Bertrand Russell to Morrell soon after leaving the USSR. Autobiography vol II (1968).

The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism by Bertrand Russell

© Rae West 2000

[Case Against Judaism | Rae West's Home Page]
Russell's deliberate omission of Jews from his study of Bolshevism: Why?
E-mails
Bertrand Russell visited the new 'Soviet Union' in 1920, arriving on May 11th and leaving on June 16th. The official delegation he accompanied (not as an official delegate) was fêted with regimental bands, banquets, speeches, and military reviews. About a week later he wrote to Ottoline Morrell from Sweden—see illustration, right. Two or three months later (September) he wrote the preface to his new book, which was first published in 1920, according to its copyright page. My paperback copy records no reprints until 1949, when he dropped a chapter written by Dora, his woman companion of 1920, and altered the word "Communism" to "Socialism" 'in many places', 'in order to conform to modern usage'. He wrote that, at the time, there was no sharp distinction between the two words.
      The point of this brief note is to point out that Russell, who was perfectly aware of the Jewish nature of the Revolution, or coup, consistently failed to mention it in this book.
      And he continued to fail to mention Jewishness in modern politics, so far as I know both privately as well as in public (though I haven't attempted to check this in detail). For example Russell's character-sketches of Beatrice Webb go into considerable detail as to her family background (something like war profiteers from the Crimean War), her habits (strange use of the word 'we', fasting, dining), and influence with politicians. But Sidney Webb is left a much shadowier figure—he was industrious, in fact very industrious, not very scrupulous, and had been a civil servant. But his Jewishness is omitted, as is any psychological point or philosophical outlook which might be attributed to Jewishness. Even his real name isn't given.
      Why this should be, I have no rational (or irrational) explanation. Russell happily said unpleasant things about Americans, authors, bishops, bookmakers, businessmen, Christians, Muslims, politicians, Russians, shopkeepers, vicars and so forth. Why this taboo? The following remarks don't address the issue directly; I leave it to the reader to note the ways the omission distorted Russell's analyses.

First mention of Jews in The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism
Second, and last, coded mention of Jews in The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism


[[Back to Top]
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 [blackwk@mcmail.cis.mcmaster.ca]

On Sun, 30 Aug 1998, Raeto West wrote:
.... [3] Dora also contributed a chapter on women to 'the Practice and Theory of Bolshevism' which was dropped unceremoniously in the next edition by BR of 1949. On this book, I have a query which perhaps someone could help answer. In BR's autobiog vol II, he says in a letter to Ottoline M, 'Bolshevism is a close tyrannical bureaucracy, with a spy system more elaborate and terrible than the Tsar's, and an aristocracy as insolent and unfeeling, composed of Americanised Jews. No vestige of liberty remains..' Yet in 'The Practice and Theory..' there is no mention of this at all, apart perhaps from hints such as a mention of 'Solomon's splendour' somewhere. What on earth was going on here?
Perhaps the soon-to-be-completed Papers 15: Uncertain Paths to Freedom: Russia, China and the West, 1919-22 has an explanation. As Moorehead is at pains to show, Leonard Woolf was very upset at this private remark published 46 years later.

KENNETH BLACKWELL
Research on Bertrand Russell

X-From: russell-l@informer1.CIS.McMaster.CA
Mon Aug 31 07:54:38 1998
From: "Charles.Pigden" [charles.pigden@stonebow.otago.ac.nz]

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 correspondence—perhaps 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:
In BR's autobiog vol II, he says in a letter to Ottoline M, 'Bolshevism is a close tyrannical bureaucracy, with a spy system more elaborate and terrible than the Tsar's, and an aristocracy as insolent and unfeeling, composed of Americanised Jews. No vestige of liberty remains..' Yet in 'The Practice and Theory..' there is no mention of this at all, apart perhaps from hints such as a mention of 'Solomon's splendour' somewhere. What on earth was going on here?
Surely there is not a problem here. The letter to Ottoline represents Russell's immediate—and raw—reaction. (A reaction he felt free to express to someone of his own age and class.) The book represents his attempt at a balanced view. Moreover it represents an attempt to tell the truth about Bolshevism without raising leftist hackles including those of his wife. We now know that (setting aside the anti-semitism) his raw reactions were more nearly correct than his attempt to take a balanced view. THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF BOLSHEVISM is unduly charitable towards the Bolsheviks. But if it did any good at all in sensitizing the Left to the evils of Bolshevism, it did it because of its studied moderation. A serving of raw reactions would only have been counterproductive.
Regards
Charles Pigden


Delivery-date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 10:20:58 +0100
From: Louis Greenspan [greenspn@mcmail.cis.mcmaster.ca]

Dear Charles,
I have been thinking off and on,of writing an article on Russell and the Jews. Russell's contacts with Jewish life is more extensive than one would think-over twenty articles for Jewish Daily Forward, first recipient of Israel Prize, early champion of Soviet Jewry etc. In connection with this I asked Katherine Tait when he stopped making antisemitiv remarks. She told me that they ceased with the rise of Nazism.
Louis

Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 09:57:38 -0400(EDT)
From: "Charles.Pigden"

Dear Louis,
A. I rather thought it was the rise of Nazism which sensitized Russell to the issue anti-semitism and led to the change of style. ('Change of heart' isn't quite right for the reasons I mentioned in my last missive.) But another—perhaps complimentary—alternative occurs to me. Russell spent a lot of time in the States between the wars and made the acquaintance of a number of Jewish intellectuals, principally philosophers. This may have made him aware of the existence of institutionalized and semi-institutionalized anti-semitism. 'On Keeping a Wide Horizon' (CPBR 1, p. 456) contains some pertinent material. Russell is giving advice on how to be a good citizen. I quote:

'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 to—including the mild social dislike manifest in his own asides, conversation and private correspondence—he 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.
Regards
charles

From: Self
To: russell-l@informer1.cis.mcmaster.ca
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 21:41:42
In BR's autobiog vol II, he says in a letter to Ottoline M, 'Bolshevism is a close tyrannical bureaucracy, with a spy system more elaborate and terrible than the Tsar's, and an aristocracy as insolent and unfeeling, composed of Americanised Jews. No vestige of liberty remains..' Yet in 'The Practice and Theory..' there is no mention of this at all, apart perhaps from hints such as a mention of 'Solomon's splendour' somewhere. What on earth was going on here?
Surely there is not a problem here. The letter to Ottoline represents Russell's immediate—and raw—reaction. (A reaction he felt free to express to someone of his own age and class.) The book represents his attempt at a balanced view. Moreover it represents an attempt to tell the truth about Bolshevism without raising leftist hackles including those of his wife. We now know that (setting aside the anti-semitism) his raw reactions etc.
Thus Charles Pigden. But of course there's a problem. Why should BR suppress an important piece of information? (He explicitly states in his autobiography that he determined to say what he thought about the situation in 1920 in Russia. He wasn't afraid to be outspoken on most other issues.) So what happened?

Regards Rae

Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 02:04:30 -0400 (EDT)
From: Nicholas Griffin [ngriffin@mcmail.cis.mcmaster.ca]

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.
Nick Griffin

Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 07:43:35 -0400 (EDT)
From: Kenneth Blackwell

On Tue, 1 Sep 1998, Nicholas Griffin wrote:
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.
My recollection of BR's letters matches Nick's on this score.

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.

KENNETH BLACKWELL

Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 09:26:36 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Richard A. Rempel" [rempelr@mcmail.cis.mcmaster.ca]

Dear Nick,
Don't you think that more needs to be made of BR being of the late Victorian mind set of so many British intellectuals—much milder that the Continental equivalents—. Look at J. A. Hobson's anti-semitic statements during the Boer War or Henry Labouchere, the old radical editor of *Truth*. It was knee jerk and related to the distaste many Britons felt for the flood of Jews into the country from the 1870s on.—especially into the East End, Moss Bank in Manchester, parts of Liverpool and Leeds. BR and others like him were not like Houston S. Chamberlain, or Stocker or Lueger. The Brits just talked loosely about Jews—but did not call for ill treatment of them. Not trying to let them off—just differentiate.
Yrs., Dick Rempel.

Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 11:50:07 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Richard A. Rempel"

Dear Nick,
I neglected to mention the dislike/loathing that Hobson—perhaps BR—had for Jewish financiers who, they alleged, had been instrumental in conniving to bring about the South African War. BR's allusions to Lady Ottoline (25 June 1920)about Rufus Isaacs(later Lord Reading) surely relates to his involvement with his brother Godfrey and Lloyd George in the Marconi Scandal of 1913, when they were accused of financial corruption in transactions of the Marconi Co. of AMERICA. They were acquitted, but the stain would not wash out. Also, BR was repelled by Lenin's interest in "Taylorism"—Yankee assembly line industry...
Yrs., Dick Rempel

Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 12:14:39 -0400 (EDT)
From: Kenneth Blackwell

On Mon, 31 Aug 1998, Raeto West wrote:
In BR's autobiog vol II, he says in a letter to Ottoline M, 'Bolshevism is a close tyrannical bureaucracy, with a spy system more elaborate and terrible than the Tsar's, and an aristocracy as insolent and unfeeling, composed of Americanised Jews. No vestige of liberty remains..' Yet in 'The Practice and Theory..' there is no mention of this at all, apart perhaps from hints such as a mention of 'Solomon's splendour' somewhere. What on earth was going on here?
Surely there is not a problem here. The letter to Ottoline represents Russell's immediate—and raw—reaction. (A reaction he felt free to express to someone of his own age and class.) The book represents his attempt at a balanced view. Moreover it represents an attempt to tell the truth about Bolshevism without raising leftist hackles including those of his wife.
        We now know that (setting aside the anti-semitism) his raw reactions etc.
Thus Charles Pigden. But of course there's a problem. Why should BR suppress an important piece of information? (He explicitly states in his autobiography that he determined to say what he thought about the situation in 1920 in Russia. He wasn't afraid to be outspoken on most other issues.) So what happened?
    I think you are fastening on the phrase "Americanized Jews". Where BR put the emphasis, or where you do, is unknown to me. What can be made of it for a book? It is true that some of the Bolshevik leaders were Jewish, and that some of these people -- including Trotsky -- had spent time in the US. (This I learned from R.A. Rempel.) Indeed, Trotsky arrived in New York with his family in Jan. 1917 and left in March -- only to be taken into custody by *British naval authorities* when his ship docked at Halifax.
    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.

KENNETH BLACKWELL

Date: Wed, 2 Sep 1998 02:47:55 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Charles.Pigden"

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 opinion—let alone every raw reaction—in 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 folly—not to mention downright rude—to 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!

Charles

Date: Wed, 2 Sep 1998 11:52:43 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Raeto West" [prsjlv1n@hen.scotland.net] 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?
Rae

Date: Wed, 2 Sep 1998 21:57:09 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Charles.Pigden"

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.

Charles Pigden

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

Dear Dick,
I'm sure you're right. These remarks (like all remarks) have to be read in historical context. The context changed dramatically in the 1930s and Russell's language changed with it.

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?
Nick Griffin

On Tue, 1 Sep 1998, Richard A. Rempel wrote:
Dear Nick,
Don't you think that more needs to be made of BR being of the late Victorian mind set of so many British intellectuals—much milder that the Continental equivalents—. Look at J. A. Hobson's anti-semitic statements during the Boer War or Henry Labouchere, the old radical editor of *Truth*. It was knee jerk and related to the distaste many Britons felt for the flood of Jews into the country from the 1870s on.—especially into the East End, Moss Bank in Manchester, parts of Liverpool and Leeds. BR and others like him were not like Houston S. Chamberlain, or Stocker or Lueger. The Brits just talked loosely about Jews—but did not call for ill treatment of them. Not trying to let them off—just differentiate.
Yrs., Dick Rempel.

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)
From: CHARLES.PIGDEN@STONEBOW.OTAGO.AC.NZ follows.

Rae West writes:
Charles Pigden still seems unable to see the point. He comments on proportions of racial minorities etc (in my view probably incorrectly; there are plenty of reports of the domination at the top levels by Jews, nor would this be surprising, in view of their numbers in W. Russia. Moreover because of name-changing of the Bronstein-Trotsky type, it's difficult to be sure). However, the issue isn't what Pigden thinks, or what I think, but what BR thought. I can see why conventional people at the time should have not mentioned this, as the feeling was presumably that Jews had in effect been allies in WW1. But BR was happy to describe whole classes of people as evil and despotic etc, and to discuss the effects of philosophical beliefs on peoples' mindsets, and to shock people about sex, bishops etc. This is why I think his suppression of 'Americanized Jews' needs an explanation. I'd hoped someone might have read what survives of BR's correspondence in detail and have a few serious comments.
Rae.
I am going to have one more go with Rae West and then I shall stop.

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 persuade—especially if he wanted to persuade those on the Left—the 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 this—and I presume he did, though not perhaps the extent of the carnage—then 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.

Regards
Charles Pigden

Date: Sat, 12 Sep 1998 19:27:20 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Raeto West"

I'm delighted that Charles Pigden will say no more on this topic—let'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.
        But maybe some others can address my serious question about BR's book 'The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism' and the fact that in BR's letter, published by BR, voluntarily, 45 or so years later, he described the system as (let me repeat, plus a bit more:) '..a close tyrannical bureaucracy, with a spy system more elaborate and terrible than the Tsar's, and an aristocracy as insolent and unfeeling, composed of Americanised Jews. No vestige of liberty remains, in thought or speech or action. I was stifled.. Yet I think it the right government for Russia at this moment. ..'
        The question is, why should Russell not mention this in his book, given that generally he had no objection to insulting and/or analysing (e.g.) monarchists, aristocrats, bishops, women, Islam, Catholicism and so on?
        The passage, the only passage, I found in his book vaguely referring to this (p. 73) is '..the desire for Asiatic dominion, which is probably accompanied in the minds of some with dreams of sapphires and rubies and golden thrones and all the glories of their forefather Solomon.'
        Another odd feature of this book is the concern BR shows for the British empire and for the possibility that Bolshevism might become a force that might acquire the whole of Asia within ten years (70), showing a concern for the British empire which seems out of place and which he states without any other comment would 'mean utter ruin'. (A similar concern shows up in some of his other books, e.g. where he predicts or fears that stupidity caused by silly education systems may well lose the empire). I wonder if this represents an ambivalence as also found in A J P Taylor, for example?
    There are other odd features (e.g. the absurd contradiction in which 20 he talks of years of persecution and Puritan morality; then on 21 'Most of them.. have better food than other people.'
        No doubt some of this is caused by the loathing BR felt for the Soviet Union—what he always insisted on calling Russia—and perhaps by a deadline being imposed for this book. (Moreover it seems not to have been popular and seems not to have had a second edition until 1949, if I read the publication information correctly, and so seems never to have been revised except in the sense of dropping Dora's chapter). However, I still seek a convincing explanation for this self-censorship by BR in not discussing Jews at all here.
Regards, Rae West. (PS I imagine the page numbers quoted above apply to all copies)

[Back to Top]
©Rae West 2000. First uploaded 2000-07-31   [Case Against Judaism | Rae West's Home Page]
.