“Stalin`s Willing Executioners”? Girin vs. MacDonald

[Also by Eugene Girin: Russian Mafia Comes To Upstate New York]

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:

[Recently by Kevin MacDonald: Immigration And The Unmentionable Question Of Ethnic Interests]

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.