Deutscher, Isaac

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DEUTSCHER, ISAAC (1907–1967), British Marxist historian and political scientist. Born in Cracow, Poland, Deutscher had a strictly Orthodox education and upbringing. In his youth he was a Hebrew-speaking Zionist and even translated modern Hebrew poetry into Polish. From 1926 he was a member of the illegal Communist Party in Poland, ultimately serving as the party's clandestine editor of several legal periodicals which secretly accepted Communist guidance. In 1932, when he disobeyed party orders and in the periodicals refused to brand the Social-Democrats as "Social-Fascists" and the principal enemies of the working class, he was expelled from the Communist Party. For several years he displayed leanings toward Trotskyism.

In 1939, before the outbreak of World War ii, he went to London, where he was on the editorial staff of the Economist and the Observer (under the pen name "Peregrine"). Later he devoted himself to historical research and acquired an international reputation as the political biographer of *Stalin and *Trotsky and an expert on Soviet Russia and Communism. Deutscher remained a Marxist although he became famous for his writings and lectures in which he exposed the brutality of the Stalin regime. In 1953 he visited Israel and showed understanding and sympathy for Jewish national independence after the Nazi Holocaust. But later he became again sharply opposed to Zionism and lost no opportunity of attacking Israel for its ultranationalism and for being nationalist in a world becoming increasingly supranational. It has been said that Deutscher's attempt to secure a chair at Sussex University in 1963 was thwarted by Sir Isaiah *Berlin, who spoke strongly against him as a member of the appointments panel. Deutscher never held a continuing position at a British university. In The Non-Jewish Jew and Other Essays (published posthumously, 1968) Deutscher discussed the heritage of European Jewry as he saw it and defined such personalities as *Spinoza, *Marx, *Freud, and Trotsky as "non-Jewish" Jews; the phrase has become proverbial. Despite this attitude, Deutscher in his essays treated life in the small Jewish towns with tenderness and sympathy and had a warm feeling for the Jewish working masses.

His works include Stalin, a Political Biography (1949), Russia after Stalin (1953), The Great Contest: Russia and the West (1960), a trilogy on the life of L. Trotsky – The Prophet Armed (1954), The Prophet Unarmed (1959), and The Prophet Outcast (1963) – and Unfinished Revolution: Russia, 1917–1967 (1967). A collection of his essays, Marxism, Wars, and Revolution: Essay from Four Decades, edited by Tamara Deutscher, was published in 1984.


D. Lazar, Rashim be-Yisrael, 2 (1955), 315–20; T. Deutscher, in: I. Deutscher, The Non-Jewish Jew and other Essays (1968), introd. and preface. add. bibliography: D.J. Horowitz, Isaac Deutscher: The Man and His Work (1971); odnb online.

[Moshe Rosetti]

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