chapter  XVIII
5 Pages

Jews and Social Revolutionary Movements

F r e n c h Socialism was at that time hopelessly divided and numerically weak. Leaving aside the many litde party groups, one could distinguish three main divisions: (i) the trade unions or syndicats, some of which were soon to be indoc­ trinated with revolutionary syndicalist views; (ii) the Guesdists or Marxists, led by Jules Guesde (in 1914-15 member of the Viviani Government) and Paul Lafargue; (iii) the Reformists, led by Jean Jaures and A. Millerand (later President of the French Republic). Talking with Lafargue about the cause of the deplorable weakness of the French Socialist movement, he made the remark: “Nous n’avons pas de juifs dans notre mouvement; voild notre malheur” This remark prompts me to say something about a question which is surely of general interest, namely the Jews and Socialism, or why do educated and prosperous members of the Jewry take such a prominent part in the Socialist movement? Let us look at it historically and geographically. I begin with France. With the exception of the Saint-Simonist school, which

counted several Jews among its adherents, the Jews kept aloof from the whole Socialist and revolutionary movement between 1840 and 1850, between 1864 and 1871, and from the Socialist revival in 1876 up to the Dreyfus affair. Among the SaintSimonists there were the following Jews: Olinde Rodriguez, who saved the aged Comte St. Simon, the prophet of the sect, from spending his last years in a poor-house, and who edited the works of his master, and the brothers Pereire and D ’Eichthal. The Saint-Simonists, however, were not Socialists. They were essentially an organization of prospective financial and industrial leaders, bankers, railway builders, great adven­ turers, among whom was also Ferdinand Lesseps. Their main idea was that it was the great financiers and industrialists

who were best fitted to organize the economic world rationally for the benefit of all. It is the identical idea which dominates Mr. H. G. Wells in his World of William Clissold. In the really revolutionary upheavals in France in the nineteenth century the Jews took no part. In the Provisional Government formed by the February Revolution of 1848 there was one Jew, Adolphe Cremieux, Minister of Justice, but he was a royalist and moderate Liberal; he aided the escape of King LouisPhilippe. In the Paris Commune of 1871 there was also only one Jew, Leo Frankel, and he was not a Frenchman, but a Hungarian jewellery worker. It is remarkable that in Great Britain, too, the Jews did not participate in any of the extremist movements: there were no Jews among the Owenites nor among the Chartists. In the Owenite and Chartist papers (of which, I may say, I have a thorough knowledge) I have not found a single Jewish name. In the Northern Star (1847), it is true, the name of Karl Marx appears for the first time, but only as that of a German delegate from a Brussels society to a London commemoration meeting. In Central and Eastern Europe, on the other hand, in

Germany, Austria, Poland, and Russia, Jewish men and women participated in all revolutionary movements. They stood in the front rank of the Revolution, supplying ideas, money, and martyrs. How is this to be explained? Forty years of study and experience in many lands have

taught me that the Jew has been impregnated by his religion with a sense of social righteousness, which has been deepened by two thousand years of immense sufferings. He may, in individual cases, act very selfishly-commerce, as the Fathers and Doctors of the Church often declared, is not conducive to morality-but, in his general view of life, unless he is thoroughly degenerate, the Jew will always be on the side of social justice. It is almost an instinct with him. It is the legacy received from the legislation of Moses and the teaching of the prophets, who saw the soul of religion in ethics, in man’s

behaviour to man. I think Matthew Arnold says somewhere that Athens was the cradle of Liberalism, and Jerusalem that of Socialism. And Charles Kingsley, with his deep knowledge of the Bible, Jewish lore, and Socialism, makes Abraham Aben Ezra, when arguing with Hypatia, express his conviction that the law of the spiritual was not, as the Greeks believed, philosophy and aesthetics, but ethics, that is to say, righteous­ ness. Or as Rabbi Hillel, on being asked by a Gentile as to the essence of Judaism, declared: “ Love thy fellow-man as thyself; all other commandments are merely a commentary on this,” Rabbi Hillel is one of the earliest and most revered Talmudic teachers. From all I have learned and observed I draw the following

lesson. In countries where the Jew is treated with some measure of justice, where he is not unduly oppressed and crushed down, where his sense of social righteousness is not wholly outraged, he will work along with other citizens within the constitution and laws of the country, contributing his share of ideas and citizenship to the general stock. Where this is not the case, where he is treated as an inferior, his innate sense of social justice grows feverish, and seeks an outlet in social-revolutionary channels. It is not so much political in­ equality which sets his feelings on edge; it is the social inequality and human indignity to which he is subjected that causes him to leave the open road, and move from the centre to the farthest extreme. It is a terrible state of mind to feel oneself the legitimate heir of three thousand years of spiritual wrestling and unique historical experience, and at the same time to be socially outlawed by nations who have still to go through many centuries of development, many spiritual and social crises, in order to reach that level of moral culture which could produce such prophets as the Jews did even in the distant ages of history-prophets with flaming exhortations to justice and compassion, luminous ideas of human equality, sublime hopes for peace and brotherhood among the nations,

and finally, the Sermon on the Mount. And the mental activity of the Jews went on throughout the Middle Ages, whenever they enjoyed freedom of movement, as among the Arabs in Spain and in the Gallic cities of Languedoc, and contributed to the general current of religious knowledge. In modern times, since the rise of a middle-class civilization in Western Europe, though repressed by their own orthodox communities, Jews have been found among the leaders of thought; and, in contemporary movements in the field of philosophy, psychology, physics, chemistry, and sociology, we find again in the front rank the names of Jewish thinkers-scions of only a fraction of a small persecuted people, which has watched since the dawn of history the exploits of Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Hellenes, Romans, and Carlovingians. Mighty empires rise, perish, and disappear from the face of the earth; but this Jewish people still lives and acts, still participates with the exuberance of youth in all that touches the fate of man. Moreover, it is now looking forward to again growing into a nation-a nation steeled in unspeakable hardships, rich in costly experience and rejuvenated with Western ideas and modes of life; a nation which-so it seems-is imperishable! My researches into the lives of the leading social philoso­

phers and Socialist propagandists, particularly those of Jewish descent, have taught me that Jewish Socialist leaders, such as Ferdinand Lassalle, Rosa Luxemburg, Leo TrotskyBronstein, i f born and brought up in England or France (prior to the Dreyfus affair) would have followed quite different careers. As a London Jew, Lassalle would un­ doubtedly have been a Tory social reformer of Cabinet rank; in France-a Gambetta. Prince Bismarck spoke of him in the Reichstag in 1878 as a man with the large ambitions and qualities of a statesman of the front rank. In Prussia the only scope for his activities was the career of a persecuted Socialist agitator. And, conversely, Benjamin Disraeli in Prussia would

have to go through the disappointments and frustrations of a Lassalle. Trotsky as an English Jew would surely have been a Radical leader and publicist. And, conversely, Sir Herbert Samuel in Russia would have been a right-wing Menshevik leader and exile. Men gifted with sufficient intellect, and endowed with political capacities and ambitions, are driven to influence public life, in the midst of which they desire to act, and must therefore adjust themselves to actualities, to immediate necessities and measures, as the opportunity offers. In this process of adjustment they are themselves moulded by, and adjusted to, their political environment. With a man like Marx it was different. He was unadjustable.