Anarchists and punks (or ‘anarcho-punks’) frequently argued, and still do, that the far left was more or less the same as the far right in so many respects that the differences didn’t count for much. Or, perhaps more correctly, that far leftists were the same as far right(ists). Most other people outside the extremes realise this too. Of course the far left stresses its differences from the far right. But one will find that those differences are not the differences which really matter to most people who are against both the far left and the far right. Similarly, Trotskyists have for years been stressing their differences from ‘Stalinists’ and traditional communists. Again, one will find that these are differences which don’t matter to most people. For example, the obsession with Stalin’s ‘communism in one country’ thesis rather than ‘international revolution’ is a difference that amounts to very little if the Trotskyist similarities with Stalinism remain. Those similarities with both Stalinists and the far right are many. They include:
i) The centralisation of political and party power.
ii) The use and rationalisation of violence.
iii) The treatment of certain texts and leaders as gospel.
iv) The seeing of the world in black and white terms – ‘us versus them’.
v) The demonisation of everyone who is not in the in-group or party.
vi) The quasi-religious nature of far-left or far-right tenets, works, organisation, history, ritual, etc.
vii) That the ends justifies the means (e.g., lies, deception, using other groups, violence - anything to further the revolution or 'the Nation')
One similarity between the far left and the far right which stands out is almost an identity – their anti-Semitism. The far left calls its position ‘anti-Zionism’. We shall get to that later. It is interesting to note that the far left compares the Israelis to the Nazis and the Israeli state to the Nazi state. Those on the far right compare the Israelis to Stalinists and even Stalin himself. This parallels the case with anti-Semitism in the 1920s and 1930s. The far left said that the Jews were behind a ‘financial conspiracy to control the world’. The far right, the Nazis, said they were behind the Bolshevik revolution and god knows what else. Of course the Jews could have been behind all of these things – but not if some (or all) of them are mutually contradictory! Why would Jews want both a ‘capitalist world-system’ which they could control plus a Bolshevik revolution which would spread throughout the world and destroy that very system? Having said that, one can bet that there are plenty of anti-Semites who will quite happily explain away this contradiction. Then again, anti-Semites can rationalise even their most ridiculous anti-Semitic beliefs. Actually, they often do precisely that. When it comes to gut racism (with the far right), or deceit in politics (‘the ends justify the means’) in the case of the far left, anything quite literally goes.
Another interesting connection between far-right and far-left anti-Semitism is their sources. Many anti-Semites on the far left, at least until recently, relied on Jewish and Stalinist ‘zionology’ for their sources about the Jews and their behaviour. More precisely, Stalin instructed former Jews to study the Torah and the Talmud (or re-study them) to come up with anything negative about Jews and Judaism. And guess what. The Nazis did the same thing. That is, they too relied on Jewish ‘zionology’. One can now wonder whether Chomsky or even Marx’s diatribes against the Jews could be classed as ‘zionology’.
Many outsiders have wondered why ‘anti-Zionism’ was and is so strong in the far left. There are many reasons for this.
Who is the father of 20th century far leftism? Who is the father of Marxism? Well, Marx of course. So perhaps it should not come as a surprise that Marx was anti-Semitic. It can be argued that just about everyone was anti-Semitic in the 19th century. But hang on, wasn’t Marx meant to be special (at least to the far left)? Didn’t he discover the ‘laws of society’ and many other pseudo-scientific things? If he had discovered the ‘real nature’ of capitalist society (the ‘substructure’), then why did he still come out with gross racist generalisations about Jews?
Let’s not forget that Marx’s racist comments were written at least 30 or 40 years before the rise of Zionism. More than a hundred years before the creation of Israel. And more then a 140 years before the problems in the West Bank and Gaza. In any case, it wasn't the case that every intellectual was anti-Semitic in Marx’s day. Take Nietzsche, admittedly a couple of decades later. He found anti-Semitism fatuous and pathetic and classed himself as a ‘anti-anti-Semite’. Even during Marx’s time there were many who were not anti-Semitic.
So what did Marx have to say about the Jews? Quite a lot. Marx wrote that Judaism squared very well with ‘the chimerical nature of the Jews’. He also asked us a few questions:
‘What is the profane basis of Judaism?
Practical need, self-interest.
What is the world cult of the Jew?
What is his worldly god?
Here is everything you could ever want from an anti-Semite. However, Marx was, well, a Marxist. So despite what I said earlier about his lack of a materialist viewpoint on the Jews, and his succumbing to the ancient prejudices which he was otherwise supposed to be against, he did offer us a kind of materialist analysis of the ‘Jewish problem’. He wrote:
‘It is from its own entrails that civil society engenders the Jew. The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism.’
The far leftist will now say that this analysis is not racist in nature. It is socio-economic. That is, it is ‘civil society’ which was/is ‘engendering the Jew’, not blood. Why would civil society engender a beast which just happened to belong to a single ethnic group or religion? Why did society’s ‘material conditions’ conspire together to make Jews and Judaism the Satanic core of ‘commodity capitalism’? Bringing on board technical terms like ‘civil society’ and ‘emancipation’ doesn’t seem to exonerate Marx from racism. Marx’s anti-Semitism just seems to be yet another kind of anti-Semitism from a long list:
i) Marxist anti-Semitism
ii) Nazi anti-Semitism
iii) Christian anti-Semitism
iv) Trotskyite anti-Semitism – ‘anti-Zionism’
v) Islamic anti-Semitism
What, precisely, did Marx mean by the ‘emancipation’ of ‘civil society’ from ‘Judaism’? Was this Marx’s own ‘final solution’ to the ‘Jewish Problem’? Is this what the anti-Semite Stalin himself fixed upon in Marx’s work in his later years?
Marx offers us more of his pseudo-materialist analysis of the Jewish Problem:
‘The contradiction which exists between the effective political power of the Jews and his political rights, is the contradiction between politics and the power of money in general. Politics is in principle superior to the power of money, but in practice it has become its bondsman.’
Again we can ask why money-based ‘political right’ fell squarely into the hands of the Jews and no other ethnic or religious group? Indeed was it even correct in Marx’s time that all Jews were connected to money? Obviously not. We can all think of many Jewish exceptions to Marx’s generalisations. But that doesn’t matter to Marxists because they often qualify their arguments or ‘laws’ with what they call ‘auxiliary hypotheses’. (Actually, anti-Semites too often qualify their anti-Semitic arguments with embellishments and other watering-downs of their initial statements.)
Marx also fell for the classic conspiracy theory about the incredible and superhuman Jews taking over the world (see Chomsky's identical argument later). Actually, there are probably more conspiracy theories about the Jews as there are actual Jews. Marx believed that the Jews would
‘attain universal domination and could turn alienated man and alienated nature into alienable, saleable objects, in thrall to egoistic need and huckstering.’
Despite all the jargon, all Marx’s anti-Semitic clichés are covered with a veneer of materialist analysis. This veneer soon fades away when you take away the technical terms. Then one can see that Marx is saying anti-Semitic things that have been said many, many times before.
Again, the far leftist may well say that this is not racism because it is ‘society’ which makes the Jew bad, not his blood. But, again, why the Jew? Why the Jewish religion? Why didn’t society make the Lutherans or the Slavs evil? (Actually, Marx had a racist position on the Slavs as well!) If Jews aren’t essentially evil, as in a Marxist position (one assumes), why didn’t the Jews change their money-loving habits over the last thousand or more years? Or, to agree with the historical and socio-economic position, perhaps the Jews were pushed, as it were, into the financial areas of society. This was in fact what happened. But from the vitriolic language of Marx one could easily forget that he was a socio-economic determinist. Why, then, is there a seemingly real outrage against the otherwise ‘free souls’ of the Jews?
Thus Marx, in his anti-Semitism, was actually contradicting a lot of the other (materialist/dialectical) things he was supposed to have believed in.
Why was Marx, a Jew, so anti-Semitic? Well, he was not the first Jew, and he certainly wasn’t the last, to be blatantly anti-Semitic. In the 19th century it was rife. Now one can say that it became rife again in the late 20th century – especially with the Jews of the far left. But take the case of Wittgenstein (who was Jewish but not left wing).
He too, at least in his letters and when talking to certain friends, was a Jewish anti-Semite. He was also from a family of Christian converts. Indeed one of his Jewish ancestors (in the 19th century) maintained a reputation for fierce anti-Semitism (when he was based in Vienna). Ludwig Wittgenstein himself said that (all) Jews are ‘secretive’ and that they have been a ‘tumour’ within European history. Not only that, but considering that Wittgenstein was a philosopher it is ironic that he also said that Jews are ‘uncreative’ and that ‘the greatest Jewish thinker is only a talent’ (presumably not a genius like himself).
We can say that Wittgenstein, like so many Jews (or those of Jewish ancestry) felt a strong need to disguise his origins and prove he was not Jewish or sympathetic to the Jews or Judaism. Stephen J. Greenblatt says more or less the same about Marx. He points out Marx’s
‘sharp, even hysterical, denial of his religious background and his eagerness to prove that he is in no way excusing of forgiving the Jews.’ (Forgiveness for what, one may ask?)
Self-Hating Far-Leftist Jews
Nowadays such ‘self-hating’ Jews prove their left-wing credentials and non-Jewishness by being fiercely and obsessively anti-Zionist. So much so that by a remarkable feet of self-deception, or perhaps the attempted deception of other people, they paint Israel as literally the worst state in the world – after North Korea, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan and the many more far worse offenders. That is why they concentrate on the seven thousand or less Palestinians who have been killed in the last ten years and ignore the two million deaths in the Sudan (or the Congo for that matter) in a similar or a lesser period. That is partly why the far left is so obsessive about Palestine, and not about brutal Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, the Sudan, Somalia, etc. It is because many Jewish far-leftists are trying obliterate any trace of Jewishness from their consciousness. Anti-Zionism seems to be the best way of doing that. This, almost more than anything else, explains the far-left’s monomania with Israel and Palestine. After all, Marx was Jewish and anti-Semitic. Chomsky is Jewish and anti-Semitic. And there have been many more important far-left anti-Semites. It’s almost as if the far left is being led by the neuroses of a few self-hating Jews.
This phenomenon is no surprise. Think of those students from the regions and the working class who went to Oxford and Cambridge Universities (before the 1970s) and soon developed accents which were posher than the ‘toffs’ from the Home Counties. Think of the present-day inverse of this. All those middle-class students who develop a Mockney accent or an Estuary English accent within the first year of being at university (like Tony Blair’s or Jamie Oliver’s, but sometimes stronger). Some black people have accused Chris Eubank, the former boxer, of rejecting his ‘black’ background with his obviously contrived image of a country gentleman. There are so many examples of this phenomenon.
Now let us take the Jewish Chomsky. He believes that Zionism (whatever he means by that) is based on ‘Hitler’s conceptions’ (whatever he means by that). He believes that the Jews in the US are ‘deeply totalitarian’. Chomsky gets crazier than that. He has said that Israel is threatening to impose ‘a final solution’ on the world itself! Not Iran. Not North Korea. Not India or Pakistan. No. Israel. The very same Israel that has had nuclear weapons for over thirty years but never used them again Palestinians. Against Hamas or Hezbollah. Against Iran. Or against all the Islamic states which have either attempted to invade Israel or have actually done so, such as Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordon.
However, Chomsky cannot really even claim to be solely ‘anti-Zionist’ or ‘anti-Israel’ because he pours scorn on the Jews of the United States as well. And no; not only those who have Israeli or Zionist connections or sympathies. He does not mention either Zionism or Israel when he writes that the Jews
‘in the US are the most privileged and influential part of the population... privileged people want to make sure they have total control, not just 98% control. That’s why anti-Semitism is becoming an issue.” - (Variant, Scotland, Winter 2002)
And where you find the vitriolic criticism of the Jews and Israelis from the far left, you will also find the opposite attitude when it comes to left-wing states or individuals. Take Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. What does Chomsky have to say about them? He wrote that
“the evacuation of Phnom Penh, widely denounced at the time and since for its undoubted brutality, may actually have saved many lives. It is striking that the crucial facts rarely appear in the chorus of condemnations.” - (After the Cataclysm, South End Press, 1979, p160)
And Maoist China? Chomsky wrote that
‘one also finds many things that are really quite admirable... a good deal of the collectivization and communization was really based on mass participation and took place after a level of understanding had been reached in the peasantry...” - (Alexander Klein, ed., Dissent, Power and Confrontation, McGraw-Hill, 1971, pp117-8)
So when the critics of the far-left say that far leftists have little or nothing bad to say about regimes that are far worse than Israel (and the US), such as the Sudanese, or the Chinese, or the Iranian, or the Pakistani, regime, they are not exaggerating. The only thing that matters to Chomsky and most far leftists is that these regimes are not American or Israeli. It doesn’t even matter if they are not left wing (as with Islamic states).
Another anti-Semitic Jewish nutter, Norman Finkelstein, has said that Israel’s human rights record ‘is worse than the Nazis’! What kind of sick or shallow mind could say that? Finkelstein goes on. He also says that Israel’s human right’s record is ‘interchangeable with Iraq’s’ - the Iraq of Saddam Hussein! Forget the Nazi comparison earlier. We don’t need to be told that the Nazis were far worse than the Israelis are today. What about Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s reign? It has been said that at the very least 20 thousand people were killed in his ‘security prisons’ every month during his worst periods of oppression. How many Palestinians have died as a result of Israeli action? I would say very little more than 15 thousand over fifty years! Because of all this, Finkelstein must be some kind of intellectual (if he is an intellectual) exhibitionist who parades his naked self by saying these outrageous things about Jews and Israel (just as postmodernist philosophers did and do about other subjects). Just to finish on the ridiculous Finkelstein. He out-Nazis and out-Islamises the Nazis and Islamists’ various Jewish conspiracy theories by saying that the movie Schindler’s List, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats, amongst many other art works, are all items of a Jewish conspiracy. This is what he wrote about Schindler’s List:
‘Who profits [from the movie]? Basically, there are two beneficiaries from the dogmas [propounded by Schindler’s List]: American Jews and the American administration.’
And to think that a man who comes out with this Nazi-like paranoia and hysteria calls himself ‘a leftist’.
*) Karl Marx, ‘On the Jewish Question’, in Robert Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engel Reader, New York, 1978, pp. 48, 50, 52
*) Stephen J. Greenblatt, ‘Marlowe, Marx, and Anti-Semitism’, Critical Inquiry 5, no. 2, Winter, 1978, pg. 293
*) Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians, 1999, p. 208, pp. 468-469
*) For notes on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s anti-Semitism, see Ray Monk’s biography, The Duty of Genius