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March 2002 • Vol 2, No. 3 •

The Jewish Question:
A Marxist Interpretation 

By A. Leon

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Introduction —Nat Weinstein

This introduction is written for the section on Zionism of A. Leon’s book, which is a Marxist analysis of the Jewish question. We reprint this section following this introduction.

Abram Leon, the author of what is truly a remarkably insightful analysis of The Jewish Question was born in Poland’s Warsaw ghetto in 1918. The Leon family, in a country where anti-Semitism was rife, were ardent Zionists. Abram’s parents, devoted to the cause of creating a Jewish homeland, left Poland to settle in Palestine when Abram was just old enough to enter grammar school. But after little more than a year in the “promised land,” the Leon family decided again to emigrate in 1927, this time from Palestine to Belgium.

When still a young boy in Belgium, he joined the Zionist socialist youth movement, “Hashomer Hatzair” (The Youth Guard). Abram was inspired by the socialism of these young Zionists and accepted without question its nationalist thesis that first there must be a homeland for Jews in Palestine, where the struggle for socialism could then begin.

But like so many youth of his generation in Europe of the 1920s and ’30s, Leon was also inspired by the socialist revolution in Russia and its original goal—under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party before its Stalinist degeneration—of world socialist revolution.

He soon found himself torn between the nationalist precept of Zionist socialism, and the principle of proletarian internationalism and class solidarity inherent in the Marxist watchword, Workers of the World Unite! But it wasn’t long before he perceived the futility of a tiny new nation maintaining its independence from imperialist domination in a world in which all nations, at various stages of emerging from pre-capitalist societies were kept from developing into modern industrial societies by the great imperialist powers.

Influenced by Lenin and Trotsky

The young Leon, inspired by the revolutionary Marxist teachings of V. I. Lenin on the nature of imperialism, and Leon Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution became an avid student of Marxist economic theory and its logical methodology.

It wasn’t too long before Leon came to understand why capitalism in the epoch of imperialism and capitalist decay could only maintain the equilibrium of its market-driven economic system by penetrating into every corner of the globe in a permanent quest for new markets to absorb the products of its recurrent crises of overproduction. He also came to understand that imperialism was also driven by the same imperative toward blocking the industrially backward nations from developing their own economies simply because it conflicted with imperialist capital’s need for dirt-cheap labor and for highly profitable markets for its surplus industrial products.

Consequently, the great majority of the peoples in the largest underdeveloped nations, like India, and the smallest, like Palestine, suffered a permanent state of extreme impoverishment under the heel of imperialism. This remains the case to this day only because as imperialism’s captive nations they are organically prevented from developing into modern industrial societies objectively capable of providing for the basic material needs of their own peoples.

This is not to say, however, that there are no revolutionary eruptions from time to time. But so long as the colonial revolution remains under the leadership of its indigenous capitalist class or of the radicalized petty bourgeoisie that almost inevitably come under imperialist influence, the best such a pro-capitalist revolutionary movement could achieve was a superficial, purely nominal political independence,

Abram Leon also learned that a successful anti-imperialist revolution in such places as Palestine, India, China or Russia was possible only if the workers succeed in constructing a revolutionary proletarian leadership capable of leading the masses of workers and their natural allies among the middle classes toward a decisive social and economic break from capitalism That, as a matter of historical fact, is how the combined anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist socialist revolution in Russia won genuine political and economic independence from imperialism and went on to open the door to world socialist revolution.

Furthermore, because of its planned economy and state monopoly over foreign trade—indispensable first steps in the transition to actual socialism—the Russian October Revolution1 was able to make great strides toward a modern industrialized society. And despite the stifling Stalinist bureaucratic dictatorship, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was able to begin to establish the indispensable economic basis for satisfying the needs of its peoples.

The rejection of this revolutionary socialist strategy by most leaders of the colonial revolutions that proliferated throughout the world after World War II was why the best they could achieve were the mere trappings of political independence while remaining economically, politically and militarily, under the thumb of world imperialism.

Inspired by international working class

Inspired by the image of a world based on international working class and human solidarity as its highest principle, young Abram Leon began his struggle to understand the world and how it works guided by the light shed on its internal dynamics by revolutionary Marxism. His search for understanding included the sorting out and unraveling of the internal contradictions of Zionism and other relevant phenomena. Thus, after having become convinced of the inner consistency of scientific socialism and the irreconcilable contradictions of Zionism, he decisively rejected the Zionist goal of a society united exclusively by national and religious chauvinism, and totally embraced the revolutionary Marxist goal of international working-class solidarity. He spent the rest of his very short life convinced that the only road to human survival was world socialist revolution.

By the time of Stalin’s infamous bloody Moscow Trials (1936-39), whose purpose was to destroy the Left Opposition headed by Leon Trotsky, and the Stalinist bureaucracy’s consolidation of its increasingly bloody political dictatorship, Leon had embraced the cause of the Soviet Left Opposition and joined the Belgian supporters of Trotsky’s Fourth International (FI).

Despite German imperialism overrunning Belgium in March 1940, the Belgian Section of the Fourth International was founded toward the end of that year. Leon took an active part in its foundation along with the Belgian and French Sections of the FI in the underground resistance movement against Adolph Hitler’s German imperialist occupation of these two nations.

Leon wrote the first illegal underground pamphlet issued by the Belgian Trotskyist movement only months after the German occupation of Belgium. German troops also occupied France in the summer of 1940.

In August of 1942, despite the extreme dangers involved, the first meeting of representatives of the Belgian and French Trotskyist leaders took place. From that time until the war’s end they published and distributed their newspaper, La Verité (The Truth) among the workers of Belgium and France. And no less important to internationalists, they also managed to organize support for their anti-capitalist and anti-fascist cause among working class soldiers in the Wehrmacht.

The French also published a German language newspaper, Arbeiter und Soldat (Worker and Soldier), and both Trotskyist groups clandestinely distributed these two revolutionary-internationalist underground newspapers among German soldiers. At one point, Leon assumed the direction of his party’s work among working-class German soldiers.

Abram Leon was arrested by the police in June 1944 and was tortured and sent to Auschwitz in Poland where he was put to death in Hitler’s gas chambers in September of that year.

The Jewish Question





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