Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Marx and Anti-Semitism.

A lively debate about whether or not Karl Marx was an Anti-Semite has begun over at the weblog Debate, Relate, & Pontificate. I have been asked to share my views by the moderator of that website.

I would like to start with what I find to be the most striking error in the post. The claim that Karl Marx actually wrote a book called A World Without Jews.

Sam writes "it was a product of finding a 1959 edition of Marx's book, A World Without Jews in which the dialogue between Marx and Bruno Bauer is found without edit due to the original German publication being from the historically antisemitic State Publishing House in Moscow."

According to Hal Draper "the reader is not told that the title is Rune's invention; [and] there are other distortions in the text." The publishing house that "put together" the book did so with the intention to smear Marx and was not simply the discovery of an uncensored conversation between Bauer and Marx.

Therefore; I would suggest that Sam's contention that Dagobert D. Runes "in his introduction...offers a mostly fair... analysis of the anthology of Marx's antisemitism" to be untenable.

A second line of reasoning emanating from Sam's argument can only be described by me as baffling.

"I was unaware of his [Marx's]deeply anti-Semitic ideology that speculatively must have contributed to the thought manifest in Hitler's Mein Kampf."

I believe it is the philosopher Heidegger that is most commonly associated and impugned by the scourge of Nazism. My good friend over at Auntie Vulgar disposes of a speculative line of reasoning linking Marx to Hitler in a comment to Sam's post and it deserves full citation.

"Finally, Samrocha's specious and factually unsupported linkage of Marx's five quotes to 'Mein Kampf' needs to be addressed. While those works quoted from are readily available today, they were actually rather obscure newspaper pieces and/or unpublished or out of print works of the 'young Marx' until relatively recent.

These works did not resurface until rediscovered by the Russian Soviet intellectuals some time later (and then repressed by Stalin due to an emancipatory philosophy that did not sit well with the totalitarian state socialist model). It is doubtful the Nazi ideologues would have had ready access to the material, and moreover, National Socialism (a variant of Fascism) was virulently opposed to anything remotely 'Marxist'.

The fact that German National Socialism banned anything remotely Marxist (in addition to sending their Marxists of the time fleeing into exile lest they wind up in concentration camps) should be enough to refute Samrocha's causal link."

Sam Rocha offers us a third and equally discordant argument when he asserts that "the most tragic in this discovery is that the man who seemed to have such a passion for dignity and fair treatment of all humanity was a bigoted anti-Semite."

I find it difficult to settle the obvious antinomy that Samrocha suggest that Marx could have had a desire for the fair treatment of all, but was an Anti-Semite to boot.

Part of the problem is found in the Space and Time that was Europe in the 19th Century for sure. And part of it has to do with looking back on Marx in quotes from letters in his personal life.

It is well known that Marx had a temper and a tendency to lash out in colorful prose and hysterical fits. And Samrocha is correct in pointing out that to our modern ears there appears to be a disturbing and racist tone to some of Marx's words.

Some of this tone can be attributed to the mocking and sarcastic tone Marx took with his enemies and intellectual combatants. He took a literal and quite visceral pleasure in mocking and confusing his enemies.

It would be tedious and beyond the scope of this post to present definitive exploration of each of the quotations that Samrocha offers in his blog entry.

I hope that perhaps someone will attempt it. But I think an Anti-Semite spirit is clearly not found in any major work of Marx's. Nor could I find a reason to accuse Marx of holding a racist spirit.