What is annexation?
Annexation is the act of applying a country’s laws onto territory claimed by another country, usually without violence. In practical terms, this means that an area goes from belonging to one country to belonging to another one. For example, Texas stopped being an independent republic and joined the United States after its territory was annexed in 1845.
Countries are usually only able to annex a foreign area if they have already conquered it (as when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine) or if its citizens agree to join (like in Texas).
What does this have to do with Israel?
Israel conquered five areas in the Six Day War of 1967: the Sinai Desert, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Israel essentially annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 and the Golan Heights in 1981, and withdrew from Sinai in 1982 and Gaza in 2005.
But the West Bank has been in a sort of limbo status for more than 50 years. The Palestinian Authority controls some of it, and Israel controls the rest, including the Jewish settlements, but doesn’t officially consider those areas part of “Israeli territory” or use Israeli civilian laws there.
Some on the Israeli right have long been pushing for Israel to annex parts of the West Bank, especially the strategically important Jordan Valley. The results of the most recent Israeli election make that outcome likelier than ever.
Why is Biden talking about annexation now?
After more than a year and three elections, Israel finally has a government. It’s a partnership led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud party and Vice Prime Minister Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White coalition. According to the terms of their agreement, Netanyahu can introduce a bill proposing annexation of the Jordan Valley and other areas of the West Bank as soon as July 1. This has triggered a global conversation about the possibility. If Israel were to do this, it would violate a broad international consensus against countries annexing territories that they conquered in wars, since recognizing those moves could incentivize more invasions.
There are also concerns that annexation could destabilize the region. King Abdullah II of Jordan warned last week of “chaos and extremism” and a “massive conflict” with his country if annexation is carried out, for example. And Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday that he would stop cooperating with Israel on joint security measures because of the mere possibility of annexation.
Finally, there are worries that the way Israel’s post-annexation borders would make a contiguous Palestinian state difficult or impossible, making it harder for Palestinians to accept those lines as the basis for a two-state solution.
Will annexation actually happen?
It remains to be seen. While Gantz and Netanyahu both support annexing the valley, they have very different ideas of how that should be carried out. Netanyahu is willing to do it unilaterally. Gantz has said that he’d only do it “in coordination with the international community.” That would be much more complicated, because the international community is almost unanimously opposed to annexation.
The one possible exception is the United States. The peace plan that President Trump unveiled in January — with no Palestinian input — allows Israel to annex the Jordan Valley.
However, even the United States says it should only happen in cooperation with the Palestinians, who have said they are unwilling to cooperate. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus reiterated on Monday that annexation “should be part of a peace process where Palestinians should have a say.”
But any successful peace process would have to recognize a Palestinian state, which many members of the Likud – and certainly the parties in the Israeli government coalition that are even farther to the right – are unwilling to accept in any capacity.
It’s for those reasons that many analysts think Netanyahu will punt on the decision.
Could this mean a split among Democratic Israel supporters?
Republican groups have indicated that they will try to win votes from Jewish moderates in November by labeling Biden as insufficiently supportive of Israel, despite the fact that he’s long been considered a stalwart of the party’s pro-Israel flank. Biden has also said that he’ll try to keep his criticism of Israel private, sharing it only with Israeli leaders. But if annexation occurs, he’ll be forced to take a public stand, and it could create some division.
No pro-Israel Democratic politicians support annexation. But most moderates, including Biden, have said that the billions of dollars the U.S. sends to Israel for security assistance should continue even if annexation goes through. However, many rising stars on the left oppose continued assistance to a post-annexation Israeli Defense Forces. This disagreement could cause a split in the pro-Israel consensus within the Democratic Party, and put Jewish voters, most of whom vote Democrat and are generally supportive of Israel, in a tough spot.
"Commitment and Crisis: Jews and American Communism"
(Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison)
During the 1920s, Jews formed the American Communist Party’s most important
base of support. The party’s Jewish Federation, its Yiddish-speaking section, claimed
around 2,000 members or 10% of the party’s overall membership in mid-decade. Yet
that figure hardly conveys the extent of Jewish involvement with Communism during the
1920s. To begin with, a significant number of Jews were members of the party’s
English-, Russian-, Polish-, and Hungarian-speaking units. Moreover, Communism’s
influence among Jews extended far beyond the narrow precincts of party membership.
The Communist Yiddish daily, Di frayhayt, enjoyed a reputation for literary excellence
and reached a readership of 20,000-30,000, a higher circulation than any Communist
newspaper, including the English-language Daily Worker. Jewish Communists built a
network of summer camps, schools for adults and children, cultural societies, theater
groups, choirs, orchestras, and even a housing cooperative in the Bronx that encompassed
tens of thousands of Communist Party members, sympathizers, and their families.
Finally, Communists won a strong following among Jewish workers in the needle trades
and even came close to capturing control of the International Ladies Garment Workers
Union between 1923 and 1926. (A remarkable seventy percent of ILGWU members
belonged to Communist-led locals during those years.) Viewed through the lens of
immigrant Jewry, then, Communism's golden age was not the Great Depression but
rather the preceding decade. To be sure, Jewish Communists were in the minority, but
they were far from isolated. As their numbers grew, Communists had reason to believe
they represented the vanguard of Jewish labor.
Communism’s popularity among immigrant Jews was extraordinary in the context
of the conservative 1920s. In a decade characterized by isolationism, nativism, and labor
retrenchment, Communism made little headway among workers of other racial, religious,
or ethnic groups. The only foreign language federation larger than the Jewish one was
the Finnish, which claimed around 7,000 members in 1924. However, the organizational
strength of the Finns was undercut by their demographics. The total Finnish immigrant
population in the United States numbered only 150,000 in 1920, less than 1/15 the size of
immigrant Jewry. Furthermore, Jews operated within a more expansive social and
organizational arena. Whereas Finns lived mainly in rural mining areas of the upper
Midwest, Jews were concentrated in major cities (where they often comprised a plurality
and even, in certain places, a majority of party members).1
In New York, for instance,
Jews comprised the city’s largest ethnic group, numbering 1.75 million or almost 30% of
the city’s population. Jewish workers also dominated New York’s clothing industry, the
city’s primary manufacturing industry, which gave them a strategic position in the city’s
economy. For those reasons, Communist Party leaders viewed Jewish workers, who
were already highly organized into pro-socialist unions like the ILGWU, as an important
entryway into organized labor as a whole. As Nathan Glazer noted in his 1961 study, The
Social Basis of American Communism, “no detailed understanding of the impact of
1 In Los Angeles, according to a 1929 report, Jews made up 90% of the party’s membership. In Chicago,
Jews were the party’s largest foreign language group, comprising 22% of party members in that city.
Fifty-two percent of all Finns lived in the copper-mining regions of Michigan and Minnesota.
Peter Kivisto, Immigrant Socialists in the United States: The Case of Finns and the Left (Rutherford, NJ:
Farleigh Dickenson University Press, 1984), p. 72. On similarities and differences between
Finnish and Jewish Communists, see Paul C. Mishler, “Red Finns, Red Jews: Ethnic Variation in
Communist Political Culture during the 1920s and 1930s,” YIVO Annual, vol. 22 (1995): 131-154.
Communism on American life is possible without an analysis of the relationship between
American Jews and the American Communist Party.”2
Glazer’s observation might seem less than surprising: after all, it has never been a
secret that Jews provided a disproportionate number of recruits to the Communist
movement and were highly represented in the party leadership. And yet the relationship
between Jews and Communism remains under-examined by historians. Even as the
scholarship on Communism has increased tremendously over the last four decades, a fullfledged historical treatment of Jewish Communists does not yet exist. An important
reason (though not the only one) has to do with the widely felt need to uncover the
American roots of Communism in indigenous radical traditions. Those who make this
argument do so, of course, in response to the charge that Communism was imposed from
Russia and was therefore un-American. In its anti-semitic variation, the charge of foreign
domination indicts Jews as masterminds of an international Communist conspiracy. To
focus on Jews, then, carries the risk of indulging old stereotypes and misperceptions. If
one aims to distance American Communism from Russia, then immigrant Jews (most of
whom came from Russia and maintained strong ties to their country of origin) do not
make attractive historical subjects.
The Jewish-Communist nexus, however, cannot be understood apart from Jewish
ties to Russia and, more specifically, American Jewish concern for the well-being of Jews
there. In the years after 1917, many Jews became enthusiastic supporters of Soviet
2 Nathan Glazer, The Social Basis of American Communism (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World,
1961), p. 131. Perhaps as much as half the membership of the Workers Party (a party controlled
by the underground Communist Party in 1921-1922 and would become the official name of the
Communist Party for a brief period starting in 1923) in the early 1920s. Auvo Kostianen, “For or
against Americanization? The Case of Finnish Immigrant Radicals,” in American Labor and
Immigration History, 1877-1920s: Recent European Research, ed. Dirk Hoerder (Urbana: University of
Illinois Press, 1983), p. 261.
Russia, not only because they viewed it as a beacon of social progress, but also because
they saw the Bolshevik government as providing solutions to urgent Jewish problems,
starting with the survival of the Jewish people itself. The mass slaughter of Jews by
counter-revolutionary forces during the Russian Civil War convinced many Jews in the
United States that the Bolsheviks’ triumph was an existential necessity. In addition, the
social, economic, and cultural reconstruction of Jewish life directed by the Soviet
government suggested to many American Jews that Communism had made significant
improvements in the lives of Russian Jews. Immigrant Jews in the United States thus
saw their interests tied to Soviet Russia to a degree unmatched by most other immigrant
groups (the Finns, again, can be considered an exception).
A useful way to explore Communism’s allure to immigrant Jews is through the case
of Moissaye Olgin (Moyshe Yoysef Novomiski, 1878-1939), a Russian-born Jewish
intellectual who immigrated to the United States in 1914. During the 1920s and 1930s,
Olgin emerged as the leading figure within the Jewish Communist movement, more
beloved by Yiddish-speaking workers than any General Secretary of the party. Highly
educated and respected in certain English-speaking intellectual circles, Olgin was a
versatile writer, editor, lecturer, and novelist fluent in English, German, Russian, and
Yiddish. His expertise in Russian affairs earned him a place in the party’s upper echelon,
a position few other ethnic-based Communist leaders, Jewish or not, attained. It was a
sign of Olgin’s popularity that when he died in 1939, at the age of sixty-seven, some
45,000 people attended his funeral in Manhattan, according to the New York Times.
In 1917, nobody, least of all Olgin himself, would have predicted his future role as
a Communist leader. He had originally opposed the Bolshevik seizure of power and,
3 New York Times, 27 Nov. 1939, p. 14.
although he would grow more sympathetic to the Soviet government within the year, he
opposed the creation of the American Communist party in 1919. Not until December
1921, in the wake of a trip to Soviet Russia, did Olgin forge a political alliance with the
Communist party, and not until 1923 did he identify himself wholeheartedly as a
Communist. Olgin, in other words, did not undergo a sudden conversion. He took short
steps and made the required compromises along the way, a trajectory that provides a
window into the larger political trend.
Moissaye Olgin: The Reluctant Bolshevik
Like many Jewish men and women of his generation, Olgin journeyed from
traditional Judaism to revolutionary socialism in a matter of years. He received a solid
religious education from his father, a pious man yet also a maskil, an enlightened Jew,
who exposed Moyshe to secular literature in Hebrew and Yiddish, and permitted him to
study the Russian language.4 Eventually, Olgin’s studies led him away from religion. He
enrolled in a gymnasium at the age of fifteen and, after graduation, entered Kiev
University, where he joined a student group that evolved into the Bund’s Kiev branch.5
From that point forward, Olgin devoted himself to the Jewish socialist movement. He
served a month in prison in April 1903 for helping to organize a Jewish self-defense
group and was jailed again the following year in Vilna. During the 1905 revolution,
Olgin, now based in Dvinsk, wrote proclamations for the Bund’s Central Committee and
4 The following biographical information is drawn, unless otherwise noted, from Olgin’s entry in Zalmen
Reyzen, Ed., Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur, prese un filologye, vol, 1 (Vilna: Vilner Farlag fun B.
Kletskin, 1926), 92-97 and Olgin’s posthumously published memoir, Amerike (New York: Olgin OndenkKomitet, 1941), pp. 59-60. 5 On the Bund’s activities in Kiev, see Natan Meier, Kiev: Jewish Metropolis: A History, 1859-1914
(Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 2010), pp. 264-65.
for party organs.6
After the uprising’s defeat, Olgin immigrated to Germany, where he
attended the University of Heidelberg and continued to write for the Bundist press. He
cut in an impressive figure in Russian émigré circles. Rosa Levine-Meyer, the future
wife of Eugene Levine, leader of the 1919 Munich Soviet Republic, viewed Olgin as “a
man of great erudition” and looked to him for guidance. “He was,” she recalls in her
memoir, “twenty-two years older [sic] than I and I thought he could help me in my search
for the meaning of life and further my sparse education.”7
The former Torah student
from the Ukranian woods had grown into a worldly European intellectual.
Olgin belonged to the Bund’s important second-tier leadership. Members at this
level, just below the Central Committee, carried out orders, attended conferences,
formulated policy, edited newspapers, wrote proclamations, lectured, and executed other
tasks. “These essential second-level members,” writes one historian of the Bund, “were
expected to devote their lives to the demands of the movement…They moved from town
to town, their lives forming part of the lore of the Bund.” Olgin, as a propagandist,
reporter, literary critic, and teacher ranked among the best-known Bundists.8
He was also
among the party’s staunchest advocates for Yiddish culture. Like all party members,
Olgin shared in the Bund’s demand for “national cultural autonomy" (Jewish communal
control over state-funded educational and cultural institutions) in a future revolutionary
Russia. Beyond that, Olgin touted a cultural renaissance in the Yiddish language, a goal
shared by many, though not all, Bundists. Olgin urged party intellectuals to speak
6 His writings from 1904 to 1907 are reprinted in M. Olgin, 1905 (New York: Olgin Ondenk Komitet,
1940). 7 Rosa Levine-Meyers, Levine: The Life of a Revolutionary, Intr. E. J. Hobsbawm, (Hampshire, Eng.:
Saxon House, 1973), p. 2. Rosa was born in 1890, thus Olgin was, in fact, twelve years older than her.
8 Henry J. Tobias, The Jewish Bund in Russia: From Its Origins to 1905 (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press,
1972), p. 246.
Yiddish rather than Russian in their private lives, formulated guidelines on how to write
Yiddish correctly, advocated for Yiddish children's schools, and, despite his atheism,
insisted on the need to celebrate religious holidays (albeit in ways compatible with
socialist principles) on the grounds that even a secular Jewish culture required hallowed
rituals to lend it emotional depth.9 “[W]e are convinced,” Olgin argued in 1911, “that
[Jewish workers] require a separate Yiddish culture…[W]e want to awaken the masses
and help raise them to a higher level of economic and intellectual life.” In Olgin’s eyes,
the struggle for working class emancipation from capitalism and for the creation of a
secular Yiddish culture went hand in hand: both sought to liberate oppressed groups and
required a radical new consciousness. “Yiddish cultural work,” according to Olgin, “is,
in the peculiar Jewish context, part of the class struggle.”10 This combination of Marxism
and Yiddish cultural nationalism cemented Olgin’s political outlook.
When the First World War broke out in the summer of 1914, Olgin found himself
in Vienna at work on a dissertation on the origins of Russian Marxism. Fearing
deportation as a foreign national of a hostile country, Olgin opted for immigration to the
United States. He settled in New York City, where he encountered a Jewish community
like none he had seen before. Numbering a million and half souls, New York Jewry
dwarfed the largest Russian Jewish communities. The difference was not limited to size.
Whereas censorship and repression hindered Russian Jews, America’s largest, most
cosmopolitan city unleashed Jewish cultural and political energies. Yiddish theater,
9 See, for instance, the following articles by Olgin: "Di yidishe shprakh un unzer privat-lebn," Fragn fun
lebn (1911), 39-49, reproduced in Never Say Die: A Thousand Years of Yiddish in Jewish Life and Letters,
ed. Joshua Fishman (Hague: 1981), 551-564; Also see, "Vi men darf nit shraybn yidish: notitsn far a lezer,"
Di yidishe velt 1, no. 1 (Jan. 1915), 43-53 (for abridged version, see Di pen 57 [Winter 1998], 57-62); "Di
alte un naye yontoyvim," Di yidishe arbeter velt (22 April 1910), 4.
10 Olgin, “Naye natsyonale shtrebungn bay yidishe sotsyalistn,” Di yidishe arbeter velt, 28 April 1911, p.
literature, periodicals, public lectures, café life, reading circles, and self-education groups
thrived, much to the approval and fascination of social reformers, reporters, and
downtown literati. Socialism was also on the march in 1914. After five years of epic
strikes, nearly the entire Jewish working class had organized itself into powerful unions.
In politics, Jewish voters elected Meyer London, the beloved labor lawyer, to Congress in
1914, followed by a string of other Socialists over the next six years. New York was
home to the largest and, arguably, the most culturally dynamic, political radical Yiddishspeaking population in the world
Olgin rose to prominence in Jewish New York. Émigré Bundists, who numbered in
the thousands, certainly knew of Olgin. So, too, readers of the Forverts, to which Olgin
had contributed since 1907. After his arrival, Olgin’s reputation grew quickly. He joined
the staff of the Forverts, America’s most widely read daily, and served as the literary
editor of Di naye velt, the weekly newspaper of the Jewish Socialist Federation (JSF).
The federation was Olgin’s new political home, a surrogate for the Bund. Émigré
Bundists founded the JSF in 1912 as the Socialist Party’s Yiddish-language sub-section.
Although formally attached to the party, the JSF acted with full autonomy on the
principle, carried over from the Bund, that Jews required their own political party (or, in
the case of the JSF, section of a party) to address their distinct political and cultural
interests. The JSF was not the largest of Jewish labor organizations. Its peak
membership of some 12,000 was a fraction the size of the Arbeter Ring fraternal order or
the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Nonetheless, the federation’s
influence was much larger than its numbers would suggest. Its members were active
participants in all major Jewish labor organizations, often occupying important leadership
positions. It exercised wide influence, if not actual power. As a member of the JSF’s
National Executive Committee, Olgin played a prominent role in Jewish labor and
communal affairs, appearing at countless meetings and rallies during the tumultuous
years in and around the First World War.
Even as Olgin immersed himself in the world of immigrant Jewry he moved
beyond it with apparent ease. He learned English quickly and, in 1915, enrolled in
Columbia University, where he earned a Ph.D. in economics.11 In November 1917, he
published his dissertation under the title The Soul of the Russian Revolution, a 400-page
history of the Russian revolutionary movement up to the tsar’s downfall in March 1917.12
Olgin's timing could not have been better. Interest in Russian politics ran high, but
English-speaking Americans knew little about the country. Differences between
Mensheviks and Bolsheviks or Socialist Revolutionaries and Social Democrats eluded
even many radicals. Olgin’s book provided an informed overview that garnered
favorable reviews in The Nation, The New Republic, and the New York Times, not to
mention Yiddish journals.13 His second book in English, A Guide to Russian Literature
(1920), was also highly regarded.14 All the while, Olgin lectured and wrote on Russian
history, politics, and literature,15 and joined the faculty of the New School for Social
11 M. Olgin, Amerike (New York: 1941), 103-124. 12 Moissaye J. Olgin, The Soul of the Russian Revolution (New York: 1917). The book appeared in a twovolume Yiddish translation under the title Di neshome fun der rusisher revolutsye (New York: M.
Gurevitsh’s Farlag, 1921).
13 Nation (6 Dec. 1917), 638-639; New Republic (22 Dec. 1917), 220-221; New York Times (13 Jan. 1918),
14. According to the economist, Isaac Hourwich, The Soul of the Russian Revolution was "surely the best"
recent book to appear on the Russian Revolution. Dr. Itsik Ayzik Hurvits [Isaac Hourwich], “Olgin’s bukh
iber der rusisher revolutsyonerer bavegung,” Di tsukunft (Aug. 1918), 494. 14 Clarendon Ross, "A Handbook of Russian Literature," New Republic (24 Nov. 1920), 334; Jacob Zeitlin,
"A Guide to Russian Literature," Nation (18 Sept. 1920), 327-328. 15 For reports on Olgin's lectures, see Phebe M. Bogan, "Notes and News," Hispania 7, no. 5 (Nov. 1924),
335; Lewis S. Feuer, "American Travelers to the Soviet Union, 1917-1923: The Formation of a Component
of New Deal Ideology," American Quarterly 14, no. 2 (part 1) (Summer 1962), 128.
Research in 1919.
16 As both veteran revolutionary and newly minted scholar, Olgin
became a recognized expert in Russian affairs.17
When the Bolsheviks seized power in November 1917, Olgin responded
immediately. At the time, he agreed with the Mensheviks that Russia was not ready for
socialism. The war had left the country’s economy in shambles. The industrial working
class constituted a mere 20% of the population. Most peasants wanted redistribution of
land, not the abolition of private property. Neither the peasantry nor the proletariat was
prepared to build a socialist system. In the Bolsheviks’ blind commitment to revolution,
Olgin charged, they refused to recognize the situation at hand. Lenin was "a man who
sees life only from the angle of his own ideas,” Olgin wrote in the New York Times.
“Ignoring the most striking facts, or interpreting them away, [is] a peculiarity of [his]
mind." The so-called proletarian leader was actually an authoritarian demagogue, who
could only bring harm to the people he claimed to represent. Russia’s plight would
surely worsen if the Bolsheviks insisted on pushing forward. “It would seem that Lenin’s
‘radicalism’ only blocks the road of the Russian revolution by calling forth a reaction and
by adding to the disorganization of a country shaken to its foundations,” Olgin wrote.
“Here, as ever, Lenin’s tactics, seemingly extreme, are in reality weakening the strength
of democratic Russia.”18 He characterized the Bolsheviks as rigid, fanatical, and
16 See, for instance, the following articles by Olgin: "The Intelligentzia and the People in the Russian
Revolution," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 84 (July 1919), 114-120;
"Maxim Gorky," New Republic (18 Jan. 1919), 333-334; "A Wounded Intellect: Leonid Andreyev (1871-
1919)," ibid. (24 Dec. 1919), 123-124; "A Sympathetic View of Russia," ibid. (26 May 1920), 426; "A
Flashlight of the Russian Revolution," ibid., (27 July 1921), 250-251. 17 New York Times (30 Sept. 1919), 20. 18 Moissaye J. Olgin, "Bolsheviki's Chief," New York Times (2 Dec. 1917), 21. "Lenine" is Olgin's spelling
of the name in this article, which originally appeared in the December issue of Asia. Also see Olgin,
"Lenin's program," Forverts (18 Nov. 1917), 9 and Olgin, “Iz Rusland fartik far sotsyalizm?” Forverts (2
Feb. 1918), 4. See also, Olgin, The Soul of the Russian Revolution, pp. 376-77.
Yet Olgin softened his hostility over the following year and into 1919. The process
was gradual, marked not by sudden shifts in opinion, but subtle modifications in tone and
substance. An early sign of change became evident in March 1918 with the publication
of Our Revolution, a collection of Leon Trotsky’s articles translated into English and
introduced by Olgin. The volume made available Trotsky’s writings to American readers
for the first time. Olgin did not agree with all of Trotsky’s ideas and policies, but he
heaped praise nonetheless, marveling at Trotsky’s intellectual integrity, cogency, and
Whatever our attitude towards the course of events in the 1917 revolution may be,
we must admit that, in the main, this course has taken the direction predicted in
Trotzky’s essays. There is a labor dictatorship now in Russia…The liberal and
radical parties have lost influence. The labor government has put collective
ownership and collective management of industries on the order of the day. The
labor government has not hesitated in declaring Russia ready for a Socialist
revolution. It was compelled to do so under the pressure of revolutionary
proletarian masses. The Russian army has been dissolved in the armed people.
The Russian revolution has called the workingmen of the world to make a social
revolution. All this had been outlined by Trotzky twelve years ago.19
Olgin’s positive assessment of Trotsky did not extend to the Bolsheviks as a whole.
Trotsky had arrived at Bolshevism comparatively late. Prior to 1917 he had steered an
independent course, sometimes joining with the Mensheviks, sometimes the Bolsheviks,
and other times striking out on his own. Thus, by declaring Trotsky, not Lenin, the
genius of the Russian revolution, Olgin evinced a new appreciation for the Bolsheviks,
but without reversing his earlier criticisms of Lenin.
As time went on, Olgin continued to express disagreement with the Bolsheviks, but
usually without elaboration. He devoted more energy to defending the Soviet regime. At
19 Leon Trotsky, Our Revolution: Essays on Working-Class and International Revolution, 1904-1917,
collected and translated by Moissaye J. Olgin (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1918). See reviews
in New York Times (17 Feb. 1918), 62 and The Nation (21 March 1918), 66.
a large public gathering in Cooper Union in January 1919, Olgin expressed dismay over
the course of the revolution, but commended the Bolsheviks for maintaining stability. "I
must say,” Olgin wrote in the Times, “that the Bolsheviki were the only ones who
introduced order out of chaos." He denounced foreign military intervention against
Soviet Russia and called on western governments to begin economic assistance.20 (This
position provoked a rebuke from George Kennan, the most prominent commentator on
Russian affairs in the United States.21) Five months later, he acknowledged that
Bolsheviks had strong, popular support and attributed this to their resolve and effective
propaganda. The Bolsheviks “were the only ones who cast out to the masses clear,
understandable slogans.” “It became clear why the weak political organization of
Kerensky’s government, without a backbone, without will, had to cede to those who had
strength and courage, who had the masses behind them.”22 Olgin, at this point, still held
that that the Bolsheviks would have to permit some measure of commercial trade and
private financial investment in order to develop Russia’s economy, but this view,
formerly the lynchpin of Olgin’s anti-Bolshevism, was reduced to a qualification, an
aside. By 1920, Olgin praised the Bolshevik revolution in ebullient terms and scoffed at
critics who adhered to a pre-determined schema of how the transition from capitalism to
socialism should proceed—a jab at the Mensheviks and their supporters abroad. "We are
now living through the springtime of humanity," Olgin declared in Di naye velt, "and its
name is -- socialism. It is here, springtime, it has already come. … Let the weak-hearted
be afraid. Let the weak-headed see no other way. Let them be afraid of the first
messengers of the socialist order. … Let them look at the newborn child of the future and
20 "Plea for Economic Aid to the Russians," New York Times (20 Jan. 1919), 6. 21 George Kennan, "The Bolsheviki and Their Apologists," New York Times (23 Jan. 1919), 12.
22 M. Olgin, Di tsukunft (1919), p. 337.
shrug: 'Is this socialism? Is this what we have waited for so many years?'… Those who
have eyes to see and the intellect to understand will not be afraid of the venom from
enemies, of the despair of supposed friends."23 Olgin had now reversed his original
critique of the Bolsheviks
Olgin’s path paralleled the general trend among Jewish socialists in New York. As
early as 1918, a spirit of revolutionary romanticism overtook otherwise moderate social
democrats. Abraham Cahan, the Forverts’ editor-in-chief and therefore the most
influential voice in the Yiddish press, applauded the new Soviet society taking shape.
“One thing is sure,” he editorialized. “The socialist government, the government of the
workers’ soviets, is becoming all the more strong, established, and secure.” Cahan was
especially moved by the Soviet government’s celebration of Karl Marx’s 100th birthday.
“A statue of Karl Marx in the very heart of Russian darkness and Russian despotism! It
can barely be believed. But it is true. It is a historical reality. Yes, we have lived to see
our golden dreams realized.” Cahan did not deny the Bolsheviks deserved criticism, but,
in his opinion, the crucial fact was that they and only they had undertaken the great task
of building socialism:
It seems to me that even the most bitter anti-Bolshevik, if he is a socialist, must
forget everything and become filled with love for them when he imagines the statue
of Karl Marx standing in the Kremlin. We have criticized them. Some of their
utterances often irritate us; but who can help rejoicing in their triumph? Who can
help going into ecstasy over the Socialist spirit with which they have enthroned the
country, which they now rule?
By 1920, Cahan all but banned criticism of the Bolsheviks from the pages of the
Forverts. The Menshevik and Bundist leader, Raphael Abramovitch, recalls that Cahan
told him in November, 1920, when the two saw each other in Berlin, that he could not
23 [no first name noted] Olgin, "Der yontev fun friling un frayhayt," Di naye velt (30 April 1920), 3.
write for the Forverts because “our line is entirely different from yours.” Abramovitsh
tried to inform Cahan of the political repression in Russia, to which he responded by
covering his ears and crying out, “Don’t destroy my illusions; I don’t want to hear.”24
The belief that the dream of socialism was finally being realized in Soviet Russia was
hardly unique to Cahan. Baruch Charney Vladeck, a New York City Alderman and
Forverts staff member, expressed similar feelings. In his introduction to the Yiddish
version of John Reed’s Ten Days that Shook the World, translated by Olgin and published
by the Forverts, Vladeck gushed with emotion, “Like a pious Jew hopes for the Messiah,
so we hoped for [the social revolution]. Now it is here. Whether it has unfolded as we
wanted or expected, is another question. But she came, the true social revolution, which
we studied in all our holy texts by all our rebbes...”25 In a more sober vein, the leader of
the Jewish Socialist Federation, Yankev Salutsky, gave a qualified endorsement in Di
naye velt, noting that the Bolsheviks “have committed more than one crime against the
very principles in whose name they committed the errors and crimes,” but adding
socialists had an obligation to support them lest they “pla[y] into the hands of reaction.”
Yet by 1920 Salutsky gave the Bolsheviks unqualified praise.
26 Only a few antiBolshevik holdouts existed among New York Jewish socialists by that point.
A number of factors contributed to the pro-Soviet consensus that took shape
between 1918 and 1920: limited reliable information about the harshness of Soviet rule,
military invention by foreign powers, feelings of solidarity with the world’s first socialist
government, and counter-revolutionary efforts to restore the hated Romanov dynasty. Of
24 R. Abramovitsh, “Afn keyver fun a fraynd un lerer,”Forverts, 5 Sept. 1951, p. 4.
25 Djan Rid [John Reed], Tsen teg vos hobn oyfgerudert di velt, trans. M. Olgin, (New York: “Forverts”
Publishing Asosyeyshon, 1919), p. 5.
26 “Editoryele notitsn,” Di naye velt, 23 Aug. 1918, 1.
these factors, the devastating results of the Civil War deserve special mention. Between
1918 and 1920, counter-revolutionary forces carried out more than 1,500 pogroms in the
Ukraine alone. According to the historian, Oleg Budnitskii, anywhere between 50,000 to
200,000 Jews were killed outright or mortally wounded, and another 200,000 seriously
injured. Thousands of women were raped, at least 50,000 were widowed, and 300,000
children were orphaned.27 Well aware of the bloodbath underway, American Jewish
socialists came to view the Red Army (which itself contained units that carried out
pogroms before the high command imposed strict discipline) as the sole force capable of
restoring order and protecting Jews. Nearly the entire Jewish labor movement wanted the
Bolsheviks to win the war because the alternative threatened unimaginable catastrophe.
The choice seemed clear: either Bolshevism or death.
Alexander Bittelman and the Jewish Left Wing
Enthusiasm for the Bolshevik revolution grew during its first year, but few, if any,
Jewish socialists proposed imitating the Bolsheviks on American soil. The situation
changed suddenly, however, in 1919. In January the newly established Communist
International (Comintern) instructed radicals around the world to split their existing
socialist parties by “separating out the revolutionary elements, in a pitiless criticism of its
leaders and in systematically dividing its adherents.”28 The goal was to purge moderates
for the purpose of creating revolutionary organizations prepared to seize state power “at
once” and establish dictatorships of the proletariat modeled on Soviet Russia. In the
United States, the Comintern’s call appealed mostly to members of the Socialist Party’s
27 Oleg Budnitskii, Russian Jews Between the Reds and the White, 1917-1920, trans. Timothy J. Portice
(Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), pp. 216-17.
28 James Weinstein, The Decline of Socialism in America, 1912-1925 (New York: Monthly Review Press,
1967), p. 192.
foreign-language federations, which totaled fifty-seven thousand people, or 53 percent of
the party’s membership. By April, self-defined Left Wing factions gained control of the
Hungarian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Polish, Russian, South Slavic, and Ukranian federations.
In addition, the Left Wing controlled Socialist Party locals in ten cities and three
boroughs in New York, as well as the Michigan state party organization. The Bolshevik
revolution had come to America.
Within this fervent atmosphere, a small number of Jewish radicals turned to
Communism. Most Jewish Leftists were little known, local activists in the Jewish
Socialist Federation. Nearly all were in their twenties, in other words, ten to twenty years
younger than Olgin and his cohorts. None sat on the federation’s National Executive
Committee or published articles in Di naye velt with any frequency. Yet over the course
of 1919 these young radicals rose to positions of leadership in a new American party
linked to an international revolutionary movement based in Moscow. The rise of
Communism thus signaled a generational rebellion as part of the political one.
The foremost leader of the Jewish Left was Alexander Bittelman (1890-1982).
Born Usher Bitlmakher in the Ukranian city of Berdichev, Bittelman had ten years of
revolutionary experience behind him when he immigrated to the United States in 1912.
The son of a poor shoemaker, Bittelman joined the Bund at the age of thirteen, just weeks
after he became a bar mitzvah. He was not an intellectual, like Olgin, but a workeractivist at the grass-roots. Bittleman’s first major action was a May Day demonstration
in 1903. Although the police handily dispersed the gathering, Bittelman later described
the event as a milestone in his life: “I felt I was doing something worthwhile for the
revolution, which I could feel coming, and for Socialism which became the ideal of my
living. I felt part of something big and great and good.” In addition to his clandestine
activities, Bittelman studied the Russian language, socialism, the history of culture,
elementary physics, and chemistry in courses offered by the Bund. All the while, he
organized anti-government demonstrations, joined an armed self-defense unit, and led
Berdichev’s Central Trade Union Bureau. But, as dedicated as Bittelman was to the
Bund, repeated arrests and impending conscription into the military convinced him that
the time had come to immigrate to the United States.29
Bittelman settled in Harlem at the urging of friends who had already immigrated.
The area had its attractions. It was home to New York’s second largest Jewish
community and a very active branch of the JSF. Bittelman joined and was eventually
elected secretary of the Harlem branch. He was a reliable activist, capable and
hardworking, with intellectual aspirations. Bittelman enjoyed spending time in the JSF’s
headquarters, discussing politics with the organization’s leader, Yankev Salutsky, who
encouraged and advised the up-and-comer.
Before 1919, Bittelman harbored no desire to mount a rebellion in the JSF, but the
Comintern changed that. He learned about the first Jewish Left Wing group on the
Lower East Side and entered into discussions with its members. Bittelman had been proBolshevik since at least 1917, but had no intention of fomenting a civil war within his
own organization. After the Comintern’s call to arms, Bittelman grew intoxicated by the
prospect of revolution in the United States. He became convinced that a proletarian
revolution would break out soon and began to imagine himself manning the barricades.
As a first step, Bittelman and other Left Wingers from around New York City banded
29 Alexander Bittelman, “Things I Have Learned,” typed manuscript (1963), pp. 31-7, 54-67, 184-
235. Alexander Bittelman Papers, box 1, folder, 5, Tamiment Library, New York University.
together under the name Jewish International Socialists of America and published a
weekly newspaper with the appropriately militant title, Der kamf.
30 Convinced that they
had the unquestionable authority of Lenin and the Comintern on their side, the Leftists
went on the attack. They demanded Salutsky’s ouster and denounced nearly everybody
in a position of responsibility. Their incitements turned JSF branches into battlegrounds
at a peak moment in its membership.
The JSF’s leadership fought back. Olgin, Salutsky, and other JSF leaders—
Marxists all—were certainly radical by any reasonable definition of the word, but not
prone to revolutionary fantasies. They were level-headed, middle-aged men rooted in
solid organizations. None wished to see young upstarts like Bittelman wreak havoc in
the JSF. “The young men of this group,” Olgin mocked in the Forverts, “live in a little
world created in their own imagination where everything is as they like it to be. The
workers are united, class-conscious, organized, and armed. Only one thing remains to be
done: begin the final conflict.”31 Tsivion (pseudonym of the journalist Ben-Tsien
Hofman) recommended detaching the “ultra-left wing” from the JSF for the sake of its
own survival. The final showdown came at the JSF’s national convention in June. The
Leftist delegates arrived fully aware of their disadvantage after having failed to win a
majority in a single JSF branch in New York. Yet the Leftists refused to compromise or
back down. If they could not control the JSF, they would break from it. As Bittelman
recalled decades later, their plan of action was to attend the conference, initiate a fight,
and walk out as a group. And so they did. Leftist delegates introduced resolutions
mandating an immediate break from the Socialist Party and committing the JSF to the
30 Edited by Herts Burgin, a Forverts staff writer and one of the few veterans to offer support.
31 Olgin, “An oysgetrakhte velt,” Forverts, 7 June 1919, p. 3.
goal of dictatorship of the proletariat. When defeated, Leftists complained of
malfeasance. They stood on chairs, tore up membership cards, and bolted. “The program
and organization of the Left Wing is for us more dear than the unity of the Jewish
Socialist Federation,” Bittelman’s group proclaimed in a post-convention declaration.
“We were therefore forced to leave the convention.”32
In the meantime, the Socialist Party expelled tens of thousands of members from
all over who had joined the Left Wing opposition. Many of them now wanted to create a
new, truly revolutionary, party, but because they could not agree on a common program,
the Leftists established two parties: the Communist Party and the Communist Labor
Party. The Jewish Leftists sided with the Communist Party and they convened in early
October to establish themselves as its official Jewish section. According to its report,
there were 45 branches with 3,000 members in twenty cities. The numbers were
respectable, but the Jewish Federation of the Communist Party led a precarious existence
from the start. Between November 1919 and January 1920 federal agents twice raided
the federation’s national office, confiscating Yiddish translations of Lenin, Trotsky, and
The Communist Manifesto. Der kamf ceased publication and three subsequent
Communist Yiddish newspapers failed over the next eight months. In February, the
Jewish Federation went underground with the rest of the party. Its second convention,
held secretly in June, reported a “great shortage in intellectual forces” and “material
means.” The federation’s membership shrank to less than 380 in twelve branches. Thus
a year after the Left Wing came into existence in a fury, the Jewish Communist
movement had little to show for itself.
Olgin Goes to Russia
32 “Farvos mir hobn farlozn di konvenshon,” p. 2 (M-13, #55, Bund Archive, YIVO).
While the underground Communist Party and its Jewish Federation limped along,
pro-Soviet feeling intensified in what remained of the Jewish Socialist Federation.
Bolshevik concepts and terminology gained currency even among those, like Olgin and
Salutsky, who harbored no intention of becoming Communists. Articles and pamphlets
explaining Bolshevik ideology, as well as translations of works by Soviet leaders,
continued to appear in the Yiddish press. JSF leaders increasingly spoke of “workers
soviets” and “dictatorship of the proletariat” as superior forms of government worthy of
emulation. By the end of 1921, two and half years after the first split in the JSF, Olgin,
Salutsky, and their colleagues would join with the Communists. How did they shift
In the fall of 1920, Olgin embarked on a six-month trip to Soviet Russia that
marked the final turning point in his evolution toward Bolshevism. He left New York a
sympathizer, but returned enamored. Other Americans journeyed to Russia around the
same time, but Olgin traveled more extensively than most visitors, for a longer period of
time, and published lengthier accounts.33 Not since Ten Days that Shook the World had
an American penned such detailed eyewitness reports of the revolution. Olgin’s fluency
in Russian and Yiddish, deep knowledge of the revolutionary movement, and numerous
political contacts served him well. During his travels, he met an array of individuals:
workers, victims of pogroms, government officials, political oppositionists, and so on.
Olgin’s trip generated a great deal of interest and fanfare in the United States. When he
returned in April 1921, the Forverts organized a grand reception attended by “thousands
of people” who “came to hear the truth” about Russia. Over the following days and
33 Benjamin Schlessinger, President of the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union traveled to
Russia earlier in 1920, but spent only five weeks there.
weeks, Olgin lectured around New York and in other cities.34
Olgin published two, quite different versions of his trip. His six-part series in
The New Republic, addressed to a general, English-speaking audience, presented an
overview of the new Russia. In broad strokes, Olgin described a momentous social
experiment. He did not ignore ugly realities, bluntly acknowledging, "There is hunger in
Russia…There is no personal liberty in Russia. … There is no political freedom in
Russia. … There is no equality…There is corruption in Russia."35 Even so, Olgin
absolved the Bolsheviks of blame. Russia’s problems, he maintained, were the result of
war and foreign intervention. And yet for all Soviet Russia’s difficulties and
shortcomings the revolution had already brought major improvements in the lives of the
masses. Workers had gained access to education and the arts, dominated the instruments
of government, and were taking control of factories and land. The common man, Olgin
reported, "has come to the top. He is a new man. Everything is done in his name and for
his welfare. In principle he is the master. He enjoys the fruit of the revolution, no matter
how irksome his everyday existence may be."36 Olgin assured readers that whatever
mistakes the party made would soon be corrected. Bolsheviks, as he described them,
were capable, persistent, principled, and resourceful.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the new man is intrepidity…His intrepidity is
carried into the realm of practical affairs. The new man approaches unknown
difficulties with a boldness and vigor which spell success. He assumes that there is
nothing on earth or heaven that a man with general intelligence and great
willingness cannot learn in a brief time. He does not refuse to occupy a position
whose duties are foreign to him. He is convinced that what looks baffling at first
sight will become clay under his hands upon nearer acquaintance. Sometimes he is
34 For a thorough account of Olgin's trip, see Daniel Soyer, "Soviet Travel and the Making of an American
Jewish Communist: Moissaye Olgin's Trip to Russia in 1920-1921," American Communist History 4, no. 1
(2005), 9. See footnote on Simon Solomon.
35 Ibid., 68.
36 Moissaye J. Olgin, "Mechanics of Power in Soviet Russia," New Republic (15 June 1921), 70.
mistaken. But he is difficult to dishearten. He would easily recognize an error, he
would retract when need be—a trait closely related to the lack of obligations
towards an all embracing and subtle theory—but he would not give up. The thing
must be done at whatever cost—is his slogan.
It follows that the new man has an obstinacy unknown to the intelligentsia
of the former period. His working capacity is larger. His endurance is equal to his
physical strength. We call it self-sacrificing spirit. In his eyes it is work that must
be done. Overtime after eight hours of crushing labor in the mills, late hours of
exhausting activities in governmental departments, sleep in the mud of the fields at
the front in warfare with the foreign invaders, travel in overcrowded, unclean boxcars on official errands, attendance at meetings and committee sessions in cold,
unfriendly rooms after a day’s fatiguing work, does not seem extraordinary to him
and does not dismay him as it does the intellectual of the older style. The new man
is of a stronger fibre. 37
Olgin depicted the Soviet “new man” as a veritable superman, quite unlike the fanatical
demagogues of Olgin’s 1917 writings. Furthermore, Olgin had little sympathy for the
government's left-wing opponents—the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries—who
he characterized as pathetic losers, adrift without a viable program, base of support, or
practical experience in government. They had removed themselves from the stage of
history. In response to those who denounced the Bolsheviks’ one-party state, Olgin
warned against the dangers posed by democracy during such a precarious period. Free
elections would inevitably contribute to instability. The Bolsheviks had no choice,
regrettably, but to suppress political freedom. It was rough business, but better to get
one’s hands dirty, than stand aside helplessly, bitterly.38
Olgin published a second series in the Forverts that differed significantly from his
New Republic articles. Written in Yiddish, it reached an exclusively Jewish audience of
more than 200,000 readers, who wanted to know as much as possible about the situation
37 Moissaye J. Olgin, “The Type Which Rules Russia,” The New Republic, Sept. 28, 1921, pp. 133-135.
38 Moissaye J. Olgin, "A Study in Dictatorship," New Republic (29 June 1921), 132-137.
of Jews under Soviet rule. Olgin’s series in the Forverts viewed the revolution from a
Jewish perspective.39 He acknowledged that Jews suffered from the suppression of
private trade, but that they generally benefited from the revolution. First and foremost,
the Red Army had rescued Jews from horrific violence, about which Olgin reported in
some detail. He recounted the case of a 25- year-old man who had been snatched up by a
group of soldiers, shot twice in the arm, tortured, ridiculed, and held captive for five days
until he escaped.40 In another incident, a woman had been taunted and beaten by a
jeering crowd in a town square.
Beyond ensuring the physical survival of Jews, the revolution transformed Jewish
cultural, economic, and communal life in positive ways, according to Olgin. In his profile
of Orshe, a small city in White Russia, he hailed the reconstruction of its 20,000-member
Jewish community. Yesterday's traders, shopkeepers, and bookkeepers had found a new
sense of purpose in building socialism, he reported. Workers no longer had to suffer
bosses. Jewish cultural life flourished. The city boasted a Jewish youth club, several
Jewish children's homes, two evening schools for adults, two amateur Yiddish theater
groups, a choir, and a workers' library in Yiddish. Remarkably, the government had
opened a "people's university" in which literature was taught in the Yiddish language.
Branches of the Bund and the Marxist-Zionist party, Poale Zion, continued to function,
thereby indicating the survival of independent Jewish politics. And although a significant
amount of antisemitic feeling persisted among the Gentile population, the government
suppressed it. "We don't care if they like us," one man reportedly told Olgin, "we just
39 Soyer, "Soviet Travel and the Making of an American Jewish Communist," 9-10.
40 Olgin, "Olgin shildert di shreklekhste pogrom-stsenes, vi a korbn hot es far im dertseylt," Forverts (15
want rights, equal rights."41 In an article titled "The Bolshevik Rabbi," Olgin described
his visit to a shul in Minsk, where the rabbi delivered a Friday-evening sermon praising
the government and urging members of the congregation to organize collective farms and
factories. Even Orthodox Jews, readers of the Forverts were meant to understand,
supported the Bolshevik revolution.42
Among the notable aspects of Olgin's trip were meetings with old comrades who
now occupied important positions in the Soviet government. Max Goldfarb was one such
person. Goldfarb (b. Dovid Lipets) lived in New York City between 1912 and 1917, and
knew Olgin well. The two former Bundists sat on the JSF’s National Executive
Committee and worked for the Forverts, in Goldfarb’s case, as the labor editor. After the
tsar’s downfall in March 1917, Goldfarb returned to Russia. He became mayor of
Berdichev and head of the city’s Jewish communal body, but a pogrom in January
1919—the first openly planned and coordinated attack against Jews during the Civil
War—caused Goldfarb to flee to Moscow. He joined the Bolsheviks, changed his last
name to Petrovsky, and, by 1920, became director of the Red Army’s officer training
schools. He was one of thousands of Jews who flooded into the Soviet state apparatus
during the early years of the revolution.
In Moscow, Olgin sought out Petrovsky, who gave him special treatment.43 He
arranged a car for him and invited Olgin to attend a graduation ceremony of young
officers presided over by Petrovsky and the Red Army commander, Leon Trotsky, whom
41 Olgin, "A yidishe shtot unter di Sovetn regirung," Forverts (9 July 1921).
42 Olgin, "A rov a Bolshevik halt a droshe in a Minsker shul," Forverts (11 Sept. 1921).
43 Benjamin Schlessinger, “Five Weeks in Soviet Russia,” pt. 4, Justice, Dec. 10, 1920, p. 3.
Olgin had met on a number of occasions in Europe and New York.44 A dramatic moment
in the ceremony came when a former tsarist general dismounted his horse and saluted
Petrovsky and Trotsky as they inspected the troops. The scene impressed Olgin. There,
in Red Square, stood a former pillar of the old regime now subordinated to a former
Yiddish journalist, who had escaped a pogrom less than two years earlier.45 And beside
him stood Trotsky, an “outlaw Jew,” as Olgin described him, the most important Soviet
leader after Lenin. At that moment, Olgin witnessed a world turned upside down. It was
a scene that could only confirm the worst fears of anti-semites unwilling to distinguish
between a Russia inclusive of Jews and one dominated by them. But a profound new
reality had, indeed, come into being: anybody loyal to the revolution could play a role in
building Soviet Russia. 46
Olgin’s report must have made a strong impression on readers. Petrovsky/Goldfarb
and Trotsky were not faceless figures in some distant land, but, until recently, well
known leaders in New York City. Although Trotsky professed no identification with the
Jewish people (he famously told a reporter that he was neither a Jew nor a Russian, but a
Social Democrat and only that), New York Jews had embraced Trotsky as one of their
own. When Trotsky’s boat arrived in New York harbor a representative of the Hebrew
44 Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Armed. Trotsky: 1879-1921, vol. 1 (New York: Vintage Books, 1965),
pp. 241-42; Moissaye J. Olgin, “Who Is Trotzky?” Asia (March 1918), p. 198. Levine,
45 Olgin, "A parad fun royte soldatn in Moskve," Forverts (2 June 1921). For recollections of the parade
and Olgin’s visit, see Danyel Tsharni, A yor tsendlik aza (New York: 1943), 292-293. Abramovitch, In
tsvey revolutsyes, p. 148. see Olgin, "A yid, Goldberg, komandevet iber hunderter rusishe generaln,"
Forverts (23 April 1921); and Soyer, "Soviet Travel and the Making of an American Jewish Communist,"
46 Later in the decade, Goldfarb/Petrovsky was appointed head of the Comintern's Anglo-American
secretariat, where he played a significant role in the formation of its policy on "the Negro Question." He
eventually changed his name again, to A.J. Bennet and served as a Comintern agent in England. See
Draper, American Communism and Soviet Russia, 168; Zvi Gitelman, Jewish Nationality and Soviet
Politics: The Jewish Sections of the CPSU, 1917-1930 (Princeton: 1972); Mark Solomon, The Cry Was
Unity: Communists and African Americans, 1917-1936 (Jackson, Miss.: 1998), 68-91.
Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society met him at the pier.47 The Forverts greeted him
with a front-page interview. The caption to his photograph read: “This is Comrade
Trotsky. The Russian-Jewish revolutionary driven from all of Europe because of his
revolutionary ideas.” The reception held in his honor at Cooper Union featured speeches
by leading intellectuals, including none other than Max Goldfarb.48 The Forverts, Di
tsukunft, and Di naye velt published his articles in Yiddish translation.49 He also wrote
regularly for the Russian-language weekly, Novi Mir, and took an active role in the
Socialist Party’s Russian Socialist Federation, alongside other future Soviet leaders,
Nikolai Bukharin and Alexandra Kollantai.50 In cafes, lecture halls, and public parks (the
northeastern corner of Central Park was dubbed “Trotsky Square” by Harlem socialists)
frequented by Jews, Trotsky had “a large and responsive audience,” to quote Outlook
magazine.51 His powerful oratory was legendary. “He is always on the aggressive,”
Olgin wrote in 1918. “He is full of passion,--that white-heated, vibrating mental passion
that characterizes the intellectual Jew.” “This relaxed and reflective man,” one memoirist
recalls, “became a pyrotechnic orator when he mounted a platform before an audience.
His hands would shoot into the air. He would pivot from foot to foot. His voice, at one
47 “Expelled from Four Lands,” New York Times, Jan. 15, 1917, p. 2.
48 Jan. 16, 1917, Forverts, p. 1; “A geshprekh mit genose Trotski,” ibid., p. 5; “Donershtik der kaboles
punim far Gen. Trotski,” Forverts, Jan. 23, 1917, p. 1.
49 In its interview, the Forverts stated, probably without full regard for the truth, that Trotsky could
understand Yiddish fairly well, but not read or write it. The Forverts hired him and he wrote for the
newspaper until an argument with Cahan over the war ended their relationship. “Genose Trotski’s artikln in
‘Forverts’,” Forverts, Jan. 30, 1917, p. 4; “Fun unzer post,” Forverts, March 8, 1917, p. 7; Dovid Shub,
Fun di amolike yorn. On Trotsky’s Jewish upbringing, see Joshua Rubenstein, Leon Trotsky: A
Revolutionary’s Life (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2011), pp. 1-24.
50 Ian D. Thatcher, “Leon Trotsky in New York City,” Historical Research: The Bulleting of the Institute
of Historical Research, vol. 69, no. 169 (June 1996): 106-180. For English translations of Trotsky’s
articles published in Novi Mir, see Trotsky’s Reflections on the Russian Revolution from New York,
Journal of Trotsky Studies, 1, 1993: 95-122.
51 August Claessens, Didn’t We Have Fun! Stories out of a Long, Fruitful, and Merry Life (New York:
The Rand School Press, 1953), p. 89; Henry Moskowitz, “Trotzky on the East Side,” Outlook, Jan. 30,
1918, p. 181.
moment soothing, would suddenly shriek with indignation and his whole body would
tremble. Then, suddenly composed, he would be soulful and lugubrious.”52 Thus Leon
Trotsky’s ascendancy from the streets of immigrant New York to the height of power in
Moscow contained symbolic importance to Jews, for he embodied the revolution’s
possibilities. “Leon Trotsky—a few months ago he lived in a poor apartment not far
from my street in the Bronx,” the Hebrew writer, Rueben Brainin, recorded in his diary in
November 1917. “He made ten dollars a week working for Novi Mir. And, behold,
today he is the foreign minister of Russia and he stands at the head of government in that
In the Forverts and The New Republic, Olgin hailed the arrival of the future, but
what about the Jewish past? Six years of expulsions and slaughter had obliterated Jewish
communities throughout the old Pale of Settlement. Olgin witnessed some of the
devastation with his own eyes, which must have taken an emotional toll. A booklet he
published after his return to New York, an elegy to his hometown, entitled Mayn shtetl in
Ukrayne, reflected the depth of his grief, though not in a straightforward way. Olgin did
not, in fact, grow up in a town (shtetl), but a tiny village (dorf) in a forest where few Jews
resided. He noted this fact in the booklet’s final chapter, but without explanation.54
True, Olgin lived in a shtetl during his late teenage years, before he moved to Kiev, but
only briefly, a fact he failed to mention. Equally strange, Olgin identified “his” shtetl by
the initial “B,” but the name of the shtetl where he lived was named Rogachev. Did Olgin
52 Olgin, “Who Is Trotzky?” p. 195; Maurice L. Malkin, Return to My Father’s House, ed. Charles W.
Wiley (Arlington House: New Rochelle, NY ), p. 50.
53 Ruben Brainin, Kol kitvei Reuben Ben Morecai Breinin, Vol. 3, (New York: Ha-va’ad le-hotsa’at kol
kitvey Rueben Ben-Mordecai Brainin,1940), p. 322.
54 In a posthumously published memoir and his biographical entry in the Lexicon of Yiddish writers, based
on information provided by Olgin, he again stated that he was born in a dorf, not a shtetl.
write about a real place or paint a composite portrait of what he imagined shtetl life to
have been? To what extent did he base his account on his own life or draw from other
sources? Was Mayn shtetl in Ukrayne fiction or fact?
Historical context may help clarify matters. Four years before the publication of
Mayn shtetl in Ukrayne, a Yiddish writer, a colleague of Olgin’s, named A. S. Zaks
published a tribute to the shtetlakh of Lithuania entitled Khoreve veltn (Worlds in ruin).
Zaks wished to create a literary monument, to the Jewish communities of Lithuania
destroyed by war and wholesale expulsions. “As we write these lines,” Zaks noted, “the
news which arrives from the battle fields, where the fate of nations is being determined,
is not entirely happy for us Jews. With shuffling of the political cards in Europe Jewish
life becomes torn apart, broken to pieces, shredded to bits, and who knows if the
separated parts will be able to grow back together in one whole organism?” At a moment
when the very future of the Jewish people stood in jeopardy, Zaks wished to pay tribute
to the traditional Jewish way of life, which, had actually been eroding since the midnineteenth century, but was now marked for death. Zaks was well aware of the irony of
his project. He had broken with the traditional Judaism of his parents back in the 1890s
when he joined the Bund. A Marxist and a social scientist, Zaks had no use for religion.
Yet the war prompted a reassessment. He now saw much of value in the old ways.
“Many customs from the old fashioned Jewish way life were infused with a certain grace,
with a certain sympathy, and no civilization, no culture, can replace them”
55 The old
Judaism was not all darkness and backwardness. It contained values that were in some
way exemplary. Zaks’ book undertook to capture that world for posterity.
55 A. S. Zaks, Khoreve veltn, second edition, (New York: Literarishe Farlag, 1918), p. 8.
Horeve veltn resonated with American Jewish readers. The first edition sold out
several thousand copies within eight months and immediately went into a second
printing. An expanded English-language edition appeared a decade later under the softer,
insipid title, Worlds that Passed. The leading Yiddish literary critic and historian,
Shmuel Niger, credited Khoreve veltn with opening “a whole new chapter” in modern
Yiddish literature: memoirs commemorating the lost world of European Jewry.
Khoreve veltn signaled an enduring cultural phenomenon among American Jews.
In response to the calamities of the First World and the Russian Civil War, American
Jews increasingly commemorated “the shtetl” in the form of memoirs, memorial books,
literary works, and public ceremonies. The Yiddish literary scholar, David Roskies, has
described this as a “secular covenant” in which those who had long ago lost their
religious faith invested the shtetl with quasi-sacred meaning. “The place of the shtetl in
the self-understanding of millions of American Jews now became fixed for all time,”
Roskies writes of the post-World War I era. “The shtetl was reclaimed as the place of
common origin (even when it wasn’t—emphasis added), the source of a collective folk
identity rooted in a particular historical past and, most importantly, as the locus of a new,
secular, covenant.”57 In the face of catastrophe, American Jews forged a new emotional
bond with Eastern Europe, in which the shtetl—previously synonymous with economic
stagnation and cultural backwardness in the minds of socialists and Jewish modernizers
56 Sh. Niger, “A. S. Zaks’ Khoreve veltn,” in B. Ts. Goldberg, ed., Shtudyes in sotsyaler visnshaft: lekoved
dem fuftsikstn geburts-tog fun A. S. Zaks (New York: Farlag Yidisher Lerer-Seminar, 1930), p. 32; Dr.
Herman Frank, A. S. Zaks: Kemfer far folks-oyflebung (New York: A. S. Zaks Gezelshaft, 1945), pp. 200-
57 David G. Roskies, The Jewish Search for a Usable Past, (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1999), p.
57. On literary responses to pogroms during World War I and the Russian Civil War, see David Roskies,
Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
Univ. Press, 1984), pp. 101-132. Roskies writes, “Never before had the memory of past destruction
resurfaced with so much force as during the Ukranian civil war of 1918-19, for no other area of eastern
Europe was so steeped in Jewish calamity.” (p. 101).
of all sorts—was now seen as a wellspring of Jewish civilization, cruelly torn at the roots
by external forces. Roskies’ insight helps to explain why Olgin felt compelled to
eulogize a place where he may or may not have lived and that may or may not have
Olgin, unlike Zaks, did not state explicitly his purpose in writing Mayn shtetl in
Ukrayne, but he set an elegiac tone at the outset. “Ukraine, Ukraine! You were such a
beautiful home, such a happy corner. What have you made of all of us? What are we to
you?” Olgin made no attempt to capture shtetl life in its entirety. Whereas Zaks’
sociological memoir presented finely grained descriptions of communal institutions,
formal religious practices, social and economic relations, and intra-communal politics,
Mayn shtetl in Ukrayne conveyed what Olgin felt was the essential spirit of the shtetl:
the ordinary folk. Elites are almost entirely absent in Olgin’s rendering, as are social
conflicts, and less than admirable human qualities. He describes a world rich in values
and traditions: respect for learning over wealth, an ethos of mutual responsibility,
genuine piety, humor, an appreciation of simple beauty.
58 His account was sentimental
and nostalgic in the extreme. From today’s vantage point, it comes across as a send-up of
the saccharine sentiment toward eastern Europe familiar since Fiddler on the Roof, but
Olgin’s mawkishness was sincere. In a chapter entitled “Artists, Singers, Performers,
Musicians, Poets, Olgin stated baldy, “My shtetl loved beauty. My shtetl longed for such
people who could pry us from the mundane, everyday life. My shtetl respected and
valued Sabbath festiveness” In another chapter, “Happy Occasions,” he writes, “In my
shtetl, we danced and sang, it seems, more than in other Jewish towns.” “At circumcision
58 M. Olgin, Mayn shtetl in Ukrayne (New York: M. Gurevitshes Farlag, 1921).
rituals and weddings, the Jews gathered, and beamed, and their eyes sparkled. Rich and
poor Jews celebrated together. But they didn’t wait for major occasions. They used to
celebrate just as much on the Sabbath.” Olgin’s shtetl was a humble community filled
with good, honest, people.59 His nostalgic tribute reflected nothing of his Marxist
worldview, and the same was true of Khoreve veltn. Neither showed major internal
divisions or conflicts (quite unlike Soviet historical scholarship produced during the
1920s). “In my shtetl we did everything together,” Olgin claimed. “We were one big
60 Olgin and Zaks suspended their Marxism when looking backward, but did not
discard it otherwise. The catastrophe not spur a return to religion, but impelled a
commitment to Bolshevism. Their sadness led them to see in the Bolshevik revolution
salvation for the Jews. Their pro-Bolshevism, in this sense, was as much a political
expression of Jewish emotion and grief, as it was Marxist commitment.
Olgin Becomes a Communist
Olgin returned to the United State thoroughly enchanted by Soviet Russia, but he
still did not wish to join the Communist party, which he had not stopped thinking of as a
deluded sect. The prospect of revolution in the United States had grown more remote
than ever in 1921. The post-war strikes had subsided and the Communist insurrections in
Germany and Hungary were crushed. What point was there in maintaining a clandestine
organization? At the same time, Olgin became increasingly frustrated by and critical of
the Socialist Party. The party, decimated by the Left Wing rebellion, showed few signs
of life. Salutsky called it a “rotting corpse.” Olgin and Salutsky implored their fellow
Socialists to join the Communist International, which they believed could invigorate their
59 Ibid., p. 17, 31.
60 Ibid., 34.
party with a badly needed fighting spirit. When their efforts failed and the Socialist Party
declined to apply for admission, Olgin and Salutsky called on the JSF to break from the
Socialist Party, which it elected to do during a special convention in early September. In
response the Forverts promptly fired Olgin and other staff writers who voted in favor of
the split. Over the following three months, the JSF dwelled in the political wilderness
until an opportunity arose that would result in a merger with the Communist Party.61
In the fall of 1921, the Comintern concluded that revolution was no longer an
immediate prospect in the United States and, on that basis, ordered the American
Communist party to create a new, aboveground party in alliance with non-Communists.
This provided an opening to the JSF and like-minded organizations that had broken with
the Socialist Party over the previous two years, but had not wanted to join the Communist
Party. Olgin and Salutsky represented the JSF at the negotiating table. Olgin was
amenable, but as the negotiations proceeded, Salutsky came to suspect the Communists
of acting in bad faith. He believed the party had no intention of creating a truly
independent party, but rather aimed to dominate the proposed new party. Shortly before
an agreement was reached, Salutsky called a meeting in Olgin's apartment to convince
the other non-Communists to back out of the proposed merger. However, neither Olgin
nor most of the others present could be persuaded. According to Salutsky's retrospective
account, Olgin viewed a merger with the Communists as a means to remain connected to
Soviet Russia. "What the hell do you want with this business?" Salutsky claims to have
asked Olgin during the negotiations. "I want to be free to come to Russia," was Olgin's
61 For more detailed accounts, see Y. Sh. Herts, Di yidishe sotsyalistishe bavegung in Amerike (New York:
1954), 188-198; Tony Michels, A Fire in Their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists in New York (Cambridge, Mass.:
reply.62 Salutsky went along with Olgin and the majority of other non-Communist
delegates; it seemed too late to turn back.
Olgin and Salutsky led the JSF into a new organization, named the Workers Party,
which was supposed to be independent of the underground Communist party. Although
affiliated with the Comintern, the WP was not designated as its official representative in
the United States (that status was reserved for the underground Communist Party). Olgin
did not define himself as a Communist at the time of the merger. He was what
Communists derisively called a "Centrist," that is, someone who had taken the correct
step of aligning with the Communists, but was not yet willing to go all the way and
convert to Communism. Whatever their differences, Olgin believed that Centrists and
Communists could cooperate in order to achieve shared goals. In a pamphlet published in
early 1922, he promised readers that the Workers Party would not be the Communist
party under a new name. There could be no room for an underground, conspiratorial party
in the United States, he wrote. As long as the social revolution remained a distant
prospect, the WP would play primarily an educational role, propagating a militant brand
of socialism so as to prepare workers for their historic task. The party's newly created
Jewish Federation would ensure a "pure, sustainable, serious spirit in the Jewish labor
movement" by fighting against the "cheap, watered-down, formless, hurrah-socialism"
espoused by the Forverts and other "official socialists" who led the movement.63
Olgin's pamphlet neglected to mention several important details that would suggest
his optimism was premature. He failed to acknowledge that a delicate balance of power
62 Transcribed interview with J.B.S. Hardman (Salutsky) (23 June 1962), 58, Tamiment, J.B.S. Hardman
Collection, box 38, folder F-399.
63 M. Olgin, A proletarishe politishe partey (New York: Farlag fun der Yidisher Sotsyalistisher Federatsye,
existed within the WP and its Jewish Federation. The federation was governed by an 18-
member executive committee divided equally between Communists and Centrists. This
deprived Olgin's camp a free hand in organizational affairs, contrary to what his pamphlet
implied. As long as the power-sharing arrangement held, the Centrists needed to secure
the assent of the Communists. Furthermore, Communists were allocated a slight majority
of seats on the WP's Central Executive Committee (CEC), so that they controlled the
party as a whole, thereby strengthening the position of Communists inside the Jewish
A final problem ignored by Olgin was the relationship of the underground
Communist party to the WP. Olgin and Salutsky expected the Communist Party to
dissolve itself altogether after the establishment of the WP, so that the latter would
supersede the former. Yet it soon became clear that the Communists intended to maintain
the underground party ("Number One," as they called it), which would secretly control
the Workers Party ("Number Two"). In Bittelman’s words, the WP would function, not
as an independent party, but as the "transmission apparatus between the revolutionary
vanguard of the proletariat [the Communist party] and its less conscious and as yet nonrevolutionary masses."64 The historian Theodore Draper maintains that Olgin and
Salutsky were aware of the Communists' intentions when they agreed to the merger, but
this seems unlikely.65 Both men had always opposed the existence of an underground
party and would continue to do so after the foundation of the Workers Party. It seems
more likely that Olgin and Salutsky were given reason to believe that the underground
party would soon be dissolved, although no formal promise had been made. In any case,
64 Alexander Bittelman quoted in Draper, American Communism and Soviet Russia, 174. 65 Draper, The Roots of American Communism, 449, n. 23.
the status of the underground party was left unresolved at the time of the merger in
December 1921. Olgin evidently believed that differences of opinion between the
Communist and non-Communist camps would be worked out amicably and that
Communists would honor the terms of the merger.
By the middle of 1922, it became apparent that the Communists had no intention of
dissolving the underground party or respecting the power-sharing arrangement within the
Workers Party. Arguments between Communists and Centrists consumed the Jewish
Federation. The Communists’ strategy, dictated by the party leadership, was to propagate
their ideas until they wore out or coopted the Centrists. The Communists believed that
they would win sooner or later given their dominant position in the Workers Party.
Gaining control of the Jewish Federation and its daily newspaper, Di frayhayt, was
deemed of utmost importance by the Communist Party leadership. The Jewish
Federation was among the largest foreign-language federations in the Workers Party (and
one of the most resistant to Communist domination), but it served as a gateway to the
mass-based Jewish labor organizations, and through them the larger American tradeunion movement. In a report to the Comintern, the Communist Party’s Central Executive
Committee stated, “We consider this fight in the Jewish movement an absolute condition
for the development of our influence among other sections of the organized working
class; for to be beaten in this fight may mean complete extermination of our forces from
the Jewish labor unions which will undoubtedly diminish our chances of progress in other
labor unions.” At the time this report was sent in October 1921, the Communists did not
believe the time was yet ripe for a “decisive battle” with the Centrists. Its strategy was to
abide by the original power-sharing arrangement established in December 1921 “until
such a time when Communist ideas have taken a stronger hold upon the advanced section
of the Jewish workers.”
The battle between Centrists, led by Olgin and Salutsky, and Communists, led by
Bittelman, raged through the fall. Tensions came to a head in October, when three
members of the Jewish Federation's executive committee defected from the Communist
faction, thus tipping the balance of power in favor of the Centrists. Bittelman's group
demanded a return to the status quo ante but Olgin’s side refused. Bittelman and the
executive committee's other five Communists resigned in protest and enlisted the support
of the Workers Party's highest authority, the Central Executive Committee. Controlled by
the Communists, the CEC naturally ruled in favor of Bittelman's faction. It demanded not
only restoration of the lost seats to the Communist faction, but also the installation of a
representative to be selected by the CEC. Furthermore, the CEC ordered the Jewish
Federation to turn over half of Di frayhayt's ownership to the Workers Party.
Communists had faulted Di frayhayt, a first-class literary newspaper, for paying too much
attention to Yiddish culture, allegedly at the expense of working-class interests. "The
struggle against the Forward," according to Bittelman, "must be … on the basis of
communist principles. We fight the Forward not merely and mainly because it is not a
decent literary paper, but because it serves the reactionary and socially treacherous union
bureaucracy."66 A proper Communist paper, according to Bittelman, should not seek to
advance Yiddish culture but rather function as the Yiddish mouthpiece of the party.67
The Jewish Federation was scheduled to decide who should control Di frayhayt and
the Jewish Federation at its national convention scheduled for December 20. As the
66 Quoted in Melech Epstein, The Jew and Communism, 1919-1941 (New York: 1959), 108. 67 Ibid., 100-112; Michels, A Fire in Their Hearts, 244-246.
convention approached, the Jewish Federation came under intense pressure to comply
with the CEC's ruling. The December 9 issue of The Worker, the party's English-speaking
organ, published a statement by the CEC condemning Olgin and his allies for disrupting
party unity.68 A week later, all of the party's foreign language federations, which
represented some 90 percent of the total party membership, published a statement in The
Worker criticizing the Jewish Federation for disrupting party unity. None other than the
Comintern's Secretary, Grigorii Zinoviev, wired a cable ordering the Jewish Federation to
obey the CEC. "We decisively condemn [the] frivolous breach of discipline against [the]
Central Committee of the Workers Party," Zinoviev wrote. "We request [that] all Jewish
branches and members carry out decisions of [the] Central Committee … to reestablish
unity[,] otherwise [the] Central Committee [will] have to carry out energetically
immediate disciplinary measures against leaders of revolt."69 The Comintern and the
entire Workers Party stood against the Jewish Federation.
As late as December 19, Olgin and his negotiating partner, George Vishnak,
refused to back down. Yet, at the last minute, they relented. They agreed to restore the
balance of power on the Jewish Federation's executive committee, to allow Bittelman to
assume leadership of the federation, and to turn over full ownership of Di frayhayt -- not
merely 50 percent, as originally demanded -- to the Workers Party.70 It is not clear what
happened behind closed doors. Melech Epstein, a member of the Communist faction at
the time, later claimed that Olgin was bought off by the promise of sole editorship of Di
frayhayt. Another factor influencing Olgin's decision may have been the Communist
68 Statement by the Central Executive Committee of the Workers' Party, The Worker (9 Dec. 1922),
Tamiment, Noah London Collection.
69 Zinoviev to Ruthenberg, n/d, Tamiment, reel 8, delo 147). 70 "Conditions of Agreement" (signed by Olgin, Vishnak, and six others), Tamiment, reel 17, delo 115;
Michels, A Fire in Their Hearts, 238-248.
party's recent decision, on Comintern orders, to dissolve itself as an underground
organization and merge fully into the Workers Party. Considering that the existence of
the underground party had been one of Olgin's chief grievances, the Comintern's decision
may have made Olgin more amenable to the WP's Central Executive Committee's
Whatever motivated Olgin, his concessions did not stop the infighting. Factional
struggles continued into 1923, as Communists and Centrists jockeyed for position inside
the Workers Party. The fighting grew so fierce within the Jewish Federation that Olgin
threw up his hand and quit Di frayhayt in the spring. The Workers Party's CEC installed a
new editor, Benjamin Gitlow, to supervise Di frayhayt and to make sure it would be
"more working class" and "less devoted to literary affairs." An American-born Jew,
Gitlow was "not at home in the Yiddish language and had no qualifications as a writer in
this field," in the words of Communist leader James Cannon.71 Gitlow was instructed, as
he himself writes in his memoir, to "watch over every line the writers wrote, give
attention to the raising of money … and convince the membership [of the Jewish
Federation] that the paper was not being destroyed through the changes made by the
Central Executive Committee of the Party." Thus Di frayhayt, a newspaper regarded for
its high literary standards, passed into the hands of a "commissar" who had little
knowledge of, or regard for, Yiddish.72
One might wonder why Olgin did not quit the Workers Party altogether in 1923.
He had already resigned from Di frayhayt -- and by this time, the Workers Party had
fallen under full Communist control. Before the year was over, the party relinquished any
71 James Cannon, The First Ten Years of American Communism: Report of a Participant (New York:
72 Benjamin Gitlow, I Confess (New York: 1940), 160.
pretense of political independence and had become recognized by the Comintern as its
"official section" in the United States. Centrists were co-opted, expelled, or resigned from
the party. Tsivion, for instance, quit and returned to the Forverts.73 Not long afterward,
Salutsky was expelled for violating party discipline. Under the name J.B.S. Hardman,
Salutsky started an English-language magazine, the American Labor Monthly, and
continued to serve as the educational director of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of
America.74 Yet Olgin chose to remain loyal to the Workers Party and defined himself
henceforth as a Communist without reservation or qualification. He did not make a
dramatic final decision but assumed gradually a new political identity as he came to
accept Communist control of the Workers Party.
Why did Olgin take that small, but important, final step toward Communism? The
question can be answered, in part, by considering Olgin's options. Tsivion's path back to
the Forverts could not have appealed to Olgin, as it would have required pleading for
forgiveness from Cahan and accepting a subordinate position under his notoriously
imperious editorship. Assuming Cahan would have permitted Olgin's return, this would
have involved an embarrassing loss of status for Olgin. A respected intellectual with a
doctorate from a prestigious university, Olgin could have only cringed at the thought of
returning to the Forverts, where he would have little hope of ever becoming its editor-inchief. At the same time, he could not have considered Salutsky's turn to English-language
journalism a desirable choice. Whereas Salutsky harbored no special affection for
73 Dr. B. Hofman [Tsivion], Komunistn vos hobn oyfgegesn komunizm (New York: 1923); idem, Far 50 yor
(New York: 1948), 335-346; Tsivion to Olgin, n.d., Bund Archives, ME-40; Cahan to Tsivion, 29 Oct.
1923, ibid. 74 In December 1922, Salutsky had invited Olgin to join the American Labor Monthly, but Olgin wished to
evaluate the "tone" of the magazine before accepting the invitation. See Olgin to Salutsky, 28 Dec. 1922,
Tamiment [any other file information? IT’S IN THE J. B. S. HARDMAND COLLECTION, BOX 3,
Yiddish, Olgin loved the language too much to abandon it. Thus Olgin's attachment to
Yiddish kept him from moving completely to the English press, while his own status as
an intellectual leader, achieved in part by his English-language journalism, prevented him
from returning to a second-rung position at the Forverts.
Furthermore, had Olgin quit the Workers Party, he would have necessarily
severed a direct link to Soviet Russia, an unthinkable sacrifice. Whatever frustration he
might have felt toward the Workers Party, Olgin had lost none of his ardor for the
Russian Revolution, "the greatest event in the history of the working class and in the
history of the world."75 Olgin understood that if he wanted to stay directly connected to
Soviet Russia, he needed to remain a member of the Workers Party. Standing on the
outside as a sympathizer would not do. During his first trip to Soviet Russia, Olgin had
witnessed firsthand the sad fate of anti-Bolshevik revolutionaries -- some of them former
friends and comrades -- who had been swept aside by events. Olgin did not want to end
up like them, as he had made clear in his articles for the Forverts and the New Republic.
Not only was he a true believer in the revolution, but his status in the party's upper
echelon rested on his expertise in Russian affairs, for instance, as editor of the party's
Russian-language daily, Novi Mir, and as American correspondent for Izvestia. And,
unlike Salutsky/Hardman, Olgin could not count on an institutional base of support
outside of the Workers Party. He had no union position waiting for him. If Olgin wanted
to be "free to come to Russia," as he reputedly told Salutsky in 1921, he needed to stay
with the Workers Party. This benefit would be confirmed in 1924 when Olgin was sent to
75 Moissaye J. Olgin, "The Mad Dog of Menshevism," English trans. of an article appearing in the
American, Russian-language Communist daily Novi Mir, dated 27 Jan. 1925, Tamiment, reel 21, delo 365. 76 Olgin, "Di umgliklekhe 'Menshevikes'," Forverts (30 May 1921); Soyer, "Soviet Travel and the Making
of an American Jewish Communist," 18-19.
Moscow as a delegate to the Comintern's fifth congress. Four years earlier, Olgin had
traveled to Soviet Russia as a sympathetic reporter; now he returned in an official
capacity to deliberate Comintern policy with revolutionaries from around the world. The
contrast could not have been lost on Olgin, who surely relished his new role.77
Finally, and perhaps most important, Olgin's move to Communism should be
viewed against the backdrop of developments outside the party. By 1923, Communists
had gained much ground in the Jewish labor movement's major organizations. They
formed a powerful bloc, known as Di linke (the Left), which flourished beyond the
narrow precincts of the Workers Party. Di linke consisted of two main elements. One
comprised post-1905 immigrants (mostly, but not only, former Bundists like Olgin and
Bittelman), who founded the first Jewish Communist organizations between 1919 and
1922. The other, perhaps larger, element was made up of young immigrants who came to
the United States in the years immediately following the First World War. A significant
number of the postwar immigrants -- who totaled 250,000 between 1919 and 1924 -- had
been active in Russian Jewish revolutionary parties, especially the Bund and Poale Zion
or their respective youth organizations. Others came without political affiliations but had
been radicalized during the years of war, revolution, and pogroms.78 Great admirers of
the Bolsheviks, the new arrivals came in a mood of revolutionary fervor. In their eyes, the
established Jewish socialist and labor organizations appeared staid and bureaucratic, a
perception shared by some Socialist party stalwarts shared.
79 Few adherents of Di Linke
77 With regard to Olgin's trip, Melech Epstein writes: "The men in the Kremlin knew Olgin from the time of
their exile abroad, and Zinoviev and the others took him in hand. Highly flattered by the special attention of
the mighty, Olgin returned a faithful toer of the line." Epstein, The Jew and Communism, 119. 78 Epstein, The Jew and Communism, 197-201; Kenneth Kann, Joe Rapoport: The Life of a Jewish Radical
(Philadelphia: 1981), 20-87; Max Perlov, "A tsurikblik tsu di tsvantsiker yorn," Di pen 4 (1994), 23-26;
Yankev Rot, Tsvishn sotsyalizm un tsienizm (Tel Aviv: 1996), 131-157. 79 Thus, Nokhum Khanin, leader of the Socialist Party’s Yiddish section, conceded, “We have ceased
actually joined the Workers Party, but linkistn, or leftists, looked to the party for
leadership and joined myriad organizations founded by party members.80 Within Di linke,
Communists defined the discursive terrain, operated as a disciplined group, and could
always invoke the authority and prestige of Moscow when needed. Yet Di linke formed a
broad enough arena to accommodate various elements: Communists, Bundists, MarxistZionists, Yiddishists and, in the words of one Yiddish cultural activist in Chicago, those
"searching for … a spiritual roof over their heads."81
Di linke found its strongest base of support in the garment unions, in particular
the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. In the ILGWU's 1924 election, Di
linke won control of three New York locals, which comprised a remarkable 70 percent of
the union's membership in that city. In the following year, it gained control of the New
York Cloak Makers Joint Board, a stronghold of ILGWU membership. (Di linke would
be largely defeated within the ILGWU by 1927, after it badly mishandled the
cloakmakers strikes of the previous year, but its demise could not have been predicted
just a year earlier.) Di linke also won full control of the Furriers Union, and it made
additional gains in locals of other important unions.82 Within the Arbeter Ring fraternal
thinking of ourselves as leaders of a great people's movement. We have become practical businessmen …
We have thought we could achieve everything with a little money and that inspiring the masses is
superfluous. We have ceased being the center around which people could warm themselves, and therefore
people have turned away from us. We have been left to ourselves. I maintain that Communism or
Communist influence among Jewish workers is a protest against our coldness, a protest against our
‘practicality’ …. The masses have seen in the Communist movement an idealistic, sincere, relationship to
the workers and their struggles.” N[okhum]. Khanin, quoted in Herts, Di yidishe sotsyalistishe bavegung in
Amerike, 264. 80 In the 1924 presidential election, for instance, the Poale Zion-Left created a formal alliance with the
Workers Party. Minutes of General Executive Committee (WP), 9 July 1924, Tamiment, reel 18, delo 276;
Minutes of Executive Council (WP), 29 Sept. 1924, ibid., reel 20, delo 303; M. Bzshoza to Central
Executive Committee (WP), 5 Oct. 1924, ibid., reel 25, delo 389; Workers Party of America, Decisions of
the CEC, 6 Oct. 1924, ibid., reel 24, delo 365.
81 Dos naye vort 2 (Nov. 1924), 9 (Tamiment reel 25, delo 390). 82 Epstein, The Jew and Communism, 122-143; J.B.S. Hardman, "The Needle-Trades Unions," Social
Research 27, no. 3 (Autumn 1960), 342-343; Nadel, "Reds Versus Pinks," 60-61.
order, linkistn seized control of 26 out of some 30 Yiddish children's schools in New
York, the Arbeter Ring center in Harlem, and the Kinderland summer camp. Linkistn also
controlled 64 Arbeter Ring branches with a membership of about 7,000 and were
influential in many others. Eventually, in 1930, members of Di linke would break away
from the Arbeter Ring to form the rival International Workers Order.83
While linkistn threatened to overturn the established leadership in the Jewish
labor movement, they also formed dozens of new organizations with a strong cultural
bent. In the Bronx, there was the Young Workers Union of Writers, which sponsored
literary readings and lectures on literature and art in addition to publishing a successful
journal called Yung kuznye, and ultimately evolved into the proletarian writers association
known as Proletpen.
84 Readers of Di frayhayt formed a Yiddish choir, the Frayhayt
Gezangs Fareyn, numbering 288 members in New York alone (other branches were
established in a number of other cities, including New Haven, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh,
Newark, Cleveland, Toronto, and Montreal).85 The Arbeter Teater Klub, an amateur
Yiddish theater group, offered lessons in theater history, organized group discussions
and, in 1925, spearheaded the creation of the Arbeter Teater Farband (ARTEF),
representing 133 organizations.86 In that year, Communists also founded the Jewish
Workers' University for the purpose of developing a "Jewish workers' intelligentsia." The
school offered a two-year curriculum (three for teachers) in "general sciences and
problems of the labor movement" that included courses in Jewish history, the Yiddish
83 Epstein, The Jew and Communism, 144-150; Liebman, Jews and the Left, 310-321. 84 Perlov, "A tsurikblick tsu di tsvantsiker yorn," 25-26; Dovid Katz, "Introduction," in Proletpen:
America's Rebel Yiddish Poets, ed. Amelia Glaser and David Weintraub, trans. Amelia Glaser (Madison:
2005), 3-29. 85 Frayhayt gezang fareyn un mandalin orkester (Dec. 1924), YIVO, RG 1400, box 6A, folder 13; Gezang
un kamf: yorbukh fun dem yidishn muzikalishn arbeter farband (1928), ibid., box 7, folder 17. 86 Edna Nahshon, Yiddish Proletarian Theatre: The Art and Politics of the ARTEF, 1925-1940 (Westport,
Conn.: 1998), 13-58.
language, and Yiddish literature. Three hundred students were enrolled as of 1927.87
There were many other Communist-oriented initiatives, groups, and organizations: art
centers, workers clubs, summer camps, a cooperative housing venture in the Bronx, an
agency to support Jewish colonization in the Soviet Russia, and so on. Much of what was
fresh and energetic in American Yiddish culture during the 1920s occurred within the
realm of Di linke.
Di linke provided an expansive organizational and social framework congenial to
Olgin. The Workers Party may have been small and faction-ridden, but Di linke was large
and effective. As a writer, cultural activist, educator, and political spokesman, Olgin
found an enthusiastic reception within Di linke, an arena where he could pursue his love
of Yiddish culture and radical politics while remaining connected to the party and
Moscow. There he would remain until his death.
Olgin’s path to Communism was in many particulars unique to this highly
accomplished intellectual. Even so, his evolution reflected a larger experience: that of
immigrant radicals, mostly former members of the Bund, whose dual commitments to
Marxism and Yiddish cultural nationalism led them toward Communism at its formative
moment during a period of crisis. Some, such Bittelman, embraced Communism in a
sudden conversion prompted by the Communist International. A larger number,
represented by Olgin, gradually redefined themselves as Communists as their ardor for
Bolshevism intensified for reasons that had to with events in Russia and the internal
politics of immigrant Jews in the United States. Jewish Communists arrived at
Communism for considerably different reasons than those of non-Jewish Jews. Like their
87 Ershter friling yontef: Yidisher arbeter univerzitet (April 1927), YIVO, RG 1400, box 11, folder 34.
gentile comrades, Jewish Communists hailed the Bolshevik revolution as the greatest
event in human history and celebrated Soviet Russia as the world’s first workers’
republic. Yet they also had additional, specifically Jewish, reasons to embrace
Communism. As they saw it, Jewish Communists believed that the Bolshevik
government provided sweeping solutions to urgent Jewish problems, starting with the
very survival of the Jewish people. The mass slaughter of Jews by counter-revolutionary
forces convinced many immigrants in the United States that the Bolsheviks’ triumph was
an existential necessity. Immigrant Jews were also greatly encouraged by the fact that
Bolsheviks outlawed anti-semitism, granted national rights to Jews, and embarked on a
full-scale reconstruction of the social, economic, and cultural life of Russian Jews. Thus,
Jewish Communists—as well as many as those who were not Communists—connected
the well being of the Jewish people to Soviet Russia. Turning to domestic issues, Jewish
Communists considered Communism a force for reinvigorating Yiddish culture in the
United States, not to mention American socialism and the labor movement as a whole.
To put it simply: Jewish Communists considered themselves both Jews and
revolutionaries, and believed the Communist Party and Soviet Russia offered the best
way to combine those two commitments.
The essential aspect of the history of Jewish Communism may be described as the
history of men and women attempting to reconcile their ethnic and revolutionary
commitments. These dual commitments coincided at certain points in time, such as the
early years of the Russian revolution, but diverged at others in accordance with shifting
and sometimes contradictory Communist policies. This made for a highly fraught
relationship between Jews and Communism. It was a relationship rendered all the more
intense by the high level of expectation Jews invested in Soviet Russia and the life-anddeath matters at stake during war time. Recurring cycles of expectation and
disappointment, hope and betrayal, illusion and realization would play themselves out
over the decades within both the Communist movement and the Jewish community.
Behind scenes, Arab leaders signal annexation OK
May 27, 2020
Behind scenes, Arab leaders signal annexation OKJordan's King Abdullah II speaks at the European parliament, Jan.15, 2020 in Strasbourg (AP/Jean-Francois Badias)
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While publicly warning Israel not to move forward with annexation, some Arab world leaders are accepting the plan behind the scenes.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to formally annex parts of the Jordan Valley and Judea and Samaria has sparked a public outcry from the Arab world.
Arab world leaders warned that annexation, which is slated to move forward as early as July 1, could lead to civil unrest, regional instability, and violence.
Last week, King Abdullah II of Jordan spoke to German newspaper Der Spiegel and threatened that “Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley and West Bank territories could lead Jerusalem and Amman to clash, and may lead to cancellation of the Oslo Accords and the collapse of the Palestinian Authority.”
But behind the scenes, Arab world leaders tell a very different story.
According to Israel Hayom, the rulers of Arab states including Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are quietly accepting the annexation plan, despite public statements condemning Israel’s actions.
A senior Jordanian government official said to Israel Hayom, “King Abdullah gave a speech a few days ago for Jordanian Independence Day, discussing the kingdom’s tremendous achievements since its founding and its success in fighting the coronavirus pandemic within Jordan.”
“The only thing the king did not mention in his speech was Jordan’s official position on annexation of the valley and parts of the West Bank. In the interview he gave to the German newspaper, the king refused to declare that annexation would cancel the peace agreement with Israel. His silence on the matter is for a number of reasons.”
“If Jordan suspends or cancels the peace agreement, its position of authority over the holy sites of Islam in Jerusalem will be harmed. The king also prefers to see the western border of the kingdom [the Jordan Valley] under the rule of Israeli military forces, rather than Palestinian forces or rebel forces,” the official said to Israel Hayom.
“With respect for Palestinian interests, the Jordanian national interest is more important to the king. He wants to continue maintaining the kingdom’s status in Jerusalem and good relations with Washington and President Trump.”
According to the same Jordanian official, the king does not want to see Palestinian unrest in Jordan, which would endanger the royal family. “We’ve seen what’s been happening in the West Bank since Abbas stopped the security coordination with Israel. There is great concern in Ramallah that Hamas and the West Bank militants will take over, like in the Gaza Strip. We don’t want to see a repeat of what happened in Gaza after disengagement.”
“Jordan will continue to voice its official stance against the annexation plan, mainly through public statements by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, and the King will allow the annexation plan to minimize damage to Jordan’s interests.”
A senior Egyptian security official told Israel Hayom that many Arab world leaders “see Iran and the impending threat of Shi’ite Iranian hegemony in the Middle East and are more concerned about that than the Palestinian issue. The United States and Israel have great weight in the fight against Iran.”
A senior Saudi diplomat close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said to Israel Hayom, “The official Arab position will always be against any move that infringes on the rights of the Palestinians for an independent state or hurts the Palestinian national interest.”
“But with all due respect to the several dozen Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley, Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Jordan will not endanger their relationship with the Trump administration for them.”
“Our assumption is that Trump will win the election and continue for a second term. The Palestinians have failed to take advantage of the sympathetic government they had during the Obama era. It’s time for Abu Mazen and the old guard leadership to realize that their global and regional interests are changing once again,” the Saudi source said.
“If they again miss an opportunity to establish an independent and sovereign state alongside Israel, because of annexation of the valley and some of the settlements, they will remain with nothing for another 20 years.”
FBI Docs Reveal That Without Direct Israeli ‘Intervention’ Trump Would Have Lost 2016 Election
2 hours ago | 840 words 240 4
RussiaInsider / Christians for Truth
According to recently released FBI documents, Donald Trump’s longtime confidant, Roger Stone, who was convicted last year in Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, was in contact with one or more apparently well-connected Israelis at the height of the 2016 US presidential campaign, one of whom warned Stone that Trump was “going to be defeated” unless Israel intervened in the election:
The exchange between Stone and this Jerusalem-based contact appears in FBI documents made public on Tuesday. The documents — FBI affidavits submitted to obtain search warrants in the criminal investigation into Stone — were released following a court case brought by The Associated Press and other media organizations.
A longtime adviser to Trump, Stone officially worked on the 2016 presidential campaign until August 2015, when he said he left and Trump said he was fired. However he continued to communicate with the campaign, according to Mueller’s investigation.
The FBI material, which is heavily redacted, includes one explicit reference to Israel and one to Jerusalem, and a series of references to a minister, a cabinet minister, a “minister without portfolio in the cabinet dealing with issues concerning defense and foreign affairs,” the PM, and the Prime Minister. In all these references the names and countries of the minister and prime minister are redacted.
Benjamin Netanyahu was Israel’s prime minister in 2016, and the Israeli government included a minister without portfolio, Tzachi Hanegbi, appointed in May with responsibility for defense and foreign affairs. One reference to the unnamed PM in the material reads as follows: “On or about June 28, 2016, [NAME REDACTED] messaged STONE, “RETURNING TO DC AFTER URGENT CONSULTATIONS WITH PM IN ROME.MUST MEET WITH YOU WED. EVE AND WITH DJ TRUMP THURSDAY IN NYC.” Netanyahu made a state visit to Italy at the end of June 2016.
The explicit reference to Israel appears early in the text of a May 2018 affidavit by an FBI agent in support of an application for a search warrant, and relates to communication between Stone and Jerome Corsi, an American author, commentator and conspiracy theorist. “On August 20, 2016, CORSI told STONE that they needed to meet with [NAME REDACTED] to determine “what if anything Israel plans to do in Oct,” the affidavit states.
The explicit reference to Jerusalem appears later in the same document, in the context of communication between Stone and his unnamed contact in the Israeli capital. “On or about August 12, 2016, [NAME REDACTED] messaged STONE, “Roger, hello from Jerusalem. Any progress? He is going to be defeated unless we intervene. We have critical intell. The key is in your hands! Back in the US next week. How is your Pneumonia? Thank you. STONE replied, “I am well. Matters complicated. Pondering. R” The “he” is an apparent reference to Trump.
The redacted material features numerous references to an “October surprise,” apparently relating to a document dump by Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, intended to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and salvage Trump’s.
Referring to the Israeli mentions in a report on the documents late Tuesday, the US website Politico noted: “The newly revealed messages often raise more questions than answers. They show Stone in touch with seemingly high-ranking Israeli officials attempting to arrange meetings with Trump during the heat of the 2016 campaign.”
…Mueller’s investigation identified significant contact during the 2016 campaign between Trump associates and Russians, but did not allege a criminal conspiracy to tip the outcome of the presidential election.
This story first appeared last month, at the height of the COVID-19 plandemic, which conveniently and not coincidentally allowed all the mainstream media in America to ignore it.
Of course, this story is seen as a positive development from the Israeli (and evangelical) perspective because a Trump presidency was an essential part fulfilling an aggressive Zionist “wish list” which included moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, annexing the Golan Heights and the West Bank, and perhaps a major move against Iran in the second term.
This story also explains why the jewish-controlled press saturated the airwaves with fake stories of “Russian” intervention in the election — and why we will be seeing similar non-stop stories of “Chinese” intervention in the upcoming 2020 election in November.
We can only guess what further information about Israel’s involvement in the election was redacted from this FBI document, but there can be little doubt that the orders to help Trump win came from the very top — from Netanyahu himself.
And Netanyahu hasn’t wasted a second of Trump’s presidency in expanding Israel’s power, territory and influence.
As one Jewish media pundit claimed, Donald Trump has been “the greatest president for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world.”
Trump has even bragged that he is so popular among Israelis that they would elect him Prime Minister if he ran.
And even if the brain-dead American public found out about this Israeli intervention (i.e., “subversion of our democracy”), they would probably just shrug it off — after all, Israel is our “most trusted friend and ally,” goyim.
As Trump Targets Twitter's Legal Shield, Experts Have A Warning
May 30, 202011:36 AM ET
Twenty-six words tucked into a 1996 law overhauling telecommunications have allowed companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google to grow into the giants they are today.
President Trump has a new rallying cry in his escalating crusade against Twitter. As he put it in a tweet Friday: "REVOKE 230!"
It's a reference to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law passed by Congress in 1996. It says online platforms are not legally responsible for what users post. Many say this protection enabled the creation of the modern Internet. But critics — on both the left and right — say it gives tech companies too much power at a time when they are essential to many peoples' lives.
Trump seized on the once-obscure legal provision after wrangling with Twitter this week. The social media platform put fact-checking labels on some of his tweets that claimed, without evidence, that mail-in ballots were fraudulent. Trump then signed an executive order seeking to peel away the sweeping legal immunity social media companies and other online sites have long used as a shield against an avalanche of lawsuits.
The movement to revoke those safeguards is increasingly becoming a bipartisan consensus, with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden even saying Section 230 should be scrapped.
But experts caution that eliminating the legal protections may have unintended consequences for Internet users that extend far beyond Facebook and Twitter.
Left and right criticize Section 230 — for different reasons
Some Republicans, including Trump, accuse social media sites of muzzling conservative voices. They say undoing Section 230 would let people who claim they have been slighted sue the companies.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., introduced a bill last year aimed at ending the legal protections for tech companies unless they agreed to an independent audit to ensure they were moderating content without political bias. Following Twitter's actions this week, Hawley promised to introduce new legislation to end the legal immunity for tech companies.
"It's pretty simple: if Twitter and Google and the rest are going to editorialize and censor and act like traditional publishers, they should be treated like traditional publishers and stop receiving the special carve out from the federal government in Section 230," Hawley wrote on Twitter.
Democratic skeptics of the law, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have other complaints. They say Section 230 has created a fertile environment for the rampant spread of online misinformation, harassment and abuse. They argue, if Section 230 is jettisoned, tech platforms like Google, Facebook and Twitter would have to do more to curb problematic content.
"Section 230 is in extremely precarious straits right now," said Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University Law School and co-director of the High Tech Law Institute. "But both parties don't agree on why it should be repealed, which may become tricky for both parties to find consensus. If there is a proposal for a flat repeal, though, maybe both parties will just agree."
Section 230: A Key Legal Shield For Facebook, Google Is About To Change
ALL TECH CONSIDERED
Section 230: A Key Legal Shield For Facebook, Google Is About To Change
Goldman and other experts interviewed for this story say the most likely outcome of a repeal of Section 230 is one that neither the left nor the right want to see: more censorship by major tech companies and potentially paralyzing other websites.
"We don't think about things like Wikipedia, the Internet Archive and all these other public goods that exist and have a public-interest component that would not exist in a world without 230," said Aaron Mackey, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties nonprofit.
Without Section 230, experts argue, sites would have less tolerance for people posting their opinions on YouTube, Reddit, Yelp, Amazon and many other corners of the Internet.
Law created to eliminate 'the moderator's dilemma'
Back in the 1990s, when now-quaint-sounding companies like CompuServe, Prodigy and GeoCities were household names, the Communications Decency Act was passed to address what Mackey calls "the moderator's dilemma."
At the time, if online service providers took a hands-off approach to what users posted — no matter how offensive or potentially illegal — they were in a better position legally than if they chose to remove content that was abusive or harmful, because doing so would make the companies look like publishers and open to the door to a wave of defamation lawsuits.
Critics said online platforms had an incentive to ignore any obscene or illegal content posted to their pages.
"Section 230 was designed to remove that dilemma, so a platform can choose to do nothing or actively engage and set their own rules," Mackey said.
The law enshrined websites in a special legal category by considering them distributors, rather than publishers. That gave them immunity from lawsuits over online content, while letting them establish terms of services for what is permissible or not.
There are some exceptions, however. Websites can still be held responsible for child pornography and the violation of federal criminal laws. In 2018, another exception was added to the law to hold websites like Backpage.com responsible for promoting sex trafficking and prostitution.
More responsibility online, or greater censorship?
Since President Bill Clinton signed the original law in 1996, countless people have gone to court over inflammatory comments or videos found on Facebook, Twitter, Google and other sites. But courts overwhelmingly have sided with the Internet companies.
"If those lawsuits had a chance to succeed, we'd see thousands times those lawsuits," Goldman said. "Every time someone was aggrieved with Internet services, they potentially would have a claim and take it to court. Section 230 had kept that tsunami of complaints from hitting the courts."
The tech industry, unsurprisingly, is fighting hard to preserve Section 230, said Jeff Kosseff, the author of a book about Section 230, The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet.
"The major platforms came into existence because of 230," Kosseff said. "Without 230, their operations would have to be substantially changed."
In particular, Facebook, Twitter and Google would likely become aggressive about removing content and may side more often with complaining users, Kosseff said.
Mackey with the Electronic Frontier Foundation agrees.
"It could create a prescreening of every piece of material every person posts and lead to an exceptional amount of moderation and prevention," Mackey said. "What every platform would be concerned about is: 'Do I risk anything to have this content posted to my site?'"
Another possible ripple effect of repealing, Kosseff said, is making it more difficult for whatever company is hoping to emerge as the next big social media company.
"It will be harder for them because they will face more liability at the outset," Kosseff said.
Goldman with Santa Clara University Law School said rescinding Section 230 could reduce the number of online platforms that welcome open dialogue.
Section 230 is "a statement by Congress that we can do a better job if we add in some additional protections for free speech." Goldman said. "Without it, a lot of things online we take for granted today will not work the way they currently work, and some things will no longer be available at all."
Antifa declared Terrorist Organization
After Trump declares Antifa a terrorist organization, the communist-funded radical Left will turn America into a battleground… here’s what happens next
05/31/2020 / By Mike Adams ... NaturallNews
Intelligence analysis from Mike Adams, NaturalNews.com, now 100% blacklisted by all communist-run techno-fascist platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, all of which are working for China to destroy the United States of America. Due to censorship, you will only be able to share this story from the following Trump.news URL:
Today, President Donald J. Trump announced his intention to designate Antifa — the radical left-wing violence instigators who are heavily involved in the spread of violent rioting across the nation — a terrorist organization.
“The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” he wrote on Twitter, the very platform now run by communist China that is censoring Trump and the American people while protecting Antifa terrorists and communist operators who are attempting to undermine the United States of America.
As a reminder, for America to be free, techno-fascists like Twitter must be completely shut down and their CEOs arrested and charged with treason. That may happen this year (see below)…
Following the president’s statement, Attorney General Bill Barr followed up with his own affirmation:
The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly.
According to my sources, the word is going out via DHS that this terrorist designation is a real thing and is about to be put into place. Once in place, it will change everything.
Additional intel sources tell us this designation will be combined with invocation of the Insurrection Act of 1807 which will see soldiers deployed to the worst-hit rioting areas within days.
We now put Trump’s re-election chances, if elections are even held, at 4 out of 5, given that America’s reaction against the violence and destruction of the Antifa left-wing looters will translate into far more votes for Trump than any Democrat.
Analysis highlights of what happens next:
– This “terrorism” designation is a necessary step for Trump and America to stand up to the lawlessness, violence and property destruction of the radical Left, which is being coordinated and funded by communist forces.
– It will be combined with the President invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807 to deploy U.S. soldiers on the streets of the worst-hit cities.
– With the designation in place, conservative media will begin rapidly documenting which left-wing news operations, left-wing politicians and university professors have either donated money to Antifa or are involved in supporting Antifa operations. All those with ties to Antifa will be designated as aiding and abetting terrorist operations in America. This may, in fact, be a strategy to take down CNN, which is completely run by anti-America communists and radical left-wing traitors to America.
– Once the designation goes live, federal law enforcement agents will shift from their current “backing down” stance to a, “stand your ground stance.”
– This means rioters will be shot in large numbers as they attempt to attack federal buildings, law enforcement infrastructure and officers of the law. This will happen all at once as the order goes out that law enforcement (and soldiers) should begin fighting back instead of abandoning buildings and territory.
– The sudden increase in the shooting of left-wing rioters / Antifa operators will of course, result in the left-wing media whipping up a second wave of outrage against Trump, and the media will call for ten times as many protesters to hit the streets and attack government buildings.
– Understand that this is exactly what the radical Left wants: An escalation into war, martial law and economic collapse. They are willing to bring America down to avoid Trump winning another term, and there’s nothing they won’t do to cause total chaos and destruction in the months leading up to the election.
– At this point, America will quickly descend in a state of full-blown civil war. In this state, you will see:
Antifa running roadside bombs / EIDs, and carrying out targeted assassinations of patriots and political leaders.
Coordinated left-wing attacks on key infrastructure, including power substations, to escalate mayhem and collapse.
Brazen attacks against law enforcement officers nationwide, including ambushes set by Antifa terrorists.
Race-based violence carried out by the Left, targeting “cisgendered white males,” whom the Left has decided are all Nazis.
Coordinated raids on white-owned businesses, white neighborhoods and white business leaders, who will be targeted for kidnap and ransom operations.
– The left-wing media will celebrate Antifa’s actions as a “revolution” against the “military dictator” of Trump, as the president will have no choice but to declare martial law and use the National Guard as well as various military elements (via the Insurrection Act) to protect America’s infrastructure.
– At some point in all this, China will activates the narco-terrorist cells that have been prepositioned across the USA. These cells, trained by communist China and funded by narco profits, will immediately move to sabotage infrastructure nationwide. Their targets will include the power grid, water supplies, telecommunications, emergency response services, refineries, ocean ports, airports, railways and other transportation infrastructure. America will experience severe outages in power, fuel, telecommunications and other critical services.
– The communist-run techno-fascists (Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, Apple, Wikipedia, etc.) are all-in with China and will operate in coordination with communist China to undermine America, censor the voices of the American people and attempt to worsen the chaos. At some point, these techno-fascists will likely be designated enemy combatants by President Trump, and they will be dealt with by elements of the U.S. military. (If the U.S. Army begins to launch artillery shells into the headquarters of Google, somebody please upload the video footage to Brighteon.com.)
– As soon as America reaches “peak weakness,” China will move on Hong Kong and Taiwan. This will evoke a rapid escalation of military conflict in the Southeast Asia regions, notably involving U.S. Navy and Air Force resources. Expect to see President Trump (and Pompeo) quickly declare a state of war with China, while establishing a strong military presence on Taiwan, with aggressive nuclear submarine posturing against China. There will be kinetic conflicts between the U.S. and China in that region.
– China will activate its ground assets in Mexico to invade the U.S. Southern border and attempt to occupy Southern states. Near the same time, the United Nations will attempt to occupy the United States with “peacekeeping” forces that will immediately move to confiscate firearms from the American citizenry. Once this occurs, we will be in a full militia-centric defense response against invasions by foreign troops on U.S. soil. Many key cities across Southern states like Arizona, California and Texas will be overrun by communist Chinese troops working in conjunction with narco-terrorists. Dave Hodges has written extensively about this topic at TheCommonsenseShow.com.
– Across the United States, food and fuel shortages will become severe. FEMA camps will be in full operation. Those citizens who failed to stockpile food, ammunition and other emergency supplies during the covid-19 pandemic will quickly find themselves completely dependent on the government for assistance.
– At some point during all this, food stamps will stop functioning and the financial transaction system will be hit hard. Once the food stamps stop, the inner cities explode in yet another wave of riots and looting. It’s no stretch to say that nearly every retail operation in the inner cities will be looted, destroyed or burned to the ground. There won’t be much left standing that’s still operating.
– Once the inner cities have run out of food and supplies, the looting gangs will fan out, heading into the suburbs. There, each community will need to decide for itself whether it wishes to surrender to the looters (i.e. what Democrats will tend to do), or defend the community with firearms (what Republicans will tend to do). This will result in nationwide blood-in-the-streets fighting, block by block, door to door, with law enforcement practically non-existent. National Guard troops will attempt to control key transportation checkpoints to prevent the mobilization of violent rioters, but this will only have a limited effect.
– Notably, over two years ago I warned that a scenario was coming in which the cities would be abandoned by law enforcement and military operators would be deployed at transportation choke points to effectively “wall off” the cities. This scenario looks like it will unfold in the months ahead. There aren’t enough law enforcement and Guard resources to police every block of every city in America. At some point, troops are simply ordered to abandon the cities and try to prevent the violent rioters from reaching the suburbs.
– Obviously, the U.S. economy will suffer another major collapse as this unfolds. That’s the plan of the radical Left. They want maximum economic damage to be inflicted while the nation is held hostage by Big Tech, the lamestream media and Democrat mayors and governors who do nothing to discourage the rioting. Max chaos is the goal.
– We are urging all citizens to arm up immediately in order to defend life and property against aggressive Antifa terrorists. Acquire night vision capability (head worn, not mounted on your rifle), and use an infrared designator on your rifle so you can engage targets at night. Prepare a bugout plan if you live in the suburbs. Make sure all your firearms are loaded with expanding rounds. Swap out all batteries of red dot sights, weapons lights and other electronic gear. Lubricate all weapon systems. Prepare chest rigs and ballistic protection if you own them. Acquire and practice with necessary comms equipment to you can communicate with family or neighbors.
– Citizens should note that local law enforcement may be your friend in the initial stages of this situation, but in many areas, they will soon come for your firearms as they attempt widespread firearms confiscation in Democrat-run areas. We can’t tell you the appropriate way to respond to such an effort, other than to say if you give up your rifle, you’re as good as dead anyway once the Antifa terrorists come your way. So you might as well fight to keep your rifle no matter what. Law enforcement would be wise to avoid attempting to take away firearms from the American patriots who are fighting to defend this nation rather than destroy it. The more good citizens that are armed, the better chance we have at defeating this attempted communist revolution / lawless insurrection.
– Along those lines, do not forget that if we lose this battle, we lose America. The communists will roll in. China will occupy America, and the first thing they will do is execute all the Leftists who helped them achieve victory, by the way. Fight like your life, your country and your family’s future depends on it… because it does.
– Once Trump declares a state of war with China — which technically, we know, must be declared by Congress, but nobody is going to wait around for that to happen — the China-run tech giants will be operating as enemy combatants, committing treason against America. We fully expect Trump to order the military or State Dept. to take decisive action against the tech giants to shut them down or force them to respect the First Amendment. The designation of war with China will allow the President to seek military police arrests of all corporate leaders who are complicit in cooperating with China, a designated enemy of the United States of America. We want the President to know that we fully support the arrest and prosecution of all the leaders of the techno-fascists corporations, as they are deliberately undermining America and working directly for China, against America’s interests. This includes Apple, by the way.
– It is likely that the November elections will be postponed, as America will be in a state of either civil war or international war with China. (Perhaps both.) This means the impact of the second wave of the coming economic collapse will not be relevant to the November elections if those elections are not taking place on time. America will likely be in a state of war and domestic martial law, with Antifa terrorists running terror operations nationwide. Until the rest of America eliminates all the terrorists, we will never be able to return to peacetime existence and the economic recovery that will follow. So identifying and eliminating all terrorists and communist sympathizers will be the key to real recovery.
President Trump desperately needs our support to defend America and defeat this communist uprising
President Trump has put his neck on the line, laying down the gauntlet against China, Antifa, the tech giants and even the W.H.O. He is betting that the American people will back him up.
That’s why he needs our show of support. Here’s how you can help support the President as he goes to war with the true enemies of America, our Constitution and the future of freedom for We the People:
1) Join counter-protests to make a public show of force against the Antifa terrorists and left-wing rioters. Do not initiate violence, and do support local law enforcement. Make your presence known.
2) Use alternative online ecosystems to share your pro-America messages. These include video sites like Bitchute.com and Brighteon.com. You can also share your views on Gab.com, AllSocial.com and various alternative platforms that bypass the censorship of the communist-run tech giants like Facebook.
3) Call your representatives in Washington and voice your support for defending America against Antifa, China and Big Tech censorship. Some Senators (like Cruz and Hawley) are fighting for your right to speak, but they need more support.
4) Prepare to defend your communities against Antifa violence, which will greatly accelerate across America. Meet with local law enforcement and coordinate your responses, if possible. The future of America depends on defeating the terrorists.
5) Stockpile supplies so that you can make it through the coming food shortages and infrastructure disruptions without experiencing emergency shortages.
Stay informed. We will continue to cover the riots at Rioting.news and other sites we publish, some of which are not yet banned by Facebook. We double down on our call for President Trump to seize and shut down the techno-fascists, all of which are now operating as agents of communist China, actively working against the interests of the United States.
MSM Headllines June 1 ...depicting attempt to start a race war in America...failed
2020 Jun 1 MSNBC..Headlines ...(fomenting violence)....Trump vows to send in military to stop protests. 'It's really murky' whether he can, says security reporter MSNBC coverage as unrest continues across U.S. despite Trump's vow to use military on protesters Live Blog / Protests around the nation as Americans continue to raise their voice St. Louis police say 4 officers hit by gunfire amid violent protests ACLU urges governments to ignore Trump comments on military Committee to Protect Journalists: 125 press freedom infringements since Friday Hundreds detained on bridge in Dallas protest Sen. Kamala Harris: Trump's threats to use the military against the American people are ‘the words of a dictator’ GEORGE FLOYD PROTESTS NBC News' Jo Ling Kent hit by flashbang grenade as police break up Seattle protest PHOTO OP AT ST. JOHN'S? D.C.'s episcopal bishop 'deeply offended' by Trump using Bible as a 'prop' GEORGE FLOYD What latest autopsy could mean for 3 officers not yet charged in George Floyd's killing George Floyd protests: On the ground Louisville protesters demand answers from police on death of local restaurant owner and Breonna Taylor New York police make arrests as looters hit iconic Macy's store By far, the most peaceful protest’: Protestors forced out of Lafayette Park before Trump visits church Peaceful protest outside White House broken up by tear gas, flashbang grenades In their own words: Protesters on what brought them to the streets Video captures moment semi-truck drives into crowd of Minneapolis protesters Chaos erupts as police descend on looters Reporter hit with projectile as police crack down on protesting after curfew in D.C. Protesters, bike-mounted police face off Seattle protests continue with city under curfew 'There was no warning whatsoever': Police shoot tear gas toward protesters, MSNBC crew Flash-bangs go off near NBC News reporter as Minneapolis protesters retreat from tear gas Miami protests turn violent 'in a heartbeat' after car lit on fire, police use tear gas to disperse crowds D.C. protester: 'I'm tired. Seeing my kind killed constantly by the police, over nothing.' George Floyd protests: What they're saying Rev. Al: Don't use George Floyd for anything other than justice for George Floyd Minnesota attorney general: ‘These cases are tougher than you might imagine’ Cuomo: Violent protests allow Trump 'to tweet about looting rather than murder by a police officer' St. Paul mayor 'calling for peace but not calling for patience' Gov. Walz urges Minnesotans to ‘start healing,’ extends curfew into evening St. Paul mayor: Protesters should use energy to destroy systemic racism De Blasio to NYC protesters: We appreciate all peaceful protests, but it's time to go home Barr blames 'far-left extremist groups' for violence amid George Floyd protests 'We don't know these folks': St. Paul mayor says protesters arrested were from out of state Minnesota AG: Infiltrators seek to tarnish Minneapolis protests Trump: Military is 'ready, willing and able' to be deployed to Minnesota for protests Gov. Cuomo on death of George Floyd: 'We have injustice in the criminal justice system' St. Paul mayor: 'I stand with' people wanting accountability for George Floyd's death George Floyd killing set back covenant of trust in police 'years': St. Paul mayor Cuomo urges protesters to 'demonstrate with a mask on' to prevent spread of coronavirus Gov. Walz recognizes 'legitimate rage' of protests over George Floyd's death Latest Stories Coronavirus live updates: Lockdowns ease across the world as U.S. protests continue Dentists extract new fee from patients to keep up with rising COVID-19 costs Curfews not enough to keep the peace with protests, arrests coast to coast SexyJet owner changes course, says he will reject PPP loan subsidy Rep. Matt Gaetz's tweet on hunting antifa hit with warning from Twitter for glorifying violence Coronavirus live blog Truck rams into protesters in Tulsa, Oklahoma Boxer Mayweather set to pay for Floyd’s funeral Sacramento mayor estimates at least $10 million in damage Empire State Building going dark to honor Floyd Hope is not a plan, but without a plan, there's little hope A fresh look at Trump reversing Obama's police investigations policy Trump says a bit too much: 'MAGA loves the black people'
2020 Jun 2 YahooNews... (inciting /fomenting revolution) ... search news on Antifa: What is Antifa? Antifa, short for anti-fascists, is an amorphous movement, not an organisation as Trump often says it is. White supremacists pose as Antifa online, call for violence A Twitter account that tweeted a call to violence and claimed to be representing the position of "Antifa" was in fact created by a known white supremacist group, ... Anti-fascist demonstrators gathered in protest at an alt-right rally in Portland, Ore., last year. What Is Antifa? Trump Wants to Declare It a Terror Group Seeking to assign blame for the protests that have convulsed cities across the country this week, President Trump said on Sunday that the United States would ... Trump tweets Antifa will be labeled a terrorist organization but experts believe that's unconstitutional President Donald Trump said Sunday that the United States will designate Antifa as a terrorist organization. A look at the antifa movement Trump is blaming for violence Short for 'anti-fascists,' antifa is not a single organization but rather an umbrella term for far-left-leaning militant groups that confront or resist neo-Nazis and white ... ‘ANTIFA-type’ groups blamed for violence in Austin protests AUSTIN (KXAN) – There is hardly a section of brick outside of the Austin Police Department that isn't covered in graffiti. Much of the painted messages are not fit ... Violent protests shine spotlight on extremists, from antifa to 'Boogaloo' The far-left antifa and far-right 'Boogaloo' movements have both made headlines as protests continue nationwide, but neither is an organized group in the ... Police: No, antifa is not sending ‘a plane load of their people’ to Idaho to incite riots Rumors are circulating on social media that leftwing antifascist, or “antifa,” protesters from out of state are arriving in Idaho to incite violent protests. Local police ... Trump's crazy designation of Antifa as terrorist organization Peter Bergen writes that Trump's hopes to designate Antifa as a terrorist organization is likely unconstitutional. Extremist groups have long existed in the US, but ...
What is Section 230?
Part of a 1996 Internet law is now at the center of a debate over social media companies' power after President Trump signed an executive order in May that could remove some of their liability protections if they engage in "selective censorship" harmful to national discourse.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act states that "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."
It has been pivotal in the rise of today's social media by allowing not only Internet service providers but also Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others to be shielded from liability from content posted on their platforms by third parties in most cases.
President Donald Trump speaks before signing an executive order aimed at curbing protections for social media giants, in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Trump's executive order came shortly after Twitter attached fact-check warnings to some of the president's warnings.
"Section 230 was not intended to allow a handful of companies to grow into titans controlling vital avenues for our national discourse under the guise of promoting open forums for debate, and then to provide those behemoths blanket immunity when they use their power to censor content and silence viewpoints that they dislike," the executive order states.
This EO is a reactionary and politicized approach to a landmark law. #Section230 protects American innovation and freedom of expression, and it’s underpinned by democratic values. Attempts to unilaterally erode it threaten the future of online speech and Internet freedoms.
Section 230 has many defenders in its current state, and Trump's attempts to alter how social media platforms are regulated may be met with much resistance.
For example, the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls Section 230 "one of the most valuable tools for protecting freedom of expression and innovation on the Internet."
WHAT IS SECTION 230?
U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to order a review of a federal law known as Section 230, which protects internet companies like Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet’s Google from being responsible for the material posted by users.
The core purpose of Section 230 is to protect the owners of any “interactive computer service” from liability for anything posted by third parties. The idea was that such protection was necessary to encourage the emergence of new types of communications and services at the dawn of the Internet era.
Section 230 was enacted in 1996 as part of a law called the Communications Decency Act, which was primarily aimed at curbing online pornography. Most of that law was struck down by the courts as an unconstitutional infringement on free speech, but Section 230 remains.
In practice, the law shields any website or service that hosts content – like news outlets’ comment sections, video services like YouTube and social media services like Facebook and Twitter – from lawsuits over content posted by users.
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When the law was written, site owners worried they could be sued if they exercised any control over what appeared on their sites, so the law includes a provision that says that, so long as sites act in “good faith,” they can remove content that is offensive or otherwise objectionable.
The statute does not protect copyright violations, or certain types of criminal acts. Users who post illegal content can themselves still be held liable in court.
The technology industry and others have long held that Section 230 is a crucial protection, though the statute has become increasingly controversial as the power of internet companies has grown.
WHAT PROMPTED THE CREATION OF SECTION 230?
In the early days of the Internet, there were several high-profile cases in which companies tried to suppress criticism by suing the owners of the platforms.
One famous case involved a lawsuit by Stratton Oakmont, the brokerage firm depicted in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Wolf of Wall Street,” against the early online service Prodigy. The court found that Prodigy was liable for allegedly defamatory comments by a user because it was a publisher that moderated the content on the service.
The fledgling internet industry was worried that such liability would make a range of new services impossible. Congress ultimately agreed and included Section 230 in the Communications Decency Act.
WHAT DOES SECTION 230 HAVE TO DO WITH POLITICAL BIAS?
President Trump and others who have attacked Section 230 say it has given big internet companies too much legal protection and allowed them to escape responsibility for their actions.
Some conservatives, including the president, have alleged that they are subject to online censorship on social media sites, a claim the companies have generally denied.
Section 230, which is often misinterpreted, does not require sites to be neutral. Most legal experts believe any effort to require political neutrality by social media companies would be a violation of the First Amendment’s free speech protections.
CAN PRESIDENT TRUMP ORDER CHANGES TO SECTION 230?
No. Only Congress can change Section 230. In 2018, the law was modified to make it possible to prosecute platforms that were used by alleged sex traffickers. As the power of internet companies has grown, some in Congress have also advocated changes to hold companies responsible for the spread of content celebrating acts of terror, for example, or for some types of hate speech.
A draft of Trump’s May executive order, seen by Reuters, instead calls for the Federal Communications Commission to “propose and clarify regulations” under Section 230. The order suggests companies should lose their protection over actions that are deceptive, discriminatory, opaque or inconsistent with their terms of service.
DO OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE AN EQUIVALENT TO SECTION 230?
The legal protections provided by Section 230 are unique to U.S. law, although the European Union and many other countries have some version of what are referred to as “safe harbor” laws that protect online platforms from liability if they move promptly when notified of illegal content.
The fact that the major internet companies are based in the United States also gives them protection
By Donald Jeffries
A California district judge has issued a rare legal smackdown of politically correct neo-Bolshevik agitators, thanks to determined efforts by watchdog group Judicial Watch.
A California U.S. district judge has awarded Judicial Watch $22,000 in legal fees emanating from a suit filed by an antifa organizer. Yvette Felarca, a Berkeley middle school teacher, and two co-plaintiffs were ordered to pay Judicial Watch’s attorney fees and litigation costs. The suit had attempted to stop Judicial Watch from obtaining information about Felarca’s activities.
Felarca holds a prominent position in the group By Any Means Necessary, which was founded by the Marxist Revolutionary Workers League. This outfit, in typical social justice warrior style, works feverishly to thwart speaking engagements they don’t approve of. Felarca is still awaiting trial for a 2016 incident where she and two others were charged with several crimes, including felony assault, while inciting a riot in Sacramento. She also was arrested for battery and resisting arrest during a 2017 confrontation with members of Patriot Prayer.
Felarca lost in the courts last year as well; in January 2018, a different judge ordered her to pay more than $11,000 in legal and court fees for her frivolous effort to obtain a restraining order against former head of the California Berkeley College Republicans Troy Worden. Worden had actually sued Felarca for $100,000 in damages, claiming he didn’t feel safe or comfortable on campus and called Berkeley “the place where America’s conservative youth are daily under threat of violence, lacking the support of the university administration, police, or city. The Free Speech Movement is dead, and the left has killed it.” Berkeley is ironically still associated in the minds of many with noble protests and radicals fighting for the right to speak out against those in power.
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“This is a huge victory for Judicial Watch against antifa and the violent left,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “Ms. Felarca attacked Judicial Watch without basis and the court was right to reject her ploy to deny our ‘right to know’ because we don’t share her violent left views.”
The alternative right is fighting back legally against the aggressive authoritarianism of groups like antifa and Black Lives Matter. In January 2018, four individuals who came to UC-Berkeley to hear controversial conservative Milo Yiannopoulos lecture sued the city and the school for failing to protect them from violent leftists.
“In this case we had four innocent people who were not doing anything to provoke anyone,” said Bill Becker of the Freedom X law firm, an attorney representing the plaintiffs. “The problem was created by the campus administration, the UC Police Department, and Berkeley Police Department not doing their job to protect the public.”
A judge would later dismiss another lawsuit from a woman who was pepper sprayed during the violent protest that resulted in the cancellation of Yiannopoulos’s appearance. That suit was filed in late August 2017 by Larry Klayman and Freedom Watch against antifa, in Northern California’s U.S. District Court. Earlier, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter’s speech was also cancelled by the university after violent leftist protests.
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The Felarca case represents an extremely rare legal victory for reason and common sense. High profile alt-right figure Mike Cernovich spoke frequently in 2017 about working with the FBI and hiring attorneys to launch lawsuits against antifa. Because the establishment “left” has lost its collective mind and clearly doesn’t believe in free speech, if any of these lawsuits winds up in a courtroom presided over by a “liberal” judge, it will be virtually impossible to win. Last October, Bethany Sherman, owner of a marijuana testing lab in Eugene, Ore., filed a defamation lawsuit against anonymous “anti-fascist” activists who tied her to white nationalists. They even began derisively referring to her as the “Weed Nazi.” One of the absurd allegations against Sherman leveled by Eugene antifa involved her supplying swastika-shaped cookies to gatherings celebrating Adolf Hitler’s birthday.
As a story about this case on “Oregon Live” admitted, “antifa groups, of which there are now dozens in the U.S., routinely publicize personal information of those they deem threats to people in their communities, a practice called doxing.” The left used to hold the right to privacy in great regard, but they appear to have abandoned every classical liberal tenet in a crusade to crush dissent and inflict their will upon others.
Antifa and Black Lives Matter members have been caught on countless videos physically assaulting those they disagree with, especially open Donald Trump supporters. It has not been generally publicized that the name antifa derives from a moniker used by the German Communist Party, as early as 1932. Much of the left today appears to believe that hitting and assaulting those who offend them is perfectly proper. The meme “punch a Nazi in the face” is popular with them, and they aren’t picky about how they define Nazi. The legal system must act appropriately to preserve our civil liberties.
Donald Jeffries is a highly respected author and researcher whose work on the JFK, RFK and MLK assassinations and other high crimes of the Deep State has been read by millions of people across the world. Jeffries is also the author of two books
Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship
Issued on: May 28, 2020
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Policy. Free speech is the bedrock of American democracy. Our Founding Fathers protected this sacred right with the First Amendment to the Constitution. The freedom to express and debate ideas is the foundation for all of our rights as a free people.
In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand pick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet. This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic. When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power. They cease functioning as passive bulletin boards, and ought to be viewed and treated as content creators.
The growth of online platforms in recent years raises important questions about applying the ideals of the First Amendment to modern communications technology. Today, many Americans follow the news, stay in touch with friends and family, and share their views on current events through social media and other online platforms. As a result, these platforms function in many ways as a 21st century equivalent of the public square.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube wield immense, if not unprecedented, power to shape the interpretation of public events; to censor, delete, or disappear information; and to control what people see or do not see.
As President, I have made clear my commitment to free and open debate on the internet. Such debate is just as important online as it is in our universities, our town halls, and our homes. It is essential to sustaining our democracy.
Online platforms are engaging in selective censorship that is harming our national discourse. Tens of thousands of Americans have reported, among other troubling behaviors, online platforms “flagging” content as inappropriate, even though it does not violate any stated terms of service; making unannounced and unexplained changes to company policies that have the effect of disfavoring certain viewpoints; and deleting content and entire accounts with no warning, no rationale, and no recourse.
Twitter now selectively decides to place a warning label on certain tweets in a manner that clearly reflects political bias. As has been reported, Twitter seems never to have placed such a label on another politician’s tweet. As recently as last week, Representative Adam Schiff was continuing to mislead his followers by peddling the long-disproved Russian Collusion Hoax, and Twitter did not flag those tweets. Unsurprisingly, its officer in charge of so-called ‘Site Integrity’ has flaunted his political bias in his own tweets.
At the same time online platforms are invoking inconsistent, irrational, and groundless justifications to censor or otherwise restrict Americans’ speech here at home, several online platforms are profiting from and promoting the aggression and disinformation spread by foreign governments like China. One United States company, for example, created a search engine for the Chinese Communist Party that would have blacklisted searches for “human rights,” hid data unfavorable to the Chinese Communist Party, and tracked users determined appropriate for surveillance. It also established research partnerships in China that provide direct benefits to the Chinese military. Other companies have accepted advertisements paid for by the Chinese government that spread false information about China’s mass imprisonment of religious minorities, thereby enabling these abuses of human rights. They have also amplified China’s propaganda abroad, including by allowing Chinese government officials to use their platforms to spread misinformation regarding the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to undermine pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
As a Nation, we must foster and protect diverse viewpoints in today’s digital communications environment where all Americans can and should have a voice. We must seek transparency and accountability from online platforms, and encourage standards and tools to protect and preserve the integrity and openness of American discourse and freedom of expression.
Sec. 2. Protections Against Online Censorship. (a) It is the policy of the United States to foster clear ground rules promoting free and open debate on the internet. Prominent among the ground rules governing that debate is the immunity from liability created by section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act (section 230(c)). 47 U.S.C. 230(c). It is the policy of the United States that the scope of that immunity should be clarified: the immunity should not extend beyond its text and purpose to provide protection for those who purport to provide users a forum for free and open speech, but in reality use their power over a vital means of communication to engage in deceptive or pretextual actions stifling free and open debate by censoring certain viewpoints.
Section 230(c) was designed to address early court decisions holding that, if an online platform restricted access to some content posted by others, it would thereby become a “publisher” of all the content posted on its site for purposes of torts such as defamation. As the title of section 230(c) makes clear, the provision provides limited liability “protection” to a provider of an interactive computer service (such as an online platform) that engages in “‘Good Samaritan’ blocking” of harmful content. In particular, the Congress sought to provide protections for online platforms that attempted to protect minors from harmful content and intended to ensure that such providers would not be discouraged from taking down harmful material. The provision was also intended to further the express vision of the Congress that the internet is a “forum for a true diversity of political discourse.” 47 U.S.C. 230(a)(3). The limited protections provided by the statute should be construed with these purposes in mind.
In particular, subparagraph (c)(2) expressly addresses protections from “civil liability” and specifies that an interactive computer service provider may not be made liable “on account of” its decision in “good faith” to restrict access to content that it considers to be “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable.” It is the policy of the United States to ensure that, to the maximum extent permissible under the law, this provision is not distorted to provide liability protection for online platforms that — far from acting in “good faith” to remove objectionable content — instead engage in deceptive or pretextual actions (often contrary to their stated terms of service) to stifle viewpoints with which they disagree. Section 230 was not intended to allow a handful of companies to grow into titans controlling vital avenues for our national discourse under the guise of promoting open forums for debate, and then to provide those behemoths blanket immunity when they use their power to censor content and silence viewpoints that they dislike. When an interactive computer service provider removes or restricts access to content and its actions do not meet the criteria of subparagraph (c)(2)(A), it is engaged in editorial conduct. It is the policy of the United States that such a provider should properly lose the limited liability shield of subparagraph (c)(2)(A) and be exposed to liability like any traditional editor and publisher that is not an online provider.
(b) To advance the policy described in subsection (a) of this section, all executive departments and agencies should ensure that their application of section 230(c) properly reflects the narrow purpose of the section and take all appropriate actions in this regard. In addition, within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary), in consultation with the Attorney General, and acting through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), shall file a petition for rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting that the FCC expeditiously propose regulations to clarify:
(i) the interaction between subparagraphs (c)(1) and (c)(2) of section 230, in particular to clarify and determine the circumstances under which a provider of an interactive computer service that restricts access to content in a manner not specifically protected by subparagraph (c)(2)(A) may also not be able to claim protection under subparagraph (c)(1), which merely states that a provider shall not be treated as a publisher or speaker for making third-party content available and does not address the provider’s responsibility for its own editorial decisions;
(ii) the conditions under which an action restricting access to or availability of material is not “taken in good faith” within the meaning of subparagraph (c)(2)(A) of section 230, particularly whether actions can be “taken in good faith” if they are:
(A) deceptive, pretextual, or inconsistent with a provider’s terms of service; or
(B) taken after failing to provide adequate notice, reasoned explanation, or a meaningful opportunity to be heard; and
(iii) any other proposed regulations that the NTIA concludes may be appropriate to advance the policy described in subsection (a) of this section.
Sec. 3. Protecting Federal Taxpayer Dollars from Financing Online Platforms That Restrict Free Speech. (a) The head of each executive department and agency (agency) shall review its agency’s Federal spending on advertising and marketing paid to online platforms. Such review shall include the amount of money spent, the online platforms that receive Federal dollars, and the statutory authorities available to restrict their receipt of advertising dollars.
(b) Within 30 days of the date of this order, the head of each agency shall report its findings to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
(c) The Department of Justice shall review the viewpoint-based speech restrictions imposed by each online platform identified in the report described in subsection (b) of this section and assess whether any online platforms are problematic vehicles for government speech due to viewpoint discrimination, deception to consumers, or other bad practices.
Sec. 4. Federal Review of Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices. (a) It is the policy of the United States that large online platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, as the critical means of promoting the free flow of speech and ideas today, should not restrict protected speech. The Supreme Court has noted that social media sites, as the modern public square, “can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard.” Packingham v. North Carolina, 137 S. Ct. 1730, 1737 (2017). Communication through these channels has become important for meaningful participation in American democracy, including to petition elected leaders. These sites are providing an important forum to the public for others to engage in free expression and debate. Cf. PruneYard Shopping Center v. Robins, 447 U.S. 74, 85-89 (1980).
(b) In May of 2019, the White House launched a Tech Bias Reporting tool to allow Americans to report incidents of online censorship. In just weeks, the White House received over 16,000 complaints of online platforms censoring or otherwise taking action against users based on their political viewpoints. The White House will submit such complaints received to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
(c) The FTC shall consider taking action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to prohibit unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce, pursuant to section 45 of title 15, United States Code. Such unfair or deceptive acts or practice may include practices by entities covered by section 230 that restrict speech in ways that do not align with those entities’ public representations about those practices.
(d) For large online platforms that are vast arenas for public debate, including the social media platform Twitter, the FTC shall also, consistent with its legal authority, consider whether complaints allege violations of law that implicate the policies set forth in section 4(a) of this order. The FTC shall consider developing a report describing such complaints and making the report publicly available, consistent with applicable law.
Sec. 5. State Review of Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices and Anti-Discrimination Laws. (a) The Attorney General shall establish a working group regarding the potential enforcement of State statutes that prohibit online platforms from engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices. The working group shall also develop model legislation for consideration by legislatures in States where existing statutes do not protect Americans from such unfair and deceptive acts and practices. The working group shall invite State Attorneys General for discussion and consultation, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.
(b) Complaints described in section 4(b) of this order will be shared with the working group, consistent with applicable law. The working group shall also collect publicly available information regarding the following:
(i) increased scrutiny of users based on the other users they choose to follow, or their interactions with other users;
(ii) algorithms to suppress content or users based on indications of political alignment or viewpoint;
(iii) differential policies allowing for otherwise impermissible behavior, when committed by accounts associated with the Chinese Communist Party or other anti-democratic associations or governments;
(iv) reliance on third-party entities, including contractors, media organizations, and individuals, with indicia of bias to review content; and
(v) acts that limit the ability of users with particular viewpoints to earn money on the platform compared with other users similarly situated.
Sec. 6. Legislation. The Attorney General shall develop a proposal for Federal legislation that would be useful to promote the policy objectives of this order.
Sec. 7. Definition. For purposes of this order, the term “online platform” means any website or application that allows users to create and share content or engage in social networking, or any general search engine.
Sec. 8. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
John Turley on Section 230
The Trump Executive Order and the Section 230 Option To “Strongly Regulate” Social Media
President Donald Trump’s executive order on social media is framed around the effort to remove protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. For those of us who teach torts, Section 230 has been a long controversy in its shielding of companies from liability in defamation and other lawsuits. As I write today in my Hill column, Twitter is dangerously wrong in its action against the Trump tweets and Trump is right that this represents a serious attack on free speech. However, I was also critical of the threat to “shut down” or “strongly regulate” media companies. Putting the retaliatory language aside, this is not a change that will likely succeed without congressional action. However, there are some legitimate questions that Congress should consider while, in my view, erring on the side of protecting free speech.
President Trump is directing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to propose and clarify regulations under Section 230. Specifically, section 230 protects social media platforms from liability over what users post or share.
Section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 provides: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” The statute defines “information content provider” as “any person or entity that is responsible, in whole or in part, for the creation or development of information provided through the Internet or any other interactive computer service.” 47 U.S.C. § 230(e)(3).
This has long been a controversial element under the FCA because it was largely the result of judicial not congressional construction. We discussed this issue in relation to the Sixth Circuit’s arguments in Jones v. Dirty World Entertainment. A gossip blog, The Dirty, appealed the decision of U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman that the site is liable of defamatory statements by third parties and cannot claim immunity under the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. § 230. The site was sued by Sarah Jones, an ex-Bengals cheerleader and a former high school teacher in northern Kentucky, who was libeled on the site by commentators.
The jury hung in the first trial of this case, which necessitated a second trial. The second jury returned a verdict for $38,000.00 compensatory damages and $300,000.00 punitive damages.
Bertelsman rejected the argument that it barred recovery in the case. The district court drew a distinction between third party postings or comments that appear without solicitation or encouragement and this type of site that actively seeks such comments. The court noted a number of decisions limiting CDA immunity including a decision by Judge Easterbrook of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, who wrote in Chicago Lawyers’ Comm. For Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. v. Craigslist, Inc., 519 F.3d 666, 670 (7th Cir. 2008), that the CDA does not provide “a grant of comprehensive immunity from civil liability for content provided by a third party.” Easterbrook ruled that Craigslist was entitled to protection but noted that “[n]othing in the service craigslist offers induces anyone to post any particular listing or express a preference for discrimination.” Id. at 671-72.
The district court held that
“Although Courts have stated generally that CDA immunity is broad, the weight of the authority teaches that such immunity may be lost. That is, a website owner who intentionally encourages illegal or actionable third-party postings to which he adds his own comments ratifying or adopting the posts becomes a “creator” or “developer” of that content and is not entitled to immunity.”
That analysis may appeal to the Trump Administration. However, the Sixth Circuit vacated the district court’s decision with instructions to enter judgment for Dirty World. The Sixth Circuit held that the district court erroneously applied an “adoption or ratification test” on determining if immunity existed. It instead favored the material contribution test from Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley v. Roommates.com, LLC. Yet, that case contained language that should worry Twitter.
Then Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the en banc court that Roommates.com was not immune under Section 230(c) because the website qualified as an information content provider: “Roommate created the questions and choice of answers, and designed its website registration process around them. Therefore, Roommate is undoubtedly the ‘information content provider’ as to the questions and can claim no immunity for posting them on its website, or for forcing subscribers to answer them as a condition of using its services.” The court found that “Roommate becomes much more than a passive transmitter of information provided by others; it becomes the developer, at least in part, of the information. And section 230 provides immunity only if the interactive computer series does not ‘creat[e] or develop’ the information ‘in whole or in part.’”
We have previously discussed the opinion in Zeran v. America Online, Inc., 129 F.3d 327, 330-31 (4th Cir. 1997) where Chief Judge Wilkinson wrote for the Fourth Circuit:
By its plain language, § 230 creates a federal immunity to any cause of action that would make service providers liable for information originating with a third-party user of the service. Specifically, § 230 precludes courts from entertaining claims that would place a computer service provider in a publisher’s role. Thus, lawsuits seeking to hold a service provider liable for its exercise of a publisher’s traditional editorial functions — such as deciding whether to publish, withdraw, postpone or alter content — are barred.
The purpose of this statutory immunity is not difficult to discern. Congress recognized the threat that tort-based lawsuits pose to freedom of speech in the new and burgeoning Internet medium. The imposition of tort liability on service providers for the communications of others represented, for Congress, simply another form of intrusive government regulation of speech. Section 230 was enacted, in part, to maintain the robust nature of Internet communication and, accordingly, to keep government interference in the medium to a minimum.
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None of this means, of course, that the original culpable party who posts defamatory messages would escape accountability. While Congress acted to keep government regulation of the Internet to a minimum, it also found it to be the policy of the United States “to ensure vigorous enforcement of Federal criminal laws to deter and punish trafficking in obscenity, stalking, and harassment by means of computer.” Id. § 230(b)(5). Congress made a policy choice, however, not to deter harmful online speech through the separate route of imposing tort liability on companies that serve as intermediaries for other parties’ potentially injurious messages.
Past CDA decision have been sweeping in the extent of the immunity, even from reluctant judges as in Blumenthal v. Drudge, 992 F. Supp. 44 (D.D.C. 1998). In that case, the Drudge Report was sued by Sidney Blumenthal and Jacqueline Jordan Blumenthal who are citizens of the District of Columbia and have continuously lived in the District since 1985. Complaint PP 1-2, 12. Sidney Blumenthal worked in the White House as an Assistant to the President of the United States and the defamatory materials was published the day before he began work at the White House on August 11, 1997. The article was entitled “Charge: New White House Recruit Sidney Blumenthal Has Spousal Abuse Past.” It was untrue and, after receiving a letter from their counsel, Drudge retracted the story through a special edition of the Drudge Report on his web site and e-mailed to his subscribers. Drudge also e-mailed the retraction to AOL which posted it on the AOL service. He also later publicly apologized to the Blumenthals. AOL however was protected even though the site actively monitors postings and reserves the right to remove postings. Judge Freidman wrote:
If it were writing on a clean slate, this Court would agree with plaintiffs. AOL has certain editorial rights with respect to the content provided by Drudge and disseminated by AOL, including the right to require changes in content and to remove it; and it has affirmatively promoted Drudge as a new source of unverified instant gossip on AOL. Yet it takes no responsibility for any damage he may cause. AOL is not a passive conduit like the telephone company, a common carrier with no control and therefore no responsibility for what is said over the telephone wires. 11 Because it has the right to exercise editorial control over those with whom it contracts and whose words it disseminates, it would seem only fair to hold AOL to the liability standards applied to a publisher or, at least, like a book store owner or library, to the liability standards applied to a distributor. 12 But Congress has made a different policy choice by providing immunity even where the interactive service provider has an active, even aggressive role in making available content prepared by others. In some sort of tacit quid pro quo arrangement with the service provider community, Congress has conferred immunity from tort liability as an incentive to Internet service providers to self-police the Internet for obscenity and other offensive material, even where the self-policing is unsuccessful or not even attempted.
There are therefore long-standing and legitimate objections to Section 230 where sites like Twitter demand immunity as a passive provider but then assumed an active role in the discussion. However, the priority should be the protection of the Internet and social media as a forum for free speech. If Twitter could refrain from such interventions, it serves an important function as a platform for free ideas and exchange. The problem is that Democrats like former Vice President Joe Biden have called for the elimination of Section 230 in its entirety — an extreme action that could fundamentally change public discourse in this country.
That is why my column strongly encourages Twitter to admit its error and return to neutrality. Instead, Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey has doubled down on an indefensible and dangerous decision on the Trump tweets. The result could be an assault not just on social media but free speec