Fragments of Revolution: The Jewish Labor Bund and the Making of American Jewish Political Identity



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How are political identities formed? This thesis takes a historical-institutionalist, process-based view of the phenomenon of political identity formation in the United States, specifically focusing on the mixed impacts that party actors as agents asserting ideational claims have on the consolidation of in-group belonging. Using the case of the Jewish Labor Bund, a revolutionary socialist party in the Tsarist-administered Pale of Settlement from 1897-1943, this thesis traces Bundist party diaspora members’ movement from the Pale to New York City in the early 20th century, using historical process tracing to causally establish the relationship between three facets of Bundist ideology—cultural national autonomy socialism, Yiddishism, and trade unionism—and the formation of a post-diasporic American Jewish identity in New York City. Ultimately, this thesis concludes that the result of the “party diaspora” asserting its ideational commitments was the marginalization of cultural-national autonomy socialism, the depoliticization of Yiddishism, and the incorporation of trade unionism into the Jewish labor movement—suggesting that political identity is not unitary, but itself contested. These insights indicate that a process-based view of identity formation which incorporates historical contingency, institutional encounter, and the agency of political actors has substantial benefits for the study of identity, diaspora populations, and the movement of ideas in political science.



Judaism, politics, political parties, labor unions, Jewish Labor Bund, diaspora studies, socialism, cultural-national autonomy, Yiddishism, Yiddish, party-in-diaspora, Jewish-American studies, identity, ideology, process tracing, American political development, historical institutionalism, Pale of Settlement, Russian Revolution