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Twenty Years with the Jewish Labor Bund: A Memoir of Interwar Poland;The Bund and Communism: Little Difference. Jew-on-Jew Violence Dwarfs Pole-on-Jew Violence. The Militant Atheism of the Bund,

jan peczkis|Tuesday, November 22, 2016

This work is the memoir of Bernard Goldstein (1889-1959). He also wrote THE STARS BEAR WITNESS [see my review].

In the Translator’s Preface, Marvin S. Zuckerman writes, “The Bund played a leading role in the 1905 revolution throughout the Russian Empire.” (p. xv). This confirms the tsarist-Russian accusations. Translator Zuckerman also realizes that the split, between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, occurred when Lenin would not recognize a specifically-Jewish Socialist labor movement. (p. xviii). A few Bundist leaders (Henryk Erlich and Vladimir Medem) also said that Communism has concentrated its power in too few hands. (p. xix). More on this later.

Goldstein features much interesting information. For instance, the Bund demanded equal rights for Jews as well as special national rights (including Yiddish language and Yiddish culture) for Jews. (p. 76, 273-274). Obviously, these anti-assimilationists wanted to have their cake and eat it too: To be part of Poland and not part of Poland at the same time. [It should be added that many professedly-assimilationist Polish Jews were only outwardly Polonized. In fact, they also clamored for full rights for Jews in Poland while hanging on to many elements of Jewish separatism (other than religion).]

The author also realizes that Poland’s 1937 Kosher slaughter law did not eliminate ritual slaughter. It only reduced it. (p. 373).


The anti-Semitic violence, conducted by some militant Polish nationalists (e. g, the ONR: Oboz Narodowo Radykalny), has been greatly hyped in Jewish publications (the best-known of which is probably Celia S. Heller: ON THE EDGE OF DESTRUCTION. See my review). In contrast, the much-greater largely-Jewish Communist violence against Jews has largely disappeared down an Orwellian memory hole. [It does not fit the standard left-wing-academic narrative of the Communists as noble, reformist-driven idealists, and it does not fit the standard Judeocentric narrative of the Jews as solely victims and—what’s more--victims of the big, bad Polish Catholics.]

Archival evidence proves that by far the greatest amount of violence, in pre-WWII Poland, came from the Communists (of whom Jews were a large fraction), and not from the ONR (oenerowcy). Please click on, and read my detailed review, of Duch mlodych.


This work is a startling exception to the tendency of Jewish authors to ignore Jew-on-Jew violence. Author Goldstein details the Communist violence, against Jews, in too many pages to mention. However, it is particularly worth noting the many times that Communist violence became lethal, especially with the use of firearms. (e. g, pp. 171-173, 189-191, 197-199, 202, 227, 283, 313, 319-321, 343, 346).

During WWII, the Soviets murdered the main Bundist leaders, Henryk Ehrlich and Viktor Alter. [Ironically, we commonly hear the exculpation, by neo-Stalinist authors such as Jan T. Gross, for Jewish support of Communism in 1939-1941 and 1944-on, as caused by “murderous Polish anti-Semitism”. Lo and behold, many Jews had no problems supporting Communism in spite of the much-greater-murderousness of the Communists against Jews.]

The Bund could dish out violence as well as receive it. In fact, by the late 1930’s, in Warsaw alone, the Bund had a 2,000-man militia. (p. 278). During times of violence, when Bundist members were arrested, other Bundists tried to bribe the freedom of their arrested comrades from the Polish police. (p. 385).


From the beginning, there were differences between leftists on the future of the Jews. For instance, the SDKPil (and part of its Communist successor) and PPS-Lewica (PPS-left) favored Jewish assimilation (p. 343), while the Bund was always anti-assimilationist and separatist. Many otherwise-Comsymp Jews felt that the Soviet Communist movement (especially the Bolsheviks) were insufficiently deferential to Jewish-specific demands.

As noted earlier, Vladimir Medem supposedly broke with the Communists over Soviet totalitarianism. (p. 42). [However, the reader should remember that, in leftspeak, terms such as “democracy” and “worker’s state” have amorphous meanings, with the Soviet Communists insisting that THEIRS is the authentic version.] For details on Vladimir Medem, please click on, and read my review, of Vladimir Medem: The Life and Soul of a Legendary Jewish Socialist.

Exit Medem. The remainder of the Bund--the vast majority--continued an at-worst distant admiration of the Communists. They spoke of the Bolshevik revolution as an “example of the politics the Socialist parties should adapt in all countries” and as something “immensely significant…(and moreover) it was possible to have a revolutionary-Socialist oriented International, without its splitting politics, with Socialists and Communists working together”. (pp. 41-42).

In 1920, the “21 Conditions”, most of them stipulated by Lenin, specified the means by which Socialist parties could join the Comintern (Communist Third International). (p. 61). By then, Medem’s “rightist” group, evidently never significant to begin with, was essentially gone. The centrist faction of the Bund accepted 16 of the 21 points, and the larger leftist majority of the Bund was ready to accept 19.5 of the 21 points. The mere 1.5-point difference was all that prevented the Bund from joining the Comintern (p. 57): THAT is how close mainstream Bundism was to Communism! Even then, part of the Bund, the Kombund, split-off from the Bund and joined the Communists, contributing to the rancorous ongoing Communist attempt to bring the Bund into total submission to Communism. (pp. 57-58).


By way of introduction, the student of Polish-Jewish relations is probably familiar with Polish Cardinal August Hlond's much-quoted and much-maligned 1936 statement on "Jews as freethinkers". While Goldstein does not talk about religion, he does shed some indirect light on the Bund as a factor in the growing atheization of Poland's Jews.

Let us consider Bundist provocations against religion. Although Goldstein describes the Bund merely as “secular”, it soon becomes obvious that it shared much of the militant atheism of the Communists. In what can be nothing less than a calculated insult to religious Jews, the BUND started to print its daily newspaper, the FOLKSTAYTUNG, on the Sabbath (Saturday). Moreover, young Bundists, the TSUKUNFISTN, deliberately went out into religious Jewish neighborhoods, and loudly awoke the sleeping religious Jews on the Sabbath morning, while hawking the newspaper. When some of the understandably-offended Sabbath practitioners reacted with violence against the young Bundists, the Bund whined about “Hasidic terror” and (what else?) the “right of free speech”, and sent its militia to defend the young Bundist provocateurs. (pp. 149-151). Goldstein makes heroes out of them.


Whatever the professed differences between Communists and Bundists, actions speak louder than words. They show the Bund’s true colors.

The Bund joined with the Communists in defaming the Polish nation. It repeated the stock Communist propaganda about Poland the aggressor in the 1920 Polish-Bolshevik War, and Poland as a (what else?) imperialistic nation. (pp. 47-54). It also mouthed the canard that equated Bereza Kartuska with the Nazi concentration camps. (p. 299).

In Poland, Bundists had no problem marching in May Day parades, right alongside openly-Communist units. (p. 31). Moreover, this was no temporary fad: It persisted into the 1930’s. (p. 255). Bundist organizations, such as the KULTUR-LIGE (Culture League), welcomed Communist members. (p. 209). In addition, the Bundist and Communist labor movements continued to overlap: The Bund did not require its members to leave Communist-controlled labor unions. (p. 202).

Perhaps most galling of all, Bundist and other Jewish lawyers sided with the Communists. Bernard Goldstein comments, “It was a principle among the Socialist lawyers that, despite the anti-Socialist assaults, invective, and murderousness on the part of the Communists, they should nevertheless be defended in court. The Socialist lawyers, and even some liberal ones, used to do this pro bono or for a minimal honorarium.” (p. 228). Clearly, then, by this very act alone, the Bundists were allied with the Communists in the attempted subversion of the Polish state.

[The American reader can think of the similar situation in the USA. Professedly non-Communist Jewish lawyers, notably those in the ACLU, defended Communists in court.]
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