Sunday, 4 May 2014

Why the Jews?

Earlier this year I reproduced Lenin's speech on anti-Jewish pogroms in Tsarist Russia. It has always been my view that the reactionary mind needs racism to bound together the system and externalise its systemic flaws onto an intrusive presence - an infection of sorts - which we are invited to purge. It is no coincidence that the proto-fascists of this world equate anti-racism with leftism, 'political-correctness' with Marxism, and Communism with Jewishness. Of course, there is nothing Jewish about Communism, just as anti-racism is not inherently left-wing. But it is the case that there is nothing progressive in racism. This is understood, at some level, by the majority of Far-Righters. It is their cause to safeguard capitalism by asserting race-consciousness over class-consciousness.
In an interview with Worker's Liberty Moishe Postone emphasises what he regards as the unique characteristic of anti-Semitism to other forms of racism. He explains "The way in which anti-Semitism is distinguished, and should be distinguished, from racism, has to do with the sort of imaginary of power, attributed to the Jews, Zionism, and Israel, which is at the heart of anti-Semitism. The Jews are seen as constituting an immensely powerful, abstract, intangible global form of power that dominates the world." We see this underlying a lot of cultural criticism put forward by traditional conservatives. It is surely no surprise that the traditionalists so often verge on and foray into the fields of anti-Semitism harvested in Europe for centuries.
Postone is dead clear in his words "Anti-Semitism is a primitive critique of the world, of capitalist modernity. The reason I regard it as being particularly dangerous for the left is precisely because anti-Semitism has a pseudo-emancipatory dimension that other forms of racism rarely have." Everyone should read Postone's article Anti-Semitism and National Socialism for a non-functionalist account of the phenomenon.

The point to be made here, however, is that a careful examination of the modern anti-Semitic worldview reveals that it is a form of thought in which the rapid development of industrial capitalism, with all its social ramifications, is/ /personified and identified as the Jew. It is not merely that the Jews were considered to be the owners of money, as in traditional anti-Semitism, but that they were held responsible for economic crises and identified with the range of social restructuring and dislocation resulting from rapid industrialization: explosive urbanization, the decline of traditional social classes and strata, the emergence of a large, increasingly organized industrial proletariat, and so on. In other words, the abstract domination of capital, which—particularly with rapid industrialization—caught people up in a web of dynamic forces they could not understand, became perceived as the domination of International Jewry.

The relation between the material base of class society and its overarching superstructure becomes lost easily as it would require a detailed analysis. The impetus for such an analysis was never there for the kind of people who tend towards anti-Jewish hatred. This is more like an ideological filter through which reality can be comprehended. All other possibilities are dismissed from the outset.

According to this interpretation, the Jews were identified not merely with money, with the sphere of circulation, but with capitalism itself. However, because of its fetishized form, capitalism did not appear to include industry and technology. Capitalism appeared to be only its manifest abstract dimension which, in turn, was responsible for the whole range of concrete social and cultural changes associated with the rapid development of modern industrial capitalism.
The Jews were not seen merely as representatives of capital (in which case anti-Semitic attacks would have been much more class-specific). They became the personifications of the intangible, destructive, immensely powerful, and international domination of capital as an alienated social form.
Certain forms of anticapitalist discontent became directed against the manifest abstract dimension of capital personified in the form of the Jews, not because the Jews were consciously identified with the value dimension, but because, given the antinomy of the abstract and concrete dimensions, capitalism appeared that way. The “anticapitalist” revolt was, consequently, also the revolt against the Jews. The overcoming of capitalism and its negative social effects became associated with the overcoming of the Jews.

This is what Postone rightly calls "pseudo-emancipatory". The fascist mission to defeat the Left is twofold: firstly, the working-class social base has to be stolen away and, secondly, the opposing progressive elements must be stamped out by force.

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