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Marxist and Socialist anti-Semitism and  Early Anti-Zionism

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Marxist and Socialist anti-Semitism and Early Anti-Zionism

Historically, the structural and class bases of anti-Jewish feeling in Europe were inextricably linked with the ruling classes and the forces of reaction. The Catholic church propagated anti-Semitism as a matter of religious ideology as well as expediency. Landed aristocracy created the class of Jewish moneylenders, and then allied themselves with the peasants against their Jewish creditors. Reactionary regimes like the Tsarist Regime in Russia used the Jews as scapegoats for the ills of their society.

In Western Europe, and particularly in England and at first in Germany, the newly liberated Jews of the 19th century could hope for relief from the movement for liberal democracy, which promised equality and social progress. Gradually, this avenue was blocked in Germany, as liberalism became progressively tinged with nationalism and chauvinism. In eastern Europe and Russia, the liberal movement was virtually nonexistent, or reactionary and allied with the church from the start. The socialist and communist parties and their ideologies on the other hand, seemed to offer a natural and impelling field of action for the advancement of the cause of the Jewish people. In a world without religion, all men would be equal, or so it seemed. Thus was formed the natural and historic alliance between large parts of the Jewish people and socialist, communist and progressive causes. This alliance produced a splendid intellectual output and can point to many genuine achievements. However, the Marxist and Marxist-Leninist movements were products of European culture. The historical and social forces that made Jews outsiders in European medieval and capitalist society would make their position precarious in socialist movements and communist societies as well.

Much literature and philosophy of the 19th century, especially socialist and communist literature, was permeated with anti-Semitism. Proudhon and Fourier were notorious anti-Semites.   Karl Marx absorbed the worst of it. The theoretical treatment of Jews in Marx's writing seems to have changed over time, but the contempt and hatred for "Jews" and the Jews religion seem to be constant. In any case, the "Jewish Problem" or anti-Semitism, according to Marx, arises because of actions of the Jews. This hatred was due to the fact that the Jews formed an economic class that was hated for usury, he Jews insisted on separating themselves from society etc. Apparently, it never occurred to Marx to ask why the Jews did not work the land and own land, or own large industries.

Marxists often point out that some Zionists characterized Jews in the same way, as merchants and usurers. However, the Zionist characterization of the Jews described a condition which they believed was a result of anti-Semitic persecution rather than the cause of the persecution and justification for it. Marx is quite explicit that it is the religion and character of the Jew that is at fault. "Contempt for theory, art, history, and for man as an end in himself, which is contained in an abstract form in the Jewish religion " he wrote in A World Without Jews, and, "The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange." 

Marx, inspired by Moses Hess,  documented the supposed obnoxious characteristics  of Jews, with great flair in "A World Without Jews." and in his review of Bauer's On the Jewish Question, (Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher; Marx, February, 1844 ) Marx wrote:

The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange.

The Jew is perpetually created by civil society from its own entrails.

The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of of the merchant, of the man of money in general.

Contempt for theory, art, history, and for man as an end in himself, which is contained in an abstract form in the Jewish religion

We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time, an element which through historical development -- to which in this harmful respect the Jews have zealously contributed

In its perfected practice, Christian egoism of heavenly bliss is necessarily transformed into the corporal egoism of the Jew, heavenly need is turned into world need, subjectivism into self-interest

Christianity had only in semblance overcome real Judaism. It was too noble-minded, too spiritualistic to eliminate the crudity of practical need in any other way than by elevation to the skies.

Indeed, in North America, the practical domination of Judaism over the Christian world has achieved as its unambiguous and normal expression that the preaching of the Gospel itself and the Christian ministry have become articles of trade, and the bankrupt trader deals in the Gospel just as the Gospel preacher who has become rich goes in for business deals.

Only then could Judaism achieve universal dominance and make alienated man and alienated nature into alienable, vendible objects subjected to the slavery of egoistic need and to trading.

Selling [verausserung] is the practical aspect of alienation [Entausserung]. Just as man, as long as he is in the grip of religion, is able to objectify his essential nature only by turning it into something alien, something fantastic, so under the domination of egoistic need he can be active practically, and produce objects in practice, only by putting his products, and his activity, under the domination of an alien being, and bestowing the significance of an alien entity – money – on them.

In its perfected practice, Christian egoism of heavenly bliss is necessarily transformed into the corporal egoism of the Jew, heavenly need is turned into world need, subjectivism into self-interest. We explain the tenacity of the Jew not by his religion, but, on the contrary, by the human basis of his religion – practical need, egoism.

Since in civil society the real nature of the Jew has been universally realized and secularized, civil society could not convince the Jew of the unreality of his religious nature, which is indeed only the ideal aspect of practical need. Consequently, not only in the Pentateuch and the Talmud, but in present-day society we find the nature of the modern Jew, and not as an abstract nature but as one that is in the highest degree empirical, not merely as a narrowness of the Jew, but as the Jewish narrowness of society.

Once society has succeeded in abolishing the empirical essence of Judaism – huckstering and its preconditions – the Jew will have become impossible, because his consciousness no longer has an object, because the subjective basis of Judaism, practical need, has been humanized, and because the conflict between man’s individual-sensuous existence and his species-existence has been abolished.

The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism

In the Marxist view, the problem is not the attitude of the outside world, but rather in the essence of Judaism, which is according to Marx, "Huckstering and its preconditions" and which is is an intrinsic part of Judaism, found in the "Penateuch and the Talmud." We can recognize that all of the above are vulgar racism of the worst sort. It suited Marx, whose grandfather was a rabbi, to believe that his conversion and assimilation had eliminated these obnoxious traits from his own character. The communist revolution would magically solve the Jewish problem, just as it would magically solve everything else.

The left was certainly not the sole source of Jew-hate in Europe. Rather, hatred of the Jews colored every aspect of European culture. If there was an enlightenment movement, it had to be tinged with Jew-Hate, since the people who made it up, especially Voltaire, hated Jews. If there was a nationalist movement, it had to be anti-Semitic too. On the left, Marx was certainly not the sole source of anti-Semitism, nor the most virulent. In a foretaste of Nazi ideology, the leading French socialist, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, wrote in 1847:

This race poisons everything by meddling everywhere without ever joining itself to another people. Demand their expulsion from France, with the exception of individuals married to Frenchwomen. Abolish the synagogues; do not admit them to any kind of employment, pursue finally the abolition of this cult... The Jew is the enemy of the human race. One must send this race back to Asia or exterminate it... By fire or fusion or by expulsion, the Jew must disappear... What the peoples of the middle ages hated by instinct I hate upon reflection and irrevocably.

Mikhail Bakhunin, the anarchist, wrote:

When I insist on speaking frankly in expressing my ultimate opinion on the Jews, I know that I am thereby exposing myself to terrible danger. Many people share my viewpoint regarding the Jews, although very few are found to be willing to express that viewpoint in public, due to the fact that the Jewish sect constitutes a mighty force in Europe today. The Jewish sect reigns despotically in commerce, in banking, it has seized control of three-quarters of German journalism, and it has grabbed a huge portion of the journalistic trade in other countries as well. Woe, then, to that man who has the clumsiness to rub Jewry the wrong way! (Study of the German Jews, 1869)

The notion that it is necessary to placate the supposedly all-powerful Jews, and that those who criticize Jews or Israel are subject to terrible imaginary persecutions, permeates anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist propaganda, where it is always, paradoxically, embedded in the most demoniacal accusations against Jews or Zionists. Of course, Bakhunin did not heed his own advice, and was singularly unafraid to "rub Jewry the wrong way." Bakhunin criticized Marx because Marx was Jewish.

Jews were nonetheless attracted to the socialist program, which promised equality for all and liberation from the yoke of racism. The Jewish attraction to Socialism and Communism  is not surprising, since virtually all the social movements of the 19th century were affected by Jew-hatred and racism as part of their ideology, so there was no relative disadvantage to Jews in Socialist and Communist versions of anti-Semitism. In Russia certainly, there could be no liberation of the Jews as long as the Tsarist regime endured, and as long as the Orthodox Church preached against the Jews.

The Communists were the open enemies of Tsarism and religion, and therefore, the Jews saw in them their natural champions.  Racist aspects of socialist and communist ideology were minimized by Jews, and later by Soviet propaganda in some periods, or pathetic excuses were found for them. "Marx was being ironic in his criticism of Jews, and really transferring anti-Semitic stereotypes to Christians" was one type of pitiful rationale. The Jewish Bund (Algemeyner Yidisher Arbeiter Bund in Lite, Poylin und Russland - General Jewish workers union of Lithuania, Poland and Russia) , founded in 1897 in Vilna, was one Jewish adaptation to socialist ideology which sought, increasingly, to preserve Jewish culture and Jewish nationality in the context of socialism through speaking of Yiddish. The Bund was implacably opposed to Zionism, though paradoxically, they were attached to Jewish nationality, which they hoped to express in Yiddish culture.. Plekhanov remarked, not without some justice, that the Bund are "Zionists who are afraid of seasickness."

In a pamphlet written in 1905, "To the Jews," Lenin noted the sins of the Bund:

The organization of Jewish workers—the Bund—affiliated with the Party as an autonomous section. Unfortunately, from that moment the unity of the Jewish and non-Jewish Social-Democrats within the single party was destroyed. Nationalist ideas began to spread among the leading members of the Bund, ideas which are in sharp contradiction to the entire world view of Social-Democracy. Instead of trying to draw the Jewish and the non-Jewish workers closer together, the Bund embarked upon a policy of weaning the former away from the latter; at its congresses it claimed a separate existence for the Jews as a nation. Instead of carrying on the work begun by the First Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Party towards still closer unity between the Bund and the Party, the Bund moved a step away from the Party.

Actually, it was the Bolshevik faction who opposed integration of the Bund, and not the Bund that moved away from the party. In 1913 Lenin wrote in Critical Remarks on the National Question:

Whoever directly or indirectly puts forward the slogan of a Jewish "national culture" is (whatever his good intentions may be) an enemy of the proletariat, a supporter of the old and of the caste position of the Jews, an accomplice of the rabbis and the bourgeoisie.

Since other nationalities or groups were not singled out for this distinction, we can trace the development of ideological anti-Zionism from Marxist anti-Semitism. It was not only Jewish nationalism that was to be eradicated as reactionary, but "Jewish national culture."

Not surprisingly therefore, while the Bund supported both the Social Democratic and eventually the Bolshevik revolutions, they were soon dissolved in Russia when the Bolsheviks came to power. The Bolsheviks also suppressed the teaching of Hebrew, closed down the Zionist parties and arrested thousands of their members in 1919 and 1920, including members of the Poalei Tziyon movement, which had fought for the Bolshevik revolution as an organization.

To rival the Bund and the Zionists, the Soviets created the Yevsektsia, (Yevreyskaya sektsiya - Hebrew section) of the Bolshevik party, led for most of its existence by Semion Dimanstein. Eventually, the Soviets created the Birobidjjan autonomous oblast in a desolate part of Eastern Russia as a rival "Jewish Homeland" and promoted a Russified form of Yiddish which had carefully eliminated all traces of Hebrew. With the establishment of Birobidjan, the Yevsektsia was dissolved. Few Jews could be induced to come to Birobidjan however. Following the 1937 purges,  Yiddish publications were banned for a time. Dimanstein was purged and the Birobidjan project was more or less abandoned. Soviet anti-Semitism was suppressed for a time during World War II,  and a Jewish Anti-Fascist committee was promoted instead, led by the prominent editor Solomon Mikhoels, the poet Itzik Feffer and others. These were sent to the USA during World War II to organize support for the USSR. 

Ideological Bases of Jewish Marxist anti-Zionism

While the writings of Jewish ideologues inside the USSR can be dismissed as command propaganda, the Jewish anti-Zionist Marxist approach to Zionism of Trotskyites outside the USSR represents an honest if mistaken intellectual attempt. Abraham Leon, a renegade Zionist, founded a Trotskyite movement in Belgium during World War II. His approach to "scientific history" exemplifies many features of modern anti-Zionist ideology. Notwithstanding the fact that none of his predictions came true, and that he himself was murdered by the Nazis during the war, he is still revered as an ideological paragon by Trotskyites, who marvel at the correctness of his analysis.

In 1947, Ernest Mandel and Ernest Germain wrote of Leon:

The explanation for the religion of the Jews and for their preservation must be sought in the social role they played. Gathering together the mass of existing documentation he elaborated the theory of the “people-class,” astonishing in its simplicity, and providing the indispensable key for understanding the past and present role of the Jews and for finding a solution to their misery.

Borochovism erred, however, not alone in its point of departure but even more so in its conclusions. It approached the “solution” of the Jewish problem not only outside the past historical process but also outside the existing social reality. In the epoch of imperialism and of capitalism in its death agony, the “will” of a few million Jewish workers to “create a society like the rest” appeared as a pathetically weak force amid the imperialist giants fighting over every unoccupied nock and cranny on the globe, amid the violent collisions of classes on the world arena. Borochov had no comprehension whatever of the law of uneven and combined development in the imperialist era, whose operation prevents every nation without exception from solving any of its problems under the capitalist regime in its death throes. The tragic peculiarities of Jewish society could not be eliminated by seeking to isolate it from decaying society as whole. The “inverted pyramid” of the Jews could not possibly be “reversed” while the “normal” pyramid of other peoples was itself in the process of crumbling apart. The world proletarian revolution is alone capable of normalizing Jewish history. Within the framework of decaying capitalism no solution is possible.

This was the manner in which Leon completely settled all the accounts with his own past. He not only exposed the petty-bourgeois Utopian character of the Zionist ideal, but also showed how this ideal, like the rest of the petty bourgeoisie’s “own” ideology is bound to become in the imperialist epoch an instrument in the hands of world capitalism. He denounced Zionism as a brake upon the revolutionary activity of the Jewish workers throughout the world, as a brake upon the liberation of Palestine from the yoke of English imperialism, as an obstacle to the complete unity of Jewish and Arab workers in Palestine.

(Ernest Mandel  Ernest Germain, A. Leon October 22, 1918-September, 1944 (June 1947),  Fourth International, Vol.8 No.6, June 1947, pp.172-176 )

 In 1947, it was still possible to believe the above. Somehow, dogmatic socialists have not noticed that in fact since then, it was in fact the Zionists who chased the British out of Palestine, and the "death agony" of capitalism was preceded by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Leon himself explained why Zionism was both impossible and wrong. He begins with a fictionalized account of Zionism, confusing Jewish national feeling, which existed throughout the time of the Diaspora, with the political expression thereof and  then wrote::

Zionism is thus a very young movement; it is the youngest of the European national movements. That does not prevent it from pretending, even more than all other nationalism, that it draws its substance from a far distant past. Whereas Zionism is in fact the product of the last phase of capitalism, of capitalism beginning to decay, it pretends to draw its origin from a past more than two thousand years old. Whereas Zionism is essentially a reaction against the situation created for Judaism by the combination of the destruction of feudalism and the decay of capitalism, it affirms that it constitutes a reaction against the state of things existing since the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70 of the Christian era. Its recent birth is naturally the best reply to these pretensions.

If Jewish nationalism was really born only in the 1880s, there could be no explanation for the strenuous protests of early Reform Judaism that the Jews are not a nation, as they would have had nothing to protest against, nor for the repeated attempts of Jews to settle in Palestine at different times. A Jewish project of returning as a nation to Palestine was a hopeless project in the conditions that existed before the 19th century, when any Jewish political movement of any kind, and certainly an international political movement, would have been stamped out with alacrity, and many failed attempts proved that it was so.

Leon made the most prescient prediction that the goal of Zionism was impossible:

Even admitting that Anglo-American imperialism will create some kind of abortive Jewish state, we have seen that the situation of world Judaism will hardly be affected. A Great Jewish immigration into Palestine after this war will confront the same difficulties as previously. Under conditions of capitalist decay, it is impossible to transplant millions of Jews. Only a world-wide socialist planned economy would be capable of such a miracle. Naturally, this presupposes the proletarian revolution.

(translated from Ediciones Pioneras, Mexico, D. F., 1950)

The utter failure of Leon to predict either the overthrow of the British by the Zionists nor the success of Israel without any proletarian revolution would, in a normal scientific discussion, put an end to the validity of his ideas. But "Scientific Socialism" as practiced by such people has no relation to actual science, and its validity is not judged against reality.

Soviet Anti-Semitism and Stalinist Anti-Zionism

After World War II, Soviet policy reverted to type. The Jewish Anti-Fascist committee had emphasized that Hitler singled out Jews for persecution. This was contrary to Soviet policy, which tried to claim that the Nazis killed "Soviet Citizens" without regard to nationality. This idea is echoed in the "Holocaust Industry" industry of contemporary anti-Zionist polemicists. Some of the JAC members supported Israel, which was briefly supported by the USSR as well. In 1948, members of the JAC were arrested and tried. Mikhoels was murdered in an automobile "accident." A new Soviet euphemism for "Jew" was invented, since it was no longer politically correct to persecute "Jews," and it was not yet politically correct to persecute Zionists. Therefore, the Jews were called "Cosmopolitan" and being "cosmopolitan" became a crime. Itzik Feffer was produced briefly for the American radical idealist singer, Paul Robeson, who could see that Feffer had suffered torture and that  fingernails had been pulled out. Robeson worked tenaciously and courageously, but to no avail to obtain Feffer's release, but he refused to criticize the USSR in public.  Subsequently Feffer and others vanished into Lubyanka prison and were never heard from again. In 1952, at a secret trial, the members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee were accused of conspiring to separate the Crimea from the Soviet Union, to convert it into a Jewish "bourgeois republic" that would be a military base for enemies of the Soviet Union (presumably Israel and the USA). Twenty-six Jewish writers, including many good Stalinists, were executed on August 12, 1952.

Also in 1952, under the direction of Moscow, fourteen leading party members of the Czechoslovak Communist Party were tried in Prague for conspiracy against the state. Of these, eleven were Jews, including party secretary-general, Rudolph Slansky.  The Jewishness of the defendants was repeatedly stressed, and their alleged crimes were attributed to it. They were accused of being "Zionists," despite a lifelong record of anti-Zionism.  The Israel embassy in Prague was depicted as a center of espionage and anti-Czechoslovak subversion. Eight of the accused were executed and  three others condemned to life imprisonment. Hundreds of Czechoslovak Jews were imprisoned or sent to forced labor camps. The Slansky trial was the precursor of the more vicious phase of Soviet anti-Zionism. It surprised many Soviet sympathizers among the Zionist left for some reason. It should not have surprised anyone, since it was consistent both with Stalinist policy, with Leninist proclamations and policy and with the historical foundations of Marxism, as well as being well grounded in Russian cultural Jew-hatred.

On January 13, 1953, the fantastic saga of the "doctors plot" began to unfold. Twelve doctors, nine of them Jews, were arrested in Moscow and charged with plotting to poison the Soviet leadership. Stalin was preparing to use the "Doctors Plot" as an excuse to expel over two million Jews to Siberia, but he died in March of 1953.

By the time Stalin died, virtually nothing was left of the vast Jewish communist social and intellectual movement in Russia. This movement had supported socialism and Marxism with the greatest sacrifices and zeal, fighting in the underground, fighting in the Red Army and in partisan units, organizing and leading party cells and producing impressive intellectual works. Its leaders were dead, expelled, imprisoned or discredited.

Most incredibly, despite all the explicit evidence of merciless persecution of Jews and suppression of Jewish national life, both the Communist movement and the USSR itself retained a loyal Jewish following around the world, even in Israel, and even among Zionists. This illogical devotion can be understood as arising from:

Soviet anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism were excused as "Stalinist excesses" or "aberrations," denied or simply avoided in discussion.

The fate of Bundists was not happier. Those who survived in Poland and the Ukraine militated against Zionist calls to flee Europe before the Nazi onslaught, and were eventually, for the most part, murdered by the Nazis.

The anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist foundations of the Marxist and Socialist movements provided both the ideological basis and the audience for the renewed anti-Zionist campaigns of the USSR following World War II and the "Zionism is Racism" movement.

Ami Isseroff

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