Workers Vanguard No. 895

6 July 2007


Zionism: A Marxist Understanding

(Quote of the Week)

Amid the Nazi genocidal rampages against European Jewry, the young Trotskyist Abram Leon, who died in Auschwitz in 1944, warned against Zionism as a solution to the oppression of the Jewish people. Indeed, the Israeli capitalist state, founded in 1948 and today possessing nuclear arms, is premised on the expulsion and brutal oppression of the Palestinian people and is also a death trap for the Hebrew-speaking people themselves. There can and will be no just resolution to the conflicting national rights of the Palestinian and Hebrew-speaking peoples short of the establishment of a socialist federation of the Near East, requiring the overthrow of all the bourgeois regimes of the region through proletarian revolution.

Zionist theoreticians like to compare Zionism with all other national movements. But in reality, the foundations of the national movements and that of Zionism are altogether different. The national movement of the European bourgeoisie is the consequence of capitalist development; it reflects the will of the bourgeoisie to create the national bases for production, to abolish feudal remnants. The national movement of the European bourgeoisie is closely linked with the ascending phase of capitalism. But in the Nineteenth Century, in the period of the flowering of nationalisms, far from being “Zionist,” the Jewish bourgeoisie was profoundly assimilationist. The economic process from which the modern nations issued laid the foundations for integration of the Jewish bourgeoisie into the bourgeois nation.

It is only when the process of the formation of nations approaches its end, when the productive forces have for a long time found themselves constricted within national boundaries, that the process of expulsion of Jews from capitalist society begins to manifest itself, that modern anti-Semitism begins to develop. The elimination of Judaism accompanies the decline of capitalism. Far from being a product of the development of the productive forces, Zionism is precisely the consequence of the complete halt of this development, the result of the petrifaction of capitalism. Whereas the national movement is the product of the ascending period of capitalism, Zionism is the product of the imperialist era. The Jewish tragedy of the Twentieth Century is a direct consequence of the decline of capitalism....

It was capitalism, by virtue of the fact that it provided an economic basis for the national problem, which also created insoluble national contradictions…. 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.

—Abram Leon, The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation (published posthumously in 1946)