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General Jewish Labor Union

A Bundist demonstration, 1917

The General Jewish Labour Union of Lithuania, Poland and Russia, in Yiddish the Algemeyner Yidisher Arbeter Bund in Lite, Poyln un Rusland (אלגמײנער ײדישער ארבײטרסבונד אין רוסלנד, ליטא אונד פוילן), generally called The Bund (בונד), was a Jewish political party operating in several European countries between the 1890s and the 1930s.

The Bund was founded in Vilna (now Vilnius, Lithuania) in 1897. It sought to unite all Jewish workers in the Russian Empire into a united socialist party. The Russian Empire then included Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and most of Poland, countries where the majority of the world's Jews then lived. The Bund sought to ally itself with the wider Russian revolutionary movement to achieve a democratic and socialist Russia. Within such a Russia, they hoped to see the Jews achieve recognition as a nation with a legal minority status.

The Bund was a secular socialist party, opposed to what they saw as the reactionary nature of traditional Jewish life in Russia. They also strongly opposed Zionism, arguing that emigration to Palestine was a form of escapism. The Bund also promoted the use of Yiddish as a Jewish national language and opposed the Zionist project of reviving Hebrew. Nevertheless, many Bundists were also Zionists, and the Bund suffered from a steady loss of active members to emigration. Many Bundists became active in forming socialist parties in Palestine, and later in Israel.

The Bund won converts mainly among Jewish artisans and workers, but also among the growing Jewish intelligentsia. It acted as both a political party (as far as political conditions allowed) and as a trade union. It joined with the Labor Zionists and other groups to form self-defense organisations to protect Jewish communities against pogroms and government troops. During the revolution of 1905 the Bund headed the revolutionary movement in the Jewish towns, particularly in what is now Belarus.

The Bund naturally welcomed the February 1917 Russian Revolution, which saw the estabishment of a government pledged to abolish official anti-Semitism and introduce democracy. But the October Revolution brought to power the Bolshevik party, headed by Lenin. Although the Bolshevik leadership included several prominent Jews such as Trotsky, the regime was strongly opposed to Jewish nationalism, and treated the Bund as an enemy. By about 1920 the Bund had been destroyed in the Soviet Union. Some of its members joined the Bolshevik Party, while others emigrated. Many former Bundists perished during Stalin's purges in the 1930s

Poland and Lithuania became independent in 1918, and the Bund continued to operate in these countries, particularly in the heavily Jewish towns of eastern Poland. It also became active among the Jewish emigré: community in New York. In Poland, the Bundists argued that Jews should stay and fight for socialism rather than emigrate. When the Revisionist Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky toured Poland urging the "evacuation" of European Jewry, the Bundists accused him of abetting anti-Semitism.

During World War II the Bund continued to operate as an underground organisation in Poland, but the massacre of Polish Jewry during the Holocaust destroyed both its base and its ideological validity. By 1945 few of the surviving eastern European Jews believed any longer in the Bund's particular vision of socialism or in a future for the Jews in Europe, and most of the survivors emigrated to Israel. The imposition of a Communist regime in Poland extinguished whatever was left of the Bund. It continues to live a shadowy existence among some members of the Jewish community in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

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