Moissaye Joseph Olgin

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Moissaye Joseph Olgin
Olgin.jpg
Born Moissaye Joseph Novominsky
(1878-03-24)March 24, 1878
Died November 22, 1939(1939-11-22) (aged 61)[1]
Residence Manhattan, New York City
Nationality Russian;
American
Ethnicity Jewish
Alma mater University of Kiev, University of Heidelberg, Columbia University[1]
Occupation Writer, journalist, translator
Years active 1910–1939
Home town Kiev
Political party
Workers Party

Moissaye Joseph Olgin (1878–1939) was a Russian-born writer, journalist, and translator in the early 20th century. He began his career writing for the Jewish press in support of the Russian Revolution in 1910. During the First World War, he moved to the United States in 1915, settling in New York City, where he continued his career in Jewish journalism. Much of his work was in support of communism, and he was a founding member of the Workers Party. In 1922, he founded The Morning Freiheit, and served as its editor until his death in 1939.[1]

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Moissaye Joseph Olgin was born on March 24, 1878 in a shtetl near Kiev, Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire) to Chaim Aaron Novominsky and Zipa (Gelman) Novominsky, both of whom were of ethnic Jewish origins.[2] His father worked as a lumber camp employee.[3]

Olgin received a traditional education in Hebrew. After a short period of self-study, he began his studies at the University of Kiev in 1900.

He was sympathetic to the causes of the Russian Revolution, and first became active in the underground revolutionary movement during his studies at the University of Kiev. His writings for Jewish and revolutionary publications earned him some fame among the many Russian Jews, who were heavily oppressed by the government of Tsar Nicholas II. He took part in a Jewish revolutionary student group known as "Freiheit" (Freedom).

In 1901 Olgin was elected chairman of the Students Central Committee. The tsarist regime ordered his arrest in April 1903 on a charge of organizing Jewish self-defense groups against anticipated pogroms.[4]

In 1904, Olgin left the University of Kiev and went to Vilno as a member of the Vilno Committee of the Jewish Bund. There he was arrested but released on bail. He then became a member of the editorial board of the Arbeiter Stimme (Labor's Voice). He was the author of all the proclamations issued by the Central Committee of the Bund during the Revolution of 1905 while at the same time he prepared literary compositions for the illegal Jewish press. While editing newspapers and working with these underground organizations he also wrote books, short stories and literary essays.[4]

In 1907, he traveled to Germany to continue his studies at the University of Heidelberg. He continued his studies there until 1910, when he returned to Russia.[3][4]

Traveling in Germany at the onset of World War I, he was unable to return to Russia, and immigrated to the United States in 1915.[4]

Career[edit]

Shortly after arriving in the United States, Olgin became a regular contributor to the Jewish daily newspaper The Forward,

Olgin became an American citizen in April 1920. He was a leading member of the Jewish Socialist Federation of the Socialist Party of America and was influential in leading the JSF out of the party at a special convention of the organization held in September 1921. Together with other defecting members of the JSF, Olgin thereafter entered the fledgling Workers Council organization, a small group of revolutionary socialists which rejected the conspiratorial "underground" form of organization of the then extant communist movement. Olgin ceased contributing to The Forward at this same time.

In April 1922 there was launched a new Yiddish-language newspaper, the Daily Freiheit (later the Morning Freiheit). Olgin served as first editor of this publication, a position which he retained up until the time of his death.[5] He also contributed frequently to the Communist Party's English-language newspaper, The Daily Worker, and served as a special correspondent for the Soviet Communist Party's daily, Pravda.[5]

At the end of December 1922, the Workers Council group was among the organizations which were united into the Workers Party of America (WPA), a new "legal political party" affiliated with the underground Communist Party of America, and Olgin thereby entered the formal communist movement for the first time. Olgin was named to the governing Bureau of the Jewish Federation of this new organization. Olgin was a member of the governing Central Executive Committee of the WPA and its Executive Council from the time of the organization's formation.

Olgin was a frequent candidate for political office on behalf of the Communist Party. He first ran in 1924, when he was a candidate for New York State Assembly on the ticket of the Workers Party.[3] He ran for U.S. Congress in 1926, 1930, and 1934, and for New York Assembly again in 1927, 1929, 1933, and 1936.[2]

Although a bitter rival of Alexander Bittelman in the heated factional politics of the Jewish Federation in the early 1920s, by the middle of the decade Olgin had emerged as a supporter of the political faction headed by William Z. Foster, Earl Browder, and his former foe.

Olgin made several trips to the Soviet Union. In 1937 he went to Paris as delegation to the International Yiddish Culture Congress which founded the World Alliance for Jewish Culture (YCUF). While in Paris he addressed the Writers Congress.[4]

Death and legacy[edit]

Following his trip to Paris, Olgin's health began to decline. After almost two years' illness, during which Olgin continued his work for the Freiheit, as well as for the Daily Worker, and as the American correspondent for Pravda,[1] he had apparently improved in health enough to appear at Madison Square Garden, on November 13, for his first public speech in several years.[4] Following the speech, his health again declined, and he died at his home of a heart attack on November 22, 1939.[1][4]

Olgin was the author of numerous books and pamphlets in seven languages: English, Russian, German, French, Polish, Hebrew and Yiddish. It is not known whether some of these works were, in fact, translated by others. He wrote verse, essays, literary criticism and sociological studies. His books The Soul of the Russian Revolution and A Guide to Russian Literature and pamphlet Why Communism? achieved sales of nearly half a million in several languages.[4]

Olgin translated several volumes of Lenin's collected works from Russian into English; Friedrich Engels' The Peasant War in Germany from German into Yiddish; John Reed's Ten Days That Shook the World from English into Yiddish; a volume of short stories from Polish into Yiddish; two volumes of tales of Mendele Mocher Sforim, the father of Jewish literature, from Hebrew into Yiddish; and Jack London's Call of the Wild from English into Yiddish.[4]

Olgin was known as one of the most enthusiastic proponents of the Stalinist current in American Communism. For example, he was the Party's expert on fighting Trotskyism (see reference to his book on that subject; below). While an editor of the Communist Yiddish daily Freiheit in 1929, he blamed the Jews of Palestine when Arab terrorists killed 67 Jews in Hebron[6]

Selected works[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Moissaye Joseph Olgin: Editor of The Morning Freiheit, Yiddish Communist Daily – Obituary. The New York Times. November 23, 1939.
  2. ^ a b Lawrence Kestenbaum (ed.), "Moissaye Olgin," The Political Graveyard.com Retrieved November 2, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c Solon DeLeon with Irma C. Hayssen and Grace Poole, The American Labor Who's Who. New York: Hanford Press, 1925; pp. 178–179.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i The Staff of the Morning Freiheit. M.J. Olgin (1878–1939) from M.J. Olgin: Leader and Teacher. New York: Workers Library Publishers, December 1939. Retrieved February 26, 2009.
  5. ^ a b William Z. Foster and Earl Browder, "Moissaye Joseph Olgin: March 24, 1878 – November 22, 1939: Statement of the National Committee, Communist Party of the USA," The Communist, vol. 18, no. 12 (December 1939), pg. 1138.
  6. ^ Melech Epstein, The Jew and Communism New York, 1959, pp. 225–6

External links[edit]