Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's “The 1920s.” Chapter 18 of 200 Years Together
July 5, 2010
The English translation of Chapter 18 of 200 Years Together, “The 1920s” is now available. (See here, and notice the link requesting donations.) It has a very different feel from Chapter 20, on the Gulag. Whereas Solzhenitsyn’s account of the Gulag stresses his own experiences, this chapter relies on a wide range of academic historical writing to paint his picture of the USSR during the critical decade of the 1920s. His account is therefore based on mainstream scholarship and overall is similar to other accounts, such as Yuri Slezkine’s The Jewish Century. However, it goes beyond other accounts in several important ways and provides a great deal of new information for Western audiences.
It is a very long chapter (26000 words). Here I summarize some of the main points and draw analogies to the current situation in the West.
Solzhenitsyn recounts the migration of Jews to the urban areas of the USSR—the centers of culture and of power. Well over 80% of ethnic Jews moved to urban areas, and they were represented in the government at around their percentage of the urban population and 6.5 times their representation in the population at large.
Russians commonly perceived Jews as dominating the Soviet government, a situation that resulted in anti-Jewish attitudes. A Jewish observer is quoted about the situation in 1923:
"The Jew is in all corners and on all levels of power.” “The Russian sees him as a ruler of Moscow, at the head of the capital on Neva [Leningrad], and at the head of the Red Army, a perfected death machine. He sees that St. Vladimir Prospect has been renamed Naumson Prospect… The Russian sees the Jew as judge and hangman; he sees Jews at every turn, not only among the communists, but among people like himself, everywhere doing the bidding of Soviet power… . Not surprisingly, the Russian, comparing present with past, is confirmed in his idea that power is Jewish power, that it exists for Jews and does the bidding of Jews.
Jews also took full advantage of new opportunities for education, aided by the “social origins policy” in which non-Jews who were children of the pre-revolutionary middle and upper classes were expelled from the universities. Jews were not subject to exclusion based on social origins because they were classified as a “repressed nationality” under that Czar. The result was that the ethnic Russian intelligentsia was “pushed to the margins.” Jews were then competing for prestigious occupations with the children of proletarian Russians. Jews therefore came to be overrepresented in the intelligentsia even controlling for the percentage of the urban population. The Russian merchants and traders were also subjected to a much harsher fate than Jews in similar positions: “The Jewish bourgeoisie was not destroyed like the Russian bourgeoisie. The Jewish merchant, much less likely to be damned as a “man of the past,” found defenders. Relatives or sympathizers in the Soviet Apparatus … warned about pending arrests or seizures. And if he lost anything — it was just capital, not life.”
This is a speeded up version of what is happening via affirmative action in America and other Western societies now. There is discrimination against higher IQ Whites in favor of lower-IQ groups. Jews, however, continue to beoverrepresented in elite academic institutions on the basis of IQ, so they are not suffering a similar level of discrimination. The only difference is that the beneficiaries are non-Whites, not the White working class. Indeed, the White working class is losing the most as a result of the multicultural revolution and, not surprisingly, this is where most of the White anger is coming from (seehere and here).
The Russians were angry too. In 1926 a professor gave a “remarkable speech” in which he described the dispossession of the Russians:
We have isolated expressions of hooliganism…. Its source is hurt national feelings of Russians. The February Revolution established the equality of all citizens of Russia, including Jews. The October Revolution went further with the Russian nation proclaiming self-renunciation. A certain imbalance has developed with respect to the proportion of the Jewish population in the country as a whole and the positions they have temporarily occupied in the cities. We are in our own cities and they arrive and squeeze us out. When Russians see Russian women, elders and children freezing on the street 9 to 11 hours a day, getting soaked by the rain in their tents at the market and when they see relatively warm covered Jewish kiosks with bread and sausage they are not happy. These phenomena are catastrophic …. There is a terrible disproportion in the government structure, in daily life and in other areas….We have a housing crisis in Moscow — masses of people are crowding into areas not fit for habitation and at the same time people see others pouring in from other parts of the country taking up housing. These arrivals are Jews. A national dissatisfaction is rising and a defensiveness and fear of other nationalities. We must not close our eyes to that. A Russian speaking to a Russian will say things that he will not say to a Jew. Many are saying that there are too many Jews in Moscow. This must be dealt with, but don’t call it anti-Semitism.
Notice particularly the comment that Russians were supposed to engage in “self-renunciation” — precisely what we see now in the common expectation that Whites are expected to accept their dispossession without complaint because of their complicity in the pre-revolutionary, traditional culture of America. As would also happen in contemporary America, the speech was quickly denounced as nothing more than “anti-Semitism.” Those who opposed the dispossession of the Russians or criticized the position of the Jews were framed as counterrevolutionaries. “And for counter-revolutionaries there is 9 grams of lead — that much is clear.”
The result was that “the average person saw [quoting a Jewish author], ‘arrogant, self-confident and self-satisfied adult Jews at ease on ‘red holidays’ and ‘red weddings’…. ‘We now sit where Czars and generals once sat, and they sit beneath us’’” “Judeophobia is everywhere in Russia today. It has swept areas where Jews were never before seen and where the Jewish question never occurred to anyone. The same hatred for Jews is found in Vologda, Archangel, in the towns of Siberia and the Urals.”
Solzhenitsyn cites a Jewish writer, Maslov:
“The expression ‘Kike Power’ is often used in Russia and particularly in Ukraine and in the former pale of settlement not as a polemic, but as a completely objective definition of power, its content and its politics.” “Soviet power in the first place answers the wishes and interests of Jews and they are its ardent supporters and in the second place, power resides in Jewish hands.”
As in his chapter on the Gulag, Solzhenitsyn stresses Jewish ethnic networking as a key to their success, again citing Maslov: the “tightly welded ethnic cohesion they have formed as a result of their difficult thousands-year-old history.” “This is particularly noticeable when it comes to selecting staff at institutions — if the selection process is in the hands of Jews, you can bet that the entire staff of responsible positions will go to Jews, even if it means removing the existing staff.” Jews were also aided by international Jewish charities throughout the 1920s, and during the New Economic Policy period (1921–1928), when capitalism was encouraged, Jews quickly came to dominate certain industries. Anger against Jewish success stemmed from the perception that “their commerce was routinely facilitated by their links and pulls in the Soviet apparatus.”
Not only did Jews favor their own, observers noted that they regarded the Russians with contempt. Solzhenitsyn again quotes Maslov: “The preference for their own is displayed in a sharp, discourteous manner which is offensive to others” (emphasis in text).
The Parisian Zionist journal Sunrise wrote in 1922 that Gorky essentially said that “the growth of anti-Semitism is aided by the tactless behavior of the Jewish Bolsheviks themselves in many situations. That is the blessed truth!” And Gorky wasn’t speaking of Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev — he was speaking of the typical Jewish communist who occupies positions in the collegiums, presidiums and petty and mid-level Soviet institutions where they come into contact with large swaths of the population. They occupy leading front-line positions which naturally multiplies their number in the mind of the public.
Russian concern about the overrepresentation of Jews at the highest levels of the party (e.g., 3 of 6 Politburo members) led to a plan for an anti-Jewish revolt in 1924 at a Party conference. It was thwarted when the leader died, “literally on the eve of the conference [as the result of] an unsuccessful and unnecessary operation for a stomach ulcer by the same surgeon who dispatched [Mikhail] Frunze with an equally unneeded operation a year and a half later” (see Wikipedia’s account of Frunze’s death.)
Solzhenitsyn makes the point that the Cheka held life and death power over all of the USSR: “Each of them with the flick of a finger could destroy anyone of us!” Seventy percent of its leadership positions during the Red Terror were non-Russian, but this fell to around 40–45% by the mid-1920s. However, Jews became an increasing percentage of the Cheka at this time; hence, Slezkine’s comment on Jews as “Stalin’s willing executioners.” “In the 20’s the inevitable question hangs in the air that was posed many year later by Leonard Schapiro: why was it ‘highly likely that anyone unfortunate enough to fall into the hands of the Cheka would go before a Jewish interrogator or be shot by a Jew.’”
Solzhenitsyn is emphasizing the ethnic angle to mass murder in the USSR: Russians were disproportionately victims, and non-Russians, and particularly Jews, were disproportionately perpetrators. He also emphasizes that a prime motive for Jews was revenge against the old order. Describing a family of Hasidic Jews who became prominent in the Cheka, he notes, “They thirsted for revenge on everyone — aristocrats, the wealthy, Russians, few were left out. This was their path to self realization.”
Again, the analogy is striking. As emphasized repeatedly on TOO, Whites can expect to be increasingly victimized by non-Whites with historical grudges as they sink to minority status and lose political power. The difference, of course, is that because the Bolsheviks had totalitarian control, they were able to carry out their war on ethnic Russians even though the Russians comprised a dominant majority of the population.
But the general Jewish reaction to this horror has been pride in accomplishment, not guilt for having perpetrated mass murder against their perceived ethnic enemies.
Often these Jewish authors thoughtlessly and meticulously comply and publish vast lists of the Jewish leadership of the time. For example, see how proudly the article “Jews in the Kremlin,” published in journal Alef, provides a list of the highest Soviet officials — Jews for 1925. It listed eight out of twelve directors of the state Central Bank. The same Jewish representation was found among top trade union leaders. And it comments: “We do not fear accusations. Quite the opposite — it is active Jewish participation in governing the state that helps in understanding why the affairs of state were better then than now, when Jews at top positions are as rare as hen’s teeth.” Unbelievably, it was written in 1989.
As usual, Jews themselves had self-serving and self-deceptive attitudes on the causes of anti-Jewish attitudes. For example, Yuri Larin prepared a report asserting that anti-Jewish attitudes were “dreamed up and spread among the masses by an underground organization of counter-revolutionaries!” The closest Larin comes to a reasonable interpretation is his assertion that the anti-Semitism of the Russian intelligentsia comes from competition with Jews for government jobs, but he denied that Jews in fact held an “excessive number” of government jobs.
The result was a government-led campaign against anti-Semitism: “The battle to create an atmosphere of intolerance of anti-Semitism was to be taken up in educational programs, public reports, lectures, the press, radio and school textbooks and finally, authorities were ‘to apply the strictest disciplinary measures to those found guilty of anti-Semitic practices.’”
Again, the analogies with the present are striking, although in the contemporary West there is a greater role for non-governmental entities, such as privately owned media and activist organizations, most notably the ADL and the SPLC. However, whereas current propaganda about anti-Semitism emphasizes Jewish suffering, particularly the Holocaust, in the USSR the ideology was that anti-Semitism was a cloak for anti-revolutionary activities: “The masses must regard anyone who shows sympathy to anti-Semitism as a secret counter-revolutionary or the mouthpiece of a secret monarchist organization.”
Solzhenitsyn alludes to a 1930 ruling that prevented the Draconian provisions of the law on anti-Semitism (prison, confiscation of property, and in some cases, death) from being used in cases of personal dispute. This suggests that at least prior to this ruling, Jews at times made accusations of anti-Semitism in order to win personal disputes with non-Jews.
Because Jews had assumed a position of power and influence in the USSR, the USSR was regarded quite highly in the West. Much of the West, including European and American Jews, maintained feelings of good will towards the Soviets. The Soviet Union was good for the Jews, and therefore received positive coverage in the West.
Positive relations with the Soviet regime were held not only because of European intellectuals’ sympathy for any socialist movement but, to a large degree, because world and American Jewry were satisfied with the status of Russian Jews. Undoubtedly things would be good for Jews under the Soviets and no pogroms threatened. Effective Soviet propaganda further publicized the positive outlook for Soviet Jews.
International good will and sympathy helped Soviet leaders obtain Western, particularly American, financial support. Without that support, the Soviet economy could not have escaped the damage of the “war communism” era.
International good will and sympathy helped Soviet leaders obtain Western, particularly American, financial support. Without that support, the Soviet economy could not have escaped the damage of the “war communism” era.
The fact that the USSR was good for the Jews therefore had a major effect in bolstering and motivating the Jewish left which was the backbone of the left in the US and elsewhere in the West. This in turn had major implications well into the Cold War era. Jews were vastly overrepresented as targets of the McCarthy era, and Jewish intellectuals generally continued to have rosy views of the USSR throughout the 1950s. Most egregiously, the American Jewish Congress — by far the largest Jewish organization in terms of membership — continued to be associated with the far left and was formally affiliated with organizations listed as subversive by the US Attorney General. The CPUSA viewed members of the AJCongress as “democratic forces” in their attempt to create “democratic and anti-fascist” policies in the World Jewish Congress.
Writers like Yuri Slezkine and Jewish activist organizations like the ADL claim that the Jews who played such an important role in the USSR left their Jewish identity behind and completely assimilated to Soviet culture. Solzhenitsyn rejects this myth (see also here, p. 79ff). Despite government hostility toward all religion, Jewish ethnicity remained intact: “A remnant of Jewish self-awareness was preserved and remained. Even in the flood of the internationalism of the 20’s, mixed marriages (between Jews and Russians or Jews and any non-Jew), as measured from 1924–1926, were only 6.3% of the total marriages for Jews in the USSR, including 16.8% in RSFSR, but only 2.8% in Byelorussia and 4.5% in Ukraine (according to another source, on average in USSR, 8.5%; in RSFSR, 21%; in Byelorussia, 3.2%; and in Ukraine, 5%).
Solzhenitsyn makes the important point that the public face of the USSR in the West was Jewish, since such a large percentage of the diplomatic corps and embassy and trade officials were Jewish: A Jewish author notes that “‘In the publishing arm [of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs] there is not one non-Jew’ and further, with evident pride, the author ‘examines the staff in Soviet consulates around the world and finds there is not one country in the world where the Kremlin has not placed a trusted Jew.’”
This then fed into the public perception throughout the West among conservatives that Jews dominated the USSR, with far-reaching implications. Despite the fact that the left continued to see the USSR as the promised land, at least partly because of its treatment of Jews, this was not the case with a great many non-Jewish intellectuals and political leaders, including Winston Churchill, Woodrow Wilson, and the National Socialists in Germany (see here, pp. xxxix–xli).
Hitler in particular saw Jews as being an elite in the USSR and as involved in mass murder of Russians.
Solzhenitsyn also presents an interesting discussion of the struggle for control of the Party between Stalin and Trotsky. Trotsky was joined by two other Jews, Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev. As a result, the “United Opposition” had a decidedly Jewish look, and many of its supporters, followers of Trotsky, were also Jewish. However, Stalin decided not to use the Jewish angle in his battle with the United Opposition because of the power of Jews within the Party and the need to preserve good relations with the West — a comment that says much about Jewish power in the West at that time. He also realized that he needed to continue to curry favor with Jews in his struggle with Russian nationalism and the collectivization of the Russian peasants. Nevertheless, there was an undercurrent of anti-Semitism in the opposition to Trotsky.
Particularly interesting is that Stalin continued to see the Jews as reliable allies in his opposition to Russian nationalism: “At the 26th Party Congress in 1930 Stalin declared 'Great Russian chauvinism' to be the 'main danger of the national question.' Thus, at the end of the 20’s Stalin did not carry out his planned purge of the party and government apparatus of Jews, but encouraged their expansion in many fields, places and institutions.”
This is a common theme in Jewish history from the ancient world into modern times—Jews as making alliances with oppressive elites in opposition to the great majority of the population. Stalin would continue this policy in post-World War II Eastern Europe, where Jews were often installed as a ruling elite in opposition to nationalist movements. (See, for example, the discussion of Poland here, p. 60ff). As ethnic outsiders, Jews had no allegiance to the native population and were "willing executioners" of the native peoples.
Solzhenitsyn makes clear the Jewish role as ethnic outsiders who could be counted on to carry out the war on the predominantly Slavic Russian peasants:
At the 25th Congress in December 1927, the time had come to address the looming “peasant question” — what to do with the presumptuous peasantry which had the temerity to ask for manufactured goods in exchange for their grain. Molotov delivered the main report on this topic and among the debaters were the murderers of the peasantry — Schlikhter and Yakovlev-Epstein (250). A massive war against the peasantry lay ahead and Stalin could not afford to alienate any of his reliable allies and probably thought that in this campaign against a disproportionately Slavic population it would be better to rely on Jews than on Russians. He preserved the Jewish majority in the Gosplan. The commanding heights of collectivization and its theory included, of course, Larin. Lev Kritzman was director of the Agrarian Institute from 1928. As Assistant to the President of the Gosplan in 1931–33 he played a fateful role in the persecution of Kondratev and Chayanov. Yakov Yakovlev-Epstein took charge of People’s Commissariat of Agriculture in 1929. … And thus he led the “Great Change,” the imposition of collectivization on millions of peasants with its zealous implementers on the ground. A contemporary writer reports: “for the first time ever a significant number of young Jewish communists arrived in rural communities as commanders and lords over life and death. Only during collectivization did the characterization of the Jew as the hated enemy of the peasant take hold — even in those places where Jews had never been seen before”
Solzhenitsyn acknowledges that Russians could have been found who would have done the same thing. Nevertheless, “Jewish communists participated efficiently and diligently” in collectivization. It was a war against the Russian people — a war that was carried out with "a certain enthusiasm among Jews."
De-Kulakization was not a socio-economic measure, but a measure taken against a nationality. The strategic blow against the Russian people, who were the main obstacle to the victory of communism, was conceived of by Lenin, but carried out after his death. In those years communism with all its cruelty was directed mostly against Russians. It is amazing that not everything has perished during those days. Collectivization, more than any other policy of the communists, gives the lie to the conception of Stalin’s dictatorship as nationalist, i.e., “Russian.”
This was not only a war against Russians. It was a war against the concept of being a Russian. “The study of Russian history, archeology, and folklore was suppressed — the Russians could not have a past. … Even the word ‘Russian,’ as in ‘I am Russian’ sounded like a counter-revolutionary cry which I well remember from my childhood. But without hesitation everywhere was heard and printed “Russopyati” [an anti-Russian slur]! Thus a Jewish writer demands the removal of “history’s garbage” from the city square in Moscow — the removal of statues and other tokens of Russian historical memory.
Russian patriotism was abolished forever. But the feelings of the people will not be forgotten. Not how it felt to see the Church of the Redeemer blown up by the engineer Dzhevalkin and that the main mover behind this was Kaganovich who wanted to destroy St. Basil’s cathedral as well. Russian Orthodoxy was publicly harassed by “warrior atheists” led by Gubelman-Yaroslavsky. It is truthfully noted: “That Jewish communists took part in the destruction of churches was particularly offensive… No matter how offensive the participation of sons of Russian peasants in the persecution of the church, the part played by each non-Russian was even more offensive.”
This makes psychological sense because the actions of an outgroup member are always seen in a more negative light — an aspect of evolutionary psychology.
Despite all this, Jewish intellectuals and activist organizations have attempted to sanitize the Jewish role in the darkest days of the USSR. Solzhenitsyn notes that now there is a myth that
under Soviet power Jews were always second class citizens. … It’s very rare to hear an admission that not only did they take part, but there was a certain enthusiasm among Jews as they carried out the business of the barbaric young government. “The mixture of ignorance and arrogance which Hannah calls a typical characteristic of the Jewish parvenu filled the government, social and cultural elite. The brazenness and ardor with which all Bolshevik policies were carried out — whether confiscation of church property or persecution of ‘bourgeois intellectuals’ gave Bolshevik power in the 20’s a certain Jewish stamp” (263).
In the 90’s another Jewish public intellectual, writing of the 20’s said: “In university halls Jews often set the tone without noticing that their banquet was happening against the backdrop of the demise of the main nationality in the country. … During the 20’s Jews were proud of fellow Jews who had brilliant careers in the revolution, but did not think much about how that career was connected to the real suffering of the Russian people… Most striking today is the unanimity with which my fellow Jews deny any guilt in the history of 20th century Russia”
A similar comment could be made about the role of Jews in the erection of the current multicultural, anti-White climate in the US, and especially their role in bringing about massive non-White immigration and the erection of the “proposition nation” idea in place of the historical American nation with a sense of White racial and cultural identity. In the USSR Jews actively participated in the destruction of the idea that there was any ethnic or national basis to the USSR and they were eager participants in the destruction of the older culture as well as in the mass murder of millions of ethnic Russians. But Jewish intellectuals deny any special role for Jews in these transformations, and this line is rigorously enforced by Jewish activist organizations.
White Americans must think long and hard about what this portends in a future America where Jews are already a major part of the elite and are already active in promoting alliances with non-White ethnic groups, many of which, like the Jews themselves, have historical grudges against the traditional people and culture of America.
Kevin MacDonald is editor of The Occidental Observer and a professor of psychology at California State University–Long Beach.