This post is my response to the warning from the former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of the dangers of "doing nothing" to combat anti-Semitism. The concern raised by Lord Sacks is that anti-Semitism appears widespread in the far left, as well as in its normal home in the far right. I will write about what I think I understand, meaning I will not venture into the issues relating to actions of the state of Israel. None of my best friends (that I know of) are Jewish though I have yet to meet an Israeli Jew who whole-heartedly supports the actions of the Israeli government.
The quote, ‘Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools’ is often attributed to the nineteenth century German social democratic leader, August Bebel. Its switching, to ‘Socialism is the anti-Semitism of intellectuals’, seems to capture the essence of the problem the far left have. Those that support gender equality and oppose Islamophobia or racism based on skin colour seem not to perceive anti-Semitism as a form of racism. This is relevant to me, as someone who is interested in the relationship between ethics, finance and mathematics because Semitism appears to represent something other ethnicity or culture that is related to money.
Marx, like many leading socialists between 1850 and 1950, came from a Jewish roots. Marx’s parents came from rabbinical families with his paternal ancestry providing the rabbi’s of Trier. Marx’s father converted to Protestantism probably to enhance his career as a lawyer in the aftermath of secularising Enlightenment. Despite being raised a Christian and becoming an atheist in maturity, Marx is sometimes presented as an archetypal Yeshiva scholar. Marx developed theories based on written materials – “I am a machine condemned to devour books”. His research involved searching through works to find episodes in history to support his ideas, he never sought to objectively asses them or formulate a hypothesis to be tested empirically. This approach mirrored Lurianic kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism that places messianism at its heart. The most famous (or notorious) Lurianic prophet was Nathan of Gaza, who promoted Sabbatai Zevi as the messiah. Nathan, who had been born around 1643, came across Zevi in Jerusalem and proclaimed him messiah in 1665. This was when western Europe was in the grip of millenarianism and Lurianic kabbalah had superseded more rational Jewish approaches and the existence of a new messiah in Jerusalem was widely accepted. Nathan, more intelligent than the unstable Zevi, was able to develop predictions and explanations of events that seemed plausible but were vague enough to explain inconvenient facts. Even when Zevi converted to Islam to receive a pension from the Ottoman emperor, Nathan was able to justify the unfortunate turn of events as coherent with Zevi being the Jewish messiah. As well as adopting the method of the rabbinical scholar, Marx, like his cousin Henrich Heine, developed the lifestyle of the Jewish theologian. Judaism had survived persecution for centuries as a stateless religion run by an oligarchy comprising of rich merchants who supported rabbis. Marx adopted the role of the rabbi, schnorring off wealthy relatives and acquaintances to ensure his intellectual endeavours could be free from being contaminated by practical experience.
Marx is widely regarded as being an anti-Semite. The basis is an essay Marx wrote in 1844, On the Jewish Question, which was developed while Marx was formulating historical materialism. Marx makes the following argument
Let us consider the actual, worldly Jew – not the Sabbath Jew, as Bauer does, but the everyday Jew.
Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew.
What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.
The Jew has emancipated himself in a Jewish manner, not only because he has acquired financial power, but also because, through him and also apart from him, money has become a world power and the practical Jewish spirit has become the practical spirit of the Christian nations. The Jews have emancipated themselves insofar as the Christians have become Jews.
In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism
Marx’s argument is not that Judaism creates ‘hucksters’ but that ‘hucksters’ creates Jews. The ‘material conditions’ of commerce creates the religion of the Jews. By turning Christians into pedallers, the Jew converts them. So long as ‘capitalism’ exists, the Jews will flourish.
Marx did not confine his anti-Semitism to economic theory. He corresponded to Engles about a leading German socialist, Ferdinand Lassalle, who was Jewish. Marx called Lassalle a “Jewish Nigger”. In 1861 Marx wrote to Engles
A propos Lassalle-Lazarus. Lepius in his great work on Egypt has proved that the exodus of the Jews from Egypt was nothing but … the expulsion of the “leprous people” from Egypt. At the head of these lepers was an Egyptian priest, Moses, Lazurus, the leper, is then the archetype of the Jew and Lassalle is the typical leper.
A year later, referring to Lassalle
It is now perfectly clear to me that, as the shape of his head and the growth of his hair indicates, he is descended from the Negroes who joined in Moses’ flight from Egypt (unless his mother or grandmother on his father’s side was crossed with a nigger). This union of Jew and German on a Negro base was bound to produce an extraordinary hybrid.
The problem the far left has with Judaism is almost hard-wired in. The Jew is the archetype of the capitalist; destroy capitalism and Judaism disappears. Marx secularises anti-Semitism into anti-capitalism. Here-in lies the problem the far left has with anti-Semitism.
Lenin often used the phrase “Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools” and based Imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism on a book, Imperialism, by the British socialist, John Hobson. Th genesis of Hobson’s ideas came when he went to report on the Boer War for the Manchester Guardian. In The War in South Africa: Its Causes and Effects, Hobson blames “a small group of international financiers, chiefly German in origin and Jewish by race” (p 189 ff.). On this Marxist basis, the roots of imperialism are identified in the Rothschilds.
To the poor anti-Semite, the Jew is the banker pulling the strings that control capitalism and the world. To the rich, the Jew is the poor beggar selling shoddy goods that undercut their own. Jews are caricatures, never people. Anti-Semitism, since the Jewish emancipation, has revolved around negative aspects to commerce and finance. This is why it affects me, since understanding finance requires that people do not approach it from a perspective blind with prejudice. More generally, anti-Semitism affects the Muslim and Afro-Caribbean because it is the prototype on which all (western) racism is formed.