Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Communism Uniquely Jewish?

(A Nazi propaganda poster from 1941 in Lithuanian language, equating Stalinism and Jews.)

Here's a theory I've heard thrown around that's beginning to make some sense to me lately. You may have seen it in the rants and rambles of Tzemach over the years, but it may have been lost in his ramblings, so you might have missed his point. It's OK, I did too, until it was explained to me in a non-hostile setting by somebody else who has more patience for him than I do. The theory is such, UbeHekdem another point: Many of us know that Jews were very prominent in the Communist Movement and later in the leadership of the Soviet Union. We know that they were vehement and vigilant in trying to eradicate religion from Jewish life, closing Mikvaos and Yeshivos and Shuls and not sparing loved ones in the process, even parents and siblings. We wonder why their hate of religion was so great, and we have a hard time finding an answer to the question, at least those of us who are descended from other countries. There are theories, and we intend to explore them here.

UPDATED 5/15/08 12:43am

I normally try and stay away from books by the irreligious about religious Jews, but here was a book that I was recommended by a very learned, religious friend. He told me that gives a very accurate and lively description of Jewish life in a big city in the Pale at the end of the 19th century. He told me that when I'll read the book it'll be like being transported back to that time, and that I'll "see" the charcters, identify with their struggles, and won't be able to put the book down. He told me that the chracters are real people, people we know from their works on Torah, and that I'd be very surprised at some of the things that happened in their town under their orders. He told me that I'd identify with many of the perceptions and opinions that people held, and that I'd see that much of what we consider sacred or the opposite can be traced back many years. I'd see all of it in the book, he said. So I went and bought it.


Guravitzer said...

While you are at it, you can explore the hatred of the Maskilim for their brethren, denouncing them to the government as well.

You can go further and explore the hatred of meshumadim for their brethren, and their denunciations.

schneur said...

Bemechilas kevodchem the phenomenom of Jews being in the vanguard of the Communist party is not unique to Mother Russia.
Google Bela Kun, who led a short lived Communist regime in your fatherland Hungary after WW1.
google Anna Pauker from Rumania Google Slansky and see who ran the CP in Slovakia, google Miklos Rakosi in Hungary and check him out. The list is endless.
Why they oposed religion. Just look around you today and use your imagination about how much worse things were in east Europe 100 years ago. Poverty, discrimination, White Slavery (check that out too) Urban blight in places like lodz and warsaw. Cantonistin in an earlier period.
And note the rabbis and rebbes were always aligned with the gevirim. They pose and posed with them in the Yated centerfold. They give the rich kavod. What exactly did the rabbonim do for the poor Jews in Czarist Russia ? Basically tell them to say Tillim, while the rabbis bowed to the gevirim and bought and sold shtelles . They also looked for shidducjhim with gevirim.
EXceptions were to be found -the Lubavitcher rebbes took notice of this plight some others did too, but the clergy was full of all sorts of leidig geyers mashgichim, zogers, magidim , more horee few of whom were productive in any sense of the word, except for mounting shnorr campaigns.
Little has changed except that today with all sorts of economic difficulties , there is still a tremendous amount of money.
Economics led to Jews joining the Socialists, Bundists, Communists and Poali Zion (the largest Zionist fraction by far) The poverty was like death and the rabbinic establishment was impotent to do anything to help Reb Yid.
By the way see the recent post by Marc Shapiro on Seforim blog about rabbis and Communism.

baalbatish said...

Bravo, Reb Schneur.

Seforim Blog
Rabbis and Communism


Fotheringay-Phipps said...

For the most part: Jews who hope to assimilate with non-Jews see religion as being an obstacle to the assimilation that needs to be eradicated.

ZB said...

I ditto the comment that the Cantonists fiasco had a tremendous effect at how the poor poverty stricken Jews related to their leadership and their heritage.

Anonymous said...

why not go all the way and explore the hatred of chabadniks for fellow religious jews!

Anonymous said...

The name of the book ?

Anonymous said...

which book is it?

Guravitzer said...

I had the dumbing down of teaching, discussion and statements.

"Economics led to"? First the Enlightenment followed by Haskalah broke the walls, then secularism became a possible alternative to poverty. The poverty had been there for much of our history. Why did we have so few converts to xtianity which would have removed the poverty as well? It wasn't a possible alternative, because the wall had not been breached.

Truthfully, I shudder to think what would have been had Martin Luther continued his initial policy of converting Jews through kindness instead of reverting to persecution worse than the Catholic. There are times that I see the guiding hand of Hashem, and I see it right there.

When missionaries offered food with no persecution in turn of the 19th century Yerushalayim, look at what happened.

So: In theory, poverty alone could drive this mass exodus, but it never has.

Hirshel Tzig said...

we'll get to the name soon.

Anonymous said...

And note the rabbis and rebbes were always aligned with the gevirim. They pose and posed with them in the Yated centerfold. They give the rich kavod. What exactly did the rabbonim do for the poor Jews in Czarist Russia ?

Mah Nishtana today in any shul Hasidish or Litvish? Ever see a non-gvir elected Presidente of a shul?

Tzemach Atlas said...

till recently I did not understand this phenomenon fully. Only after I read the book about the Ruzhiner by Assaf it became clear(er) to me. And maskilim tried in vain to change this course but alas they were overruled by the mob who suffered in the end.

Hirshel Tzig said...

der nister tries to portray it as such; that the Maskilim's sole purpose was to pull the masses out of the dirt and poverty. Is that really the case?

Guravitzer said...

Maskilim tried in vain to change this course! How laughable. They sought power. When you take intelligent people, uproot them from their culture and source of stability in life, they seek power as a way of gaining control over and stabilizing their life. Every academic seeks power. Every professional seeks power. This is the curse inherited from the undustrial era.

The curse that follows is that the academics and intelligentsia are not as capable of using violence to maintain their power as the ignorant and crass, and the establishment or revolution they build is brutally taken from them.

Look at the Founders of this country, and look at their succesors. Look at the founders of the revolutionary cells of Marxism, and look at the actual Comrade Prime Ministers. Look at the Great Cultural Revolution of China. Look at Zionism. Herzl would never have been capable of disarming the Irgun as violently as Ben Gurion did.

And we haven't even gotten to your misbegotten theories on what the Chagas Rebbeim did for their Chasidim.

Yechiel said...

What did you think about Assafs book?
This and the Lubavitch chapter?

Tzemach Atlas said...

Tzig, it was certainly true about maskilim. Read the book about Mendel Lefin.

Yechiel, I mean the first Assaf book about the Ruzhiner. The entire book is about the Ruzhiner. It's called "The Regal Way".

I would not read Guravitzer's comment.

yoshe kalb said...

Tzemach, I am surprised that you don't blame Tchernobyl and specifically Skver for this phenomenon. On the other hand, there are those that consider North Korea and Skver to be the last strongholds of Bolshevism...

Tzemach Atlas said...

it is useless to converse here. the level of conversation is hopeless, like the last comment.

Anonymous said...

The Hungarian communist after WW1 were not much different then socialism in Sweden etc.. maybe there intentions were to become as rootless as Stalin

Guravitzer said...

Tzemach, Tzemach, how fast you hold to a grudge and an opinion - and how mercurial your change of opinions, and yet every time it is as if this was the only opinion you ever held.

You are a Hungarian in this respect.