Black on White

The most recent expulsions from the ranks of the ruling party in the new Russia publicly announced are those of I. I. Reingold and L. Favilovich. These Jewish names are no indication of anti-Semitism. At the same time their Jewishness is not wholly accidental.

I have no doubt that an analysis of Communists expelled from the ranks since the victory of Stalin over Trotsky, were it possible, would reveal a startlingly large proportion of Jews. That this is true in the leading strata is sufficiently clear from the names of outstanding Oppositionists, beginning with Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev. That it is no less true at the lower levels I can attest on the basis of personal impressions during many years’ close observation.

It is not Jews who are being fought by the governing Soviet group, but the Jewish mentality. It is the intellectual in the party cell who is likely to raise disturbing doubts as to the omniscience of the Kremlin; who is inclined to chafe under the increasingly nationalistic and chauvinistic slogans; who is moved to question the rise of new privileged classes. And this pestiferous intellectual, this goddam agitator, is in an extraordinary number of cases a Jew.

The history of the Jews in Russia, a history compounded of discriminations, disabilities and pogroms, did not prepare them for nationalism in any disguise. It was primarily the internationalism of the socialist faith which drew the Jewish youth into the Russian revolutionary movement.

Indeed, it was in large measure as an escape from the limitations of race and nation that tens of thousands of ardent Jewish boys and girls threw in their lot with the revolutionary forces. One of the paradoxes faced by this youth, now grown to maturity, was the nationalities policy of the Soviet regime. They could not and did not quarrel with it. But somehow it placed an emphasis on their identity as Jews which some of them found it hard to swallow. They were a little disturbed that, internationalism having triumphed, they found themselves enrolled in “Jewish sections” of the triumphant internationalism.

In any case, the Soviet Russian nationalistic trend which found expression in the slogan of “socialism in one country” could not, psychologically, appeal to the Jewish Communists. (I am not here raising the issue of its correctness). Almost automatically the Jewish intellectuals drifted into the Trotsky camp. Those whose views or opportunism kept them on the Stalinist side have been under suspicion and have from time to time given signs of their inner disagreement.

The very word intellectual has lost caste in the Russia of recent years. A Communist would be less insulted if accused of being a horse thief than being an intellectual. The Jewish revolutionary, under the circumstances, finds himself ill at ease.

The same thing has happened to the words idealism and idealist. Once upon a time they were flags of revolt. Today they are disreputable rags, with the implication of sentimentality and emotionalism —of counter-revolution almost — about them. Again the Russian Jewish revolutionary, more often than not an idealist, moves in an alien atmosphere. The hard-boiled, ruthless materialism now in vogue does not suit him so well as the more romantic dream-bound utopianism of the earlier years.

It is fairly clear by now that a large proportion if not most of the 117 men and women shot in reprisal for the assassination of Sergel Kirov were Communists or ex-Communists. They were not, as in previous mass executions, kulaks or nepmen. They were dissenting revolutionists, non – conformists, and apparently all younger people, of the generation matured since the revolution.

It would be interesting to know how many of these were Jews. My own guess is that the number was large. The Jews are always in the dangerous forefront of dissent, even in Russia.

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