Bund (Yiddish: Algemeyner Yidisher Arbeter Bund in Lite, Poyln un Rusland, General Jewish Labour Bund of Lithuania, Poland and Russia)

A political party established in 1897 in Vilnius. Initially, it operated as an underground organisation within the territory of the Russian partition. From 1906 onwards it formed an autonomous section of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, from which it then seceded during World War I. In 1919, its operations became legal in both Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. In 1930, it joined the Labour and Socialist International. The programme of the Bund constituted a Jewish form of social democracy. The Bund considered the Jewish population as a nation living in a diaspora, lacking territory, but with their own culture.

The party opposed both the domination of Orthodox Jews, and the Zionist program of emigration and establishing a national state outside Europe. Bund demanded the introduction of cultural autonomy on territories inhabited by the Jewish minority, promoted secular education and regarded Yiddish as the national language. In Poland, the Bund enjoyed a mass following, especially in the former Russian partition (the number of members of the Bund in the 1930s was estimated at 50 thousand). Throughout the entire inter-war period, the party maintained a sizeable representation in the municipal local government, extending its sphere of influence to Jewish community councils in the 1930s; however, none of its representatives were ever elected to the Polish Sejm. The trade unions associated with the Bund belonged to the Class Trade Unions.

The Bund also published its own press: the ‘Folks-Tsaytung’ [Yiddish for “People’s Paper”], the ‘Jugnt-Weker’ [Yiddish for “Youth Awakening”], ‘Walka’ (“The Struggle”) and ‘Biuletyn Informacyjny’ (“Information Bulletin”). A great emphasis was placed on working with young people; the Bund supported two organisations: the Tsukunft (the Future) – a working youth organisation – and the Skif (Yiddish for Socialistisher Kinder Farband – the Socialist Union of Children, established in 1926), the members of which were schoolchildren. In addition, the Bund also had a women’s section, the JAF [Yiddish: Yiddishe Arbeter-Froy, the Jewish Working Woman] and the Morgenshtern (Morning Star) sports club. The leading activists of the Bund included W. Alter, A. Blum, H. Erlich, J. Leszczyński, Szmul Zygelbojm.

During the German occupation, the party carried on its operations as an underground movement, organising civil and armed resistance in the ghettos as well as self-help and charitable programmes. It was one of the groups which founded the  Jewish Coordination Committee. It took part in the preparations for the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Marek Edelman, linked with the Bund, took over the command following the death of Mordechaj Anielewicz. Szmul Zygelbojm, on the other hand, was one of the members of the National Council working alongside the Polish government in London. After the war, the central office of the party was relocated to the United States, although it also maintained an active presence in Paris and Switzerland.

In Poland, the Bund supported the Polish Committee of National Liberation and the State National Council. It formed a part of the Central Committee of Polish Jews. It engaged in cooperation with the Polish Socialist Party (PPS); one of its members was elected to the Polish Sejm during the 1947 election, having been included on the PPS list of candidates; a few members of municipal councils in various towns and cities were also members of the Bund. In 1949, despite the protests of a large number of its members, the party disbanded itself during the congress on 16 I 1949. Most of the members of the Bund have later chosen to leave the country. Despite the fact that its political activities were discontinued, the international centres carried on various cultural schemes, creating Yiddish cultural centres such as the Vladimir Medem library in Paris, which survives to this day, or the Central Bund Archive in New York.

Alina Cała, Gabriela Zalewska

The text comes from the Diapozytyw Portal, formerly owned by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.
The text above comes from the book entitled "Historia i kultura Żydów polskich. Słownik” (History and Culture of the Polish Jews. A Dictionary) by Alina Cała, Hanna Węgrzynek and Gabriela Zalewska, published by WSiP (Educational and Pedagogical Publishers).

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