Z. zodiac at gold.interlog.com
Sat Aug 12 13:47:29 MDT 1995

The "Marx was an anti-semite" stuff is a timeless flamebaiter. It shows up

It's really a waste of time and should definitely go into a MARX FAQ to toss
at those who bring it up. That is the whole point of a FAQ -- leaving
longtime participants of the need to respond to the same old questions.

I responded to it once on another (labor) list. It's enclosed below.

M/E Archivist


Date: Mon, 28 Feb 1994 18:05:15 -0500 (EST)
From: Zodiac
Subject: On The Jewish Question

Conor writes:

> what about "The Jewish Question" written by young Karl in 1843.

Okay.  I am very familiar with this essay.  Let's see your take on

> In this Marx starts off with a fair consideration of religion, state
> and society and demands that revolutionaries throw away ANY
> religious baggage.

So far, fine...

You realize this is a rebuttal piece, right?  It is called _On The
Jewish Question_ because it is a response to the 1842 article by
Bruno Bauer called _The Jewish Question_.   Unless you understand the
arguments it is specifically rebutting, it's easy to misunderstand
what's being discussed.

Marx wrote it at age 25, before "historical materialism" was launched in
_The German Ideology_.  In this essay, Marx enters the Prussian debate on
whether Jews should share the same political rights as Christians.

Marx says they should, as opposed to Bruno Bauer.  Bauer is cleverly
using a far-left position to argue _against_ Jewish political
emancipation -- that is, he's using the "reform vs revolution"
argument to say that fighting for only a limited goal like Jewish
political emancipation, and not complete religious emancipation, is

(I think Bauer was disingenuous, using a far-left argument; he was an
admirer of Bismarck and Russian Czarism, and an early exponent of
_racial_ anti-Semitic theories.)

> He then continues; "What is the profane basis of Judasism?
> PRACTICAL need, self-interest.  What is the world cult of the jew?
> HUCKSTERING What is his worldly God"? Money"

Right...  though bluntly put, perhaps "politically-incorrect" by today's
standards.  The Jews were disliked by anti-business Christian
"spiritualism".  They were proto-type bourgeois, hated for that more than
anything by the Christian aristocratic elite.

> He attacks not only the religion but the whole racial identity
> claiming;

Ahhh.... here we go.

You are applying the theory that Jews are a "race" to their cultural
identity.  Race is itself pretty much an illusion, but I think a
"Jewish race" is a theory usually heard from 19th century European
nationalists (whose banner Hitler would hoist high).

If you believe Marx is, in this essay, referring to a Jewish "race",
I would suggest your understanding of the essay is shakey, and thus
also your criticism.

There is an enormous amount of misinformation about this essay.  You
are buying into it.

> "The chimerical nationality of the jew is the nationality of the
> trader, and above all of the financier"


The Jewish religion was international.  Jews had no "nation".

Marx made the point that Judaism, free of Christian anti-business
moralism, was able to maximize mercantilism and then capitalism.
This was viewed by Christian provincials as "Jewish evil".  (Later,
this social situation would be interpreted by some as the result of
the "Jewish race", genetics, rather than the economic situation of
the Jews.)

It is ironic that, in the end, the Jews did not assimilate to the
western world morality, but rather the western world (through the
triumph of capitalism over feudalism) adapted itself to the Jewish
religion's pragmatism/materialism.

Marx quotes Thomas Hamilton:

     "... money has become a world power and the practical spirit of
     the Jews has become the pracitical spirit of the Christian
     peoples.  The Jews have emancipated themselves insofar as the
     Christians have become Jews."

It's an excellent point, oft made by Jewish scholars since Marx's

At any rate -- unless you think Marx is suggesting the Jews are
"genetically" transforming the "Christian race", it is quite clear
Marx is not talking about race.

Therefore this is not an example of "racism".

> This goes on for pages reaching the conclusion; "In the final
> analysis, the EMANCIPATION of the Jews is the emancipation of
> mankind from judaism"

Another good point by Marx.

In the short-run, Marx argues it is ridiculous to think no one should
be "politically" emancipated until they are "completely" emancipated,
as Bauer suggested.  Marx gives the example of the USA and France,
and what we generally today take for granted in our democracies:
separation of "church and state", or more exactly, separation of
private life and political life.  (Actually, we take for granted
_lip-service_ to this idea, not the actual idea.)

Marx says Prussia (and Germany in general) is so backward it hasn't
even approached these more western ideas of political emancipation,
forget complete human liberation.

But in the long-run, Marx agrees that Jews need to emancipate
themselves from Judaism and Christians need to emancipate themselves
from Christianity since in each case the human being is externalizing
their own human social creation -- they create God(s), then are ruled
by their own creation, as if alien to that God(s).

Marx would apply the same logic to social wealth -- human beings create
social wealth, then are ruled by that wealth, as if alien to it.

I see nothing wrong with this.  Certainly nothing remotely "racist".

> Again I repeat that I am not interested in trading "proofs" of the
> racism of either Marx or Bakunin. Lets get down to debating there
> ideas and (yes Dave) their actions. Conor

Fine by me.

I'm a little disappointed at seeing this old _On The Jewish Question_
example strolled out as "proof".  Most people who use it don't seem to
understand what it is about, so abuse the context.

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