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Meyer London, 1919
Meyer London (1871‚ÄĒ1926) was an Americanmarker politician from New York Citymarker who was one of only two members of the Socialist Party of America elected to the United States Congress.

Biography

Meyer London was born in Kalvarija, Lithuaniamarker (then part of the Russian Empiremarker) in 1871. In 1891, he emigrated to the United States, taking up residence in New York'smarker largely Jewish Lower East Sidemarker. London became a labor lawyer representing labor unions. He ran for Congress three times as a Socialist and was defeated by Tammany Hall-supported Democrats, but in 1914, London was elected to Congress from his Lower East Side district.

He was the second Socialist elected to Congress, following Wisconsinmarker's Victor Berger. Meyer London was one of 50 representatives and six senators to vote against entry into World War I, but once America was at war, he felt obliged to support it. He strongly opposed the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, which made criticism of the president or the war a crime. These actions angered his constituency, London said, "I wonder whether I am to be punished for having had the courage to vote against the war or for standing by my country’s decision when it chose war."
Jim Maurer, Morris Hillquit, and Meyer London after their Jan.
1916 meeting with Woodrow Wilson
Though his principled positions on the war cost him support, what finally destroyed Meyer London was the issue of Palestine. Following the British Balfour Declaration of 1917, on the lower East side every possible Jewish view was represented, from extreme left to extreme right, from nationalist to assimilationist. In 1918, the Zionists asked Meyer London to introduce a congressional resolution endorsing the Balfour declaration. London's views were not among the Zionists. He summarized his views of Zionism succinctly when he said, ‚ÄúLet us stop pretending about the Jewish past and let us stop making fools of ourselves about the Jewish future.‚ÄĚ When London refused to introduce the resolution the Zionists decided to defeat him. They could not have done it alone, because there were few of them, but there were other Jews who wanted London out of Congress. The Orthodox opposed London because he was not religious; rich and powerful Jews opposed London because he was a socialist. Uptown Jews like Jacob Schiff, Louis Marshall, Nathan Straus, and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise urged the Jews to redeem themselves by rejecting London. He narrowly lost reelection in 1918.

Two years later, in 1920, the Lower East Side sent London back to Congress. In Israel and the American National Interest, Cheryl A. Rubenberg states, “on September 21, 1922, the American Congress passed a joint resolution stating its support for a homeland in Palestine for the Jewish people". He was defeated for reelection two months later in November.

London died after being hit by a taxi in June 1926. The driver rushed him to Bellevue Hospital, where London’s daughter was an intern. When she saw her father London’s only concern was that the driver not be punished. "It’s not his fault", said London "and he is a poor man." That night Meyer London, died at the age of 56. In spite of his votes against the earlier war, he became the namesake of a World War II Liberty ship, the SS Meyer London, launched in 1943.

One of the buildings of Hillman Housing Corporationmarker, a housing cooperative founded by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, in the Lower East Sidemarker of Manhattan is named after him. There is also a K-5 elementary school located in the Lower East Side named after him, a.k.a. P.S. 2.[191960]

Footnotes

  1. Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht, The Fate of the Jews: A People Torn between Israeli Power and Jewish Ethics. New York: Times Books, 1983; pg. 110.
  2. Melech Epstein, Profiles of Eleven, pg. 183.
  3. Feuerlicht, pg. 111.
  4. Epstein, Profiles of Eleven, pg. 181.
  5. Feuerlicht, pg. 113.
  6. "Congressional Resolution Favoring the Establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish People, Sept. 21, 1922," John Norton Moore, ed., The Arab Israeli Conflict III: Documents.Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1974; pp. 107-108 .
  7. Epstein, Profiles of Eleven, pg. 187.


Further Reading

  • Goldberg, Gordon J., Meyer London: A Political Biography. PhD dissertation, Lehigh University, 1971.
  • Rogoff, Harry, An East Side Epic: The Life and Work of Meyer London. New York: Vanguard Press, 1930.


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