Friday, November 10, 2006

More on Marx and his alleged Anti-Semitism

I was asked by a reader "what other arguments do people have that Karl Marx was anti-Semitic?"

When I Google 'Marx' and 'anti-Semitism' the first page I get is James B. Wisker's slanderous post on the 'book' A World Without Jews.

Ostensibly written by Marx, the book was compiled by Dagobert Runes who edited together a series of remarks by Marx from different sources. Runes furthered his deception by giving the book its fictitious title.

Much of the focus of Marx's alleged anit-Semitism is concentrated on Marx's essay On the Jewish Question. The essay in question is in fact a defense of Jewish Political Rights, not proof of Marx's bias towards Jews.
But general ignorance of the style, content and true target of the essay allow for an easy effort by duplicitious scholars to repackage the powerful defense of Jewish rights as a ruthlessly anti-Semitic piece of propaganda.
Hal Draper concludes, "few discussions of the essay explain clearly its political purpose and content in connection with the Jewish emancipation question, or even accurately present the views of its target, Bauer." [1]

The second page Google directs us to ;however, is a powerful champion of Marx's essay as a defense of Jewish rights. The article by Robert Fine appears in the journal Engage. Engage is a resource which "challenges contemporary Anti-Semitism."

In the article Mr. Fine comes out swinging against any pretension that Marx was an Anti-Semite.

"Let us explode the myth that Karl Marx was in some sense anti-Semitic in his critique of capitalism."

Robert Fine's case is echoed by my statement that much of the misunderstanding of Marx stems from what he calls the "deafness to the uses of the ironic style in Marx’s writings."

Mr. Fine explains that behind Marx's article regarding the 'Jewish Question' was a plan "to develop a radical critique of all existing conditions which distinguished itself from other forms of radicalism by its complete and explicit rejection of any anti-Semitic coloration."

Taking advantage of the ignorance and general hostility towards Communists, opponents of Marx advanced numerous fabrications against his essay On the Jewish Question.

For a fuller understanding of the background of the Western anti-Semitism entailed here see Hal Draper's account in Marx and the Economic-Jew Stereotype.

The first of the many fabrications against the essay implies that it is in fact an attack on Jewish People, when the actual "target" was another member of the "Young Hegelians" Bruno Bauer.

In contrast to Bruno Bauer's stereotypical portrayal of Jews in 'How can Jews obtain Civil Rights until Germans themselves obtain Civil Rights?' Marx advocated giving full citizenship to Jews.

While Bauer relied on historical and pejorative stereotypes of the Jew as "hucksters" and "moneymen " to deny Jews full rights, Marx demolished such claims by advancing the notion that in the age of Capitalism ‘money has become a world power and the practical spirit of the Jews has become the practical spirit of the Christian peoples.’

In other words, there was no difference between the typical and idealized merchants of capital and the condescending stereotype of the Jew that Bruno offered.

Furthermore; in the most offending of passages of On the Jewish Question, Marx is actually engaged in a viciously ironic attack of the stereotypes he uses. Marx is accepting those prejudices only to criticize them on their own terms.

Marx suggests that even if Bauer "blames the Jew for the ‘Judaism’ of civil society, that is, for the fact that self-interest and money are the principles of civil society," the same could equally be said of Christians and Germans.

Therefore, Marx insists, we can not simply deny Jews political citizenship and give them citizenship only if they converted, because political emancipation for the Jews requires the "the emancipation of the state from all religion – i.e. the abolition of all religious qualifications for participation in public life – even if the overwhelming majority of Jews remain strictly Jewish."

If Marx was an anti-Semite, his anti-Semitism was a strange one, since it involved advocating political emancipation for Jews and full civil rights for the Jewish people.