Monday, February 03, 2014

Who Had Fascist Sympathies?

I discovered this (how I did that, ask not) in a book review of Seth Lipsky's biography of his predecessor at the editor's helm of the Forward, Abraham Cahan, written by a D.D. Guttenplan, who writes from The Nation's London bureau, is the author of American Radical: The Life and Times of I.F. Stone (site):

Similarly, in describing Cahan’s bitter dispute with Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founder of Revisionist Zionism—the ideological ancestor of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, and a tendency denounced by Cahan as appealing to “extremist chauvinists”—Lipsky airbrushes Jabotinsky’s fascist sympathies, the better to embrace his “stark assessment of the coming struggle” with the Arabs.

Jabotinsky had no "fascist sympathies", despite studies.  He had fascist opponents, disguised as liberal socialists, who tried, quite successfully, to portray Jabotinsky that way. 

I translated Dr. Israel Eldad's article on the subject, originally published in the Jerusalem Quarterly.

And here is Colin Schindler:

Jabotinsky was scathing about fascism and those of his supporters who purported to have "an understanding" of it. "Duce is a translation of that most absurd of all English words, 'leader'," he wrote. "Buffalos follow a leader, civilised men have no 'leaders'."

...Benjamin Akzin, for many years, one of Jabotinsky's closest associates in the Revisionist movement, described him as someone who united "a first-rate logical mind with the soul of a poet dissatisfied with the humdrum of daily life".
On Jabotinsky's death in New York at the age of 59, Zalman Shazar, later a President of Israel, commented: "Jabotinsky always thought of himself as a beloved child, destined to be the first violinist, not needing any orchestra and not needing to be bound by one." Yet even his bitterest rivals in the Labour movement paid tribute to his uniqueness and his ability to move masses by his eloquence and passion.
The writer, Arthur Koestler, rightly depicted Jabotinsky as a "national liberal" in the great 19th-century tradition, "a successor to Garibaldi and Mazzini". Yet it is often the case that the founders of influential movements such as Lenin or the Baal Shem Tov have their histories revised to align them with current beliefs and expectations. The fate of Jabotinsky is therefore no exception. But students of Zionist history deserve better.

Here's another description:

...some even called him a “Jewish fascist.” Rabbi Stephen Wise was unhappy about what he considered to be fascist tendencies in Revisionism, and he believed that under Jabotinsky’s guidance, his movement was becoming a Yiddish or Hebrew species of fascism. A number of Jabotinsky’s political opponents, at one time or another, who accused him of being a fascist, spread rumors that in 1932 Jabotinsky was in favor of passing the Mandate over Palestine to Mussolini.

His youth movement, moreover, did have militarist tendencies. This movement, Betar or Brit Trumpeldor (named in memory of Joseph Trumpeldor), was created in 1923 with the objective of molding a new generation to Jabotinsky’s views. But he was no fascist. He disliked totalitarianism, dictatorships, and police states and once wrote: “I believe in the ideological patrimony of the 19th century….Today’s ideological fashion is that a human being is essentially dishonest and stupid and should not be given the right to govern himself; freedom leads to perdition, equality is a lie, society needs leaders, orders, and a stick….I don’t want this kind of creed; better not to live at all than to live under such a system.” 
His movement did, however, have some things in common with Italian fascism in its view that national interests transcended class interests and, like the fascists, it favored compulsory arbitration of labor disputes. Unlike Weizmann who met Mussolini on three occasions, Jabotinsky never met the Italian dictator. The advent of Hitler did, however, lead him to some co-operation with Ben-Gurion. In his youth, he had flirted with socialism under the influence of two Italian philosophers, and he had contributed some articles to an Italian socialist journal. He had even tackled Karl Marx’s Das Kapital at that time.

What did Jabotinksy think about the concept of a "leader", so crucial to the fascist doctrine?

Here, from a 1934 article on Herzl:-

...When I was young it was absolutely different. We believed that every movement consisted of people of the same worth and standing; each one of them a duke, each one of them a king. When the time of election came, a programme and not people were chosen; the elected persons merely had to carry out the said programme. We, the mass, would follow them not because they were our "leaders", but because they were our "slaves". If you, voluntarily, elect a group of people and order them to work for you, then you are obliged to either aid them or to cast them off, as in this way you are not being subjected to their will, but merely following your own inclinations,  expressed in the elections. Much contradiction was contained in the theory of my youth, sometimes it was only fictitious, but I like it best, it has more pride, more majesty. “Hadar”, even though it bears a name detracting from its literal meaning “democracy”... 

I can't find this one online: “Jews and Fascism, Some Remarks — and a Warning,” The Jewish Echo, May 10, 1935.

And another appreciation:

Jabotinsky early on in the 1920’s and 1930’s saw the looming threats of Fascism and Nazism to the European Jewish community and urged their mass immigration to Israel. Often accused of being a Fascist by leaders of the Yishuv and Zionist leaders in America, he was anything but that, as we shall shortly see...American Zionist Leader Rabbi Stephen Wise suggested that: “To the Revisionists, like the Fascists, the State is Supreme – the individual nothing.” Jabotinsky replied in "Answer to Rabbi Wise" in The Jewish Call, May 5, 1935: Where, in what resolution or declaration, or authoritative article have you read it? Personally, I hate the very idea of a ‘totalitarian state,’ whether Communist or Fascist, call them all Polizei-Staat and prefer old fashioned parliamentarism, however clumsy or inefficient; and 99 percent of my hardy comrades share this attitude…the fact that we maintain and will go on maintaining – that the striving for the creation of a Jewish state should be, to all these who accept it as their ideal, miles above any class or individual interest…. So did the unity of America, which does not mean [Lincoln] wanted an America where the State would be everything and the Individual nothing.

In the end, his prognosis of what was required of the Jewish nationalist movement was vindicated as was many of his political, economic and social ideas.

It was just jealously that caused the criticism. 


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