Marching towards the War Memorial, Birobidzhan, USSR 1987. The banner, in Yiddish reads: "The People and the Party are United" (photo credit: NORMAN GERSHMAN/COURTESY OF OSTER VISUAL DOCUMENTATION CENTER AT BEIT HATFUTSOT)

Since October 7th, global attention has largely shifted away from Ukraine toward the Middle East amid Israel’s ongoing slaughter of thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza following Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.

At the same time, the world has seen unprecedented mass protests in support of the Palestinians and calls for a cease-fire by the international community. Historically, some of the most prominent participants in the Palestinian cause have been Marxist organizations and recent demonstrations were no exception. However, a long-ignored and regrettable chapter in the history of socialism itself can be found in the very formation of Israel, which desperately needs to be addressed.

Whenever there is a flare-up in the Israel-Palestine conflict, the circumstances that led to the former’s 75-year occupation are inevitably revisited. Alas, it would be a disservice for this colossal misstep to remain neglected, especially since it is often used to discredit the legacy of the Soviet Union, which admittedly both voted for the 1947 UN partition of Palestine and was the first state to officially recognize the Zionist entity three days after it declared independence the following year. So how could the USSR at one moment have supported Israel, and why? While it may be far from the minds of those protesting genocide and seem like a rarefied question, it is a topic that is more relevant now than ever before.

Lamentably, there is simply no getting around the historical fact that the Soviets played a key role in the establishment of Israel. Given the previous ardent opposition to Zionism by the Bolsheviks including Stalin himself, as well as Moscow’s reorientation toward the Arab League after its establishment in 1948, it is a brief episode that has long puzzled historians of every stripe.

Yet the purpose of this reexamination is not to absolve the USSR for its tragic miscalculation but to place it in context — specifically that of the national question — an area where questionable political decisions made by Moscow decades ago still have consequences today in conflicts from the Caucasus to Ukraine. Hopefully, by interrogating this period, the quality of discourse on nationhood will improve, particularly in a way that does not lend itself to an anti-communist left whose political success is built upon lies about the Soviet Union.

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In theory, Marxism was antithetical to Zionism. In one of his earliest works, On the Jewish Question, Karl Marx argued for equal rights for German Jews and against the notion that the nature of their religion prevented integration or emancipation. (Despite his own Jewish lineage, this did not deter absurd accusations of anti-Semitism because of certain passages in the pamphlet.) However, there were some early socialist thinkers, such as Moses Hess, who opposed assimilation in favor of Jewish self-determination through the formation of a collectivist ethno-state in Palestine. While relatively obscure in his day, Hess’s fusion of socialist and Jewish nationalist ideas would become the syncretic precursor to the Labor Zionist tendency. From the beginning, there were politically confused attempts to wed Zionism with socialism.

Meanwhile, the founder of modern political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, claimed that his awakening was inspired by the notorious “Dreyfus Affair,” in which an officer of Jewish descent in the French military, Alfred Dreyfus, was wrongly court-martialed for treason in 1894, resulting in a nationwide scandal and political crisis. Even though riots by the French public led to an eventual exoneration, Herzl was unmoved by such a notable historical moment of comradeship between workers and a minority religious group. Instead, he saw it as proof that there could never be mutual tolerance between Jews and gentiles. For the Zionist leader, a rise in bigotry across Europe was the perfect occasion to promote the idea that the Jewish people could only be free from persecution under a self-governed state with the publication of Der Judenstaat in 1896.

There was just one problem: The vast majority of Jews at the time were not committed to establishing an autonomous homeland of their own, much less in a place where they had little connection, as they represented less than 5% of the population in Palestine during the Late Ottoman period. In fact, the Zionists were mostly perceived as reactionaries seeking to prevent the diaspora from assimilating in Europe and around the world. Even when the Balfour Declaration was issued in 1917, its reception was initially lukewarm and many prominent Jews publicly voiced their opposition to the statement, including British Cabinet Minister Edwin Montagu who described it as “a rallying ground for anti-semites in every country in the world” and a “mischievous political creed.” After all, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour himself was a noted racist who, during his previous tenure as Prime Minister, presided over the passage of the 1905 Aliens Act restricting Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe which had increased following a wave of pogroms in the Pale of Settlement.

In the Russian Empire, Jews had faced continuous scapegoating and violence since the assassination of Alexander II. While the reaction of proto-Zionists such as the physician Leon Pinsker was to advocate ethnic separatism, many Jews alternatively began to play a key role in a growing socialist movement which championed their rights. Despite facing heavy discrimination, European Jews largely rejected ethno-nationalism and desired equality within their countries of residence, knowing full well the only way to achieve true liberation was through revolutionary change. The majority also understood Judaism to be a religion and not a nationality. At that time, Zionism was recognized as a racist tool of British imperialism designed to gain a foothold in the Middle East in competition with France and Russia which had their own respective Maronite and Orthodox subjects. Or as Sir Ronald Storrs, the Military Governor of Jerusalem during the British Mandate, would put it, “a little loyal Jewish Ulster in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism.”

Christian Zionism had existed centuries before the Jewish nationalist movement and lobbied for their return to the Levant as a necessary pre-condition for the Second Coming. Academics trace the mythology to the Protestant Reformation with its revival of interest in the Old Testament and a biblical return of Jews to Zion. This ideology ultimately gained traction within the English political elite in the mid-19th century — most notably Lord Palmerston and his stepson-in-law Lord Shaftesbury — who promoted the idea of restoring the Jews to Palestine decades prior to the World Zionist Organization. Even half a century earlier, Napoleon Bonaparte had issued an imperial decree proclaiming Jews to be the “rightful heirs of Palestine” during the French campaign in Egypt and Syria. While the Revolution of 1789 brought about the first laws of Jewish freedom in Europe, the Corsican general exploited their status as a persecuted minority in order to advance French colonization of the Middle East, as the British would after World War I. As a matter of fact, Theodor Herzl would end up citing Napoleon as the first Zionist in an 1899 letter to Kaiser Wilhelm II. From the beginning, the origins of Zionism were non-Jewish.

For that reason, Zionism had to deceptively be made to appear one and the same with Judaism itself. Thus, a mythical narrative was concocted that the land of what would become Israel was the divine birthright of all Jews since they had been driven out of Jerusalem by the Romans in the destruction of the Second Temple. Unfortunately, there was scant evidence of any ancestral linkage of Ashkenazi Jews to Palestine which undermined the entire basis of Israel as an ancient homeland to repatriate. In fact, recent genetic studies indicate that Ashkenazim today are not the descendants of the lost Hebrew tribes of circa 70 A.D. but rather traceable to European origin.

Then there is the more controversial theory popularized by Arthur Koestler in The Thirteenth Tribe and Shlomo Sand in The Invention of the Jewish People that Ashkenazi ancestry originates in the Khazar Empire, a Turkic kingdom which converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages. After its defeat by Kievan Rus, what remained of Khazaria would be wiped out in Mongol invasions by the Golden Horde, which would explain how much of the diaspora later fell under the rule of the Russian Empire. Regardless, it is quite clear that modern Jewry has little to do with the children of Israel in the Book of Exodus.

Even though his stated preference was the Holy Land, Theodor Herzl himself was actually an admitted atheist and did not personally care where the future Jewish state would be located. Neither apparently did the British — whose Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain had first proposed the “Uganda Scheme” which set aside a portion of British East Africa as a potential colony — so long as it fit His Majesty’s geo-strategic interests. Perhaps this is what Israeli historian Ilan Pappé meant when he observed, “most Zionists don’t believe in God, but they do believe he promised them Palestine.”

Herzl’s initial plans had been for settlement in Argentina per Leon Pinsker’s suggestion in Auto-Emancipation, but both Patagonia and the East Africa protectorate proved to be unpopular because of their lack of historic significance to Jews. For religious Zionists, only a restoration of the Land of Israel would suffice. After failing to convince the Sultan Abdul Hamid to sell Ottoman Palestine in a 1901 visit to Constantinople, Herzl appealed to England whose need for a beachhead in the Middle East aligned with the Zionist goal of capturing Jerusalem. The Viennese political activist realized that, if a Jewish state were to ever come into existence, it would require the auspices of an imperial power.

At the same time, the Jewish nationalists were willing to collaborate with anyone in their platform, no matter how unsavory. While Herzl supposedly claimed the motivation for the Zionist movement was to provide sanctuary from pogroms in Eastern Europe, it did not stop him from traveling to Russia in 1903 to meet with Tsarist Interior Minister Vyacheslav von Plehve, whom many held chiefly responsible for the Kishinev massacre that same year.

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Photo taken after the 1903 Kishinev pogrom and massacre. [Source:]

In St. Petersburg, Herzl pleaded for Nicholas II to grant an exodus of Jews from Imperial Russia to Ottoman-ruled Palestine. In exchange for Russian pressure on the Turks to allow Zionist colonization, Herzl offered to help crack down on Jewish involvement in socialist activity — or, as he wrote in his diaries, “take the Jews away from the revolutionary parties.” From the beginning, the Zionists were willing to partner with the very worst Judeophobes in their settler colonialist project. Inextricably, Zionism was also inherently anti-communist, as author Lenni Brenner explained in Zionism in the Age of the Dictators:

“The essentials of Zionist doctrine on anti-Semitism were laid down well before the Holocaust: anti-Semitism was inevitable and could not be fought; the solution was the emigration of unwanted Jews to a Jewish state-in-the-making. The inability of the Zionist movement to take Palestine militarily compelled it to look for imperial patronage, which it expected to be motivated by anti-Semitism to some degree. Zionists additionally saw revolutionary Marxism as an assimilationist enemy which persuaded them to ally against it with their fellow separatists of the anti-Semitic right-wing nationalist movements in Eastern Europe.”

Leading up to his death in 1904, Herzl tried to persuade everyone—from the German Kaiser to Pope Pius X—that a Jewish state in the Promised Land would serve as “a rampart of Europe against Asia” and “an outpost of civilization against barbarism.” In his diplomatic liaisons, the Austro-Hungarian Jewish nationalist placated various world leaders with promises in order to obtain their approval. To the Emperors of Germany and Russia, Herzl sold the idea as a win-win situation. On the one hand, it would enable both monarchs to solve their own respective Jewish questions by encouraging immigration to Palestine as well as dilute the revolutionary socialist groups in which Jews played a pivotal role. Although Herzl would die unexpectedly without having yet acquired enough political clout to see his vision through, he nonetheless laid the foundation for Israel to eventually be created.

By the time the infamous letter sent by Lord Balfour to Baron Rothschild was published in 1917, the First World War had reached a stalemate and an Allied defeat of the Ottoman Empire was uncertain. This did not stop the British government under Lloyd George, himself an evangelical Zionist, from making pledges of a Jewish national home in Palestine, even though it was still under Turkish rule. To make matters more complicated, a confidential war-time treaty had been signed among the United Kingdom, Tsarist Russia and France to carve up the Middle East in the event of an Allied victory.

It turned out this secretive accord completely contradicted formal negotiations between the British High Commissioner to Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, and the Sharif of Mecca which simultaneously vowed to reward an Arab Revolt against the Turks with an Arabian state. This double-dealing by the Triple Entente was only revealed after the overthrow of the Romanov dynasty when the Bolsheviks uncovered the documents and published the text of the Sykes-Picot Agreement in Pravda.

The Russian Revolution further reinforced the peculiar alliance between anti-Semites and Zionists who were united in their joint animosity toward communism and belief that Jews were aliens in Europe. Among those in the British establishment who held such views was none other than Winston Churchill who, while serving as Secretary of State for War and Air, authored an article entitled “Zionism Versus Bolshevism: A Struggle for the Soul of the Jewish People.”

In his 1920 editorial for the Illustrated Sunday Herald, Churchill made the case that, not only was Zionism to be an outpost for British imperialism, but a way of counteracting the Soviets due to the exaggerated preponderance of Jews among the Bolsheviks. While not quite as warped as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Churchill’s racist outlook was not far off from the infamous Okhrana forgery. In distinguishing between “national Jews” in “bankers and industrialists” from the “schemes of the international Jews,” Churchill propagated the paradoxical right-wing trope of Jewry symbolizing both world communism and Wall Street banking with Zionism as a solution.

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Winston Churchill [Source:]

In The Iron Wall, Lenni Brenner writes:

“The Bolshevik Revolution, which occurred within days of the [Balfour] Declaration, was seen by most of the ruling class as a Jewish plot. Although in Britain itself official anti-Semitism never passed beyond immigration restrictions and social discrimination, the British government had no qualms in financing and arming the White Guard pogrom hordes in Russia, thus bearing fundamental responsibility for their slaughter of at least 30,000 Jews. Zionism was seen as another tool against Bolshevism.”

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But first, Britain would have to overcome the obstacle of persuading Jews to support its project, as Zionism was still viewed as a twisted ideology by the majority of the diaspora. Lenni Brenner continues in Zionism in the Age of the Dictators:

“Most of the Jews in Eastern Europe did not see the Bolsheviks as the ogres that Churchill and [Chaim] Weizmann believed them to be. Under Lenin the Bolsheviks not only gave the Jews complete equality, but they even set up schools and, ultimately, courts in Yiddish; however, they were absolutely opposed to Zionism and all ideological nationalism. The Bolsheviks taught that the revolution required the unity of the workers of all nations against the capitalists. The nationalists separated ‘their’ workers from their class fellows. Bolshevism specifically opposed Zionism as pro-British and as fundamentally anti-Arab. The local Zionist leadership was therefore forced to turn to the nationalists as possible allies. In the Ukraine that meant Symon Petliura’s Rada (Council), which, like the Zionists, recruited on strictly ethnic lines: no Russians, no Poles and no Jews.”

Indeed, the relationship between Tel Aviv and Kyiv today starts to make a lot more sense after one learns of the secret 1921 agreement between far-right Zionist activist Ze’ev Jabotinsky and the Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petliura, whose forces carried out anti-Jewish pogroms during the Russian Civil War alongside the Tsarist White Movement. When Petliura was expelled to Galicia by the Soviets, Jabotinsky offered to provide him with a personal Zionist military protection unit and a police force to help his army with a planned invasion of Ukraine, ostensibly to halt further pogroms. In exchange, Jabotinsky publicly denied that Petliura was culpable for previous killings. (The pact would be aborted and Petliura was later assassinated in France by a Russian-Jewish left-wing poet whose family had been murdered by pogromists.)

Shockingly, the Zionists’ willingness to collude with enemies of the Jewish people later included even the Nazis themselves. In fact, it could be argued that the Zionists privately welcomed Hitler’s rise to power because it lent credence to their separatist beliefs. When a ban of German products in the United States and UK was organized in response to the Nazi Party’s persecution of Jews in 1933, the Zionists convinced many Jewish businesses in America and across the pond to oppose the anti-Nazi boycott.

Meanwhile in the Third Reich itself, the Zionist Federation of Germany offered to cooperate with the Nazi government in the event they supported the development of a Jewish state abroad to their economic benefit. In an outright betrayal of their own people, the German Zionists negotiated with the Hitlerites for the transfer of tens of thousands of Jews to Mandatory Palestine in return for opposition to the boycott campaign in what became known as the Haavara Agreement. Lenni Brenner continues:

“The truth is sadder than cowardice. The plain fact is that Germany’s Zionists did not see themselves as surrendering but, rather, as would-be partners in a most statesmanlike pact. They were wholly deluded. No Jews triumphed over other Jews in Nazi Germany. No modus vivendi was ever even remotely possible between Hitler and the Jews. Once Hitler had triumphed inside Germany, the position of the Jews was hopeless; all that was left for them was to go into exile and continue the fight from there. Many did, but the Zionists continued to dream of winning the patronage of Adolf Hitler for themselves. They did not fight Hitler before he came to power, when there was still a chance to beat him, not out of any degree of cowardice, but out of their deepest conviction, which they had inherited from Herzl, that anti-Semitism could not be fought. Given their failure to resist during Weimar, and given their race theories, it was inevitable that they would end up as the ideological jackals of Nazism.”

Even after the Kristallnacht pogrom, or the “Night of Broken Glass,” the secret pact went uninterrupted. As reactionaries, the Zionists were too eager to find common ground with the German fascists in their shared racism and hostility to the left. So much so, they never saw the Final Solution coming and only then was the unholy alliance finally ended in 1941. Still, this has not prevented Israeli politicians today from downplaying Nazi war crimes such as the claim by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it was the Palestinian Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, who put the Germans up to the task all along. According to Bibi, Hitler only wanted to “expel” and “not exterminate” the Jews, an admission that the Zionists regarded ethnic cleansing by the Nazis as helpful to the development of Israel.

Grand Mufti Amin al-Husseini [Source:]

It is true that the British-appointed Mufti met with the Führer in 1941, even though he was not the inspiration for Germany’s genocidal plans. Except an overlooked but perhaps more significant takeaway from al-Husseini’s flirtation with the Axis powers is that the strategic alliance and his avowed anti-communism may have tainted Arab-Soviet relations.

Prior to World War II, it was the British Mandate for Palestine which had increased Jewish immigration into the region throughout the inter-war period. When the Arabs revolted in the late 1930s, the British temporarily suspended the influx of Jewish settlers, incurring the wrath of Zionist terrorist organizations like the Irgun and the Stern Gang whose insurgency launched attacks against British soldiers, assassinated the Minister-Resident for the Middle East, Lord Moyne, in Cairo, and bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Suddenly, the Zionist leadership in Palestine turned to Moscow for a helping hand in a war of independence against their former imperial patrons.

Officially, the Soviets had denounced Zionism up to that moment as a form of bourgeois nationalism which stratified Jews on class lines. In the introduction to Marxism and the National Question, Stalin condemned Zionism as a form of “crude chauvinism” and “a reactionary nationalist trend of the Jewish bourgeoisie, which had followers among the intellectuals and the more backward sections of the Jewish workers. The Zionists endeavored to isolate the Jewish working-class masses from the general struggle of the proletariat.” Earlier, Lenin had even ridiculed the Jewish Labor Bund, who were far from Zionists, when they advocated an autonomous socialist organization for Jewish workers. Moscow was also well aware that one of the primary goals of the Zionist movement was to relocate Jews to Palestine from nations where they had been dispersed, especially the USSR.

Jewish Bund logo. [Source:]

The turning point came with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Understandably, the existential threat of German aggression which ultimately cost the lives of 27 million of its citizens shifted the Soviet priority toward rallying international support for the war effort. Rightly or wrongly, Moscow chose to defer its long-established opposition to Zionism as thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi regime came pouring into the USSR. In the same way that the Russian Orthodox Church was enrolled during wartime to mobilize Soviet patriotism which saw religious life for Christians undergo a renaissance and churches reopen, Jewish religious activities commenced and synagogues were built. By relaxing previous constraints on religious liberties, the Soviets may have been trying to placate their new Allies in the United States and Britain.

At some point, pragmatism began to overshadow ideological concerns and cynical geopolitics clouded the judgment of the Politburo. Without modifying its formal position denouncing Zionism or official stated preference for a democratic bi-national state shared between Jews and Arabs, Soviet foreign policy reluctantly became pro-Zionist in the aftermath of World War II.

The Kremlin had initially rebuffed David Ben-Gurion and the Jewish Agency in Palestine during war-time in consideration of their alliance with Britain, but things changed as soon as postbellum relations soured. Once the full extent of Nazi atrocities committed against Jews was revealed, Moscow wrongly assumed that, after having saved their ethnicity from extermination while Western countries enabled the rise of fascism, a Jewish state would be one that was pro-Soviet. Needless to say, this was quickly shown to be a false prediction but it was too late. In the eleventh hour, the USSR voted in favor of the UN proposal to divide Palestine. The Zionists had taken full advantage of the post-war circumstances with the collective responsibility felt toward the treatment of Jews while the Soviets regrettably fell for the deception of Zionism as interchangeable with Judaism.

It is difficult to say precisely what led to such an unforgivable mistake on the part of the Comintern but many forget that the Zionists also successfully portrayed themselves as socialists in this period. By the 1930s, Ben-Gurion and the secular Labor Zionist faction had surpassed the Political Zionist wing led by Chaim Weizmann, both internationally and within the Yishuv.

Given its reactionary record, this was perceived as an encouraging change. Unlike their counterparts, Labor Zionists espoused that a Jewish state could only be formed through its proletariat making aliyah to the Holy Land and developing a new society centered around collective farming (kibbutzim). On this basis, a limited number of Soviet Jews were permitted to emigrate in the naive hope that a Jewish proto-state would become socialist and expedite the decline of British imperialism in the region.

Of course, the irreconcilable ethnocratic contradictions of kibbutzism soon eclipsed any utopian ideals of communal living it purported to uphold through its brutal exclusion of indigenous Arabs. It is worth noting, however, that the Soviets were far from the only socialists misguided by the Labor Zionists, which included the Communist Party USA and even Albert Einstein among supporters.

To their credit, the Soviets had already done a great deal to try to solve the Jewish national question without displacing any native inhabitants in the process, with mixed results. After the February Revolution, the Pale of Settlement confining Russian Jews was abolished by the provisional government and all discriminatory Tsarist-era legislation was nullified. Once the Bolsheviks took power, the condition of Jews as an oppressed minority was addressed as part of the nationalities problem generally — which was their first mistake. Hebrew was outlawed because of its Zionist associations while Yiddish-speaking was encouraged in its place so that Jewish language and culture would be “national in form, socialist in content.”

Yet by undeservingly elevating the identity of Jews to the standing of a nationality, the Soviets may have inadvertently strengthened Zionist dogma in the long run. While serving as the People’s Commissar for Nationality Affairs, Stalin had clearly defined the nationality qualifications for a minority group as the sharing of a common culture, language, and territory. Even though the transnational Jewish diaspora did not meet the requirement for the final category, nationhood status was awarded and with it came the prospect of a Soviet-based homeland to rival Zionist aspirations in Palestine.

Following the Russian Civil War, the Bolsheviks originally considered the Crimea as a suitable zone for Jewish autonomy due to its significant minority population. But by the late 1920s — mostly in response to the rise in agricultural settlements in Mandatory Palestine — Stalin set up Birobidzhan, or the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, a remote territory in the far east reserved for Jewish settlement. Encouraging Soviet Jewry to migrate to the Siberian town on its border with China, Birobidzhan was not unlike other administrative units put in place for the sovereignty of the various nationalities previously oppressed under the Russian Empire, which Lenin had dubbed the “prison house of peoples.” While its aims of developing a substitute were intended to divert Soviet Jews away from Palestine, it ultimately backfired.

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Due to its severe climate and the inability of territorialism to compete with Zionism, Birobidzhan never attracted enough Jews to contend with Israel, though at its peak its minority population was estimated to be around 30,000. While mainstream accounts directly attribute the failure of the JAR to Stalin and the purges of the 1930s which weakened Birobidzhan’s leadership, other historians such as Grover Furr have placed blame for the excesses of the NKVD on Nikolai Yezhov. (Although the district still exists in the present-day Russian Federation, just 1% of the remaining population is Jewish.) In the end, the unrealized dream of Birobidzhan meant that no progressive alternative to Zionism stood in its way. Not coincidentally, a socialistic façade was initially given to Israel in order to entice Jewish immigration into the newly formed ethnocracy, a left-wing pretense that was just as quickly abandoned.

It is hard not to wonder if the Soviets could have prevented the creation of Israel given the USSR’s emergence as one of the two Cold War superpowers. On the one hand, the question of Palestine was not a domestic Soviet matter where the Kremlin was the sole contributing factor but rather one of several states involved when the British Mandate was handed over to the United Nations and Resolution 181 was adopted. Then again, without the crucial shipment of Soviet arms via Czechoslovakia, it is likely that the Haganah would not have prevailed.

For any Marxist-Leninist, it is sickening to know those weapons were used to massacre Arabs in the Nakba, not to mention forcibly expel more than 700,000 Palestinians. What is certain is that realpolitik and Moscow’s overemphasis on ensuring a withdrawal of the British corrupted its decision-making and it is forever a stain on Soviet history. In hindsight, the Kremlin was slow to recognize that Washington had become its larger foe and Israel’s closest ally.

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Scene from the Palestinian Nakba. [Source:]

The synthetic left never misses the chance to cite the short-lived Soviet-Zionist cooperation as evidence of a revolutionary betrayal by leadership after Lenin’s death. While even the most hard-line defenders of the USSR would concede the disastrous move as deserving of the utmost criticism, only opportunists would weaponize the Palestinian tragedy to try to diminish the achievements of the world’s first socialist state.

For an intellectually impoverished Western left, it is much easier to blame it all on Uncle Joe. Failing to recognize the complex historical conditions which led to such an unfortunate turn of events is anti-Marxist. That the Soviets so quickly reversed course suggests there was internal division over the issue which refutes the presumption that policymaking came simply by dictatorial rule. The inability to grasp complicated historical factors has resulted in a similar misunderstanding of the Russia-Ukraine conflict by the mainstream left which can never be allowed to have the final say on matters of Soviet history.

As Friedrich Engels wrote on the Irish question:

The bourgeoisie turns everything into a commodity, hence also the writing of history. It is part of its being, of its condition for existence, to falsify all goods: it falsified the writing of history. And the bestpaid historiography is that which is best falsified for the purposes of the bourgeoisie.”

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