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Finally, some E-mails looking at Russell's Practice and Theory of Bolshevism. Late 1998. These are from russell-l, a group closed in May 2000. All emails (except for the first) unedited and unaltered, except for formatting and cutting of header info. I've colour-coded them in the hope of improving clarity.RW
|Delivery-date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 02:48:39 +0100|
From: Kenneth Blackwell [email@example.com]
On Sun, 30 Aug 1998, Raeto West wrote:
| X-From: russell-l@informer1.CIS.McMaster.CA|
Mon Aug 31 07:54:38 1998
From: "Charles.Pigden" [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Re Leonard Woolf, It is clear that Leonard Woolf had to swallow a good deal of low-level casual anti-semitism from his Bloomsbury friends and even his wife. He claimed otherwise and obviously tried not to notice (after all, they WERE his friends and were too decent to be anti-semitic in any deep or serious sense). But he seems to have harboured some subconscious resentments. When Russell was revealed as making similar comments in his letters to those that Virginia had made his diaries this resentment boiled over in what was probably one of his last reviews.
Re Russell. I think we have already remarked on the low-level, casual anti-semitism in Russell's early correspondence. About 1930 he seems to have decided that anti-semitism and other forms of racial and ethnic prejudice constituted a serious problem. Thereafter he was a campaigner against racial and ethnic prejudice, both in his writings and in his personal conduct. There is some good stuff about how to combat prejudice in oneself and others in 'The Importance of Keeping a Wide Horizon' (CPBR 10), NEW HOPES FOR A CHANGING WORLD and elsewhere and I believe Russell refused to join anti-semitic country clubs when invited to do so. (I'm not sure whether he cleaned up his act with respect to his private correspondenceperhaps Ray or Nick Griffin could tell us.). But the interesting question is what brought about the change. It was, of course, a change of emphasis not a change of fundamental doctrine. Russell had admired jews (Spinoza, Einstein) befriended jews (Horace Kallen, various students) and defended jews (Sheffer of Sheffer's stroke fame) before, and he was always proud of Lord John's record on jewish civil rights. But the change of emphasis was quite considerable. So what made him take the matter seriously? The rise of Nazism? A growing awareness of the importance of prejudice in American society? What?
Re BR's attitude to Bolshevism. Rae West writes:
|Delivery-date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 10:20:58 +0100|
From: Louis Greenspan [email@example.com]
|Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 09:57:38 -0400(EDT)|
'1. 'If you are at a party and someone begins to disparage the Jews, or any other race, do not let them get away with it. Remember that it is from such small beginnings that terrible persecutions grow.
2. If you share such a prejudice struggle against it. [There then follows some advice on how to conduct this struggle, together with the comment that Hitler has won a victory in making us 'race conscious'.] if you have such a prejudice that you are unable to conquer, at leastkeep it to yourself. Remember that other people less responsible than yourself may think dislike a reason for persecution.'
I suspect that when Russell realized what dislike could lead toincluding the mild social dislike manifest in his own asides, conversation and private correspondencehe was forced to reexamine his own attitudes. But it would be nice to have some more explicit documentary evidence.
B. Do you think I am right about Leonard Woolf? He SAID that anti-semitism 'had not touched him personally and only very peripherally' (Letters p. 566) but I just don't believe it. There was plenty of low-level casual anti-semitism of the kind that characterized Russell's conversation and correspondence in the conversation, correspondence and diaries of the leading Bloomsberries. Of course, it was not SERIOUS in a certain sense. After all, LW himself was elected to the Apostles and Virginia married him. Nor was he the only Jew to be on intimate terms with the leading Bloomsberries. (Keynes chief disciple, Richard, Lord Kahn was jewish.) But I can't help thinking that the constant drip-drip of the low-level stuff must have hurt. (See the Letters p. 470 for details.) He could not take it out on on his wife or his friends so he took it out on Russell, accusing him of an 'aristocratic' anti-semitism, when the truth was that it was an anti-semitism shared by the upper middle-classes, including many of his closest associates. (Lest anyone misunderstand I should add that LW is one of my minor heroes. His autobiography is excellent.]
C. I look forward to your mooted article.
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 21:41:42
|Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 02:04:30 -0400 (EDT)|
From: Nicholas Griffin [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Charles Pigden asks about the occurrence of low-level anti-semitic remarks in Russell's later letters: From the 1930's on such references disappear (so far as I can remember, completely). It's also true that Russell and Peter refused to join an American club which would not admit Jews. I'm sure the rise of Nazism was the cause.
|Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 07:43:35 -0400 (EDT)|
From: Kenneth Blackwell
On Tue, 1 Sep 1998, Nicholas Griffin wrote:
Russell tells the club story in "Some Impressions of America" (RA1 220.018540), a typed essay of 1944-45 for which I have found no appearance in print:
"Almost all English people, when they go to America, are amazed by the strength of anti-semitism. I could hardly believe it when I first discovered that there are hotels and summer camps which will not admit Jews. At one time I wanted to join a swimming club for the benefit of my children. I found one which seemed admirable, but when the management explained that no Jews were admitted, my principles forbade me to join. I failed to find one in my neighbourhood that would admit them."
Patricia Russell protested in a letter to the editor of an old New York liberal daily in "`Juden Verboten'", PM, 8 Dec. 1942, p. 21. Guilt by association is a nasty device, but it is true that 20 days later BR was fired from the Barnes Foundation.
There is a fair amount on the evils of anti-semitism in Vol. 22 of the Collected Papers.
|Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 09:26:36 -0400 (EDT)|
From: "Richard A. Rempel" [email@example.com]
|Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 11:50:07 -0400 (EDT)|
From: "Richard A. Rempel"
|Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 12:14:39 -0400 (EDT)|
From: Kenneth Blackwell
On Mon, 31 Aug 1998, Raeto West wrote:
If BR put the emphasis on "Americanized", there will probably be parallels drawn in some of his public writings between Soviet Russia and the USA.
|Date: Wed, 2 Sep 1998 02:47:55 -0400 (EDT)|
Two more remarks on Russell's 'Americanized Jews' comment and then, perhaps, we should have done.
Rae West seems to think there is a puzzle about Russell's dropping the comment about Americanized Jews from his published account of the Bolsheviks. There is none. Although Russell was outspoken he did not feel the need to express every private opinionlet alone every raw reactionin public. For example, in 1922 he held the Nietzschian view that all moral judgements are false. He reserved this opinion for his brethren in the Apostles. Since he had alredy been imprisoned for opposing the British Empire there was no need to bring more trouble down on his head by attacking the eternal moral verities. THE PRACTICE AND THEORY OF BOLSHEVISM was an attempt to convert the Left to a more critical view of the Bolshevik Revolution. It would have been an act of follynot to mention downright rudeto needlessly offend potential Jewish readers. Another consideration may have influenced Russell. There WAS someone on the left who agreed with him and she was, quite literally, an Americanized Jew , namely Emma Goldman. (She was born in the Russian Empire and emigrated to the US as a teenager, but was deported back to Russia during the war.) Since her life was probably in danger during 1920, he would not have wanted to add anti-semitic insults to the injuries she was all too likely to sustain.. (Though he did not go as far as she would have liked, her autobiography makes it clear that he was the one member of the Labour delegation for whom she felt any respect.)
As to the comment itself, did Russell have anyone specifically in mind? Ken obviously thinks it was Trotsky, but a much more likely candidate is Zinoviev. As head of Comintern and satrap of Petrograd, Russell is likely to have had more to do with Zinoviev than Trotsky who he only met once. Zinoviev was a flashy orator, but lacking in 'bottom' (indeed Trotsky thought him a coward). In his personal manners he resembled certain anti-semitic stereotypes that Russell would have been aware of. He was arrogant and bullying towards his subordinates and was prone to swanning around Petrograd surrounded by an entourage of bodyguards and prostitutes. (See Figges) Just the other day I was reading Hornung's RAFFLES: AMATEUR CRACKSMAN, which features a vulgar, bullying, arrogant south African millionaire named Reuben Rosenthal, who swans around London in the company of a retired pugilist and several ladies of easy virtue. Hornung is nothing if not an exploiter of the cultural stereotypes of the ruling classes. Under the circumstances Zinoviev was just the sort of person to arouse BR's visceral anti-semitism (visceral, because even then he was probably a bit ashamed of it.) The only snag is I don't think Zinoviev spent much time in America.
All this, as Dick Rempel puts it, is explanation rather than excuse.
Never let it be said that the subscibers to this list are a collection of hagiographers who avert their eyes from the darker side of Russell!
|Date: Wed, 2 Sep 1998 11:52:43 -0400 (EDT)|
From: "Raeto West" [firstname.lastname@example.org] To: Multiple recipients of list [russell-l@informer1.CIS.McMaster.CA]
Both Ken Blackwell and Charles Pigden seem unable to understand the simple point I'm making. BR, who visited Russia, found a 'close tyrannical bureacracy' of 'Americanized Jews', an 'insolent aristocracy'. That's his opinion of what he found. Pigden seems to think BR was referring to perhaps a couple of men. Ken Blackwell seems to think a few more. But what BR wrote is perfectly clear (except for the possible doubt over the meaning of 'Americanized'). Why should he not mention this in his book? The only replies from russell-l seem to be that it would offend Jewish readers and be 'an act of folly', that it was a first reaction & not considered, and that it would be 'counter-productive'. But BR had little hesitation in offending other types of readers. Moreover there are possible philosophical/history of ideas implications, which BR often liked (cf. e.g. his comments on ex-Catholics and ex-Protestants). So why (part from possible rather concealed remarks e.g. on Solomon's riches) didn't he mention this?
|Date: Wed, 2 Sep 1998 21:57:09 -0400 (EDT)|
OK Rae. Here is another reason for Russell NOT to say in public that Russia was run by an insolent aristocracy of Americanized Jews. IT WAS NOT TRUE. The Bolsheviks may have been an insolent aristocracy, but only a minority were Jewish. Though there was a disproportionate number of Jews in the higher echelons of the Party they never constituted the majority. Lenin's politbureau (if memory serves me correctly) consisted of Lenin himself, Stalin, Bukharin, Rykov, Tomsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Trotsky. Only the last three were Jewish. And the proportion of Jews at lower levels in the Party hierarchy was LOWER than on the Politbureau and on Sovnarkom. In fact, the Party was not so much remarkable for its Jewishness as for the high proportion of leading members from the MANY ethnic and racial minorities, Jews, Latvians, Poles, Georgians etc. Only three members of Lenins's Polibureau were of authentic 'Great Russian' ancestry: Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky. Stalin was a Georgian, and Lenin himself was a mixed bag with Kalmyck, Swedish, German and Jewish antecedents. (The Kalmyck predominates in his physionomy.) Why then did Russell tell Ottoline something that was not true? Because he was reporting his raw reactions rather than trying to give a sober acount of the facts.
Let me suggest an analogy. Suppose I boldly go where no philosopher has gone before and give a seminar to the Englsih Department at my university. Afterwards I send a splenetic email to a friend: 'The whole place was crawling with post-modernists whose half-witted drivel made me want to vomit.' Subsequently I am invited to chair the academic audit panel for he English Department and end up writing the report. There is no mention of half-wittedness or vomiting and I either say nothing about post-modernism or blandly report that it is an influential view. (It turns out that the post-modernists were in a minority anyway. My prejudices agaisnt postmodernism and the fact that some of the local postmodernists have a propensity for self-advertisement made them stand out in my recollection of the seminar.) Instead of rantings about postmodernists my audit report is full of dull stuff about teaching evaluations, publications, assessment policies and so forth. Now, suppose too that I become (let us say undeservedly) famous and that my email correspondence is published. A latter-day Rae West notices the discrepancy between my email and my report. He starts a controversy on the Pigden-l list. Various people try to explain to him that a private email is one thing and a public document another, and that there is a difference between voicing one's raw reactions and giving a considered judgement. But the latter-day Rae is not satisfied.
'Pigden, who visited the English Department, found it to be 'crawling with post-modernists whose half-witted drivel made him want to vomit'.. That's his opinion of what he found. Why should he not mention this in his report? The only replies from Pigden-l seem to be that it would offend post-modernist readers and be 'an act of folly', that it was a first reaction & not considered, and that it would be 'counter-productive'. But Pigden had little hesitation in offending other types of readers (or indeed post-modernists on other occasions). Moreover there are possible philosophical/history of ideas implications, which Pigden often liked (cf. e.g. his comments on the Catholicsm of G.EM. Anscombe). So why (apart from rather concealed remarks e.g. on the 'influential voice of post-modernism') didn't he mention this?'
Not to put to fine a point on it, wouldn't such a reaction from a latter-day Rae be GROTESQUELY SILLY? And aren't the similar remarks from the present-day Rae equally so?
In fact, there IS a serious issue here which brings me to yet another reason for Russell to keep his comments about Americanized Jews to himself. Though they were always in a minority, there is no denying that there were a number of prominent Jews amongst the Bolshevik leadership. Their propensity for self-advertisement (I'm thinking of Trotsky and Zinoviev here) together with the anti-semitic prejudices of the age made them all the more noticeable. The result was that many of the Whites came to see Bolshevism (which was certainly an insolent, and indeed, a cruel aristocracy) as a Jewish conspiracy. Thus they took out their anger towards the Bolsheviks on the hapless and largely innocent Jews in the areas they controlled. (Only a minority of Bolshevks were Jews and only a minority of Jews were Bolsheviks.) There was a series of savage pogroms. The irony in this was that the leading Jewish BolshEvIks rejected their Jewish heritage and preferred to see themselves as revolutionaries, workers or cosmopolitan intellectuals rather than Jews The point was well put by a rabbi alluding to Trotsky's original and Jewish-sounding name of Bronstein. 'The Bronsteins are paying for the crimes of the Trotskys'. If Russell was aware of these facts (and I suspect he probably was) he had an excellent reason not to stress the Jewish element in the leadership of the Bolshevik Party, particularly when criticizing the Bolsheviks' tyrannical propensities. He would be stoking the flames of an anti-semitism which was already consuming numerous innocent lives.
If Rae West does not consider himself answered by this I don't know what will satisfy him.
PS. My sources for all this information are the books we have already discussed on the list in connection with BR and the Bolsheviks: Pipes' THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION and RUSSIA UNDER THE BOLSHEVIK REGIME and Figes' A PEOPLE'S TRAGEDY: THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION 1891-1924, also Dmitry Volkogonov's biographies of Lenin and Trotsky. I haven't checked with the texts to verify my assertions but I have a pretty good memory for this sort of thing. Anyone interested should consult the indices of these books under such headings as anti-semitism, jews, pogroms etc.
|Date: Thu, 3 Sep 1998 02:03:37 -0400 (EDT)|
From: Nicholas Griffin
Ken's remark about the timing of Russell's dismissal from the Barnes Foundation and Peter's letter about anti-semitism is very interesting. Was Barnes known to be anti-semitic? Is anything known about the Foundation's attitude to Jews?
On Tue, 1 Sep 1998, Richard A. Rempel wrote:
| Date: Sat, 5 Sep 1998 15:36:10 -0400 (EDT)|
From: Kenneth Blackwell
---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Fri, 4 Sep 1998 08:46:13 -0400 (EDT)
Rae West writes:
In a letter to Ottoline BR writes that the Bolsheviks were an insolent aristocracy of Americanized Jews. THE PRACTICE AND THEORY OF BOLSHEVISM contains no such remarks. Rae West thinks this 'suppression' needs an explanation. Perhaps it does, but explanations of this 'suppresion' [sic; & others sic] are not hard to come by. There are plenty of good reasons why Russell might have chosen to 'suppress' this remark.
1. The remark was not true and Russell may have come to realise this. Though Jews were both numerous and prominent in the upper echelons of the Bolshevik Party they did not constitute a majority. For example, only three out of seven members of Lenin's Politbureau were Jewish. And the proportion of jews at the very top was higher than the proportion of Jews at the second and third levels. At the beginning of 1917 only 959 out of 23,600 Bolshevik Party members were Jews. (Se Pipes RR, p. 511 and RUBR, p. 113.) This is an important point becasue the 23,600 veterans consituted the core of the vastly expanded Party in 1919 and occupied all the senior positions. Less that 5% were Jews. But if Russell's remark was not true why did he make it? Because he was reporting his raw reactions which were fuelled by anti-semitic prejudice. This led him to inflate prominence into prevalence, a not uncommon failing. (Two Asian families buy houses in the street and suddenly its little India.) It probably did not help that some of the prominent Jews (eg Zinoviev) conformed to BR's anti-semitic stereotypes. When writing up his experieinces for publication, BR may well have decided that his initial reactions were somewhat exaggerated and that an insolent aristocracy CONTAINING many Jews is not the same thing as an insolent aristocracy COMPOSED of Jews.
2. Even if BR continued to believe that the Bolshevik leadership was largely Jewish, he had plenty of reasons to play this down in his published writings. His mission was partly to alert the Left to the evils of the Bolshevik Regime. To do this he had to adopt a tone of studied moderation. In particular he had to avoid anything that might sound like White propaganda since this would destroy his credibility with his intended audience. But it was the common cry of the Whites that the Bolsheviks WERE an insolent aristocracy of upstart (I don't know about 'Americanized') Jews, and that Bolshevism itself was a Jewish conspiracy. (Wild claims were made eg that of the 36 commissars resident in Moscow, all but Lenin were Jews. These claims were simply false.) If Russell wanted to persuadeespecially if he wanted to persuade those on the Leftthe last thing he needed was to come on like a rabid apologist for Kolchak or Denikin (Even if, on this point, he secretly agreed with them.)
3. He may not have wanted to needlessly offend Jewish readers with what would have sounded like anti-semitic cracks.
4. Remarks about 'Americanized Jews' may have seemed out of place given that one of his few anti-Bolshevik allies on the political Left was herself an Americanized Jew, namely Emma Goldman.
5. The belief that the Bolsheviks WERE an aristocracy of upstart Jews and Bolshevism a Jewish conspiracy was being used at the time to justify a series of horrific pogroms on the part of the Whites. (Figes estimates up to 150,000 dead. ) Russell's mild anti-semitic prejudices were as nothing to the virulence of White feeling. Like Russell, the Whites were inclined to conclude that because Jews were prominent in the Bolshevik Party, they must be prevalent. Unlike Russell they seemed to think that because most Bolsheviks were Jews, most Jews were Bolsheviks (or at least Bolshevik sympathisers) and should therefore be treated accordingly. If Russell knew about thisand I presume he did, though not perhaps the extent of the carnagethen he may have been reluctant to say anything that could be construed as excusing such crimes.
6. Russell's subsiduary [sic] purpose in writing THE PRACTICE AND THEORY OF BOLSHEVISM was to end Allied aid to the Whites. (He thought the Bolshevik excesses were partly due to the Civil War and that if the Civil War ended so would some of the excesses. Moreover, he thought the Civil War had to be ended to save Russia from economic catastrophe.) Parroting White propaganda by talking of an aristocracy of Americanized Jews would not have served this purpose.
7. Rae West seems to think that because Russell was outspoken, that he spoke his mind on every subject. (Or almost every subject) This is just a mistake. As I explained in a previous missive, Russell kept some of his opinions to himself or to a narrow circle of friends. In 1922 he was briefly a convert to what is now known as the error theory.. Nobody besides his Apostolic brethren knew about this till Alan Ryan published the paper in 1987. Everyone familiar wth the CPBR will be aware that Russell's book reviews, which usually end with some words praise no matter how faint, are often at odds with his virulent marginalia. Russell could be circumspect on occasion and was sometimes willing to moderate or even 'suppress' his opinions. His private thoughts were not always for public consumption. [Note: Russell in his Autobiography wrote: 'To say anything against Bolshevism was, of course, to play into the hands of reaction, and most of my friends took the view that one ought not to say what one thought about Russia unless what one thought was favourable. I had, however, been impervious to similar arguments from patriots during the War, and it seemed to me that in the long run no good purpose would be served by holding one's tongue. ...'RW]
Thus there is no problem explaining why Russell 'suppressed' his comments about 'Americanized Jews' especially as these comments probably did not express his considered opinion.
Date: Sat, 12 Sep 1998 19:27:20 -0400 (EDT)
I'm delighted that Charles Pigden will say no more on this topiclet's hope he means what he says. Since (e.g.) he used the expression 'Vietcong' I've resigned myself to the perhaps obvious fact that he has nothing to contribute.