Marx, Jews, Maradona (was RE: New biography of Marx)
Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky
nestor at SPAMsisurb.filo.uba.ar
Mon Sep 27 04:20:12 MDT 1999
El 27 Sep 99 a las 1:09, Julio Fernandez Baraibar nos
> My opinion is that Marx had no cultural relation with the
> jewish community of german. His father had converted into
> the state religion and in this way he was no longer a
> jew. Karl Marx was a german and he had no feeling of being
> a jew. I think his opinions about jews were simply german
> prejudice. By the way and speaking about Marx sexual
> morality, not only his opinion about hosexuality but the
> sordid story on the gravidity of Lenchen by Marx and the
> role that Engels played in the lie and the final fate of
> the only son of Marx who didn t die as child. Or when
> Jenny prohibited Engels to visit them with his redhaired
> and irish woman because they were not married. OK. It is
> the prize that a great head pays to his time.
Hah, Julio, _I_ may know better on "Marx the Jew" (but do
not make of this a matter of exclusivity, please)!
To begin with, we _must_ (as you point out) put ourselves
in the particular situation of our characters. Times do
count, as you remind us on your mail. Take, for instance,
the debate that has been generated on this list because
of the seemingly harmless saying on "dialogue of the deaf".
Though the idea conveyed was that there is a kind of
dialogue where neither part can understand each other,
Marta R. very strongly emphasized that this way of talking
implied the wrong and insulting assumption that deaf people
are, by definition, doomed not to understand each other
_because of their health problem_. And right she was,
But the intervention of Marta has decades of struggle
behind it. Thirty or forty years ago, the "dialogue of the
deaf" would have passed by unnoticed (except, and I am not
absolutely sure about this, by some deaf contributor to the
list) in the sense that it had become a trope, a lexeme
where the meaning had rubbed away the constitutive parts.
Allow me to give some funny example, extreme but
illustrative: We certainly do not ban the word "participation"
because it is rooted in the Latin verb meaning "capture"
and thus implying some kind of Police intervention.
Awareness of the sense of words (always metaphoric, think
of it: in the most primitive language ever spoken, "leb"
-meaning "love"- seems to have meant "thirst" also, a
wonderful primeval metaphore indeed) is a historic and
material phenomenon, so that while the immanent ideas
embedded in a certain usage do not appear to the mind
clearly, they may be harmlessly used. Now, once things have
been put in clear, we need to find new ways to say the same
Most probably, as you say, Marx did not feel himself
Jewish. But, wait: being Jewish wasn't -in Germany or abroad-
the same thing _before_ and _after_ the pogroms of late
19th. Century in Russia or the wonderful carreer of Herr
Adolf Hitler and his mass of supporters. Jewry was still
in Mitteleuropa, by the times Marx was brought up, more
or less the same thing as an unsupported claim for
uniqueness and for exclusivity that hardly covered a deeply
seated tendency and taste for usury and primitive capitalism;
it was more related to speculation and to abstraction,
while the non-Jewish was directly linked to material
production and creation. Almost every great mind of Jewish
origin in Germany decided to change religion in order to
become "fully human" (so to say, I am using the probable
wordings of the times). Or, at least, they became
I will make you a gift of a very characteristic personal
anecdote as to what did this mean for a Jew: my first
intellectual contact with German illuminism was through
some things I learnt in the Zionist movement, when
explaining those Jews who had become non-Jews such as Heine
or in a sense Mendelssohn. Curiously enough, their
conversion was attributed to a mysterious thing mentioned
as "Haskalah". What was this "Haskalah"? As from the
explanations we received, it looked like a strange kind of
idiosyncratically Jewish desire to excel and become
universal. It took me some time before I discovered that
Haskalah meant _Illuminism_ in Hebrew. That is, the myth
of Jewish uniqueness was so powerful (even in the last
third of the 20th. Century, even in the lips of people who
were soon to be immersed into the sea of Argentinian
politics of the early 70s) that it transformed one of the
most "universalist" credos of the world into a kind of
peculiarity of Jews!
When Marx wrote "The Jewish Question", he did think of
Judaism in this way, and he was far from wrong. Later on,
when he became "Marxist", he did not pay much attention to
the issue (we are fortunate that types like Abraham Leon
did, later on, under the extreme conditions of Nazism --as
well as our own Carlos Etkin, whose writings on the
condition of the Jew in Latin America are insightful though
outdated). It is in this context that we must judge his
scathing remarks and his "racist" opinions. One may even
say that he somehow "did not mean it". His relationship
with Jewry is not so easily dismissable as a matter of
"public virtues / private vices". For the German average
progressive thinker, Judaism was either a non-issue (and
thus subject to ugly comments such as the one on deaf
people I mentioned above --the "I did not really mean it"
thesis) or it was subject to strong criticism for its
undeserved claim for uniqueness. It was the development of
the murderous anti-Jewish policies in Russia and the growth
of the contradictions in the central European states during
the last years of the 19th. Century that changed the
meaning of expressions against the Jews.
It is not only Marx who rang to this tune on Jewry. Let us
change channel, and the space-time coordinates.
I recall the Cid Campeador cheating the Jews David and
Vidas (was he wrong, from the point of view of the Medieval
ideal? No, he was _also_ championing the ideal of the
agrarian and military aristocracy that _depended upon_ Jews
for money but _despised them_ for depending on money
themselves). And what about Shylock? Lakes of ink have
been poured to explain that, in fact, Billy of Avon did not
write what he ACTUALLY wrote. True, Shakespeare had the
greatness to UNDERSTAND Shylock ("is my own blood different
than yours", etc.?). But understanding did not mean
support. He certainly hated Shylock and victimized him in
the worst of ways, not necessarily in the cheating that he
is subject to -a pound of flesh, not a dram of blood- but
in the kidnapping of his daughter: perhaps Shakespeare knew
that the Jewish law is matrilineal, not patrilineal.
Shylock is condemned to sterility as a Jew by his own
Can we apply our own moral standards to the minstrels of
the Castilian Middle Ages? To William Shakespeare? Why
then to Marx?
More or less the same runs, IMHO, for Marx's dubious and
quite ugly sexual and gender morality.
HOWEVER, and on both issues, we could not have advanced the
way we did, we could not have been able to show these ugly
facets of Marx (perhaps we would not have been even able to
realize that they existed as ugly facets), if he had not been daring
enough to publish his discoveries and fight for them. This
reminds me of Maradona. As you know, I have always been an
atheist until San Diego Maradona showed me that a material
proof of the existence of God _could_ appear on Earth (I
am kidding, boys and girls, I am just kidding! Although--).
Does this mean I do away with all his blunders? Not at all.
But I will always keep in mind that almost all and every
one of them is OF OUR OWN MAKE, a social imposition on an
outlandish creature, an artist of sports. His glory lies in
that _even though_ born and brought up in Villa Fiorito (you
know what I mean, Julio, and I suppose it would take a
whole book on urban unequality to explain what does Villa
Fiorito mean in Buenos Aires), he managed to become
Maradona, and non just another glue-sniffer in the hall
of the railway station at Constitution Square.
And, by the way, Joao: there is not such a thing as a
self-hating Jew. This is a Zionist insult on those who,
like me, are anti-Zionist Jews. Another "dialogue of the
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