Sign in or register
for additional privileges

Recovering Yiddish Culture in Los Angeles

Caroline Luce, Author
Previous page on path     Next page on path

Other paths that intersect here:

You appear to be using an older verion of Internet Explorer. For the best experience please upgrade your IE version or switch to a another web browser.

H. Goldovsky: Leftwing Nationalism (Linker Natsionalizm), Part I

Linker natsionalizm (Leftwing Nationalism)
From Pasifik no. 4 (December, 1929): 24-28.
Translated by Hershl Hartman and Caroline Luce.

A majority of Marxists once accepted the rule that “Nation” is a bourgeois concept, that “Nation” is the bearer of war, oppression and “dimming of consciousness” of the working class. “Internationalism” served as an antithesis of “Nation,” which meant that workers had no nation, had no territory, are for the brotherhood of all workers of all peoples and that the aspiration of mankind was amalgamation into one “unified whole.”
Except that the 2nd International, the bearers of that concept, capitulated completely in 1914. The World War divided the workers of each state and it happened that the preachers of Internationalism (cosmopolites!?) became the strongest murderously-patriotic chauvinists.
The Bolshevik Revolution brought with it a new unity of the workers in the 3rd [Communist] International. Among many other questions, the national question also kept the new International occupied. In light of the just-ended first World War, certain concepts crystallized on the subject of nation and in the “Alphabet of Communism.” Under the heading: “Communism and the National Question” we find the following definition of nation or folk (people):
“Nation or Folk (People) is a group of people, who are united through one language and occupy a specific territory. There are also others, but those are the main and basic indications.”
And further, a statement:
“For example, Jews once had a territory and a common language, but now they have no territory and Hebrew (!) isn’t spoken by all; the Gypsies have their language but they have no defined territory. The settled Tungus people in Siberia have their territory, but they have forgotten their language.” (Azbuka communizma [Alphabet of Communism], 129)
The above exceptions to the established rule contradict the rule itself. It results in the definition of nationality or folk being deficient, since the exceptions to a rule should be incorporated in the rule itself. But it is not our purpose here to propose a definition. One thing is clear: that the issue of nation is a concrete thing, which demands a solution. How else would the 3rd International handle the issue?
“Lenin spoke energetically against Luxemberg, who stated her opinion opposing the claim for independence of Poland. Rosa Luxemberg is of the opinion that when we defend self-determination, i.e., that if we support the right of Poland to separate from Russia, we really support the bourgeois nationalism of the Polish bourgeoisie. But Lenin says correctly to Rosa Luxemberg that if the Marxist program did not defend the right to independence of the oppressed nations, it would thereby actually assist the bourgeoisie, the gentry and the Czarist government, which oppress the nations. ‘Fearing,’ — Lenin says — ‘giving aid to the nationalist bourgeoisie of Poland, Rosa Luxemberg aids the reactionary, anti-Semitic Great Russians.’” (S. Rosen, “Lenin and the National Question,” The Hammer, January 1927)

“In order to destroy the root of every mistrust on the part of the workers of the oppressed nations toward the workers of oppressor nations, one must not only declare but also carry out in life total national equality. That equality must be enforced in respect to equal rights of language, religion, schools, etc. Beyond that, the proletariat must be prepared to achieve complete national self-determination, that is, providing full power to the workers’ majority of each individual nation to decide whether they will form of their own, voluntary free-will their own state-union with another, or they will secede completely” (Alphabet of Communism, 132).
Lenin and the 3rd International speak here as though each nation is a free unit. It must not be oppressed. The majority of the workers need to determine the fate of the nation. These premises involve obligations. These premises mean that the fate of the nation lies in the hands of its (the nation’s) working elements. Therefore, the working elements must have a clear position on the interests and needs of the nation.


The non-Jewish Communists understand this precisely, even when they are speaking about Jews. M. Kalinin, the all-Russian ‘village elder,’ in his speech to the convention of “GEZERD” [Conference of Jewish Land-Workers] on Nov. 17th, 1926 says:
“In antithesis to assimilation and the obliteration of national borders that threaten every small people that is robbed of national development — the Jewish masses themselves developed the sense of self identity, the fight for their nationality…” (my emphasis H. G.)
And further:
“The Jewish people faces a big assignment — to maintain its nationality. And therefore one must convert a significant portion of the Jewish population into a settled peasantry, in an agriculturally-concentrated population, that could involve hundreds of thousands. Only under such circumstances can the Jewish masses aspire to the future development of their nationality.” (emphasis mine H. G.)
From these multiple quotations it is clear that in order to maintain the Jewish nationality, a Jewish territory must be created. In light of the Bolshevik Revolution, there arose the great truth about the Jewish economic situation, which the prematurely departed Jewish scholar B[er]. Burukhov [Borochov] declared:
“The fact that the Jewish people lacks a territory is the primary source of the abnormality of both the workplace of the Jewish producers (workers), and the strategic base of the struggling proletariat.”
In other words, because the Jews are detached from the soil and from its fundamental production, the merest social tremors throw them into the terrible arms of destitution and poverty; in addition, the Jewish proletarians cannot, by their own strength, battle their way to a better order, no matter how revolutionary they may be, because they do not participate in the basic production of the land in which they reside. Therefore, they cannot affect the economic life of one or another country.
Worth noting here is the fact that the Jewish Communists brought along with them from the Menshevik parties their Menshevik outlook on the Jewish problem. It is true that many Communists “declare their love” for the “IKOR” [Idishe kolonizatsye organizatsye in Rusland—Organization for Jewish Colonization in Russia] and the idea of settling Jews on the land in the Soviet Union, but that is love in name only—a love because the work takes place in the Soviet Union. In this sense, for example, our Communists in the United States are similar to the Zionists. The former like the latter have no national line, no answers to the Jewish national problem here in this country: one must work for our poor brothers “over there.”
Another fact here is worth noting. The Communists appeal through IKOR in the [United] States, PROKOR in Argentina, in Transvaal (South Africa), and everywhere to the broad Jewish masses, to help the Russian Jews although essentially they are against work for the worldwide Jewish community, completely denying the unity of the Jewish masses across the entire world. So, for example, one hasn’t heard that the yidseksyes [Jewish sections of the Communist parties] have taken up the question of calling a global congress to determine the lines of the struggle within the framework of the Jewish people itself.
The confusion in the minds of the former Jewish Mensheviks and freshly-baked Communists is in their marrow. M. Olgin “recognizes the existence of nations and national cultures as fact” and says that:
“We find ourselves in a period when the existence of nations is becoming shattered, as has already been done to a great extent in Russia.” (?!)
But M. Kalinin comes and declares:
“The Assembly of Jewish agricultural workers is actually, truly itself the essence of our Union, in which each nation obtains its national physiognomy.”
So if it may be said that in the Soviet Union, the cradle of the new epoch, even the already long-forgotten nationalities are restored to life, how does this square with the period “when the existence of nations is becoming shattered?”
Or another contradiction by the aforesaid M. Olgin:
“The concept of ‘national culture’ continues the perpetuation of class division and thereby class domination. Strengthening national culture equals strengthening the bourgeoisie, strengthening its rule over the workers.” (Both quotations from Hammer, January 1929)
Well, and what is be heard, if one may ask, about Birobidjan, where a Jewish territory is being planned? Comrade Tshemerinsky sends to the “Frayhayt” from the Soviet Union an appeal under a major headline: “On to a Jewish Territory!” So it would appear, according to Olgin, that “this strengthens Jewish national culture” and consequently it “strengthens the bourgeoisie.”
Comment on this page

Discussion of "H. Goldovsky: Leftwing Nationalism (Linker Natsionalizm), Part I"

Add your voice to this discussion.

Checking your signed in status ...

Previous page on path H. (Hirsh) Goldovsky, page 1 of 8 Next page on path