Jews, Communists and Jewish Communists

Here’s an interesting article by Stanislaw Krajewski, who asserts ten theses:

1. Marxism, radical leftist ideologies, and “real socialism” constitute not only a fragment of world history, and of Polish or Hungarian histories, but also a chapter in Jewish history.

2. Antisemites have grossly exaggerated the Jewish involvement in communism, distorted the facts, and interpreted them according to mythical conspiracy theories.

3. Jews were also victims of communism.

4. Jewish communists rarely cared about Jewish concerns and often virtually stopped being Jewish.

5. Some of those who had abandoned Jewishness later came back. The number of Jewish communists, and their role, was so important that other Jews must not ignore it.

6. The deepest problem is posed by the quasi-religious character of the communist involvement of some Jews.

7. There is no distinctive Jewish radicalism. There is no “Jewish Communism.” Jews became communists because of general social trends.

8. It was not Judaism or Jewish traditions but the social situation that led Jews to communist involvement.

9. Participation in evil can begin with noble and selfless intentions.

10. Moral responsibility can be indirect. Re-emerging Jewish communities in Eastern Europe should face the legacy of Jewish participation in communism. However, accepting a Jewish share of moral responsibility does not make non-Jews less responsible. Objective research is needed to clarify the extent and the nature of the Jewish participation in communism. The tragic consequences of the antisemitic myth of “Jewish Communism” should impose no taboo.

I’m less familiar with the situation in Europe, but it’s irked me for some time that for the most part, mainstream American Jewish sentiment not embarrassed by the disproportionate role Jews played in American Communists. Indeed, even the most hardcore Stalinists, including the Hollywood Ten, the Smith Act defendants (most of whom were not Jewish), and sometimes even the Rosenbergs, are often romanticized. It’s one thing to contend (dubiously) that such individuals were treated unjustly; it’s quite another to treat them as civil libertarian heroes [update: for an example, see this op-ed on an event at the DCJCC in 1998; I remember being as appalled as the op-ed author by the exhibit]. (As an aside, the Smith Act, the law that was used to prosecute the C.P. leadership, was passed in 1940. In 1941, the government prosecuted eighteen leaders of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party under the Smith Act. The Communist Part not only applauded this action, Party leaders assisted in the prosecution.)

Disclosure: My maternal grandfather’s family were associated at a very low level with some Communist front groups (and my great uncle was supposedly delivered by Dr. Armand Hammer) [in the early 20th century], though I have no idea if any of them were actually ever became members of the party. In her youth, my mom campaigned for Henry Wallace for president [though Wallace himself was not a Communist, his campaign was rife with them], though she claims to have done so primarily because “that’s where all the cute Jewish boys were.” Nowadays, and quite unusually for someone of her background, she’s a hardcore Republican.