In “On the Jewish Question,” published in 1844, Karl Marx famously stood the notion of Jewish emancipation on its head, writing that “Jews have emancipated themselves insofar as Christians have become Jews,” i.e., admirers of Mammon. Far from being ghettoized and excluded, deprived of basic freedoms, and subjected to horrific individual and mass accusations and physical violence for centuries, Marx explained to his followers, the Jews of Europe were in fact historical oppressors bent on conquest. “The everyday Jew devoted himself to endless bartering … It was still Judaism, practical in its nature, that was victorious,” Marx explained. “Egotism permeated society.”
Jews were not only all-conquering, Marx continued, but also maleficent. “We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time, an element which through historical development—to which in this harmful respect the Jews have zealously contributed—has been brought to its present high level, at which it must necessarily begin to disintegrate. In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.” Case closed.
Quantities of ink worthy of a Talmudic discussion have been spilled explaining away the explicit content of Marx’s essay. But his private writings make it impossible to assert that Marx was not a carrier of a virulent strain of racist Jew-hatred that has infected some of his followers to this day. In a letter to Engels on July 30, 1862, attacking Ferdinand Lasalle, Marx’s Jewish opponent among socialists, for example, Marx wrote that “It is now quite plain to me—as the shape of his head and the way his hair grows also testify—that he is descended from the negroes who accompanied Moses’ flight from Egypt (unless his mother or paternal grandmother interbred with a uyghur).”
But even Marx at his worst did not approach the venomous opinions of his rival, the father of anarchism, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Proudhon expressed his feelings for Jews in his notebooks in an entry dated Dec. 26, 1847, an entry less anti-capitalist than exterminationist: “Jews. Write an article against this race that poisons everything by sticking its nose into everything without ever mixing with any other people. Demand its expulsion from France with the exception of those individuals married to French women. Abolish synagogues and not admit them to any employment. Demand its expulsion. Finally, pursue the abolition ofPost too long. Click here to view the full text.