“SOVIET ethics are based on Marxism — like it or not.” This in a sense symbolised Don Monteith’s recent article on the Jewish problem. Yet one cannot take such• a polarised attitude to such a complex problem.
Most quotes in the article came from Soviet propaganda sources which have been dissected countless times in the past for their inaccuracies, their distortions and their aberrations of the truth.
No genuine Marxist analysis of the Jewish problem was made and one should not accept the somewhat antediluvian notion that the Soviet Union is the bastion of revolutionary Socialism.
Stalin’s definition in 1913 of a nation: “A nation is a historically evolved stable community. based on language, territory. economic life and psychological makeup manifested in a common culture. A nation is not a racial or tribal, but historically constituted community of peop!e.” is utilised in indicate that the Jewish people may not, in fact, exist, at least according to “Soviet ethics.”
Therefore, in similar fashion, there should be questions asked about the Chinese and the Indians who do not have a common language. What about the Pakistanis who formed their nation on the basis of a common religion?
Stalin limited his concept of the nation to the “epoch of rising capitalism?’ Yet nations existed in feudal times. Stalin also made a mistake in suggesting that it was only the bourgeoisie who could he identified with a national movement. Many Marxist thinkers have since evolved their own definition of the nation.
Applied to Zionism, Mr Monteith’s direct quote from Soviet sources purports the Stalinist viewpoint that it was merely a movement of establishment middle-class Western Jews of a quite right-wing political line.
No mention is made of the toiling Jewish masses of Eastern Europe who formed the backbone of this mass movement. No mention is made of Marxist-Zionism or its philosophers such as Ber Borochov.
No mention is made of Zionist brigades fighting in the Red Army at the time of the October revolution or the existence of the Communist-Zionist party, Left Poale Zion. in the early twenties.
These uncomfortable facts create gaping holes in the Stalinist images that Mr Monteith reproduces in his artide. Quotes taken out of context from Jabotinsk3. or Herzl are more suitable.
Just as Soviet society has become a reactionary, conformist. monolithic society, neo-Stalinist propaganda in the USSR today picks upon anti-progressive figures or incidents, manipulates them, distorts them and creates unknowingly a mirror image of itself.
Mr Monteith unconsciously also accepts this line in depicting campaigners in the Soviet Jewry movement as establishment figures dwelling in middle-class suburbia who are only interested in the fate of their own people.
Such people exist, but there are also many who feel strongly about South Africa, Chile and Czechoslovakia. There are some who support Israel’s New-Left-Communism grouping Moked, while others are members of Mapam, the Socialist-Zionist Party.
Some believe that a Palestinian State should be established on the West Bank of the Jordan, coexisting with the Jewish State of Israel. The concept of the monolith runs all the way through the article. Nothing is ever black or white.
No distinction is made between theory and practice. One of the basic contradictions of the Soviet Union at present is its failure to examine what has gone wrong since 1917. The Jews — and many of them have been active in the International Communist movement — have made this analysis.
The destruction of the six million, the establishment of the State of Israel and experience of the USSR’s comparative failure to deal with the Jewish problem, have caused profound thinking among the Jewish intelligentsia.
The late Moshe Sneh, a leader of the Communist Party of Israel, wrote:
“The planned and systematic slaughter of the majority of European Jews naturally increased self-awareness and the solidarity of Jews wherever they may be. Every Jew who remained alive knows and feels that he is alive only by chance — either because he was outside the area of the rule of the Third German Reich or because there was not enough time to put him into the gas chamber and furnace.
“Every Jew knows and feels that he was condemned to death only because of his Jewishness and that only by accident the death sentence was not carried out.
Every Jew proudly bears in his heart the yellow patch with the Star of David that our brothers were forced to carry on their backs as a sign of disgrace while being still alive and as a shipping tag to the death camp. To come to these people now and advise them ‘assimilate please, forget that you were Jews, free yourselves from your Jewishness so that you will be free’ — can anything more cynical and cruel be imagined?
“At any rate it is impossible to give our grieving people such advice in the name of Communism: Communism came, to liberate man from alienation, not to impose it upon him and order him not to be himself.”
Yet “forget that you were Jews” is exactly what today’s Soviet leaders, who had earned their advancement under Stalin, demanded according to the outdated, outmoded Leninist attitudes written at the turn of the century.
The Six Day War catalysed the birth of the Jewish liberation movement in the Soviet Union. Many were assimilated youths, others were democratic dissenters. Young and old both drew from distinctly Jewish roots of universalism to fuel their nationalist exodus movement.
At first the Soviet authorities tried to stem the flood by producing many ‘symbolic’ Jews to make statements and produce facts and figures in stereotype letters, saying that there was no Jewish ‘problem. Many of the names, used time and time again, were faithfully included in. Mr Monteith’s article.
“Soviet ethics,” to come back to the beginning, seem to have as much to do with present-day Marxist thinking as Joseph Stalin had to do with Socialism. One cannot justify defects in Soviet society by pointing to the defects of Western civilisation.
How far does one go in justifying “Soviet ethics” in opposing not just Western concepts hut humanitarian concepts of what is right and what is wrong.
“Soviet ethics were used to justify the purges and the camps of the thirties and forties. Just think, to what lengths “Soviet ethics” could be taken today if it were not for the consistent publication of news of persecution of Soviet Jews (your newspaper has been in the forefront highlighting the plight of Sosiet
If the USSR is still suffering from a Stalinist hangover and is trying to complete the transition from Communism to Socialism, what should the correct approach be? Moshe Sneh puts forward four points:
- The recognition of the right of the Jewish citizen who so desires, to leave the boundaries of the Socialist state in order to emigrate to the historic homeland of the Jewish people. the State of
- The recognition of the r;ght of Jewish citizens who so desire to develop their national culture and language with the help of the Sociitlist state.
- The recognition of the right of the Jewish citizen of a socialist state to assimilate and be included in the nation in which he lives if he so desires.
- The recognition of the right of the citizens of a Socialist State who are determined as “Jewish nationhood” to maintain continuous cultural and friendly connections with the Jewish democratic institutions in foreign countries.
This would not give Jews a privileged position in the USSR, but merely restore to them the rights denied to them by Stalin and restored to other nations by his heirs.
Thirty-three thousand Jews migrated from USSR to Israel in 1973. Half that number migrated in 1974. Another 150,000 are waiting. Mikhail Shtern was sentenced to eight years in Vinnitsa last week. Mikhail Leviev has had the death sentence, hanging over him, confirmed by the Russian Supreme Court.
All this shows a worsening situation despite the valiant efforts of Senator Henry Jackson. Moreover numbers and names hide real people with real problems. If “Soviet ethics” really do have a Marxist base, then Mr Monteith should ask the Counsellor at the Soviet Embassy the following question:
Why does the Soviet Government adopt an anti-Marxist policy in stopping Jews from going to what they consider to be their national homeland and participating in the building of Socialism?
Finchley Times 10 January 1975