Culture, Global, Identity, Justice, Peoplehood, Politics, Religion

The Struggle

Here is the cover image of the May 1932 issue of Der Hammer דער האמער, illustrated by Jewish artist William Gropper Der Hammer, an interwar socialist daily with strong communist leanings, fashioned itself as the magazine of the Jewish Worker. It’s here as a reminder to all those in current struggles for justice and peace, and also to honor the upcoming anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and to honor the struggle of Chinese workers contracted to Apple Computers for a safe and healthy working environment free from chemicals that cause neurological damage.

12 thoughts on “The Struggle

  1. As an actual refugee from a communist empire, I’d like to point out that while William Groper was sympathizing with Stalin, his regime was destroying tens of millions of lives through forced collectivization (which led to the starvation of millions in the Ukraine), mass deportations to forced labor camps and widespread exterminations of political undesirables, with Jews being disproportionately represented in all these and many other unfortunate categories.
    At the very least read your god-damned Solzhenitsyn.
    Not to muddy your waters of justice and peace, or anything.

  2. Interesting, then, that so many Jews the world over initially found solace in Soviet Russia’s vision of a just future. Der Hammer, and many other yiddish-socialist publications, were split on the issue of Stalin’s violence, but only after the first purges of Yiddish writers and intellectuals commenced in 1937, 5 years after the publication of this cover. In fact, its rather ahistorical, and particularly troubling that you would blame Stalin’s victims for not being able to predict the future, considering they did not know what was to come. At this point, many Jews, including your own family it seems, believed quite deeply, even after WWII, that staying in Soviet Russia would prove the right choice. So while you try to mine hypocrisy, I’ll rest knowing that at the point this cover was published, the Soviet Union was among the only places on earth where a Yiddish writer could critique the regime in coded language, while maintaining allegiance to a revolution that would eventually go terribly wrong. So, as a representative Soviet Refugee, you seem to be filled with the kind of anti-leftist rhetoric I’d much rather expect from Avigdor Leiberman or Natan Sharansky.

  3. Putting up a piece of communist propaganda filth is a spit in the face of all of us who have ancestors that fought for workers rights while never embracing communism, and in fact, who also fought against such radicals and instead for reform without violent revolution.

  4. DK, Have you ever read an issue of Der Hammer, or are you basing your rejection on the image of an exploited worker breaking his chains and smashing the overseer?

  5. DK, What does Abe Cahan have to do with anything? He was a great Americanizer, and believed in a form of socialist shtadlonus that fell short of revolution. The Forverts Camp, of which Cahan was an obvious member, were called Di Rekhte, The Right, sometimes associated with how one saw the Arab Riots in 1929 Palestine. I suggest you consider this and place the ideology of Der Hammer in its historical context. If you wash away anything perceived as pro-Soviet down the moral drain, you marginalize decades of Yiddish, and for that matter, Hebrew culture indebted to the Bolshevik Revolution and the equality it failed to deliver. I seek not to defend Stalin’s crimes. I seek to show Der Hammer’s creativity and freshness to Jewschool readers, who deserve more than drab political and religious conformity envinced by these responses.

  6. And you aren’t the only one with “ancestors that fought for workers rights while never embracing communism, and in fact, who also fought against such radicals and instead for reform without violent revolution.”
    You can claim some kind of leftist yichus (how counterrevolutionary), but at the end of the each self-proclaimed Jewish radical has, hopefully, a textured and nuanced relationship to the use of violence in achieving social change. Was John Brown a good man? Either way, I stare at that image and I see thousands of Jews, including my own ancestors, who read it in hopes that their 15 hour days would become shorter.

  7. The Forward emerged from Triangle as THE dominant newspaper of the Yiddish proletariat. They did so by routing the radicals and luftmenschen.
    Pretending radicals represented the common Jewish worker as much is pure revisionism. The kind of dangerous nonsense that the masses rejected then, and their heirs must reject now.

  8. “and smashing the overseer?”
    Yes, LaMarcus Jastrow. I come from a Forward Family that doesn’t like when the Radicals start referencing “smashing.”
    We’re Rekhte like that.

  9. DK, I’m not sure where you derive your facts. The Forward, before and after the triangle fire, was part of a large mass of newspapers, each of which claimed to be the authentic voice of the Jewish worker. Some editors were sympathetic, if often ambivalent, to the Soviet project, like those at the Di Morgn Frayhayt, others were more hostile. The Forward is a good example of a paper that moved ever so closer to a pro-McCarthy line, even while still speaking to the interests of Jews in blue-collar professions. The Forward, however, had a stated goal of Americanizing the Jew, and insofar as a newspaper can do this, it worked hard to inculcate capitalist mores among its readership. Abe Cahan, who you mentioned before, even wrote a book in English to these ends, which could be considered Naturalist in form, far different from Soviet Yiddish modernist writers, who wrote far richer texts. The bottom line is that your interpretation of the image I posted is narrow. While no sane person, including myself, would seek to support Stalin’s treatment of Jews or any other group, it doesn’t discount the massive heritage of radical politics that American Jews hold, whether or not they can see beyond the political conformity of 1950s American Jewish cultural politics.

  10. The Forward, before and after the triangle fire, was part of a large mass of newspapers, each of which claimed to be the authentic voice of the Jewish worker.
    After Triangle, the Forward emerged as the dominant voice. The Commie voices you favor were smaller, if louder and shrill voices.
    that moved ever so closer to a pro-McCarthy line
    No, they were never pro-McCarthy or anywhere close to using such a broad brush despite the reality of a presence of small group of genuinely subversive elements.
    who wrote far richer texts.
    The Forward has the great conservative writer I.B. Singer to boast of. And he nothing to apologize to your Soviet writers any day in terms of “rich texts.” Or does Singer’s texts need “smashing”?
    it worked hard to inculcate capitalist mores among its readership.
    Yes, because the U.S. is a capitalist country, so reforms had to be made within that system. We chose to come here, and had to respect the culture and framework of this nation that we chose to join.

  11. /Right/ wing, maybe. You are certainly writing (righting) important events, publications and values out of history. But that is fine, you are participating in a long tradition. well, at least we know where you stand, bro. I’m glad we’ve had this exchange, since it definitely shows how far we haven’t come.
    I.B. Singer was a nostalgia factory, who wrote in Yiddish so that his work would be translated, and presumably, you could read it as an authentic record of Eastern European Jewish Life. The quality of his stories not withstanding, his brother Yisroel Yoshua, has largely been written off because he chose the Soviet Union, and his sister, Esther, was largely written off because she moved to Belgium, and because she was a woman.
    I myself probably would have read many different papers, like many readers of that period. I own a few issues of interwar Yiddish papers, and the most valuable aspect of them is usually the fiction and poetry. The Forward published many writers, including IB Singer, but one can’t disregard the communist (not really) Morgn Frayhayt for giving voice to other Yiddish writers.
    I wonder what other readers think.

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