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Bund Foreign Committee

Title: Bund Foreign Committee
Inclusive Dates: 1894-1919
ID: RG 1401 
expand icon Administrative/Biographical History

The Bund's Foreign Committee was founded in Geneva, Swtizerland soon after the establishment of the Bund in Vilna in 1897 to represent the Bund abroad. The Bund Archives was founded by the Foreign Committee as a conscious effort to gather materials on the history of the Jewish labor movement. The founders of the archive were John Mill and Zemach Kopelson (Timofei). Franz Kursky acted as the director of the archives from about 1905 until the beginning of World War II.

The Bund, a Jewish political party espousing socialist democratic ideology as well as cultural Yiddishism and Jewish national autonomism, has been colloquially known under this shortened name for the entire span of its existence. The full name of the party was changed several times following geographic dislocations of the party's center. These names were, in chronological progression, as follows: Algemeyner Yidisher Arbayter Bund in Lite, Poyln un Rusland (General Jewish Workers' Bund in Lithuania, Poland and Russia), 1897-1921; Algemeyner Yidisher Arbayter Bund in Poyln, 1919-1948; Jewish Labor Bund, and International Jewish Labor Bund, post-World War II until present. Other changes of names occurred intermittently during the course of the Bund's history in connection with fractional splits or mergers. Finally, smaller Bund groups operating in various countries have adopted their own local names. 

The Bund was founded as a clandestine revolutionary organization in Vilna on October 7, 1897, dedicated to the overthrow of the Tsarist system in Russia, and to the defense of the Jewish working masses. In March 1898 its delegates participated in the founding of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDRP). The Bund joined the RSDRP as an autonomous group. In 1903 the Bund split with the RSDRP over the question of autonomy, but rejoined the Russian party again in 1906. After the final split in the RSDRP between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks in 1912 the Bund sided with the Mensheviks remaining in alliance with the Menshevik party until the dissolution of both the Bund and the Mensheviks in Soviet Russia in the years 1921-1923. 

During its Russian period, the Bund adopted an ideological and political platform proclaiming Marxism of the social-democratic persuasion, as opposed to Leninism, and Jewish national and cultural autonomism, as opposed to nationalism and Zionism. After the failure of the 1905 revolution, the Bund's political tactics evolved from revolutionary violence to political action by legal means. 

The party's ideological tenets as well as political decisions were adopted at the general conferences which were the Bund's highest authority. The Bund in the Russian empire was led by a Central Committee. Outside Russia the party was represented by its Foreign Committee which was based in Geneva, Switzerland. During the period of the Bund's illegal and semi-legal status in Russia, the Foreign Committee assumed many important organizational functions of the party apparatus. The Bund in Russia was partly legalized in 1906 but it did not dissolve its underground network. In 1912 the party took part for the first time in parliamentary elections to the Duma. After October 1917 an ideological dispute within the party divided its ranks and eventually resulted in the breakup of the Bund in Russia. In March 1919 a Communist group within the Bund in the Ukraine left the party and formed the Kombund (*Komunistisher bund*, Communist Bund). In 1921 the Communist fraction of the Bund in Russia resolved to join the Russian Communist party (Bolsheviks). A minority established the short-lived Social Democratic Bund. By 1923 the last holdout groups of the Bund in Russia were eliminated from political life.

In the aftermath of World War I and the October Revolution, the center of the Bund was moved to Poland. In December 1917 an independent central committe for Poland was elected. At the first convention of the Polish Bund in April 1920 the Bund merged with the Jewish Social Democratic Party of Galicia. A sharp conflict of opinion developed in the party in 1920 over the question of joining the Comintern but, despite a majority resolution in favor of such step, it did not come to pass. However, this gave the Polish government a cause to severely persecute the party in the years 1920-1924, almost to the point  of extinction. Nevertheless the Bund continued to be active in interwar Poland becoming the largest and most influential Jewish labor party. In addition to its own network, the Bund controlled entirely or in large part other groups: youth organizations SKIF (Sotsyalistisher Kinder Farband - Socialist Children Union) and Zukunft (the Future), the sports federation Morgenshtern (Morning Star), the publishing house Kultur Liga, Yiddish school network TSYSHO (Tsentrale Yidishe Shul Organizatsye - Central Yiddish School Organization), and more. An important power base for the Bund were artisan associations and trade unions. Through participation in elections representatives of the Bund won many seats in Jewish communal institutions and in municipal councils across the country.

In 1930 the Bund joined the Socialist International. During the Nazi occupation of Poland the Bund was active in the Jewish resistance movement, and was represented in the Polish National Council in-exile in London. After the war the Bund was re- established among the Jewish survivors in Poland, only to be dissolved in 1948 along with the other non-communist parties in the country. 

Apart from having close ties with socialist groups in the United States, the Bund did not establish its presence in this country until after the outbreak of World War II. The American Representation of the Bund was active in New York since 1941. In 1947 the World Coordinating Committee of Bundist and Affiliated Jewish Socialist Organizations was formed at the Bund world conference in Brussels. New York became the headquarters of the reconstituted Bund, also known as the International Jewish Labor Bund. This group is comprised of the Bund organizations in the U.S. and Israel, and of the older Bund groups which existed in various countries already before World War II. 

The Bund Archives was founded in 1899 in Geneva to facilitate gathering and preserving vital organizational records and printed matter. The choice of place was necessitated by harsh political conditions in Russia where due to police repressions the Bund remained underground. In 1919 the Bund Archives was transferred to Berlin where it found quarters in the German Social-Democratic Party (SPD) building. Once again, unfavorable political conditions prevented moving the archives to Poland which by then became the center of the Bund movement. In 1933 the Archives was smuggled over the border into France and relocated to Paris. In 1944 the archives was captured by the Germans but was abandoned when the German army was forced into a hasty retreat from Paris. In 1951 the Bund Archives was brought to New York where it continued its operations  as part of the World Cooordinating Committee of the Bund. In 1992 the Bund Archives was transferred to the YIVO Institute and placed in the custody of the YIVO Archives.  Bund archivists, in chronological order, included: Franz Kursky, David Meyer, Hillel Kempinski, Benjamin Nadel.

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Inventory, English, 53 pp., typed
expand icon Administrative Information
Acquired: 1992.
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Acquisition Note: Transferred from the Bund Archives of the Jewish Labor Movement to YIVO, 1992
Collection Material Type: Collections
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