Sunday 7 June 2015


MAX GOLDFARB (1883-September 1937)
            Pseudonym of Dovid Lipets, he was born in Berdichev, Ukraine, into a wealthy merchant household.  He studied with private tutors and sat thereafter for examinations as an external student.  He later studied social science in Brussels, Belgium, where he completed his doctorate.  Early on he joined the illegal Bundist movement in Berdichev, and he soon demonstrated his remarkable talents as a party agitator.  He traveled on a Bundist mission through various cities in the Jewish Pale, and everywhere he inspired Jewish laborers with his talented and interesting speeches.  In 1913 he emigrated to the United States, where he similarly became active in the Jewish Socialist Federation, and on its behalf he (in 1914) carried out a lecture tour through the country with enormous success.  In New York he contributed to various socialist periodicals in Yiddish, such as, among others: Di tsukunft (The future), and the organs of the Socialist Federation, Der idisher yorbukh (The Jewish annual) and Der idisher sotsyalist (The Jewish socialist), serving as a member of the editorial board of the last of these.  In 1915 he was appointed by Ab. Kahan as the first “labor editor” (editor of matters connected to workers’ issues) at the Forverts (Forward).  In this position, which he held until he left the country, aside from writing articles and notices and editing the information section of the paper, he was also supposed to serve as “ambassador of the newspaper” in the trade unions.  Goldfarb fulfilled his tasks with success and won the sympathy of the Jewish union leaders, especially Sidney Hillman, leader of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union.  He was even “lent” out to the Socialist Federation for a special campaign tour.  In New York, he was also the secretary and actual leader of the Jewish National Workers’ Committee which was established due events in the war.  In 1917 with the outbreak of the February-March Revolution, he returned to Russia.  He first traveled through Byelorussia and Ukraine giving political speeches.  He later settled in Berdichev where he was selected as a Bundist candidate for mayor of the city and for chairman of the local Jewish community.  In the first years of the revolution, he took a very active role in the political life of Ukraine.  He was a member of the Central Rade (parliament), and when in February 1918, with the arrival of Bolshevik troops, he had to escape from Kiev to Zhitomir, he was the only Jew who at meetings of the smaller Rade defended Jewish interests.  At that time he was also active in Jewish cultural institutions and wrote articles for the Bundist Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper) in Kiev.  Late in 1918 when the Heidamaks entered Berdichev, they arrested Goldfarb and put him up against a wall to be shot.  By chance he was saved, escaped from Kiev where the Bolsheviks had now seized control, and began to work with them.  He became acquainted with the Bolshevik General Frunze and departed “with the military deployment” (Trotsky was then the chief of the Red Army, and Goldfarb knew him personally from New York where they had lived as neighbors).  He worked initially in the publication division of the Soviet War Ministry, later writing articles and pamphlets on military affairs and gave lectures at the instructor’s courses for Red Army officers.  Before Denikin’s army took Kiev, Goldfarb left for Moscow where, using the name Petrovsky, he assumed a high position in the Soviet War Academy as a well-known Communist general.  When Trotsky’s leadership came to an end and Trotskyism became a crime in Russia, Goldfarb switched to the new party line, wrote articles attacking Trotsky, and traveled abroad as an emissary of the Third (Communist) International, but ultimately he could not avoid the fate of all Communists who had “sinned” with Trotskyism, and he was “liquidated” by the Stalinist regime.  Precisely when and where he was killed remain unknown.  When he was living in New York, he wrote a pamphlet entitled Di arbaytslozikeyt, vos zi iz, un vi zi ken gelezt vern (Unemployment, what it is and how it can be brought to an end), “published by the Jewish Socialist Federation of America” (New York, 1915), 32 pp.  He also edited the volume, Der groyser kampf fun di klokmakher, fun 1910 biz 1916 (The great fight of the cloakmakers, from 1910 to 1916), “report of L. Langer” (New York: Pinski-Massel Press, 1916), 63 pp.  He also contributed to the editorial work done on the Yiddish edition (volume 6) of Lenin’s works (Moscow, 1925).

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Hillel Rogof, in Tsukunft (Mew York, 1915); A. Kritshmar-Yizraeli, in Idisher kemfer (March 26, 1916); A. Tsherikover, Antisemitizm un pogromen in ukraine (Anti-Semitism and pogroms in Ukraine) (Berlin, 1923), pp. 113, 117; Sh. Epshteyn, Osher shvartsman (Kiev, 1929), p. 91; Kh. L. Poznanski, Memuarn fun a bundist (Memoirs of a Bundist) (Warsaw, 1938), pp. 65-66; N. Khanin, in Forverts (New York) (January 1, 1939); R. Abramovitsh, In tsvey revolutsyes (In two revolutions), vol. 2 (New York, 1944), pp. 123-24; Rogof, Der gayst fun forverts (The spirit of the Forverts) (New York, 1954), pp. 118-20; Y. Sh. Herts, Di yidishe sotsyalistishe bavegung in amerike (The Jewish socialist movement in America) (New York, 1954), see index.

Yitskhok Kharlash

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