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The Beginnings of the Jewish Trade Union Movement in England

Peter Elman

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Beginnings of the Jewish Trade Union Movement in England1 IHE history of the London Jewish community during the last four decades of the nineteenth century occupies a prominent part in the growth of the modern Jewish working class movement generally in the western world. London was the scene of the foundation of the first modern Jewish socialist society, the first modern Jewish trade union and the first Jewish workers' club. Here also appeared some of the earliest of modern Jewish socialist pamphlet literature. Although, despite such pioneering efforts, the first chapter of the London Jewish working class movement left few if any lasting traces, it is nevertheless proper to record the chronology of those early eventful days, to enquire into the circumstances which made London so pre-eminent and to examine the reasons for their transitory nature. These subjects have a very wide range and I can deal only with the very first stages, hoping that another opportunity will later present itself to continue the story.2 The Annual Report for 1864 of the Jewish Board of Guardians states that "Holland continues to supply most of the foreign poor." The Annual Report for 1872 observes that "the poor Jews in England are now almost exclusively recruited from Poland."3 This change in the character of Jewish immigration imposed a new feature upon the Anglo-Jewish community, some indication of which may be gleaned by contrasting the Dickensian account of the Jewish street hawkers and pedlars given by Henry Mayhew in his "London Labour and London Poor," published in 1861,4 with the matter of fact picture of the Jewish working class population in Charles Booth's "London Labour and Life," published some thirty years later. An appreciation of this change is basic to any understanding of the growth of socialism and trade unionism in Anglo-Jewry. During the first half of the nineteenth century, the records of the London tailoring trade5 reveal no clear and unmistakeable Jewish associations. The trade was in the throes of a development general to all branches of industry, the gradual disappearance of the domestic industrial system and the rise of modern industrial organisation. It may be significant in this connection that in 1860 there appeared in London under the name of E. Moses and Son, a pamphlet entitled "The Growth of an Important Branch of British Industry?the Ready-made Clothing System."6 but, this apart, it is fairly clear that among the organised London tailoring workers the Jews were inconspicuous, although by 1861 "the (Jewish) trading class in the capacity of shopkeepers, warehouse? men and manufacturers are the thickest in Houndsditch, Aldgate and the Minories, more especially as regards the 'swagshops' and the manufacture and sale of wearing apparel."7 By Peter Elman, m.a. 1 Paper read before the Jewish Historical Society of England on 5th July, 1948. 2 I have drawn to a very great extent upon two basic articles by E. Tcherikower, one in Yivo, Historische Schriften, Vol. I, Warsaw, 1929, on "The Beginnings of the Jewish Socialist Movement" and one in "The History of the Jewish Labor Movement in the United States," Vol. II, New York, 1943, on "London and its Pioneer Role." 8 Cited from Joseph Jacobs, "Studies in Jewish Statistics," London, 1891, p. 20. 4 Vol. II, pp. 116 ff. 5 See F. W. Galton "Select Documents illustrating the history of Trade Unionism. I. The Tailoring Trade," London, 1896. 6 I have been unable to consult this publication which is in B.M. 8244 B 29. 7 Mayhew, op. cit., II, p. 118. 53</page><page sequence="2">54 THE BEGINNINGS OF THE JEWISH TRADE UNION MOVEMENT IN ENGLAND In the early part of the century, the foreign element in the tailoring trade was chiefly composed of Germans whose displacement by the Jews is to be correlated with the every-increasing Jewish immigration towards the end of the century. Jewish immigration into England began long before the Russian pogroms. The conditions endemic in Eastern Europe and the prevalence of continental warfare had early set the tide of migration flowing. The pogroms of the Eighties increased the rate of flow to such a degree, perhaps, as to change its entire character and to create unpre? cedented problems. The estimated London Jewish population in 1858 was given by The Jewish Chronicle as 27,000. Henry Mayhew for about the same date put it at 18,000.x The Jewish Board of Guardians recorded 800 funerals in 1869, which gives a population of over 30,000. In 1883, The Jewish Chronicle gave 46,000 which coincides with Lionel Alexander's estimate in 1885 of 45,000. In 1891, The Jewish Chronicle gives 64,000, agreeing roughly with H. Llewellyn-Smith's estimate of 60,000 for 1888, and in 1898 100,000.2 Writing of conditions in London in the late sixties, Eccarius, a German and one of the secretaries of the First International, says "among the workers of cheap ready-made clothing I did not find one Frenchman, not one Scot and only few English, but many Irish, Germans and Polish Jews. The young Polish Jews prefer to be tailors in London rather than serve in the Russian Army."3 An unsigned article in the Russian publication Vperiod, published in London in 1876, states that "there is room for all in the labour markets of the capital city on the Thames ... All come to seek a better life. The Jews also, already numbering 55,000, mostly tailors (about 12,000), hatmakers, bagmakers, carpenters and watchmakers. Jews also work in sugar factories, metal shops and tobacco factories." The figure of 55,000 is clearly a wild guess but it does reflect the impression gathered by the writer of the numerous immigrant Jews. A similar picture is given in an article on "The Jews in London," by Arnold Lieberman in the third number of his journal HaEmet, one of the earliest of modern Hebrew publications, which appeared in Vienna in 1877.4 Young Jews, he says, chiefly from Russia and Poland seeking to avoid military conscrip? tion, take refuge in London attracted by its promise of social, economic and political opportunities.5 Under what conditions did these immigrant Jews live ? Eccarius says that they worked for extremely low wages, not exceeding even for the highly paid machinists 16s. a week, from 6 a.m. to 7 or 8 p.m. without a break in hot stuffy rooms. "No wonder [he remarks] that mo-thirds of the tailors die from tuberculosis."6 The writer in Vperiod tells us how "in the narrow crooked streets of Whitechapel, in the smelly and dirty holes and corners of the workshops, working 12 to 14 hours a day for a paltry 1 ibid., p. 117. 2 See Charles Booth, op. cit., I, p. 547-550; II, pp. 104-105 ; Joseph Jacobs, op. cit., pp. 13, 20; C Russell and H. S. Lewis "The Jew in London," 1900. 3 J. G. Eccarius "Der Kampf des Grossen und des Kleinen Kapitals, oder die Schneiderei in London," Leipzig, 1876, p. 27. 4 The writer of the Vperiod article was also probably Lieberman. 5 It is unfortunate that HaEmet was suppressed by the Austrian authorities at the instigation of the Russians before the fourth number could appear. Lieberman, as we shall see, was at the very centre of the London Jewish Socialist movement and had intended publishing a series of articles on the situation, which would have been invaluable for our knowledge of the period. All that appeared was the first instalment cited in the text. 6 op. cit., pp. 17-26.</page><page sequence="3">THE BEGINNINGS OF THE JEWISH TRADE UNION MOVEMENT IN ENGLAND 55 starvation wage . . . here have the Jewish workers of Poland, Russian, German, Austrian .... found their better life." Lieberman in a vivid and perhaps over-dramatised picture describes the usual Saturday morning concourse of Jewish workers crowding along the Whitechapel Road waiting to be hired for the coming week. "A thick stream of people covers the length of the road for about half a mile. Almost all are young men; all foreigners from distant lands, most from Russia and Poland. Their faces pale as death and their eyes deeply sunk. Hunger and poverty have robbed them of their youth and given them the appearance of old men."1 One worker, speaking at the fifteenth meeting of the Hebrew Socialist Union, of which more later, in December 1876, said that he had been in England eighteen years and that wages among slipper makers had fallen in that time from 6s. to 3s. 6d. a day, while the daily hours of work were fourteen or more. Official reports confirm the general picture oudined by these accounts.2 It is clear that, particularly in the tailoring trade, conditions were at their worst. To remedy the situation, all that the Community could do was to pursue the traditional methods of charity. Lieberman names twenty-two Jewish philanthropic societies that were more or less active in London. The Jewish Emigration Society tried to help the problem by providing the return fare to Europe, together with some incidental pocket money. In 1860, Mayhew had observed that "although the wealthier Jews may be induced to give money towards the support of their poor, I heard strong strictures passed on them concerning their indifference towards their brethren in all other respects" and more particularly because they took little active interest in the administration of the charities and shrank from employing their coreligionists if they could get others at lower wages,3 thus creating the very problems which required remedying. This negative attitude prevailed for a long time, sometimes reaching ridiculous proportions. Listen to The Jewish Chronicle of the 18th April, 1872, in a note on the strike of some Warwickshire agricultural labourers. "Considered in the abstract, there is in principle nothing objectionable in a strike . . . but (it) invariably brings out bitter feelings of class against class . . . We should regard (a strike among Jewish workers) as prejudicial and should earnestly deprecate it." The note then continued to suggest how the danger among Jews could be met and proposed firstly dispersal from the East End (in order not to arrest the process of gradual de-Judaisation of the Jewish quarter, which it thought was then taking place), secondly less concentration in the overcrowded trades and occupations, and thirdly more communal self-dependence in charity and education. It hastens, however, to point out the connection between excessive charity and inadequate wages. But the circumstances were not conducive for putting into effect even these palliatives. The flow of irnmigrants increased. Far from East London becoming de-Judaised, the very reverse took place. The Russo-Polish element in Stepney (which we may equate with Jews) formed 1.25% of the local population in 1871, 2.38% in 1881, 7.73% in 1 Lewis Lyons, a Jewish trade union leader, giving evidence before the House of Lords Select Committee on the Sweating System in 1888 said, "there is a slave market.. . one on Saturday and one on Sunday" in the area of Goulston Street and Commercial Street. "They parade there, walk up and down or talk to each other, and wait until the sweater comes for them." Vol. XX, par. 3713-3714. 2 One has only to read the report of a "Sanitary Commission on the Polish Colony of Jew Tailors" to be satisfied on this score, The Lancet, 3 May 1884, pp. 817-818. 3 op. ciu, p. 128. G</page><page sequence="4">56 THE BEGINNINGS OF THE JEWISH TRADE UNION MOVEMENT IN ENGLAND 1891 and over 14% in 1901.1 The comparable percentages for the whole of London are .16%, .23%, .63% and 1.18%. The remedy of deconcentration of the London Jewish community was also suggested in two letters appearing in The Jewish Chronicle of the 16th and 23rd June, 1876, dealing with the question of the increasing desecration of the sabbath by foreign Jews. Two important observations were made in these letters : the constant stream of immigration and the lack of sympathy between the native and foreign Jewish elements. These early immigrants were not generally working men, but conditions in the East End soon brought about a change, which is well described by Morris Vintchevski who first arrived here in 1879 and was to play a prominent part in later developments. "The workers I saw in London were a modern proletariat, factory workers or just hands . . . working with tens and hundreds of others at tailoring and carpentry, in waterproof factories, as clerks, bootmakers, watchmakers, and at many other trades."2 Sweating and extremely low wages were already characteristic and, as Beatrice Webb later observed, organically associated with mass immigration.8 In view of the prevailing conditions, the hostility between the native and foreign Jews, the example set by non-Jewish workers?we must recall that this was one of the great formative periods in the history of English trade unionism?and not least the fact that an appreciable number of the immigrant Jews were people of some education and intellectual standing,4 it is not at all surprising that as early as 1874 an attempt was made to start a Jewish tailors' union, the leading spirit being apparently Lewis Smith, a Polish immigrant, who had come to England via France where he had participated in the Paris Commune of 1871. This union comprised not only workers but also small masters, an unstable economic group as prone to climb still higher up the social and economic ladder as to step down into the broad masses. The union is said to have achieved a membership of 72 but it lasted for only a few weeks, passing into the obscurity which gave it birth. The meagre information we have of this pioneer union is culled from a brief account given by Isaac Bookman at the sixth meeting of the Hebrew Socialist Union. Not one of the members of this organization, which was founded two years later, ever claimed to have been associated with this, the first recorded Jewish trade union in England. As I have already indicated, the next stage occurred in 1876. In its issue of the 23rd June 1876, The Jewish Chronicle carried the following note. "A WARNING? A correspondent informs us that a printed paper, very mischievous in its tendency, is being circulated among the Russian and Polish working classes at the East End of London. It is written in the Jargon current among these people, with a pure Hebrew version accompanying it. The paper purports to contain the rules of the "Hebrew Socialist Union,' a body which possesses no existence whatever, except in the imagination of the insane originator, who is striving to create such a body. We forbear publishing extracts from the paper, as they would only tend to mislead. Such puerile tracts are not likely to have the slightest influence even upon the least informed of our brethren. Indeed, we more than suspect that they emanate from the enemies of the Jews [by 1 G. Halpern "Die J?dischen Arbeiter in London," Stuttgart und Berlin, 1903, p. 16. 2 Cited from Tcherikower in Yivo ubi supra. 3 Charles Booth, op. cit., "Industrial Democracy." * The mass of the later immigrants appear to have been of a different mental calibre, as shown by the investigations of Beatrice Potter (Mrs. Sidney Webb), a fact which goes some way to account for the great difficulties in establishing an enduring Jewish trade union movement.</page><page sequence="5">THE BEGINNINGS OF THE JEWISH TRADE UNION MOVEMENT IN ENGLAND 57 whom we suppose were meant that bete noire of the period, the missionaries] and are put into circulation in order to injure them. In any case, those in whose hands such tracts fall should not assist in their circulation, but strive to discover their authors, with a view to their exposure." How mistaken The Jewish Chronicle was as to the author? ship and effect of this "printed paper" will be seen in the sequel. On the 30th May 1876, ten immigrant Jews formed a society called "Agudati HaSozialistim Halvriim," the Hebrew Socialist Union, which has the distinction of being the first known Jewish group of its kind in the modern world. It is fortunate that its Pinkas or Minute Book still survives.1 Among its founders were Lazar Golden berg, one of the earliest of Russo-Jewish socialists, and Aaron or Arnold Lieberman and Leib Weiner, two alumni of the famous Vilna Rabbinical School which in the early seventies produced a group of young Jewish intellectuals who played a foremost part in the secular Socialist movement. The programme of the Union, no doubt the "printed paper" mentioned by The Jewish Chronicle, forms the preface to the Minute Book and is written in a beautiful Hebrew translated into Yiddish. It was probably drafted by Lieberman, the driving force behind the Union, and is worth quoting, even if only to test the comments of The Jewish Chronicle. We are convinced that the present order, which rules everywhere, is harsh and unjust. The capitalists, the rulers and the clergy have appropriated to themselves all human rights and property and have enslaved the working masses through the power of their money. As long as private ownership continues, economic misery will not cease. As long as mankind is divided into nations and classes, national hatred will not cease. As long as the clergy is able to influence the emotions of man, religious intolerance will not cease. The liberation of humanity can be attained only through a basic transformation of political, economic and social relations?by replacing the existing order with a new society based on socialism which will uproot injustice and the domination of capital, the parasites and the system of 'mine' and 'thine.' We Jews are an integral part of mankind and cannot be freed except through the liberation of all humanity. The liberation of humanity from misery and slavery can only be achieved by the working classes united in the struggle against their oppressors to destroy the present order and to replace it by the rule of labour, justice, freedom and the brotherhood of man. The workers of Europe and America have united to achieve this purpose and are preparing for the revolution to establish Socialism. We, the children of Israel, must therefore decide to associate ourselves with this noble alliance of Labour. This is clearly the work of an intellectual in the direct tradition of European Utopian Socialism. In no sense is it the figment of an insane imagination, although perhaps naive in its optimism and somewhat rhetorical in its phrasing. It shows a complete divorce from reailty and a deep unawareness and ignorance of the most potent social undercurrent of the second half of the nineteenth century (whether we are in sympathy with it or not) to attribute the views expressed in this declaration of policy to the hands of the missionaries. The Union lived some five or six months and never achieved a membership of more than forty, but during that short period it caused a stir in the London Jewish Community, perhaps out of all proportion to its size.2 The Minute Book which contains 1 Printed in Yivo, ubi supra. 8 The American Jewish trade union movement was later to acknowledge its inspiration.</page><page sequence="6">58 THE BEGINNINGS OF THE JEWISH TRADE UNION MOVEMENT IN ENGLAND a record of its activities opens with a statement of aims, from which I have already quoted, together with a list of rules, also drafted by Lieberman. In all, about thirty meetings were held between the 20th May and the 28th December 1876.1 Apart from the usual day-to-day questions which came up for discussion?such as, whether small masters and professional men should be admitted to membership, whether and how a library should be formed, finances2 and the like?these records clearly reveal the main purposes of the Union. In order, to help the spread of Socialism in the Community, individual members gave talks on a number of general topics, such as one by Goldenberg on the International Workingmen's Congress of 1866 and another on the French phil? osophers of the eighteenth century. In order to unite the workers in their struggle and to engage in practical activities, plans were put on foot to organise a public meeting, which might also be regarded as a counter-blast to the "warning note" of The Jewish Chronicle. The meeting took place on Saturday evening, the 26th August, 1876, in the Zetland Hall at 51 Mansell Street, Goodman's Fields. It had previously been advertised in a handbill which has also survived and reads It is known that working men find themselves everywhere in distressing conditions . . . But however difficult life may be for all workers, it is worse for the Jewish worker, especially here in London, where the Jew has to work harder and longer and yet receives less wages than the non-Jew. Why is this? Because the Jewish workers are not as united as the others.3 Here in England the Trades Union consisting of thousands of workers' societies in different occupations are closely banded together to protect themselves against the employers. But among us Jews there is no unity and the masters can do what they please. Thus we not only suffer from disunity but also as a result draw upon us the dislike and hostility of the English workers who accuse us of harming their interests.4 The meeting was attended by Charles Goddard, a representative of the London Trades Unions, Peter Lavrov, the editor of Vperiod, and a number of members of the London International Workingmen's Education Union. Altogether between two to three hundred people were present. Most of the speakers confined themselves to dealing with the existing conditions in the tailoring industry and the necessity for establishing a union to demand the ten hour day, a proposal which was well received. The address of Lieberman, however, went beyond this practical field. After describing the Jewish position in other countries, he expanded on the view that without the triumph of Socialism and the setting up of a workers' state equal treatment of the Jews was impossible. He then launched an attack upon the local Jewish leaders, singling out the religious heads, 1 The following addresses are given as meeting places : 77 Leman Street, 8 Leman Street, 2 Fashion Street, The Garrick Tavern in Leman Street, The Oxford Arms, Little Paternoster Row, Union Street. 2 Its sole (half yearly) accounts show receipts of ?3. 5. 9 (which included a gift of 10s.) against payments of ?2. 15. 7. 3 "The Jews as workmen are disunited and without organisation and so far at the mercy of their employers" in contrast to their strong sense of racial or national community, Russell and Lewis op. cit.3 p. 54. 4 Generally, the relations between Jewish and non-Jewish workingmen were not very friendly even in later years. Ben Tillett is reported to have said just before the end of the century, "Yes, you are our brothers and we will do our duty by you. But we wish you had not come to this country," op. cit.3 p. 198. It may also be observed here that, apart from personal connections of individual Jews with English socialists, no evidence exists of any influence exerted by socialism upon the events recorded in this paper. The names of Marx and Engels are not mentioned in the Pinkos*</page><page sequence="7">the beginnings of the jewish trade union movement in england 59 mentioning the Chief Rabbi by name, whereupon uproar broke out which was with some difficulty suppressed. The meeting ended in considerable confusion. The outcome was firstly the formation of a tailors' union to campaign for a shorter working day and to establish a workers' aid bureau. Secondly, a determined opposition was set in motion. Early in September, the Rev. A. L. Green was informed that the socialists as missionary agents were trying to convert the Jews. A successful attempt was made to secure admission to a closed meeting of the Union when the opposition created a disturbance.1 What exactly transpired is rather obscure. The Jewish Chronicle reported it thus : Another Conversionist Trick. To what straits the conversionist hirelings are reduced to in order to make a pretence of earning their hire is evident from the tricks they now resort to in order to attract a few ignorant Jews to listen to their unavailing attempts to lure them from adherence to the ancestral faith. Another trick has come to our knowledge. A publican in Duncan Street, Whitechapel, was induced to let a room on the pretence that a meeting of Jewish tailors was to be held for the purpose of protesting against the long hours which they work. Invitations to the meeting were also issued to this effect. The decoy was successful so far that some Jewish tailors were attracted to the meeting but when they discovered the trick which had been played them they unmistakeably showed their sense of the trick. A scene of great uproar ensued and those who addressed the 'meeting' were assaulted. The aid of the police had to be called in to quell the disturbance. Seeing that these conversionist agents by their miserable tactics invite from the deluded Jews who they trap to their 'meetings' a breach of the peace we should think that the law could be enforced which prevents such meetings or at any rate punishes those who convene them. This association of socialism with the activities of the missionaries in the minds of the communal leaders is very curious, to say the least. I have already mentioned the earlier warning of The Jewish Chronicle. On the 7th July in the Notes of the Week, there is a reference to communism among Russian Jews. After mentioning the activities of the university students, recent arrests in Vilna and its own 'warning,' the following comment is made : "a regular propaganda, therefore, seems to be at work, endeavouring to pave the way for a socialist revolution in the Muscovite Empire . . . Emancipation would be the most efficient extinguisher of any revolutionary spark that might be kindled among the Jews of Russia." How on this analysis The Jewish Chronicle could then lend its voice to condemning the Jewish socialists in London as missionaries is difficult to explain. In the appalling conditions then obtaining among the Jewish immigrants, the missionaries it may be admitted did useful relief work, even though their motives were very mixed. By providing bodily sustenance and facilities for acquiring a trade and a knowledge of English, they supplied a great need. The response to these activities by the Jewish communal leaders was the foundation of the Jewish Workingmen's Club with its abstruse lectures on themes totally beyond the understanding of their audiences and hopelessly removed from the harsh reality of their lives, all very fully and con? scientiously reported in the pages of The Jewish Chronicle. English classes for foreigners 1 About ten years later, the Rector of Spitalfields bore witness to similar opposition in his evidence before the Select Committee on the Sweating System, XX, para. 5048. "During the last year I think as many as four meetings have been held in my own school rooms by these poor creatures for the purpose of stating and ventilating their grievances. Of course, at first there was a great deal of opposition, noisy opposition, on the part of those who were anxious to maintain the system."</page><page sequence="8">60 THE BEGINNINGS OF THE JEWISH TRADE UNION MOVEMENT IN ENGLAND were also provided, of which however little is reported, as well as the old established soup kitchens which had bursts of activity coinciding with the oft-recurring 'slack' periods.1 To return to our theme, only seventeen workers joined the union which was founded on the 16th September. A further meeting was called and Lieberman was authorised to draft its rules. By now forty-four members had been enrolled and six members of the Hebrew Socialist Union were elected to the committee to ensure socialist leader? ship. Three months later, the tailors' union had a membership of 300 with assets totalling ?80. A successful beginning had been made but disaster followed of a kind common in the early history of trade-unionism, both Jewish and non-Jewish?the treasurer absconded to America with the funds. The opposition aroused by the Hebrew Socialist Union comprised various elements. There was the small masters' group motivated by a variety of considerations, social, economic and religious.2 Its main mouthpiece was the so-called Russian Magid, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Dainow, who came to England in 1874 and died here in 1877. A major figure of the Russian Haskala movement and a great advocate of the use of Yiddish to educate the masses, and himself not altogether persona grata with the Orthodox sections, the Magid regarded the socialists as a dangerous subsersive group of atheists. He did not err as so many others in equating them with the missionaries. His influence among East End Jewry was very great and at least one of his followers, we are told, was in the councils of the Hebrew Socialist Union. The value of the Magid in the fight against the unions was early realised. Writing in The Jewish Chronicle of the 7th July, 1876, Marks Bentwich describes how (having asked himself whether the Magid was merely a nine days' wonder after the enthusiastic reception he had received on arrival in England) one Saturday morning he went to the German Synagogue in New Broad Street where the Magid was installed. I found the synagogue overflowing with numbers, the audience attentive and enthusiastic as it had ever been, and the preacher himself as energetic, powerful and persuasive as he was in the first week of his arrival. . . . On enquiry I discovered that the large audiences assembled on every Sabbath are composed of the poorer class of foreigners, all of them willing, but scarcely any able, to contribute towards the support of their minister. Times are so hard with these people and business is so 'slack* that there exists a probability that the Magid Society . . . will shortly be disbanded and the Magid compelled to seek some other sphere for the employment of his great abilities. I should regard such a result as a great calamity. No reasons are given for this last sentiment. He proceeds to propose the setting up of a small public fund for the Magid's support and concludes by disposing of objections that this would encourage the use of Jargon because it was the only means of communi? cation available to foreign Jews, 1 Beatrice Potter, after describing the formation among the religious immigrants of chevras, states that these chevras supplied the social and religious needs, in the widest sense., of the majority of the foreign Jews and their status vis ? vis the 'established* Jewish social and religious organisations was similar to that of the Nonconformists to the Established Church. Jewish communal leaders had tried and were still trying to discourage the multiplication of chevras, S. and B. Webb, "Problems of Modern Industry," London, 1898, pp. 23-27. 2 "In the worst times, he (the Jew) seems always to remain ambitious and on the look-out for a chance of rising." "They are continually struggling after some improvement in social position." "As soon as he has mastered the trade and can earn a fair wage he aspires to becoming a small employer on his own account." Russell and Lewis, op. cit.9 pp. 58-60?</page><page sequence="9">THE BEGINNINGS OF THE JEWISH TRADE UNION MOVEMENT IN ENGLAND 61 On the 4th August The Jewish Chronicle returned to the question in the Notes of the Week and supported the proposal of a public fund. It may be considered as a piece of good fortune . . . that there should have appeared a man among them who . . . possesses the power of attracting, moving and controlling them. ... It is clearly our duty even as it would be sound policy to try to assimilate to us these immigrants as quickly as possible. . . . Here is an organ ready to our hands and willing to be the interpreter of our wishes to them, and the channel through which we might make flow to them the influence which we must desire to bring to bear upon them. One cannot help remarking the condescending tone. A week later, The Jewish Chronicle applauded the Magid1 for a letter he had written to the Russian Hebrew journal Hdbazelet, in which after describing the Hebrew appeal which was being circulated among the immigrant workers by the socialists, he makes a violent attack upon its author "whom he knows personally and whom he charges with vagabondage, dishonesty and avowed transgression of the laws of God and man, especially the laws given on Sinai." In the Hebrew Socialist Union, the opposition was wholly attributed to the tactless and hot-headed outspokenness of Lieberman. And this added fuel to the fire already beginning to burn. Serious differences of opinion were revealing themselves, centring round the dominating personality of Lieberman. Lieberman was an ex-Yeshiva student of outstanding intellectual ability, a typical representative of the East European radical and anti-clerical Maskilim, whom he personally regarded as the potential leaders of a Jewish socialist movement which he combined with a renaissance of Jewish nationalism. It was due to his influence that the name of the Hebrew Socialist Union was in Hebrew and its Minute Book likewise in that language, subsequently translated into Yiddish. "We are good socialists" we read in the Minute Book "but the Jews in London are so isolated from all other groups that we must work only among Jews." "Why has every other nation a separate organisation in its own name ? We also are a nation and we desire a separate identity." There was, however, little sympathy for such views among his co-workers who were violently anti-nationalist and cosmopolitan. Thus Saper (1849-1902) his greatest opponent in London who had taken an active part in the First International and was in close touch with the Russian Pan-Slav movement was only drawn into the Jewish movement as a result of a chance meeting with Lieberman in the offices of Vperiod. Saper eventually returned to Russia. As for Goldenberg (1846-1916) his activity in the London Jewish socialist movement was only one episode in a long revolutionary life.2 A most illuminating incident is recounted in the Minute Book illustrative of the clash of ideas. The first public meeting of the Hebrew Socialist Union was originally fixed for the 19th August, 1876, which happened to coincide with Tisha B'Av. Lieberman proposed that the meeting should be postponed but Saper violently and unsuccessfully demanded that it should be held as arranged. Lieberman in arguing for postponement used the following arguments. "Perhaps Tisha B'Av has for us Jewish socialists the same importance as it has for other Jews. So long as the social revolution is not yet 1 Incidentally, it appears from a Jewish Chronicle report early in 1877 that the Magid had acquired sufficient English to essay a public address in that language. 2 For Lieberman's personality and outlook see Ber Borochov, "Nationalism and the Class Struggle," New York, 1937, pp. 169-173.</page><page sequence="10">62 THE BEGINNINGS OF THE JEWISH TRADE UNION MOVEMENT IN ENGLAND achieved, political freedom is of prime importance to every people. For us Jews it is of the utmost importance. On Tisha B'Av we lost our national independence for which we have ever since mourned." Hence the impropriety of holding a public meeting on such a day of national mourning. In addition to this basic clash of ideology, there were also differences as to the attitude to be adopted to the tailors' union. Lieberman wanted the latter to be inde? pendent and free from interference. The Hebrew Socialist Union should confine itself to spreading the socialist gospel and thus remain an educational force. The majority was opposed to Lieberman. When the Socialists did in fact try to take over control of the tailors' union they met with determined resistance from the workers, on the grounds that socialist intrusion would be detrimental to the Union's fortunes because socialism was not 'respectable' and would alienate public support. According to Isaac Stone's account in Der Polishe Yiddel of August 1884 (the first Yiddish newspaper published in England) one of the many successors of our tailors' union was later "adopted" by the wealthier members of the community, supporting meetings being held in synagogues when substantial donations were made. With great irony and considerable blasphemy, Stone comments that "a shochet became the president, a dayan the treasurer and a magid the secretary."1 Thus ended the first stage of the Jewish socialist and trade union movement in London. Lieberman left London early in 1877. When Vintchevski, one of the leading figures in the later history of the movement, arrived here two years later he found no organised Jewish workers' grouping, only isolated individuals who had participated in the events described above. 1 Stone, one of the original members of the Hebrew Socialist Union, became secretary of a new tailors' union founded in 1883, and in 1884 published in Yiddish "An historical sketch of a London tailor," a highly emotional non-socialist plea in favour of trade unionism. Later he is said to have reverted to strict orthodoxy and to have died an observant Jew in 1920.</page></plain_text>