djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Fri Aug 11 21:42:09 MDT 1995
I think that this discussion would be much more useful if it focused on
theoretical debates about modern anti-Semitism. Later in this post I do
return to the debate about "On The Jewish Question" via a summary of Henry
Pachter's comprehensive essay on the topic.
In particular I am interested in posting later about Franz Neumann's
analysis of modern anti-semitism in Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of
National Socialism. Neumann here discusses the false distinction upon
which fascist mythology is based: predatory vs productive capital, the
former being embodied in parasitic Jew and the latter represented as the
creative Aryan. Oppression is located in abstract money power, not in the
conditions of exploitation by capital of labor, in relations of commodity
There are so many complicated issues here, discussed only (as far as I
know) by Moishe Postone as far as I know in his entry to Anson Rabinbach
and Jack Zipes Germans and Jews Since the Holocaust. I hope to get back to
What is most theoretically challenging is that both Neumann and Postone
understand modern modern anti-semitism as a continuation of Proudhon's
reactionary socialism, and both build upon Marx's critique of Proudhon's
treatment of money in order to further the critique of the fool's (as
Engels put it) and barbarian's (as we now know it) socialism.
I hesistate to treat this topic because it is impossible to do so without a
firm grasp of dialectical logic, as applied to commodities and money, and I
have only begun reading E Illyenkov's Dialectical Logic, recommended by
both Juan Inigo and Ralph Dumain (how did that happen?).
One also must a firm grasp of the actual relation between industrial and
finance capital, the latter being held by the fascists to be sufficiently
autonomous for exclusive, albeit demagogic, attack. As is well-known,
Neumann relies entirely on Grossmann for his critique of the fascist
As for Marx's own anti-semitism (which to me is not as interesting as
Marxian explanation of modern anti-semitism), I recommend Henry Pachter's
famous essay "Marx and the Jews" in his Socialism in History: Political
Essays of Henry Pachter, ed. Stephen Eric Bronner. Columbia. 1984.
Pachter does several things in this essay.
1. he criticizes pscyological explanations of Marx's pututative anti-semitism
2. he demonstrates how common Marx's anti-semitic language was among middle-
class German Jews
3. he shows how Marxoften exploited common prejudices, inc. anti-semitism,
to make a point
4. he shows that Marx was more indulgent of German nationalism and imperialism
5. he shows however the depth of Marx's internationalism
6. in discussing "On the Jewish Question" he shows that
a. "Contrary to appearances, he is not attacking the Jews but is saying,
That which everybody thinks is characteristic of Jews has been\
perfected by this Christian society"
b. he then discusses the many things which Marx was attempting in
this single essay:
1. to answer the anti-semite Bauer
2. to plead for total emancipation
3. to denigrate capitalists as "Jewish"
4. to identify for anti-semites the enemy they should fight: "The
in themselves" (see a above)
5. to deny Jews a special estate while ensuring safety as citizes
6. to show religious strife concealed economic strife
7. new method for introducing social roots of ideologies
8. to show how political change required social change.
c. Pachter also shows how On the Jewish Question is a transitional
Marx moves from romantic anti-capitalism to an attack on the bourgeoisie
*as a class*
7. Pachter also differentiates Marxism from Jewish prophetic traditions
(and in my opinion shows that Benjamin's wizened dwarf is not strategically
kept out of sight by historical materialism).
8. Pachter shows a strategically effective self-deprecating form of humor
at work in many of Marx's comments.
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