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Debunking the myth of Jewish communism

  • 05 February 2010

Gerrits, Andre: The Myth of Jewish Communism. Bruxelles, 2009. ISBN 978-90-5201-465-4

The myth of an international Jewish communist conspiracy has long been a central diet of anti-Semitic agendas, most notably in Hitler's program of ideological genocide. But equally many authors not influenced by anti-Jewish agendas have suggested that conservative fears of Jewish Bolshevism possessed some legitimacy. The Dutch academic Andre Gerrits provides a dispassionate and balanced account of this contentious topic.

Gerrits acknowledges that the equation of Jews with Communism contains a small element of truth. From about 1870 till at least 1970, Jews were conspicuous for their involvement in socialist and communist parties and movements. The Jewish alliance with the Left reflected a number of complex historical and political factors including the class oppression of Jews who were mostly poor and working-class, the ethnic/national oppression of Jews by various European right-wing governments and movements, and the defence of Jewish claims to equality by most left-wing European parties and movements.

But equally many of the Eastern and Central European communist movements to which Jews belonged in disproportionate numbers were very small movements. The small minority of Jews involved were not representative of Jews as a whole.

The Jewish contribution to Communism fuelled anti-Semitic conspiracy theories such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion alleging that Jews control or manipulate the international communist movement in order to rule the world. But as with other racist frameworks, the Judeo-Communist myth is based on an anti-Semitic construction that exists independently of any objective reality.

It is not about what Jews actually say or do, but rather about what anti-Semites falsely and malevolently attribute to them. The myth reflected a notion of collective Jewish guilt similar to that of the blood libel.

Gerrits attempts to separate the myth from the reality. He considers the lack of reliable empirical data on Jewish Communism, and raises four key observations. Firstly, Jews were not the only ethnic minority over-represented in European Communist parties between the two world wars. So too were Georgians, Armenians and Latvians.

Secondly, Jewish participation in Communist parties varied from country to country, and was not universally significant. For example, there were few Jews in positions of influence in the German Communist Party.

Thirdly, it was not only the number of Jews but also the prominence of some Jews in leadership positions including state security organs that captured popular attention. And finally, the prominence