The Kremlin's suspicion that an international Jewish conspiracy is seeking to dominate the world and to undo the Soviet regime is once again beginning to make itself felt in the Soviet press. On the face of it, the show-trial of Jewish dissidents now being prepared by the KGB is designed to show that the accused are agents of the CIA and have been working to undermine the Soviet system.
This much is evident from what has been said in the Soviet press about Anatoly Scharansky, who is now under arrest, and his supposed accomplices. The propaganda about the international Jewish conspiracy is less explicit, but it recalls earlier Soviet press campaigns that proceeded from vague innuendo to formal indictments.
Soon after World War II Stalin launched a campaign against cosmopolitan influences in Soviet art and science, which resulted in the imprisonment and execution of many Jews on false charges of being involved in an international conspiracy against the Soviet Union. The anticosmopolitan campaign was, in fact, a facet of an internal Kremlin power struggle in which Jews became the scapegoats.
In the early '50s Stalin launched another anti-Jewish campaign: the "doctors' plot." Jews were arrested and executed, starting with some of the Kremlin's own doctors, those who were said to have been involved in an international Jewish conspiracy to kill the Soviet leaders. The doctors' plot was, in effect, an aspect of the Kremlin struggle for the succession to Stalin, but the secret police translated it into a broad anti-Semitic campaign. The surviving "doctor-plotters" were pronounced innocent and released after Stalin's death.
There were other anti-Jewish campaigns, under both the Khrushchev and the Brezhnev regimes, and although they differed in character from the Stalin campaigns, they still used Jews as scapegoats for the Kremlin's policy failures. The Kremlin conservatives repeatedly brought the Jewish issue into the leadership power struggles on the ground that Jews, with their more liberal leanings and their international connections, were a threat to the stability of the regime.
This is the background to be borne in mind when considering the KGB charges that Scharansky and other Jewish dissidents were collecting military information for the CIA.
The popular magazine Ogonyek commends to its readers a new book that,it says, has proved the similarity between Zionism and Nazism, and that ascribes to the Jewish people the same man-hating ravings about the chosen nation and about its historic mission as Hitler did.
Another book, published in the Soviet Union last year, explains that Jews regard themselves as the God-chosen people on the strength of their religious teaching. An Israeli school textbook, it says, tries to convince the children that the Jews are the elite of mankind created especially to praise the creator. It follows, therefore, that they can keep slaves and that the slaves shall be non-Jews. That book, published in the Ukrainian city of Lvov, might be regarded as a provincial aberration, were it not for similar articles elsewhere.
The year before, in reviewing a similar book published in Minsk, the capital of Belorussia, the journal Moskva spoke of the "particularly repulsive doctrine of Jewish world domination," which was based, it said, on the biblical injunction that, in keeping with God's will, "all peoples will become the slaves of Jews." By the time the 20th century had arrived, capitalism had turned into imperialism, and, the journal said, imperialism was greatly helped by the Jewish bourgeoisie, which had grabbed an altogether considerable part of the earth's riches and was trying to lay its hands on all that remained. To this end, it supposedly had set up Zionist organizations whose members were supposed to infiltrate all state institutions.
Given the Jews' behavior and doctrine, author V. Begun explained, it is natural that such monstrous teachings could not fail to arouse the vigilance, dislike and even hostility on the part of people with even a minimum of sense.
It followed, wrote Begun, that anti-Semitism may arise as a spontaneous reaction of the enslaved strata of the working people to the barbaric exploitation carried out by the Jewish bourgeoisie. Such reactions, the book concluded with a Marxist flourish, should be regarded as a manifestation of class struggle rather than as anti-Semitism.
The struggle for the succession to Brezhnev that is now under way could bring anti-Semitism into the Kremlin's internal politics, with some of the factions trying to use the Jews as whipping boys. The Scharansky trial, designed to show that the Jews are joined with the United States in a conspiracy to undermine the Soviet regime, would play into the hands of those Soviet politicians who believe that Brezhnev's detente policy has gone too far.
Similar patterns in the past have usually coincided with some internal crisis in the Kremlin. The question therefore arises whether some new crisis is brewing in the Kremlin now.