[Marxism] What are the origins/ reasons for the emergence of right-wing Jewish intellectuals in America?

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Thu Jan 19 08:39:37 MST 2006

On Thu, 19 Jan 2006 01:19:10 -0500 "M. Junaid Alam" <alam at lefthook.org>
> There are a lot of questions tied up with this that are hard to 
> formulate. Is neoconservatism primarily inspired by Jewish Zionists 
> in 
> response to the Six Day War? Why are they at the same time highly 
> secular and yet highly pro-Israel? Is there something specifically 
> or 
> principally Zionist that started the neoconservative movement? Are 
> right-wing Jewish intellectuals mostly the radicals of yesterday?

I think its origins lie with the cold war liberalism that took root
among many intellectuals after WW II. A lot of the original
neocons had been leftists of various sorts before then.
>From WW II on, there was a shift to the right among
many intellectuals. Thus Max Eastman who had been
a friend of Trotsky and had been responsible for translating
many of Trotsky's writings into English, became a great
fan of Hayek and during the 1950s a supporter of Joe
McCarthy. James Burnham who had been one of
the leading intellectuals within the SWP and who
championed the theory of bureacratic collectivism
against Trotsky and authored the book, *The Managerial
Revolution*, likewise shifted to the far right. When
the young William F. Buckley Jr. decided to start his
magazine, National Review, Burnham became a close
friend and advisor to Buckley.

Among the so-called "New York intellectuals," many
followed more or less similar paths to the right.
The philosopher SIdney Hook, had been in his
youth a militant socialist.  As a student, he took
up philosophy, studying under Morris Cohen,
as an undergraduate at City College, and then
under John Dewey, as a graduate student at
Columbia. Hook became a staunch Marxist,
who authored at least two important studies
of Marxist philosophy, *Towards the Understanding
of Karl Marx* and *From Hegel to Marx*.
Hook was one of the first avowed Marxists
to hold a university chair in the United States.

He apparently never joined the CPUSA but for
a while was close to its top leaders. By the
mid-1930s, Hook had become a strong
anti-Stalinist who worked closely with the
Trotskyists. He was a founder of the American
Workers Party and he participated in the negotiations
that led to its merger with James Cannon's
Communist League of America. Out of that
merger came the Socialist Workers Party,
but Hook had no interest in joining that.
By 1940 Hook's politics had shifted sufficiently
rightwards that he now regarded himself as
an anticommunist social democrat.  By then
his anti-Stalinism having morphed into a full-blown
anticommunism, and from the 1940s onwards,
his anticommunism became the dominant defining
characteristic of his political outlook. Hook
insisted to the end of his days that he was a socialist,
but was one who was increasingly willing to
work with conservatives to oppose communists.
During the 1950s, Hook defended the anticommunist
purges of schools and universities, especially
in his then famous tract, *Heresy, Yes:,Conspiracy, No*.
Hook on the one hand denounced McCarthy and
argued that the Federal government was violating
academic freedom by forcing professors and college
administrators to testify before Congressional
committees like the HUAC but he argued on the
other hand, that school boards and university
trustees had both the right and the duty to conduct
similar investigations on their own initiaitive and
to throw out teachers and professors who belonged
to the CPUSA on the grounds that Party membership
required them to act in ways that were contrary to
professional standards and ethics.

During the period extending from the 1950s
to the 1970s, Hook was considered to be one
of the leading lights of cold war liberalism.

Irving Kristol as a student at City College had been
active in Trotskyist politics. By the Second World
War, his politics had moved rightwards to that
of a cold war liberalism. He became an admirer
of the conservative political philosopher, Leo Strauss,
and by the 1960s and 1970s, he continued to
move rightwards, to the point that when neoconservatism
emerged as a distinct movement in the 1970s, Kristol
became known as the godfather of the neocons.

There is also of course, Norman Podhoretz, who
was for many years the editor of Commentary. When
he took the editorship of that publication back in
1960, that publication was basically liberal or
left-liberal in its political leanings and initially
that did not change under Podhoretz's watch.
In fact, Podhoretz was at that time rather
sympathetic to the emerging New Left and
his magazine published pieces by such
writers as Paul Goodman, Norman O. Brown,
and even Herbert Marcuse. By the late 1960s,
Podhoretz turned against the New Left and
indeed against the left, generally and that
marked the beginning of Commentary's
emergence in the 1970s as the flagship
of neoconservatism.

> It's just an unavoidable 800lb. gorilla in the middle of the room; 
> every 
> major newspaper I read, the most anti-left, anti-humanist, opinion 
> pieces are written by right-wing Jews. There are even these regular 
> contributors to the LA Times that prattle on about the supremacy of 
> being Jewish and the insistence on being a chosen people, not to 
> mention 
> all the recent malicious nonsense from here condemning Chavez as the 
> next Hitler or worse, part of an "axis" with Iran. In the NYTimes, 
> there 
> was recently the railing about Spielberg's film as not sufficiently 
> demonizing the Arabs. And then there's the entire WSJ editorial 
> board - 
> well, that speaks for itself.
>  What is the social phenomenon that explains this? There must be 
> something like 300 million Arabs and 6 million Jews in the Middle 
> East. 
> Probably equal number of Jews and Muslims (not all Arabs, but still) 
> in 
> America. And I have yet to see one bloody column in the hands of a 
> single Muslim in any national paper chain. In fact, I have yet to 
> see 
> one paper where commentary on the Middle East isn't in the hands of 
> a 
> conservative Jew. It's not like they're giving the columns to a 
> Chomsky 
> or anything remotely of the sort. The closest to a non-Arab-hating 
> columnist is T. Friedman, which, again, speaks for itself. And 
> finally, 
> I have yet to see any outlet commenting upon this status quo.

That a certain segment of American intellectuals, both
Jewish and non-Jewish, should have shifted to the
right during the post-WW II period, is not, I think, a
terribly surprising phenomena. After all most of the
radicalism of the 1930s was a direct reaction to
the Great Depression. A lot of the radicalism that
found among Jewish intellectuals of the time was
a direct reaction to their experiences of anti-Semitic
discrimination, when for example, it was almost
impossible for a Jew to get a chair at a good university.
After WW II, all this changed. The United States
embarked on a prolonged period of unprecedented
prosperity, which very few leftists had expected.
In the case of Jewish intellectuals, most of the
barriers of anti-Semitic discrimination that had
impeded their professional advancement, now
disappeared. People who a few years before,
barely had two cents to their name, were now
suddenly prosperous. That sort of thing had
to have effected their political outlooks.

> I find this a very strange, not to mention bizarre, state of 
> affairs. 
> If, according to Novack's Holocaust in American Life, no one really 
> discussed the Holocaust publicly here until after the 1967 war, how  
> could that alone swing an entire community leadership's politics so 
> far 
> in one direction? After all, we are not talking about a smattering 
> of 
> folks. It is accurate to say that the organized Jewish American 
> community is (A) ardently Zionist and (B) ardently opposed to 
> justice 
> for Palestinians more so than even the average Israeli citizen! And 
> meaningless breakdowns by party affiliation don't change that, since 
> both parties are equally pro-Zionist.

Well up to 1967 or so, most of the so-called New York
intellectuals were not noted for their support or even
their interest in Israel. Zionist ideology had not been
very attractive to the intellectuals of the 1930s and
that remained the case even after WW II and the
founding of Israel. The shift in intellectual opinion
with regards to Israel and Zionism doesn't seem
to have occured until after the 1967 war, indeed not
until after 1970, when the US began to turn to Israel
in order to counterbalance the growth of Soviet influence
in the Middle East. The argument could be made that
many of the cold war liberal intellectuals (soon to be
known as neocons) embraced Zionism so enthusiastically
back then because it now fitted in well with their
anticommunist politics. Back in the 1950s when
Israel was generally regarded as a kind of socialist
state that was officially neutral in the cold war, it
garnered less enthuasism from the cold war

> It would be helpful if someone could point to some causative factors 
> that could explain how the organized sector of a small minority 
> group - 
> unlike any other minority group in America, and yet with a long 
> history 
> of oppression - covets and attains the rank of political and 
> intellectual power, joining the white elite...one historical 
> eyeblink 
> after its own mass suffering. Is there any kind of sociological 
> study to 
> explain this? Was there a tradition of Jewish right-wing 
> intellectualism 
> pre-dating WWII?
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