ZS (Zionist Socialists)

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ZS (Zionist Socialists)

ZS (Zionist Socialists) , Zionist-socialist party, mainly in Russia and Eastern Europe. At its third conference (Kharkov, May 15–20, 1920), the *Ẓe'irei Zion movement in Russia decided to become the Zionist Socialist Party – zs (The letter "Z" in the shortened name of the party, which stands for the Hebrew or Yiddish word "Zionist," was particularly emphasized in order to distinguish it from the ss, a party called Sionistsko-Sotsialisticheskaya Rabochaya Partiya ("*Zionist-Socialist Workers' Party"), founded in 1904 as a Zionist party but transformed, without changing its name, to a *Territorialist, anti-Zionist party during the conflict over the *Uganda Scheme.) The rising wave of socialist ideas in Russia, as well as the creation of the socialist *Aḥdut ha-Avodah (a) party, in Ereẓ Israel in 1919, induced a decisive majority of this Ẓe'irei Zion conference to adopt the socialist creed and the new name; a "rightwing" minority split off and announced (August 1920) the continuation of the original Ẓe'irei Zion Popular Faction, which later formed the world union Hitaḥadut together with *Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir.

The zs joined forces with Aḥdut ha-Avodah in Ereẓ Israel. Soon after the *Kharkov conference a convention of Ẓe'irei Zion in independent Poland decided to adopt a socialist program, and in 1921 Ẓe'irei Zion in independent Lithuania also accepted a socialist program and became zs parties. The zs Party in Russia emerged and lived under unique circumstances of revolutionary upheavals, repressions, and persecutions by the anti-Zionist Soviet regime, which was also extremely hostile to any non-Communist socialism. During the decline and disintegration of Jewish public life, especially of the Jewish socialist movements (which were gradually swallowed up in the ruling Communist Party), the burden of the fight for socialist Zionism, and to a great degree also for Zionism as such, was shouldered by the members of the young zs Party.

zs had to face not only the Bolshevik regime, the Communist Party, and the ruthless political police ("Cheka"), but also the most implacable of all enemies of Zionism and Jewish socialism, the *Yevsektsia (Jewish section of the Communist Party). In a life-and-death struggle, the zs operated feverishly on many fronts: in the organization of the party itself, in Zionist activity, in *He-Ḥalutz, in the organization of self-defense against pogroms of counterrevolutionaries, in the youth movement Berit ha-No'ar ha-Ẓiyyoni ha-Soẓyalisti, in the trade unions, in producers', consumers', and credit cooperatives, in rendering productive Jews lacking occupational training and especially in agricultural training and in cultural activities directed toward aliyah to Ereẓ Israel. All this was undertaken in a spirit of devotion in the full knowledge that the fight was a losing battle. Arrests and deportations increased, but the ranks closed and activities expanded. zs members leaped onto every available platform loudly declaring their party's demands – for the democratization of Soviet rule, for cultural-national autonomy, for the rehabilitation of Jewish economic life ruined in the civil war, for the right of aliyah to Ereẓ Israel – knowing that they would be arrested on the spot.

The Fourth Congress held in Leningrad in February 1924 decided to intensify activity and publish an illegal Russian-language newspaper (Hagut zs). A climax was reached in August of the same year (on the eve of the Congress of National Minorities in the Ukraine), when the zs distributed tens of thousands of leaflets denouncing the dictatorial and centralist regime, presenting the economic and cultural demands of the masses of the Jewish people in Russia, and calling for a Zionist-socialist solution to the Jewish problem in general. Both the contents of the leaflet and the manner in which it was distributed under the Cheka terror regime made a tremendous impression on Jews and non-Jews alike, but the party paid a heavy price for it; within a few days 3,000 zs members and zs youth had been arrested and sent to join the hundreds of their comrades who had already been jailed and deported to the far north of Russia. Lost leaders were replaced again and again in this emergency situation, but their activities were soon curtailed in turn. The rebellious party was increasingly besieged, and determined efforts were made to break and destroy it completely. Intervention from various quarters, especially from the wife of Maxim *Gorki, Yekaterina Peshkova, brought about the liberation of a certain number of prisoners and their aliyah to Ereẓ Israel. With the final establishment of a totalitarian dictatorship under *Stalin, zs suffocated and disappeared. Only a few of its members survived the years of terror. Thousands died in the deportation camps, after enduring mental and physical torture. In other countries, notably Poland, the Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia), and Romania, zs developed into a legitimate Zionist-socialist movement closely linked with the labor movement in Ereẓ Israel and with He-Ḥalutz, sponsoring pioneering aliyah and often taking part in local politics as a link between Zionists and the socialist parties of the respective countries.


Y. Ereẓ (ed.), Sefer Ẓs (1963); I. Ritov, Perakim be-Toledot ẒẒẒs (1964); A. Rafaeli (Zenziper), Pa'amei ha-Ge'ullah (1951), index.

[Israel Ritov]