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The Myth of Jewish Communism

A Historical Interpretation


André W.M Gerrits

‘Jewish Communism’ was one of the most powerful and destructive political myths in 20 th -century Europe. The cry of Jewish communist conspiracy turned traditional, often religiously inspired anti-Jewish sentiments into a murderous anti-Semitic rampage.
The connection of Jews with communism has always been an extremely sensitive issue, which cannot simply be dismissed as a fully irrational phenomenon. Jews were disproportionately present in the revolutionary movement. This does not make the myth of Jewish Communism less mythical, but it does imply that real interests and conflicts were involved.
This book presents the first full-length analysis of the identification of Jews with communism. It traces the myth of Jewish Communism from the traditional anti-Jewish prejudices on which it is built, to its crucial role in Eastern European Stalinist and post-Stalinist politics. It documents the painful controversies that the participation of Jews in the revolutionary movement has generated among Jewish observers, among communists, and also among historians.


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Introduction 9


9 Introduction Few historians would deny that “Jewish Communism”, a variant of the “Jewish World Conspiracy”, has been one of the most powerful and destructive political myths in early-20th century Europe. The myth would have a tremendous impact on European Jewry and, to a lesser extent, on communism. The cry of the Jewish communist conspiracy added new fuel to existing anti-Jewish sentiments. The identification of the corporate Jew with the two gravest political dangers of those times – communism and the Soviet Union – proved to be the “most potent weapon of inter-war official anti-Semitism” (Lendvai 1971: 46). It was the nucleus of Hitler’s Weltanschauung. The identification of Jews with communism coloured the perceptions of Jews in general and of the Jewish question in particular. It turned traditional, often religiously inspired anti-Jewish sentiments into a murderous, politically motivated rampage. Additionally, the myth of Jewish Communism was not only mobilised against the communist movement but, by a macabre twist of history, also became a prominent means of agitation and propaganda in the hands of communist regimes themselves, who used it against their enemies within and outside of the Party. After the death of Stalin, when bitter infighting marked the initial phase of de-Stalinisation, communist leaders in East Central Europe invented their own variant of “Judeo-Communism”: the myth of “Jewish Stalinism”. Communism was supposedly true, honest, and national; while Stalinism was imposed upon the nations of East Central Europe by outside forces, by “non- or anti-national” elements, in other words: by Jews! The rather...

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