PO'ALEI ZION, movement that tried to base itself upon the Jewish proletariat whose ideology consisted of a combination of Zionism and socialism. Attempts to combine Jewish nationalism and Zionism with socialism were made by
in the 1890s, but a movement came into existence in Russia toward the end of the 19th century and at first consisted of local groups and regional associations. Later, countrywide Po'alei Zion parties were established in Russia, the Austrian Empire, the United States, England, Argentina, Romania, and Ereẓ Israel. In 1907 a World Union of Po'alei Zion was founded. In 1920 the movement split over the attitude toward the Socialist and Communist Internationals, the Zionist Organization, and the place to be accorded to the movement's activities in Ereẓ Israel. One faction (the Left Po'alei Zion) sought unconditional affiliation with the Third International (the Comintern); by 1924 it had abandoned this attempt and reorganized itself on an independent basis. The other faction, the Right Po'alei Zion, merged in 1925 with the Zionist Socialists (ZS) and in 1932 joined with Hitaḥadut in founding the Iḥud Olami (see
*World Labor Zionist Movement
At the turn of the century, societies bearing the name Po'alei Zion were founded in various places in the
of Settlement, largely independent of one another. Some of these societies were made up of Jewish workers affiliated with the general Zionist movement, while others were composed of Zionists who seceded from the Russian Social Democratic Party or from the
, particularly when the latter adopted (1901) a resolution declaring membership in the Zionist Organization incompatible with membership in the Bund. The Zionist workers and wage earners who were thus compelled to leave the Bund also had to renounce membership in the trade unions sponsored by it and, as a result, had to establish their own trade unions.
In the years 1901–03, many Po'alei Zion societies were founded in the northwestern part of the Pale of Settlement (e.g., in Vilna, Dvinsk, and Vitebsk) and in southern Russia (Yekaterinoslav, Odessa, Poltava) and one was founded in Warsaw. All these societies shared the view that the economic problem of the Jews in general and the Jewish workers in particular was of a special nature and could be solved only by means of their territorial concentration in Ereẓ Israel. Only there could a Jewish socialist society be established. They differed, however, on the immediate program for action on the local scene. Thus, the leading Po'alei Zion group of that time, the Minsk group, advocated the restriction of local activities to the economic interests of the workers and confined its political and ideological struggle to the World Zionist Organization, where it posed special demands on behalf of the Jewish workers. Other societies called for active participation in the revolutionary struggle in Russia and cooperation with the non-Jewish revolutionary parties. The latter trend was strengthened by the 1903 Kishinev pogrom, in the wake of which Po'alei Zion societies also organized for Jewish self-defense. Another difference among the various societies emerged in the period 1903–05 over the question of
. By the end of 1904 the Territorialists had achieved a measure of consolidation (they were later joined by the Minsk group), and at the Seventh Zionist Congress in 1905 they appeared as an
independent faction, separate from the "Palestine-oriented" Po'alei Zion. Assuming the name of Zionist-Socialist Workers' Party (for short SS, according to their Russian name, "Sionisty-Sotsialisty"), they wielded considerable influence on the Jewish population during the 1905 Russian revolution.
Another split occurred in the remaining Palestine-oriented faction of Po'alei Zion at the Seventh Congress, when a new party arose in its midst, advocating emphasis on the development of Jewish life in the Diaspora within an autonomous framework. The faction had its origin in an ideological group founded in 1903 called Vozrozdheniye (Renascence); as a party, it took on the name Jewish Socialist Workers' Party. In 1906, under the leadership of Ber
, the Jewish Social Democratic Workers' Party Po'alei Zion came into being; it continued to adhere to the idea of the territorial concentration of the Jewish people in Ereẓ Israel. Borochov's approach was based upon an analysis of objective processes in the economic condition of Jewish life that pressed for mass emigration and territorial concentration; it was also founded upon the principle of the class struggle, for which a sound basis could be established only in Ereẓ Israel. Two trends existed within this group of Po'alei Zion: one regarding settlement in Ereẓ Israel only as the outcome of an objective historical process (the "Prognosticists"), the other supporting concentrated mass settlement in Ereẓ Israel and nowhere else as a matter of principle (the "Principlers"). Within the latter group a small movement of ḥalutzim for Ereẓ Israel developed.
Po'alei Zion in Russia advocated boycotting the elections to the First Duma. Later it changed its attitude and actively participated in the elections to the Second Duma. The laws regulating the election to the Second Duma were less favorable, however, than those for the first, and Po'alei Zion nominees reached only the stage of electors. The political reaction in Russia after 1906 resulted in the almost complete dissolution of Po'alei Zion. Like other movements, it was outlawed, and its leaders were either arrested and exiled or emigrated from the country. Out of a membership of about 25,000 in 1905, only 300 were left, who were organized in clandestine groups. The movement took a turn to the left and in 1909 decided to secede from the Zionist Organization and the Zionist Congress. In the last prewar years, its activities were confined to modest efforts in trade unionism and propaganda.
In the Austro-Hungarian Empire
At the end of the 19th century, various groups made up of Jewish workers and employees who were members of the Zionist movement came into being. They resulted from the efforts of the Zionist Organization to recruit Jewish workers to its cause, as well as the feeling among Jewish workers that the Austrian Social Democratic Party showed no understanding for their special needs. The spokesman for this group was
. At the Second Zionist Congress he demanded that Jewish workers be allowed the right to organize into groups of their own and of separate representation in the Zionist bodies; he also became the editor of Der juedische Arbeiter. This scheme of independent organization met with fierce opposition on the part of the Austrian and German Social Democratic parties. In June 1903 the Galician groups established a Federation of Zionist Employees' and Workers' Groups in Galicia. The federation was influenced by the Zionist Socialist groups led by Nachman
and by the Zionist Workers' Groups of Vienna and their publication, Der juedische Arbeiter.
, the Vienna groups initiated the establishment of a Po'alei Zion Federation in Austria. As its name indicated, the federation was to be composed of workers who were Zionists, without, however, committing itself to any detailed ideology. The first conference took place in May 1904 and was attended by 37 delegates, representing 2,000 members. It decided to form an organization that was to function as both a political party and a trade union. At its second conference (June 1905) the new party decided to accept the discipline of the Zionist Organization in all Zionist matters, while retaining its independence in labor matters. Zionism and the class struggle were to be regarded as being of equal importance; membership in the party was to be incompatible with membership in any other party or trade union. The conference also adopted the party's own program for activities within the Zionist Organization; it called for cooperative settlement in Ereẓ Israel (along the lines proposed by
) as a means of expressing the special interests of the workers in the Zionist movement.
It was not until the third conference (October 1906) that the Austrian Po'alei Zion adopted a clearly defined socialist program and assumed the name of Jewish Socialist Workers' Party Po'alei Zion. The conference also decided to secede from the Austrian Zionist Organization and demand that Po'alei Zion be accorded the status of an autonomous federation in the World Zionist Organization. This move resulted in several groups of Zionist intellectuals leaving the party. The Austrian Po'alei Zion did not, however, emulate the Russian party of that name when the latter decided to secede from the World Zionist Organization in 1909. In 1910 the party ran into difficulties in maintaining its function as a trade union, when the Congress of the International in Copenhagen decided that there was to be a single trade union for each country. When the Jewish National Party was founded in Austria in 1907 as a pro-Zionist list for the elections to parliament, Po'alei Zion did not join; in the parliamentary elections, however, it recommended that its members give preference to candidates of the Jewish National Party over Social Democratic candidates. In the 1910 census, Po'alei Zion urged Jews to list Yiddish as their national language (although it was not included in the census questionnaire). It also developed a program for the Jewish community councils from 1908 onward and presented its own lists for the council elections.
In the United States
Po'alei Zion came into being in the United States in 1903 as an offshoot of the Russian groups. It differed from the existing Jewish socialist organizations by emphasizing the need for
Jewish national activities and by supporting the Zionist
. There were two influences at work among the U.S. Po'alei Zion: the ideas imported by the continued immigration from Russia and the ideologically more relaxed atmosphere prevailing in the United States, much less doctrinaire in its approach than that in Europe. The first conference of Po'alei Zion groups in the U.S. took place in 1905. It brought about no concrete results, in view of a split between the Territorialists (who were in the majority) and the supporters of Ereẓ Israel. At the end of 1905, however, a Jewish Socialist Party Po'alei Zion came into being in the U.S. and Canada, and the following year the party founded its own newspaper, Der Yidisher Kemfer. The failure of the efforts to find a territory other than Ereẓ Israel, as well as the revolution of the Young Turks in Constantinople, persuaded the Territorialists to join the party, led by Syrkin and Baruch
(1909). This move was preceded by a slight change in the party's platform to include "neighboring countries," in addition to Ereẓ Israel itself, as possible areas of settlement.
The U.S. Po'alei Zion, like its Austrian counterpart, stood for cooperation with non-labor Zionists. They founded Ahavah, a society for the creation of cooperative settlements and garden towns in Ereẓ Israel; contributed to the Zionist funds; and supported labor enterprises in Ereẓ Israel, including the periodicals. On the local scene, Po'alei Zion engaged in a variety of activities, founding the Yidisher Natsionaler Arbeter Farband (a mutual aid society) and a network of "national-radical" schools. During World War I, the U.S. Po'alei Zion became the center of activities for the entire movement. Upon the initiative of Syrkin and Borochov, it sponsored the movement for the establishment of a Jewish Congress and the creation of the
movement and supported the drive for volunteers to the
*Jewish Legion battalions
, led by Yiẓḥak
In Ereẓ Israel
The Po'alei Zion Party in Ereẓ Israel came into being from various Po'alei Zion groups composed of immigrants who had come from Russia starting with the Second
. There were differences among them in the wording of their ideological approach to Ereẓ Israel and the Hebrew language. The party was founded in 1906 and consolidated in 1907 under the leadership of Ben-Zvi. It advocated the class struggle and organized trade unions and strikes (one at the Rishon le-Zion wine cellars in 1907 and another in the Jerusalem printing trade in 1909). Its first newspaper, Onfang, was published in Yiddish. After the Young Turks came to power in 1908, the party became interested in political activities in the Ottoman Empire and among its Jewish communities and supported the nonpartisan organization of Jewish agricultural workers and the cooperative enterprises sponsored by the Zionist Organization. In 1910 it founded a Hebrew newspaper, Aḥdut, and at its sixth conference made a significant change in its platform by renouncing the postulate that the class struggle is the sole means of creating the national center of the Jewish people in Ereẓ Israel. Po'alei Zion in Ereẓ Israel grew away from the mother party in Russia and from the Bolshevist ideology. It no longer relied on the spontaneous uprising of the proletariat and the spontaneous creation of a cooperative economy which would provide the proletariat with work. It began to support the constructive activities of the Zionist Organization and to demand practical activity on the part of the World Union. A sharp debate was caused by the decision of the World Union of Po'alei Zion to establish an Ereẓ Israel Workers' Fund and an Ereẓ Israel Labor Office, centering on the question of who should have the authority over the two institutions. Po'alei Zion in Ereẓ Israel also encouraged the arming of the Jewish settlers and took the
organization under its wing. The party in Ereẓ Israel did not want the institutions to be directed by the World Union, and the Association of Agricultural Workers and Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir Party rejected the idea of intervention by a party factor. Po'alei Zion was forced to take into consideration the position of a large portion of the workers and to reduce the scope of the fund and the labor bureau's activities.
The World Union
The World Socialist Union of Jewish Workers-Po'alei Zion was founded in 1907 in The Hague, where its first conference was held, following the Eighth Zionist Congress. It was recognized by the Zionist Organization as a "special federation," a step which ensured the status of the Po'alei Zion parties in various countries that were not affiliated with the local Zionist bodies. The World Union wished to conduct its own work in Ereẓ Israel, and at its second conference, held in Cracow in 1909, it decided to establish an Ereẓ Israel Workers' Fund (Kuppat Po'alei Ereẓ Israel – for short Kappai) "to further the emigration of Jewish workers and their settlement in Ereẓ Israel." At its third conference (Vienna, July 1911), the World Union decided to establish its own information office in Ereẓ Israel to be financed by the Workers' Fund. The World Union also defined the party's political attitude toward the Ottoman Empire and the direction of its activities among the Ottoman proletariat. It dealt with problems of Jewish workers in the Diaspora, especially in connection with emigration and finding employment (productivization) and supported the public protest against the methods employed by the
Colonization Association (ICA) in the Jewish agricultural settlements in Argentina.
The World Union also took up the struggle of the Russian, Austrian, and American Po'alei Zion parties, begun in 1907, toward achieving independent representation in the Socialist International. It called for national Jewish representation on a worldwide basis, independent of the national socialist parties. In 1910 it was joined in this demand by the Russian Zionist Socialists (SS) and the Sejmists (see
Workers' Party) and together they addressed a memorandum on this subject to the International (1911), which did not elicit a favorable reply. The Po'alei Zion World Union abstained from participating in the work of the Zionist Executive, and at the
Zionist congresses stressed the need for practical work in Ereẓ Israel, with special emphasis on cooperative enterprises. It supported the idea of creating national farming estates, opposed the use of the means of the
Fund (JNF) for private noncooperative settlement, and criticized the proposals for the establishment of a university in Ereẓ Israel.
The fourth conference (1913) was marked by ideological differences between a leftist group, led by Borochov, and the Austrian and U.S. parties (with which the Ereẓ Israel party also associated itself). The former called for organization on a class basis and a determined class struggle, as well as dissociation from the Zionist Organization, while the latter supported active partnership with the Zionist Organization in the creation of cooperative enterprises in Ereẓ Israel.
During World War I
The World Union of Po'alei Zion maintained its headquarters in The Hague (1915–16) and Stockholm (1917–19) during World War I. By that time it was accorded representation on the Socialist International, although technically it represented the Ereẓ Israel party. Its main activity was explaining the special situation of the Jews in the war and formulating Jewish demands for the postwar peace conference. Thus, as a result of the World Union's efforts, the Netherlands-Scandinavian socialist peace committee included in 1917 in its proposals a demand for international responsibility for the Jewish problem, the personal autonomy of Jews in the areas where they were settled in large numbers (Russia, Austria, Romania, and Poland), and protection of Jewish settlement in Ereẓ Israel. After the war the World Union became a full-fledged member of the Socialist Conferences (Berne, 1919). The steering committee of the Socialist International at Amsterdam adopted in April 1919 a Po'alei Zion-sponsored resolution affirming the right of the Jewish people to a national life of its own in Ereẓ Israel under League of Nations auspices and with the safeguarding of the interests of the non-Jewish population. It also demanded the protection of civil rights and national minority rights for the Jews in the Diaspora, the freedom to emigrate, and Jewish representation at the League of Nations.
Po'alei Zion also stood in the forefront of the Jewish Congress movement in the U.S. during World War I to formulate Jewish demands for autonomous rights in the Diaspora, and organized assemblies of Jewish workers to draft the demands concerning Ereẓ Israel. Following the war, the membership of the parties in the World Union began to grow. Before the war there were approximately 600 members in Russia, 1,000 in Austria, 1,200 in the United States, 100 in England, and 200 in Ereẓ Israel. After the war it was estimated that there were 15,000 members in Poland, 1,000 in Lithuania, 800 in German Austria, 2,000 in Czechoslovakia, 4,000 in east Galicia, 4,500 in the United States, 1,200 in Argentina, 500 in Germany, 1,000 in England, and 2,200 in Aḥdut ha-Avodah in Ereẓ Israel. In addition there were a number of small parties in Estonia, Belgium, South Africa, Egypt, and Siberia. In total, there were 30,000 members outside Russia, and the number inside Russia was estimated between 10,000 and 20,000. The splits around 1920, however, weakened the movement and reduced the number of its members. The momentous events that took place during the war sharpened the differences in outlook that had existed before it inside the movement. The Po'alei Zion party in each country was confronted by questions of principle and had to find its own answers. Thus the Ereẓ Israel party had to deal with the question of political orientation – between loyalty to the Ottoman regime and support for the Allies – and enlistment in the Jewish Legion; its vast majority abandoned internationalism and advocated enlistment in the Legion. For the Russian party, at first, it was the attitude toward the war that was at stake, and, later on, the attitude toward the two revolutions of 1917. The October Revolution caused a split in the Russian Po'alei Zion; on local questions it was close to Bolshevik ideology, whereas on the issue of Ereẓ Israel it supported the idea of "class Zionism." At the end of 1917, a faction calling itself Radical Po'alei Zion, centered in Odessa, split from the party and advocated cooperation with the Zionist Organization and the fostering of Hebrew. Another faction emerged in 1919, demanding total identification with the Bolsheviks and advocating postponement of the Zionist program until after the socialist revolution had been accomplished; it called itself the Jewish Communist Party-Po'alei Zion (JCP). The majority of the party in Russia (Po'alei Zion-Social Democrats) regarded the revolution as a long drawn-out process and rejected the postponement of Zionism.
In Ereẓ Israel, the Po'alei Zion party merged after the war with the nonparty Independents, which included most of the membership of the Federation of Agricultural Workers, and formed the Zionist-Socialist Union of Ereẓ Israel Workers –
. This was both a political and economic organization. It regarded the creation of a national economy in Ereẓ Israel, based on labor economy, as its main task and did not put the emphasis on the class struggle. A small faction, which opposed the merger and did not agree to the abandonment of the class struggle and of Yiddish, established its own party, the Socialist Workers' Party (Mifleget Po'alim Soẓyalistim – MPS), which became the first nucleus of the Palestine Communist Party. In the course of time, the radicalization of this party along Communist lines and its abandonment of the ideals of Zionism proved to be intolerable for a group of its members. This group was headed by Abraham
, who proceeded to establish a preparatory committee for the reestablishment of a Po'alei Zion Party in Ereẓ Israel.
The World Union of Po'alei Zion resumed its activities in the Zionist Organization in 1919. A council meeting held in Stockholm in August 1919 elected a commission to visit Ereẓ Israel and draw up a plan to develop the country along socialist lines. The commission, which spent some time in Ereẓ Israel at the beginning of 1920, was unable to arrive at an agreed report; its differences reflected the range of opinions
among the various parties in the World Union. The fifth conference of the World Union, which met in Vienna in July 1920, was to consider the differences among the various member parties. It split over the issue of joining the Third (Communist) International, 178 delegates voting in favor and 179 abstaining. All efforts of the abstaining delegates to heal the breach were unsuccessful. They claimed that the Third International was liable to prevent the independent development of Ereẓ Israel and ties with the Zionist organization and the Jewish people. Some of them objected to the exclusive nature of the Russian approach to Communism and demanded the unification of all the revolutionary parties (an attitude near to that of the "Two-and-a-Half International"); they held that only the speedy initiation of the Jewish people in Ereẓ Israel would ensure the survival of Zionism after the expected world revolution was achieved. The left World Union was composed of leftist parties only, which opposed any connection with the Zionist Organization and held that only by cooperation with the world revolution would Zionism stand a chance of realization. The parties which supported this stand were those of Russia, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Poland (the last being the largest). The right wing held the majority in the U.S., Argentine, British, and Ereẓ Israel parties. It decided to engage in practical work in the upbuilding of Ereẓ Israel on a cooperative basis, which would ensure the growth and development of the Jewish working class. It became the mainstream of the Zionist labor movement, whereas the World Union gradually dwindled due to Communist secession. The right-wing leaders abroad were Shelomo
, Marc Yar-blum,
, and Berl
; in Ereẓ Israel they were Ben-Gurion, Ben-Zvi, and Yiẓḥak
. The left-wing leaders in Ereẓ Israel were Nahum
The right wing, which opposed joining the Third International, also left the Second International. It joined the Viennese "Two-and-a-half " International and in 1923 returned to the Socialist International, together with the latter. It also participated actively in the Zionist Organization, despite the reservations of a number of its member parties. It engaged in political activities in the International and within the British Labour Party, to which Po'alei Zion in Britain belonged from 1920. In its activities on behalf of Ereẓ Israel, the right wing succeeded in obtaining the cooperation of other Zionist labor parties, and in August 1923 it convened a conference for Ereẓ Israel labor and established a league for practical activities. The common sphere of Zionist activities led to a convergence between the World Union of Po'alei Zion and the Zionist-Socialist Union, and after difficult negotiations, especially over the question of the status of the Yiddish language, the two unions merged in August 1925, adopting the name the Socialist World Jewish Workers' Party Po'alei Zion (united with the Zionist Socialist Union). Following the merger between Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir and Aḥdut ha-Avodah in Ereẓ Israel in 1930, a united world movement, called Ha-Iḥud ha-Olami, was founded in Danzig in 1932; it was composed of the Union of Socialist Jewish Workers-Po'alei Zion (united with ZS) and the World Zionist Labor Party-Hitaḥdut.
The second congress of the Third International, which was attended by a representative of the Ereẓ Israel leftist Po'alei Zion (appearing on behalf of MPS), adopted not only the famous 21 rules which had to be accepted by any party seeking admission to the Comintern but also an anti-Zionist resolution. The bureau of the left-wing World Union of Po'alei Zion decided to accept the 21 rules, adopted the name of Jewish Communist Union Po'alei Zion, and applied for admission to the Third International. The Comintern, however, rejected the application out of opposition to the principle of a world union and of territorial concentration in Ereẓ Israel, and demanded that members of the Jewish Communist Union join individually the respective Communist parties in various countries. Nevertheless, it sought to make use of the union in order to gain influence among Jewish workers and prolonged the negotiations with it.
The sixth conference of the World Union, held in Danzig in June 1922, rejected the Comintern demands and insisted upon its right to independent organization and to maintain its Ereẓ Israel program, but declared itself an integral part of the World Communist Movement. As a result, the Social Democratic Po'alei Zion in Russia and the Revusky group in Ereẓ Israel left the World Union and in 1923 formed the Organizing Committee of the Left Po'alei Zion in Berlin. In the following two years most of the remaining parties in the World Union disintegrated, joining local Communist parties. The Russian "Jewish Communist Party Po'alei Zion" was liquidated, whereas the Social Democratic faction of Po'alei Zion there changed its name to the Jewish Communist Workers' Party Po'alei Zion and had a technically legal existence until 1928. In Austria and Czechoslovakia the left Po'alei Zion joined the local Communist parties. Thus only the Polish party was left as a major party in the World Union. A renewal of the left World Union took place in Paris in 1926 (the seventh conference), and it included the Revusky group. It adopted the name World Communist Union of Jewish Workers Po'alei Zion, continued to oppose association with the Zionist Organization and the He-Ḥalutz movement, and maintained the belief that in the course of time it would be able to join the Comintern.
The left Po'alei Zion Party in Ereẓ Israel had been renewed in 1923 and was based on the Revusky group and former members of the Social Democratic Po'alei Zion in Russia. Within the
they opposed the exclusion of Arab workers from the general framework and demanded separation of trade-union from cooperative activities. In 1923 the Polish party also began to establish a Po'alei Zion Party in Ereẓ Israel. Israel Washer was sent to organize it. The two groups merged in 1924. Four years later another split occurred in the Ereẓ Israel left Po'alei Zion when a group led by Yiẓḥak and Ze'ev Abramovitz seceded from the majority group led by Nir (Rafalkes) and Moshe Erem over the issue of Hebrew versus Yiddish (opposing the Yiddishist attitude prevailing in the
World Union). They were reunited in 1931, only to split again in 1934 over the question of aliyah, pioneering youth movements, and He-Ḥalutz. In the same year, however, the ninth world conference adopted a more positive stand on He-Ḥalutz; but only the tenth conference, held in 1937, decided to rejoin the Zionist Congress. Further differences in the party arose over the attitude toward World War II, and they were settled only when the Soviet Union entered the war in 1941. In 1944 the left Po'alei Zion in Ereẓ Israel joined with
ha-Ẓa'ir in the Left Front in the elections to the yishuv institutions (Asefat ha-Nivḥarim and Va'ad Le'ummi). Then, in 1946, it united with the opposition group of
, Si'ah Bet, which seceded from Mapai in 1944 and formed an independent party, Ha-Tenu'ah le-Ahadut ha-Avodah. The united party was called Ha-Tenu'ah le-Ahadut ha-Avodah-Po'alei Zion. This party joined
in 1948 and remerged in 1954 with the split in Mapam. In 1968 it joined Mapai and Rafi to form the Israel Labor Party. Its Diaspora groups joined the World Zionist Labor movement, which was largely based on the Iḥud Olami previously centered on Mapai.
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