Ber Borochov

Ber Borochov

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Dov Ber Borochov was a Marxist Zionist
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

 and one of the founders of the Labor Zionist
Labor Zionism
Labor Zionism can be described as the major stream of the left wing of the Zionist movement. It was, for many years, the most significant tendency among Zionists and Zionist organizational structure...

 movement as well as a pioneer in the study of Yiddish as a language.

He was born in the town of Zolotonosha
Zolotonosha is a city located in the Cherkasy Oblast in central Ukraine. Located at around , the city serves as the administrative center of the Zolotoniskyi Raion , however the city itself is designated with the status of a separate district within the oblast.Zolotonosha is located on the...

, Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 (currently in Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

). As an adult he joined the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party but was expelled for his Zionist beliefs. Subsequently, he helped form the Poale Zion
Poale Zion
Poale Zion was a Movement of Marxist Zionist Jewish workers circles founded in various cities of the Russian Empire about the turn of the century after the Bund rejected Zionism in 1901.-Formation and early years:Poale Zion parties and organisations were started across the Jewish diaspora in the...

 party and devoted his life to promoting the party in Russia, Europe, and America. When the Russian social democrats came to power
February Revolution
The February Revolution of 1917 was the first of two revolutions in Russia in 1917. Centered around the then capital Petrograd in March . Its immediate result was the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, the end of the Romanov dynasty, and the end of the Russian Empire...

, Borochov returned to Russia in March 1917 to lead the Poale Zion. He became ill and died there of pneumonia in December 1917.

Borochov became highly influential in the Zionist movement because he explained nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 in general, and Jewish Nationalism in particular in terms of Marxist
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 class struggle and dialectical materialism
Dialectical materialism
Dialectical materialism is a strand of Marxism synthesizing Hegel's dialectics. The idea was originally invented by Moses Hess and it was later developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels...

. Borochov predicted, correctly, that nationalist forces would be more important in determining events than economic and class considerations, especially as concerned the Jews. Borochov argued that the class structure of European Jews resembled an inverted class pyramid where few Jews occupied the productive layers of society as workers. The Jews would migrate from country to country as they were forced out of their chosen professions by a "stychic process" which would ultimately force migration to Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

, where they would form a proletarian basis in order to carry out Marxist class struggle
Class struggle
Class struggle is the active expression of a class conflict looked at from any kind of socialist perspective. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote "The [written] history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle"....


A key part of Borochovian ideology was that the Arab and Jewish working classes had a common proletarian interest and would participate in the class struggle together once Jews had returned to Palestine. In his last recorded speech, he said:

Many point out the obstacles which we encounter in our colonization work. Some say that the Turkish law hinders our work, others contend that Palestine is insignificantly small, and still others charge us with the odious crime of wishing to oppress and expel the Arabs from Palestine...

When the waste lands are prepared for colonization, when modern technique is introduced, and when the other obstacles are removed, there will be sufficient land to accommodate both the Jews and the Arabs. Normal relations between the Jews and Arabs will and must prevail." Eretz Yisrael in our Program and Tactics by Ber Borochov, 1917

Borochov, along with Nahum Syrkin is considered a father of socialist Zionism. Borochov's ideas were influential in convincing Jewish youth from Europe to move to Palestine. However, Borochov's theories remained most influential in Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

, where they formed the basis of the Left Poale Zion movement which was active in Poland during the interwar years. Indeed, Borochov's vision of class struggle in Palestine was widely viewed as untenable by the 1910s, with Jewish migrants to Palestine struggling to establish an economic foothold and with interclass cooperation seemingly necessary, and his theories dimmed in popularity there. Borochov, for years an advocate for a doctrinaire Marxist Zionism, himself seemed to repudiate his former vision of class struggle in Palestine in speeches towards the end of his life. Borochov insisted that he was a Social Democrat, but Borochov's Left Poale Zion followers continued to vigorously advocate class struggle both in Palestine and eastern Europe, supporting the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 - Borochov himself returned to Russia for that purpose.

The Poale Zion movement split into left and right factions, which have evolved into the modern Israeli political parties of Mapam
Mapam was a political party in Israel and is one of the ancestors of the modern-day Meretz party.-History:Mapam was formed by a January 1948 merger of the Hashomer Hatzair Workers Party and Ahdut HaAvoda Poale Zion Movement. The party was originally Marxist-Zionist in its outlook and represented...

 (later Meretz-Yachad
New Movement-Meretz , previously known as Meretz, then Yachad, and then Meretz-Yachad is a left-wing, Zionist, social democratic political party in Israel....

) and the Israeli Labor Party respectively. The European branch of the Left Poale Zion movement was effectively destroyed by the early 1950s; many of its members were killed by the Nazis during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, and the surviving activists were persecuted and ultimately outlawed under the various post-war Communist regimes.

While most Zionists regarded Yiddish as a derivative language characteristic of the Jewish Diaspora
Jewish diaspora
The Jewish diaspora is the English term used to describe the Galut גלות , or 'exile', of the Jews from the region of the Kingdom of Judah and Roman Iudaea and later emigration from wider Eretz Israel....

 and to be abandoned by the Jewish people in favor of Hebrew, Borochov was a committed Yiddishist and Yiddish philologist
Philology is the study of language in written historical sources; it is a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics.Classical philology is the philology of Greek and Classical Latin...

 and wrote extensively on the importance of the language. He is considered the founder of modern Yiddish studies.

Borochov’s contributions were recognized in various ways by the early Jewish settlement in Palestine. For example, the first workers' neighborhood in the country, in what later became the city of Giv'atayim
Giv'atayim is a city in Israel east of Tel Aviv. It is part of the metropolitan area known as Gush Dan. Givatayim was established in 1922 by pioneers of the Second Aliyah. It has a population of 53,000....

, was named after Borochov.

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