Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 22, 2018

Anti-Semitism and the socialist left

Filed under: anti-Semitism — louisproyect @ 10:40 pm

Rejected by fellow Putinites unhappy with his naked anti-Semitism

Recently, just by coincidence, I received queries from two different people about manifestations of anti-Semitism.

One wrote a series of messages, the first appearing under the subject heading “Socialists and anti-Semitism”:

I’ve been reading a bit about (as the title of this email would suggest) the anti-Semitism of a lot of “pioneers” of socialist thought: people like Charles Fourier, Pierre Leroux, P.J. Proudhon and apparently a lot of others. A few interesting (but obviously right-wing pieces:

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/the-return-of-left-wing-anti-semitism/article/2571377

https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/98702/how-four-influential-socialist-anti-semites-shaped-daniel-greenfield

http://www.independent.org/publications/article.asp?id=359

It’s an uncomfortable subject for me, given that I consider my “libertarian socialism” closer to Proudhon (mostly on the necessity of markets and voluntary association) than to Marx. What is your opinion on this? Do you think that hatred of Jews is natural to go alongside opposition of “usury” or “commerce,” given their association with Jews by early socialists?

He followed up with this:

Just found this; a good example of a right-wing attempt to win leftists over to anti-Semitism, on the basis of historical continuity.

http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2016/08/07/on-the-left-and-the-myth-of-the-jewish-proletariat/

And concluded with this:

Sorry to keep at this, but I found a piece here which seems to relate to the other material: it says that Jews became moneylenders, not because they had no other options, but because it was the most lucrative venture.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/michaellevin/why-did-jews-become-money_b_4046093.html

Two days later another comrade wrote:

Hi Louis,

Once again I came across your writing while doing digging on disinfo. A former US information operation guy I know runs the website To Inform is to Influence did a write up on Charles Bausman at Russia Insider and his recent piece “It’s time to drop the Jew taboo”. I’ve been looking to see what I can find as well. (https://louisproyect.org/2016/04/17/all-you-need-to-know-about-the-russia-insider-scandal-and-more/ )

(The rest of it related to other matters.)

Cheers.

Here is my response to these disparate expressions of anti-Semitism:

The first article, titled “The return of left-wing anti-Semitism” was written by a Tory politician named Dan Hannan who complained about Corbyn supporters being “undisguised Jew-haters”. As it turns out, this is nothing but the Tweets of purported Corbyn supporters, including one that that said “Zyklon B was used for delousing.” Well, who knows who was posting such Tweets? For all I know, it could have been enemies of Corbyn trying to provide fodder for an article like this. Hannan does refer to a cleric named Raed Salah, who was supposedly found guilty of propagating the blood libel. Considering the fact that an Israeli court acquitted him of this charge, it is safe to say that it was trumped-up (I used the term advisedly) in the first place.

Hannan’s article concludes with a reference to the Book of Esther that serves as the theological underpinning of Purim, a holiday that is celebrated by wearing costumes and getting drunk. In Israel, it has become a day in which Arabs are fair game for violence, just like in the film “The Purge”. Actually, this is not that far from the words of the Book of Esther, where the King has decided to line up with the Jews on the urging of his Jewish queen:

The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies. The day appointed for the Jews to do this in all the provinces of King Xerxes was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar.

The next article titled “How Four Influential Socialist anti-Semites shaped the left” comes from arch-conservative David Horowitz’s Front Page website. It refers to Karl Marx’s “On the Jewish Question” that was also referred to by Hannan and that serves as a sine qua non for articles such as this. To really understand what Marx was driving at in this work, you have to know the historical context. It was actually a critique of a book by Bruno Bauer titled “The Jewish Question”. An article by Michael Cooke in Links provides the necessary context:

What provoked Marx’s ire was that Bauer was opposed to a petition being circulated at the time asking for rights for the Jewish community similar to those enjoyed by their Christian brethren and sisters in the Prussian state. Marx had already signed the petition and had publicly supported its aims. Bauer, however, criticised the state for defending the privileges of the elite and the use they made of religion in perpetuating this.

My advice is to read Marx’s article that while rather problematic in many ways is hardly an expression of Nazi-style anti-Semitism. Even though it contains the infamous words (What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering.) repeated in the Front Page website, it was fairly standard for the period and reflected widespread animosity toward the Rothschilds, including Moses Hess, an early proponent of Zionism. In a useful article on Marx, Hess and the Economic-Jew stereotype, Hal Draper writes:

Earlier in 1843 Hess had published an important article on The Philosophy of Action, which only incidentally remarked that “The Christian God is an imitation of the Jewish Moloch-Jehovah, to whom the first-born were sacrificed to ‘propitiate’ him, and whom the juste-milieu age of Jewry bought off with money …”

This sort of thing was eclipsed by later Marxist analysis of the Jewish question from Abram Leon and Isaac Deutscher but you wouldn’t expect David Horowitz’s website to cite them. His goal, as was Hannan’s, was to smear socialists.

Next we have Tyler Cowen, the libertarian ideologue, writing an article titled “The Socialist Roots of Modern Anti-Semitism” that repeats the Bauer stuff but within a narrative reminiscent of Daniel Goldhagen’s “Hitler’s Willing Executioners” that paints German society in the 19th century as a seed-bed for Nazism, but predominantly from the left. He writes:

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Germany became the first country to develop systematic anti-Semitic political and intellectual movements. In Germany, Adolf Stocker’s Christian Social Party (1878-1885) combined anti-Semitism with left-wing, reformist legislation. The party attacked laissez-faire economics and the Jews as part of the same liberal plague. Stocker’s movement synthesized medieval anti-Semitism, based in religion, and modern anti-Semitism, based in racism and socialist economics. He once wrote: I see in unrestrained capitalism the evil of our epoch and am naturally also an opponent of modern Judaism on account of my socio-political views. Stocker had revered the Prussian aristocracy since his youth.

While Stocker was an anti-Semite, the German Social Democracy was a fierce opponent of Jew-hatred. Do you think that Cowan referred once to Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg or even a Jew like Eduard Bernstein? Don’t be foolish. But keep in mind that the chief ideological influence on German socialism had this to say:

In North America not a single Jew is to be found among the millionaires whose wealth can, in some cases, scarcely be expressed in terms of our paltry marks, gulden or francs and, by comparison with these Americans, the Rothschilds are veritable paupers. And even in England, Rothschild is a man of modest means when set, for example, against the Duke of Westminster. Even in our own Rhineland from which, with the help of the French, we drove the aristocracy 95 years ago and where we have established modern industry, one may look in vain for Jews.

Hence anti-Semitism is merely the reaction of declining medieval social strata against a modern society consisting essentially of capitalists and wage-labourers, so that all it serves are reactionary ends under a purportedly socialist cloak; it is a degenerate form of feudal socialism and we can have nothing to do with that. The very fact of its existence in a region is proof that there is not yet enough capital there. Capital and wage-labour are today indivisible. The stronger capital and hence the wage-earning class becomes, the closer will be the demise of capitalist domination. So what I would wish for us Germans, amongst whom I also count the Viennese, is that the capitalist economy should develop at a truly spanking pace rather than slowly decline into stagnation.

–Frederick Engels, “On Anti-Semitism”, 1890

Next we turn to Andrew Joyce’s “On The Left and the Myth of the ‘Jewish Proletariat’”. Like everybody else referred to above, Joyce is on the right, and, furthermore, the extreme right. The article appeared in the Occidental Observer whose mission statement avers: “The Occidental Observer will present original content touching on the themes of white identity, white interests, and the culture of the West.” Indeed, Joyce has written articles making the case that the Jews fomented a war against Hitler. Should I bother debunking Joyce’s neo-Nazi tripe? It is not worth my reader’s time. The guy is fouler than an overflowing toilet.

Finally, we come to an article that appeared in a publication that at least has liberal credentials. In the Huffington Post, Michael Levin’s “Why Did Jews Become Moneylenders? Because They Could” is a brief review of a book titled “The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History” that makes the case that Jews became bankers because their families very early on raised their male children to study the Torah. This literacy came in handy when it came to looking at the fine print of contracts. No, I am not joking.

For a more convincing analysis, I recommend Abram Leon who focuses on economics rather than Torah study:

So long as Europe lived under a regime of natural economy, the initiative in commercial traffic belonged to merchants from the Orient, principally the Jews. Only some peddlers, some lowly suppliers to the chateaux of the nobles and the clergy, succeed in freeing themselves from the humble mass of serfs bound to the soil. But the development of native production makes possible the rapid formation of a powerful class of native merchants. emerging from the artisans, they gain control over them by taking over the distribution of raw materials. Contrary to trade as conducted by the Jews, which is clearly separate from production, native trade is essentially based on industry.

This covers all of the links supplied by my first correspondent. Now let me turn to the second, who was interested in what I had to say about the Charles Bausman controversy. I first came across Bausman in August 2016, when his Russia Insider website was accused by fellow Putinites of being a scam to make money. Peter Lavelle, a member in good standing of the Kremlin propaganda network, was the focus of an article titled “Bausman and fraud at Russia Insider? Lavelle blows the whistle”  that appeared in Fort Russ, a typical “axis of resistance” website. Lavelle’s investigative reporting revealed:

The website [Russia Insider] consistently claimed that 100% of the proceeds went to ‘journalists’. They misinformed the public that, “We’ll only spend it on journalist salaries, nothing else. Period.”

In the course of Fort Russ’s investigation, it has been explained to us from people very close to the operation that the above claim does not have any merit. According to one anonymous source, formerly very close to this area of Russia Insider’s scheme, none (or a negligible amount) of the money raised by Russia Insider was spent on what can properly be called ‘Journalist salaries’.

So, you get it. Bausman is a shady character.

Bausman makes a bunch of different points, all of them ludicrous. Among them is that hostility to Putin’s Russia is largely a Jewish phenomenon. The evidence? That the biggest enemies of the Kremlin in Congress are Jews, like Chuck Schumer. I suppose that’s so but there was a time when the bedrock of anti-Russian sentiment was Christian, like Joe McCarthy, Robert Taft, Richard Nixon and just about every CIA chief going back to Kermit Roosevelt Jr. Bausman is basically constructing a dichotomy between the neocons and Clintonite liberals like David Frum and Schumer on one side and the good, open-minded Gentile, Trump-supporting politicians like Mike Pence on the other who want a “reset” with Russia. At some point, it will become obvious that Trump is taking his marching orders from the traditional Slavophobic elements in the GOP and that these distinctions based on ethnicity are idiotic. That the White House has authorized the shipment of weapons to Kiev should be proof enough.

Next targeted by Bausman is the Jewish-controlled media like the N.Y. Times and the Washington Post (is Jeff Bezos Jewish?). This is an old story that is based on a cherry-picking of ownership data. Yes, the N.Y. Times is owned by Jews but there are other powerful media figures who are not Jewish, like Rupert Murdoch and the Hearst dynasty. If you look at the WSJ, you will find the same hostility to Putin that you can see in the N.Y. Times. It is not driven by religion or ethnicity but by geopolitics.

Bausman is stupid enough to repeat the canard about October 1917 being a Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy funded by Wall Street. This is the kind of garbage that people like Henry Ford spread and hardly worth replying to. Indeed, Bausman’s article was so outrageous that even the Putinites have disowned him. The Duran, an awful mouthpiece for Assadist propaganda, published an article titled “Russia Insider goes Goebbels: debunking Charles Bausman’s warped vision of Russian reality” that makes excellent points, similar to my own:

In Britain none of the four most stridently anti-Russian newspapers – the London Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times and the Guardian – have Jewish proprietors.

In the case of the London Times the proprietor is the Australian/American billionaire publisher and businessman Rupert Murdoch, who is known to micromanage his newspapers, and who is also known to be extremely hostile to President Putin and to Russia.

I recommend a look at www.toinformistoinfluence.com, which basically aggregates all of the articles written about Bausman. I honestly don’t think that he is a beacon of shifting attitudes in the pro-Kremlin milieu. Considering his salute to Richard Spencer that appears as an update to his article, it would seem that Bausman is aligning himself with the alt-right. Given his shady con artist past, it is plausible that he is trying to tap into whoever is funding the neo-Nazi movement in the USA.

The important question is whether any of this is reflected on the left. Bausman was never really the kind of person whose articles would show up in Alternet but there are some characters who have managed to inveigle themselves into the left, like Israel Shamir who was Assange’s man in Russia, and Gilad Atzmon. As fucked up as they are, neither of them has much influence.

Despite the spectacle of the alt-right chanting “The Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville, anti-Semitism is a non-starter in the USA and will remain so. If you study German history, you will understand that the Muslims and the Latino immigrants are playing the role of scapegoat today. Let me conclude with links to articles I have written about anti-Semitism in the past:

https://louisproyect.org/2016/09/05/the-problem-with-anti-semitism/

https://louisproyect.org/2014/07/25/the-anti-semitism-canard/

https://louisproyect.org/2014/01/25/thoughts-on-diana-johnstone-and-dieudonne-mbala-mbala/

https://louisproyect.org/2011/09/29/the-gilad-atzmon-controversy/

https://louisproyect.org/2009/03/13/anti-zionism-anti-semitism-anti-dogmatism/

And some others relevant to the topic:

https://louisproyect.org/2014/10/09/jews-and-the-left/

https://louisproyect.org/2009/06/19/my-life-as-a-jew/

Finally, all of these articles and others have been aggregated in two places, with a fair amount of overlap:

https://louisproyect.org/category/jewish-question/

https://louisproyect.org/category/anti-semitism/

http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/jewish.htm

 

5 Comments »

  1. A well researched answer to the this issue of anti-semitism and the left and the Jewish conspiracy theory.

    Comment by davidwalters66 — January 22, 2018 @ 11:21 pm

  2. Thanks, Louis. I will be taking a look at your recommendations, and suggested older pieces.

    Comment by rslustig — January 23, 2018 @ 1:51 am

  3. Thanks for this. I was recently curious of your thoughts on the issue of Marxism and anti-semitism, since I was studying the supposed attribution to Marx an ugly article published by the New York Tribune in 1856 called “The Russian Loan” . The article even appeared in a volume collection of Marx’s papers, but his authorship is now contested. For one, the Tribune didn’t have bylines generally, and didn’t in this case of this article.

    Kevin B. Anderson makes the following commentary in an endnote in his book Marx at the Margins (2010):

    Padover has created a convenient digest of the problematic discussions by Marx on Judaism and Jews (Karl Marx Library, volume 5, 169-225). Padover errs, however, when he attributes to Marx “The Russian Loan”, a particularly noxious Tribune article about Jewish bankers published on January 4, 1856 (221-25). In “Die Mitarbeit von Marx und Engels an der New York Tribune” (2001), an illuminating essay that forms part of the apparatus to Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe, section I, volume 10, the volume’s editors (Hans-Jürgen Bochinski and Martin Hundt, with Ute Emmrich and Manfred Neuhaus) write that the earlier attributions of “The Russian Loan” to Marx can “definitely be ruled out”, this on the basis of a close textual analysis (903).

    And this Quora post digs even further:

    However, Marx himself was not virulently anti-semitic; indeed, compared to the other notable figures of the period, e.g., Ferdinand Lassalle, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Bruno Bauer, and Mikhail Bakunin, et al., he was significantly more enlightened in his views toward Jews and Judaism (likely because, as Dennis Fischman points out, Marx himself was of Jewish extract; I have not read his book, so I can’t comment on it). Contrary to what the article linked to by Lynx Kepler claims, however, Marx did not author the article frequently called “The Russian Loan” in New-York Daily Tribune; the piece was written anonymously, and is quite unlike any of Marx’s other writings (and a fairly superficial textual analysis alone casts serious doubt; the article begins by claiming that the author “has heretofore called the attention of our[sic] readers” to the so-called “European system of loan-mongering,” a phrase which appears only in that article, and that six times on six separate pages, something Marx was rarely wont to do). Eleanor Marx and/or Edward Aveling must have believed it Marx’s, and included it in the collection, but this was a mistake (which the editors of MEGA I/14 have fairly conclusively demonstrated). Additionally, that article completely misses what Marx was actually saying in “On The Jewish Question;” what it attributes to Marx was, in fact, Marx replying to Bruno Bauer! A good treatment of Marx’s supposed anti-semitism, and how Marx’s criticism of religion, capitalism, and Judaism differed radically from his contemporaries’

    https://www.quora.com/How-can-one-be-a-Marxist-and-also-an-anti-semite

    The Quora post in turn links to an article by Robert Fine from ENGAGE, titled Karl Marx and the Radical Critique of Anti-Semitism,

    https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/karl-marx-and-the-radical-critique-of-anti-semitism-robert-fine-engage-journal-issue-2-may-2006/

    Comment by aaron — January 24, 2018 @ 8:41 pm

  4. Excellent study of the issue. Especially important is your reference to Abram Leon and his classic work on the history of the Jewish people.

    Comment by oaklandsocialist — August 22, 2018 @ 6:45 pm

  5. “Der Antisemitismus ist der Sozialismus der dummen Kerle.”

    Translation: “Antisemitism is the Socialism of fools.”

    A common saying of German social democrats, commonly attributed to August Bebel, who attributed it to Ferdinand Kronawetter. See Der Antisemitismus (1894) by Hermann Bahr, p. 21

    Comment by David Berger — August 22, 2018 @ 7:25 pm


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