The Bolshevik confrontation with antisemitism in the Russian Revolution, 1917-1919

McGeever, Brendan Francis (2015) The Bolshevik confrontation with antisemitism in the Russian Revolution, 1917-1919. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The Russian Revolution of 1917 was the high point of class struggle in the twentieth-century. For the first time in world history, a social movement predicated on the overcoming of class exploitation succeeded in gaining state power. In the days and weeks following October 1917 insurrection, a self-declared Marxist government set about the task of constructing a socialist society. However the Russian Revolution was more than the mass political mobilisation of class resentments. In addition to proletarians and peasants, the Bolsheviks also mobilised national minorities, for whom October represented the opportunity to put an end to centuries of national oppression. The Bolshevik promise, therefore, entailed not just class solidarity, but national self-determination and internationalism as well. In the very moment of revolution, however, these sentiments were put to the test as mass outbreaks of antisemitic pogroms spread across the vast regions of the former Pale of Settlement. The pogroms posed fundamental questions for the Bolshevik project, since they revealed the nature and extent of working class and peasant attachments to antisemitic and racialised forms of consciousness.

This dissertation has two broad aims: first, it sets out to offer the most comprehensive analysis to date of the explosive articulation between antisemitism and the revolutionary process. It reveals, for example, the extent to which class struggle and anti-bourgeois discourse could overlap with antisemitic representations of Jewishness, often with devastating consequences. Second, it offers the most comprehensive analysis to date of the Soviet government attempt to arrest this articulation between antisemitism and revolutionary politics. Contrary to existing understandings, the dissertation argues that the ‘Bolshevik’ campaign against antisemitism was led not the Party leadership, as is often assumed, but by a small grouping of non-Bolshevik Jewish socialists who worked in the Party and Soviet government throughout 1918 and 1919. Having brought into focus an almost entirely overlooked moment in the history of Jewish experiences of, and responses to, antisemitism, the dissertation concludes by reflecting on how this reframing of the Russian Revolution might offer insights for anti-racists and socialists engaged in struggles for social justice today.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Antisemitism, Russian revolution, civil war, Bolsheviks, racism, Marxism, anti-racism
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
H Social Sciences > HX Socialism. Communism. Anarchism
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Cox, Prof. Terry and Virdee, Prof. Satnam
Date of Award: 2015
Embargo Date: 2 November 2021
Depositing User: Dr Brendan McGeever
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6806
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2016 15:56
Last Modified: 02 Nov 2020 07:57

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