Marx's "anti-Semitism"

Rob Frantz rfrantz at u.washington.edu
Wed Aug 9 16:30:01 MDT 1995


Louis Proyect has taken the new Marxism-List whipping boy Leo Casey to
task on his raising the question of Marx's anti-Semitism. As many Jewish
Marxists have, Louis wished to minimize this aspect of Marx's thought and
personality, so much so that he puts it in quotes, clerly implying it's
not really quite that. He also goes on to challenge Leo by comparing his
base of knowledge in this matter with Leo's. I, like Louis, am a Jew.
I, like Louis, have a strong interest in Jewish matters and a good
knowledge base. But, I have quite a different view on this matter.
But before going further I have some words for Louis:

YIDDISH
Louis,
Du bist nisht di ayntsike yid af dos Marxism-List vos kan yidish reden
un leynen. Oyb du maynst dos Marx is kayn antisemit, den du hast dayn
kup in dread fargrobn.


MODERN HEBREW
Louis,
Atah lo ha-yehudi ha-yekhidi ba-reshima Marxist ki-yekhol likro ve-likhtov
Ivrit. Im atah khoshev sh-Marx lo hayah antisemit, az khasita et rosh
shelkhah ba-adamah.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF BOTH:
Louis,
You're not the only Jew on this list who can read and write Yiddish and
Hebrew. If you think Marx wasn't an anti-Semite, that's because you've
burrowed your head in the ground.

How many quotes from Marx do we need to show Marx's attitude towards
Jews and Judaism? How many? Here's a short list:

	Let us look at the real Jew of our time; not the Jew of the Sabbath.
	whom (Bruno) Bauer considers, but the Jew of everyday life.

	What is the Jew's foundation in our world? Material necessity, private
	advantage.

	What is the object of the Jew's worship in this world? Usury. What
	is his world? Usury. What is his worldly god? Money.

	Very well, then; Emancipation from usury and money, that is from
	practical, real Judaism, would constitute the emancipation of our
	time. (Marx, A World Without Jews, trans. by Dagobert D. Runes,
	Philosophical Library, New York, 1959, originally published in
	GERMAN IN 1843, p. 37)

	The Jew has already emancipated himself in the Jewish way: "The
	Jew, who is, for example, merely tolerated in Vienna, determines
	by his money power the fate of the entire German Empire. The Jew, who
	is without rights in the smallest German state, decides the fate
	of Europe... (ibid., p. 38)

Let me ask, could Hitler and Goebbels improved on the last statement?

	What is the essential foundation of the Jewish religion? Practical
	needs, egotism. (ibid., p. 40)

	Money is the zealous one God of Israel, beside which no other God
	may stand (ibid. p. 41)

	The law of the Jew, lacking all solid foundation, is only a
	religious caricature of morality and law in general, but it provides
	the formal rites in which the world of property clothes its
	transaction (ibid., p. 42)

	
Now, if this is to be critiqued as representing early, pre-Marxist Marx,
here are a few later quotes:

	The Jews of Poland are the smeariest of all races (from
	Neue Rhenish Zeitung, April 29, 1849 quoted in ibid., p. vii)

	Ramsgate is full of Jews and fleas (Marx-Engels Correspondence
	dated August 25,1879 quoted in ibid, p. vii).










On Wed, 9 Aug 1995, Louis N Proyect wrote:

> On Tue, 8 Aug 1995 LeoCasey at aol.com 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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>



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