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"Bund" Judaism in America "Bund" Judaism in America
by Joseph Gatt
2021-07-18 09:59:25
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The Bund was a socialist Jewish organization that took shape in 19th century Russia.

19th century Russia was peculiar. There were cholera epidemics, and the industrial revolution never really picked up. Russians tried their luck with factories and industrialization, but in the 19th century, industrialization caused more pollution and mismanagement than economic growth.

bund000001_400So factories were polluting the waters and the environment without producing anything of value in Russia. And Russian entrepreneurs were behaving with a lot of excess, which led to Socialist organizations to form in Russia, including the “Bund” or a very popular Jewish Russian Socialist organization.

The “Bund” was a Jewish-Russian organization that believed in equality, and believed in vilifying the class of industrial entrepreneurs who were doing more harm than good. Perhaps, more relevant today, the Bund was strictly opposed to the Zionist project and to the creation of the State of Israel, as the Bund believed in the Russian revolution, in staying in Russia, and in living in a Russia Socialist utopia of sorts.

“Internationalism” was the main reason the Bund opposed the State of Israel. The Bund tended to believe that Socialism is an international cause, while Zionism is the cause of a nation-state independent from all others, and that the creation of Israel would lead Jews to reclusion rather than inclusion.

The Bund has disappeared, but the heritage remains. I've met a few Jewish friends, both Russian and American of Russian descent, who still identify with the Bund. Same old socialist ideals, same hatred of the entrepreneurial class, same belief in Socialist internationalism.

Now there has been recent talk of American Jews, some say 25% of them, being anti-Zionist, and many are surprised by the existence of anti-Zionist Jews, and by as many as 1 in 4 American Jews being opposed to the existence of the State of Israel, or at least sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, or at least very critical of Israeli policy towards to Palestinians.

But you need to remember a big chunk of America’s Jewish population is the descendents of Russian and Eastern European immigrants. Many of their ancestors were active members of the Bund. And many were convinced Socialists, or at least Liberals in the American sense (in the US Liberalism usually means Social-democracy with lots of government intervention).

So these descendents of Bund members still tend to believe in international socialism, still believe in internationalism, and tend to be very critical of right-wing Israeli governments, or of Israeli nationalism.

Now American Jewish Socialists did, to some extent, respect Golda Meir and Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin's version of Labor Zionism, which was socialism, with a bit of an internationalist bent, while defending the borders of the State of Israel.

But keep in mind that the Bund was, and still is, about eradicating the entrepreneurial class. The Bund is also about factories and companies owned by employees, with CEOs making the same wages as other employees. And the Bund is about internationalism, and wants the entire world to unite under socialism, with the ending of the notion of nation-states.

So rumor has it that American Jews are hardcore Zionists who lobby Congress to pass legislation favorable to the State of Israel. These Jews exist, but not all American Jews have the same political views as AIPAC.

Many Jews are actually very critical of AIPAC and of Jewish-American organizations that support the State of Israel, some would say “unconditionally”. And those Jews tend to be Socialists, of Eastern European descent, usually third or fourth or fifth generation Eastern European Jews, who sometimes strongly relate to their ancestors' Bund heritage.

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