For One Democratic State
in the whole of Palestine (Israel)


FOR One Man, One Vote



[Our friend David Montoute is dealing with a core question of Leftists' submission to the Judaic narrative, and he takes us to previously uncharted waters. Marx was a man of his times, and a European first of all. He was a forsworn enemy of Slavs and Latins, and Fidel Castro and Vladimir Lenin would in vain look for his approval. Anton Baumgarten in his very important but available only in Russian essay dealt with it at length. Indeed, I do have sympathy to Bakunin and Proudhon as to authentic Left, and their traditions should not be forgotten. ].


The Hypocrisy of an Anti-Racist Marxist?

By David Montoute

[The following debate was the product of discussion about the role of Western financial powers in the Russian Revolution. When the author cited Mikhail Bakunin's derogatory remarks about Karl Marx's Jewish entourage and the latter's sympathy for capitalist financiers, his correspondent blasted back with accusations of racism and anti-Semitism. The following is the author's second response.]

Dear Adrian,

The fundamental premise of your attack upon me, is that I've allegedly engaged in some kind of racial slur upon Jews generally, and used Bakunin in order to do it. Quite aside from discrediting me personally with the imputation of racist ideas, this is a grand misdiagnosis, in several dimensions. Firstly, in case you'd forgotten, JUDAISM IS NOT A RACE. It is a religion, that is, a collection of IDEAS (and often garbled and incoherent ideas, as we have agreed in our discussions about the provenance of Bible stories) Now, as a collection of ideas, we are, I believe, quite free to accept or reject them. Rejection (to my mind at least) in no way implies "racism" or even intolerance. If this were the case, then any who reject Islamic ideas (as you do) could also be described as a racist. Did you not admit to me that you were an "islamophobe"?

You attack Israel Shamir as an "anti-semite" because he rejects Jewish values, but then go on to eulogize Marx. Didn't Marx publish On The Jewish Question (1843)? A work also known as 'A World Without Jews'. Here are some quotes from it:

"What is the object of the Jew's worship in this world? Usury. What is his worldly god? Money. . . . What is the foundation of the Jew in this world? Practical necessity, private advantage. . . . The bill of exchange is the Jew's real God. His God is the illusory bill of exchange."

"Money is the one zealous god of Israel, beside which no other god may stand. Money degrades all the gods of mankind and turns them into commodities. Money is the universal and self-constituted value set upon all things. It has therefore robbed the whole world, of both nature and man, of its original value. Money is the essence of man's life and work which have become alienated from him: this alien monster rules him and he worships it."

Are we going to hold Marx to the same standards as Bakunin, or are we going to be hypocrites? Unlike you, I have no interest whatsoever in the petty prejudices of Bakunin or Marx. I am more concerned with debating their social theories, even if these theories turn out to be informed by their prejudices.

On the other hand, we could try and understand the thinking of the time. As one writer pointed out: "in the middle of the nineteenth century anti-Semitism was mainly a religious and social, not a racial, issue, and among converts such as Karl Marx are to be found vitriolic enemies of Judaism."

But the more we have this debate, the more I see that you're not interested in understanding what people have to say, but only to use it to bash your pre-determined enemies.

So let's hear some more from Marx, and see if you're as ideologically pure as you claim:

"In America we have witnessed the conquest of Mexico and have rejoiced at it. It is to the interest of its own development that Mexico will be placed under the tutelage of the United States ."

"Without violence nothing is ever accomplished in history…Is it a misfortune that magnificent California was seized from the lazy Mexicans who did not know what to do with it?"

[On Ferdinand Lassalle] ". . . it is now completely clear to me that he, as is proved by his cranial formation and his hair, descends from the Negroes from Egypt, assuming that his mother or grandmother had not interbred with a nigger. Now this union of Judaism and Germanism with a basic Negro substance must produce a peculiar product. The obtrusiveness of the fellow is also nigger-like."

And what did Engels have to say?

Writing about Paul Lafargue, Marx's son-in-law, who was, in 1887, a candidate for a council seat in a Paris district that contained a zoo, Engels claimed that Paul had "one eighth or one twelfth nigger blood." In an April 1887 letter to Paul's wife, Engels wrote, "Being in his quality as a nigger, a degree nearer to the rest of the animal kingdom than the rest of us, he is undoubtedly the most appropriate representative of that district." |

And this ethnocentrism DOES inform Marx and Engels' social theories, as this discussion of Marxist evolutionism argues:

"Insofar as all cultures were made to conform with the material correspondences of one or another moment in European history, and given that only Europe exhibited a "capitalist mode of production" and social organization - which Marx held to be the "highest form of social advancement" as of the point he was writing - it follows that all non-European cultures could be seen as objectively lagging behind Europe. We are presented here with a sort of "universal Euro yardstick" by which we can measure with considerable precision the relative ("dialectical") degree of retardation shown by each and every culture on the planet, vis a vis Europe…In plainest terms, Marxism holds as "an immutable law of history" that all non-European culture must be subsumed in what is now called "Europeanization." It is their inevitable destiny, a mater to be accomplished in the mane of progress and "for their own good." Again, we may detect echoes of the Jesuits within the "anti-spiritualist" Marxian construct.
        Those who would reject such an assessment should consider the matter more carefully. Do not such terms as "pre-capitalist" riddle the Marxian vernacular whenever analysis of non-European ("primitive") culture is at hand? What possible purpose does the qualifier "pre" (as opposed to, say, "non") serve in this connection other than to argue that such societies are in the process of becoming capitalist? And is this not simply another way of stating that they are lagging behind those societies, which have already become capitalist? Or, to take another example, to what end do Marxists habitually refer to those societies which have "failed" (refused) to even enter the productive progression as being "ahistorical" or "outside of history?" Is this to suggest that such cultures have no history, or is it to say that they have the wrong kind of history, that only a certain (Marxian) sense of history is true? And again: Do Marxists not hold that the socialist revolution will be the outcome of history for all humanity? Is there another sense in which we can understand the term "world revolution?" Did Marx himself not proclaim - and in no uncertain terms - that the attainment of the "capitalist stage of development" is an absolute prerequisite for the social transformation he meant when he spoke of the "social revolution?" I suggest that, given the only possible honest answers to these questions, there really are no other conclusions to be drawn … The punch line is that Marxism as a world-view is not only diametrically opposed to that held by indigenous peoples, it quite literally precludes their right to a continued existence as a functioning socio-cultural entities. This, I submit, will remain true despite the fact that we may legitimately disagree on the nuance and detail of precisely how it happens to be true."                                     

But Marx's nationalism and ethnocentrism was no less evident in his take on events in Europe. Just as the extra-European world needed to 'civilized' so too did the Slavs and "all other small tribes and peoples" that had "first and foremost the mission to drown in the revolutionary storm that hits the world."   This was the root of Bakunin's initial dispute with Marx. As he himself described it:

"In the year 1848, Marx and I had a difference of opinion, and I must say that he was far more in the right of it than I. ... But there was one point in which I was right and he was wrong. As a Slav, I wanted the liberation of the Slav race from the German yoke. ...

"My ideals and aspirations could not fail to be displeasing to Marx ... he thinks that the Germans have a mission to civilise the Slavs, this meaning to Germanise them whether by kindness or by force. ..."

… Ruhle points out that Bakunin endeavoured honestly to be on good terms with Marx and to avoid friction. He adds that Bakunin loved the peasants and detested intellectualism and abstract systems, with their dogmatism and intolerance. He hated the modern State, industrialism, and centralisation. He had the most intense dislike for Judaism, which he considered loquacious, intriguing, and exploitative. ... With justice, Bakunin says of Marx and his political circle:-

"Marx loved his own person much more than he loved his friends and apostles, and no friendship could hold water against the slightest wound to his vanity. ... in the circle of Marx's intimates there is very little brotherly frankness, but a great deal of machination and diplomacy. ... Marx is the chief distributor of honours, but is also incredibly perfidious and malicious ...

"As soon as he has ordered a persecution, there is no limit to the baseness and infamy of the method. Himself a Jew, he had round him in London and in France, and above all in Germany, a number of petty, more or less able, intriguing, mobile, speculative Jews (the sort of Jews you can find all over the place), commercial employees, bank clerks, men of letters, politicians, the correspondents of newspapers of the most varied shades of opinions, in a word, literary go-betweens, one foot in the bank, the other in the socialist movement, while their rump is in German periodic literature ... These Jewish men of letters are adepts in the art of cowardly, odious and perfidious insinuations. They seldom make open accusation, but they insinuate, saying they "have heard - it is said - it may not be true, but', and then they hurl the most abominable calumnies in your face.

Michael Bakunin, Statism and Anarchy (1873), in Sam Dolgoff, Bakunin On Anarchy (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1972).

From the above passage, it seems clear that Bakunin was not expressing hostility towards ALL Jews. What Bakunin emphasized when he looked for a common denominator between Marx and the Rothschilds, was not that they were both Jewish, but that they both sought the centralization of the State and centralized banking.

Bakunin was extremely useful here in his observations on the nature of the State, as well as on human nature more generally, far more so than Marx who believed that a future "revolutionary state" would simply 'whither away' when no longer needed. Bakunin, more realistically, understood that Power would only seek self- perpetuation, and that human nature would never facilitate a dictatorship that governed "on behalf" of the people. That idea of the benevolent revolutionary State that would one day voluntarily dissolve was the crowning absurdity of Marx's contradictions. But this is not to reject of Marx's analysis of capitalism. As you rightly pointed out, Marx was an incomparably better thinker on this, a social scientist of the highest order. But this only demonstrates how scientists (and specialists in particular) can be absent of all common sense in other domains. Marx understood 19 th industrial capitalism and the processes leading up to its development better than any, because this is what most fascinated him (where our interest lie, our energy will follow). A correct diagnosis, however, does not automatically lead to the best prescription.

And as for Bakunin's prejudices (which are much less serious in scope and consequence than Marx's) it must be remembered that radical socialists of the time were often hostile to Jews, because of the latter's disproportionate activity in banking, financial speculation and political intrigue. Their statements look different today after the catastrophic experience of the Third Reich, but we should be aware of our modern perceptions when evaluating the pre-Nazi past. Moreover, these prejudices are in no way central to Bakunin's writings. As stated in a recent biography of Bakunin: "His remarks make up a deplorable but miniscule part of his thought, never becoming a consistent theme in his writing or turning into generalized attacks on Jews"

And this leads us finally to your accusations of racism. Racism is a scourge which, had you any personal experience with it, you would understand in a different light. We may hear disparaging remarks about Jews by violently oppressed Palestinians, just as disparaging remarks can be heard about ( US) Americans in Iraq. In neither case do these remarks constitute racism. In discussing the respect that the British accorded to Africa's fiercest warriors, the Zulus, author Richard Poe (in Black Spark, White Fire) identifies racism as a discourse of POWER. "…[R]acial prejudice is a natural by-product of military dominance. It is one of the ways conquerors express their contempt for the conquered. The easier the conquest, the greater contempt."

This being the case, it is essential to understand the current power configuration before we start flinging around accusations of racism. Jews today are far from powerless, and it is this sense, and this sense only, that Gilad Atzmon and Israel Shamir define anti-Semitism as a non-signifier.

So can we finally bin this description of dissident (ex) Jews as "anti-Semites"? At this juncture, I've had enough of barbed words. You encourage me to "hate the Zionist elite" and not ordinary Jews. But here is a better idea: let's not hate anyone. If miscommunication is at the root of both biological and social illness, as I believe, then there is a pressing need to understand each other (and ourselves) before we do anything else. And as the great mystical and spiritual traditions have always told us: you cannot understand anything that you hate.