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Recovering Yiddish Culture in Los Angeles

Caroline Luce, Author

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

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


And, as it is in the Torah, so it is in action. M. Olgin says:
“In cases where it is better for the class struggle that the Jewish workers receive their necessary class-education in Yiddish, there we are for Yiddish.”
The former Bundist has remained true to himself. Yiddish, it appears, is for us only a means to explain class struggle to the worker, the old ideology of the Yiddish-Speaking Federation. Well, what about other cultural matters? What is to be be said concerning the suffering of the Jewish masses in Poland, Romania, about how the Jewish worker in the United States is undergoing a process in the shop and in small business, about Jewish immigration, etc.? “Culture,” — you say yourself – “is not only books”? But, we are not actually concerned with polemics here. Olgin’s theses are full of contradictions.
There are, for example, the Yiddish kinder shuln. Well, here, then, certainly class struggle could be learned in the English language—so why have Yiddish kinder shuln? The “Frayhayt” has actually introduced an “English page” for children!... So, open English schools to instruct the children!
Not by accident, this Menshevik wagon brought the American Jewish Communists to insinuate, to twist facts and falsify the news in connection with the recent events in Palestine!
Immediately after the Balfour Declaration it was clear for many Marxists the game that England played in “looking sympathetically on the building of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.” It was understood that England’s political-economic interests stood behind the fine words and that England would exploit the Jewish yishuv [settlement] on behalf of the old imperialist tactic “Divide et Impera [Divide and Rule].” Soon England revealed its game: immigration restrictions, White Papers, pogroms, withholding government lands, disrupting the development of industry; in general, the English sympathies for the Jewish colony were only in words. For the Arabs, however, the English government brought tangible improvements by opening schools, supporting their sanitation, and in general they (the English) officials hung out with the Arab Effendis, who are the bearers and leaders of the Pan-Arabic Executive.
The game, as said, was transparent — whoever had ears, eyes, and interest in the situation in Palestine could see it clearly. So that even in the Zionist camp there began to be heard desperate voices and they began consoling themselves with the Hebrew University and with the fact that in Eretz Israel there was being created a spiritual, intellectual center for Hebrew literature and language.
Only then the August pogroms erupted in Palestine. The demand of the leading body — of the Effendis of the Pan-Arabic Executive — were not directed at England. Even the strikes which continue to be called by the Pan-Arabic Executive are against the Balfour Declaration. The uprising — as the Zionists and Communists call it — was directed against the Jewish yishuv and not against England. But still the Communists declared that an uprising against English imperialism was taking place in Palestine. Jewish colonies became the “outposts” of British imperialism. Pogrom gangs became bearers of freedom. The impression given by the communist press was that the “uprising” in Palestine was being directed by the Executive of the Comintern and not by the Pan-Arabic Executive…
Well, so what if Zionists cry that it was a war between two peoples and “our heroes” won — we understand their reactionary utopianism, which is nothing new to us. But if Communists come out with the same talk: English soldiers and Jewish Legionnaires (Which Legionnaires? What plums? Where is there now a Jewish Legion?) are drowning the uprising in blood — that is, however, seriously ridiculous, to put it mildly. What would our Jewish Communists have had to do if they were in Palestine at the time —join the heroes of Hebron, Safed and other places and out-do them in their fine deeds?
To such a point have they crept on the utopian wagon of cosmopolitanism — a vestige of the 2nd International — unto absurdity. And beyond, the road ends. Darkness. Abyss.


From the foregoing it becomes clear that Communism is also obligated to take a clear, active position concerning the national interests of the working masses of one or another nationality. And this is not a question of national aspirations. One must understand once and for all that there are ruling and oppressed nations in this world. In one of the theses of the 2nd Congress of the Comintern there is talk in a single breath about “the widespread masses and especially those of backward countries and nations.” The Comintern works out its plan in each country and for each people according to the economic-political situation in the given country and among the given people. One cannot also say “Let us wait until power is achieved by the proletariat and then we will take on the resolution of the national problem.” Already in the capitalist epoch Communism builds its party, its cooperatives, its trade unions, in short: its culture. The same needs also to be applied to the nationality issue. Communists are, after all, activists.
It has been partially achieved. A Yiddish press, schools, drama groups, choirs. etc. Very good! But the building effort also needs to be inspired by an ideal. After all, one doesn’t approach the workers with the motto of “a full dinner pail” in their struggle against the starvation wages of the capitalist order. The worker is awakened in the name of an ideal. Similarly, we cannot say: “we are not against Yiddish so long as there are masses who speak Yiddish.”
This is not a matter of “mere talk.” Much depends on one’s outlook toward an issue. Were the Communists to think about the Jewish economic situation in the world, they would learn that in almost every country the Jewish masses undergo similar economic processes. This would bring the Jewish Communists to solve the “Jewish question” on an international scale. That might perhaps bring them to an apostate idea about a “territory.” Well, doomed! If the Jewish economic situation demands such a solution, the Jewish Communists must adopt that solution. This might perhaps also bring about an end to regarding the Yiddish language and literature as a medium for propaganda, but as a principle that cements the scattered Jewish masses throughout the entire world. Then, too, interest in and work for the Yiddish school would be stronger and would doubtlessly achieve greater and better results. Then Yiddish literature would not be — as it is for us in America —some sort of an issue that lives in and for itself, but that it — the literature — would have the working masses, who need to be its readers and its bearers.
There must be an end to the anti-communist, cosmopolitan position of the Communists on the national question. It is in this approach that Leftwing Nationalism must be expressed.
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