Sunday, February 18, 2007

Trotsky on Anti-Semitism

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(White Army poster of Trotsky as a 'Jewish Devil' circa 1919)

Anti-Semitism means not only hatred of the Jews but also cowardice in relation to them. Cowardice has big eyes, and it endows its enemy with extraordinary qualities which are not at all inherent in him. The socio-legal conditions of life of the Jews are quite sufficient to account for their role in the revolutionary movement. But it has certainly not been proved, nor can it be proved, that Jews are more talented than Great Russians or Ukrainians.

This is yet another interesting quote from Comrade Trotsky that I recently discovered. He wrote a series of letters on the post-Revolution Civil War and of the various White and Red factions. This comment comes from Trotsky's analysis of a paper written by an officer of the White army, who had previously defected from the Bolshevik camp. This 'general' seemed to have a preoccupation with Jews, and Trotsky, being of Jewish origins, did not miss commenting on the obvious.

He continues:
It is worthwhile saying a few words about this question. The Jewish commissars are far from constituting such a big percentage of the total as is maintained in White-Guard reports, leaflets and newspapers. But it is undoubtedly a fact that the percentage is fairly high. Kotomin, like many other anti-Semites, sees the reason for the considerable number of Jewish commissars as being due to the special abilities and talents of Jews. He twice speaks of their ‘great talent’. Such an evaluation of the Jews certainly calls for no objection. It is a fact that the Jews are a predominantly urban people, and that they form a very high proportion of the town population. The Tsarist regime, which established very harsh conditions for the Jews, impelled not only the Jewish workers, like the Russian workers, but also petty-bourgeois intelligentsia elements of the Jewish community to take the path of revolution. Among the considerable number of Jewish Communists who have joined the Party in recent times there are quite a few the source of whose Communism is not so much social, not so much a matter of class, as national.

Trotsky was intellectually honest enough to acknowledge, however, the truth in the words of his staunchest critics and enemies, as is seen from the entirety of his works. Agree or disagree with Marxism, Comrade Trotsky did show a rare capacity to engage ideas outside communist circles and integrate them with his own philosophy to make practical and, in this case, tactical improvements to the movement.

Comrade Trotsky rightfully calls such biased hatred "Cowardice", and makes no apology for being of Jewish stock. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that Bolshevism, too, being made up of formerly very anti-Semitic Russian peasants and professionals did, in practice, engage in extreme anti-Semitism. It was such a latent anti-Semitic attitude, though institutionally non-Bolshevik, that the bastard Stalin manipulated to drive Trotsky from power after Lenin's death.

I don't know if Comrade Trotsky took all this to heart or if his focus was on much wider issues than reflections on other people's mis-perceptions of his Jewish heritage. I suspect the latter. Myself, I sometimes wonder if I live in greater danger among my philosophical peers than I do my Jewish adversaries.

Kol Tuv

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