It is not difficult to construct a catalogue of grotesque statements and actions by socialists with respect to Jewish people. These are bad enough in themselves and should be opposed from any anti-racist perspective. However, the purpose of this book is to show that Left anti-semitism cannot be understood empirically, merely as a series of unrelated descriptions or examples: rather there is a pattern, a methodology, of Left anti-semitism.

This methodology is by no means confined to the Left. It exists in society at large. It provides anti-semitism with its uniqueness as a form of racism and hence with its definition as a specific category.

Anti-semitism is not simply a type of national chauvinism that happens to be directed against Jews—although this is obviously an important aspect of it. Though Jewish people have suffered and are suffering horrifically from the material consequences of anti-semitism, its uniqueness cannot be located merely in this material suffering. The peculiar and defining feature of anti-semitism is that it exists as an ideology. It provides its adherents with a universal and generalised interpretation of the world. This is the theory of the Jewish conspiracy, which depicts Jews as historically controlling and determining nature and human destiny. Anti-semitism is an ideology which has influenced millions of people precisely because it presents an explanation of the world by attributing such extreme powers to its motive force—the Jews. For instance, Arnold White, a fanatical advocate of Jewish immigration control into the U.K. at the turn of the century, wrote that

"Jewish power ... baffled the Pharaohs, foiled Nebuchadnessar, thwarted Rome, defeated feudalism, circumvented the Romanovs, balked the Kaiser and undermined the Third French Republic." (The Modern Few)

The ancient roots of anti-semitism as ideology can perhaps be found in the pre-Christian world. From the time of the Babylonian exile in the 6th century B.C., most Jews lived outside Palestine and were subjected to accusations of disloyalty because of their allegiance to a god which was not only monotheistic and therefore omnipotent, but which was also supra-national. Jews had a loyalty beyond that to the particular kingdom in which they resided. However, the development of anti-semitism as a theory is a consequence of Christianity.

Christianity transformed notions of Jewish disloyalty into a fundamentally demonic view of the entire world: it equated Jewry with a universal satanic influence. Such an equation is probably inherent within Christianity, as a theology, because of the identification of Jews with the crucifixion. As the Gospel of St. John says of Jews:

"You are of your father the devil and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning."

The Christian church was promulgating such a theory as early as the 2nd century, whilst engaging in a highly political struggle with the synagogue for converts in the Hellenistic world and when, indeed, each was still struggling to win adherents from the other. As Norman Cohn has written in Warrant For Genocide:

"It was to terrorise the judaising Christians of Antioch into a final breach with the parent religion that St. John Chrysostom called the synagogue 'the temple of demons ... the cavern of devils ... a gulf and an abyss of perdition' and portrayed Jews as habitual murderers and destroyers, people possessed by an evil spirit. And it was to protect his catechumens against Judaism that St. Augustine described those who had been the favourite sons of God as now transformed into sons of Satan. Moreover the Jews were brought into relation with that fearsome figure Antichrist 'the son of perdition' whose tyrannical reign, according to St. Paul and the Book of Revelations, is to precede the second coming of Christ. Many of the fathers taught that Antichrist would be a Jew and that the Jews would be his most devoted followers."

This mythology flowered with a vengeance and gained popular acceptance during the Catholic church's most militant period—the crusades. Here Jews were presented as the Devil's offspring—ritually murdering Christian children, poisoning the wells and torturing the consecrated wafer. Apart from anything else, this led to murderous attacks on many Jewish communities in Europe. For instance, the Third Crusade (1189-92) commanded wide support in England where it led to attacks by the assembled crusaders on Jews in various towns, especially York. It would be patently inadequate to regard the crusades simply as a war with Islam. They also represent the final victory and consolidation of Christian hegemony within Europe itself. This was the period when Christianity finally began routing paganism—both physically and by expropriating myths. On one hand, pagan festivals were incorporated into Christian holy days, on the other hand, popular folk perceptions of the evil eye were synthesised into anti-semitism.

It is possible to develop a materialist and class analysis of anti-semitism which relates the ideology of Jewish domination to underlying economic and social changes. The most obvious example of this is the way the conspiracy theory became secularised in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was at the end of the 19th century that the mass circulation of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion began. This document purported to show that there actually existed a Jewish government which met in secret and which exercised international political power through its control of the media and of the banks. It metamorphosised the devil into a world parliament of Jews. This secularisation was, in reality, nothing more than a reflection of the secularisation of social life as a whole—not least as manifested through the development of the national secular state.

However, a crude deterministic analysis is out of place here. The form of anti-semitism as ideology may change but its essence remains intact, independent of the economic formation under which it is operating. Indeed, the supposed secularisation of the conspiracy theory in the age of rationalism was inevitably flimsy—as the theory itself is profoundly irrational: it grew out of demonology and it always returns to demonology. Ultimately, anti-semitism is about the cosmos and not simply a world parliament. This demonology surfaced in its most powerful way in the middle of the 20th century with the rise of Nazism. Nazism had no pretence that anti-semitism was anything other than devil-power. As Hitler is quoted as saying:

"It is the inexorable Jew who struggles for his domination ... Two worlds face one another, the men of God and the men of Satan. The Jew is the anti-man, the creature of another God ... I set the Aryan and the Jew ever and against each other" (Davidowicz—The War Against the Jews).

Anti-semitism is a classic example of how not simply pre-capitalist, but also pre-feudal formulations, can flourish in capitalist (and in the case of the U.S.S.R.) post-capitalist societies.

As an ideology anti-semitism is irrationalism par excellence. Moreover, its proponents do not deny this irrationalism—they exalt it. Since anti-semitism takes as given that Jew-power determines history, then the fact that it determines it in seemingly contradictory ways is simply part of the conspiracy. Hence Jews can apparently be dominating the world simultaneously through capitalism and through communism; through sexually corrupting non-Jews and through keeping themselves isolated sexually by not intermarrying; through being cosmopolitans without a nation state and through being zionists. Literally everything can fit into the conspiracy. It is infinite. Even Nazism can, since its defeat, be seen as part of the conspiracy. The Australian fascist Eric Butler in his book The International Jew, The Truth about the Protocols of Zion, claims that Hitler was himself a tool of the conspiracy and was seeking to further the international dispersal of Jews. One of the fearsome features of anti-semitism is that while its essence remains the same its shape is constantly shifting and enlarging as it accumulates more myths. This increase can either be gradual or explosive, depending on the social and political situation. Its nearest equivalent in the realm of natural phenomena, is that of the ever-expanding universe where the constant energy source of the initial big bang is represented in Christian culture by the ceaseless responsibility given to Jews for the crucifixion.

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© 1984 Steve Cohen, edited and produced by Libby Lawson and Erica Bunnan.
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