Labor Zionism (or Labour Zionism) is the traditional left-wing of the Zionist ideology. Unlike the "political Zionist" tendency founded by Theodor Herzl and advocated by Chaim Weizmann, Labor Zionists did not believe that a Jewish state would be created simply by appealing to the international community or to a powerful nation such as Britain, Germany or the Ottoman Empire. Rather, Labor Zionists believed that a Jewish state could only be created as part of the class struggle though the efforts of the Jewish working class settling in Palestine and constructing a state through the creation of kibbutzim in the countryside and a Jewish proletariat in the cities.
Labor Zionism grew in size and influence and eclipsed "political Zionism" by the 1930s both internationally and within the British Mandate of Palestine where Labor Zionists dominated the institutions of the Yishuv, particularly the trade union federation known as the Histadrut. The Haganah (later the Palmach) -- the largest Zionist paramilitary force -- was a Labour Zionist institution. It played a leading role in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and its former members dominated the Israeli military for decades after the formation of the state of Israel in 1948.
Philosophers of the Labor Zionist movement included Nahum Syrkin and Ber Borochov and leading figures in the movement included David Ben-Gurion. The main vehicle of the Labor Zionist movement was the Poale Zion party which split into a Left Poale Zion and Right Poale Zion factions. The Left Poale Zion party ultimately merged with Hashomer Hatzair to become the Mapam party, (later Meretz) while the Right Poale Zion became the Mapai party (later the Israeli Labour Party). These two parties were initially the two largest parties in the Yishuv and in the first Israeli Knesset and the Mapai/Labour Party in particular dominated Israeli politics both in the pre-independence Yishuv and for the first three decades of the state of Israel, until Revisionist Zionism (represented by the Likud political party) became an increasingly strong power in Zionist politics.
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Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55