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Anarchism in the Kibbutz Movement

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  • Dan Clore
    News for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo Anarchism in the Kibbutz Movement by Yaacov Oved (originally appeared in Kibbutz Trends
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 10, 2003
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      News for Anarchists & Activists:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

      Anarchism in the Kibbutz Movement
      by Yaacov Oved
      (originally appeared in Kibbutz Trends No.38, Summer 2000,
      pg. 45)

      The kibbutz movement in Israel is not a part of the
      anarchist camp and its various streams. A number of its
      central elements, such as its integral linkage to the Jewish
      state and Zionism, its loyalty to the State of Israel, the
      number of its members who join in the security forces and
      the Israel Defense Force, and its activities and involvement
      in political parties, all clearly set it apart from any past
      or present anarchistic framework. On the other hand, the
      anarchist movement and its various streams has never
      perceived the kibbutz movement as a partner in its beliefs
      and struggles. And yet the kibbutz movement is special in
      that anarchist elements and sources of inspiration have
      appeared at various stages in its history, some of which
      even exist today.

      Anarchist literature was quite common among the founding
      members of the kibbutz movement who had a theoretical
      socialist education. Notable among the anarchist
      philosophers who had a direct influence on these circles
      were Peter Kropotkin and Gustav Landauer.

      The doctrine of Kropotkin, who at the end of the 19th
      century comprehensively formulated the anarcho-communist
      theory, influenced the adopting of commune principles in the
      first kvutzot during the years that preceded World War One
      (during the First Aliya or wave of immigration). The man who
      brought Kropotkin's theories to the attention of the members
      of the kvutzot was Joseph Trumpeldor, one of the leading
      figures of the founding generation of the workers' movement
      in what was then Palestine. He was born in Russia, served as
      an officer in the Russian army, and lost an arm in the
      Russia-Japan war. As a student at the University of St.
      Petersburg, he became familiar with and was influenced by
      socialist and anarcho-communist theories, and even declared,
      "I am an anarcho-communist and a Zionist." In the years
      1908-1909 he formulated a theory and program for the
      settlement of communal groups in the anarcho-communist
      spirit of Kropotkin, and wrote about it to his friends who
      were already in Palestine. Trumpeldor himself went to
      Palestine, bringing with him Kropotkin's ideas for the
      nascent reality of the early kibbutz and kvutza.

      Among the immigrants who went to Palestine after World War
      One there was great interest in Kropotkin's
      anarcho-communist ideas. We can leam something of this
      interest in the fact that in 1921 an article by Kropotkin
      entitled "Anarchist Communism" was translated into Hebrew
      and appeared in the anthology Maabarot 3 (1920), published
      by the Hapoel Hatzair workers' party. The same anthology
      contained an essay on Kropotkin and his anarcho-communist
      doctrine by Haim Arlorzorov, a member of this movement's
      young, educated leadership. Although he was not a kibbutz
      member, he was close to the movement and attributed great
      importance to the kibbutz way of life in the shaping of ways
      to build a new society in Palestine. He wrote: "While our
      society organization is under the yoke of government it will
      be different in the future society in which 'The Free
      Alliance" will be the main foundation for the formation of
      kibbutzim. The unit of these kibbutzim will be the commune.

      These words were written at the time when the first
      kibbutzim were being formed in Palestine and gave expression
      to the spirit of the times. Further evidence of this is that
      one of the first books translated into Hebrew and
      distributed in Palestine in 1923 was Kropotkin's "Mutual
      Aid," and some time later another of his works, "The Great
      French Revolution," was published. At the time there was a
      certain appeal in Kropotkin's ideas on the dominance of
      mutual aid, the combination of village and city, agriculture
      and industry and the establishment of a network of new,
      federatively-connected communities, all of which found solid
      expression in the theories of "the big kvutza" which was to
      replace the small, intimate kvutza with the onset of the big
      wave of immigration that came in the wake of World War One.
      Prominent among the kibbutz movement's founding fathers for
      whom anarcho-communism was a source of inspiration was
      Yitzhak Tabenkin, the spiritual leader of the Kibbutz
      Hameuhad movement, which in pre-state years was the biggest
      kibbutz stream.

      Tabenkin's views were close to anarcho-communism and he was
      critical of individualistic anarchism that did not see the
      human basis of social life in the commune. His reservations
      regarding government were extraordinary among non-anarchist
      socialists. Tabenkin was ambivalent on this subject, for
      while he recognized the danger of political government, he
      was also conscious of the need of the workers movement to
      use the state institutions. He did not conceive the state as
      a stage that can be leapfrogged or negated in a one-time
      action. He viewed the state as a necessary but dangerous
      tool for attaining Zionist-socialist aims. Tabenkin believed
      that the special conditions of the workers' movement in
      Palestine and the Jewish people provided the opportunity of
      attaining a society without the need of government
      intervention. Hence his opposition to government had no
      anarchistic significance. On numerous occasions in his
      lectures he emphasized that he was not an anarchist, albeit
      he greatly admired anarchism's contribution to socialist
      philosophy, particularly to social morals and its critical
      approach to bureaucracy and political rule. He admitted "I
      am sympathetic towards anarchism. I am conscious of what is
      revolutionary in anarchism and what is ethical in it." He
      frequently stated categorically in his lectures at seminars
      that "We must become familiar with the main points of
      anarchist thought for it can enrich our revolutionary
      thinking."

      In the 1920s, a new channel of anarchist influence was
      opened with the penetration of Gustav Landauer's ideas into
      certain circles of those engaged in building kibbutzim. The
      man responsible for bringing this influence to Palestine
      from Europe was a close friend of Landauer's, Martin Buber,
      who had a deep philosophical affinity to anarchism,
      especially with its messianic aspects and the theory of the
      individual in society, although it is difficult to define
      him as an anarchist in the accepted sense of the term. A
      short time after Landauer's murder in 1919, Buber eulogized
      him at a Hapoel Hafzair conference held in Prague in 1920
      calling him "the secret spiritus rector" and "the designated
      leader of the new Judaism". He went on to say, "Landauer's
      idea was our idea. This is recognition of the fact that the
      main thing is not a change of order and institutions, but a
      revolution in Man's life and the relations between Man and
      his fellow... and in accordance with this idea, Landauer was
      to have participated in the building of a new land and a new
      society as a guide and mentor." A.D. Gordon, the "grand old
      man" of the young pioneers, attended the same conference and
      found affinity with Landauer's ideas, so much so that he
      brought Landauer's works back to Palestine with him.

      At a 1919 conference held in Munich on the question of
      cooperative settlement in Palestine, Landauer raised a
      number of ideas on the decentralized character of this type
      of settlement. At the conference, he was to have proposed a
      program for the social construction of Eretz Israel
      employing communities and federation. Unfortunately, he did
      not take part in the conference as he was brutally murdered
      on May 2, 1919.

      We can also learn something of Landauer's influence on
      German youth circles from Gershom Scholem's biography. In
      the memoirs of his youth (From Berlin to Jerusalem), Scholem
      writes: "Gustav Landauer's book, 'Aufruf zum Sozialismus' (A
      Call for Socialism), left a deep impression not only upon
      me, but also upon no small number of young Zionists," and
      that "Landauer lectured a great deal in Zionist circles and
      influenced [them]..." and he emphasizes that "The social and
      moral perception of anarchists like Tolstoy and Landauer was
      of inestimable importance in the building of the new life in
      Eretz Israel."

      Landauer's influence was first felt among the members of the
      Hashomer Hatzair youth movement who had emigrated to
      Palestine and lived as a cooperative community at Bitaniya
      Illit. The special interpretation given to Landauer's and
      Buber's concept was in the attempt to build a new community
      by youngsters who had been educated in the youth movement
      and had rebelled against modern capitalistic society. And
      indeed, the main thrust of the desire of the immigrant
      groups of Hashomer Hatzair was to establish "an anarchic
      community," as Meir Yaari, one of the movement's founding
      fathers and central spiritual guides, wrote in a letter to
      his comrades in 1920. In an article he published in the
      Hapoel Hatzair newspaper on 28th January 1921 he explained
      Hashomer Ha-Izair's uniqueness and identity by stressing its
      cohesion as a community, and claimed that "our communities
      do not tolerate government; they are forming an anarchic
      tissue by their free joining together."

      The shift from a spirit of anarchism to movement
      institutionalization came at the Hashomer Hatzair conference
      held at Kibbutz Beit Alpha in 1924 where in his opening
      address, Meir Yaari spoke about Kropotkin's and Landauer's
      anarcho-communism, claiming that these theories were no
      longer suitable for the movement. He opposed the proposal to
      call the federation of Hashomer Hatzair "communal
      anarchism," but in contrast to his reservations on
      anarchism, he spoke in a positive vein about Marxism, thus
      setting out the movement's direction towards its future.

      Much later, at an ideological seminar held in 1940, Yaari
      looked back at the first groups of 1918 and categorically
      admitted that "Then we were what is known as anarchists, we
      believed in the establishment of a new society in Eretz
      Israel, we lived at a time of big hopes and dreams... We
      believed in a prototype of future society in which the
      individual's life would be free of coercion, while being
      autonomous." He confirmed that "the Hashomer Hatzair road to
      the kibbutz was anarchistic... but when we founded the
      Kibbutz Haartzi movement and had to formulate its
      ideological platform, we had to do some deep plowing so that
      we could fully rehabilitate the term 'polities'. For there
      was contempt towards the party in the movement and it
      stemmed from an anarcho-syndicalistic worldview..."

      It is interesting to note that in the autumn of his life
      Yaari refuted these evaluations and the Hashomer Hatzair
      movements anarchistic origins. He said this in an interview
      with Avraham Yasur held in 1978. Yasur asked: "Could the
      kibbutz perception during its community period be defined as
      anarchic?" To which Yaari replied, "Today, in any event, I
      wouldn't define it as anarchism." When Yasur asked him if he
      was aware of the anarchistic ideas that were prevalent in
      the early days of the kibbutz, he replied, "There were some
      like that, but they were not realized anywhere..." and
      added: "Why do we need to seek ideas from other sources?
      With us it was original and it also derived from intuition
      and experience."

      From the thirties onward, the years of building and
      expansion of the kibbutz movement in Eretz Israel and the
      Diaspora, Marxist-socialist theories were strengthened and
      anarchism's influence was shunted aside. During those years
      the kibbutz movement underwent serious structural changes.
      The period of experimentation was over and a process of
      institutionalization and political involvement began that
      involved all parts of the movement.

      Between 1937 and 1939, during the Spanish Civil War, a small
      group of young people from the kibbutz movement and outside
      it was formed, calling itself The Free Socialists. The group
      published a broadsheet in which they printed excerpts from
      the works of the classical anarchists together with current
      information on the stand of the republicans and the
      anarchist militias against the fascists in Spain. The
      group's spiritual leader was a member of Kibbutz Afikim,
      Yitzhak Tavori (1913-1944). Tavori also published articles
      in Kibbutz Afikim's newsletter on historic events in the
      history of anarchism. This was only an isolated episode that
      had no continuation.

      During World War Two and the first years of the
      establishment of the State of Israel, the kibbutz movement
      had no ties at all with anarchism. Physical and mental
      effort was invested in consolidating the settlements and
      absorbing the new immigrants who reached Israel at that
      time. The first shoots of interest in anarchism began to
      reappear in the 60s. This interest was bound up with the
      reawakening interest in Martin Buber and his influence,
      which also led to renewed interest in Gustav Landauer.

      A firm expression of Buber's and Landauer's influence on the
      kibbutz movement can be found in the issues of "Shdemot,"
      the journal of the young circles of the Ihud Hakvutzot
      Veha-kibbutzim movement. In volume 11-12, published in
      November 1963, the "Personalities" section was devoted to
      Gustav Landauer. It contained articles on Landauer's
      personality and theories and also excerpts from his book, A
      Call for Socialism. In the issue's editorial, the editors
      wrote: "Among the many types calling themselves socialists,
      Gustav Landauer belongs to the truest and purest stream of
      Utopian socialism that aspired to begin the building of a
      new society and a new life from the bottom upwards by
      educating individuals and establishing small cells of people
      who had chosen this way out of free choice and
      consciousness... One can say that in his books and words,
      Landauer gave the clearest and strongest expression in
      recent generations to this stream, which had great influence
      on the kvutza and the kibbutz.

      "Recently, against the background of disillusionment with
      the socialist-Marxist theories and their realization in
      totalitarian regimes, a change regarding anarchism has begun
      in the kibbutz movements intellectual circles. There is a
      tendency to point to anarchist sources of influence in
      several books that have appeared since the 80s. Worthy of
      note are the book on Gustav Landauer, Writings and
      Correspondence (1982), edited by Avraham Yasur; Trends in
      Kibbutz Socialism (1989) by Rosner, Shor, Chisik and Ovnat,
      in which a chapter is devoted to anarchistic influences; An
      Anthology of Jewish Anarchists (Bernard Lazarre, Gustav
      Landauer and Erich Muhsam), edited by Yaacov Goren and Haim
      Seeligman (1997); and The Kibbutz is Dead, Long Live The
      Kibbutz (1996), by Eliahu Regev of Kibbutz Baram, in which
      the author states his positive attitude towards anarchist
      thought.

      Three meetings at discussion workshop on anarchism and the
      kibbutz held at Yad Tabenkin in the winter of 1997-1998 bear
      testimony to the tendency existing in the circle of
      intellectuals who were concerned about the superficiality of
      social thought in the kibbutz movement, that is seeking new
      sources of inspiration, including anarchistic ones. The
      following are excerpts of what was said at the workshops:

      Haim Seeligman, one of the workshops initiators, said in his
      opening remarks: "We, in the kibbutz movement, are currently
      in a situation in which we must find new solutions to a long
      line of internal and external problems... There are, in the
      vast treasury of philosophers such as Gustav Landauer,
      Bernard Lazarre, Kropotkin and Paul Goodman, philosophical
      elements that can assist us in advancing our thinking. When
      the movement is in a process of change... we must enable the
      vacuum to be filled with new, constructive contents. In
      anarchism, as in Utopian thought, we can find such
      constructive contents."

      Muki Tsur, one of the kibbutz movements most prominent
      thinkers, posed a number of questions during the discussion:
      "Is it possible and necessary to have need of a tradition of
      anarchist philosophy in determining the future directions of
      thinking for the kibbutz? Is it possible to cure some of
      today's maladies by using anarchism's tools? Can we use them
      to create some kind of renewal process for the kibbutz? Is
      there room for an encounter with anarchistic experiments
      that relate to the state with appropriate skepticism,
      without believing that by virtue of its collapse, salvation
      will follow?

      "The question is: What can be handed down from anarchistic
      tradition to the multi-generational kibbutz and the
      socially-involved kibbutz?" In this context, Tsur emphasized
      that "On the one hand, anarchism has libertarian origins,
      while on the other it has community origins... throughout
      the history of the kibbutz movement, we have drawn upon
      both."

      I have presented a historical review that indicated various
      stages in the relationship with anarchism in the kibbutz
      movement:

      Stage 1: Up to 1925, The initial, experimental stage in
      which anarchistic influences were prevalent.
      Stage 2: 1925 to 1965, Movement and party
      institutionalization, in which there was complete denial of
      anarchism.
      Stage 3: From the 60s onward, during which a renewal of the
      ties to Buber, Landauer and communal anarchism was
      observed.

      The historical review notes the continuing ties to anarchism
      in the kibbutz movement, which despite the shifts of ebb and
      flow, should have aroused interest in research on the
      origins of this phenomenon. It should be noted, sadly, that
      studies of this kind have yet to be conducted.

      Yaacov Oved, member of Kibbutz Pal-machim. Professor
      Emeritus of Tel Aviv University, serves as Executive
      Director of ICSA and Head of Communal Studies at Yad
      Tabenkin.

      --
      Dan Clore

      Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      All my fiction through 2001 and more. Intro by S.T. Joshi.
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    • Ilan Shalif
      Hi People The article of Yaacov Oved is the nearest to a decent text you can expect from a naZionist. In the text he toned down two main facts: 1) During the
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 10, 2003
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        Hi People
        The article of Yaacov Oved is the nearest to a decent
        text you can expect from a naZionist.

        In the text he toned down two main facts:

        1) During the period from the 1920s to the early 1950s the
        kibutz movement was the "shock trups" of the settler colonialist
        Zionist movement - The only rational explenation for the economic
        and political support these "anti capitalist" kibutzes got.

        2) The racist positions of all the bibutzes movements that
        never admited Palestinians as members (exept one case).
        There was never any social rejection of any of the kibutzes
        members who commited war crimes against Palestinians, with many
        of these war criminals regarded as "herows".
        (Including the ones who served under the command of the present
        prime minister Ariel Sharon's disfamous 101 unit....)

        Ilan

        Dan Clore wrote:
        >
        > News for Anarchists & Activists:
        > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo
        >
        > Anarchism in the Kibbutz Movement
        > by Yaacov Oved
        > (originally appeared in Kibbutz Trends No.38, Summer 2000,
        > pg. 45)
        >
        > The kibbutz movement in Israel is not a part of the
        > anarchist camp and its various streams. A number of its
        > central elements, such as its integral linkage to the Jewish
        > state and Zionism, its loyalty to the State of Israel, the
        > number of its members who join in the security forces and
        > the Israel Defense Force, and its activities and involvement
        > in political parties, all clearly set it apart from any past
        > or present anarchistic framework. On the other hand, the
        > anarchist movement and its various streams has never
        > perceived the kibbutz movement as a partner in its beliefs
        > and struggles. And yet the kibbutz movement is special in
        > that anarchist elements and sources of inspiration have
        > appeared at various stages in its history, some of which
        > even exist today.
        >
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