Are There Jewish Fingerprints in Karl Marx’s Thought?

In the Israeli political philosopher Shlomo Avineri’s recent biography of Karl Marx, he asserts that his subject’s “Jewish origins and background did leave significant fingerprints in his work, some of them obvious and others less so.” Born to Jewish parents, Marx was baptized as a child, shortly after his father converted to Christianity in pursuit of a legal career. His sole piece of writing on Jews per se brims with anti-Jewish invective and crass stereotypes. While Avineri does not attempt to downplay this, he does suggest some possible mitigating factors, e.g., that Marx slandered the Jews for purely tactical reasons. Daniel B. Schwartz writes in his review:

This reading would be more plausible were it not for the fact that Marx repeatedly used anti-Jewish slurs in his [private] letters. Avineri notes perhaps the most egregious example of this—Marx’s suggestion that Ferdinand Lassalle, the founder of the first working-class mass movement in Germany, represented a “combination of Judaism and Germanism with the basic negro substance” because of “the shape of his head and the growth of his hair.” Yet this is only the tip of the iceberg. Marx also commonly referred to Lassalle in his correspondence as “Jüdchen” and “Jüdel” (little Jew) or “Itzig” [the Yiddish equivalent of Isaac] and “Baron Itzig,” [all clearly demeaning turns of phrase]. And Lassalle wasn’t the only object of Marx’s anti-Jewish scorn.

As for Avineri’s contention that Marx might have attempted to backtrack from his anti-Semitism in his and Friedrich Engels’s book The Holy Family, Schwartz is equally skeptical:

It may indeed be that Marx was trying to repair things in The Holy Family. But in light of the considerable evidence of anti-Jewish feeling in his private writings, it is not clear to me that his remorse was more than tactical. The likeliest explanation for Marx’s treatment of Judaism in “On the Jewish Question” is that he shared the derogatory stereotypes of Jews as exploiters and Judaism as an “egoistic” religion that were common even among European liberal and revolutionary thinkers at the time. While it is possible that he was seeking to strategically distance himself from his Jewish origins, it is equally, if not more likely that this was simply Marx, [unfiltered].

Somewhat surprisingly, Avineri has nothing to say about Marx’s Jewishness in his assessment of his afterlife. Jewishness, I would contend, has proved far more influential in Marx’s reception than it ever did in his life and work. . . . [A]ssertions of Marx’s Jewishness were a major trope of the right-wing opposition to socialist parties and trade unions in the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, nowhere more evident than in Hitler’s and the Nazis’ broadsides against “the Jew Karl Marx” and “Judeo-Bolshevism.” This survives today on the alt-right. Yet Marx’s Jewishness has also been seized upon by Jewish socialists, who frequently celebrated Marx as a Jewish folk hero who was one of their own.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, Karl Marx, Marxism

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7