Part 1 of 5
The following continues an extended series of excerpts from the penultimate draft of Dara Halley-James’ forthcoming book The Sixty Million: How Leading Jewish Communists, Zionists, and Neocons Brought on a Dozen Holocausts.
Background to Jewish-Peasant Relations
By the year 1000, Jewish societies had virtually no peasants. Operating ‘higher on the food chain’, they became an integral part of the privileged classes. Even the lower-level jobs many Jews occupied made them far better off than a serf.
Serfdom or partial serfdom existed in Prussia, Austria-Hungary, Poland and Russia. Until the 1880s, most Jews lived where their key social function was to mediate the oppression of the peasants on behalf of Crown and nobility. In Poland and the Pale, writes Shahak, Jews “were employed as the direct supervisors and oppressors of the enserfed peasantry — as bailiffs of whole manors (invested with the landlord’s full coercive powers) or as lessees of particular feudal monopolies such as the corn mill, the liquor still and public house . . . or the bakery, and as collectors of customary feudal dues of all kinds.” Thus Jews were the face of exploitation for the peasantry, as well as the embodiment of the town dweller, there being few others.
It is richly ironic that Jews would play the leading role in Communism. Rabbis were the most loyal and zealous supporters of the powers-that-be, the more reactionary those powers the better. Jews were positioned all the more favourably under strong regimes retaining a feudal character. The development of a national consciousness was to be feared. In sum, the society of classical Judaism found itself in total opposition to the surrounding Gentile society, except the king or king-replacing nobles. The Jews were not persecuted. Au contraire, they were protected by the upper clergy. They were protected by the nobility. Where Jews had problems was with with lower clergy who were close to the peasants, with the peasants themselves and with any rising Gentile middle class resentful of the privileging of alien competitors.
Persecutions were always from below, until the Nazis. Shahak observes that “in all the worst anti-Jewish persecutions, that is, where Jews were killed, the ruling elite — the emperor and the Pope, the king, the higher aristocracy and the upper clergy, as well as the rich bourgeoisie . . . were always on the side of the Jews. . . . [T]he fact remains that they did defend the Jew.” Massacres were a by-product of peasant rebellions. Only if the government were weak and declining would it stand aside and let pogroms happen, as happened if only through incompetence in late Czarist Russia. When strong, the government might intensify legal discrimination, but would not tolerate pogroms.
There are many examples of persecution of Jews by the lower orders that have gone down in Jewish history as officially-sanctioned when nothing could be further from the truth. Revenge attacks for the Black Death were strictly by the lower orders in defiance of the Pope and the whole Catholic Church. As mentioned above, when the Ukrainian nationalist Chmielnicki led Cossacks and serfs against extreme oppression, and tens of thousands of Jews were reportedly killed, Jews would ever after remember and fixate upon the Jewish death toll and attribute the disaster to supposedly-gratuitous anti-Semitism. In fact, insists Shahak, “even more horrible atrocities and ‘counter-terror’ [were committed] by the Polish magnates’ private armies [upon Chmielnicki’s forces].” Unbelievably, any modern-day anti-Israel vote in the UN by the Ukraine is attributed by the Israeli press to the legacy of Chmielnicki.
Continues Shahak, “Everywhere, classical Judaism developed hatred and contempt for agriculture as an occupation and for peasants as a class, even more than for other Gentiles — a hatred of which I know no parallel in other societies. This is immediately apparent to anyone who is familiar with the Yiddish or Hebrew literature of the 19th and 20th centuries.” Many “east-European Jewish socialists . . . were themselves tainted with a ferocious anti-peasant attitude inherited from classical Judaism.” (This perhaps explains why Stalin could rely on Jews like Lazar Kaganovich to impose the Terror Famine on ‘peasants’ in 1932-33.) Thus Jews opposed the Catholic clergy’s promotion of peasant cooperatives. The tradition would persist even into the 1980s in the racist denigration of the Russian people by many a Jewish dissident in the USSR.
It’s worth emphasizing that the king or prince would grant a charter to the Jewish community, giving it autonomy and giving the rabbi the power to dictatorial powers over that community. Rabbis wouldn’t have to pay taxes. The better the relationship between ruler and Jewish authorities, the more tyrannical those authorities would be. No one has heard of the following inquisition because it was conducted by Jews: Pedro I allowed the Jewish authorities of Castile to set up a national inquisition against Jewish religious deviators, a century prior to the more infamous Inquisition.
The 1500s through the 1700s was perhaps the most superstition-ridden era in Judaism’s history. And Polish Jewry was the most fanatical in this regard. ‘Jewish autonomy’ sounds great, but it was deployed to stifle original or innovative thinking, writes Shahak, “to promote the most shameless exploitation of the Jewish poor by the Jewish rich in alliance with the rabbis, and to justify the Jews’ role in the oppression of the peasants in the service of the nobles . . .” In Poland in the 1700s, a chasm of hostility opened up between the Jewish elite (rabbis and the rich) and the Jewish masses. When eastern Poland became part of the Russian Pale, this class conflict between Jewish strata fed the resentment of Jewish revolutionaries. Voilà: the bankruptcy of classical Judaism helped stir the cauldron of revolution.
Jewish Roots for Communism?
The Jewish version of the Enlightenment was called the Haskalah. Its proponents believed there was a need for a top-to-bottom critique of Jewish society. This worthy if halting first step was, by fanaticism, transformed into a stampede toward revolutionary agitation which culminated in Bolshevism. A turning point had occurred, as we have seen, when Ukrainians stoked with what Cantor calls “the ferocious resentment built up in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries against the Jewish agents of the Polish landlords who exploited and oppressed them,” rose up in 1648. Chmielnicki’s pogroms killed upwards of 40,000 Polish Jews, a collective trauma for Jews in what had been a Polish paradise for them for a century and a half.
By 1666, they had found a messiah, ever-so-briefy: Sabbatai Zevi. Cantor writes of how mass hysteria gripped Jewish communities throughout Europe and the Mediterranean as thousands upon thousands prepared for a triumphant return to Zion. Many went so far as to exhume the bodies of dead relatives to take with them, in the expectation of resurrection! As crazed as modern-era fundamentalist Christians awaiting The Rapture, Jewish families lingered pitifully on rooftops with bags packed, awaiting ‘Angel Airlines’ to transport them to Jerusalem. How different was this desperately-intense millennial craziness from the revolutionary fervor that would arise in the Pale two centuries later? “Trotsky’s was the mind of an apocalyptic Cabalistic visionary transformed by modernity into a completely secular and materialist millennial prophet,” suggests Cantor. But Trotsky was merely at the forefront of a veritable phenomenon. Crows Cantor, “The Jews, once emancipated and given the opportunity for mobility were genetically so superior that market capitalism could not accommodate some of this superior species, and . . . [they] reacted to this rebuff by becoming . . . reds.” (my emphases: one wonders how 99 percent of human civilization’s advances managed to occur absent contributions from such genetically-superior beings and remind Cantor that even the 1 percent may not have been worth 73 years of Communism and its attendant catastrophes bored into the heart of the 20th century.)
Young Jewish revolutionaries took to heart what non-Jewish ones turned a blind eye to, that is, Marx’s depiction of money-mania (capitalism) as Jewish, with communism as emancipation from that state of mind. Jews became the most ardent capitalists and anti-capitalists. In fact, concedes Cantor, the data does support the contention that Jews were both capitalists and communists, something that French and German critiques of the Jews pointed out in the 1920s and 1930s, to the scorn of Jewish intellectuals. As for the ‘Jews and Communism’ connection, Jewish apologists and even supposedly-objective historians would rather just sweep the whole thing under the carpet.
But it can’t be done. The Blackwell Companion to Jewish Culture says of Marxism: “There is no precedent for the direct impact that this intellectual edifice has had on world history . . . [Marxism] exercised a powerful hold upon actual and potential followers . . . because it had more in common with the Old Testament-like prophecy than modern social science . . . [Marx’s] tone was one of rage and fury . . . [This dovetailed with] the deep-seated Jewish revulsion of Gentiles . . . Jews would not have had the impression of truly changing their intellectual code in joining the Marxist stream . . . [Jewish Marxists found] themselves mainly in the German and Russian Social Democratic movements, and were even largely instrumental in the formation of these movements. . . . For example, most members of the first Russian revolutionary group, the ‘Emancipation of Labor group’ were Jews . . . [A] large proportion of Jews figure among the founders of the Marxist tradition, and . . . many Jews have found their places, following Marx himself, within the revolutionary movement, in communist parties and Trotskyite groups . . . [Theirs was] a rejection of the world as it existed and the search for a radical-revolutionary solution by destroying the existing world and building a better one in its place. This desire for destruction in turn contributed not a little to fanning the flames of antagonism between the frustrated Jew and the rest of the world.”
Jewish-American writer Diana Trilling would one day ask rhetorically: “[I]s there not . . . a discernable path between Marx’s formulation of a social absolutism and the concentration camp of National Socialism?” Yes, since although the Nazis scorned Communism, they borrowed some of its totalitarian innovations — such as the Gulag slave-labor camp, much studied by Himmler. Indeed, as Jewish-American philosopher Sidney Hook remarked in the year of Kristallnacht (1938), “It was from Stalin that Hitler learned the art of uprooting and wiping out whole groups and classes of innocent citizens” (my emphases). Of course, Stalin’s régime was loyally supported by its bedrock Jewish intelligentsia, bureaucracy and secret police who dutifully carried out such measures. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.
Clement Greenberg summarizes for us: “Marx and other emancipated Jews tried to hurry the Messiah by looking for him in Gentile history and foreseeing the immanent conversion of the Gentiles — not exactly to Judaism, but to a community to which Jews could assimilate themselves.” It was like a Jewish ‘hostile takeover’ of Gentile history for which Jews could appropriately serve as the avant-garde now that Jewish interests and ideas of Jewish origin were taking precedence over Christian predecessors. Cantor observes that if one rummages through ‘the baggage’ of supposedly-secular Jewish intellectuals and their supposedly-secular perspectives on modernity, one can always root out ‘borrowings from’ or ‘reactions to’ Jewish theology and ethics.
Only radical intellectuals could transmute a specific population’s longing for improvements in conditions into a rejection of the whole socio/political system. Unlike any other strata of humanity, intellectuals harbor grievances of a universal nature, and believe desired changes require restructuring of all of society, placing intellectuals at the top. And of course, this implied an avant-garde of Jewish intellectuals, otherwise what would be the point? (The phenomenon would repeat with the ‘Red-diaper’ Jewish leaders of 1960s protest; not just Vietnam policy had to change, the whole system had to come crashing down.)
In 1903’s Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, 26 Marxist organizations were represented by 43 delegates. About half the delegates were Jewish. The Jewish Bund wanted national status for Jews within Russia, but the internationalists Martov (Jewish), Trotsky (Jewish) and Lenin (a quarter Jewish) fought against it, and won. By 1905, “None of the social democratic leaders doubted that the dictatorship of the proletariat would come in due course” (my emphases). Indeed, the Bolsheviks despised the parliamentary system, even while the tentative 1905 revolution gave Russians a parliament of sorts. However, the contemptuous dismissal of the parliamentary principle, when the first shoots of democracy were just beginning to show, was catastrophic for Russian ‘socialism’ and would forever tar the very idea of socialism with that dismissal and its replacement by the dictatorial ways of Communism.
The Schiff Factor, Reviewed
As noted above, one could say that Jewish-American banker Jacob Schiff inaugurated the 20th century’s 1914-1950 civil war in the West by bankrolling the Japanese defeat of the Czar. This was the first victory and a very inspiring one for an Oriental over an Occidental power. And it did have the salutary effect of provoking a near-revolution in Russia, followed by some significant democratic measures. Grant Schiff that much.
But his efforts would drastically would overshoot the mark. Even the Jewish Communal Register of New York City (1917-18) conceded that, “[Schiff] financed the enemies of the autocratic Russia and used his financial influence to keep Russia away from the money market of the United States.” The weakening of the Czarist regime continued, and paved the way for Bolshevism a dozen years later. The advent of Bolshevism would tear apart Europe. How? Via both Bolshevism’s nemesis, Nazism, and Bolshevism’s fruition — after overcoming its nemesis — thereby setting back Western Europe by a generation in the process, and Eastern Europe by two generations.
In World War I, the financially-strapped “[T]sarist Russia was . . . less able to mobilize its forces . . . Recruits were sent into battle without ammunition, adequate clothing, or sufficient food,” writes Lindemann. And Schiff’s financial strangulation of Russia was largely responsible. By starving the Czar of loans, Schiff rendered the Russian army ineffective, dragged out the war and obliged Britain to adopt extreme measures to draw the U.S. into the war by way of an effective substitute for pathetic Russia.
At the same time Schiff was making loans to those who opposed the Czar, including revolutionaries who were desperate to pull Russia out of the war even at great cost. Come the February revolution, Kerensky’s government was so broke on account of the war and its inadequate financing that Kerensky had no alternative but to appease the few British and American banks from whom the Czar did manage to obtain loans by agreeing to continue Russia’s war effort, a disastrous decision that increased popular support for the revolutionary parties.
Later, with Bolshevik Russia out of the war and no more eastern front to siphon off German troops from the western front, it was all the more necessary, if Britain and France were to win or at least not lose the war, to draw the U.S. into the fray. But absent the work of one Fritz Haber, a German Jewish scientist, Germany would have had to sue for peace well before the ‘game-changing’ entry of America into the fray.
The Haber Factor
High-pressure synthesis of ammonia is what Fritz Haber, director of the new Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry in Berlin, initially sought. The aim was to produce fertilizer and increase yields. For this he would co-win a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1920 along with Carl Bosch who devised the engineering aspects of the process.
But at the outset of World War I, writes Haber’s biographer Dietrich Stoltzenberg, German industry had, at most, six months-worth of ammonia reserves. Ammonia was needed to make nitric acid, a necessary component of explosives. Nitrate reserves had declined precipitously and without another source of supply, further production of explosives would soon cease. The British still ruled the sea lanes, so re-stocking from Chile was a dubious proposition. The impending ammunition shortage meant that Germany would be obliged to seek peace long before November 1918.
By the end of 1914, the Ministry of War was demanding a great expansion in ammonia production via the Haber-Bosch process. Germany wound up producing close to 200,000 tons of nitrogen this way. Absent Haber (and engineer Bosch), Germany would have been obliged to seek peace well before the Russian revolution and the American entry into the war occurred. Insist Medwar and Pyke, “But for him, Germany would almost certainly have lost the First World War within a year.” And that would have transformed the history of the rest of the 20th century — for the better.
Then there was poison gas. The 1907 Hague Convention on War on Land had been ratified by nearly all the states of Europe. It forbade the use of poisonous chemical weapons. France broke this International law in a trivial way, allowing Germany to break it in a substantial way. Yes, the French had experimented with tear gas first, but it was Haber who was responsible for inundating the battlefields of France with poison gas. In the battle of Ypres, 7,000 were poisoned and 350 killed by gas attacks. Haber would open the floodgates.
First came the German Ministry of War’s chemical weapons fund. Stoltzenberg notes that the initiator of this fund was doubtless Haber. He was always pushing for greater cooperation between the military and the scientists, of which there was little pre-war, but which he deemed vital. When it came to developing and testing chemical weapons and gear protecting against gas, Haber interjected himself into discussions, explanations, and negotiations with the military on gas warfare tactics, on production of the chemical weapons, and on every other aspect of the subject from A to Z.
Haber became utterly obsessed. All else in his life was shoved into the background. He ignored his wife and family. He tried to enlist his friends and acquaintances in his chemical-warfare crusade. He set everything aside that was unrelated to his war-work, focusing almost exclusively on chemical warfare. He was living for his profession alone. Stoltzenberg concedes: “He not only pushed forward the research on and development of the chemicals used but also exerted considerable influence on the engineering technology for turning them into weapons and advised on their use in battle.” His devotion to this project was such that his badly-neglected and perhaps disapproving wife committed suicide.
During the spring of 1915, Fritz Haber was pre-occupied 24/7 with preparations for a chlorine attack at Ypres. He would even drop in on the eastern front to prepare gas attacks there too. Stoltzenberg states plainly that “toward the end of 1915 the intensive work directed by Haber . . . made chemical warfare a reality.” Haber did much more than his duty. He became absolutely consumed with developing gas warfare, and wanted to continue even after the war ended. It wasn’t very effective. In fact, gas warfare was of limited tactical or strategic value. Haber was obliged to develop effective gas masks as well. The French even got stepped-up mustard gas onto the battlefield first, so the whole idea backfired on German soldiers.
But poison gas warfare did make World War I an even worse hell for both sides than it already was. “There is no question,” writes Haber’s biographer, “that Fritz Haber was the initiator and organizer of chemical warfare in Germany. He never denied this.” The escalated ghastliness imposed upon soldiering was partly responsible for the very great reluctance of Western nations to go to war against Hitler in the mid-1930s when he could easily have been defeated. More importantly, as above, Haber’s contributions to synthesizing ammonia enabled Germany to carry on past the first Russian revolution of 1917 and past the end of America’s isolationism. Absent Haber, Germany would have been obliged to arrange an armistice with the Czar or Kerensky, and a key plank of the Bolsheviks’ platform would have been pulled out from under it. And most importantly, America would not have become involved. As we shall see, Haber’s prolonging of World War I past early 1917 would constitute the most disastrous intervention by a scientist in world history.
Haber wanted to see even further development of chemical weapons post-war and suggested a new scientific institute to carry out the research. During the 1920s, he helped military leaders keep abreast of new developments in chemical warfare. Never having fought in the war himself, Haber lectured that gas weapons were no more inhumane than bullets and shrapnel. However, the Red Cross’s main objection was that in a combined attack, “incendiary and high-explosive bombs can render ineffective every conceivable protective measure against chemical weapons.” Nonetheless, for several years after the war, he participated in the secret preparation of chemical weapons. Haber was hooked on the inflicting of a very nasty form of death on Germany’s enemies who would then return the favor.
Haber also believed that pest control was a peacetime avenue for continuing his gas research. Laments Stoltzenberg, “It is indeed macabre and tragic that the Zyklon process started in Haber’s laboratory was used to kill countless Jews . . . during World War II.” The daughter of Haber’s half-sister, her husband and their two children were reportedly gassed.
The February Revolution and Kerensky’s Provisional Government
The February 1917 revolution in Russia was successful in forcing the Czar’s abdication, but the Provisional government could not cope with revolutionary agitation. Vis-à-vis Jews, Kerensky’s government granted them full civic rights, and this was hailed by even the anti-Semitic press. That should have been the end of it for Jews. All the restrictions upon them were lifted. Practically-speaking, there was no reason for Jews to go any further, unless the messianic was more important than the practical.
The February Revolution was the real item. This was the revolution that today’s self-styled Progressives should be hailing. But they ignore it. Shockingly, most are unaware of it. There’s a reason. Writes Solzhenitsyn: “[N]o, the February Revolution was not something the Jews did to the Russians, but rather it was done by the Russians themselves . . . True, there were already many Jews among the intelligentsia by that time, yet that is in no way a basis to call it a Jewish revolution.” As per “main animating forces,” this was a Russian ethnic Revolution.
Solzhenitsyn is only partially sympathetic to the February Revolution given its short-changing and short-circuiting of the grand Russian tradition, so he is not tempted to snatch credit for it from the Jews. It’s unfortunate for Jews that they cannot claim credit here because the February revolution, absent the Soviet sequel, was beneficent, especially toward the Jews. In fact, its first broad legislative act was the repeal of all restrictions based on religion and nationality. It didn’t name Jews as such, but Jews were the most obvious beneficiaries, intentionally so. Did ordinary Russians object? Not a hint of a single pogrom ensued. Four Jewish senators and four deputy ministers were named to Kerensky Government, a promising start for a group so long shut out of power. In fact, a worry arose amongst Jews that that should Provisional government flop, a right-wing coup might ensue and be particularly punitive toward Jews as the February Revolution’s most striking beneficiaries. This was Jewish paradise: gained. Stunningly, though, other Jews would turn this grand victory, largely bestowed upon the Jews by the democratic representatives of the Russian populace, into paradise lost, lost not only to Russia’s Jews but to all Russians.
Solzhenitsyn relates how, during the February-October Kerensky interval, “On the very heights, in the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, invisibly ruling the country in those months, two leaders distinguished themselves: Nakhamkis-Steklov and Gummer-Sukhanov [N-S and G-S]. On the night of March 1st to March 2nd they dictated to the complacently-blind Provisional Government a program which preemptively destroyed its power for the entire period of its existence.” Solzhenitsyn implies that both N-S and G-S were Jewish. In the greatest irony of the 20th century, ‘“The Jewish society got everything it fought for from the Revolution, and the October Revolution was altogether unnecessary for the Jews, except for a small slice of young cutthroat Jews [such as N-S and G-S], who with their Russian internationalist brothers accumulated an explosive charge of hate for the Russian governing class and burst forth to “deepen the revolution.”’
Solzhenitsyn elaborates: “The February Revolution was carried out by Russian hands and Russian foolishness. Yet at the same time, its ideology was permeated and dominated by the intransigent hostility to the historical Russian state that ordinary Russians didn’t have, but the Jews—had. So the Russian intelligentsia too had adopted this view . . . And so this intransigence overcame moderation.”
Solzhenitsyn continues: “[T]he Executive Committee of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, which was formed within hours of the Revolution, appears very different [from the ethnic Russian cast of the February Revolution]. This [very un-Russian] Executive Committee was in fact a tough shadow government that deprived the liberal Provisional Government of any real power, while at the same time, it criminally refused to accept responsibility for its power openly. By its ‘Order No. 1,’ the Executive Committee wrested the power of the military and created support for itself in the demoralized garrison of Petrograd. It was precisely this executive Committee, and not the judiciary, not the timber industrialists, not the bankers, which fast-tracked the country to her doom . . . The Executive Committee quite purposely destroyed the army in the middle of a war.” This way the army would pose no threat to the Revolution. But how could the Russian population support a war conducted by an army deliberately rendered terminally dysfunctional? It could not, and Kerensky would pay the price.
Who were these Committee malefactors? “[M]any members of the Committee concealed themselves from the public eye behind pseudonyms: who was ruling Russia? No one knew.” Apart from a dozen soldiers there just for show, “From the other thirty . . . who actually wielded power, more than half were Jewish socialists . . . Less than a quarter were Russians.” So, more than half the behind-the-scenes committee that singlehandedly subverted the government brought to power by the ethnically-Russian-engineered February Revolution were Jews!
The author emphasizes that, “with . . . disdain for the entire Russian historical heritage, all that internationalist ilk — Gummer-Sukhanov and his henchmen from the malicious Executive Committee — steered the February Revolution.” So: leading Jews would be crucial not only to the success of the Bolshevik Revolution in October, but to the Executive Committee’s undermining of the Provisional government, which the Bolsheviks capitalized upon. In fact, it was a Jew named Mark Natanson who was first to voice the idea of dissolving the constituent assembly.
The Russian Nobel Laureate is adamant that, “above . . . all of Russia . . . stood the power of one body—and it was not the Provisional Government. It was the powerful and insular Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, and . . . after June, [its] successor the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (CEC) — it was they who had in fact ruled over Russia.” It was even more riven by factionalism and disagreements over basic policies than was the Provisional Government. “The Presidium of the first All-Russian CEC of the Soviet Workers’ and Socialists’ Deputies (the first governing Soviet body) consisted of nine men. Among them were the Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs) A. Gots and M. Gendelman, the Menshevik, F. Dan, and the member of the Bund, M. Liber . . . The prominent Bolshevik, L. Kamenev, was [a member].” Thus of the nine, five were Jews. Only one was as an ethnic Russian! Others were Georgian, Armenian, or of some other minority. Of the The All-Russian Executive Committee of the Soviet of Peasants’ Deputies, only three members were actual peasants. Seven were Jews.
In other words, the power that would determine Russia’s future had fallen into the hands of ‘foreigners’, foreigners with grudges against Russian society from top to bottom. And in Solzhenitsyn’s view, during the era preceding the revolution, “the restrictions on Jews were nowhere near as oppressive and unreasonable as claimed by Jewish activists . . .” Their grudges were out of all proportion to the injustices inflicted upon them by the old guard, as their revenge on the old guard would likely be.
Because of the above-noted intransigent Jewish hostility toward the Russian state as such, which had infected the Russian intelligentsia as well, the momentum of revolutionary fervor could not be halted. “The favorite slogan of 1917 was ‘Expand the Revolution!’” All socialist parties worked to implement it, even though consolidating the revolution’s gains to that point would have been a safer bet.
Solzhenitsyn reminds us that, “it was Zionism that became the most influential political force in the Jewish milieu,” and this strengthened throughout 1917. Even orthodox movements were more popular than socialist ones. There were 300,000 ‘card-carrying’ Russian Zionists by September.
But this very fact would have a pernicious effect on the West as bad as Communism. Britain by mid-1916 had been in danger of being obliged to sue for peace on German terms. To dissipate that spectre, Britain needed to keep Russia in the war and get the U.S. into the war on Britain’s side. To accomplish the former, Britain was willing to make the Zionist prospect more compelling, which might convert many Jewish revolutionaries to Zionism, puncture revolutionary zeal and keep Russia in the war against Germany. The way to do this, counselled British Zionists, was for Britain to publically declare its intent to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine should Britain win the war and annex Palestine from the Ottoman Empire, a Geman ally. It would be called the Balfour Declaration. It seemed that to win the war would require that Russian Zionists stifle the anti-war Revolution brewing and that American Zionists convert President Wilson from an isolationist to a pro-war stance. It was the latter gambit that succeeded and wound up sufficing to defeat Germany and Turkey, which did transfer Palestine to British authority, a prerequisite for carrying out the Balfour Declaration’s intent.
The premature Bolshevik Uprising of July 3-4 targeted not the “already impotent Provisional Government but the Bolsheviks true competitor — the Executive Committee.” So Jewish was the Committee that the Bolsheviks cynically exploited incipient anti-Semitism by siccing the public on it. Many Jews of the Committee were subsequently named to a commission to officially investigate failed Bolshevik coup. Out of socialist solidarity, no Bolsheviks were punished. This would be the first of several instances of non-Bolshevik Jews deciding to go along with a Bolshevik initiative despite formally belonging to a rival socialist party. Of course, as was the case with every ethnic or religious group in Russia, most Jews were against Bolshevism. “Yet they were debilitated by their socialist views,” in opposing it, observes Solzhenitsyn. In other words, for all the difference it made, most non-Bolshevik revolutionary Jews might as well have been Bolsheviks themselves.
To be as inclusive as possible, Kerensky seconded the catastrophic notion of granting amnesty to Trotsky and Co., which brought Trotsky and his mostly-Jewish fellow revolutionaries back from exile in America. In addition, writes Solzhenitsyn, “two famous trains . . . crossed hostile Germany without hindrance and brought to Russia nearly 200 prominent individuals, 30 in Lenin’s and 160 in Natanson-Martov’s train, with Jews comprising an absolute majority (the lists of passengers of the ‘extraterritorial trains’ were for the first time published by V. Burtsev). They represented almost all Jewish parties, and virtually all of them would play a substantial role in the future events in Russia.”
They were “former emigrants, revolutionaries, and draft escapees — now they were all ‘revolutionary fighters’ and ‘victims of Tsarism’.” Investigation in Canada found that “Trotsky travelled not with flimsy Russian papers, but with a solid American passport, inexplicably granted to him despite his short stay in the USA and with a substantial sum of money, the source of which remained a mystery.” “Among the returnees were the famous V. Volodarsky, M. Uritsky and Yu. Larin . . . author of the ‘War Communism economy’ program.” “Similarly, members of Trotsky’s group . . . the jeweler Melnichansky, the accountant Friman, the tyropgrapher A. Minkin-Menson, and the decorator Gomberg-Zorin . . . respectively [would head] Soviet trade unions, Pravda, the dispatch office of bank notes and securities, and the Petrograd Revolutionary Tribunal.” All these names and the ones that follow were Jewish.
Other returnees of looming importance included, “ . . Doctor of Biology Ivan Zalkind [who] actively participated in the October coup and then in fact ran Trotsky’s People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs. Semyon Kogan-Semkov became the “political commissar of Izhevsk weapons and steel factories” in November 1918; that is, he was in charge of the vindictive actions during suppression of a major uprising of Izhevsk workers known for a toll of victims in the thousands . . . [including] 400 workers . . . gunned down . . . in a single incident.” “Tobinson-Krasnoshchekov later headed the entire Far East as the secretary of the Far East Bureau and the head of local government. Girshfeld-Stahevsky under the pseudonym “Verhovsky” [would command] a squad of German POWs and turncoats. That is, he laid the foundation for the Bolshevik international squads; in 1920 he [would head] clandestine intelligence at the Western front; later in peacetime, he would, on orders of the Cheka Presidium, organize an intelligence network in Western Europe.”
Other Jewish returnees had yet to be Bolshevized: “. . . Yakov Fishman, a member of the Military Revolutionary Committee of the October Coup . . . participat[ed] in the Left Socialist Revolutionary insurrection in July 1918 . . . [He would be posted with] the Military Intelligence Administration of the Red Army.” Returnee Yehim Yarchuk was “. . . an Anarchist Syndicalist . . . [soon] delegated by the Petrograd Soviet to reinforce the Kronstadt Soviet; during the October coup he . . . [would bring] a squad of sailors to Petrograd to storm the Winter Palace.”
As noted above, Kerensky also made the catastrophic decision to continue the war effort so as not to jeopardize bank loans mainly from the U.S. Though Jacob Schiff “provided substantial credit to the Kerensky government,” writes Solzhenitsyn, the damage wrought by his anti-Russian alliance of bankers throughout the war was decisive. By April 1917, “. . . Russian finances . . . were on the brink of total collapse.” Without the prior wartime boycott by Schiff and by a whole slate of other bankers that Schiff had persuaded to not grant loans to imperial Russia, thus all but cutting off the Czar, Kerensky would not have been as beholden to the handful of banks that did support the old regime and might have had the option of taking Russia out of the war. That would have gone a long way toward appeasing the Russian population and taking the wind out of the sails of the revolutionary parties.
Instead, Kerensky’s having allowed the return of Trotsky and Co. would facilitate Lenin’s seizure of power, irrespective of the Bolsheviks’ failure to obtain more than a quarter of the vote in the few elections held early on. Discontent was rife, and Lenin could wait in the wings with a highly-organized resolute alternative to Kerensky’s indecisive and faltering government. So even the Provisional government, let alone the future Bolshevik government, was too internationalist in its focus. In acting to re-animate its fight with Germany and thereby discourage U.S. sources from halting financing contingent on Russia not making a separate peace with Germany, and in appeasing ethnic minorities such as the Jews, Kerensky was insufficiently attentive to the need of the majority.
Continues Solzhenitsyn, “From the first day after the February revolution, central newspapers published enormous numbers of announcements about private meetings, assemblies and sessions of various Jewish parties, initially mostly the bund, and later Pale Zionists, Socialist Zionists, Territorial Zionists, and the Socialist Jewish Workers’ Party (SJWP). Already by March 7th we read about an oncoming assembly of the All-Russian Jewish Congress.” Obviously most of the organizing of all that must have occurred while Jews were still under the supposed iron fist of the Czar. Moreover, in 1917 St. Petersburg, “Yiddish papers were started. Schools at all levels were established. Artistic and cultural organizations were founded. Jewish culture had been unleashed . . . These Jewish activities are all the more amazing given the state of general governmental, administrative and cultural confusion in Russia in 1917.”
Obviously Russia’s Jews knew that this was to a significant extent a Judeo-philic government that had taken power. The Bolshevik regime, only several months down the road, would solidify that trend. There would be no Jewish pogroms in 1917. There were merely two drunken rampages by revolutionary soldiers in retreat, and store-front damage afflicted Jews more only because they owned more stores.
As for Jacob Schiff, who had bankrolled Jewish revolutionary groups in Russia, he basically lost interest after the Czar was toppled. He then threw in his lot with the Zionists because he feared that Jewish assimilation would follow in the wake of the civic equality now made law in Russia. Had he not anticipated greater assimilation under the revolution’s universalistic rubric? Apparently not. Now Palestine rather than revolutionary socialism should be the vehicle to carry Jewish ideals worldwide. The deadly trajectories of each would overlap and criss-cross in the coming decades, turning Europe and then the Mid-East upside down. As already noted above, Schiff came to personally embody these ‘two worst ideas of the 19th century’.
Naturally, Jews eagerly entered into Russian institutions from which they had previously been excluded, including the military. Following the February revolution, Jews soon made up 40 percent of all top elected officials in the army. The officer corps rather than the ranks of common soldiers is where the Jews of the military would wind up. Solzhenitsyn recounts a striking incident of ethnocentrism among certain Jewish officers: They had their soldiers sing ancient Jewish songs. Solzhenitsyn asks incredulously, “Did they not understand that Russian soldiers would hardly follow such officers?” Separate battalions were organized for most ethnic groups, but Jews insisted upon integration into the army. Complaints about poor acceptance of Jewish army officers were met with a storm of indignation on the part of Jews and the Left. Obviously, with the army being such a key Russian institution, Jews wanted to be in a position of influence, not segregated in an ethnic ghetto. Stunningly, in less than a year a Jew would be stand at the head of the new USSR’s new army.
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