October 30, 2011

ILYA SOMIN ON COMMUNISM AND THE JEWS. “Jews’ status as an oppressed minority in early 20th century Eastern Europe also played a major role. The government of the Russian Empire (which ruled over most of Eastern Europe’s Jews until World War I) was highly anti-Semitic and oppressed Jews in innumerable ways. It also encouraged anti-Jewish violence, such as pogroms. Krajewski briefly mentions employment discrimination against early 20th century Jews; but that was only one small part of the prevailing anti-Semitism. Because of this persecution, Jews were more likely to be attracted to radical anti-regime movements than most other groups. A movement that seeks to overthrow the government that oppresses you and promises ethnic and racial equality has obvious appeal to persecuted minorities.”

That’s easily understandable, given circumstances a century ago. But why do so many Jews still embrace left-wing politics today, when it has an unrelenting track record of failure and oppression? For the same reason so many non-Jews do, I guess: There’s one born every minute. But not everyone’s a slow learner: “Although Jews were disproportionately represented among early communists, they were also (as Krajewski points out) disproportionately represented among the victims of communist regimes once the latter seized power. Unfortunately, Krajewski neglected to mention that in the 1970s and 80s, Jews were also disproportionately represented among the anti-communist dissidents in the USSR and Eastern Europe. Several of them played key roles in the eventual overthrow of communist rule (e.g. — Adam Michnik, one of the leaders of the Solidarity movement in Poland). Ironically, Jews were disproportionately represented among anti-communist dissidents for much the same reasons as an earlier generation had been disproportionately represented among communists: the dissident movement appealed to intellectuals, and it opposed highly anti-Semitic regimes.”

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