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Bundist Counterculture Interwar Poland (Modern Jewish History) Hardcover – May 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


"A welcome and important addition to the recent publications of Gertrud Pickhan, Daniel Blatman, Roni Gechtman and others. Jacob's new book is all the more useful because he deals with a theme that has received relatively little attention so far: the vibrant "counterculture" developed by the Bund in interwar Poland....A valuable book for anyone interested in the history of Polish Jewry and/or the history of working class culture. It is well written and offers important insights into an understudied topic."-East European Jewish Affairs --Eass European Jewish Affairs

"Professor Jacobs....has published a meticulously researched book drawing on fascinating Yiddish archive material and interviews with Bundist survivors to support an alternative perspective. Not only does he provide new and challenging explanations of why the Bundist movement became so popular, he also demonstrates that its rise to prominence was no freak episode but the logical consequence of its multi-layered, consistent work in the arenas that made a different to the real lives of Poland's Jews."-JEWISH SOCIALIST --Jewish Socialist

"A valuable book for anyone interested in the history of Polish Jewry and/or the history of working class culture. It is well written and offers important insights into an understudied topic." East European Jewish Affairs --East European Jewish Affairs

"In this lucid, expertly researched, and rewarding monograph, Jack Jacobs discovers previously unsuspected dynamism and positive developments in interwar Polish Jewry, the world's largest Jewish community (if not population)."-Slavic Review --Slavic Review

The Author skillfully takes the reader deep into the workings of a popular political movement in the first half of the twentieth century in order to demonstrate the Bund s immense popularity during the interwar era. The end result is a convincing argument for the need to reevaluate the study of Jewish politics in eastern Europe. The book will be of much interest to scholars of Jewish history, east European history, labor politics and Holocaust studies as well as to those looking at national movements, and the connection between culture, class and nation. - --Religous Studies Review

About the Author

Jack Jacobs is professor of political science at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY), and professor of government at CUNY's John Jay College. He is the author of On Socialists and "The Jewish Question" after Marx and editor of Jewish Politics in Eastern Europe: The Bund at 100.

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Jewish History
  • Hardcover: 185 pages
  • Publisher: Syracuse University Press (May 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815632266
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815632269
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,153,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Although this work does not approach the Bund from the viewpoint of its impact on Jewish-Polish relations, I do so in this review.

The General Jewish Workers' Bund, originally founded in 1897 in tsarist Russia, eventually became the most powerful Jewish political party in Poland on the eve of WWII. (p. 1). It was Yiddishist, anti-Zionist, and secular. (p. 20). Jacobs adds: "Though the Bund was staunchly anti-Zionist, both it and the Left Poalei Zion were not only Yiddishist but also Marxist and secularist." (p. 51). [The ability of the Zydokomuna (Bolshevized Judaism) to appear in quite a few different guises and under different political labels makes folly of those who try to marginalize the Zydokomuna as only Jews in the tiny Communist Party.]

The Bundist youth organization Tsukunft was directly descended from the illegal Communist SDKPiL (p. 8), which had been active in the 1905 Russian Revolution. Although the Bund, as a whole, was not Communist, it employed repackaged Communist concepts (e. g., "revolutionary socialism": p. 5, 20; the "capitalist world": p. 43) and its ranks swelled after the Comintern disbanded the Communist Party of Poland in 1938. (p. 4).

The Bund's infection with Communist-like ideation led to manifestations of hostility to Poland. For instance, SKIF, one of the Bundist youth movements, adopted contempt for the Scouting movement as "bourgeois", rejected the teaching of Polish patriotism to Jewish children in favor of teaching them internationalism, and embraced such Communist concepts as, "strivings of the working class", "feelings of collectivism and solidarity", etc., to instill in Jewish youth. (pp. 41-42).

The broad-based and mainstream nature of the Bund in no sense prevented it from acting against Polish interests.
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