Jews and the Left

Jews and the Left by Philip Mendes: Review, Part 3

Go to Part 1.

Go to Part 2.

Herbert Marcuse addressing American students in 1968

Jewish involvement in the New Left

In Jews and the Left, Mendes recounts the disproportionate Jewish involvement in the New Left—a political movement that began in the early 1960s when students travelled to the southern states to support the emerging “civil rights” movement. In the mid-1960s, the movement switched to northern campuses to advocate student rights, free speech and opposition to the Vietnam War. This was the time when the ideas of Frankfurt School intellectuals like Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse began to displace orthodox Marxism in leftist movements throughout the West. Mendes notes that:

Jews contributed significantly to the theoretical underpinning of the New Left. From 30 to 50 per cent of the founders and editorial boards of such New Left journals as Studies on the Left, New University Thought, and Root and Branch (later Ramparts) were of Jewish origin. Radical academic bodies and think tanks such as the Caucus for a New Politics, the Union of Radical Political Economists and the Institute for Policy Studies were overwhelmingly Jewish. A number of the key intellectual gurus of the New Left such as Paul Goodman, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Herbert Marcuse were also Jewish.[i]

The Jews who flooded the ranks of the New Left in the early-to-mid 1960s “appear to have been largely assimilated third-generation Jews from Old Left backgrounds [i.e., “red diaper babies”], although some had participated in Labor Zionist Groups.” Studies of American Jewish New Left activists reveal many had grown up in highly politicized left-wing family environments. Jews made up around two-thirds of the White Freedom Riders who went south in 1961, and about one-third to one-half of committed New Left activists in the USA, including key leaders such as Abbie Hoffmann and Jerry Rubin. In 1964 they represented from one-half to two-thirds of the volunteers who flooded Mississippi to help register black voters. At Berkeley in 1964, around one-third of the leaders of the Free Speech Movement (FSM) demonstrators were Jewish, as were over half of the movement’s steering committee, including Bettina Aptheker, Suzanne Goldberg, Steve Weisman, and Jack Weinberg who coined the famous phrase “You can’t trust anyone over thirty.[ii] Moreover:

In 1965 at the University of Chicago, 45 per cent of the protestors against the university’s collaboration with the Selective Service System were Jews. At Columbia University in 1968 one-third of the protestors were of Jewish origin, and three of the four student demonstrators killed at Kent State in 1970 were Jewish. Jews comprised a large proportion of the leaders and activists within Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Some of the key leaders included the founder Al Haber, Todd Gitlin and Mark Rudd. Approximately 30 to 50 per cent of the SDS membership in the early–mid 1960s were Jewish.[iii] At one point in the late 1960s, SDS presidents on the campuses of Columbia University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Wisconsin (Madison), North Western University, and Michigan University were all Jews. Jewish participation in SDS was particularly high at Pennsylvania University and the State University of New York. There was also a number of Jews in the violent Weathermen group.[iv]

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Jews and the Left by Philip Mendes: A Review — Part 2

Go to Part 1.

Denying the Jewish role in the Ukrainian famine

Mendes sees a revival of “the Judeo-Communist theory” in Australian author Helen Darville’s 1994 novel, The Hand That Signed the Paper, which posited that the collaboration of some Ukrainians with the Germans in World War II could be attributed to the role played by Jewish Bolsheviks in imposing the genocidal Ukrainian famine of the 1930s. For Darville’s central characters, anti-Jewish massacres were understandable revenge for earlier Jewish actions. For Mendes, Darville’s book provides a “classic example of the way in which the Judeo-Communist theory both reverses the cause and effect of anti-Semitism and communism, and acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy. … In short, it provides no explanation of the factors that drove many Jews to join the socialist movement. The historical context of anti-Semitism creating Jewish sympathy for Bolshevism is simply omitted.”[i] This is a disingenuous analysis given Mendes’ own gross misrepresentation of the context for Ukrainian anti-Jewish sentiment (i.e., casually dismissing centuries of economic predation).

In Jews and the Left, Mendes even asserts that “the argument that Jews as an ethnic group or even Jews as individual Bolsheviks played a significant role in the Ukrainian famine lacks any concrete evidence.”[ii] He evades discussion of the role of the Jewish Soviet leader in the Ukraine, Lazar Kaganovich, in overseeing the forced collectivization of 1932–33, conceived as part of an “assault on the Ukrainian nationalist intelligentsia.” The country was sealed off and all food supplies and livestock were confiscated, with Kaganovich leading “expeditions into the countryside with brigades of OGPU troopers” who used “the gun, the lynch mob and the Gulag system to break the villages.”[iii]

Similarly omitted is any mention of the role of the Jewish-dominated secret police in the Ukraine led by Genrikh Yagoda (also Jewish) in exterminating all “anti-party elements.” In his book The Jewish Century, Yuri Slezkine notes how “the Soviet Secret Police – the regime’s sacred center, known after 1934 as the NKVD – was one of the most Jewish of all Soviet Institutions.”[iv] Furious that insufficient Ukrainians were being shot, Kaganovich set quota of 10,000 executions a week for his secret police in Ukraine. Eighty percent of Ukrainian intellectuals were shot—the familiar pattern in which communist governments murdered the previously influential intelligentsia and other elites (see Tom Sunic’s “The Dysgenics of a Killing Field”; also a theme of Yuri Slezkine’s The Jewish Century, see here, p. 69). During the winter of 1932–33, 25,000 Ukrainians per day were being shot or left to die of starvation.[v]

Genrikh Yagoda

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Jews and the Left by Philip Mendes: Review — Part 1

Jews and the Left: The Rise and Fall of a Political Alliance
Philip Mendes
Melbourne, Victoria: Palgrave MacMillian, 2014

Introduction

In 2018 I reviewed Alain Brossat and Sylvie Klingberg’s Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism, a shameless apologia for (and indeed glorification of) Jewish involvement in radical political movements in the early- to mid-twentieth century. Jews and the Left: The Rise and Fall of a Political Alliance by the Jewish Australian academic Philip Mendes covers much of the same ground, rehashing many of the same apologetic tropes.

Mendes, an Associate Professor at Monash University in Melbourne, describes his book, published in 2014, as “the first publication to provide a systematic historical and political overview of the relationship between Jews and the left.”[1] Largely ignoring scholarly literature on the subject emanating from non-Jewish and non-philo-Semitic sources, Mendes insists that “With the exception of Arthur Liebman’s outstanding 1979 text, Jews and the Left, there has been little systematic analysis of the Jewish—Left relationship.”[2] Such an ideologically-selective survey of the literature leads him to conclude that “the phenomenon of Jewish radicalism seems to have been seriously under-researched by both general students of sociology and history, and Jewish studies specialists.”[3]

Unlike some of the more egregious Jewish propagandists and apologists who have contributed to the topic, Mendes makes no attempt to deny disproportionate Jewish involvement in political radicalism, stating:

The disproportionate historical contribution of Jews to the political Left has been well documented. Both as individual theorists and activists of the stature of Marx, Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Léon Blum and Emma Goldman, and as organized mass labor movements in, for example, revolutionary Russia and early—mid 20th century Warsaw, Amsterdam, Paris, Toronto, Buenos Aires, New York and London, Jews have been conspicuous for their socialist and communist affiliations.[4]

Indeed, Mendes points out that from around 1830 until 1970, an “informal political alliance existed between Jews and the political Left.”[5] Read more

Lying about Judeo-Bolshevism

A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism
Paul Hanebrink
Harvard University Press, 2018.

The writing and discussion of Jewish historiography in contemporary mainstream academia requires a sublime choreography. It’s basically a series of evasions resembling dances, in which facts are presented and parried, and flamboyant narratives are advanced which everyone knows to be false but which emerge repetitively and shamelessly. My attention was first drawn to Paul Hanebrink’s A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism by Christopher Browning’s recent glowing review, titled “The Fake Threat of Jewish Communism,” in the New York Review of Books. Browning is an establishment historian with a record of legally assisting Jews — for the right price. As well as receiving over $30,000 from Deborah Lipstadt to testify against David Irving, Browning has testified against a significant number of European ex-soldiers at war crimes trials. Although his most notable work, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (1992), contains the less than remarkable thesis that war turns ordinary men into killers, Browning’s dedication to the Jewish narrative has led to his becoming a true guru of Jewish victimology. Having received awards and funds from organizations including Yad Vashem and the USC Shoah Foundation Center and copious promotion in mainstream media and academia, Browning’s certificate of praise in the field is potentially career-making. Evidently, he has chosen to bestow his magic touch on Paul Hanebrink. In this essay I want to explore the approach of both Browning’s review and Hanebrink’s text as exercises in the manufacture of duplicitous histories.

I had to look twice at Browning’s headline. My first thought was: “Really? You really want to take this subject matter on? You really think you can ‘debunk’ the facticity of Jewish Communism?” Such an endeavor would unquestionably require abundant chutzpah, but it is clear from the very beginning of the review that this will be an effort of evasion rather than outright debate. As Browning states in the opening paragraph, “Hanebrink’s approach is not to repeat what he considers an error of the interwar era—the futile attempt to refute a myth on the basis of historical facts and statistical data.” Although this evasion is predictable, it’s quite remarkable to see a more or less open admission from two allegedly masterful historians that they don’t possess facts sufficient to dispel the very “myth” they set out to challenge. To describe any such presentation of facts as a “futile attempt” seems intellectually flaccid; a concession of the weakness of one’s case.

But what is really presented here, of course, is the standard structure of Jewish historiography: avoid the facts, downplay them if concession is absolutely necessary, and move the discussion into abstractions and sophistry. Taking a page from the ADL playbook, Browning mewls coyly that “a small kernel of truth underpinned the stereotype of the Jewish Bolshevik,” but insists, regarding Communism, that “the Jew as “the face of the revolution” was a “culturally constructed” perception.” We therefore arrive at the familiar position where facts don’t matter and everything Jews don’t like is triumphantly declared a mere construct. Read more

The Value of Victimhood: Liverpool, Labour and Lucky Luciana Berger

The English port of Liverpool is famous for three things: soccer, music and violence. Historically it falls within the boundaries of Lancashire, but culturally it has never fitted there. It’s always been too self-assertive and idiosyncratic, so much its own place that its inhabitants go by two names. Formally, they’re Liverpudlians; informally, they’re Scousers.

Militant parasites

As the media clichés have it, Scousers are fiercely proud of their city and fiercely tribal in their politics. And their politics have always been left-wing — sometimes very left-wing. When George Orwell talked about “Irish dock-labourer[s] in the slums of Liverpool” in The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), he said that you can “see the crucifix on the wall and the Daily Worker on the table.” The Daily Worker was the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Great Britain (now the paper is called The Morning Star). In the 1980s, Liverpool was the home of a Trotskyist group called the Militant Tendency, or Militant for short, which tried to infiltrate the Labour party and use Labour’s far greater power and prestige for revolutionary ends.

In biological terms, as I suggested in “Verbal Venom,” Militant were a tiny parasite trying to subvert the nervous system of Labour and divert Labour’s resources to their own use. If Militant activists had stood openly as Trotskyists, they had no chance of winning elections and entering local councils or parliament. Wearing a Labour mask, they could win elections and enter power. And that’s exactly what they did in Liverpool, where they won control of the city council. But their parasitic infiltration of the wider party failed: Labour woke to the threat and fought off Militant’s entryism, as this Trotskyist tactic is called. Read more

Leonard Bernstein and the Jewish Cultural Ascendency — PART 1

Introduction

2018 marks the centenary of the birth of Jewish-American conductor, pianist, composer and teacher Leonard Bernstein. This milestone has seen a global bonanza of 2,500 concerts, programs, exhibitions and theatrical productions. Bernstein features prominently in the pantheon of “Jewish geniuses” as designated by the West’s Jewish-dominated cultural and intellectual establishment. Bernstein’s centenary year inevitably yielded hagiography: for his Jewish biographer Allen Shawn, he was not just a “genius” but “a powerful cultural and political voice and symbol, transcending all categories.”[1] Mark Horowitz, curator of an exhibition at Philadelphia’s Jewish museum celebrating Bernstein’s “pride of tribe,” fully endorses this view, while for the Jewish music writer for the New Yorker, Alex Ross, Bernstein remains “American music’s dominant figure.”

Bernstein lived during the heyday of the recording industry, at the dawn of the television era and of video recording. He left behind what is possibly the most extensive documentation in recordings, films, and on paper of any musician in history. His archive at the Library of Congress already lists some 400,000 items.[2] During the 1950s and 1960s Bernstein was not only the best known of all American classical musicians; his fame rivalled that of Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe. Attitudes to Bernstein varied dramatically during his lifetime, and many responded negatively to the fact he was so visible, so outspoken, so dramatic, and so politically active on the left.

Famous for his flamboyantly extroverted temperament, Bernstein was a “personality on such a big scale that he would naturally manage to offend many people along the way. … His self-regard and need for attention were also, to be sure, extreme.”[3] Bernstein’s brash self-confidence and monstrous ego incurred the enmity of many of those he encountered. He “loved to be the center of attention, even if it meant being obnoxious” observed a fellow student at the Curtis School of Music who noted that his “extroversion was extreme.”[4] John Rockwell, writing for the New York Times in 1986, observed that “It is quite a remarkable personality, for better and for worse, the defines every aspect of his near-manic existence. There are those who still find him inherently annoying — when he shoots off what he likes to call his ‘big Jewish mouth,’ when he prances and gyrates on the podium, when he seems to squander his compositional gifts in flashy trivia or overwrought excess.”[5] Bernstein’s own children pointed out his unsurpassed ability to become emotional on his own behalf, to “move himself.”[6]

Bernstein’s unusual, extremely emotional, visual presentation was his trademark as a conductor. He conducted with his entire body in a style that led to much criticism and derision over the years. German composer Gunther Schuller, for example, observed that Bernstein was “one of the world’s most histrionic and exhibitionistic conductors.” Schuller saw Bernstein as a musician with “very little discipline and no shame,” whose interpretation of Brahms’ First Symphony contained “too much of an ‘oy-vey’ Weltschmerz to be bearable.”[7] Read more

Joe McCarthy and the Jews: Comments on Jewish Organizations’ Response to Communism and Senator McCarthy, by Aviva Weingarten (2008).

Beginning in the 19th century, liberal/leftist politics has been a hallmark of the Jewish community in America and elsewhere. The attraction of Jews to the success of the Bolshevik Revolution was an entirely mainstream movement among large numbers of Jews in America and led to one of several anti-Jewish stereotypes during the 1920s and 1930s — stereotypes that were aided and abetted by people like Henry Ford and Father Charles Coughlin. Into the 1930s the American Communist Party (CPUSA) had a Yiddish-speaking Jewish section. and Jews around the world had positive attitudes toward the USSR, at least partly because Jews had achieved elite status there.

After World War II, however, anti-Semitism declined precipitously in the US, and Jewish organizations were poised to spearhead the transformations in civil rights and immigration legislation that would come to fruition in the 1960s. By 1950 the Jewish community was part of the establishment — well connected to the power centers in the media, politics, the academic world and the construction of culture generally.

But there was a major problem that the organized Jewish community was forced to confront—a problem stemming from the long involvement of the mainstream Jewish community in communism and the far left, at least until the end of World War II, and among a substantial number of Jews even after this period. In Jewish Organizations’ Response to Communism and Senator McCarthy, Aviva Weingarten points to a “hard core of Jews” (p. 6) who continued to support the Communist Party into the 1950s and continued to have a “decisive role” in shaping the policies of the American Communist Party (CPUSA) (p. 9).

Weingarten notes that unlike other communists, Jewish communists continued to have an ethnic  identity (p. 10) and often participated in the wider Jewish community. This is a refreshing change from a long history of Jewish apologetics over this issue. The standard line, not only among Jewish activist organizations but by academic authors such as Yuri Slezkine, has been that Jews ceased being Jews when they joined the Communist Party or participated in other far left causes. As a result, the focus of Chapter 3 of The Culture of Critique is to demonstrate that Jewish radicals retained a strong Jewish identity and a sense of pursuing specifically Jewish interests. Most egregiously, the American Jewish Congress — by far the largest Jewish organization in terms of membership — continued to be associated with the far left and was formally affiliated with organizations listed as subversive by the US Attorney General. The CPUSA viewed members of the American Jewish Congress as “democratic forces”  in their attempt to create “democratic and anti-fascist” policies in the World Jewish Congress (p. 25).

This history of Jewish involvement in communism and sympathy toward communism was now combined with the new situation of the Cold War in which the Soviet Union had become the mortal enemy of the United States. Read more