Ever since a horde of Democrat Socialists became the darlings of the news media in recent years, the specter of anti-Semitism has again reared its ugly head. This is no accident. Many of these Democratic Party politicians, especially Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), have embraced the ideals of socialism alongside those of anti-Semitism. And the reason for their virulent racism is that socialism and anti-Semitism are closely related worldviews. In fact, anti-Semitism and racial bigotry are in the very DNA of socialism, constructed around the hatred for Judaism and its merchant culture that promotes prosperity, diversity, and opportunity.
Historically, the ideologues who were most vehemently opposed to Jews and their merchant-bourgeoisie culture were the socialists. From the beginning of the socialist movement in the 1820s, socialists of almost every stripe found the Jews offensive and grasping. From the 1820s to the 1920s, if someone professed to be a socialist, he or she was almost unquestionably anti-Semitic. Sidney Hook attested to this fact. A former Marxist friendly to Leon Trotsky, Hook wrote, “anti-Semitism was rife in almost all varieties of socialism.” Anti-Semitism was so profuse in the French socialist community that historian Zosa Szajkowski concluded in an exhaustive study that he “could not find a single word on behalf of Jews in the whole of French socialist literature from 1820 to 1920.”
This legacy of anti-Semitism among socialists explains why Hitler, in his 1920 speech “Why We Are Anti-Semites,” declared that as “socialists, we must necessarily also be antisemites because we want to fight against the very opposite: materialism and mammonism… How can you not be an antisemite, being a socialist!” He further proclaimed, “socialism can only be carried out accompanied by nationalism and antisemitism.” The main reason Hitler and his National Socialist Party opposed the Jews was that they saw them as greedy capitalists who made “unearned income” at the expense and misery of others.
One of the earliest and most prominent socialist theorists was mutualist, anarchist, and anti-Semite Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who exemplified the “socialist utopian” school of thought. Like the German National Socialists, Proudhon had a profoundly anti-Semitic streak, calling “for the expulsion of the Jews from France… The Jew is the enemy of the human race. This race must be sent back to Asia, or exterminated… By steel or by fire or by expulsion the Jew must disappear.” Like most anti-capitalist socialists of the day, Proudhon viewed Jews as exploiters of labor who charged high usury rates on loans, to the detriment of workers. To socialists and collectivists, interest-bearing loans exemplified the depredation of finance capital and capitalism. But Proudhon went further in his racist rant. Convinced of the inferiority of certain races, he claimed that such races as the Jews are “badly born and bastard races.”
The anarcho-socialist Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876), who knew and lionized Proudhon, espoused blatantly anti-Semitic views, referring to the Jews as “a kind of blood sucking people, a kind of organic destructive collective parasite.” Bakunin also upheld a left-wing form of national-identity collectivism during his pre-social-anarchist years.
Another prominent early socialist from France who crossbred anti-Semitism with anti-capitalism was Pierre Leroux (1797–1871). Considered the originator of the term “socialism” in 1833, Leroux was seen as identifying the “Jews with the despised capitalism, and regarded them as the incarnation of mammon, who lived by exploiting others.” Defining socialism “as opposed to individualism,” Leroux remarked: “When we speak of the Jews, we mean the Jewish spirit—the spirit of profit, of lucre, of gain, of speculation; in a word, the banker’s spirit.” Like most socialists of the day, Leroux blamed the poor condition of society on the high-interest rates charged by money lenders and the profit motive of finance capital. In his mind, the Jews and their hoarding of capital caused most social and economic evil.
One of the two main founders of the socialist movement in France, Charles Fourier (1772–1837), was particularly hostile to Jews, considering them “parasites, merchants, usurers.” Contending that poverty, not inequality, was society’s biggest problem, Fourier’s socialism was based upon his confidence in voluntary association and social cooperation, rather than some form of state ownership.
The socialist who popularized the term “anti-Semitism,” Wilhelm Marr, was once expelled from Zurich for alleged communist activities. He wrote, “Anti-Semitism is a Socialist movement, only nobler and purer in form than Social Democracy.” A proponent of German unification under Prussian leadership, Marr became involved in the Burschenschaften, a nationalistic movement that sought a unified state of territories inhabited by the German-speaking people.
Moreover, many socialist newspapers were adamantly anti-Semitic, including the French newspaper La Libre Parole, founded by Édouard Drumont in 1892. Like many socialists of the day, Drumont “shifted the traditional socialist focus on class struggle to questions of race.” Virulently anti-capitalist, La Libre Parole denounced Jews for engaging in corrupt capitalist activities that were believed to result in the destruction of France.
These anti-Jewish bigotries among socialists and Marxists continued into the 20th century. The well-known French Marxist and supporter of Lenin’s Bolshevik Revolution, Georges Sorel, engaged in a long anti-Semitic campaign, starting just prior to World War I. He praised the most famous living anti-Semite, the socialist journalist Urbain Gohier (1862–1951), encouraging him to defend French customs and ideas “against the Jewish invaders who wanted to dominate everything.” Sorel made many threats against the Jews and blamed them for the decadence he thought was befalling France.
Although Karl Marx confided that he derived many of the philosophical ideas from the French utopian socialist movement, he knew that he was adopting an ideological movement rife with xenophobia. In fact, Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin in Why The Jews? asserted that “Marx and the early French socialists, developed anti-Semitism ideals that have characterized much of the Left to this day.”
Although he was half-Jewish by blood and reared by a Christian family, Marx soon embraced atheism. When it came to Jews, Marx saw himself as an expert in citing their character flaws. Marx wrote in 1844: “What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money… Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist.” In another rant, Marx accused the Jews of belonging to a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, a charge that Hitler repeated many decades later. Marx wrote, “Thus we find every tyrant backed by a Jew, as is every pope by a Jesuit,…” and that the “handful of Jews” would “ransack pockets.”
This viral anti-Semitic socialism could not help but spill over into Lenin’s Soviet Russia. By the fall of 1918, Lenin had set up the Yevsektsiya program to abolish the essence of Jewishness in a government-mandated process to forge an atheist Russia. Under such religious and social oppression, the historical Jew was expected to fade away and die out. Lenin even dispatched orders in November 1919 to “Treat the Jews and urban inhabitants in Ukraine with an iron rod, transferring them to the front, not letting them into government agencies.”
The Yevsektsiya’s stated mission was to bring about the “destruction of traditional Jewish life, the Zionist movement, and Hebrew culture.” There have been many recorded cases where Jews who tried to protect the sanctity of Judaism in public were arrested on the spot. In mock trials, they were often sentenced to death. Across Soviet Russia, communist officials developed policies to have Jews “removed from the category of ‘unsolid,’ ‘floating’ people” in order to have them “disappear as soon as assimilation was intensified.” After Joseph Stalin emerged as the ruler of the Soviet Union, anti-Semitism became more visible, although, on paper, the communist government had denounced anti-Semitism.
Khrushchev and other communist leaders later confessed that Stalin had harbored resentment against Jews before the 1917 Revolution. Even Stalin’s secretary, Boris Bazhanov, revealed that Stalin repeatedly made crude anti-Semitic remarks long before Lenin’s death in 1924. Hitler even congratulated Stalin for purifying the Russian Communist Party of its Jewish influences, especially among the old Bolshevik guard, such as Karl Radek, Grigory Zinoviev, and Lev Kamenev. According to the author and former Marxist Eugene Lyons, Stalin came to “abhor intellectuals in general and Jewish intellectuals” in particular. During Hitler’s temporary alliance with the Soviet Union, Stalin expelled “virtually all Jews from high office in the diplomatic and military services and from the higher reaches in the Soviet elites.”
Socialism took on anti-Semitic luster because, like all collectivist ideologies, it emphasized group supremacy over individual rights. Collectivists put little faith in individual identity because, as collectivists, they oppose the liberal concept of individualism and self-determination. Collectivists hate diversity; they desire sameness of ideology and behavior, seeking to assimilate everyone into their own single-minded worldview. They will kill to preserve their one-way collective and tribal culture. They may speak of liberty, but it is reserved just for them and their activities.
This is the true historical legacy of socialism and its hatred for minority groups such as Jewish culture, language, and traditions. Everyone should be aware that as the Democratic Party rushes toward socialism, extreme anti-Semitism would not be far behind. There is much more to this story about the socialist anti-Semitic movement, which goes into greater detail in my 2019 Killing History book.