Jewish Survival Through Anti-Semitism ?

The Left has a completely contradictory position on the relationship between Jewish survival and assimilation. It argues that assimilation is necessary for some form of survival, and simultaneously argues that Jewish culture and identity have only survived because of anti-semitism. Whereas all other groups exist in spite of, and in opposition to, their oppression, Jews exist as a result of it! Amongst the classic Marxist writers, the clearest exponent of this view was Kautsky who wrote that:

"Judaism draws its strength-as a specific group segregated from its environment-from anti-semitism alone. In the absence of the latter it would have been absorbed long ago ... When the Jews shall have ceased to be persecuted and outlawed the Jews themselves will cease to exist".

Similarly Geoff Sheridan wrote in his letter to Socialist Challenge

"Jewish identity has been undermined in those societies where anti-semitism has become relatively dormant".

Two examples will suffice to show that this view is not only politically suspect, but also obviously historically incorrect. In both Moorish Spain and immediate post-revolutionary Russia, Jewish culture flourished in relatively favourable circumstances. It is an anti-semitic myth that Jewish people have a 'victim mentality', but too much reading of certain 'Marxists' might make such a mentality appear necessary for the survival of Jewish identity.

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