Sunday, September 18, 2011

Jews and Communists
Maimon Schwarzschild

Here is something unusually thoughtful about Jews, Judaism, and Communism; with special reference to Poland, but also to east-central Europe and Russia generally.

If one can feel pride because of an accomplishment of a Jew, even of a non-Jewish Jew who did not act as a Jew, then by the same token one can feel shame because of crimes committed by Jews. If someone ever felt pride because of Freud’s accomplishments he should be ready to feel ashamed because of Kaganovich in Russia, or Berman in Poland. One either has the justification for both feelings or neither.

Jewish communists have left a disturbing legacy that needs to be confronted by the re-emerging Jewish communities in East Central Europe. This is not to say that Jews are guilty and non-Jews are not. That is an antisemitic opinion and I have nothing to do with it. Accepting a Jewish share of moral responsibility does not make non-Jews less responsible or less morally involved. The problem of communist crimes remains a challenge for the political left (obviously, I do not propose to ignore the crimes committed by the political right) and for many groups and nations.

It should be evident that I do not try to free anyone from blame; but my theses on Jews and communism sometimes give the impression that I speak about the Jewish moral responsibility in order to absolve Christians, Poles, and everyone else. This is not the case. Communism was the trouble, not the Jews.

That is an excerpt from the author's concluding "thesis".  There is much more.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE Response to Comments:  It seems to me that chiliastic leftism had (and in diluted form may still have) an appeal to important segments of secularised Jewry that is worrisome; and that Krajewski is right - and not just politic - to suggest that Jews ought to be concerned about it, for reasons of moral probity and not just to appease the anti-semites. Too many Jews, it seems to me, stuck with utopian leftism even when it morphed into totalitarian Communism (not much of a morph, actually - utopian leftism had most if not all the seeds of totalitarianism about it from the outset.) It wasn't just the occasional Tariq Aziz that stuck with Communism-in-power in the USSR, until (in short order of course) the regime turned on the Jews and killed off huge numbers of them (as it killed off essentially all the Old Bolsheviks and untold millions of others). The CPUSA, too, throughout its history, was disproportionately populated with Jews, and that's actually putting it mildly. There is more to worry about here, I think, and to work at building up antibodies against, than a case of taking "a bit of pride" in Mark Spitz but not feeling any responsibility for Buggsy Siegel.

Marx as "international rabbi" is, I fear, a tired trope, and savours strongly (to me at least) of anti-semitic boilerplate. Marx's ancestry was Jewish; Marx himself was an anti-semite. (Read "On The Jewish Question", if you have a strong stomach.) Unfortunately Jewish anti-semites - today as in the past - are not as rare as one might wish.

https://rightcoast.typepad.com/rightcoast/2011/09/jews-and-communists-maimon-schwarzschild.html

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Comments


Sorry, but this article is frankly sickening. First of all, pretty much every group on the planet takes pride in its individual success stories, while disavowing its individual embarrassments. (Think of international sports champions, for instance, whose talent and competitiveness often have next to nothing to do with the country that takes credit for them; or crime kingpins, who are generally reviled by the nations that spawned them.) The fact that Jews like to take a bit of pride in Freud's (or Mark Spitz') Jewish background no more requires them to feel responsible for Lazar Kaganovich than for, say, Bugsy Siegel. After all, as the article concedes, most Jews were never Communist, most Communists were never Jews, Communists in fact routinely targeted Jews for attack, and the identification between the two--not to mention the guilt Jews should supposedly feel about it--is supported by nothing but anti-Semitic stereotypes devoid of any substantiated factual basis.

Of course, *politically ambitious and successful* Eastern European Jews were probably disproportionately communist, at least before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The reason is obvious--for such Jews, internationalist socialism and communism were more attractive and productive vehicles for their ambition, because they were at least somewhat less infected with virulent anti-Semitism than were the vast majority of Eastern Europe's nationalist political movements. The stereotype thus became a self-fulfilling prophesy: among the anti-Semitic nativists of Eastern Europe, Jews were at first condemned simply for being Jews, and later also because the more politically visible among them were almost exclusively socialist or communist.

This is a common pattern in the history of anti-Semitism: ambitious Jews tended to gravitate towards any political force that granted them some degree of relative succor, becoming that force's de facto allies, and thus magnifying the anti-Semitic wrath of its enemies. And whenever the tide turned and the protector was defeated by adversaries, it was the Jews--ambitious or otherwise--who inevitably paid the dearest price.

One finds a similar pattern, interestingly, among politically active Arab Christians, who often eagerly embrace secular nationalist or socialist movements--including some particularly brutal ones--because they are far more welcoming than, say, Islamic religious factions. Of course, nobody in their right mind would ever think to blame Christianity or Christians generally for, say, Saddam Hussein crony Tariq Aziz or PFLP terrorist George Habash. The relatively greater conspicuousness of such figures in Ba'athist or socialist movements relative to Islamic ones, after all, hardly needs a conspiracy-theoretic explanation.

But while I condemn Prof. Krajewski's article, I also understand his dilemma, to an extent: like, say, Judge Goldstone, he's forced to navigate his way in a hideously anti-Semitic political environment, and is trying to strike a compromise between alienating the anti-Semitic powers-that-be by defending Jews, and giving in completely to their raging bigotry. This is always an impossible task, and the professor should never even have attempted it--but at least I understand why he might try.

You, Maimon, on the other hand, are in no such awkward position, and you're free to eschew on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand equivocations about anti-Semitic slanders. Why on earth would you instead endorse them?

Posted by: Icouldbewrong.blogspot.com | Sep 18, 2011 10:33:06 PM

When the Jewish intellectual mind left the confines of the rabbinical world abruptly to occupy politics and philosophy two hundred year ago, it was a race to the left. The prescriptions for the Jewish village of Maimonides, applied to millions of strangers, came into the brutal grasp of the international rabbi Marx.

It is curious that the left, and the Jewish left especially, would have us examine every imagined flaw in the Western character, but never their own. That this is extremely counter-productive does not cross their minds. Good job, professor.

Posted by: james wilson | Sep 19, 2011 11:12:48 AM

James, when the Jewish intellectual mind left the confines of the rabbinical world two hundred years ago, it occupied--and thrived in--any niche that permitted it entry. That included commerce, the arts, science, and of course politics--except for the political right, which was until recently uniformly and virulently anti-Semitic the world over. So it's hardly surprising that Jewish political thinkers sat disproportionately on the political left for most of that history.

How do we know that that was the cause? Well, during the 1950s, William F. Buckley and his allies pretty thoroughly purged the anti-Semites who had previously wielded considerable influence on the American intellectual right. Almost immediately, a trickle of Jewish political thinkers began joining them, gradually growing into a healthy volume. Today, Jewish conservatives are every bit as important to the American conservative movement as Jewish liberals are to American liberalism, and anti-Semitic slurs against conservative Jews--the so-called "neoconservatives"--solidly outnumber attacks on Jewish liberals.

Sadly, the European Right has never experienced anything like the same opening--it remains, to a depressing extent, the same essentially nativist, traditionalist and generally anti-Semitic movement that it has been for centuries. American conservative thought--focused on individual rather than collective economic and ethical responsibility--is simply not popular in Europe, running a poor third to philosophies based on ethnic/national or class collectives. That's why Prof. Krajewski, rather than telling Polish anti-Semites to get stuffed, feels compelled to take their vile calumnies seriously.

Posted by: Icouldbewrong.blogspot.com | Sep 19, 2011 9:33:30 PM

So we should make allowances for the Jew who, finding the best ground staked out by anti-Semites, takes opposite ground because it is opposite. Without courage and the willingness to risk being isolated, intellect is worse than useless, it is damaging.

Posted by: james wilson | Sep 19, 2011 11:19:31 PM

It seems to me that chiliastic leftism had (and in diluted form may still have) an appeal to important segments of secularised Jewry that is worrisome; and that Krajewski is right - and not just politic - to suggest that Jews ought to be concerned about it, for reasons of moral probity and not just to appease the anti-semites. Too many Jews, it seems to me, stuck with utopian leftism even when it morphed into totalitarian Communism (not much of a morph, actually - utopian leftism had most if not all the seeds of totalitarianism about it from the outset.) It wasn't just the occasional Tariq Aziz that stuck with Communism-in-power in the USSR, until (in short order of course) the regime turned on the Jews and killed off huge numbers of them (as it killed off essentially all the Old Bolsheviks and untold millions of others). The CPUSA, too, throughout its history, was disproportionately populated with Jews, and that's actually putting it mildly. There is more to worry about here, I think, and to work at building up antibodies against, than a case of taking "a bit of pride" in Mark Spitz but not feeling any responsibility for Buggsy Siegel.

Marx as "international rabbi" is, I fear, a tired trope, and savours strongly (to me at least) of anti-semitic boilerplate. Marx's ancestry was Jewish; Marx himself was an anti-semite. (Read "On The Jewish Question", if you have a strong stomach.) Unfortunately Jewish anti-semites - today as in the past - are not as rare as one might wish.

Posted by: maimons | Sep 20, 2011 4:11:40 PM

James, my answer to your question is an emphatic, "no, we shouldn't". Political ambition never justifies embracing profound evil. That applies equally to the apologist for Polish Communists when they were in power, and to the apologist for Polish anti-Semites today.

Maimon, I count three times in the same comment that you interpret Jews' disproportionate prominence in small groups as a broad tendency among Jews. I'd have thought my allusion to the prominence of Jews in the neoconservative movement would have cured you of that confusion.

I have no doubt that "too many Jews...stuck with utopian leftism even when it morphed into totalitarian Communism"--after all, even one would have been too many. But what fraction of Jews--let alone non-anti-Semitic ones--do you really think followed that route?

Ditto for the CPUSA. Jews may have played a major role in it, but do you seriously believe they were ever more than a tiny minority of American Jews as a whole? Or that those particular Jews weren't every bit as disdainful of their heritage as Marx himself was?

As for today's "Jewish anti-Semites"--well, they certainly exist, and some of them are indeed radical leftists. (And all of them, to state the obvious, vehemently dissociate themselves from their people and their heritage.) But if you're seriously arguing that Jews should "be concerned about it, for reasons of moral probity", then you've just entered into the ranks of those who blame Jews for anti-Semitism. Trust me--that's not the kind of company you want to keep.

Posted by: Icouldbewrong.blogspot.com | Sep 20, 2011 10:14:18 PM

The author of the article says that his great grandfather was one of the founder of the Polish Communist Party. Naturally, he finds the topic of Jewish Communists interesting and wants to figure out what went wrong. What he'd like would be for there to have been NO Jewish Communists-- why couldn't his ancestor resist the lure? I have a similar dismayed fascination with the antics of current Norwegians, and would like someone to tell me what happened to my distant cousins (we Norwegian-Americans are more sensible, at least).

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Sep 21, 2011 8:07:57 AM