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Left Voice - May 21, 2021

Genuine communists — those opposed to Stalinism — always rejected Zionism. While Stalin's bureaucracy was busy making deals with imperialist powers — first with the Nazis, then with the "democratic" imperialists — it was the Left Opposition led by Leon Trotsky that fought for the political independence of the working class. This meant opposing any form of imperialism and colonialism, including Zionism.

In response to Israel's murderous assault on Gaza, there have been massive demonstrations around the world and a general strike across Palestine. The solidarity movement includes socialists who see Joseph Stalin as a model. Modern Stalinists will likely see themselves as anti-imperialists and opponents of Zionism. They might quote a footnote in Stalin's 1913 pamphlet on the national question, written under the influence of Nikolai Bukharin and V.I. Lenin, in which the future dictator describes Zionism as "a reactionary nationalist trend of the Jewish bourgeoisie, which had followers along the intellectuals and the more backward sections of the Jewish workers. The Zionists endeavoured to isolate the Jewish working-class masses from the general struggle of the proletariat."

But how did the Soviet Union under Stalin react to the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948? And what effect did that have on the communist parties loyal to Moscow?

The Soviet Union gave diplomatic recognition to Israel on May 17, 1948, just three days after its declaration of independence. It was the first state in the world to do so — long before the United States.

In a recent article in Jewish Currents, Dorothy M. Zellner recounts in great detail what effect this had on the Stalinized Communist Party in the United States. The CPUSA and associated publications for Jewish people had always rejected Zionism and the idea of a Jewish state. When the Zionist "union" in Palestine, the Histadrut, tried to boycott Palestinian workers, the American communists referred to it — correctly — as a "Jim Crow" institution. The CPUSA, despite its Stalinist politics, had a proud tradition of struggle against racism — and it denounced the racism of the Zionist colonization project.

In 1947, however, the Soviet Union surprised the world by announcing that it would support the UN plan for partitioning Palestine and creating a Jewish state.

Stalin's shift to support for Zionism was vital — one could say that Israel might not exist in its current form had the Soviet Union not offered its backing. Historians suspect that Stalin hoped to weaken the position of British imperialism in the region — perhaps he saw the Jewish colonists as a kind of national liberation movement. But in reality, the prediction of all serious Marxists came true: the new Jewish state became a gendarme for imperialism.

Soviet support for Israel was not limited to diplomatic means, either. Via Czechoslovakia, the Soviet block sent arms to the Zionist militia Haganah, which used them to begin the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. In other words, Stalin gave material support for the Nakba. The Soviet-aligned Communist Party, the MAKI, became an important conduit of support for establishing the Zionist state.

As a result of this criminal policy, the ideas of socialism and communism, which once had great appeal to the Arab masses, were discredited across the region. In the United States, the official communists were already used to accepting sudden zigzags in their political line. Within a few months, the CPUSA was offering unqualified support to the Zionists' ethnic cleansing and spreading false reports about supposed Arab atrocities in order to justify it. ...
Read full report at Left Voice