Dov Ber Borochov (Russian: Дов-Бер Борохов; July 4, 1881 – December 17, 1917) was a Marxist Zionist and one of the founders of the Labor Zionist movement as well as a pioneer in the study of Yiddish as a language.
He was born in the town of Zolotonosha, Russian Empire (currently in Ukraine). As an adult he joined the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party but was expelled when he formed a Zionist Socialist Workers Union in Yekaterinoslav. Subsequently, he helped form the Poale Zion party and devoted his life to promoting the party in Russia, Europe, and America. When the Russian social democrats came to power, Borochov returned to Russia in March 1917 to lead the Poale Zion. He became ill and died in Kiev of pneumonia in December 1917.
Borochov became highly influential in the Zionist movement because he explained nationalism in general, and Jewish Nationalism in particular in terms of Marxist class struggle and dialectical materialism. 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, where they would form a proletarian basis in order to carry out Marxist 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 Nachman 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, 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 February Revolution of 1917. Borochov returned to Russia in August 1917 attended the Third All-Russian Poalei Tziyon party congress to argue for socialist settlement in Palestine, The Poalei Tziyon conference selected Borochov as a delegate the Conference of Nationalities where he issued a paper calling for Russia as a decentralized socialist commonwealth of nations (“Rossiia kak sodruzhestvo narodov”). Borochov caught pneumonia while on a speaking tour and died in Kiev on December 17, 1917 at the age of 36. The Russian Poale Zion movement split into two factions over attitudes towards the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917. The Poale Zion Left formed a "Borochov Brigade" to join the Red Army during the Russian Civil War and ultimately split from the main Poale Zion party to become the Jewish Communist Party (Poalei Zion) in 1919 and would go on to join the Jewish section (Yevsektsiya) of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union while the social democratic Right Poale Zion was banned.
The international Poale Zion movement also split into left and right factions, which have evolved into the modern Israeli political parties of Mapam (later Meretz) 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, 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 and to be abandoned by the Jewish people in favor of Hebrew, Borochov was a committed Yiddishist and Yiddish philologist 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, was named after Borochov.
- Green, David B. (December 17, 2012). "This day in Jewish history / A great Zionist mind dies young". Ha'aretz. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
- "Ber Borochov". Marxists Internet Archive. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
- CJO - Abstract - Ber Borochov's “The Tasks of Yiddish Philology”
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- Ber Borochov Archive at the Marxist Internet Archive
- Ber Borochov Internet Archive on Wikisource
- Borokhov, Ber YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe