Shindler's story of the racism of the anti-racists, of how the far Left turned on Europe's most persecuted minority, does not fit into the preconceived notion that, say what you like about it, Communism was an emancipatory creed. Because his book is disconcerting, I doubt if centrist broadcasters, for whom conventional wisdom is the only wisdom, will review Shindler either. All the more reason, of course, for you to read him. If he has not produced a secret history, then it is a history of a secret in plain view; an account of facts that are available but not discussed. After I interviewed him at Jewish Book Week, members of the audience said they had never before heard anyone examine the racist strain in left-wing thinking, even though it was there from the beginning.
The movements for Jewish self-determination and Russian Communism were twins separated at birth. The First Zionist conference met on August 27, 1897, to discuss the escape from anti-Semitic Europe to Palestine. The General Jewish Labour Bund held its first conference in Vilnius on October 7, 1897, to organise the Russian Empire's Jews in a united socialist party. The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, from which the Bolsheviks split, held its first conference in March 1898. Naturally, the Bund sent delegates. For liberal and left-wing Europeans of the late 19th century, no regime was more repellent than Tsarist autocracy, and nothing better symbolised its reactionary nature than its anti-Semitic pogroms. Jews responded to the terror by keeping their Jewish identity and joining Jewish socialist movements, such as the Bund, or by becoming entirely assimilated Communists, as Trotsky and many others did.
The coincidences of history do not end there. On November 2, 1917, Arthur Balfour sent his declaration to Baron Rothschild that the British Empire would allow the Jewish people to find a home in Palestine "it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities". On November 7, 1917, the Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace.
The Jews and the Left were entwined. Many who went to Palestine were socialists determined that the New Jerusalem should be in Jerusalem. Others saw a New Jerusalem rising in Moscow. They could never get on for theoretical and practical reasons. The theory sounded plausible; indeed, for all the crimes the Left has committed, I still half believe it myself. To revolutionaries, Jewish self-determination was a distraction from universal liberation. Anti-Semitism was purely a result of "medieval" prejudices that would wither away as humanity progressed, Lenin said. The Enlightenment had given the Jews political freedom and an "undeniable progressive assimilation with the surrounding population". Come Communism, Judaism like all national, class and religious differences would vanish.
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