Dov Bar Borochov

Dov Bar Borochov 1881-1917

Dov Bar Borochov was a Marxist born 1881 on July 3 in Zolotonosha in the Poltava region of the Russian Empire. His father, Moshe Aharon was a Zionist Hebrew teacher. Just after he was Borochov’s family moved to the capital of Poltava, where Borya grew up.

Bor spoke Yiddish and learnt Hebrew and studied Chumash but learnt Russian to prepare him for the gymnasium. When he was eight Borya began to study Talmud. When he went to the gymnasium he developed interests in science, philosophy and history.

In 1900 he joined the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. Borochov sought to merge socialism and Zionism.

In the first year of the party’s existence, along with its goal of helping to protect the rights of the Jewish worker, the party he organized a Jewish self-defense group against riots and pogroms and clashed with rioting gangs. He was expelled from the Russian Social-Democratic Party because his Zionist views.

In 1902 his sister, Nadia emigrated to New York. Following the riots 1903, Borochov’s parents and other brothers also emigrated to New York in August 1903. Borochov remained in Russia for ideological reasons.

Following the World Zionist Congress in August 1903 on the Uganda Plan devised by Benjamin Zeev Herzl, Borochov published an article defending the original Zionist plan.  Borochov opposed the Uganda solution because he thought it was too difficult instead he supported the settlement of the Jews in Eretz Israel. Borochov wrote essays ‘On the Question of Zionist Theory’ and ‘On the Question of Zion and Territory.’

On July 18, 1904, Borochov was arrested by the Okharna on suspicion of social-democratic activity . When Borochov was arrested, he was transferred to Ekaterinoslav and his interrogation on July 20. Borochov was returned to Miktrinoslav in Poltava on August 5, 1904, and was released on the following day. After the release of Borochov, he wrote to his parents on August 7, 1904 justifying his earlier failure to write was due to his injured hand.

Borochov attended the Seventh Zionist Congress in Basel in 1905 as a delegate of Poltava Zionists. At the opening of the Congress, Borochov was involved in secret Zionist organizing processes, designed to ensure their victory in Congress and the rejection of the Uganda Plan. Borochov was tasked with ensuring the loyalty of the Poalei Zion party to Ussishkin, Zionists and their political line in Congress.

After the Congress Borochov but moved to Berlin with Lyuba, whom he married before the Seventh Congress. Along with Borochov’s studies, Ussishkin planned to join the small Zionist General Council in Berlin, but this plan did not materialize. In Berlin, Borochov wrote an essay on ‘The Class Moments of the National Question.’

He returned to Russia due to the 1905 revolution, with new democratic hopes and for social-democratic programs, along with the rise of the Jewish proletariat.

Borochov was again arrested in July 1906. After the discovery of weapons, he was held in prison until December 31, 1906. The Poalei Zion Keinan party feared that Borochov would also face a heavy sentence, like members of Ben-Zvi’s family. Ben-Zvi and other friends raised the money needed to release Borochov on bail until his trial. Borochov and Lyuba left the prison for her parents’ house, had dinner, and then secretly left Poltava for Minsk in January 1907 with certificates not theirs, and from there to Vilna.

As a Jewish Marxist he interpreted the “Jewish Problem” in class terms. He believed that Jews were guests in any country and thus would never have a normal class structure in the Diaspora. Only in a Jewish state, a proletariat would come into being and take part in the class struggle. The emancipation of the Jewish people, he said, would be brought about by Jewish workers.

He believed that Arab and Jewish workers, had a common proletarian goal and would work together in thier struggle.

He helped form and develop the Zionist labor party Poale Zion and subsequently promoted it across Russia and Europe. From 1907-10 he edited the party’s newspaper, ‘The Free Words.’ From 1914-17, when he lived in the United States, he wrote for the Yiddish press and founded the World Union of Poale Zion.

In 1917, when the Social Democrats came to power in Russia, Borochov returned there to lead Poale Zion. His theories were widely influential in Eastern Europe, and he was on a speaking tour when, in December of the same year, he died of pneumonia in Kiev.

Along with Nachman Syrkin, he is considered the founder of socialist Zionism. His thinking formed the basis of the kibbutz movement. He promoted the importance of Hebrew as the mother tongue, siting it as a ‘a unique living organism, unbound in its creative freedom.’ He is considered to be the father of both Labor Zionism and Yiddish studies.

Having returned to Russia in March 1917 to lead the Poale Zion he became ill and died in Kiev of pneumonia in December 1917 at age the early age of 36.  In 1963, his remains were transferred from Russia to Kibbutz Kinneret in Israel.