Pogroms Are Not Such Simple Matters

Dr. Abba Hillel Silver

James W. Gerard, former Ambassador to Germany, has sounded a warning to the Jews of America.

“As a friend of the Jewish people, I want to state that if the American nation ever gets the idea that the Jewish race and Communism are synonymous there is a possibility of a pogrom in the United States that will make those of the Czar’s era in Russia look like a small parade…. I believe it is the duty of the responsible Jews of the country to devise some means of keeping the people of the United States from obtaining the idea that the Jews and the Communists are the same people by discouraging members of the race from embracing Communism.”

We appreciate this warning. We know that it comes from a friend who on more than one occasion has demonstrated his friendship to the Jewish people.

But there is really nothing that we can do about it. We have no one recognized authority in Jewish life that can issue orders which will be universally obeyed. There is no one central body among us that can “say to this one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh.”… We are not a religious communion, like the Catholic Church, whose mandates are binding upon its communicants. We are a people, split fifty ways along political, economic, social and religious interests—like any other people. Only persecution forces us occasionally into a semblance of unity of action. This simple, rudimentary fact about Jewish life even the friendliest non-Jew of the type of ex-Ambassador Gerard seems unable to grasp.

Destiny has forced an inescapable group responsibility upon us without, at the same time, implementing us with the legislative or executive power with which to control the actions of any of our members. We have no way of “discouraging members of the race from embracing Communism” — even if that were the proper thing to do—any more than we have ways of discouraging four Jews from running for Governor simultaneously in one State—a ridiculous performance, come to think of it, and one calculated to lend fuel to the myth of Jewish domination; any more than we have ways of discouraging too many Jews from accepting important positions in Washington at the invitation of the President—a fact which also causes considerable anti-Semitic back-firing; any more than we have ways of discouraging Jews from going into finance and international banking — another fact which is grist to the Jew-baiter’s mill all over the world.

Even if we had such ways of controlling and directing the political and economic persuasions of all our people, we would be at a total loss to know in what direction and to what end to exercise that power. If it is to please the anti-Semites and to fend off the threat of pogroms we would have to discourage our people from living. We would have to direct them to get off the face of the earth. For it is not our Communists only who enrage the anti-Semite but our capitalists as well, our bankers, our professional people, our writers, our artists, our men in public life—in fact all of us….

It is clear to any impartial observer that Jews and Communists are not the same people. The vast majority of Jews in this country, native or foreign born, are not Communists. That is true of all other countries as well, including, one might add, Russia, itself. In New York City where there are close onto two million Jews there were cast in the last municipal elections, 26,564 Communist votes, which number, of course, included votes cast by non-Jews….

This fact, however, as well as many others which may be adduced, has had and will have absolutely no weight with those sinister forces who are determined to exploit anti-Semitism in this country for purposes of political and economic reaction and with Nazi agents. Facts do not bother the propagandist. He distorts and falsifies facts or creates myths out of the old cloth and serves them up as facts. And when the propagandist is clever and ruthless, and the people are desperate because of prolonged economic depression, the desired results are obtained. “Man is ice toward truth and fire toward falsehood.”…

We know all this only too well—and in a sense we are reconciled. We know fairly well what lines American Fascism is likely to take in the future, what its stock-in-trade, its slogans and its methods are likely to be. There will be very little new or original about it—even to the threat of pogroms….We understand it all and in a way we are prepared for it.

Only—and this warning ex-Ambassador Gerard might well carry to his non-Jewish friends — any political or economic system which tries to save itself through pogroms is already doomed! When capitalism will have to resort to gangsterism and hooliganism to perpetuate itself it will be lost beyond any possibility of redemption. The Czar’s pogroms were the prelude to the Revolution of 1917. The pogroms did not save Czarism but merely hastened the day of final reckoning and retribution. If American capitalism will ever have to defend itself by such stupid and brutal methods it might just as well spare itself this final indignity. American capitalism will not be able to save itself through any desperate sallies into the shameful domain of the Black Hundred. Anti-Semitism will never save capitalism. Only a more secure and orderly economic life of greater justice to all can give permanency to the American way of life and will make Communism unnecessary.

Mr. Gerard might bring also this warning to his non-Jewish friends. Anti – Semitism makes Communists of Jews. Some young Jews, of course, enter the ranks of Communism, lifted by the ground-swell of the age and carried along by its tides. But many more are driven to it by a burning sense of wrong and resentment because of legitimate economic opportunities which are denied to them on the ground that they are Jews. Jewish young men and women thus frustrated and handicapped in their careers, cannot close their eyes to the fact that in Communist Russia there are no stumbling blocks placed in a man’s way because he is a Jew….The anti-Semitic employer, private or corporate, commercial or professional, who discriminates against Jews is thus a zealous re-

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