Zionism & Communism

Many early Zionists who promoted the Jewish state in Israel, were also utopian Socialists.
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Historically, Zionism and Communism have been closely linked, but it is a complicated history. Some of the early Communist leaders, notably Trotsky, were Jews, and that may have contributed to the idea of connections between Zionism and Communism. The early Zionists themselves imagined a socialist Jewish state -- the terms socialism and communism being roughly interchangeable until the early 20th century -- and drew directly on Marxist ideas in planning that state. Many Communists, however, especially in Palestine, were openly hostile to Zionism.

1 Zionism

Political Zionism sought the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.
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The Zionist movement, which began in the latter part of the 19th century, sought to establish a Jewish state in the historical land of Israel, under the sovereignty of Jews. Zionism, as a political movement, has its roots in Vienna, where Jewish writers and intellectuals, such as Nathan Birnbaum and Theodore Herzl, argued that Jews would always face anti-Semitism and be regarded as aliens and outsiders wherever they lived, and therefore needed their own national identity and state.

2 Communism and Jews

Karl Marx understood history as a movement towards revolution and a communist society.
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Communism was a political and economic theory advocated most famously by Karl Marx. Communism argues for a socialist revolution toward creating a communal, classless state. Marx was Jewish, though his family had converted to Protestantism. One of Marx's early works, "On the Jewish Question," which expresses some anti-Semitic ideas, also addresses an issue important to the Zionists, namely political emancipation. It was a Jew and an early Zionist, Moses Hess, who introduced Marx to socialism in the first place.

3 Socialism and Zionism

Hess was an associate of Marx in Cologne, where he is credited with having contributed to Marx's views of socialism. Hess was also a forerunner of the Zionists, and argued for a socialist Jewish state. Later political Zionists, notably Nahman Syrkin and Herzl, also envisioned the new Jewish state as a socialist utopia, a cooperative society based on the use of science and technology to develop the land. Socialist Zionism, also called Labor Zionism, was the dominant form of Zionism during the period between the world wars, and was the precursor of the modern Labor Party in Israel.

4 Communism and Zionism in Palestine

Many early Communists were Jews, but Stalin himself was anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic.
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Ironically, as the Labor Zionist movement grew in the 1930s and worked towards the creation of a socialist Israel, the Communist Party of Palestine expressed its concerns about Zionism, arguing that both the Zionists and the British were imperialists, and that their political and economic dominance in Palestine went against the communist movement, because it oppressed the Arab working class. In spite of the many theories in circulation today that regard Bolshevism and Communism as a Jewish political movement, Joseph Stalin and the apparatus of the Soviet state were hostile to Zionism and to Jews generally.

Alex Carpenter has worked as a music, history and culture writer since 1998. He has contributed to a range of scholarly journals, online databases, websites, newspapers and encyclopedias, including the "All Music Guide" and the "Charlottetown Guardian." Carpenter holds master's degree and Ph.D. in music.