Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Dictator, who is not known to have made any statements previously on the Jewish question, and who has hitherto been referred to several times as holding antisemitic views, especially in 1929, when Trotsky was exiled and anti-Jewish bias was attributed in some quarters to Stalin in this matter (the Yiddish Communist organ “Emess” agreed that “Trotskyism has a larger following among Jews than among the other elements of the population”), has given the following important signed statement today to Mr. Elias Tobenkin, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency representative here, who had put to him a question concerning the possible existence of antisemitism in the Soviet Union, asking him to explain what is the attitude of the Soviet Government on the subject.
This is my answer to this question, Stalin said. National and racial chauvinism is a relic of man-hating customs, characteristic of the era of cannibalism. Antisemitism is an extreme expression of racial chauvinism, and as such is the most dangerous survival of cannibalism. Antisemitism is useful to the exploiter, for it serves as a lightning conductor enabling capitalism to evade the blows of the toiling masses. Antisemitism is a danger to the working people, inasmuch as it is a false path leading them into the jungle away from the right road. Communists, therefore, as consistent internationalists cannot but be irreconcilable and avowed enemies of antisemtism.
In the Union of Soviet Republics, Stalin declared, antisemitism is rigidly persecuted as an appearance which is thoroughly hostile to the Soviet regime, and militant antisemites are under the laws of the Union of Soviet Republics punishable by death.
In 1923, when Stalin was People’s Commissary for Nationalities, the Joint Foreign Committee received from M. Klishko, who was then Assistant Official Agent of the Soviet Government in Great Britain, a statement forwarded by the People’s Commissariat for Nationalities in reply to the representations which the late Mr. Lucion Wolf had made with regard to the position of the Jewish population of the Soviet Union. “The Soviet Government has put an end to the education of millions of children of other faiths in the spirit of religious intolerance and antisemitism”, the statement declared. “Whilst not permitting the utilisation of the platform of the synagogue and the Rabbinical office for political propaganda and the incitement of the masses against the Soviet authority”, it proceeded, “the Soviet Government has at the same time destroyed the pogrom propaganda which went on in the schools and in a considerable section of the churches and chapels”.
The report submitted by Mr. Wolf to the Joint Foreign Committee in 1929 on the completion of an investigation conducted for several months into the situation of the Jews of Russia stated:
JEWS NOT VICTIMS OF ANY POLITICAL ECONOMIC OR RELIGIOUS DISABILITIES SPECIFICALLY IMPOSED UPON THEM
“The enquiry shows that the Jews are not the victims of any political, economic or religious disabilities specifically imposed upon them. The law makes no distinction between races or creeds. Nevertheless, it is a fact that the law operates more oppressively against Jews in the political and economic sphere, because a large proportion of them do not belong to the agricultural and artisan classes, who alone enjoy political rights. Moreover, they find it difficult to adapt themselves to the nationalised system of commerce and industry. The result is widespread poverty and suffering. While there are no restrictions on the profession and practice of the Jewish religion, the Jews suffer like other religious communities from the severe restrictions which are imposed on religious education. These restrictions do not render religious education impossible, but owing partly to the severe impoverishment of the Jewish community already referred to, and partly to the atheistical fanaticism of the Yevsektia, or Jewish Communist Organisation, they find themselves unable to make the best use of the facilities for religious instruction afforded by the law. Another very serious phenomenon in the life of the Jews in Russia is the recent appearance of an antisemitic agitation among the Communist working classes. This agitation, although sternly repressed by the Government, has already made it difficult for Jewish artisans to retain their employment in the national workshops and has proved an embarrassment and a source of anxiety to the Jews in all the central and southern provinces, This briefly is the situation. With regard to the question of foreign intervention, the enquiries show beyond doubt that anything of the kind would be certainly futile, and might very easily aggravate the sufferings of the Jews.
Other Soviet leaders, notably M. Kalinin, the President of the Soviet Union, have on several occasions emphatically declared their opposition to antisemitism. The Jewish nationality, M. Kalinin has said, underwent in Old Russia the most terrible persecution. But to the Soviet Government the welfare of the Jewish people, of the Jewish toiling masses, cannot be separated from the welfare of the Russian worker or the Russian peasant. The Jews have every right to the land of Russia, for they obtained it by fighting together with us, and they are citizens of the Soviet Union in the full sense of the word.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.