Black on White

Not so long ago I was reproved gently by one of the editors of this paper for writing so often on the subject of Russia. He contrasted my mental anchorage in Moscow with his own free-sailing mind, at home in any port.

I admitted the limitation and implied that I would reform. But before I enter the new cosmopolitan life, I shall devote a few parochial columns to Russia. Like the drunkard about to take the pledge, I am going on a last rampage. Like the same drunkard, no doubt, I shall thereafter break my pledge.

In my own extenuation I can plead from either a personal or a social vantage point. Personally, the Russian experience has fascinated me, continues to fascinate me, as nothing else can, as yet. I react more sharply to events under the red flag than to events under any other standard, and for that reason feel (perhaps mistakenly) that I can write more vividly and convincingly on matters Soviet than on any other.

Considered more broadly, from the social point of view, I harbor a profound conviction that what happens in Russia is vastly more significant than what happens elsewhere. There, as nowhere else, ideas and professions are being tested.

Even in its failures and contradictions and excesses the Soviet regime is dealing realistically with the stuff of reality; any summary of the present world which fails to take it into consideration seems to me worthless. And its successes and achievements, it goes without saying, are crucial in any attempt to judge the chaotic world we live in.

For Jews, that significance of the new Russia is heightened and deepened a hundred times. The cold statistics of revolutionary history prove that Jewish leadership was a dominant element in the crucial years of the seizure of power. The mere listing of the spectacular names of the Russian decade of 1917-1927 underlines that fact, because it includes names like Trotsky, Sverdlov, Zinoviev, Radek, Kamenev, Litvinov, and many others.

Moreover, the Soviet solution of the problems of minority nationalities and races is its most outstanding rounded accomplishment. The anti-Semitism that still exists, whether in the population or in the ruling circles, is a residue of the past. The government itself is definitely and vigorously fighting against it. Among the youth it is clearly dying out.

Anti-Semitism in Russia survives, parodoxically enough, at the two extremes: among the anti-Soviet elements and in the ruling bureaucracy. In the former, of course, it is a natural expression of old-fashioned hatred for Jews who are blamed, without pretense of logic, for all the ills on the calendar. In the ruling circles, feeling against Jews thrives on an orthodox economic diet, in the acute competition for better-paid political plums.

Because of their higher literacy, their more agile adjustment to new conditions, their larger participation in the revolutionary movement, Jews do hold a disproportionate share of the bureaucratic posts.

Notwithstanding these facts, Jews enjoy absolute legal and social equality. Anti-Semitism lurks in shady corners and disguises itself in a panic when disclosed where once it strutted the Russian highways. The Jewish religion has at last attained equality with the Greek Orthodox, though on the level of outlawry; and I am not being facetious, it is a type of equality.

The immediate and future story of Jews under the Soviet system, on the basis of legal equality and with the elimination of many of the economic causes of anti-Semitism, is certainly absorbing. Like so many other things in the New Russia, it is without precedent.

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