Marx's "anti-Semitism"

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Aug 9 08:30:28 MDT 1995

On Tue, 8 Aug 1995 LeoCasey at wrote:
> Moreover, if one wants to examine the depth and insight of Marx's analysis of
> racial and ethnic categories, surely the starting point must be the one text
> where he does so at any length -- "On The Jewish Question." In this context,
> he clearly argues for complete assimilation, for the complete elimination of
> a specifically Jewish community. (These passages are tinged with
> anti-Semitism.) "The emancipation of the Jews is, in the last analysis, the
> emancipation of mankind from Judaism."  <clip>

Louis Proyect

"From 'Fiddler on the Roof' the audience gets no sense of the downside
of the Jewish Reformation as it left its impress on Jewish life in the
Pale in the nineteenth century.

The Jews had their Torah to comfort them, although women were
rarely taught Hebrew so as to be able to read it. They had their Talmud
to guide them, although only a small minority of males and no women
had the privilege of Talmudic study. they had rabbis and zaddikim to
turn to for inspiration and personal counseling, but frequently these
leaders were indifferent to the miserable conditions of the ordinary
Jewish men and women, and were more concerned with their own
power and affluence than with the physical and moral needs of their
followers. What you do not learn from Sholem Aleichem is the
superstition and the ignorance and the general ambiance of cruelty and
deprivation, of fatalism and magic, and of comatose squalor that
characterized the culture of the shtetl."

(From "The Sacred Chain: the History of the Jews", p224-225, by
Norman Cantor. Norman Cantor is a history professor at NYU and has
been a Fulbright Professor at Tel Aviv University.)

"Internal conditions within the Jewish community moved in a similar
course. In the period 1500-1795, one of the most superstition-ridden in
the history of Judaism, Polish Jewry was the most superstitious and
fanatic of all Jewish communities. The considerable power of the
Jewish autonomy was used increasingly to stifle all original or
innovative thought, to promote the most shameless exploitation of the
Jewish poor by the Jewish rich in alliance with the rabbis, and to
justify the Jews' role in the oppression of the peasants in the service of
the nobles. Here, too, there was no way out except liberation from the
outside. Pre-1795 Poland, where the social role of the Jews was more
important than any in other classical Diaspora, illustrates better than
any other country the bankruptcy of classical Judaism."

(From "Jewish History, Jewish Religion", p.63, by Israel Shahak.
Shahak is a retired Professor of Organic Chemistry at Tel Aviv
University, and a life-long human rights activist, writing on aspects of
Judaism in Hebrew and English. He was incarcerated in Belsen during
World War Two.)

On a personal note: I read and spoke Hebrew and Yiddish by the age
of fourteen. I majored in the history of religion at Bard College, with a
concentration in the history of Judaism. I have maintained an interest
in Jewish studies since the early 1960's and have a library of more
than a thousand books on Judaism at my house up-state. I wonder
what base of knowledge Leo Casey is operating from when he speaks
about Jewish identity and Marx's "anti-Semitism".

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