Petliura and the Pogroms in Interwar Ukraine, Part 2

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Petliura had to lie when he claimed nationhood for Ukraine was widely supported by the Jewish community. He constantly tried to get Ukrainians to care as deeply for Jewish issues as he did. Jewish parties were willing to work with the Ukrainians, but they abstained from coming out for or against independence. Or, if they did have a firm stance on the matter, it was decidedly against independence.[i] Yet, throughout his time in power, Petilura would again and again make public statements in favour of Jews. Take for example, the following statement to what remained of his army in August of 1919,

It is time to know that the Jews have, like the greater part of our Ukrainian population, suffered from the horrors of the Bolshevist-communist invasion and now know where the truth lies. The best Jewish groups such as the Bund the Faraynigte [United Socialist Jewish Workers’ Party], the PoaleiTsion [Workers of Zion], and the Folkspartey [People’s Party] have come out decidedly in favor of an independent Ukrainian state and cooperate together with us. The time has come to realise that the peaceable Jewish population — their women and children — like ours have been imprisoned and deprived of their national liberty. They are not going anywhere but are remaining with us, as they have for centuries, sharing in both our happiness and our grief. The chivalrous troops who bring equality and liberty to all the nationalities of Ukraine must not listen to those invaders and provocateurs who hunger for human blood. Yet at the same time they cannot remain indifferent in the face of the tragic fate of the Jews. He who becomes an accomplice to such crimes is a traitor and an enemy of our country and must be placed beyond the pale of human society. … I expressly order you to drive away with your forces all who incite you to pogroms and to bring the perpetrators before the courts as enemies of the fatherland. Let the courts judge them for their acts and not excuse those found guilty from the most severe penalties of the law.[ii]

If Peltiura was guilty of anything, it was that he had almost no control over many of his generals, who essentially did as they pleased. He actually tried to set up Jewish militias in response to the growing number of accounts of pogroms. These militias would be tasked to defend Jewish communities from anyone, including those supposedly under Petliura’s command. However, they were never created because, interestingly enough, the Jewish parties were against any such units being created.[iii] He passed laws which were meant to stop pogroms: reformation of the army, extraordinary courts to deal with pogromists and funds to be used to assist victims of pogroms.[iv]

His reforms seem to have had some effect. Indeed, there are many cases of soldiers being found guilty of engaging in pogroms and were thus sentenced to death for their role.[v] But the damage to Petliura’s reputation was done. The international press had portrayed him as a murderous tyrant, and nothing Petliura could do would change that. No wonder, then, that even before Schwartzbard’s trial in the minds of many Petliura deserved a violent end.

Symon Petliura was completely misrepresented, but the press ran with the anti-Semitic canard and that was the end of the story. Although his support for Zionism meant that Petliura was defended by Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, still other prominent Jews, like Hannah Arendt, fully bought into the narrative formulated by their kinsmen. In preparation for this piece I read many Jewish online news media, magazines, etc., and they all went with the traditional Jewish narrative of Petliura the pogromist.

As should be clear by now Petliura was not an anti-Semite but was actually quite the opposite. In fact, he and his colleagues in both ruling regimes of the Ukrainian People’s Republic held views which were very much egalitarian. Or at least they were when they came to the Jews, the people whose trials and tribulations always seem to be of the utmost importance. Although the Central Rada and Directory were both nationalist, they were more socialist than traditional (anti-egalitarian) rightist. Of course, the modern ideology of nationalism had actually grown up as a liberal movement in the eighteenth century, but in our time, it is more often associated with rightist politics. As such for many it may come as a surprise that the leading Ukrainian nationalists of 1918–20 were in many ways more similar to the Bolsheviks than later counter-Bolshevik movements that grew up in interwar Europe, and which were more influenced by right-wing thought.

The Directory expropriated church lands and broke up large private landholdings for redistribution so it was hardly as if these moderate socialists were really that different from the more radical Bolsheviks. But, the Directory was nationalist minded as opposed to internationalist and, although it had Jewish members, it was nowhere near as Jewish as the Bolsheviks. The rightist nationalist elements had largely been centred around the Hetmanate which had been connected with the Central Powers and so was viewed by many to be a foreign puppet.

For many Ukrainian nationalists, socialism seems to have been more important than the issue of Ukrainian sovereignty. For example, Hrushevsky went into exile after the Directory took over, but returned after the Soviet victory because ultimately his views were more in line with Bolshevism (although eventually he would be denounced by Stalin). Petliura also came into conflict with Vynnychenko because the latter was more concerned with completing a communist-type social revolution. The failure of the leadership to create a united front — not to mention the more well-defined programme of the Bolsheviks — made many ordinary supporters turn away from the Directory and actually embrace Bolshevism. As far as they were concerned both sides were socialist but Lenin’s party was more disciplined, unified and had a clearer vision. They were of course helped along by Bolshevik agitators who managed to infiltrate both the Central Rada and the Directory.[vi]

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In today’s Ukraine, Petliura’s legacy is being re-evaluated and a more positive view now exists. The government is now rehabilitating Petliura and other Ukrainian nationalists from the interwar era, including later figures who fought both the Soviets and Hitler’s Germany in World War II. Of course, this is seen as highly controversial in the Western states which are backing Ukraine in its current crisis with Russia . Given the history of Ukrainian-Jewish conflict and that Ukrainian nationalists today are more rightist than those of the 1918-20 period, it is interesting to see so many in the West have been pro-Ukraine including Jewish organizations (particularly neoconservatives for whom Russia is the main enemy).

The case of Petliura is one of much interest to me because I believe in it we can see parallels with what is going on now in the Occident of the twenty-first century. One of the points of interest is how Petliura and his associates did their best to promote Jewish interests and placate that community only for it to largely remain aloof to the issue of Ukrainian statehood. As we saw, Jewish political organizations generally supported internationalism over an independent and largely homogenous Ukraine, no doubt because they saw this as being more in line with their interests. We can see similar trends today with Jewish organizations supporting anti-White-ethnonationalist policies throughout the West but defending Jewish identitarianism — and often Israel as well — on the other.

Certain commonly held assumptions concerning anti-Jewish outbreaks are present in the case of 1918–20 Ukraine just as they are in 17th century Ukraine. I certainly do not condone violent actions being perpetrated against civilians, but it is clear that those who targeted Jews were not doing so without reason. As is so often the case with incidences of pogroms, the aggressors were acting out because of the prior actions of organized Jewry, in this case their association with Bolshevism and also, I think it is fair to say, because of historical grievances going back at least to the seventeenth century. Jews were not singled out as victims purely for the sake of finding some kind of scapegoat. As if often the case in these situations, Jews were not the only targets of ethnic violence, yet Jewish victims are most readily remembered. Other groups were also targeted for ethnic cleansing.

But perhaps most important of all about Petliura is that his death led to an outpouring of support for his murderer and the creation of an anti-White Jewish organization which still exists to this day. Bernard Lecache, a Jewish journalist and active supporter of Schwartzbard, founded the League Against Pogroms in the aftermath of Schwartzbard’s trial. Not long after, the organization’s name was changed to the International League Against Anti-Semitism, but evidently that name was seen as too Jewish because its name was changed yet again to the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA). This organization is very active and powerful to this day (see TOO articles on LICRA). One of its early members was the French Jew Charles Palant who went on to found another Jewish organization which is still active to this day: Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples. Both organizations are openly anti-White organizations which promote all the usual cultural Marxist dogmas. Although LICRA’s presence is most heavily felt in France, it also has chapters in other European countries and is a member of the FARE (Football[vii] Against Racism in Europe), which pushes cultural Marxism in organized football. For example, one of its campaigns is promoting  resettlement of refugees in European countries. LICRA and its offshoot are both considered NGOs yet they have much influence in both the public and private sphere helping to create ‘anti-racist’ laws and workshops. For example, recently they have advocated laws to forbid those convicted of ‘racism’ and ‘anti-Semitism’ to stand for parliament. Famously, they sued Yahoo! in 2000 because that company was allowing people to sell memorabilia from World War II Germany. During the last presidential election they and other Jewish organizations were able to put pressure on Macron to get rid of candidates who were mentioning Jewish privilege or promoting BDS.

As is often the case with these Jewish ‘anti-racist’ organizations, LICRA now finds itself coming into conflict with migrant groups who, unlike indigenous Europeans, do not hold positive views of Jewry. It’s interesting that the issue of non-White anti-Semitism has caused internal disputes concerning to what extent LICRA and other Jewish groups should stand behind politically incorrect kinsmen. I think its fair to say any condemnation by LICRA against their fellows is more about not wanting to appear “soft on racism but hard on anti-Semitism” to non-Whites.[viii]

Even though the views of foreigners towards Jews creates potential difficulty for LICRA, they continue to call for greater importation of foreign races into Europe. As with other Jewish organizations (be they associated with the left or the right) we see a commitment to denying identitarian rights to be extended to European peoples as arguably their greatest goal. And even as the increase in immigration means an increase in anti-Semitism, no matter, because LICRA and the like view the suppression of European identitarianism as a greater goal, while migrant anti-Semitism is manageable.

[i]Paul Robert Magocsi, 504

[ii] Ibid, 505

[iii]Taras Hunczak, 173

[iv]Ibid, 178

[v]Ibid, 179

[vi]Orest Subtelny, 362

[vii] I. e., soccer.

[viii]The controversial Jewish historian Georges Bensoussan was acquitted of the charges of racism in March of this year.

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