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The Bund

Pages 63 – 65

Questions to Facilitate Study

1. Why did Bundists (members of the “Bund,” the Yiddish abbreviation for “General Jewish Workers’ Union in Lithuania, Poland and Russia” — Encyclopedia Judaica) oppose the Zionist approach, and why did they believe resettlement in Eretz Israel would not solve the Jewish problem?

2. How does the Bund explain the internal contradiction that arises in its very existence? In other words, how can a party that advocates socialism also advocate nationalism?

3.

  • . a. How did the Bund gear up for struggle against anti-Semitism and pogroms in Poland?
  • b. What are the aims of the Bund, as reflected in the manifesto of March 14, 1936?

4-5. The Bund challenges those who praise Jews for leaving Poland. What did the Bundists want to achieve, and how did they think they could achieve it?

* (The question numbers correspond to the numbers of the sources appearing below.)

The Bund

1. “[The Zionists] speak of a national home in Eretz Israel, but our organization and work oppose this thinking absolutely. We believe our home is here, in Poland, in Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and the United States. Here we live, here we struggle, here we build, here we hope for a better future. We do not live here as aliens. Here we are at home! It is on this principle that our survival depends! If this principle fails, then all our work is illogical and ineffective.

“If my home is ‘there,’ it means that every drop of my sweat that falls here, in a foreign land, is in vain…. Therefore, one can understand why the Zionists rage at us and slander us, saying that we wish to turn Jewish blood ‘into the fluid that will grease other countries’ revolutions.’ All the great revolutions of Europe are alien to the Zionists because their home is in Asia, not here.

“A national home in Eretz Israel will not eliminate the Diaspora. This attitude is tantamount to rejecting the Diaspora practically and spiritually. If the national home in Eretz Israel actually comes into being and liquidates the Diaspora, the Zionist movement will have attained its goal. But they abandoned this dream long ago! The ingathering of millions of Jewish exiles to Eretz Israel is not even on the agenda. Despite all efforts and assuming optimal conditions, only a tenth of world Jewry at the most — after several decades — would be able to settle in Eretz Israel! The Diaspora will continue to exist as before! Only one thing will change: the masses of Jews residing in the Diaspora will lose their faith in a better future!”

Mendam, Neyer Velt, July 2, 192O, p. 12,
in The Politics of Futility, pp. 182-183

2. “Every people’s proletariat’36 needs its own organization that is sensitive to the linguistic requirements and other national traits of its own culture. This has been the Bund’s guiding principle since its inception. The Bund declares that the state’s general party, which has to address itself to the needs of the country’s national majority, may affect some parts of the proletariat of other national minorities in this country, but only a party created by a specific group of workers can reach the core of the proletariat, motivate it, and organize it into one cohesive unit under the banner of socialism. ” 137

Henryk Erlich, Der Iker fun bundism
(The essence of Bundism), p. 5 (1934),
in The Politics of Futility, pp. 158-159

Manifesto — March 14, 1936

3. “In response to the brutal attack on Polish Jewry,138 we have decided to declare a half-day strike of all Jewish workers in Poland on Tuesday, March 17.

“Below are the goals of the strike:

  • “a. To protest the antisemitism of the Endeks 139 and the Sanatsye 140 and to protest the pogroms and killing of Jews.
  • “b. To protest Jewish national and religious reactionism.
  • “c. To protest the boycott of Jewish workers, the dismissal of Jews from all types of economic positions, and the policy of starving the Jewish masses.
  • “d. To protest the persecution of Yiddish schools and cultural discrimination against the Jewish masses; to protest the attempt to form a Jewish ghetto in the universities, and any persecution on national grounds.
  • “e. To protest against reactionism, 141 fascism, 142 and capitalism. 143
  • “f. To support full equality for the Jewish population in all spheres of economic, political, and social life in Poland.
  • “g. To act in support of work, livelihood, and freedom for all national groups in Poland.
  • “h. To promote the solidarity of the international proletariat.
  • “i. To promote effective Jewish self-defense against pogroms.
  • “j. To promote governance by the proletariat and the peasants for the sake of socialism.

Neyer Folkseytung, March 14, 1936,
in The Politics of Futility, p. 212


THE BUND

4. “No, it is not we who are creating a sense of alienation between the Jewish masses and Poland; this is being attempted by those who have supported Jewish reactionism wherever and whenever it occurs, who wish to turn the Jewish masses into a collective of fanatics who are alien to the ideology and struggles of Polish workers. It is an attempt by Polish nationalists, who declare publicly that Poland is merely a temporary home for Jews and that they have to leave as quickly as possible because Poland is antisemitic.

“Our party alerts and will continue to alert the Jewish masses of the fate they share with those in whose country they live.

“[The Bundl urges and will continue to urge the Jewish masses to feel that they are Polish citizens, worthy not only of equal rights with others but also of equal responsibilities. [The Bund] was and remains the liaison between the Jewish masses and life in Poland, for the Polish proletariat’s struggle for a better future and complete freedom in their shared homeland.”

Neyer Folkseytung, June20, 1937
in The Politics of Futility, pp. 217-218

Do Not Flee the Battlefield

5. “The Zionists are unable and unwilling to understand that we Bundists cannot accept, even for a moment, the trappings of a capitalist society. They, on the other hand, wish to remain within these trappings. Because they adapt themselves to the existing capitalist society, they cannot understand the urgency of our struggle in Poland.

“We Bundists wish to shatter the existing economic frameworks and show the Jewish masses how a new society can be built not by escape but by struggle. We link the essence of the Jewish masses’ life to that of humankind.”

Viktor Alter, Neyer Folkseytung, February 19, 1937, p. 29,
in I. Hart, Henryk Erlich un Viktor Alter