The Nature of Anti-Semitism {was Revolutionary Marxist Holocaust Denial?}

Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Tue Jul 4 08:13:58 MDT 1995

OK, Leo, point to you for mentioning the Communists as victims of the Nazi
murders. What set me off (since you ask) was not only of specific things
you list below, all of which I agree with in my own way, e.g., that Nazi
antisemitism is different of the trdaitional sort, taht it can't be
reduced to class struggle or economics, that Stalin's mass murders are not
morally better, except insofar as they may have been numerically less,
etc. (Though I think, by way of clarifiucation, that while Stalinism was
unacceptably bad, below the threshhold, that overall it was morally better
than Nazism--we can discuss this another time.) All that's OK. What I
didn';t like was the attempt to accept for what all modern victims of
genocide have him common--"difference," you say, which the modern state
doesn't like. The rest of my aminadversions on this mode of explanation
stand. I cannot see how that way of talking gets you anywhere. Moreover,
it's not clear it's consistent with your remarks about the arbitrary
character of the Stalin terror. If a terror is arbitrary, it's not picking
up its victims on the basis of supposed differences. Its picking them up
at random.

--Justin Schwartz

On Mon, 3 Jul 1995 LeoCasey at wrote:

> In a message dated 95-07-03 22:39:32 EDT, Justin writes:
> >I try to eschew abusive polemics, but Leo, this is pathetic.
> You could have fooled me. Next time before you jump, try reading. I mean not
> just a sympathetic, or open minded reading, but to bring things down to that
> notion of the "material" you love so much, try reading my actual words on the
> screen. As in...
> I say...
> >Rather, every group which find its way into the concentration camps >and the
> ovens were forms of social and cultural difference that a >modern state in
> its most virulent authoritarian form wanted to >eliminate. What the Jehovah
> Witness and the gay man, the >Communist and Hasidic Jew, the gypsy and the
> disabled person all >had in common...
> And then you say...
> >The various groups mentooneda s marked for extermination >pointedly do not
> include, in Leo's listing, tarde unionist, Communist, >socialists...
> Let me restrict myself to one more illustration, so as not to bore the list
> to death. I made the point, against notions of anti-Semitism that were at
> least implicitly ahistorical and essentialist, with a direct line of
> continuity from the birth of Christianity to the Nazis, that there was an
> important, radical break in the nature of anti-Semitism at the dawn of the
> modern era. In your hands, this becomes...
> >"Once upon a time there was history, but now there isn't any."
> Am I wrong to understand this statement as an attempt to translate my account
> of the modern break into the view that there is no history of anti-semitism,
> racism, heterosexism, etc. after the start of the modern era? I don't see any
> other way to read it, and I must say that this is such an absurd and bizarre
> rendition of what I said, much less of what someone could reasonably impute
> to my analysis, that I have to wonder what it was in what I did say that set
> this off. (I have too much respect for your contributions to think that it
> was a willful misrepresentation.)
> So what is it that got your dander flying --
> 1. Is it that it is possible to give an historical account and a
> non-essentialist explanation of non-class forms of oppression and their
> relation to genocide and state authoritarianism while self-avowed orthodox
> Marxists on the list find themselves reduced to using metaphors of 'satanism'
>  to explain the same phenomena?
> 2. Or is it that my account of the Nazi state and the Holocaust places front
> and center phenomena such as anti-Semitism when you are anxious to highlight
> the class struggle traditionally understood?
> 3. Or is it that I refuse those comfortable distinctions between the
> Stalinist and Nazi states, and find the distinctions you offer between the
> two to be distinctions without differences? After pointing out the
> relationship of the Stalinist state and its mass murder to national
> minorities (from the Tartars to the Estonains and including the Jews, for
> those who have forgotten the infamous 'Doctors Plot') and making such a
> rhetorically heavy point regarding the political victims of the Holocaust,
>  what exactly does it mean to claim that...
> >Stalin terror was politiacl in a way taht Nazi terror was only ina
>  >subordinate way?
> Is this essential difference then nothing more than adding up the relative
> proportions of vicitms who were political?
> Could it not be that Arendt was right, and that the very power of the terror
> of the Stalinist state lay in its often arbitrary and indiscriminate
> character? After all, what percentage of the millions of dead are going to be
> consumed when Stalin turns on the revolutionary leadership of the Bolsheviks?
> On the other parties of the Left?
> I won't use the same invective you did, but I can't sign off without
> saying...
> Really Justin, let's address the real issues.
> Your favorite radical democrat, mired in the indigency of post-modernism
> (whatever that is), Leo.
>      --- from list marxism at ---

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