Citing the description of American Communism in the Jewish Women’s Archive Encyclopedia and a recent New York Times article on the same subject by the radical author Vivian Gornick, Ruth Wisse notes a “celebratory tone,” as if describing “champions of a noble cause.” This tone, she writes, is grotesquely wrong:
This is Soviet Communism we are talking about—that killed an estimated 30 million of its own citizens, including through a government-enforced famine in Ukraine, the details of which even people hardened by Holocaust literature have trouble reading. . . . This is the movement that struck a pact with Hitler precipitating the war against Poland, and built the Gulag. . . .
Regarding Jews and Judaism, Soviet Communism forbade the practice of religion and the study of Hebrew. The Jewish section of the Communist party took the lead in persecuting rabbis and teachers, killing some, sending others to certain death. The Soviets hailed the 1929 Arab massacres of Jews in Palestine as the start of the Arab Communist revolution and formulated the slogans of anti-Zionism that are the basis of anti-Semitism in America today. Soviet propaganda accused Jews of imperialism in the 1930s and (with the Arabs) of racism in the 1970s. . . .
The Soviets used the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee to win American support during World War II and then executed its leadership in 1952. Might Gornick say that in these ways Communism prodded Jews into becoming the righteous people they always aspired to be? . . .
In no way does any of this imply that Jews are responsible for Communism, as some of its former European subjects try to claim. That false accusation should be exposed as strenuously as any blood libel or accusation of deicide. Communism did at least as much damage to Jews as to any other people, but in the name of that damage, we are also obliged to take seriously that many Jews supported one of the most murderous regimes in history and to see how and why and to what extent they went wrong.