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Di Shvue – Lyrics by S. An-ski (Shlomo Zanvil Rappoport) 1902

‘Di Shvue’ was the anthem of the Bund, as the General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland and Russia was known.

The Bund was the first Marxist group in the Russian Empire to create a mass organisation.

This was amongst the Jewish, overwhelmingly Yiddish speaking working class. Although founded in October 1897, its leaders had been organising since the early 1890s, at the latest. The Bund offered a consistent critique of Zionism.

In 1898, the Bund organised the first Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. The Bund remained the largest social democratic (Marxist) organisation in Russia until the massive political upsurge of the revolution of 1905-1906, when it was overtaken by groups which organised Russian workers.

At the second RSDLP Congress, in 1903, the Bund split from the all-Russian Party when it was not granted the right to be the sole representative of Jewish workers in the Russian Empire. A distinctive feature of Bund policy from 1901 was the demand for national cultural autonomy for the Jews in the Russian Empire, through separate democratic institutions, to take responsibility for Jewish cultural and educational affairs and their funding. This position was also rejected by the RSDLP in 1903.

The Bund rejoined the all-Russian Party at its 1906 Congress, which also saw the temporary reunification of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. The Bund became closely aligned with the Mensheviks, particularly after 1912. Large sections of the Bund, however, went over to the Bolsheviks/Communist Party in the four years following the Russian revolution of October 1917.

At the end of 1917, the section of the Bund in Poland established itself as an independent organisation which merged with the Jewish Social Democratic Party of Galicia (formerly Austrian occupied Poland) in 1920. The Bund was the overwhelmingly dominant party in the Jewish working class in Poland during the interwar period. The Bund played an important role in resisting the Nazis but, with the Nazi murder of Polish Jews, the Bund ceased to be a mass organisation, although Bundist organisations were established or sustained by refugees in the United States, Australia, Israel and other countries, still exist.

The text of ‘Di Shvue’ on the left below is in Yiddish, the language in which it was originally written. The translation follows that by Jeanne Bonnette from Henry J. Tobias The Jewish Bund in Russia from its origins to 1905 Stanford University Press, Stanford 1972 p. xiii. The contemporary Bund only sings the first and last verses, leaving out the other more revolutionary ones.

The vow

Brothers and sisters of work and need,
All who are scattered like far-flung seed –
Together! Together! The flag is high,
Straining with anger, red with blood,
So swear together to live or die!

Earth with its heaven hears.
Bear witness, bright stars,
To our vow of blood and tears.
We swear. We swear. We swear.
We swear to strive for freedom and right
Against the tyrant and his knave,
To best the forces of the night,
Or fall in battle, proud and brave.
So swear together to live or die!

We swear our stalwart hate persists,
Of those who rob and kill the poor:
The Tsar, the masters, capitalists.
Our vengeance will be swift and sure.
So swear together to live or die!

To wage the holy war we vow,
Until right triumphs over wrong.
No Midas, master, noble now –
The humble equal to the strong.
So swear together to live or die!

To the Bund, our hope and faith, we swear
Devotedly to set men free.
Its flag, bright scarlet, waves up there,
Sustaining us in loyalty.
So swear together to live or die!


The Bund was extremely confident of its power. In the autumn of 1933 it issued a call to the Polish public to boycott goods from Germany in protest of Hitler and the NSDAP. In December 1938 and January 1939, in the last Polish municipal elections before the start of WWII, the Bund received the largest segment of the Jewish vote. In 89 towns, one-third elected Bund majorities. In Warsaw, the Bund won 61.7% of the votes cast for Jewish parties, taking 17 of the 20 municipal council seats won by Jewish parties. In Łódź the Bund won 57.4% (11 of 17 seats won by Jewish parties).

We now know that this sense of victorious Jewish empowerment ended shortly after these elections. The East European and Polish Jewish communities suffered greatly during WWII. The Bund was completely wiped out during the war. For one reason or another and, as problematic as it may be for some, at least in the early stages of the war, some Poles, Ukrainians and other East European nationalists saw the Nazis as their ‘liberators.’ They apparently weren’t blind to the reality that was depicted by Ben Gurion.

This sense of Jewish political and social empowerment that is portrayed in Ben Gurion’s Memories and in the story of the Bund created a problematic pattern, as it clearly led to some tragic consequences.

Header: Joachim von Ribbentrop lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw. | Министр Иоахим фон Риббентроп возлагает венок на Могилу Неизвестного солдата в Варшаве, 1939 – Color by Klimbim 0.2