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political world

Jewish Radicals and Radical Jews

jan peczkis|Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The title of this book is a little off. The book is as much about the New Left and related movements as it is about Jews in it.

This work also provides information about the history of earlier leftist movements. For instance, Cohen comments, (quote) The BUNDISTS were Radical Jews in the Russia and Poland of the early twentieth century, who, while not supporting a Jewish nationalist movement, proposed a separate Jewish workers' movement committed to socialism within the society in which Jews lived and worked. (unquote). (p. 78). Obviously, Jewish involvement in Communism, here under the euphemism of socialism, and sometimes called the Zydokomuna, was much broader than membership in the Communist Party itself.

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Fast forward to the mid-20th century. Western leftists had various takes on the USSR. Some refused to categorize the Soviet Union as a "degenerate workers' state", and used the term "state capitalism" instead. (p. 39).


North American Jewish radicals did, in general, maintain an interest in some form of Judaism. (p. 16). This adds refutation to the silly argument that Jews in Communism (and its successor ideologies) were not really Jews.

Radical leftist Jews were commonly anti-Israel, picturing that nation as pseudo-socialist, capitalist, nationalist, and imperialist. Other far-left Jews could support Israel by reviving the ideas of Ber Borochov. (p. 12,142). In the late 19th century, Dov Ber Borochov (1881-1917) had developed a synthesis of Zionism and socialism by proposing that the Jews must first have their own nation before there can be a revolution that brings the Jewish proletariat into power.


Cohen debunks the contention that "Jews as the Chosen People of God" only means that God expects more from the Jews (the obedience to the 613 laws) than from the GOYIM (obedience to just the 7 Noahide laws.) He writes, (quote) If God has chosen the Jews from all the people in the world to receive His Law then Jews must, in that one all-important respect, be the most privileged of peoples. (unquote). (p. 176).

Now consider what Jews celebrate every Passover. Cohen writes, (quote) Nor were the Jews redeemed from slavery in Egypt because enslavement itself was to be condemned; they were redeemed because they were Jews whose redemption had been promised by God by whom they had also been "chosen". (unquote). (p. 176).

A Jewish elitism developed. It was derived from religious-based learning and religious-based morality, as described by Cohen (quote), Although all Jewish males were required to be literate, there was, within Jewish society, a distinction made between the cultural elite, who were known as the AM HA `SEFER, "People of the Book", and the rest who were known as AM HA `AARETZ, "People of the Land"...Participation in this culture of learning and moral wisdom set a line between Jew and non-Jew; and commitment to the sacred tasks gave to every participant a promise that his dedication to the TORAH made him, even if he was an AMORITZ, the intellectual, including moral, superior of a mere GOY. (unquote). (p. 211).

Cohen defines his terms, confirming the sometimes-denied fact that GOY can, at very least, have derogatory connotations, and that even a boorish Jew is superior to the gentile. Thus, Cohen's definitions are as follows, (quote) The term AMORITZ is a corruption of AM HA `AARETZ, "People of the Land", meant, invidiously, "a boor" or an "ignorant boor". The term GOY simply means Gentile. But, in the context of discussions about learning and knowledge, the term could refer to an "ignorant peasant" or, even, to "an ignorant lout". (unquote). (p. 221). [No wonder that Poland's Jews looked down on Poles, most of whom were peasants.]

Even though religion eventually declined among Jews, the Jewish elitism based on learning and morality persisted. It now wore a secular garb, as described in the next section.


Author Percy S. Cohen examines all the stock explanations, for Jewish over-involvement in leftist movements (pp. 173-on). He finds them wanting. For instance, the author realizes that many low-status racial and ethnic groups are not especially attracted to the Left. (p. 178). Otherwise, Cohen's detailed reasoning can be taken further. Jews hate injustice. Who does? Jews want a better world. Who doesn't?

A form of non-religious Jewish elitism is identified as the primary cause of Jewish overabundance in radical leftist political movements. In the Foreword, Neil J. Smelser writes, (quote) Professor Cohen finds the roots of these fantasies in the Jewish cultural tradition, which has stressed literacy and the power of knowledge, and which has compensated as it were, for the real vulnerability of its people by developing an ideology of cultural superiority and of the ultimate perfectability of the world. (unquote). (p. vi).

Of course, any group can claim that "We were oppressed", and use this as a justification (or exculpation) for feeling itself superior to others. In addition, Cohen does not answer the following salient questions: Why would Jews, of all people, support movements that demonize entire identifiable groups of people (the bourgeoisie) and target them? Why, in view of the traditional Jewish abhorrence of violence, would Jews disproportionately support movements whose undisguised goal is violent revolution? (Does the end justify the means?) Finally, does belief in the perfectability of the world justify support for movements, such as Communism, that knowingly cause the murder of millions of people? Something does not add up here.


Regardless of the labels used, it is obvious that the newer radical leftist movements do not differ substantially from Communism. Cohen quips, (quote) There is nothing self-contradictory in asserting that some Jews have been attracted to the radical Left by its promise of "true" and "complete" democracy, while also asserting that they have been able to justify the use of totalitarian, state coercion because this, too, could appeal to them. (unquote). (p. 208).

Consider also the psychological dynamic that can attract people to the New Left (or newer left) no less than the Old Left. Cohen comments, (quote) From another point of view--and it is this one which concerns us here--the appeal of totalitarian control is an aspect of the ambivalence which commonly inheres in any emphatically overt form of anti-authoritarianism. For, just as, in one type of personality, conscious authoritarianism may cruelly restrain an unconscious bid for anarchic freedom so, in another type, a conscious or near-conscious dream of egalitarian and democratic perfection may constrain or deny unconscious fantasies of omnipotence. (unquote). (p. 208).  
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