Peter Myers in his review of the book by Joseph Nedava “Trotsky and the Jews” writes this:

It may seem strange to place our following study of the developing thought of Leon Trotsky over many decades in the context of these murders last week of religious Jewish youth. But in fairness, not really so strange, because Trotsky was to end by calling for Jews to make their way to Palestine, and there to set up a JEWISH state, which would be a space on earth free from antisemitism. Trotsky was above all a realist because dialectical materialism if it is anything is a method of the study of Nature which brings the human mind closer to an understanding of reality. It was in that context that Trotsky referred to antisemitism. This curse on mankind, and the more the 30s went on the more Trotsky saw what a curse, could only be answered by the Jews being apart and having total control in their own state. Yet people say, how can this be, this man was a dialectical materialist, he was proposing a method of looking at the world based on atheism, meaning no supernatural, just matter in motion, and no need for a supernatural to explain that reality? And…There was no first cause. The only reality is matter, continually changing matter, out of which has developed this species homo sapiens sapiens, change being the only constant quality of this matter in motion. Yet there was no contradiction. I am not sure how much Trotsky knew about the longevity of Jewish nationalism but, in any case looking at contemporary Fascism and capitalism in its death agony, he was a clear supporter of a future Israel where the Jews would have total power. The implications are immense and a little astonishing considering how the present Fascist “Left” oppose every one of these concepts held so strongly by Trotsky, especially in the last decade of his life.

Myers is a very strange character indeed. He has an interest in Trotsky yet his views on Trotsky is not as a revolutionary socialist, precisely because Myers is very far (!) from being a revolutionary socialist. So I use Myers with some care!

He is pulling extracts from the book by Nedava, details later, and in this extract is telling something of the rather unfriendly attitude of Trotsky to Jewish affairs in the very early 20s. Yes here on 4international we will show this man Trotsky warts and all; we do not hide or create subterfuges like the Kamms of this world; and it is in the total movement of the thought of Trotsky towards the Jews that the full power of his later position becomes clear.

Joseph Nedava; Trotsky and the Jews; Peter Myers

(all quotes from above)

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In the second government, which was a coalition government between the Bolsheviks and the Left Social-Revolutionaries, another Jew was appointed as commissar of justice, I. N. Steinberg (December 12, 1917). Steinberg was a great contrast to Trotsky, for he was a strictly religious Jew. When he was arrested for revolutionary activity in tsarist times, he used to wear phylacteries in his cell and even celebrate Passover night there, in all the customary detail. In later years everybody in his town of Ufa knew that when he went to a Duma session on the Sabbath, a Gentile used to carry his briefcase for him (according to Jewish Law, one is forbidden to carry even light things on the Sabbath in public places); and “people also told of a fiery leftist speech he made to the peasants on Yom Kippur eve, and about tears and strict fasting in the synagogue on Yom Kippur.”

Steinberg was a disciple of non-Marxist socialism. He believed that socialism and Judaism (to his mind, identical with the “socialism” of the Jewish prophets) were complementary. When asked how he could reconcile socialism and religion, he replied that he had been a member of the Social-Revolutionary party, which stood for the distribution of land to the peasants. This accorded with the Torah’s prohibition of private ownership of land. He then cited Leviticus: “For the land is mine, saith the Lord.”

Trotsky and Steinberg clashed on the crucial question of the use of terror. Steinberg’s “liberal weakness” was not entirely to Trotsky’s liking. …

{p. 103} It would have suited Trotsky’s temperament and his Jewish background not to be involved in any measures taken by the Bol shevik regime to extirpate religion in the Soviet Union. Yet he stepped out of his expected neutrality to lead, in the years 1921-1922, the “Society of the Godless.” Maybe he was pressed by Lenin into accepting this job, as he himself tells us in his autobiography: “Among the some dozen or so jobs that I was directing as part of my party work – that is, privately and unofficially – was antireligious propaganda, in which Lenin was much interested. He asked me insistently not to let this work out of my sight.” While Lenin was convalescing, Stalin was successful in undermining Trotsky’s position as director of the antireligious campaign, replacing him with his own man, Emilian Yaroslavsky (also a Jew, and later one of Stalin’s sycophant biographers).

Deutscher commented that Trotsky led the Society of the Godless “in a spirit of philosophical enlightenment which was least likely to produce those excesses, offensive to the sentiment of the believers, which marred the Society’s work under Yaroslavsky.” {note 12 on p. 252: I Deutscher, The Prophet Unarmed: Trotsky 1921-1929 (New York, 1959), 2:28} This task required much tact and tolerance. Trotsky also headed a secret commission for the confiscation of ecclesiastical treasures with which to buy food for the famine-stricken zones on the Volga.

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these quotes by Myers from Nedava written on April 27, 2001

It is not our intention here to excuse Leon Trotsky,  only to explain as best we can. Leon Trotsky was a dialectical materialism and he approached this in a serious and a militant fashion in the field of ideas. As far as I can ascertain Karl Marx approached the struggle against religion in something of the same manner. I know for certain that his struggle against Bruno Bauer was a struggle against the antisemitism of Bauer, because Bauer was seeking to debar Jews from practising their religion in Austria, Marx saying Jews had to have full rights in Austria and be completely free to practice their religion, as would happen in America. Here Trotsky was given charge by Lenin of this school and he was opposed to any form of repression of religion, it was seen by him as a battle of ideas. It may be helpful to place this in the context of Trotsky’s ideas on the artist, that in the socialist state the artist must have complete freedom to experiment.

Something more of the flavour of those times can be seen in this which again Myers draws from the book by Nedava

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By pleading for leniency in the antireligious campaign, Trotsky was merely trying to work out a commonsense policy. He felt that by closing down houses of prayer and persecuting the believers by sheer administrative measures, nothing would be accomplished. It was the social structure that would have to be changed, and new forms of life introduced. The new conditions created by the regime would as a matter of course break down the “antiquated” institutions and customs. In this he was no innovator but merely acted on the basis of the party program of March 1919, adopted at the eighth congress. (Trotsky was a member of a committee of seven empowered to formulate the program.) The religious plank read:

{quote} The All-Russian Communist Party is guided by the conviction that only the realization of conscious and systematic social and economic activity of the masses will lead to the disappearance of religious prejudices. The aim of the Party is finally to destroy the ties between the exploiting classes and the organization of religious propaganda, at the same time helping the toiling masses actually to liberate their minds from religious superstitions, and organizing on a wide scale scientific-educational and anti-religious propaganda. It is, however, necessary carefully to avoid offending the religious susceptibilities of believers, which leads only to strengthening of religious fanaticism. {endquote}

Strange as it may seem, it was Trotsky who was soon to be called on to curb Jewish antireligious fanaticism. But first something should be said about a special Jewish institution created by the Soviet government to deal with Jewish affairs: Evsektsia (the “Jewish section” of the Communist party).

The October Revolution brought about a tremendous upheaval in Russian Jewry. Consisting mainly of the urban middle class, it was ruined economically; naturally it could not be sympathetic

{p. 105} to the new regime. The Soviet authorities found it extremely difficult to deal with the large Jewish population of about three million persons, who proved intractable and could not be assimilated overnight. Russian Jewry was in a peculiar position. In contrast with most other nationalities in the Soviet Union, they had no territory of their own. This led to an almost immediate and total disruption of Jewish cultural and educational institutions. Faced with such a state of affairs, the Soviet government had to modify somewhat its previous attitude to the Jews and endow them with a separate – albeit fictitious – nationality. This recognition found its expression in the appointment of both a special Jewish deputy in the People’s Commissariat of Nationalities (under Stalin) and the establishment of a Jewish section within the Communist party.

{p. 106} Since Trotsky would not intercede in behalf of his coreligionists, the latter had to look for other sources of relief. The most prominent among these men were Commissar of Education Lunacharsky, the writer Gorky, member of the Politburo and chairman of the Moscow soviet, Lev Kamenev, Lenin himself, and even Felix Dzerzhinsky, the head of the Cheka, short for Chrezvychainaia Komissiia (Extraordinary Commission for Combatting Counterrevolution and Sabotage, the Soviet secret police).

During what was perhaps the most crucial year of “war communism,” 1921, a group of twelve Jewish writers, headed by C. N. Bialik, wished to leave the Soviet Union for Palestine, now that Russia was officially bent on strangling any manifestation of Jewish spiritual creativity. Permission for this was required from the Soviet authorities. The first attempt was made to reach Trotsky through his former brother-in-law, Yuli Sokolovsky (Trotsky’s first wife’s brother) a well-known journalist writing under the pseudonym “Sedoi.” After sending out some feelers to Trotsky, Sokolovsky informed the group that he could do nothing and advised them to contact Lenin through Gorky. This was done. Bialik met Gorky in Moscow on March 30, 1921, and soon afterwards Lenin instructed Dzerzhinsky to issue the permit.

Much more helpful to the suffering Jews in those dire days was Trotsky’s sister, Olga Kamenev, wife of the influential Bolshevik

{p. 107} leader Lev Kamenev {one of the triumvirate who succeeded Lenin, with Zinoviev and Stalin; of the three, only one was non-Jewish}. To be sure, she too subscribed to her brother’s concept of internationalism; she “thought of herself as one of the family of mankind and to be a Jew was therefore to seclude one’s self from the common life.” She was chairman of the Soviet commission through which the government dealt with foreign relief organizations, one of the most important of which was the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. “She cared for Jews as people and not as brethren exclusively hers,” wrote Dr. Bogen, a representative of this relief organization; “they were brethren, to be sure, but as the Tatars were brethren, as the Bashkirs were brethren. But in unguarded moments hidden recesses of her heart opened to reveal a deep affection for the people of whom she was born.”

Kamenev himself was a converted half-Jew (his father was Jewish, his mother, Russian), yet he never failed to help Jews in distress and often pointed the way out of difficulties. He was a close friend of Professor David Shor, and he courteously received delegations of Jewish rabbis, even when he could do very little for them.

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The following extract by Myers from Nedava contains the well known Rabbi Maze much used quotation at the end:

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p. 164} After the October Revolution and until the Bolsheviks firmly established themselves, the government in the Ukraine changed hands some twenty times. Sometime in 1918, while the Ukraine was under German occupation, the rabbis of Odessa expressed the prevalent Jewish animosity to bolshevism by ceremonially anathematizing Trotsky, Zinoviev, and other Jewish Bolshevik leaders in the synagogue.11 {see note 11 below} Evidently Trotsky’s prominence increased anti-Semitism throughout Russia, particularly in the Ukraine. He was an easy target; one could put the blame on him for all the ills that had befallen the country. He was regarded as an outsider fanatically bent on the eradication of the institutions and spirit of traditional Russia. To most anti-Bolshevik forces, the White Guardists in all their forms, he was the personification of “detested Jewry.”

{note 11 to the above is on p.265 & p.266}:

{p. 265} 11. Bezbozhnik [The godless], no. 20 (12 September 1938). Zinoviev cynically referred to this in his eulogy of Uritsky (the chief of the Petrograd Cheka, assassinated on August 30, 1918): “When we read that in Odessa, under Skoropadsky, the rabbis assembled in {p. 266} special council, and there these representatives of the rich Jews, officially, before the entire world, excommunicated from the Jewish community such Jews as Trotsky and me, your obedient servant, and others – no single hair of any of us has turned gray because of grief”; Zinoviev, Sochineniia, 16:224. {end of note 11}

{p. 167} In his diary the noted Jewish historian Simon Dubnow reflected agonizingly the share of the Jews in the October Revolution:

{quote} The revolution has bogged down in the quagmire of the lowest instincts. … Somehow we shall come out of this bloody interregnum alive, but we shall never be forgiven for the share that the Jewish speculators of the revolution have taken in Bolshevist terror. The Jewish companions and fellow workers of Lenin – the Trotskys and Uritskys – eclipse even him – the Smolny Institute is secretly called Centerzhid. Later on this will be talked about aloud, and anti-Semitism will be rooted deeply in all parts of Russian society. The soil is ready for cultural anti-Semitism. {endquote}

When in 1921 the chief rabbi of Moscow, Rabbi Jacob Maze, appeared before Trotsky to plead for the Russian Jews, Trotsky was reputed to have answered him, as he had done on various previous occasions, that he was a Bolshevik revolutionary and did not consider himself a Jew. To this Rabbi Maze replied: “The Trotskys make the revolutions, and the Bronsteins pay the bills.”

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There then follows from Myers a long or many long extracts from Nedava over many pages of his book, because Nedava has come to the critical issue of the growth of Stalinism, and how it became ever more apparent that there was a counter revolution taking place in Russia, expressed in Stalinism, and with it the old vomit of antisemitism was resurfacing. It had never died of course. But the momentum of the revolutionary days would have driven such deep reaction below the surface. There is nothing mysterious or puzzling to me in any of this. The revolution was unable to go forward because of international isolation and the old rottenness came again to the surface.

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Trotsky was in the last analysis considered an outsider. He was a European Marxist not only by tradition, but also mentally. He was a citizen of all countries and therefore a citizen of none, not even of Russia. He typified the wandering Jew – in modern garb, perhaps, but that “legacy of the past” was definitely laden on his back. At first the Stalin clique might not have been consciously anti-Semitic, but soon the anti-Jewish undertones had to come to the surface. By contrast, Stalin (though a Georgian by birth) was very much at home in Russia; he was not an emigre revolutionary, but a product of the Russian soil. He may also, perhaps, have resented the intellectual super-sophistication of people like Trotsky, and he naturally attracted around him the vast multitudes of the simple folk.

{p. 174} Trotsky dealt only cursorily with the origins of Stalin’s anti-Semitism, but he wrote extensively on the vicious anti-Semitic campaign that Stalin conducted against him throughout the various stages of the struggle for power.

In his essay “Thermidor and Anti-Semitism,” which he wrote in 1937, Trotsky analyzed in retrospect the development of the anti-Semitic trend from its early beginnings:

{quote} Between 1923 and 1926, when Stalin, with Zinoviev and Kamenev, was still a member of the troika, the play on the strings of anti-Semitism bore a very cautious and masked character. Especially schooled orators [Stalin already led an underhanded struggle against his associates] said that the followers of Trotsky are petty bourgeois from “small towns,” without defining their race. Actually that was untrue. The percentage of Jewish intellectuals in the Opposition was in no case any greater than that in the party and in the bureaucracy. It is sufficient to name the leaders of the Opposition for the years 1923-1925: I. N. Smirnov, Serebryakov, Rakovsky, Piatakov, Preobrazhensky, Krestinsky, Mura- lov, Beloborodov, Mrachkovsky, V. Yakolev, Sapronov, V. M. Smirnov, Ishtchenk~fully indigenous Russians. Radek at that time was only half sympathetic. But, as in the trials of the grafters and other scoundrels, so at the time of expulsions of the Opposition from the party, the bureaucracy purposely emphasized the names of Jewish members of casual and secondary importance. This was quite openly discussed in the party and, back in 1925, the Opposition saw in this situation the unmistakable symptom of the decay of the ruling clique.

After Zinoviev and Kamenev joined the Opposition, the situation changed radically for the worse. At this point there opened wide a perfect chance to say to the workers that at the head of the Opposition stand three “dissatisfied Jewish intellectuals.” Under the direction of Stalin, Uglanov in Moscow and Kirov in Leningrad carried through this line systematically and almost fully in the open. In order the more sharply to demonstrate to the workers the differences between the “old” course and the “new,” the Jews, even when unreservedly devoted to the general line, were removed from responsible party and Soviet posts. {endquote}

Nevertheless, the fact is that Jews were all along conspicuous among the Opposition, very few were to be found in the Stalin

{p. 175} entourage, and fewer still in the rightist faction of Bukharin. Being mainly urban, they moved in the comparatively small intellectual circles and, marked by their “Jewish” characteristics, could be easily pointed at. Also, they were by their very nature and revolutionary upbringing closer to Trotskyism than to Stalinism. They repudiated the idea of “socialism in one country” as too small a prize to fight for. They would accept nothing less than world revolution. Thus the Stalinist identification of the Opposition with Jewishness had some justification in fact. In later years the designations “Opposition” and “the Evreskaia” were almost interchangeable.

This realization, apparently, was also what psychologically motivated George Orwell to give a Jewish coloring to the Opposition in his nightmarish Oceania in 1984. In this book the leader of the Opposition and the writer of “The Book” (The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism), which attempts to answer the un-answerable question of “Why?,” is Emmanuel Goldstein. “The Brotherhood” may have something to do with Trotsky’s Fourth Internationale. It should also be recalled that Orwell was a member of the Trotskyite P.O.U.M. during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, and he was certainly acquainted with Trotsky’s writings. Deutscher is of the opinion that “it was from Trotsky-Bronstein that he [Orwell] took the few sketchy biographical data and even the physiognomy and the Jewish name for Emmanuel Goldstein; and the fragments of ‘the book,’ which take up so many pages in 1984, are an obvious, though not very successful, paraphrase of Trotsky’s The Revolution Betrayed.” {endnote 27 on p. 268: I. Deutscher, Russia in Transition (New York, 1960), p. 261.}

In 1926 the surreptitious Stalinist anti-Semitic propaganda work was conducted mainly on the lowest level of the party organization – in the cells and in the factories.

{quote} Not only in the country but even in Moscow factories the baiting of the Opposition, back in l926, often assumed a thoroughly obvious anti-Semitic character. Many agitators spoke brazenly: “The Zhids are rioting.” I received hundreds of letters deploring the anti-Semitic methods in the struggle with the Opposition. {endquote} {endnote 28 on p. 268: The Trotsky Archives, T. 4106.}

Jewish members of the cells, adherents or sympathizers of the Opposition, found it difficult to carry on their party activity. They

{p. 176} were sneered at and were met with the derisive “Here are the Jews!”

Trotsky tried to take the matter up with the higher organs of the party:

{quote} At one of the sessions of the Politburo I wrote Bukharin a note: “You cannot help knowing that even in Moscow in the struggle against the Opposition, methods of Black Hundred demagogues (anti-Semitism, etc.) are utilized.” Bukharin answered me evasively on that same piece of paper: “Individual instances, of course, are possible.” I again wrote: “I have in mind not individual instances but a systematic agitation among the party secretaries at large Moscow enterprises. Will you agree to come with me to investigate an example of this at the factory ‘Skorokhod’ (I know of a number of other such examples).” Bukharin answered, “All right, we can go.” In vain I tried to make him carry out the promise. Stalin most categorically forbade him to do so. {endquote}

But Trotsky would not let go, and a fortnight later he brought the matter up at the Politburo, doubting that anything real would come out of it, but intent on putting his protest into the official record. He voiced his indignation at the generation of the revolution for openly allowing and officially sanctioning anti-Semitic manifestations. Members of the Politburo, Stalin’s allies, failed to respond. Some not only denied any knowledge of the malicious campaign on a cell level, but even pooh-poohed the sugestion that there was need for an investigation into the matter. Bukharin was ill at ease, yet could do nothing but go along with his associates.

Alienation of Opposition leaders and agitators from the cells was part of Stalinist policy. Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev were barred from addressing the workers. Stalin’s henchmen, such as N. Uglanov, who had been in charge of the Moscow party organization since Kamenev’s break with Stalin, kept the Opposition away by all kinds of devices. In a letter to Bukharin (then a member of the new rightist triumvirate with Stalin), dated March 4, 1926, Trotsky described the new climate engendered, at Stalin’s behest, by the party bureaucracy:

{quote} You know, of course, that in line with Uglanov’s policy against me a semi-behind-the-scenes war is being conducted in Moscow with all

{p. 177} sorts of stratagems and insinuations which I have no wish to characterize adequately here.

By all kinds of intrigues – very often unworthy and injurious to the organization – I am prevented from addressing workers’ meetings. At the same time, a rumor is being circulated in workers’ cells to the effect that I read lectures “for the bourgeoisie,” while refusing to appear before the workers. {endquote}

Trotsky then quoted from one of the numerous letters he had received from factory workers (in this instance, a Jewish worker) to illustrate how he (Trotsky) was being slandered (“Why do you organize lectures where high admission fees are required, such as workers cannot afford?”), on the one hand, and how a regime of fear was created, threatening that workers would be thrown out of their jobs at factories should “they try to verify the infamous slander leveled against a member of the Politburo,” on the other hand. “Some secretary of a certain cell – and again, this was not at all accidental – said that ‘in the Politburo the Zhids are rioting.’” No worker would, of course, dare to complain about this, for fear that he would be driven out of the factory. Other calumnies spoke of “Jews agitating against Leninism,” and the same Jewish worker who wrote to Trotsky inquired whether it was true that he was selling his speeches and writings to the bourgeoisie. In his note to Bukharin, Trotsky further wrote:

{quote} In other words: members of the Communist party are afraid to report to the organs of the party about Black Hundred agitation, considering that they – not the Black Hundreds – will be thrown out [italics in the original].

You will say: exaggeration! I wish I could think so too. Therefore I suggest to you: let’s go together to the cells and verify it. I think that what binds us – two members of the Politburo – is still quite enough for us that we try quietly and conscientiously to verify the matter: is it true, is it possible that in our party, in MOSCOW, in WORKERS’ cells, vicious and slanderous propaganda on the one hand, and anti-Semitic, on the other hand, can be carried on with impunity, and that honest workers are afraid to make inquiries, or verify, or try to disprove nonsensical rumors – lest they are thrown out into the street with their families.

{p. 178} Of course you can direct me to the instantsia [“Establishment”]! But this would only have meant to close a vicious circle.

I wish to hope that you would not do this, and just because of this hope have I dictated this letter. {endquote}

The impact of the Trotsky-Stalin contest was felt throughout the Soviet Union. In 1926 the party’s Central Committee, through its trusted henchmen, started turning party cells into Stalinist strongholds. The rank and file were bidden to be vigilant and urged to oust followers of Trotsky and Zinoviev from their midst. The latter were branded as “alien elements.” The popular mood following Stalin’s anti-Semitic propaganda is reported by Professor Merle Fainsod, as taken from the Soviet files captured at Smolensk. A typical peasant reaction to the power struggle is quoted in a party report (1926):

{quote} Our good master, Vladimir Ilich [Lenin], had only just passed away when our commissars began to fight among themselves, and all this is due to the fact that the Jews became very numerous, and our Russians do not let them have their way, but there is nobody to suppress them. {endquote}

In a similar vein an OGPU report stated that

{quote} some workers in Bryansk were saying that Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and others were Jewish by origin and that when Lenin died, Trotsky wanted to lead the state, that is, to take Lenin’s place and put Jews in all responsible positions, but Trotsky and his opposition were unable to do this, and that is why they were fighting against the Central Committee of the party. {endquote}

In his essay “Thermidor and Anti-Semitism,” Trotsky goes on to explain:

{quote} In the months of preparations for the expulsions of the Opposition from the party, the arrests, the exiles (in the second half of 1927), the anti-Semitic agitation assumed a thoroughly unbridled character. The slogan “Beat the Opposition” often took on the complexion of the old slogan “Beat the Jews and save Russia.” The matter went so far that Stalin was constrained to come out with a printed statement which declared: “We fight against Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev not be- cause they are Jews but because they are Oppositionist,” etc. To every

{p. 179} politically thinking person it was completely clear that this consciously equivocal declaration, directed against “excesses” of anti-Semitism, did at the same time with complete premeditation nourish it. “Do not forget that the leaders of the Opposition are – Jews.” That was the meaning of the statement of Stalin, published in all Soviet journals.

When the Opposition, to meet the repressions, proceeded with a more decisive and open struggle, Stalin, in the form of a very significant “jest,” told Piatakov and Preobrazhensky, “You at least are fighting against the C. E. [Central Executive Committee] openly brandishing your axes. That proves your ‘orthodox’ action. [The word used by Stalin in Russian refers to the Greek Orthodox Church, thus contrasting these two non-Jewish leaders of the Opposition with Trotsky, the Jew.] Trotsky works slyly and not with a hatchet.” Preobrazhensky and Piatakov related this conversation to me with strong revulsion. Dozens of times Stalin attempted to counterpose the “orthodox” core of the Opposition to me. {endquote}

Trotsky pointed out that in “stooping to fish in the muddied waters of anti-Semitism,” Stalin also had recourse to the pictorial side of the press: “I recall particularly a cartoon in the Rabochaia Gazeta [Workers’ Gazette] entitled ‘Comrades Trotsky and Zinoviev.’ There were any number of such caricatures and doggerels of anti-Semitic character in the party press. They were received with sly snickers.”

In June 1927 Trotsky had an opportunity to come to grips with anti-Semitism openly. It was occasioned by his appearance before the presidium of the Central Control Commission to answer two charges made against him and Zinoviev: one, that they had dared to carry an internal party controversy beyond the party by appealing to the executive of the Internationale; second, that they had organized a “demonstrative” farewell for the deported Opposition leader I. Smilga on the eve of his departure from the Yaroslavl Station in Moscow.

The presidium took up the question of the expulsion of Trotsky and Zinoviev from the Central Committee. In his speech of defense, Trotsky said:

{quote} The devil only knows what is already being said about the Opposition at meetings, particularly at “meetings of workers” and peasants’ cells.

{p. 180} Questions are raised as to the “resources” used by the Opposition to carry on its “work.” It may be that illiterate and unconscious workers, or your own plants, are sending up such questions as are worthy of the Black Hundreds. {endquote}

And again, the “Platform of the Opposition,” written by Trotsky in anticipation of the fifteenth party congress in 1927, has this passage: “Not only are careerism, bureaucratism and inequality growing in the party in recent years, but muddy streams from alien and class hostile sources are flowing into it – for instance, anti-Semitism.”

In view of the approaching fifteenth congress, meanwhile, Stalin intensified his drive against the Opposition. In the Trotsky Archives there is a protocol of a meeting held in September 1927 in a party cell at Sokhondo, Zabaikal Province, at which a report was heard about the Trotsky-Zinoviev Opposition. Comrade Rusak “pointed out that Trotsky had long ago begun to conduct a divisive policy. Trotsky cannot be a Communist; his very nationality shows that he needs to speculate.’ Trotsky and Zinoviev “mistook the Russian spirit” and therefore forfeited “the following of the Russian worker and peasant.” For the sake of “steely Leninist unity” it was resolved to expel both of them from the Comintern and the party.

The contents of the Sokhondo protocol was brought up by the Opposition at the fifteenth congress, held in December 1927, and Yaroslavsky, Stalin’s unofficial mouthpiece, took up the cudgels in defense of his “master”:

{quote} I know that the struggle of the Opposition has let loose very many unhealthy symptoms. Comrade Stalin absolutely rightly underscored the need to draw serious attention to the fight against anti-Semitism which has struck little roots here and there. However, the Opposition gives this question more attention than this unhealthy matter deserves; it exaggerates it, seeking to suggest that anti-Semitism is a method for fighting the Opposition. {endquote}

He then castigated the Opposition for basing the entire Opposition program on anti-Semitism. The Sokhondo episode had been blown

{p. 181} up out of all proportion. It concerned a party cell in faraway Zabaikal, and, in fact, party members were not involved, only candidates for membership. He admitted that anti-Semitism could not be tolerated by communism and said: “I wrote about it … in both Rabochaia Gazeta and Pravda.” Moreover, immediately upon the receipt of the protocol, an instructor was sent to Sokhondo to investigate the matter, and as a result it was resolved to strengthen the “educational work” on the spot. Yet he regarded the Opposition’s allegation that there was anti-Semitism in the party a “poisonous weapon and a disgraceful calumny.” {endquote}

A month before the fifteenth congress, on November 7, 1927, the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution, the Opposition organized demonstrations in Leningrad and Moscow. They both failed miserably. Stalin was ready for them, and his police dispersed the demonstrators without much difficulty. Trotsky was not even able to address the crowd. He was assailed, and from the crowd there were such shouts as “Down with Trotsky, the Jew, the traitor!”

To what extent Stalin’s persistent drive was successful in inculcating anti-Semitism in the Russian workers can be gathered from Yurii Larin’s account of a “Seminar on Anti-Semitism” which he conducted in Moscow in August 1928. The seminar was attended by workers in key positions in the Soviet Union, active agitators, leaders of the youth movement Komsomol, and active trade unionists. Most of the questions the instructor was asked were tinged with a definite anti-Semitic bias:

“Why is it that Jews don’t want to do heavy work?”

“Why were the Jews in the Crimea given good land, while the land the Russians get is not so good?”

“How is it that Jews always manage to get good positions?”

“Why is 76 percent of the Opposition within the party made up of Jews?”

“Why are there so many Jews in the universities? Isn’t it because they forge their papers?”

“Won’t the Jews be traitors in a war? Aren’t they evading military service?”

{p. 182} “Should a person who jokingly uses the term Zhid be called an anti-Semite? How do such jokes have to be judged in general?”

“Should not the cause of anti-Semitism be sought in the Jewish people itself, in its ethical and psychological upbringing?”

It is doubtful that Trotsky would have been victorious in the power struggle with Stalin even if he had not been of Jewish origin; he had enough “faults” besides his Jewishness to cost him Lenin’s mantle. But it is beyond all doubt that Stalin made great use of anti-Semitism in his campaign to beat his rival.

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By the way, although I draw on his reading of Nedava, and am grateful to do so, I am very far from being a political fan of Myers. Myers in his last comment is trying to explain the struggle between Trotsky and Stalin and refers to the “faults” of Trotsky. But he does not back this up by any evidence of the nature of “This was Trotsky’s political position on this or that, and this is where he was wrong”. Oh no, Myers does not do that, rather he would use the old Harry’s Place reactionary drivel “Trotsky was too ruthless, too proud etc”.

Nedava covers the position of Trotsky at the Sixth Zionist Congress of 2003 towards Herzl. I will not deal with this at length as it requires a separate article. But I feel that at 24 Trotsky was immature towards this subject, and in short Herzl was very correct, Trotsky very wrong. Yet Trotsky did have a theoretical basis which allowed him to develop on and change, while essentially the theory of Herzl did have problems inherent in it, no matter how right he was in founding the organized Zionist movement.

So we leave that period of 1903 for the moment and move on to the 1930s but this itself in my opinion is the real issue, the passage of time, and how experiences can create in fact different men and different approaches. So the next extracts of Myers from the book by Nedava I feel are of fundamental importance for the revolutionary movement.

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{p. 204} On his arrival in Mexico in January 1937, Trotsky granted several interviews to the press, in which he expressed his views on Jewish problems. He admitted that with Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, things had altered considerably for European Jewry. Agonizingly he had to reappraise his former assumptions:

During my youth I rather leaned toward the prognosis that the Jews of different countries would be assimilated and that the Jewish question would thus disappear, as it were, automatically. The historical development of the last quarter of a century has not confirmed this view. Decaying capitalism has everywhere swung over to an intensified nationalism, one aspect of which is anti-Semitism. The Jewish question has loomed largest in the most highly developed capitalist country of Europe, Germany.

Trotsky still did not concede that the Jewish question could be solved within the framework of the capitalist system; but assimilation, as a kind of self-regulating process which might have taken care of the problem over an extended period of time, could no longer be relied upon; its pace was not speedy enough to cope with the appearance of such radically destructive movements as nazism. Palliatives, therefore, had to be sought, and Trotsky was driven to admit the existence of one of them – territorialism. “The Jews of different countries,” he said, “have created their press and developed the Yiddish language as an instrument adapted to modern culture. One must therefore reckon with the fact that the Jewish nation will maintain itself for an entire epoch to come.” The admission of the existence of a “Jewish nation” was a weird recantation on the part of Trotsky, unless it was a mere semantic slip of the tongue.

Admitting in 1937 the need for a palliative solution to the Jewish problem but realizing, of course, that Zionism was basically a territorial movement. Trotsky took issue with it, not on the grounds of substance, but rather practical viability. He said so explicitly:

We must bear in mind that the Jewish people will exist a long time. The nation cannot normally exist without common territory. Zionism springs from this very idea. But the facts of every passing day demon-

{p. 205} strate to us that Zionism is incapable of resolving the Jewish question. The conflict between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine acquires a more and more tragic and more and more menacing character. I do not at all believe that the Jewish question can be resolved within the framework of rotting capitalism and under the control of British imperialism.

In his interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Trotsky recalled that he had been inclined toward the idea of assimilation of Jews, but had changed his attitude because of “historical developments.”

He then brought up a new concept, which had never before preoccupied the minds of Marxist doctrinaires: emigration. Orthodox socialism, which claims to be anchored in the underlying fraternity of the human race, does not envisage the need for transplanting peoples in order to solve social problems. Trotsky, however, admits to the peculiarity of the Jewish problem in this respect too:

Socialism will open the possibility of great migrations on the basis of the most developed technique and culture. It goes without saying that what is here involved is not compulsory displacements, that is, the creation of new ghettos for certain nationalities, but displacements freely consented to, or rather demanded, by certain nationalities or parts of nationalities. The dispersed Jews who would want to be reassembled in the same community will find a sufficiently extensive and rich spot under the sun. The same possibility will be opened for the Arabs, as for all other scattered nations. National topography will become a part of the planned economy. This is the great historic perspective as I see it. To work for international Socialism means to work also for the solution of the Jewish question.* {Why does Trotsky mention the Arabs, if not implying that Palestine would be given to the Jews? H. G. Wells also envisaged mass migration in his world state.}

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The latter reference to Wells I do not understand. Wells is a different kettle of fish entirely and certainly no revolutionary socialist, so Myer’s drawing him in is extremely mischievous. Wells today is used in all kinds of conspiracy approaches to political problems.

Remember here I am using the extracts of Myers from Nedava. The politics of Myers I have noted I am not particularly keen on and that is why the following passage from Nedava, which is a direct quote from a visitor to Trotsky before his murder, is to me anyhow very important and gets closer to how Trotsky by that stage related to the Jews. Remember that Trotsky had been the very first to warn of the horrific consequences of Hitler taking power for the Jews. The visitor is a Zionist of the Labourist camp, obviously not a Stalinist, that is why she was probably attracted to Trotsky, but although she admired him I think there is enough truth in what she wrote.

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p. 206} In June 1937 Mrs. Beba Idelson, a Russian-born Jewish socialist Zionist leader in Palestine, visited Trotsky in Mexico. First she participated in a press conference at Diego Rivera’s residence and then had a long conversation with Trotsky in his study. The following are some of her recollections of that conversation:

I told him who I was, and that at the time I had been expelled from Russia as a Zionist-Socialist. If he was interested, I would tell him about our life in Palestine. Trotsky got up from his chair, asked me to wait awhile, and soon returned with his wife. He introduced me to her and asked me to tell him everything. He wanted to know about Palestine and was happy to hear a report from a person living there.

I talked to him not as one talks to a stranger. A feeling accompanied me all the time that he was a Jew, a wandering Jew, without a fatherland. This brought me closer to him, aroused in me confidence that my story was addressed to a man who was able to understand. I interrupted my story several times, asking him whether he was sure he had the time to listen to me, and he urged me to continue, jotted down some points, and then began to question me: How many Jews are there in Palestine? Where do they reside; is it only in towns? He asked numerous questions about the kibbutzim and the Histadrut. Are we able to work in harmony with the employers within the framework of the Zionist Organization; how do we bring Jews to Palestine and how do they join our party; how is our young generation being brought up and what is its language? He asked me to say a few sentences in Hebrew and smiled at the sound of the language. He wrote several words and noted down mainly the names of the Zionist leaders, the parties, the Histadrut, and various places in Palestine. He showed interest as if he were a man hearing about an unknown land, but I was under the impression that the subject absorbed his thought and heart.

The conversation lasted nearly three hours. After telling how we were fighting for Jewish immigration into our country, and he was deeply immersed in thought, I asked him: “Here is a country that is ready to admit you; perhaps you, too, will go to Palestine?” I felt that a shiver ran through his spine. He replied with a calm question: “Wouldn’t you be afraid to accept me?” I answered: “No, we won’t be afraid, for our idea is stronger than any fear of any man, even of a man like you.” Trotsky came over to me, pressed my hand, and said: “Thank you. It is a long time since I have felt so good. But you should know that I have friends throughout the world. We have not renounced our views,

{p. 207} even though I am rejected by Stalin and his Oprichniks [this is Trotsky’s expression, referring to the special corps created by Ivan the Terrible to fight treason which instituted the reign of terror]. I have friends, and they are also persecuted.” I told him that his persecuted friends lived in their own countries, whereas he had no country of refuge, for he was a Jew. Trotsky nodded agreement.

We had lunch together. His wife showed no interest in our conversation. From time to time she would address questions to him, but he would put off his reply and then turn to me with further questions about matters relating to Palestine. He was particularly interested in our relations with our Arab neighbors. He asked me whether there were Communists in Palestine, and why they did not go to Russia instead of staying in a Zionist country. He also wanted to know whether the Communist party was legal, big or small. When I told him that the Communists were not among the builders of the kibbutzim (“communes,” as Trotsky called them), he laughed, commenting: “They do not have this in Russia, either.” He was very interested in the status of women in Palestine, and also asked a personal question – how I had arrived in Mexico and what the nature of my mission was. He showed me his library, which filled a large hall, consisting of books in various languages; I realized how spiritually attached he was to this single possession of his in exile. Iasked him: “Should you be obliged to leave Mexico – what will you do with this library: perhaps you would transfer it to Palestine?’

When we renewed our conversation after the meal, he listened attentively to what I told him about the cultural work being carried on in our country, about the libraries in each and every settlernent, about the National Library in Jerusalem, about the Hebrew press. I can no longer recall all his questions, but I cannot forget how attentively he listened to what I told him about our children, the sabras, and their love of their fatherland. I noticed that my words penetrated deep into his heart, that he was glad to hear about a world from which he had dissociated himself. I sensed that he was listening not like a man who placed himself above all nationality, and that our great idea found an echo in his heart.

At the end of our conversation Trotsky asked me not to publish the fact of our meeting and its contents: “Let the matter remain between us. The world will not understand. People will seek in this, too, grounds for accusing me of harboring alien views, and perhaps even sympathy for Zionism.” I promised him this and kept my promise for nineteen years.

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I will leave the reader to digest some of these issues reflected in the quotes which Myers extracts from Nedava and look at some of the implications in a future article.



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