Histadruth Leader Voices Opposition to Rutenberg Program
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Histadruth Leader Voices Opposition to Rutenberg Program

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The opposition of the Histadruth, Jewish labor federation, to Pinchas Rutenberg’s Jewish unity program was voiced by Berl Katznelson, member of the Histadruth executive and editor of the labor daily Davar, in a public address here.

“How can we speak of national discipline without elections and a clear expression of the people’s will? “Katznelson asked. “Everyone preaches the need for new leaders, but where are they? We had one–Rutenberg–but we left him in midair.

“We built Zionism for class cooperation, as its tasks are unfulfillable without cooperation of every citizen, but when it becomes a permanent issue we must reconsider. Our orientation is based not on the number of leaders but on issues.”

Katznelson warmly urged the abandonment of “past errors” and asked a maximum of mutual understanding, elimination of discrimination and the building of a labor organization based on equal rights.

“Rutenberg demanded an end of demoralization, establishment of a general labor federation and cessation of party interference in recruiting for the military forces and in distribution of relief, “the labor leader said. “His demand to prohibit strikes for duration of the war may frighten our comrades, but I am ready for this.”

Katznelson maintained that Rutenberg failed in his mission as president of the Vaad Leumi to unite the Yishub because he was “betrayed by right-wingers.” The solution of the enigma, he said, is to be sought in the attitude of leaders who saluted him when he took up his task and subsequently deserted him.

The Histadruth, Katznelson said, sought in Rutenberg additional power to rescue the Yishub, despite the fears of executive members of the Jewish Agency and Vaad Leumi. Rutenberg showed goodwill, and therefore the right-wing immediately deceived him, the speaker said. Rutenberg did not ruin the Histadruth, and therefore the right-wing was disappointed.

Katznelson asserted that Rutenberg answered treachery with appeasement and incessant negotiations, but each time he concluded a reorganization, he heard new complaints and tried again. The result was that Rutenberg took personal offense, and his resignation and publication of the much-discussed program followed.

Labor circles received this document with bitterness and disappointment, feeling their friendship for Rutenberg had not been requited, Katznelson said. “Rutenberg’s tragedy was that he had come to Zionism from the outer world…He desired a strong Vaad Leumi executive without offering concrete proposals. Nevertheless, many passages of the document are worth while.”

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