Tuesday, 10 May 2016


Use this area to offer a short teaser of your email's content. Text here will show in the preview area of some email clients.

Is the Left antisemitic? Tricky. Easier to say that the Left’s greatest icon and superhero, Karl Marx, certainly was.

In 1843 Marx, then a radical young journalist, wrote a short tract, The Jewish Question. Only 39 pages of my Penguin edition. A virulent critique of the Jews, their character, their religion and the role they played in the economy. Actually, Marx was himself of Jewish origins. A glaring example of a self-hating Jew, as they say in Israel?

Marx writes – I quote at random: ‘Money is the jealous god of Israel before whom no other god can stand…the chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general…What was the essential basis of the Jewish religion? Practical need, egoism…the god of the Jews has been secularised and become the god of the world. Exchange is the true god of the Jew…What is the secular cult of the Jew? Haggling. What is his secular god? Money…we recognise in the Jew the presence of a universal and contemporary anti-social element…the social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism’.

Of course, Marx was no vulgar, horrible Jew-baiter like Edouard Drumont or Julius Streicher but his remarks are classic antisemitic tropes. Were he alive today and wrote like that, the founding father of communism would be arrested, prosecuted and convicted of hate crime, methinks!

Still, context is key. Many of Marx’s writings were ferocious counterblasts to someone else’s works. Likewise, The Jewish Question was a commentary and critique of a pamphlet by the Left Hegelian thinker Bruno Bauer. Back then Jews in Germany were struggling for emancipation. They demanded religious freedom, just as Christians enjoyed. Bauer, himself a progressive republican and radical, thought that a mistake. Why should German Jews agitate to be equal to German Christians when the latter were in fact unfree? Servants or slaves of the authoritarian German Christian state? So Bauer claimed that progressive Germans should not help the Jews to be emancipated, because the Jews, in their sectarian religious belief to be ‘the chosen people’, refused to participate in the wider struggle for a totally secular, religion-free state.

Marx’s reply to that is formulated in suitably ponderous, stodgy Teutonic accents but the gist is clear enough. Bauer missed the point. Religious, moral, philosophical, artistic, legal, commercial and political ideas all belong to the superstructure of a society. They are mere bubbles on the surface. What matters is that they are expressions of the deep structure, the economic basis of a community, its modes of production, i.e. capitalism. True liberation, the suppression of all religious forms that estrange man from his real essence will only be attained when the economic basis is changed. Hence religious and political emancipations are not enough. Religious illusions and their organisation in churches, synagogues, mosque and temples will fade away when communism will replace the capitalist economic system and so also abolish the inner alienation and guilt entailed by the rule of money.

Many Jews later embraced Marxism. Naturally, they were not intending to incite violence or racism towards fellow Jews but, insofar as they shared Marx’s views, they were also working for the eventual extinction of their people as such. Were they then self-haters? Masochists? Difficult to say. Besides, as a Jewish former correspondent of mine once responded to such accusations: ‘Self-hating? You ought to listen to my girlfriends. They say I am in love with myself!’

Almost two centuries later, the communist solution advocated by Marx has been tried and found wanting. The old Soviet Union had a go but religion did not evaporate. Instead, bolshevism did. Christianity is now resurgent in Russia. Jews have their own state, where the influence of more orthodox religionists is growing. The Islamic faith is universally so strong, vibrant and militant that the secular rulers of the West spend sleepless nights about it. If Christianity is declining anywhere it is chiefly in Europe where the economy is essentially capitalistic. Marx’s analysis was flawed, to say the least.

The antisemitism scandal that rocked the Labour Party was sparked off by two persons. Naz Shah, MP, and veteran leftie Ken Livingstone, former London mayor. Shah was suspended after posting an image on FB deemed offensive. As to Ken, his calling Hitler a Zionist was stupid and untrue. A Greek saying has it that ‘the gods first drive mad those whom they wish to destroy’. Maybe a mischievous pagan deity prompted Ken to speak foolishly as he did. But do two remarks amount to a rampant, pervasive antisemitism of the whole Left? Discuss.

The roots of antisemitism are obscure. The medieval Church was said to be behind it – the old accusation of ‘deicide’ or Christ-killing supposedly being the origin. But, as George Orwell pointed out, modern people no longer ‘care enough for doctrinal questions to want to persecute another people merely because they are not Christians’. Also, the persecution of the Jews predates Christianity – among the Romans, for example. And why should the Jews especially have been singled out, why were they the scapegoats and not other minority groups, Orwell asked? The economy? Pace Marx, antisemitism existed even among prosperous people who suffered no financial disabilities. Or do Israeli PM Netanyahu’s policies towards the Palestinians today perhaps play a decisive part?

Any ideas?

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


** follow on Twitter (Twitter Account not yet Authorized)
| ** friend on Facebook (#)
| ** forward to a friend (http://us7.forward-to-friend.com/forward?u=3ae40cde0c299583529f1448a&id=fb46285bd4&e=5707b9e8db)

Copyright © Fr Frank Gelli
Email Marketing Powered by MailChimp
** unsubscribe from this list (http://simplesite.us7.list-manage.com/unsubscribe?u=3ae40cde0c299583529f1448a&id=f9573901af&e=5707b9e8db&c=fb46285bd4)
| ** update subscription preferences (http://simplesite.us7.list-manage.com/profile?u=3ae40cde0c299583529f1448a&id=f9573901af&e=5707b9e8db)

No comments: