MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Organisations
Created by an imperial decree (ukase) in February 18, 1905 (i.e. in the wake of Bloody Sunday), this commission was headed by Minister of the Interior Bulygin and composed of big Russian landowners. The Commission drafted a bill for the establishment of a Russian Duma with advisory powers, and Regulations on the Duma elections. The Bill and the Regulations were made public together with the tsar’s Manifesto of August 6 (19), 1905. The right to elect to the Duma was a right reserved only for landowners, capitalists, and a very small number of peasant householders. The duma would have no legislative powers and would not be allowed to discuss certain issues, but was intended to serve only as an "advisory" board to the tsar.
An active boycott of the Bulygin Duma was proclaimed by the Bolsheviks and the public was in an uproar over the purely superficial measures; elections to the ’Bulygin’ Duma never took place. After the October strikes, Tsar Nicholas II conceded to giving some legislative powers to the Duma.
The General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland and Russia was in Wilno on October 7, 1897. It sought to unite all Jewish workers in the Russian Empire into a united socialist Jewish party. The Russian Empire then included Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine and most of Poland, countries where the majority of the world’s Jews then lived. The Bund sought to ally itself with the wider Russian social democratic movement to achieve a democratic and socialist Russia. Within such a Russia, they hoped to see the Jews achieve recognition as a nation with a legal minority status.
The Bund was a secular socialist party, opposed to what they saw as the reactionary nature of traditional Jewish life in Russia. Created before the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP), the Bund became a founding collective member of the RSDLP at its first congress in Minsk in March 1898. For the next 5 years, the Bund was recognized as the sole representative of the Jewish workers in the RSDLP, although many Russian socialists of Jewish descent, especially outside of the Pale of Settlement, joined the RSDLP directly.
At the RSDLP’s Second Congress in Brussels and London in August 1903, the Bund’s autonomous position within the RSDLP was rejected by a majority of the delegates and the Bund’s representatives left the Congress, the first of many splits in the Russian social democratic movement in the years to come. The Bund formally rejoined the RSDLP when all of its faction reunited at the Fourth (Unification) Congress in Stockholm in April 1906, but the party remained fractured along ideological and ethnic lines. The Bund generally sided with the party’s Menshevik faction led by Julius Martov and against the Bolshevik faction led by Vladimir Lenin during the factional struggles in the run up to the Russian Revolution of 1917.
The Bund strongly opposed Zionism, arguing that emigration to Palestine was a form of escapism. The Bund did not advocate separatism, focusing on culture, not a state or a place, as the glue of Jewish “nationalism.” In this they borrowed extensively from the Austro-Marxist school, further alienating the Bolsheviks and Lenin. The Bund also promoted the use of Yiddish as a Jewish national language and opposed the Zionist project of reviving Hebrew. Nevertheless, some Bundists were also Zionists, and the Bund suffered from a steady loss of active members to emigration. Many ex-Bundists became active in forming socialist parties in Palestine, and later in Israel.
The Bund won converts mainly among Jewish artisans and workers, but also among the growing Jewish intelligentsia. It acted as both a political party (to the extent that political conditions allowed) and as a trade union. It formed self-defense organisations to protect Jewish communities against pogroms and government troops. During the Russian Revolution of 1905 the Bund headed the revolutionary movement in the Jewish towns, particularly in Belarus.
Like other socialist parties in Russia, the Bund welcomed the February Revolution of 1917, but it did not support the October Revolution in which the Bolsheviks seized power. Like Mensheviks and other non-Bolshevik parties, the Bund called for the convening of the Russian Constituent Assembly long demanded by all Social Democratic factions. The Bund’s key leader in Petrograd during these months was Mikhail Liber, who was to be roundly denounced by Lenin. With the Russian Civil War and the increase in anti-Semitic pogroms by nationalists and Whites, the Bund was obliged to recognise the Soviet government and its militants fought in the Red Army in large numbers. Given the polarised situation, the Bund split, losing its left wing led by Heifez to the Bolsheviks, who were soon followed by the center faction led by Moyshe Rafes. The rump was to join with the United Jewish Socialist Party in forming the Jewish Communist Bund or Kombund, which, in turn, joined the Bolshevik Party in 1921. By 1922 the Bund had ceased to exist as an independent party in the newly formed Soviet Union. Many former Bundists perished during Stalin’s purges in the 1930s.