Ber Borochov 1917
Declaration to the Hollando-Scandanavian Socialist Committee Submitted by the Jewish Socialist Labor Confederation Poalei Tziyon.
In the name of all the organizations affiliated with the Jewish Socialist Labor Confederation Poale Zion, we heartily greet the activities favoring peace conducting by the Russian Council of Workmen and Soldiers’ Deputies and the Hollando-Scandinavian Socialist Committee. We acclaim every step that can bring the world nearer to the ardently desired peace. We acclaim it the more heartily since the Jewish proletariat of all countries, in spite of all disappointments, has not for a moment during the war been shaken in its international sentiments and in its faith in mankind. The brotherhood of nations is a very ancient ideal of our people. The Jewish nation which has, as it were, hostages alike in all countries does not propose to realize its national aspirations by armed force. The Jewish people is well aware that it can only prosper and strive for its national aims in an atmosphere of mutual benevolence and peaceful cooperation among people.
We see the main purpose of the impending deliberations to be: to oppose the war aims of the various states by the will to peace and the conditions of peace of a reunited world proletariat, and to organize the struggle for peace. The imperialist governments, which have on their consciences the horrible, universal slaughter, are unable to control the unchained elements of destruction: they have neither the power to consummate their war purposes nor the courage to relinquish them. The bleeding human race awaits its deliverer. The international proletariat must become conscious of its historical mission to take into its hands the destiny of nations, to establish a peace that will preclude the danger of future wars by the strength of its union and to pave the way for the social emancipation of mankind. The Jewish proletariat hopes that when the national questions are considered, the Jewish question will receive the position on the order of the day due it.
We best leave to point to two factors which, in our opinion, combined very potently at the outbreak of the war to cause the crisis in the International. In the first place, it is common knowledge that authoritative groups in the International met the question of nationalities with rather little understanding and systematically ignored it. It thus occurred that sections of the working class, intimidated and excited at the critical moment by war inciters, could not clearly differentiate between nationalistic chauvinism and the wholesome leaven of nationalist thought, and succumbed to nationalistic ideology. To accomplish its lofty mission of the brotherhood of nations and must become the guardian of all oppressed peoples. We agree with the opinion of the Social Democratic Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina that the peoples and not the states are to be considered as a basis for international negotiations. As to the composition of the International itself, the hitherto dominating practice of state representation shall be supplemented by representation of nations as well, so that the equality of nations without regard to political frontiers shall also be realized in its organization.
On the other hand, the International has never yet been anything but a loose alliance of the socialist parties of the various states. It could in no way avail itself of the united forces of the international workmen’s’ movement. The International, only when it becomes the highest legislative and executive body of the organized proletariat of the world, will be able to oppose successfully the policy of force of the states and to implement the socialist policy of reconciliation of peoples. We agree with the proposal that all the participants of the next Stockholm Conference consider themselves bound strictly to abide by its decisions.
General Principles of Peace. We concur in the demand for general disarmament, democratization of foreign policies, neutralization of the international highways on land and sea, free commerce and traffic, free immigration, colonization and settlement, and the unlimited right of every nation to determine its own destiny. To realize these aims which will create a new international law, there must be established extra-governnental bodies invested with necessary authority to guard the conscientious observance of international treaties. The League of Nations, which has become a historical necessity, can have no prospect of duration if it should contain all the contradictions and antagonisms which ignited the world conflagration. It is an incontestable fact that national conflicts play a preeminent role in the present catastrophe. The war has clearly shown how every oppression of a nationality can disturb international amity and constitute a peril to mankind. The League of Nations can only be a union of free nations. The watchword “peace without annexation” appears in its full meaning only in connection with the simultaneously announced principle of the right of every nation to self-determination. But should this principle be realized, the settlement of the rights of national autonomy in the states composed of different nationalities ought not to be left to the states, but should be internationally guaranteed in a treaty of peace; the various forms of national autonomy should similarly be decided in a treaty of peace.
The national question will certainly be resolved in nationally unified territories through the creation of new independent states and through the introduction of national territorial autonomy. In territories of mixed nationalities this question will arise again in another form and will become even more acute, unless provision is made for the protection of minority nationalities. As the rights of nations generally, so the rights of minority nationalities must be internationally settled and guaranteed. For the minority, nationality, the principle of personal autonomy, i.e. of extraterritoriality, is essential. We concur in the demands of the Ukrainian and Czech delegations to the effect that: “on establishing an international Court of Arbitration, a special committee is to be created for the maintenance and protection of the rights of peoples. Each nationality considering its rights infringed by another nationality or by its own state is entitled to submit its grievance to the above committee and to demand international intervention.”
The Jewish Question. We demand that an international guarantee of the rights of the Jewish people be included in the treaty of peace. In spite of the loss of their independence, of having been torn from their native soil, of being dispersed, and of continually wandering, the Jewish masses remain a nation, united by a common history, language, culture, custom, and peculiar economic position; and to preserve their national homogeneity and individuality, they have made the greatest sacrifices. The depriving of great masses of Jews of human rights in Russia and Rumania for decades, has beclouded the fact that the Jewish question is essentially a national question. The Russian Revolution civilly emancipated the Jews of that country, and it is to be expected that other countries where Jews are deprived of civil rights, will be forced to follow this example. But contrary to the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution will also be a pioneer. Thus in all countries where masses of Jews are settled, the question of national emancipation is coming to the foreground.
The demand for the international guarantees of Jewish equality is much more justified since the Jewish question assumes an international character. The gathering of large Jewish masses in Eastern Europe, America, and the Near East, the influence of their situation in one country upon the other, their lack of national rights in most states, the fact that Jewish minorities are employed against their will as instruments of oppression of other nationalities, the continual flow of hundreds of thousands of déclassé Jewish emigrants from one country to another, the catastrophic character of Jewish emigration at moments of increased economic and political pressure-all raise the Jewish question to a position of international significance.
The settlement of the Jewish question by the treaty of peace is inevitable. Constituting a minority in all countries, our nation is threatened by the dangers of compulsory assimilation and national dissolution, which are calculated to make illusory even civil equality, unless the suggested guarantees are realized. At the same time, the Jewish nation is in need of organization for national self-administration to solve the unique problems of its existence. In accord with the entire Jewish proletariat, we demand a personal autonomy for our people in all countries where they are settled in masses, and particularly in states of mixed nationalities such as Russia, Austria, and the new territories of self-government and states which are created, such as Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland, etc.
We intercede for the establishment of an independent Poland, but demand at the same time securities and international guarantees for the rights of the Jewish people as citizens, and as a nationality. The attitude taken by Polish circles that the Jews renounce their nationality leaves no doubt that without such guarantees the new Poland will become a national burial ground for a great part of our nation. We deeply grieve that a majority of Polish socialists agree with the overbearing point of the view of the Polish bourgeoisie and nobility with regard to the Jews, and we invoke the judgment of the International on this vital question concerning three million Jews.
Rumania is an obvious example of the worthlessness of international agreements for the protection of feeble minorities when no extra-governmental organization exists to interfere when necessary. The Jews in Rumania have fewer rights than they had in Russia during the old regime. The alternating governments and the parliaments of the Boyars have within the purview of the nations of Europe shamelessly trampled the rights of the Jews solemnly guaranteed by the Treaty of Berlin. We do not hold the Rumanian people responsible for this state of affairs, but rather the ruling classes who oppress even their own people. We infer from this example that upon the establishment of a country’s self-government, the democratic foundation and the protection of the minority nationalities must be settled. The peace Congress should apply effective measures to secure civil and national equality for Jews in reestablished Rumania.
Palestine. The main source of all sufferings of the Jewish people is the loss of their historic homeland and their dispersion over many countries. The lack of a homeland has deprived the Jewish people of the possibility of independently controlling its existence, and has brought its destiny into an unbearable dependence upon the rise and fall of nations under whose rule it lives. The lack of a homeland is the explanation of its abnormal existence and its exceptional position among the nations of the world; it is above the cause of the unwholesome economic structure and social grouping of the Jews; for their insignificant capacity for political and social resistance; for their unceasing migrations; and for their restlessness. It is not particularly necessary to indicate how far these abnormalities impede the development of the Jewish working classes.
The undertaking of this situation and the uninterrupted spiritual association of the Jewish people with its ancient native soil called into being the Jewish national movement aiming at a territorial solution to the Jewish question by creating a Jewish settlement in Palestine. We see as inevitable for the recovery of the Jewish commonwealth of its normal existence a radical restratification of economic life, which presupposes an assignment of a possible large portion of the Jewish people to the soil and to the production of raw materials. The settlement of migrating Jewish masses in Palestine reveals already, in spite of all hindrances, very promising results. It is the beginning of a Jewish community of labor and culture, which in its growth is destined to become attractive for emigration and a hearthstone of free national development of a people secured in its existence.
The intense vital power of this national ideal manifested itself both in the self-sacrificial attitude of the Jewish masses in the cause of Palestine and in the fact that this ideal gave the Jewish people renewed faith in itself and has become a powerful lever in a tremendous national rejuvenation in which all classes of our people are participating. Our demands in regard to Palestine today are not only the immediate aspirations of the popular movement initiated by Zionism, but also the demands of a large majority of the Jewish democracy.
The revolutionary transformation of the basis of Jewish national existence by establishing a national homestead in Palestine can only be accomplished by the labor of the Jew himself. But we are justified in demanding from other peoples and especially from the organized international proletariat the elimination of those artificial hindrances which render more difficult or ever threaten to undermine the progress of the Jewish national development in Palestine. The impeding of Jewish colonization contradicts the democratic principles of free movement of masses seeking employment and the right of national self-government. The striving of the Jewish people for the most part fallow land, which with the application of modern methods of production could employ millions of new settlers, would not only work a revolution for this people but would also be of great benefit to the population of the country and a step forward in the progress of the world.
It is clear that this colonization has nothing in common with the politics of colonial conquest, expansion, and exploitation. The Jewish people possessing no power of statecraft and seeking neither markets nor monopolies of raw materials for production in favor of a “mother country,” cannot think of launching a policy of colonial politics in Palestine or of molesting the population of the country. The Jewish people aims at creating a secured place of employment for its déclassé, wandering masses: it seeks to increase the productive forces of the country in peaceful cooperation with the Arab population. The Jewish colonization is already a considerable factor in Palestine’s economic development. The Jewish immigration brings progressive methods of labor, a higher standard of living, and a higher scale of wages. It can therefore only assist the Arab population to overcome their primitive standards of civilization and economics.
The new Jewish colonization in Palestine is therefore associated with the important colonization interests of the human race, which should be concerned with returning the only homeless people on earth to its own country, because the world cannot become peaceful as long as even one people is in vain awaiting its deliverance, and as long as the Jewish people, whose destiny is bound up in that of all peoples, is deprived of normal conditions for the development of its national individuality. The Jewish people, whose sons are shedding their blood in the tragic struggle against each other on all fronts, and which suffers the inevitable and avoidable horrors of the war behind the fronts, is justified in demanding that the approaching peace bring to it too an assurance of its existence and of its free development.
The harmonious dwelling of peoples among each other and the securing of a stable peace requires the regulation of international relations according to the following principles:
The establishment of an extra-governmental organization, of a League of Nations with the following purposes:
1. The codifying of international law including freedom of the seas.
2. Obligatory settlement of state and national conflicts by courts of arbitration.
3. Adoption of a uniform method of democratic control of foreign policies and international treaties in all countries.
4. Disarmament of all countries, and control over the industry of arms, which is to be the property of the state. Maintenance of an international militia strong enough to avert any infringement of international law and of international treaties.
5. Administration of the commercial highways which are to be made international.
6. Control over the maintenance and completion of international socio-political agreements which are to be included in the treaties of peace with regard to free migration, social insurance, working time, right of coalition, home industry, protection of workmen, women and children.
7. Regulation of the production of the world, under which title should be considered:
1. Realization of the right of each nation, i.e. each people , to national unity and democratic self-government, which would include:
2. The guaranteeing to each minority-nationality the right to maintain and develop its national peculiarity and to self-administration in national affairs.
3. The decision as to the disposition of contested districts shall be made on the basis of a plebiscite of the population itself, as for example in Alsace-Lorraine.
4. The federative uniting of states for the purpose of realizing national unity on the part of peoples living in such states, as well as federation and agreement for the purpose of satisfying economic interests of the participating peoples, such as free access to the sea, commercial highways, and to markets, e.g. Balkan Federation.
Applying the above principles to the Jewish people, we demand:
1. Full civil equality for the Jews of all countries. Equal treatment of the Jewish population in the restoration of the districts affected by the war.
2. Free immigration and settlement of Jews in all countries.
3. National self-administration on the basis of personal autonomy and national equality within the state, province, and community, in countries where the Jews are settled in masses.
4. Security to unrestrained activity in Jewish colonization, aiming at the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. For this is necessary:
The fulfillment of these demands is to be internationally guaranteed.