Now we can all see the left’s problem very clearly

Antisemitism is an essential part of the left’s DNA and goes right back to its origins


LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: People take part in a demonstration in support of Palestine on October 14, 2023 in London, United Kingdom. Groups supporting Palestine protest at Israel's retaliation to Hamas attacks across the UK this weekend despite the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, suggesting that waving Palestinian flags and using popular pro-Palestine slogans could be illegal under the Public Order Act in a letter she sent to police chiefs in England and Wales on Tuesday. (Footage by Carl Court/Getty Images)

November 16, 2023 11:12

The Left-wing hatred of Jews that we have witnessed on the streets of major cities across Europe since the October 7 massacre did not begin with the Six-Day War in 1967 and its modern guise of anti-Zionism. Antisemitism is an essential part of the left’s DNA and goes right back to its origins.

For centuries antisemitism had been religious. Not only had the Jews crucified Jesus Christ but the Catholic Church condemned lending money for interest as a sin. This meant that many Jews filled the vacuum, thus causing anger and envy.

The 18th-century Enlightenment, the humus from which the modern left grew, added a new secular layer to antisemitism.

Many key Enlightenment figures, who in the name of reason did their best to discredit Christianity, were also virulently antisemitic. Voltaire, for example, in his Philosophical Dictionary, despised the Jews for “their stubbornness, their new superstitions, and their hallowed usury”.

But it was with Karl Marx, the founding father of the modern left, that left-wing Jew hatred really took off. He saw the Jews as the quintessential class enemy — the archetypal capitalist. Indeed, he believed that the Jewish attitude to money had caused capitalism by infecting the people of the countries where they lived with its virus.

In an 1844 essay “The Jewish Question” when he was 26 he wrote: “Let us consider the actual, worldly Jew — not the Sabbath Jew [his italics] … but the everyday Jew. Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew. What is the secular basis of Judaism?

"Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money. […] Money is the jealous god of Israel, beside which no other god may exist. […] The god of the Jews has been secularised and has become the god of this world. The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jews.”

This was far from a one-off aberration on the part of Marx. In the article “The Russian Loan” published in the New York Daily Tribune in 1856 he wrote: “Thus we find every tyrant backed by a Jew […] This Jew organisation of loan-mongers is as dangerous to the people as the aristocratic organisation of landowners.”

What he despised, along with many others on the revolutionary left, was what he called the “Jewish spirit” which was a concept that encompassed both the Jewish race and religion.

In later life his antisemitism was less overt in his writings but still present. It is clear that in his defining work, Das Kapital, his caricature of the capitalist class enemy remains the Jew.

In a footnote to chapter 24, for example, he quotes a diatribe against usurers by Martin Luther.

But his readers would have been in no doubt that he meant Jews: “Taking the usurer, that old-fashioned but ever renewed specimen of the capitalist for his text, Luther shows very aptly that the love of power is an element in the desire to get rich. […] ‘Therefore is there, on this Earth, no greater enemy of man (after the devil) than a gripe-money, and usurer, for he wants to be God over all men.”

Marx was far from alone. Hatred of the Jews was an integral part of the new secular religion, Socialism, of which he would become prophet in chief.

The utopian socialist Pierre Leroux, who coined the word “Socialism” in 1832, believed that just as the Jews had crucified Jesus, they had crucified Christianity with capitalism. He told comrades: “When we speak of the Jews, we mean the Jewish spirit — the spirit of profit, of lucre, of gain, of speculation; in a word, the banker’s spirit.”

In 1847, Pierre-Joseph “property is theft” Proudhon wrote an article calling for the expulsion of the Jews from France. “The Jew is the enemy of the human race. This race must be sent back to Asia, or exterminated.”

In 1871, not to be outdone, Mikhail Bakunin, who split from the Marxists to found the Anarchists, wrote: “Now, this entire Jewish world, which forms a single profiteering sect, a people of bloodsuckers, a single gluttonous parasite, closely and intimately united not only across national borders but across all differences of political opinion.”

When Jewish French army captain Alfred Dreyfus was falsely convicted of treason in 1894 and jailed for life in the penal colony on Devil’s Island it caused a scandal that threatened to destroy the Third Republic. The French Socialist Party — though it would later belatedly reverse its view — refused to support the campaign to free Dreyfus.

And in 1896, its MPs published a manifesto in a socialist newspaper urging workers not to take sides in what they claimed was a ruling class civil war, especially as many Dreyfusards were Jewish capitalists.

In Britain, an 1891 editorial in Labour Leader, the newspaper of the Independent Labour Party (George Orwell was later a member), proclaimed: “Wherever there is trouble in Europe… you may be sure that a hooked-nosed Rothschild is at his games somewhere near the region of the disturbances.”

Hitler always regarded himself as a socialist, though he believed that not just capitalism but also communism was a Jewish conspiracy. In August 1920, he told a Nazi party meeting: “If we are socialists, then we must definitely be antisemites. How, as a socialist, can you not be antisemitic?”

And yet here is Ruth Fischer, a leader of the German Communist party, writing a few years later: “Whoever fights against Jewish capital … is already a class-fighter, even if he does not know it … Strike down the Jewish capitalists, hang them from the lamp posts!”

In fact, the short-lived alliance from 1939-1941 between Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Russia — an alliance between National Socialism and international socialism — was a much more rational alliance from an ideological point of view than the subsequent alliance of capitalist America and Britain with communist Russia.

True, many early leaders of the Russian Revolution were Jews (Trotsky for example), but they were secularised Jews.

Like Lenin, they believed that “antisemitism is the socialism of fools”. They might not have regarded the Jews as involved in a world conspiracy, but they did deny that the Jews had any cultural identity at all. The notion of Jewishness would simply disappear, they believed, after the revolution.

From 1937, though, Stalin resumed the persecution of the Jews which had characterised 19th-century Russia. But he regarded them as only one of many class enemies and so for him they were not the obsession they were for Hitler.

The show trial in the early 1950s, known as “The Doctors’ Plot”, in which a group of prominent doctors, many of them Jewish, were accused of conspiring to kill Soviet leaders, is seen as a clear sign that when Stalin died in 1953 he was about to launch a major assault on Soviet Jewry to add to the millions of people he had already slaughtered.

The origins of Marxism in antisemitism can never be erased whatever mask Marxism wears.

They are summed up in an epigram written in the mid 19th century by the poet Heinrich Heine, who was a Jewish convert to Lutheranism, utopian socialist and, for a while, a close friend of Marx: “Money is the God of our time and Rothschild is his prophet.”

Nicholas Farrell is a journalist and author who lives in Italy. His books include Mussolini – A New Life (Weidenfeld&Nicolson/ Phoenix/Orion).

November 16, 2023 11:12

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