Zionism, Bolshevism, Enemies of Civilization: What Churchill Said

Zionism, Bolshevism, Enemies of Civilization: What Churchill Said

In a 1920 arti­cle,  “Zion­ism Ver­sus Bol­she­vism,” Churchill not­ed that many lead­ing Bol­she­viks were Jews. He did how­ev­er not write that all Jews were ene­mies of civ­i­liza­tion. Quot­ing Churchill out of con­text has become a hob­by among those deter­mined to find what they expect to find among his 20 mil­lion words.

In “Jews in a Whis­per” (New York Times Sun­day Review), Mr. Roger Cohen argues that “Jews, with their his­to­ry, can­not become the sys­tem­at­ic oppres­sors of anoth­er peo­ple.” Fair enough, but we then read: “Win­ston Churchill, no less, argued in 1920 that Jews were part of a ‘world­wide con­spir­a­cy for the over­throw of civ­i­liza­tion and the recon­sti­tu­tion of soci­ety on the basis of arrest­ed development.”

“Zionism vs. Bolshevism”

This quo­ta­tion is from Churchill’s arti­cle, “Zion­ism Ver­sus Bol­she­vism,” in the 8 Feb­ru­ary 1920 Illus­trat­ed Sun­day Her­ald. Some quote it to sug­gest that  Churchill was anti-Semite.

Of the three chief Bol­she­vik lead­ers, only Trot­sky was a Jew. (Wiki­me­dia Commons)

Churchill’s arti­cle was an attack on Bol­she­vism (“a sin­is­ter con­fed­er­a­cy”), not Zion­ism, which Churchill main­ly (but not always) sup­port­ed. Churchill mentioned—accurately—that many Bol­she­viks were Jews—and also gave a rea­son: They were peo­ple “reared up among the unhap­py pop­u­la­tions of coun­tries where Jews are per­se­cut­ed on account of their race.” He then named names:

Trot­sky (Rus­sia), Bela Kun (Hun­gary), Rosa Lux­em­burg (Ger­many ), and Emma Gold­man (Unit­ed States)…. this world-wide con­spir­a­cy for the over­throw of civ­i­liza­tion and for the recon­sti­tu­tion of soci­ety on the basis of arrest­ed devel­op­ment, of envi­ous malev­o­lence and impos­si­ble equal­i­ty, has been steady growing….with the excep­tion of Lenin, the major­i­ty of lead­ing fig­ures are Jews.

But context matters:

To quote these lines out of con­text from the rest of his arti­cle is to mis­rep­re­sent Churchill. He added that fig­ures like Trot­sky com­prised only a small por­tion of Jews—which he calls “the most for­mi­da­ble and the most remark­able race which has ever appeared in the world.”

Sim­i­lar­ly to his lat­er indict­ment of Nazi Ger­many, Churchill wrote: “Noth­ing is more wrong than to deny an indi­vid­ual, on account of race or ori­gin, his right to be judged on his per­son­al mer­its and con­duct.” For exam­ple, Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of judg­ing by those same stan­dards. Above all, Jews in every coun­try, Churchill continued,

iden­ti­fy them­selves with that coun­try, enter into its nation­al life. A Jew liv­ing in Eng­land would say, “I am an Eng­lish­man prac­tis­ing the Jew­ish faith.” This is a wor­thy con­cep­tion, and use­ful in the high­est degree. And in our own Army Jew­ish sol­diers have played a most dis­tin­guished part, some ris­ing to the com­mand of armies, oth­ers win­ning the Vic­to­ria Cross for valour.

Par­tial quo­ta­tions tak­en out of con­text dis­tort what Churchill wrote and thought. Above all, no one can seri­ous­ly use his “Zion­ism Ver­sus Bol­she­vism” essay to accuse Churchill of anti-Semi­tism. Writ­ers need to go to the source, and get it right.

Enemies and Extremists

Mr. Cohen also adds a point giv­en him by a Lon­don professor:

A cen­tu­ry ago, dur­ing the Sid­ney Street siege of 1911, it was the Jews of London’s East End who, cast as Bol­she­viks, were said to be “alien extremists.’’

The Sid­ney Street siege was attend­ed and con­duct­ed in part by Churchill, then Home Sec­re­tary.  I can find no con­tem­po­rary reports empha­siz­ing at the time that the Sid­ney Street gang were Jews. Arti­cles men­tioned “anar­chists” and “Lat­vians,” though only one had a pos­si­ble Lat­vian name. They were indeed Rus­sians and Latvia was a Russ­ian province at that time.

Bibliographic Note

“Zion­ism Ver­sus Bol­she­vism” as orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in 1920 con­tained some egre­gious typos and errors. The Col­lect­ed Essays of Sir Win­ston Churchill (1975) con­tains a cor­rect­ed text. Bib­li­og­ra­ph­er Ronald I. Cohen com­pared the two texts with the orig­i­nal errors in brack­ets. A copy is avail­able by email from rlangworth@hillsdale.edu.

One thought on “Zionism, Bolshevism, Enemies of Civilization: What Churchill Said

  1. In ref­er­ence to “Zion­ism, Bol­she­vism, Ene­mies of Civ­i­liza­tion: What Churchill Said“…
    His­to­ri­ans who libel Churchill with the charge of anti-Semi­tism give the false impres­sion that Jews can­not with­stand seri­ous crit­i­cism of their own, imply­ing that they are irra­tional­ly intol­er­ant of all crit­i­cism. For­tu­nate­ly this is false. We Jews know very well how many dan­ger­ous Left­ists have med­dled in the pol­i­tics of for­eign nations with deplorable and fatal con­se­quences. As a mat­ter of fact, some of them are a grave dan­ger today to Israel itself. How­ev­er that may be, it is absurd to claim that Churchill was a Jew-hater or that he dis­liked Jews. It’s as absurd as to claim that he hat­ed Ger­mans because he was deter­mined to erad­i­cate Nazism. All peo­ples have var­i­ous pow­ers for doing deeds of good and evil, of jus­tice and injus­tice, of nobil­i­ty and base­ness. The Enlight­en­ment trans­formed Judaism in bewil­der­ing ways; it cre­at­ed cos­mopoli­tan Left­ists and nation­al­ist Zion­ists. Churchill saw the nobil­i­ty of the lat­ter and sided with them. He gave his rea­sons. He knew the impres­sive pow­er of the Jew­ish peo­ple and admired them. His count­less state­ments against Com­mu­nism and Social­ism explain his stance on those destruc­tive polit­i­cal sects. His see­ing the Jews split into two camps enabled him to give invalu­able and pru­dent coun­sel about how to counter and over­come the dan­ger­ous move­ments of apos­tate-Jew­ry. This was an act of friend­ship, like no oth­er states­man I can think of ever per­formed, for the ben­e­fit of world Jew­ry and for mankind.

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