Workers Vanguard No. 1025
31 May 2013
Zionism Betrayed Holocaust Victims, Jewish Refugees
The following contribution was submitted to Workers Vanguard by Spartacist League Central Committee member Reuben Samuels.
I appreciated Art Preis’ moving 1944 article “Warsaw Ghetto Anti-Nazi Uprising of Labor,” reprinted in WV No. 1024, 17 May. Originally published in the Militant, newspaper of the then-revolutionary Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the article rightly slammed Britain as well as the U.S. and other imperialist “democracies” for shutting their borders to Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler’s “Final Solution.” Britain also prevented desperate Jews with nowhere else to go from reaching Palestine after promising them a “homeland” there in the 1917 Balfour Declaration as part of its divide-and-rule strategy for conquering the Arab Near East. Captured refugees who had made it to Palestine were shipped off to internment camps in the far reaches of the British Empire, such as Mauritius and Cyprus. Indeed, the Soviet Union was the only country to open its doors to Jewish refugees en masse, providing sanctuary for the overwhelming majority of the 2.5 million Jews who succeeded in fleeing the Nazis.
In his article, Preis wrote: “Since the Warsaw battle, the British government has closed the last door of refuge for the Jews, in Palestine, while the American State Department and Roosevelt shed crocodile tears in public but deny haven to the Jews in any United States territory. Roosevelt could only mumble evasive statements about ‘military necessity’ and ‘post-war’ plans when asked to intercede with the British government to open Palestine once more for Jewish refugees.” This statement might leave the false impression that the SWP supported the Zionist project of mass Jewish emigration to Palestine. On the contrary, the SWP stood with Lenin’s Bolsheviks in implacable opposition to Zionism and its scheme to carve a “Jewish homeland” out of the indigenous Palestinian Arab nation. In a 1920 resolution titled “The slogan of the Jewish proletariat must be ‘Hands off Palestine!’,” the Central Bureau of Jewish Sections of the Communist Party of Russia declared:
“Jews are being provocatively identified as initiators and culprits in the parceling out of Arab lands among the victorious powers [of World War I], including the handing over of Palestine to Britain. This identification serves British imperialism in Palestine and throughout the East as a means to ignite national passions among the working people of the East and to sow hatred between Arabs and Jews.... Such a policy is a direct violation of the rights of the Arab working masses in their struggle for independence and for complete possession of the land and of all the products of their labor.”
—reprinted in To See The Dawn: Baku, 1920—First Congress of the Peoples of the East, 1993
Under capitalism, peoples that have fled Europe to escape persecution and colonize less-developed regions of the world—for example, the Huguenots in South Africa (French Protestants absorbed into the Afrikaner population) or European Jewry in Israel—often turn the very weapons of the persecution inflicted upon them against the native populations they encounter. Entirely in keeping with the Nazi exterminators of the Jewish people, Israel was established on the blut und boden (blood and soil) principle of being a solely Jewish state lusting for Arab-free lebensraum (living space).
In a series of articles that denounced the refusal of American Jewish leaders to support the call for the U.S. to open its doors to refugees from Nazi persecution in 1938, SWP leader Felix Morrow wrote, prophetically, “Under what conditions, then, can one envisage a Jewish Palestine? Obviously only two: (1) By agreement with the Arabs, who inhabit not only Palestine but the Near East; or (2) by driving the Arabs out of Palestine with fire and sword” (“Blind Alleys for the Jewish People,” Socialist Appeal, 17 December 1938). Morrow added: “Without British bayonets, the Jews today would be driven out of Palestine by the Arabs. Jewish colonization in Palestine continues only thanks to British imperialism.”
One month before his assassination in August 1940, Leon Trotsky was even more blunt: “The attempt to solve the Jewish question through the migration of Jews to Palestine can now be seen for what it is, a tragic mockery of the Jewish people.... The future development of military events may well transform Palestine into a bloody trap for several hundred thousand Jews.”
In the immediate aftermath of the November 1938 Kristallnacht pogroms in Germany, the SWP spearheaded a nationwide labor-centered campaign demanding unrestricted immigration for the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Nazi terror then besieging American embassies in Europe as well as those who would surely follow. The 17 December 1938 issue of Socialist Appeal reported on a meeting earlier that month of 100 delegates representing 35 CIO industrial unions that unanimously adopted a resolution calling on President Roosevelt and the State Department “to immediately offer asylum in the United States by lifting all restrictions and quota limitations to the refugee victims of Fascism.” Even that quota, according to a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed (7 April), “was less than 25% filled during most of the Hitler era, because the Roosevelt administration piled on so many extra requirements for would-be immigrants.”
In their campaign to rescue the surviving victims of the Nazi genocide, the SWP and its anti-fascist allies had to fight not only the Roosevelt administration but also the American and world Zionist movement! American Jewish leaders were bitterly denounced in a January 1943 appeal from Polish Jews: “The survivors of the Jews in Poland live with the awareness that in the worst days of our history you have given us no aid.” In Zionism in the Age of the Dictators (1983), Lenni Brenner exposed how such organizations as Chaim Weizmann’s World Zionist Organization and Rabbi Stephen Wise’s American Jewish Congress (AJC) opposed the rescue of European Jewry. These groups wanted to save only “the chosen few”—those young, healthy and ambitious enough to forge a racialist Jewish statelet in the Arab Levant. Brenner cited Weizmann’s report to the World Zionist Congress in August 1937: “The old ones will pass; they will bear their fate, or they will not. They were dust, economic and moral dust, in a cruel world.”
Wise and the AJC certainly did not want that “economic and moral dust” in America either. In a letter to FDR dated 2 December 1942, Wise bragged about suppressing news of Hitler’s extermination plans, fearing that it might garner support for increased Jewish immigration to the U.S.: “I have had cables and underground advices for some months, telling of these things. I succeed, together with the heads of other Jewish organisations, in keeping them out of the press.” When Congress considered establishing a rescue commission in 1943—with the Nazi machine of industrial genocide in full swing—Wise personally rushed to Washington to kill the bill because it did not mention Palestine. He was also loath to see waves of Jewish immigrants arrive on America’s shores lest they provoke an anti-Semitic outpouring and spoil things for well-established bourgeois and petty-bourgeois Jews.
But the Zionists’ single greatest crime during World War II was their collaboration with Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi chief of transport responsible for executing the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” in occupied Hungary. In early 1944, Eichmann made a private deal with Reszö Kasztner, a Hungarian Zionist politician and, grotesquely, the head of the Aid and Rescue Committee, to spare 1,685 Jews for a ransom of $1,000 a head. In return, Kasztner would ensure that the rest of the Jews would accept deportation without resistance. In the record span of less than two months, over 437,000 Jews were sent to Auschwitz, the overwhelming majority of whom were murdered upon their arrival. Around the same time, Eichmann allowed Joel Brand, another prominent member of the Aid and Rescue Committee, to leave Occupied Europe with a proposal from the Nazis: They would exchange one million Jews for 10,000 trucks from the U.S. and Britain to be used on the Eastern front against the Soviet Union. The Allies rejected the deal. Lord Moyne, the highest British official in the Near East, when informed by Brand of the proposal, asked: “What can I do with this million Jews? Where can I put them?” (T. Zane Reeves, Shoes Along the Danube ). Seven months later, Lord Moyne was gunned down by the right-wing Zionist terrorists of the Stern Gang.
The 255,000 Hungarian Jews who survived the Holocaust did so thanks to the victorious Red Army, which put an end to the Nazi reign of terror and liberated the survivors of the East European death camps. As a workers state, the Soviet Union was compelled to save the Jews despite its bureaucratic degeneration under Stalin, who was himself an anti-Semite.
A penetrating analysis of the Jewish question and the rise of Zionism was provided by the Belgian Jewish Trotskyist Abram Leon. Writing under German occupation before his murder by the Nazis at Auschwitz at the age of 26, Leon characterized the Jews as a “people-class” who, as moneylenders and merchants, had provided the yeast for the development of capitalism out of feudalism. In 20th-century Europe, Jewish intellectuals and workers played a disproportionate role in the socialist movement. Such people were not attracted to the Zionist project since they looked forward to putting an end to anti-Semitism and all racism through the establishment of a socialist society.
Before Hitler’s ascension to power, the common answer of European socialists, even of the reformist Second International that included the Zionist “socialists,” was assimilation. Zionism was an entirely marginal political movement, and Jewish colonization of Palestine was modest, with many individual Jews leaving after a short stay there. It would take the victory of Hitlerite fascism in Germany, with the “democratic” imperialists turning a blind eye to the fate of European Jewry, to transform Zionism into a mass movement.
The time to have saved East European Jewry was in advance of the inter-imperialist carnage, with the SWP’s campaign to open U.S. borders representing a last-ditch effort to do so. The war brought Jewish immigration to Palestine to a virtual standstill. After its conclusion, the large number of Jews migrating to that country, in the process displacing the Palestinian people, consisted in their vast majority of desperate individuals with no other place to go.
In his book The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation (published posthumously in 1946), Leon wrote:
“The conditions of the decline of capitalism which have posed so sharply the Jewish question make its solution equally impossible along the Zionist road. And there is nothing astonishing in that. An evil cannot be suppressed without destroying its causes. But Zionism wishes to resolve the Jewish question without destroying capitalism, which is the principal source of the suffering of the Jews....
“With the disappearance of capitalism, the national problem will lose all its acuteness. If it is premature to speak of a worldwide assimilation of peoples, it is nonetheless clear that a planned economy on a global scale will bring all the peoples of the world much closer to each other.”
Like his Trotskyist comrades in the Warsaw Ghetto, who emblazoned across their publication the slogan “Workers of the World Unite!”, Leon embodied the revolutionary internationalist program that alone can end the barbarism of future holocausts unleashed by the death agony of capitalism.