SOCIALISM: Theory of civil polity which advocates public collective ownership, production, and distribution. Jews have been prominently identified with the modern Socialist movement from its very inception. The small circle of the first disciples of Saint-Simon in the third decade of the nineteenth century numbered among its members two Jewish young men of Portuguese origin, the brothers Isaac and Emile PEREIRE. A generation later, when the apostles of Saint-Simonism had distinguished themselves in various fields of science and industry, the Pereire brothers won fame and fortune as the builders of the first French railway, and became the leading bankers and financiers of the second empire.
Paris in the thirties and forties was the intellectual capital of Europe. “Young Germany” was, after the Napoleonic wars, under the sway of French democratic ideas.
The educated German Jews, who were still suffering under legal disabilities and social discrimination, were active in the Democratic movement of their day. The spread of the socialistic faith among the German colony at Paris was therefore bound to convert Jew and Gentile alike. Two of those early Jewish converts, Karl MARX and Ferdinand LASSALLE, were to become commanding figures in the history of socialism; one as the father of scientific socialism, the other as the founder of the German Socialist party. Marx, the son of a Jewish lawyer of Treves, numbered among his ancestors many famous rabbis. The chapters on the theory of value in his principal work, “Das Kapital,” suggest by their subtle analysis an inherited Talmudical bent, though his own education was uninfluenced by Jewish studies, the family having been converted to the Lutheran Church during his early childhood. In 1842 he became editor of the “Rheinische Zeitung” at Cologne; but after a short existence the journal was suppressed by the Prussian government. Deprived of his newspaper, Marx joined the German colony at Paris, and undertook the publication of a Democratic magazine,
The essence of Marx's theory, which won for it the name “scientific socialism,” as distinguished from the “Utopian socialism” of his precursors, is the principle of social evolution. While Utopian socialism sets before mankind an ethical ideal of a perfect society, and hopes for its ultimate acceptance by virtue of its inherent beauty, Marx maintains that the industrial evolution of capitalistic society leads toward socialism, regardless of its ethical merits, and that, moreover, this industrial process molds ethical standards in consonance with the industrial tendencies of the time. Industrial evolution thus being held to be indpanednet of current opinions, it follows that no opposition is able to prevent the transformation of modern society on socialistic lines.
It is evident that this adaptation of the theological dogma of predestination to sociology must beget much the same confidence in Socialist believers as was inspired by the teachings of Mohammed in Arab warriors. It is only in recent years that dissention views have gained currency within the Socialist fold. The movement for revision of the accepted creed is led by another German Jew, Eduard BERNSTEIN, at present a member of the German Imperial Parliament.
Social Democracy as a political movement in Germany began with Ferdinand LASSALLE, who in 1844 went to Paris, where he came under the influence of the
Socialism in Germany in the middle of the nineteenth century was an academic theory which appealed to a college-bred middle-class audience with a sprinkling of self-taught working men. When Lassalle actively identified himself with the movement in 1862, he directed it into the channels of practical politics, conducting his campaign of education upon the issue of manhood suffrage. Ho brilliancy as a popular orator, coupled with great learning, made his propagandic tour a series of personal triumphs. He organized the Allgeneiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein (General Labor Union of Germany), of which he became the first president. The aims of the association were to secure manhood suffrage and government credit for the establishment of cooperative industries. Lassalle was fatally wounded in a duel and died on Aug. 31, 1864; but the Social Democratic agitation still grew, even in spite of fractional dissensions. In 1876, upon the creation of the North German Federation, Prince Bismarck introduced manhood suffrage for the election of the members of the popular branch of the new federal Parliament. Seven years later the two warring Socialist factions, the “Lassalleaner” and the “Eisenacher,” united, becoming the Social Democratic Party.
The repeal of the legal disabilities of the Jews in Germany has removed the incentive to radicalism among them. On the other hand, the political development of Germany has made a place for its middle class (“Bürgerthum”) among the ruling classes. As the majority of the German Jews
While in Germany socialism has attracted individual Jews, in Russia it has become a movement of the Jewish masses. During the reign of Alexander II, the high schools and universities were thrown open to Jews. All classes, rich and poor alike, eagerly embraced the educational opportunities thus offered; and in the eighth decade of time nineteenth century Jews contributed a large contingent of the students. As in Germany, education quickened their resentment of legal discrimination against their race. This was the time when the universities became the hotbeds of socialistic agitation: the Socialists preached and practised the doctrine of equal rights, without distinction of race or creed; and the Jewish student, welcomed as a social equal, began to feel like one of the Russian people. As a natural consequence, numbers of Jewish students threw themselves into the Russian socialistic and revolutionary movement. The anti-Jewish riots of the next decade produced a strong reaction against this socialistic sentiment; furthermore the wave of emigration to the United States carried away many Jewish Socialists, while others joined the ranks of the Palestinians (the forerunners of the Zionists). Anti-Semitism made rapid progress among university students; and even the populist faction of the Socialists (“Narodniki”) fell under its influence.
The revival of socialistic agitation in the nineties found a fruitful field among the Jewish working men and women in the Pale of Settlement. In 1897 was organized the Jüdischer Arbeiter-Bund von Littauen und Polen (Jewish Labor Federation of Lithuania and Poland), which grew rapidly in spite of persecution, and soon became the strongest and best-organized body of Socialist working men in Russia.
The Bund marks a new departure in the progressive movement among the Jews. Heretofore assimilation with the dominant race has been the first article of faith with all Liberal and Democratic Jews. The Bund, on the contrary, asserts the claims of the Jewish people as a distinct nationality. It takes for its model Austria with her polyglot population, where the principal Slavonic tribes, the Poles, the Ruthenians, and the Bohemians, are contending, not without success, for linguistic autonomy, as distinguished from territorial autonomy.
The advocacy of this principle by the Bund has brought it into conflict with the cosmopolitan tendency of the Socialist movement. It is contended by the opponents of time Bund that its policy creates division within the Socialist ranks. It must be noted, however, that the Bund addresses itself to those classes of the Jewish people which under the existing social conditions rarely, if ever, come into contact with other races. At the same time all other Russian and Polish Socialist organizations still contain a large and influential Jewish membership.
The Jewish exodus from Russia drafted to the United States large numbers of Socialists, mostly college and university students, who must be reckoned among the pioneers of the Socialist Parties in America. Their main field of activity was the ghetto.
The Jewish Socialist movement in America has created a Socialist literature in the Yiddish language. The first attempt to present socialism to the Jews in their own language was made in 1874 when two young Russian Jews, Aaron LIEBERMANN (d.1880) and M. Winchevsky, published in Vienna a small magazine entitled “Ha-Emet.” It addressed itself to the intellectual class of the Russian Jews—and was printed in Hebrew, their literary language. this publication, however, was short-lived.
Socialist papers in Yiddish were then established (in the early eighties), first in London, and later in New York; the New York daily “Vorwärts” now has a large circulation and has recently moved into its own building. A monthly magazine, “Die Zukunft,” likewise published in New York, is popularizing scientific socialism among advanced Yiddish readers.