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Socialist Revolution and Zionism between the World Wars

Tue, December 18, 10:15 to 11:45am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Backbay 2 Complex

Session Submission Type: Panel Session

Session Sponsor: Yad Yaari


Socialist Revolution and Zionism were among the most powerful ideas that delineated the Jewish ideological discourse and political activity between the World Wars. This panel examines the interplay between the two in three different instances: the halutzim in Palestine in the 1920’s; the Marxist-Zionist youth organization and kibbutz movement, Hashomer Hatzair, in the 1930’s, and American Trotskyists in the 1940’s. In the case of the pioneers, their revolutionary ethos proved to be a social tool leading toward entrance into the Israeli middle class; in the case of Hashomer Hatzair the turn to revolutionary Marxism distinguished the organization from the other parts of the Zionist labor movement; and in the case of the American Trotskyists, the Second World War was an historic catalyst which led to a reconciliation with Jewish nationalism. By examining these historic cases from a combined social, political and ideological perspective, this panel challenges some historiographical conventions regarding key issues in the history of Jews and the left. It presents Israeli pioneers not as a revolutionary group but as a socially conservative element; it demonstrates how Hashomer Hatzair was first and foremost a Zionist settlement mechanism and not a radical movement leaning towards communism; and it reveals the diversity of attitudes toward Zionism on the American left.

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