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The Origins and Development of Soviet Anti-Semitism: An Analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 January 2017

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Classical Marxism, in contrast to various forms of Utopian socialism, anarchism, and syndicalism, treated anti-Semitism with utter contempt. The German Social Democratic leader August Bebel summed up the prevailing attitude of classical Marxism when he dubbed anti-Semitism the “socialism of fools.” Lenin was even sharper in his denunciation: “Shame on those who foment hatred towards the Jews,” he cried in March 1919. Yet fifty-five years after the Bolshevik Revolution the Soviet Union has become the principal exemplar of the “socialism of fools,” with anti-Jewish discrimination practiced in various areas of politics and employment and in the ethnic-cultural field. Especially disquieting is the massive anti-Zionist propaganda campaign which incorporates the traditional negative stereotypes of Jews.

Copyright © Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies. 1972


1. See George Lichtheim, “Socialism and the Jews,” Dissent, July-August 1968, pp. 314-42. Marx, in his Zur Judenfrage (1844), did, however, use certain stereotypes about Jews and capitalism that were to become part of the lexicon of such Soviet bigots as Trofim K. Kichko.

2. Lenin, V. I., Collected Works, 4th ed., English trans. (Moscow, 1965), 29: 253.Google Scholar

3. Feuer, Lewis S., “Meeting the Philosophers,Survey, no. 51 (April 1964), pp. 1023.Google Scholar

4. Thus Premier Alexei Kosygin would say at a press conference in New York in June 1967 that “there has never been and there is no anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union” (New York Times, June 27, 1967).

5. Ilf, I. and Petrov, Y., The Complete Adventures of Ostap Bender, trans. Richardson, John H. C. (New York, 1962), p. 1962.Google Scholar

6. The basic findings were published in Bauer, Raymond A., Inkeles, Alex, and Kluckhohn, Clyde, How the Soviet System Works (Cambridge, Mass., 1956)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The material on anti-Semitism was only sketchily treated. In order to prepare this essay I went back to the interviews and examined each of them.

7. Larin, lurii, Evrei i antisemitizm v SSSR (Moscow, 1929), p. 241.Google Scholar

8. Pervyi vsesoiuznyi s"ezd OZET v Moskve, 15-20 noiabria 1926 goda (Moscow, 1927), p. 65.

9. Larin, , Evrei i antisemitizm, pp. 238-39.Google Scholar

10. Fainsod, Merle, Smolensk Under Soviet Rule (Cambridge, Mass., 1958), p. 445.Google Scholar

11. Ehrenburg, Ilya, Post-War Years: 1945-54 (Cleveland, 1967), pp. 298 and 131.Google Scholar

12. Novyi mir, 1966, no. 9, pp. 187-205.

13. Schwarz, Solomon M., The Jews in the Soviet Union (Syracuse, 1951), pp. 27689.Google Scholar

14. I Deutscher, saac, The Prophet Unarmed: Trotsky, 1921-1929 (London, 1959), pp. 257-58. Deutscher drew upon material in the Trotsky Archives.Google Scholar

15. Quoted in the New York Times, Jan. 15, 1931.

16. I Deutscher, saac, The Prophet Outcast: Trotsky, 1929-1940 (New York, 1963), p. 1963 Google Scholar. The reference to the Levin testimony is in Armstrong, John A., The Politics of Totalitarianism (New York, 1961), p. 1961.Google Scholar

17. Alliluyeva, Svetlana, Only One Year (New York, 1969), p. 1969.Google Scholar

18. Yakov Kantor, “Aynike Bamerkungen un Oisfiren tsu di Fareffentlichte Sachhakalen fun der Folks-tselung in Raterverband dem 15 Yanuar, 1959,” Bleter far Geshichte (Warsaw), 15 (1962-63): 148.

19. Information provided me in an oral interview.

20. Sakharov, Andrei D., Progress, Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom, with introduction, afterword, and notes by Salisbury, Harrison E. (New York, 1968), pp. 6566.Google Scholar

21. Cited in Katz, Zev, “After the Six-Day War,” in Kochan, Lionel, ed., The Jews in Soviet Russia Since 1917 (London, 1970), p. 326 Google Scholar. Svetlana’s comment is in Alliluyeva, Only One Year, p. 153.

22. Picker, H., Hitlers Gespräche in Fűhrerhauptquartier, 1941-42, by Schramm, P. E., Hillgruber, A., and Vogt, M., 2nd ed. (Stuttgart, 1965), p. 472 Google Scholar.

23. See Armstrong, John A., “The Jewish Predicament in the Soviet Union,” Midstream, January 1971, p. 27 Google Scholar, and Politics of Totalitarianism, p. 154.

24. Ehrenburg, Ilya, The War: 1941-45 (Cleveland, 1964), p. 121.Google Scholar Shcherbakov told him: “The soldiers want to hear about Suvorov while you quote Heine.”

25. Gouzenko, Igor, The Iron Curtain (New York, 1948), pp. 15758.Google Scholar

26. Djilas, Milovan, Conversations with Stalin (New York, 1962), p. 1962.Google Scholar

27. Alliluyeva, Only One Year, p. 153. Armstrong, Politics of Totalitarianism, p. 406. See also his essay in Goldhagen, Erich, ed., Ethnic Minorities in the Soviet Union (New York, 1968), p. 1968.Google Scholar

28. Salo Baron, W., The Russian Jew Under Tsars and Soviets (New York, 1964), p. 1964.Google Scholar

29. Schwarz, Jews in the Soviet Union, pp. 354-55, 364.

30. Fisher, John, Why They Behave Like Russians (New York, 1947), p. 1947.Google Scholar

31. Salisbury, Harrison, Russia on the Way (New York, 1946), p. 1946.Google Scholar

32. Korey, William, “The Legal Position of the Jewish Community of the Soviet Union,” in Goldhagen, , Ethnic Minorities, p. 338 Google Scholar; Nove, Alec and Newth, J. A., “The Jewish Population: Demographic Trends and Occupational Patterns,” in Kochan, , Jews in Soviet Russia, pp. 152-53.Google Scholar

33. Korey, “The Legal Position,” p. 338.

34. Bialer, S, “How Russians Rule Russia,Problems of Communism, September-October 1964, pp. 46, 48.Google Scholar

35. Nove and Newth, “The Jewish Population,” p. 151.

36. Korey, “The Legal Position,” p. 339.

37. Ibid., pp. 336-38.

38. See the transcript of the interview in Réaltiés, no. 136 (May 1957), p. 104.

39. Rogachev, P. and Sverdlin, M., “Sovetskii narod: Novaia istoricheskaia obshchnost' liudei,Kommunist, June 1963, p. 13.Google Scholar

40. The appeal is published in Survey, Summer 1970, p. 167.

41. Komarov, V. and Artamoshkina, V., “Takova ikh nauchnaia ob"ektivnost' lVestnik vysshei shkoly, December 1963, p. 78.Google Scholar

42. DeWitt, Nicholas, Education and Professional Employment in the USSR (Washington, D.C., 1961), pp. 358-60.Google Scholar

43. Hindus, Maurice, House Without a Roof (New York, 1961), p. 1961.Google Scholar

44. Izvestiia, May 25, 194S. Amalrik notes that the current nationalist “ideology” requires “external and internal enemies who are not so much ‘class’ enemies … as national enemies (for instance, Chinese and Jews).” Amalrik, Andrei, Will the Soviet Union Survive Until 1984? (New York, 1970), p. 1970 Google Scholar.

45. Schwarz, Jews in the Soviet Union, p. 260.

46. Alliluyeva, Svetlana, Twenty Letters to a Friend (New York, 1967), p. 1967.Google Scholar

47. Schwarz, Jews in the Soviet Union, pp. 309-30.

48. Réaltiés, no. 136 (May 1957), p. 104.

49. Observer (London), Jan. 13, 1963.

50. See, e.g., Pipes, Richard, “The Forces of Nationalism,Problems of Communism, January-February 1964, p. 6.Google Scholar

51. Korey, “The Legal Position,” p. 325.

52. Arendt, Hannah, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 2nd ed. (New York, 1962), pp. 42324 Google Scholar. See also Lendvai, Paul, Anti-Semitism Without Jews (New York, 1971), pp. 320 Google Scholar.

53. Alliluyeva, Only One Year, p. 152.

54. See Fischer, George, The Soviet System and Modern Society (New York, 1968), pp. 65117.Google Scholar

55. See Alliluyeva, Only One Year, p. 154, and Ehrenburg, Post-War Years: 1945-54, p. 125.

56. Laqueur, Walter Z., The Soviet Union and the Middle East (New York, 1959), p. 1959.Google Scholar

57. The article appeared in Pravda, Sept. 21, 1948. That the “request” was made by the Pravda editor is disclosed in Ehrenburg, Post-War Years, p. 125.

58. Ibid, p. 132.

59. Raab, Earl, “The Black Revolution and the Jewish Question,Commentary, January 1969, p. 23.Google Scholar

60. Pravda, Jan. 13, 1953. Earlier, in November 1952, the Soviet press highlighted the Slánský trial in Czechoslovakia, stressing the presumed “American-Zionist” character of the plot.

61. Deutscher, Isaac, Stalin, rev. ed. (London, 1968), pp. 611-12.Google Scholar

62. Pravda, Apr. 6, 1953, described the hoax, but never mentioned anti-Semitism. Nor did Khrushchev in his secret speech to the Twentieth Party Congress in 1956. Instead, he wrote to Bertrand Russell, seven years later, saying that “there never has been … any policy of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union… .” See Pravda, Feb. 28, 1963.

63. For a detailed exposition of the subject see “Economic Crimes in the Soviet Union,” Journal of the International Commission of Jurists, Summer 1964, pp. 3-47.

64. Pravda, Apr. 4, 1964. For details see Korey, “The Legal Position,” p. 341.

65. The episode is related in William Korey, “Babi Yar Remembered,” Midstream, March 1969, p. 34.

66. The anti-Zionist elements in the propaganda campaign against the Dubček regime echoed themes of the Slánský trial of November 1952. See London, Artur, The Confession (New York, 1971), pp. 231-52Google Scholar, and Lendvai, Anti-Semitism Without Jews, pp. 243-59. The Slánský trial was fabricated in Moscow, and Soviet security officials played a key role in extracting the required confessions from its victims.

67. In 1970 the USSR published a revised and augmented edition of Ivanov’s Ostorozhno: Sionism ! which charged that the “Jews Rothschilds” are “parasites in the economy of many countries” and were engaged in financing the Czech “counterrevolution.” The new edition contends that Zionists have also penetrated the inner circles of the Vatican. The shrill vituperations of the Soviet press against Zionism continued throughout 1970 and into 1971.

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