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Poalei Tziyon (Poale Zion) - Definition

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Poalei Tziyon - (Hebrew "Workers of Zion" - Pronounced "Poh ah lay Tseeyon") - Movement of Marxist Zionist Jewish workers circles founded in various Russian cities about the turn of the century. The first of these groups was the Poalei Tziyon party in Minsk, founded in 1897. However, their ideology was not Marxist and not identified with later Poalei Tziyon groups. Poalei Tziyon began in earnest in Russia  after the Bund rejected Zionism in 1901. Poalei Tziyon came into existence in the USA in 1903, at the "Radical Poalei Tziyon Organization. Branches in other countries formed between 1904 and 1907: Austria, Canada, England, Argentina, Romania and later (1910) in Bulgaria.

In the period of 1903-05 three different tendencies competed within Jewish socialist circles- Territorialism, autonomy (cultural and political autonomy within a socialist state and proletarian Zionism. From these, three parties were formed in 1905 and 1906: The S.S. (Zionist-Socialists) the Y.S. (Jewish socialists) and the Poalei Tziyon. In December of 1905, the main themes of Poalei Tziyon ideology were enunciated by Ber Borochov. Immediately after that Poalei Tziyon was formed in Poland as well. David Ben-Gurion had joined a local Poalei Tziyon group in 1904.

In  March1906 a formal Poalei Tziyon party was formed at Poltava, under the leadership of Ber Borochov. It was called The Jewish Socialist Democratic Workers Party - Poalei Tziyon." The Poalei Tziyon  Platform of 1906 describes at length the major ideological tenets of the party and its differences from other parties. The key features of its ideology were acceptance of the Marxist view of history with the addition of the role of nationalism, which Borochov believed could not be ignored as a factor in historical development. A Jewish proletariat would come into being in the land of Israel, according to Poalei Tziyon, and would then take part in the class struggle. The program was approved in the second party congress in August of1907, in Karkhov. (Krakow). Poalei Tziyon participated in the Zionist Congress from the beginning of its existence, and with the founding of the World Federation of Poalei Tziyon, they were recognized as an autonomous federation within the World Zionist organization. In 1906 they rejoined the Social Democratic party from which they had previously been expelled. In 1909 the Poalei Tziyon party of Russia left the Zionist organization. 

In 1906, party branches were formed in Austria, the land of Israel and other countries. Poalei Tziyon began in the land of Israel in 1904 with the beginning of the Second Aliya. In October 1906, the platform of the party was promulgated in a meeting in Ramleh.  At the beginning of 1907, the first formal congress of "The Jewish Social Democratic Workers party in the Land of Israel- Poalei Tziyon" was held. The first world congress of the Poalei Tziyon was held in the Hague in August of 1907. The second congress, held in Karkhov in 1909, ratified a separate fund for the Palestine Poalei Tziyon for independent action, and also worked for independent representation of Jews in the Socialist International. A third congress was held in 1911 in Vienna. In 1920, at the fourth (or fifth, as a Congress was held in Stockholm in 1919) the world federation split over questions of its relations to Zionism, activism in the land of Israel and the question of conditions for joining the Socialist International.

 In Ottoman Eretz Yisrael (land of Israel), Poalei Tziyon founded the Hashomer guard organization that guarded settlements, and took up the ideology of conquest of labor (Kibbush Ha'avoda) and Avoda Ivrit. Poalei Tziyon members were insrumental in setting up the first workers commune in Sejera and the first Kibbutz. Poalei Tziyon set up employment offices, kitchens and health services for members. These eventually evolved into the institutions of labor Zionism in Israel. During World War I, Poalei Tziyon in Palestine and the USA was instrumental in recruiting members to the Jewish Legion. 

After the first world war, Poalei Tziyon in Palestine was merged by David Ben-Gurion into the Achdut Ha'avoda party, which eventually became Mapai and Achdut Avoda - Poalei Tziyon. Its members were instrumental in forming the G'dud Ha'avoda work battalion, which spawned several Kibbutzim. The leaders of Poalei Tziyon included Ber Borochov Yitzhak Ben Zvi, Rachel Yanait (later Rachel Yanait Ben-Tzvi, wife of Y. Ben-Tzvi), Y. Tabenkin, S. Kaplansky, A. Kashin, N. Nir, David Ben-Gurion and others.

In August of 1917 the last congress of Poalei Tziyon took place in Russia, with the participation of Borochov. In the October revolution, the Poalei Tziyon were the first Jewish party with sympathies for the Soviets, but they suffered from factionalism as well as persecution after the revolution. In 1919 part of the party split to form the "Jewish Communist Poalei Tziyon party", which was disbanded in 1922.  The Social Democratic Poalei Tziyon party which also later changed its name to the "Jewish Communist Poalei Tziyon party" continued to exist in the USSR until 1928, when it was outlawed by the regime and liquidated by the NKVD..

In Poland and other central and eastern European countries, Poalei Tziyon functioned until World War II, when most members who did not migrate to Palestine perished in the Holocaust. In the USA, Poalei Tzyion founded the Hechalutz movement and the Yiddisher Arbeiters Farband. Remnants of Poalei Tziyon are still active in Great Britain. 


Synonyms and alternate spellings: Poale Ziyon Poalei Zion, Poalei Tzion, Poaley Tzion< Poale Zion ...

Further Information:   Labor and Socialist Zionism


Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.


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This work and individual entries are copyright 2005 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism and Israel Information Center and may not reproduced in any form without permission unless explicitly noted otherwise. Individual entries may be cited with credit to The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel

 

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