Archive for February, 2010
“Stalin’s Willing Executioners”? Girin vs. MacDonald
By Eugene Girin [and an excellent response by Professor MacDonald further below]
In “Stalin’s Willing Executioners“?, his VDARE.COM review of Yuri Slezkine’s The Jewish Century, Dr. Kevin MacDonald accused the Jews of being responsible for the worst aspects of Soviet communism: the Red Terror, Collectivization, and Stalin’s bloody Purges.
As an ex-Soviet Jew and past contributor to VDARE.COM, and as someone who agrees with most of VDARE.COM’s positions, I was surprised to see this canard, which usually circulates among Russian anti-Semitic cranks, be given credence by an American professor who poses as a serious researcher of evolutionary psychology.
MacDonald uses anecdotal evidence and out-of-context citations to assert that the Soviet secret police (Cheka-OGPU-NKVD) and Gulag administration were all overwhelmingly Jewish and that the Jews “to such a large extent ran the USSR.” This is utterly false.
But according to Slezkine in The Jewish Century, which MacDonald was reviewing, “the vast majority of Bolshevik party members (72 percent in 1922) were ethnic Russians.” The most overrepresented ethnic group was the Latvians. Only 2.6 percent of Bolshevik party members in revolutionary St. Petersburg and only 5.2 percent of Communists in the Soviet Union in the year 1922 and were Jewish.
In 1920, only 9.1 percent of all Cheka operatives were Jews and in 1924, Jews made up only 8.5 percent of the central apparatus of the Soviet secret police.
I do agree that a tragically large number of Eastern European Jews—in the purely ethnic sense, of course—actively supported communism. Two of my great-grandfathers were among the first communists in Poland and Romania. (One later spent eight years in Stalin’s Gulag and the other died of tuberculosis in exile in Central Asia. So much for the Red Dream.) But these figures are hardly characteristic of a Jewish-dominated organization.
Kevin MacDonald also demonstrates his utter ignorance of Soviet Jewish historical realities when he argues that ex-Jews like Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and the thousands of Cheka operatives and Bolshevik party members retained their Jewish identity and “Eastern European shtetl culture.”
In fact, Jewish Bolsheviks were simply apostates who turned their back on their faith and people. Some of them were simply violent scoundrels without any sense of ethnic pride and belonging, shunned and despised by their community. Others were brutal revolutionaries—like Trotsky who refused to bury his father in a Jewish cemetery, refused to meet with Jewish delegations, and violently persecuted Russian Zionists. “I am not a Jew and have nothing in common with the Jewish people,” he said around 1919.
Jewish Communists viewed Judaism as a shameful relic of the pre-Soviet past that had to be eradicated. Thousands of synagogues were desecrated and closed down only to be re-opened as athletic societies, social clubs, and warehouses. Rabbis were arrested and imprisoned with Christian clergymen in the horrid Solovki prison camp. There, they were housed in the same barracks as common criminals.
In 1918, the Ukrainian rabbinical congress, which met in Odessa, issued a cherem—a declaration of excommunication—against Trotsky and other prominent Jewish Bolsheviks. The famous Jewish sage Chofetz Chaim characterized communism as the “destruction of the soul” and in 1927, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, the leader of the Hassidic Chabad Lubavitch movement, was arrested by the Soviet secret police and only pressure from abroad prevented the Soviet authorities from sending him to a labor camp.
Thousands of Jews were murdered, raped, assaulted, and robbed by units of the Red Army in the Ukraine and Belarus during the Russian Civil War (1918-22) and the Russo-Polish War (1919-20). In the town of Gluhov, Red soldiers murdered over a hundred Jews, shot the rabbi, looted the synagogue, and tore up the Torah scrolls. In another Ukrainian town of Novgorod-Seversky, Red Army soldiers slaughtered eighty-eight Jews and maimed many others. The anti-Semitic brutality of the Red Army is magnificently depicted in Isaac Babel’s haunting novel Red Cavalry.
Large numbers of Russian Jews were arrested, tortured, exiled, and executed by the Bolsheviks for either belonging to “enemy parties” like the Mensheviks, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, and the Kadets, to “enemy classes” like the merchants and the intellectuals. At least 200,000 Russian Jews fled Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution and the Red Terror.
Russian Jews were active contributors to the anti-Bolshevik struggle. A Jewish Socialist Revolutionary, Fanya Kaplan attempted to assassinate Lenin and was executed by the Bolsheviks. Dozens of Jews served in the White (anti-Bolshevik) armies and one of them, David Pasmanik, organized the Jewish Anti-Communist Committee in Paris. The army of the anti-Bolshevik Western Ukrainian People’s Republic in Galicia and Bukovina had a Jewish detachment of 1,200 soldiers under the command of Solomon Leinberg and dozens of Jews served in the guerrilla forces of the Ukrainian anti-Bolshevik anarchist Nestor Makhno. The legendary Ukrainian Jew, Lev (“Lyovka”) Zadov was Makno’s counter-intelligence chief.
Contrary to Kevin MacDonald’s brazen assertions, Communist rule was a tragedy for Russian Jews. We were deprived of our traditions, culture, language, and communal cohesiveness. The Russian Jewish community has been ravaged by assimilation, intermarriage, and indifference because of Soviet rule. Many Russian Jews lost all sense of ethno-religious identity and became perpetual outsiders, unaccepted by neither Jews nor Russians.
Kevin MacDonald’s claims about the disproportional role of Jews in the worst excesses of Russian communism betray a dark obsession with the Jews, an obsession that harms and discredits real American conservatism and the immigration-reform movement.
Eugene Girin [email him] immigrated (legally!) from the Republic of Moldova in 1994 at the age of 10. He is a student at CUNY Baruch College and has been published by VDARE.COM, Front Page Magazine, and other websites.
Kevin MacDonald responds:
Fundamentally, Eugene Girin does not like Yuri Slezkine’s findings. In response, seeking to make these conclusions easier to dismiss, he adopts the stratagem of trying to convince his readers that I have misrepresented Slezkine. But I did not.
No one is saying that all Jews supported the USSR or denying that some Jews suffered from the regime, even at the height of Jewish power. But Slezkine provides overwhelming evidence that Jews constituted an elite in the USSR and that the great majority of Soviet Jews supported Bolshevism and benefited from it—evidence that fits well with previously existing data that I have summarized in my writing on this topic.
Girin provides some Slezkine figures on Jewish representation in early Bolshevism to suggest that Jews did not play a particularly outstanding role. However, he fails to note how Slezkine contextualizes these findings. After all, the title of Slezkine’s book is The Jewish Century. It would be odd to find that Slezkine’s real view is that Jews were not much of a factor in arguably the most significant upheaval of the 20th century.
For example, Girin quotes Slezkine that “the vast majority of Bolshevik party members (72 percent in 1922) were ethnic Russians.” But he fails to note Slezkine’s basic argument that the Jews formed an elite within the Bolshevik movement: Jews formed 40 percent of the top elected officials in the army, 5 of the 12 members of the Bolshevik Central Committee that voted to launch an armed insurrection in 1917, and much else (see Slezkine, pp. 175–180).
Jews did not form a particularly high percentage of the Cheka, says Slezkine, “but even in the Cheka, Bolsheviks of Jewish origin combined ideological commitment with literacy in ways that set them apart and propelled them upward” (p. 177).
Slezkine’s views on this matter are entirely compatible with my previously published analysis of the Jewish role in Bolshevism: Jews formed an indispensable elite that was a necessary condition for the success of Bolshevism. (Even this is an understatement, as argued in the longer Occidental Quarterly version of my VDARE.COM article.)
Historian Albert Lindemann makes the same point in his book Esau’s Tears:
“Citing the absolute numbers of Jews [within the Bolshevik movement], or their percentage of the whole, fails to recognize certain key if intangible factors: the assertiveness and often dazzling verbal skills of Jewish Bolsheviks, their energy, and their strength of conviction” (p. 429).
There is no claim that all or even most Bolsheviks were Jews.
Jews formed less than five percent of the Russian population at the time of the Revolution, and they were underrepresented in the major urban areas of Moscow and Leningrad prior to the Revolution because of the Pale of Settlement laws. But having a very large, even dominant influence despite forming a small percentage of the population has been a theme of Jewish history, most notably in Eastern and Central Europe prior to the Revolution. The case of Revolutionary Russia once again underscores the importance of philosemitism and building alliances for the Jews. This has been typically necessary in Diaspora situations in order to advance their perceived interests.
Girin makes the outrageous claim that I argued that “ex-Jews like Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and the thousands of Cheka operatives and Bolshevik party members retained their Jewish identity and ‘Eastern European shtetl culture [his emphasis]””
But in fact I explicitly granted the possibility that they did not. And I certainly did not say that Jewish Bolsheviks retained their Eastern European shtetl culture in toto, but that they had retained some aspects of traditional Jewish identity, specifically the ones I listed: a strong sense of estrangement from non-Jewish society, a fear and hatred of peasants, hostility toward the Czarist upper class, and a very negative attitude toward Christianity.
Since this is a major issue on which I do not agree with Slezkine, I spend almost eight pages on the issue of the Jewish identity of Jewish Bolsheviks in the longer Occidental Quarterly review (pp. 75–82). I would urge readers to look at this material as well as Chapter 3 of my study The Culture of Critique.
And in the end, as Slezkine actually says (p. 286), by the time of World War II most Jews
“knew that they were, in some sense, Jews. They may never have been to a synagogue, seen a menorah, heard Yiddish or Hebrew, tasted gefilte fish or indeed met their grandparents. But they knew they were Jews in the Soviet sense, which was also—in essence—the Nazi sense. They were Jews by blood.”
As for Girin’s other comments, they essentially contradict Slezkine’s argument that in fact the USSR was a Jewish haven and that Jews formed an elite until the post-World War II era, when issues related to Zionism and popular and official anti-Semitism combined to lessen Jewish power.
The fact that Jews were an elite in the USSR shouldn’t be a surprise. As Slezkine and others have documented, Jews were an economically and culturally dominant elite throughout Eastern and Central Europe too, and they soon became an elite in the U.S. after the massive upsurge in Jewish immigration beginning in the late 19th century.
Nor should it be surprising that there is a massive taboo surrounding Jewish involvement in the most murderous regime in history. After all, despite the fact that Jews constitute less than 3 percent of the U.S. population, the Holocaust has become a cultural icon as a direct result of Jewish activism and influence in the media, Israel has become a sacred cow in American politics, and the role of Jewish organizations in helping unleash massive multiethnic immigration into the U.S., as well as engineering the current American involvement in Iraq, goes unmentioned in public debate.
Kevin MacDonald [email him] is Professor of Psychology at California State University-Long Beach.
Posted in Middle Eastern Affairs, Other Losses : Suppressed History, Programs and Documentaries, The (Occupied) News & Entertainment Media, Zionist Power Configuration on February 27, 2010| Leave a Comment »
I first read Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Cultural Baggage” in the year 2000, and must have been the only student in my writing class to have found it so repulsive. Although I respond to these situations far differently today — and anyone reading this likely knows that the offensive assignments have only multiplied in the course of a decade — it was enough at that time to prompt me drop to the class. In fact, I left school altogether in disgust and disbelief. I could hardly grasp that things had gotten so bad. It took me a while to accept the obvious: that our situation will never improve, and that things are bound to grow exponentially worse, until people like myself have earned positions of influence and reclaimed authority. The way that things are structured, degrees go a long way in affecting change in the establishment. It is essential, then, that we learn to transform every source of frustration and discouragement along our path into positive, constructive energy, to the best of our ability. As we patiently advance toward our ideal, the rotten, decayed matter around us crumbles and falls aside. And most importantly, every success toward our goal serves to amplify the attraction of our Cause. Every step forward serves as encouragement for others along this path who invariably meet with the same frustration and discouragement. What is clearly designed to break our will must only make us harder. Knowing more today than I did a decade ago regarding the Frankfurt School, the origins of Political Correctness, and the Social-Marxian strategy of utilizing deracinated feminists like Ehrenreich and other “outsider” groups (particularly on campus) as agents of revolution, I am better equipped to deal with these irksome obstacles with the proper perspective and a far more logical approach. It seems silly to me now that such a simple thing — this ridiculous essay — affected me in such a major way… But with the negative comes the positive.
By Barbara Ehrenreich
Recently an acquaintance was telling me about the joys of rediscovering her ethnic and religious heritage. “I know exactly what my ancestors were doing 2,000 years ago,” she said, eyes gleaming with enthusiasm, “and I can do the same things now.” Then she leaned forward and inquired politely, “And what is your ethnic background, if I may ask?”
“None,” I said, that being the first word in line to get out of my mouth. Well, not “none,” I backtracked. Scottish, English, Irish—that was something, I supposed. Too much Irish to qualify as a WASP, too much English to warrant a “Kiss me, I’m Irish” button; plus there are a number of dead ends in the family tree due to adoptions, missing records, failing memories, and the like. I was blushing by this time. Did “none” mean I was rejecting my heritage out of Anglo-Celtic self-hatred?
But the truth is I was raised with “none.” We’d eaten ethnic foods in my childhood home, but these were all borrowed, like the Cornish pasties, or meat pies, my father had picked up from his fellow miners in Butte. If my mother had one rule, it was militant ecumenicism in all matter of food and experience: “Try new things,” she would say, meaning anything from sweetbreads to clams, with an emphasis on the “new.”
My mother never introduced a domestic procedure by telling me, “Grandma did it this way.” What did Grandma know, living in the days before vacuum cleaners and disposable toilet mops? In my parents’ general view, new things were better than old, and the very fact that some ritual had been performed in the past was good reason for abandoning it now. Because what was in the past, as our forebears knew it? Nothing but poverty, superstition and grief. “Think for yourself,” Dad used to say, “Always ask why.”
In fact, this may have been the ideal cultural heritage for an ethnic strain like my own—bounced as it was from the Highlands of Scotland across the sea, then across the plains to the Rockies, down into the mines, and finally spewed out into high-tech, suburban America. What better philosophy, for a race of migrants, than “Think for yourself’? What better maxim, for a people whose whole world was rudely inverted every thirty years or so, than “Try new things”?
The more tradition-minded, the newly enthusiastic celebrants of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and the Winter Solstice, will be clucking sadly as they read this. They will see little point to survival if the survivors carry no cultural freight—religion, for example, or ethnic tradition. To them I would say that skepticism, curiosity, and wide-eyed ecumenical tolerance are also a part of the human tradition, and are at least as old as such notions as “Serbian” or “Croatian,” “Scottish,” or “Jewish.” I make no claims for my personal line of progenitors except that they remained steadfastly loyal to the values that induced all of our ancestors, long, long ago, to climb down from the trees and make their way into the open savanna.
Throughout the sixties and seventies I watched one group after another stand up and proudly reclaim their roots while I just sank back ever deeper into my seat. It had begun to seem almost un-American not to have some sort of hyphen in hand, linking one to more venerable times and locales. I hoped that by marrying a man of Eastern European-Jewish descent I would acquire for my descendants the ethnic genes that my own forebears so sadly lacked. At one point I even subjected the children to a Passover feast of my own design, including a little talk about the Israelites’ flight from Egypt. But the kids said, “Give us a break, Mom.” The kids knew that their Jewish grandparents were secular folks who didn’t observe Passover themselves.
A few weeks ago, I cleared my throat and asked my children, now grown, whether they felt any stirrings of ethnic identity which might have been insufficiently nourished at home. “None,” they said, adding firmly, “and the world would be a better place if nobody else did either.” My chest swelled with pride, as my mother’s would have, to know that the race of “none” marches on.
Academic Left Opposes Free Speech, Academic Freedom and the Legitimate Interests of White Americans
By Kevin MacDonald
Updated: Tuesday, February 23, 2010
For nearly four years the Cal State Long Beach community has seen repeated attacks on me. Powerful activist organizations — the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League — have come to campus to condemn me. Several departments at the university have issued public denunciations, and I have been harassed and condemned by individual professors on faculty e-mail lists. Beginning with the current semester, several students have disrupted my classes; they have campaigned to get me fired and have written inflammatory articles in the Daily 49er.
Why all this hostility? Fundamentally, I am attacked because I advocate ideas that fly in the face of the conventional wisdom as seen by the academic left that has come to dominate the university.
First and foremost, I am an evolutionary psychologist. On the basis of my understanding of the theory and research in this field, my view is that everyone has ethnic interests — including people of European descent. A great many other identifiable groups in multicultural America have a strong sense of ethnic identity and interest. Quite a few departments on this campus are devoted to strengthening the ethnic identity of non-whites and articulating their interests. But explicit expressions of white European-American identity and interests are condemned as indicating moral turpitude or even psychiatric impairment.
This is a completely unnatural state of affairs — the result of a prolonged assault on the legitimacy of these concepts by politically and ethnically motivated elites that have dominated public discourse on issues of race and ethnicity since before World War II and especially since the 1960s.
I reject labels such as “white supremacist” or “racist” that are routinely bestowed on assertions of white identity and interests as a means of muzzling their expression. Non-Western peoples throughout the world continue to seek political power, and they attempt to control their borders, establish their own cultures and defend their perceived interests. No one would claim that Korea, say, has a moral obligation to import millions of non-Koreans or to change their culture so that the traditional people and culture are pushed aside. Many countries, including Mexico, have excluded immigrants and dealt with them harshly. Israel not only has an identity as a Jewish state, it also rigorously enforces a biological conception of Jewishness as the basis of its immigration policy. Israel has erected an apartheid society on the West Bank and has discriminatory policies against its Palestinian minority within Israel.
Nevertheless, as Joel Kotkin points out in his recent book “The Next Hundred Million”, the U.S. stands poised to add 100 million non-whites by 2050, making the current white majority into a minority and implying a dramatic decline in their political and cultural influence.
Whether explicitly or implicitly, ethnostates are the norm throughout the world. Societies in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand that have been controlled by whites for hundreds of years are the only ones to accept the idea that the ethnic majority has a moral imperative to cede power and become a minority. I view this outcome as the result of competition over the construction of culture in which the legitimate interests of Whites have been compromised. My scholarly book, “The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements” (1998), and much of my subsequent writing, are an attempt to determine how this unnatural state of affairs came about.
The big picture is that the left championed the interests of the working and middle classes of pre-1965 America. Since that time, the left has been strongly identified with massive non-white immigration and multiculturalism — policies that have compromised the interests of the working and middle classes of traditional America, black and white alike.
My main concern is that this upheaval opposes the legitimate interests of the European-descended peoples of the U.S. It’s not about hatred. It’s about seeing legitimate conflicts of interest among different ethnic groups. I was a staunch leftist as a young person. But it’s obvious that the left now stands for policies that are radically opposed to the interests of people like me.
As part of this revolution against pre-1965 America, the left has erected a culture of political correctness in which expressions of ethnocentrism by Europeans are proscribed. Organizations such as the SPLC and the ADL seek to stifle free speech by condemning any hint of ethnocentrism by Europeans — and only Europeans.
Because their point of view is intellectually bankrupt and cannot be rationally defended, the left has repeatedly resorted to force to accomplish its goals. Many European countries and Canada have savage legal penalties that enforce intellectual conformity on these issues. In America the sanctions are more informal — but nevertheless similarly effective. The condemnations of my writing and my affiliations by academic departments, professors and students at Cal State Long Beach are a part of this campaign to shut down free speech on these issues and to make my life as difficult as possible.
America and other Western societies stand to lose much as a result of these transformations. Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam has shown that increasing ethnic diversity lowers the willingness to contribute to charity or to public goods such as, apropos the current national debate, public health care. Ethnic diversity also increases social isolation and lowers trust both within and between races; it also lowers political participation and lessens confidence in political leaders.
Throughout the world, ethnically diverse societies are marked by ethnic conflict. The bottom line is that no one has come up with a formula to get rid of ethnicity as a form of identity and as a vehicle of expressing interests. None seems on the horizon. My vision of the future of Western societies is that they are well on the road to becoming cauldrons of competing ethnic groups, with chronic divisions over issues like affirmative action, redistribution of wealth and the establishment of public goods like health care — any issue that may be seen as benefiting one ethnic group more than another. In the long run, democratic forms of government and the rule of law are threatened.
An early sign of this dystopian future is that American politics have become increasingly racialized. The Republican Party routinely receives roughly 90 percent of its votes from whites, while overwhelming majorities of non-whites identify with the Democratic Party. There is a palpable rage building in America among the tea partiers and working and middle-class white Americans who want something like the America they grew up in. These people are being pushed out economically and politically. They are less able to avoid the costs of multiculturalism: They can’t move to gated communities or send their children to all-white private schools. Their unions have been destroyed and their jobs either shipped overseas or performed by recent immigrants, legal and illegal.
Despite what some of my critics have claimed, I have never advocated violence as a solution to the rapidly diminishing prospects of non-elite white Americans. But we are clearly headed into very dangerous times.
Kevin MacDonald is a psychology professor at CSULB and a member of the American Third Position party.
“Stalin’s Willing Executioners”?
By Kevin MacDonald
Yuri Slezkine’s book The Jewish Century, which appeared last year to rapturous reviews, is an intellectual tour de force, alternately muddled and brilliant, courageous and apologetic. Slezkine’s greatest accomplishment is to set the historical record straight on the importance of Jews in the Bolshevik Revolution and its aftermath. He summarizes previously available data and extends our understanding of the Jewish role in revolutionary movements before 1917 and of Soviet society thereafter. His book provides a fascinating chronicle of the Jewish rise to elite status in all areas of Soviet society—culture, the universities, professional occupations, the media, and government. Indeed, the book is also probably the best, most up-to-date account of Jewish economic and cultural pre-eminence in Europe (and America) that we have.
The once-common view that the Bolshevik Revolution was a Jewish revolution and that the Soviet Union was initially dominated by Jews has now been largely eliminated from modern academic historiography. The current view, accepted by almost all contemporary historians, is that Jews played no special role in Bolshevism and indeed, were uniquely victimized by it.
Slezkine’s book provides a bracing corrective to this current view.
Slezkine himself [email him] is a Russian immigrant of partially Jewish extraction. Arriving in America in 1983, he moved quickly into elite U.S. academic circles and is now a professor at U.C. Berkeley. This, his second book, is his first on a major theme.
While the greater part of The Jewish Century is an exposition of the Russian experience, Slezkine provides what are in effect sidebars (comparatively flimsy) recounting the Jewish experience in America and the Middle East. Together, these phenomena can in fact be seen as the three great Jewish migrations of the 20th century, since within Russia millions of Jews left the shtetl towns of the Pale of Settlement, migrating to Moscow and the other cities to man elite positions in the Soviet state.
Slezkine attempts to understand Jewish history and the rise of Jews to elite status in the 20th century by developing the thesis that the peoples of the world can be classified into two groups.
The successful peoples of the modern world, termed Mercurians, are urban, mobile, literate, articulate, and intellectually sophisticated.
The second group, termed Apollonians, is rooted to the land with traditional agrarian cultures, valuing physical strength and warrior virtues.
Since Slezkine sees Jews as the quintessential Mercurians, modernization is essentially a process of everyone becoming Jewish. Indeed, Slezkine regards both European individualism and the European nation state as imitations of pre-existing Jewish accomplishments—both deeply problematic views, in my opinion.
There are problems with the Mercurian/Apollonian distinction as well. The Gypsies whom he offers as an example of another Mercurian people, are basically the opposite of Jews: having a low-investment, low-IQ reproductive style characterized by higher fertility, earlier onset of reproduction, more unstable pair bonds, and more single parenting.
The Overseas Chinese, another proposed parallel, are indeed highly intelligent and entrepreneurial, like the Jews. But I would argue the aggressiveness of the Jews, compared to the relative political passivity of the Overseas Chinese, invalidates the comparison.
We do not read of Chinese cultural movements dominating the major local universities and media outlets, subjecting the traditional culture of Southeast Asians and anti-Chinese sentiment to radical critique —or of Chinese organizations campaigning for the removal of native cultural and religious symbols from public places.
Moreover, the vast majority of Jews in Eastern Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were hardly the modern Mercurians that Slezkine portrays.
Well into the 20th century, as Slezkine himself notes, most Eastern European Jews could not speak the languages of the non-Jews living around them. Slezkine also ignores their medieval outlook on life, their obsession with the Kabbala—the writings of Jewish mystics—their superstition and anti-rationalism, and their belief in magical remedies and exorcisms.
And these supposedly modern Mercurians had an attitude of absolute faith in the person of the tsadik, their rebbe, who was a charismatic figure seen by his followers literally as the personification of God in the world.
Slezkine devotes one line to the fact that Jewish populations in Eastern Europe had the highest rate of natural increase of any European population in the nineteenth century. The grinding poverty that this produced caused an upsurge of fundamentalist extremism that coalesced in the Hasidic movement and, later in the nineteenth century, into political radicalism and Zionism as solutions to Jewish problems.
By proposing the basically spurious Mercurian/Apollonian contrast, Slezkine obscures the plain fact that Jewish history in the period he discusses constitutes a spectacularly, arguably uniquely, successful case of what I have described as an ethnocentric group competitive strategy in action.
Slezkine conceptualizes Mercurianism as a worldview and therefore a matter of psychological choice rather than a set of psychological mechanisms, notably general intelligence and ethnocentrism. He appears to be aware of the biological reality of kinship and ethnicity, but he steadfastly pursues a cultural determinism model. As a result of this false premise, he understates the power of ethnocentrism and group competitiveness as unifying factors in Jewish history.
This competitiveness was of course notorious in Eastern Europe before the 1917 revolution. Slezkine ignores, or at least does not spell out, the extent to which Jews were willing agents of exploitative elites in traditional societies, not only in Europe, but in the Muslim world as well. Forming alliances with exploitative elites is arguably the most reliably recurrent theme observable in Jewish economic behavior over the ages.
Indeed, Slezkine shows that this pattern effectively continued in Russia after the Revolution: Jews became part of a new exploitative elite. But here boundaries between Jews and non-Jews were unusually blurred—in traditional societies, barriers between Jews and non-Jews at all social levels were always high.
Slezkine supposes that Jews and other Mercurians performed economic tasks deemed inappropriate for the natives for religious reasons. But this is only part of the story. Often these were situations where the natives were simply comparatively less ruthless in exploiting their fellows, which put them at a competitive disadvantage. This was especially the case in Eastern Europe, where conducive economic arrangements, such as tax farming, estate management, and monopolies on retail liquor distribution, lasted far longer than in the West.
Slezkine also ignores the extent to which Jewish competition may have suppressed — arguably sometimes reversed — the formation of a native middle class in Eastern Europe. He seems instead to simply assume the locals lacked the abilities required.
But the fact is that in most of Western Europe Jews were expelled in the Middle Ages. And, as a result, when modernization occurred, it was accomplished with an indigenous middle class. Perhaps the Christian taxpayers of England made a good investment in their own future when they agreed to pay King Edward I a massive tax of £116,346 in return for expelling 2000 Jews in 1290. If, as in Eastern Europe, Jews had won the economic competition in most of these professions, there might not have been a non-Jewish middle class in England.
Although in the decades immediately before the Russian Revolution Jews had already made enormous advances in social and economic status, a major contribution of Slezkine’s book is to document that Communism was, indeed, “good for the Jews.” After the Revolution, there was active elimination of any remnants of the older order and their descendants. Anti-Semitism was outlawed. Jews benefited from “antibourgeois” quotas in educational institutions and other forms of discrimination against the middle class and aristocratic elements of the old regime, which could have competed with the Jews. While all other nationalities, including Jews, were allowed and encouraged to keep their ethnic identities, the revolution maintained an anti-majoritarian attitude. (Some might argue that the parallel with post ’65 Civil Rights Act America ironic!)
Beyond the issue of demonstrating that the Jews benefited from the Revolution lies the more important question of their role in implementing it. Having achieved power and elite status, did their traditional hostility to the leaders of the old regime, and to the peasantry, contribute to the peculiarly ghastly character of the early Soviet era?
On this question, Slezkine’s contribution is decisive.
Despite the important role of Jews among the Bolsheviks, most Jews were not Bolsheviks before the Revolution. However, Jews were prominent among the Bolsheviks, and once the Revolution was underway, the vast majority of Russian Jews became sympathizers and active participants.
Jews were particularly visible in the cities and as leaders in the army and in the revolutionary councils and committees. For example, there were 23 Jews among 62 Bolsheviks in the All-Russian Central Executive Committee elected at the Second Congress of Soviets in October, 1917. Jews were leaders of the movement and to a great extent they were its public face.
Their presence was particularly notable at the top levels of the Cheka and OGPU (two successive acronyms for the secret police). Here Slezkine provides statistics on Jewish overrepresentation in these organizations, especially in supervisory roles, and quotes historian Leonard Shapiro’s comment that “anyone who had the misfortune to fall into the hands of the Cheka stood a very good chance of finding himself confronted with and possibly shot by a Jewish investigator.”
During the 1930s, Slezkine reports, the secret police, now known as the NKVD, “was one of the most Jewish of all Soviet institutions”, with 42 of the 111 top officials being Jewish. At this time 12 of the 20 NKVD directorates were headed by ethnic Jews, including those in charge of State Security, Police, Labor Camps, and Resettlement (deportation).
The Gulag was headed by ethnic Jews from its beginning in 1930 until the end of 1938, a period that encompasses the worst excesses of the Great Terror.
They were, in Slezkine’s remarkable phrase, “Stalin’s willing executioners”.
Slezkine appears to take a certain pride in the drama of the role of the Jews in Russia during these years. Thus he says they were
“among the most exuberant crusaders against ‘bourgeois’ habits during the Great Transformation; the most disciplined advocates of socialist realism during the ‘Great Retreat’ (from revolutionary internationalism); and the most passionate prophets of faith, hope, and combat during the Great Patriotic War against the Nazis”.
Sometimes his juxtapositions between his descriptions of Jewish involvement in the horror of the early Soviet period and the life styles of the Jewish elite seem deliberately jarring. Lev Kopelev, a Jewish writer who witnessed and rationalized the Ukrainian famine in which millions died horrible deaths of starvation and disease as an “historical necessity” is quoted saying “You mustn’t give in to debilitating pity. We are the agents of historical necessity. We are fulfilling our revolutionary duty.”
On the next page, Slezkine describes the life of the largely Jewish elite in Moscow and Leningrad where they attended the theater, sent their children to the best schools, had peasant women (whose families were often the victims of mass murder) for nannies, spent weekends at pleasant dachas and vacationed at the Black Sea.
Again, Slezkine discusses the heavily Jewish NKVD and the Jewish leadership of the Great Terror of the 1930s. Then, he writes that in 1937 the prototypical Jewish State official “probably would have been living in elite housing in downtown Moscow . . . with access to special stores, a house in the country (dacha), and a live-in peasant nanny or maid”. He writes long and lovingly detailed sketches of life at the dachas of the elite—the “open verandas overlooking small gardens enclosed by picket fences…”
The reader is left on his own to recall the horrors of the Ukrainian famine, the liquidation of the Kulaks, and the Gulag.
Slezkine attempts to dodge the issue of the degree to which the horrors perpetrated by the early Soviet state were rooted in the traditional attitudes of the Jews who in fact played such an extensive role in their orchestration. He argues that the Jewish Communists were Communists, not Jews.
This does not survive factual analysis.
One might grant the possibility that the revolutionary vanguard was composed of Jews like Trotsky, apparently far more influenced by a universalist utopian vision than by their upbringing in traditional Judaism. But, even granting this, it does not necessarily follow for the millions of Jews who left the shtetl towns, migrated to the cities, and to such a large extent ran the USSR.
It strains credulity to suppose that these migrants completely and immediately threw off all remnants of the Eastern European shtetl culture—which, as Slezkine acknowledges, had a deep sense of estrangement from non-Jewish society, a fear and hatred of peasants, hostility toward the Czarist upper class, and a very negative attitude toward Christianity.
In other words, the war against what Slezkine terms “rural backwardness and religion” — major targets of the Revolution — was exactly the sort of war that traditional Jews would have supported wholeheartedly, because it was a war against everything they hated and thought of as oppressing Jews.
However, while Slezkine seems comfortable with the notion of revenge as a Jewish motive, he does not consider traditional Jewish culture itself as a possible contributor to Jewish behavior in the new Communist state.
Moreover, while it was generally true that Jewish servants of the Soviet regime had ceased being religious Jews, this did not mean they ceased having a Jewish identity. (Albert Lindeman made this point when reviewing Slezkine in The American Conservative [article not on line].)
Slezkine quotes the philosopher Vitaly Rubin speaking of his career at a top Moscow school in the 1930s where over half the students were Jewish:
“Understandably, the Jewish question did not arise there…All the Jews knew themselves to be Jews but considered everything to do with Jewishness a thing of the past…There was no active desire to renounce one’s Jewishness. The problem simply did not exist.”
In other words, in the early decades of the Soviet Union, the ruling class was so heavily a Jewish milieu, that there was no need to renounce a Jewish identity and no need to aggressively push for Jewish interests. Jews had achieved elite status.
But ethnic networking continued nonetheless. Indeed, Slezkine reports that when a leading Soviet spokesmen on anti-Semitism, Yuri Larin (Lurie), tried to explain the embarrassing fact that Jews were, as he said, “preeminent, overabundant, dominant, and so on” among the elite in the Soviet Union, he mentioned the “unusually strong sense of solidarity and a predisposition toward mutual help and support”—ethnic networking by any other name.
Obviously, “mutual help and support” required that Jews recognize each other as Jews. Jewish identity may not have been much discussed. But it operated nonetheless, even if subconsciously, in the rarified circles at the top of Soviet society.
Things changed. Slezkine shows that the apparent de-emphasis of Jewish identity by many members of the Soviet elite during the 1920s and 1930s turned out to be a poor indicator of whether or not these people identified as Jews—or would do so when Jewish and Soviet identities began to diverge in later years: when National Socialism reemphasized Jewish identity, and when Israel emerged as a magnet for Jewish sentiment and loyalty.
In the end, despite the rationalizations of many Soviet Jews on Jewish identity in the early Soviet period, it was blood that mattered.
After World War II, in a process which remains somewhat obscure, the Russian majority began taking back their country. One method was “massive affirmative action” aimed at giving greater representation to underrepresented ethnic groups. Jews became targets of suspicion because of their ethnic status. They were barred from some elite institutions, and had their opportunities for advancement limited. Overt anti-Semitism was encouraged by the more covert official variety apparent in the limits on Jewish advancement.
Under these circumstances, Slezkine says that Jews became “in many ways, the core of the antiregime intelligentsia”. Applications to leave the USSR increased dramatically after Israel’s Six-Day War of 1967 which, as in the United States and Eastern Europe, resulted in an upsurge of Jewish identification and ethnic pride. The floodgates were eventually opened by Gorbachev in the late 1980s. By 1994, 1.2 million Soviet Jews had emigrated—43% of the total. By 2002, there were only 230,000 Jews remaining in the Russian Federation, 0.16% of the population.
Nevertheless these remaining Jews remain overrepresented among the elite. Six of the seven oligarchs who emerged in control of the Soviet economy and media in the period of de-nationalization of the 1990s were Jews.
As mentioned above, Slezkine’s discussions of the Jewish experience in the Middle East and America are quite perfunctory in comparison.
Slezkine views the Jewish migration to Israel as heroic and believes the moral debt owed to Jews by Western societies justifies the most extreme expressions of Jewish racialism:
“The rhetoric of ethnic homogeneity and ethnic deportations, tabooed elsewhere in the West is a routine element of Israeli political life… no other European state can have as strong a claim on the West’s moral imagination.”
He sees the moral taboo on European ethnocentrism, the designation of Nazism as the epitome of absolute evil, and the identification of Jews as what he calls “the Chosen people of the postwar Western world” as simply the inevitable results of the events of World War II. In fact, of course, the creation and maintenance of the culture of the Holocaust and the special moral claims of Jews and Israel might be more fairly viewed the intended result of Jewish ethnic activism.
Slezkine’s caricature of American history is close to preposterous. He sees the United States as a Jewish promised land precisely because it is not defined tribally and “has no state-bearing natives”. In fact, of course, the Founding Fathers very explicitly saw themselves as Englishmen defending a specific political tradition. But (somewhat like the Soviet Union’s Jews in the early decades) they felt no need to assert the cultural and ethnic parameters of their creation; they asssumed the racial and cultural homogeneity of the Republic and perceived no threat to its control by themselves and their descendants.
And when the Founding Fathers’ descendents did percieve such a threat, they reacted powerfully and decisively, with the Know-Nothing movement in the 1850s and the Immigration Restriction (and associated “Americanization” requirements) in the early 20th Century Slezkine’s acceptance of the “Proposition Nation” myth reflects the triumph of intellectuals and propagandists, many of them Jewish, led by Horace Kallen in the 1920s. These succesfully replaced the previously standard view by which many Americans thought of themselves as members of a very successful ethnic group derived from Great Britain and with strong cultural and ethnic connections to Europe, particularly Northern Europe.
The fate of Russia in the first two decades following the Revolution prompts reflection on what might have happened in the United States had American communists and their sympathizers assumed power. Sectors of American society might perhaps have been deemed unacceptably backward and superstitious and even worthy of mass murder by the American counterparts of the Jewish elite in the Soviet Union—the ones who journeyed to Ellis Island instead of Moscow.
Those “red state” voters who have loomed so important in recent national elections would have been the enemy. The cultural and religious attitudes of “red state” America are precisely those attitudes that have been deemed changeworthy by the left, particularly by the Jewish community, which has been the driving force of the left in America throughout the 20th century.
As Joel Kotkin points out, “for generations, [American] Jews have viewed religious conservatives with a combination of fear and disdain.”
And, as Elliott Abrams had noted, the American Jewish community “clings to what is at bottom a dark vision of America, as a land permeated with anti-Semitism…”
The dark view of traditional Slavs and their culture that caused so many Eastern European shtetl Jews to become “willing executioners” in the name of international socialism is unmistakably related, however remotely, to the views of some contemporary American Jews about a majority of their fellow countrymen.
Slezkine’s main point is that the most important factor for understanding the history of the 20th century is the rise of the Jews in the West and the Middle East, and their rise and decline in Russia. I think he is absolutely right about this.
If there is any lesson to be learned, it is that Jews not only became an elite in all these areas, they became a hostile elite—hostile to the traditional people and cultures of all three areas they came to dominate.
So far, the greatest human tragedies have occurred in the Soviet Union. But the presence of Israel in the Middle East is creating obvious dangers there. And alienation remains a potent motive for the disproportionate Jewish involvement in the transformation of the U.S. into a non-European society through non-traditional immigration.
Given this record of Jews as a very successful but hostile elite, it is possible that the continued demographic and cultural dominance of Western European peoples will not be retained, either in Europe or the United States, without a decline in Jewish influence.
But the lesson of the Soviet Union (as also Spain from the 15th–17th centuries) is that Jewish influence does wane as well as wax. Unlike the attitudes of the utopian ideologies of the 20th century, there is no end to history.
Kevin MacDonald [email him] is Professor of Psychology at California State University-Long Beach. This article is adapted from a longer review [pdf] published in the Fall 2005 issue of The Occidental Quarterly.