is Happening in the Morning Freiheit?,” in which the newspaper is taken to task for its incredible attack on a Soviet friendship delegation that visited Israel last January and for other frequent attacks against the Soviet Union, as well as for its continued support of the Sneh-Mikunis-Vilenska renegade group. It is pointed out that on rare occasions, when the editors of the MF are compelled to retreat from the revisionist line, this is done, not with a self-critical approach, but by attempting to make excuses for their ideological mistakes. The editors of SH state:
To sum up, the present leaders of the MF have adopted a platform of collaboration with various shades of Zionism. This is what they themselves are saying. We believe that on the basic question concerning the present political situation–on the evaluation of the Israeli-Arab war–the MF fully takes a Zionist position, as is the case with the Sneh-Mikunis group in Israel. (Incidentally, this is the reason why the Morning Freiheit proclaims this group as the Communist Party of Israel. To cite an example, the editors of the MF stated on January 1, 1971: “We agree with Maki, or they agree with us, that Israel defended itself in the six-day war. This is fundamental.”)
It is in the nature of all revisionist deviators to maintain that they alone are the true followers of Lenin, and the leaders of Maki and the MF are no exception. Actually, they have abandoned the class struggle and have switched from a class position to a stance of bourgeois nationalism. This is evident in P. Novick’s report to the national MF conference, held in New York last October. In this long presentation the class struggle isn’t mentioned even once. The struggle of the Jewish toilers against their exploiters has ceased to exist for the editor of the MF.
P. Novick refers to “the major problems that confront the Jewish people,” “Jewish interests,” “principled positions,” “broad unity with Mapam-Zionists, Goldmann-Zionists, Lelyveld-Zionists,” “national nihilism.” He even speaks about “Lenin’s axioms”; however, the essential guideline of Marxism-Leninism–the struggle of the workers and oppressed, exploited masses against the ruling class–is completely omitted in this report. The editor of the Morning Freiheit has veered so far from the class struggle that he does not think it is even worth mentioning in the MF’s deliberations.
It must be noted that P. Novick had an altogether different view on these matters years back when the Freiheit (as it was called then) was guided by the principled Marxist-Leninist editor, writer and leader, Moishe Olgin. In his book: Palestine, the Arabs and Zionism, (New York, 1932), Novick wrote in the preface:
Zionism, which was from its very inception devised as a tool in the struggle against the working class, continues to play this role. . .in its attacks on the revolutionary movement, in its incitement against the Soviet Union. It is necessary to reveal the true nature of Zionism in the light of these world events, /to expos^/ the adventurist, repressive, reactionary character of Zionism. . . . The. Jewish bourgeoisie of the United States plays a predominant role in the Zionist adventures, seeking to mobilize the Jewish masses for its own ends and for the aims of American imperialism.
Concerning the pseudo-socialist groups within the Zionist movement, Novick wrote on page 108: “Making use of socialist phrases they have tried – and are trying – to deter the workers from the general struggle (the struggle for socialism–PH).” On page 144 we read: “Zionism, which was nurtured from the very beginning by anti-Semitism and pogroms, became a tool of reaction and blunted the effort to solve the social question, without which the national question cannot be resolved.”
These statements, made in 1932, speak for themselves. They show to what extent Novick has shifted politically. As we know, he is coming out now with the “theory” that there are “good” and “bad” Zionists and that “they must not be thrown into the same pot.” He and his associates are expressing this pro-Zionist line in innumerable articles, statements, speeches and declarations. In his report to the 1971 national MF conference, PN claims that the Morning Freiheit “always was and is now averse to Zionism.” However it becomes evident from his subsequent “enlightening” remarks that this assertion is made for the benefit of those readers for whom it is hard to swallow the “new” trend in the MF. At the same time he promulgates the “theory” of “good” and “bad” Zionists in order to weaken the struggle against this reactionary ideology. He says:
It is necessary to differentiate; The Zionist movement has many trends. . . our aim must be to collaborate with Zionists in the struggle against the war, against racism, for the UN resolution on the Middle East. He who does not comprehend this, who approaches this question dogmatically, who throws [all Zionists] in one pot, undermines the struggle against imperialism, chauvinism and reaction amongst the Jewish masses.
In this demagogic pronouncement the facts are put topsy-turvy. In order to conduct an effective fight against Jewish reaction it is necessary not to hide but to expose the chauvinistic character of Zionism, which, as P. Novick himself pointed out some forty years ago, impedes this struggle. On the question of unity in the struggle against the war in Vietnam, Jewish progressives hardly need Novick’s advice. Our position is well known. The peace movement includes people of various political shades and social and economic status. Even the Pope finds it necessary to issue, from time to time, a call for peace. Novick’s assertion that “it is in the interest of the Jewish masses” to “collaborate with Zionists for the implementation of the UN resolution on the Middle East” is especially misleading and harmful, giving the impression that there is a liberal trend in Zionism, that is for peace without annexation and does not clash with the class interests of the Jewish toiling masses. Obviously such a brand of Zionism does not exist.
His call for “collaboration with Zionists for a just peace in the Middle East” is reminiscent of the “peace slogans” that were spread by misleaders of the working class during the First World War and were condemned by Lenin as a chauvinist betrayal of the class struggle and the struggle for socialism.
P. Novick tells us in his report: “It is necessary to reach a broad unity. . .with Mapam Zionists, Goldmann Zionists, Lelyveld Zionists.” However Novick’s “good” Zionist, Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld, has been, until a few months ago, president of the American Jewish Congress–an organization that supports the annexationist line of the Israeli government, is strongly pro-Zionist and incites against the Soviet Union. Mapam is taking part in Golda Meir’s government coalition. The political stance of the “Left wing” of Mapam, on which P. Novick relies so much, is similar to the Maki position. How different was Novick’s attitude towards the class struggle forty-odd years ago! In the preface to the book from which we quoted above, we read:
Communists have the same approach to Arabs as they have to all nations. [They look at the Arab question] from the point of view of class struggle. . . . The chauvinists look upon Arabs as anti-Semites look upon Jews. . . . We cannot lump together all Arabs. We must take into consideration the class division. We are witnessing in Palestine a class struggle. By emphasizing this class struggle we will lessen the opportunity of the Jewish bourgeoisie, or bourgeois intellectuals, to mislead the Jewish workers and to foster the class interests of the bourgeoisie.
Obviously this evaluation of the situation in the Middle East, with which we fully agree, differs a great deal from the bourgeois-nationalist pronouncement that we hear at the present time from the editor of the Morning Freiheit. These vacillations are indeed deplorable.