Davita's Harp

By Chaim Potok

Links for Further Investigation

Curated by Sacha Reich

Jewish Radicals
Wobblies in Centralia, WA
The Spanish Civil War & the Lincoln Brigade


Jewish Radicals

From “The Jewish-Socialist Nexus” By Tony Michels
  • The Jewish Labor Movement [...] arose from the masses of Yiddish Speaking Jews who immigrated to the US [...] between the 1880s and 1920s. Numbering more than 2 million, they crowded into America's most urban centers, where they encountered harsh working and living conditions. […] Low pay, mistreatment by bosses, dirty sweatshops and substandard dwelling provided the ingredients of collective hardship. In response, many immigrants took to protest and self-organization.
  • The Jewish Labor Movement was ideologically diverse. Within its ranks, proponents of various brands of socialism – social democracy, communism, anarchism, and left-wing versions of Jewish Nationalism – vied for popular support.
  • While the political right was patently inhospitable to Jews, the left held a special attraction. In a socialist organization, one's Jewish background carried no stigma. Anybody with talent and motivation could excel as a writer, orator, theoretician, or organizer and do so for the lofty goal of creating a new America, where outsiders from all backgrounds could one day enjoy equality. This was a powerful ideal for children of immigrants, […]. Hostile to all forms of bigotry, socialism offered a universalistic solution to a specifically Jewish predicament.
  • As early as 1904, 60% of New York City's Jewish voters cast their ballots for Socialist Party candidates. […] By 1918 the major needle trade unions –ILGWU, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, the United Cloth, Hat and Cap Makers Union, and the Fur workers Union - endorsed the Socialist party. Between 1914 and 1920, Jewish Voters elected 19 Socialists to city, state and national offices, thus consummating a "successful political marriage" between the Jewish Labor Movement and the Socialist Party.
  • The sheer size and political strength of Jewish Labor enabled it to play a leading role in social reform efforts. In New York City, Jews stood at the forefront of what Joshua Freeman describes as its unique "social democratic polity": an ethnically diverse, working class oriented political community committed to affordable housing, decent health care, civil rights, amenable labor laws, and access to the arts and education.
  • Recommended Reads


    Wobblies in Centralia, WA

  • The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), members of which are commonly termed "Wobblies", is an international, radical labor union that was founded in 1905.
  • The philosophy and tactics of the IWW are described as "revolutionary industrial unionism," with ties to both socialist and anarchist labor movements. The origin of the nickname "Wobblies" is uncertain. The IWW promotes the concept of "One Big Union", and contends that all workers should be united as a social class to supplant capitalism and wage labor with industrial democracy. In the 1910s and early '20s, the IWW achieved many of their short-term goals, particularly in the American west, and cut across traditional guild and union lines to organize workers in a variety of trades and industries. At their peak in August 1917, IWW membership was over 150,000.
  • The Centralia Massacre, also known as the Armistice Day Riot, was a violent and bloody incident that occurred in Centralia, Washington, on November 11, 1919, during a parade celebrating the first anniversary of Armistice Day. This conflict between the American Legion and workers who were members of the Industrial Workers of the World resulted in six deaths, additional wounded, multiple prison terms, and an ongoing and especially bitter dispute over the motivations and events that precipitated the massacre. The ramifications of this event included a trial that attracted national media attention, notoriety that contributed to the Red Scare of 1919–20, and the creation of a powerful martyr, Wesley Everest (lynched), for the IWW in.
  • Recommended Reads
    Essay: The Centralia Massacre
    Essay: The I.W.W. in Washington


    The Spanish Civil War & the Lincoln Brigade

  • No war in modern times has inflamed the passions of both ordinary people and intellectuals in the way that the conflict in Spain in 1936 did. The Spanish Civil War is burned into European consciousness, not simply because it prefigured the much larger world war that followed it, but because the intense manner of its prosecution was a harbinger of a new and horrific form of warfare that was universally dreaded. At the same time, the hopes awakened by the attempted social revolution in republican Spain chimed with the aspirations of many in Europe and the United States during the grim years of the great Depression.
  • From the Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica
  • Spanish Civil War, (1936–39), was a military revolt against the Republican government of Spain led by General Franco, supported by conservative elements within the country. When an initial military coup failed to win control of the entire country, a bloody civil war ensued, fought with great ferocity on both sides. The Nationalists, as the rebels were called, received aid from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The Republicans received aid from the Soviet Union, as well as from International Brigades, composed of 40,000 volunteers from Europe and the United States.
  • The war was an outcome of a polarization of Spanish life and politics that had developed over previous decades. On one side, the Nationalist, were most Roman Catholics, important elements of the military, most landowners, and many businessmen. On the other side, the Republican, were urban workers, most agricultural labourers, and many of the educated middle class. The matter of how many were killed remains highly contentious. In any event, the proliferation of executions, murders, and assassinations on both sides reflects the great passions that the Civil War unleashed.
  • The political and emotional reverberations of the war far transcended those of a national conflict, for many in other countries saw the Spanish Civil War as part of an international conflict between—depending on their point of view—tyranny and democracy, or fascism and freedom, or communism and civilization. For Germany and Italy, Spain was a testing ground for new methods of tank and air warfare. For Britain and France, the conflict represented a new threat to the international equilibrium that they were struggling to preserve, which in 1939 collapsed into World War II. The war also had mobilized many artists and intellectuals to take up arms. Among the most notable artistic responses to the war were the novels Man’s Hope (1938) by André Malraux, Homage to Catalonia (1938) by George Orwell, The Adventures of a Young Man (1939) by John Dos Passos, and For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) by Ernest Hemingway, as well as Pablo Picasso’s painting Guernica (1937) and Robert Capa’s photograph Death of a Loyalist Soldier, Spain (1936).
  • Recommended Reads
    A Concise History of the Spanish Civil War
    The Battle for Spain by Anthony Beevor