➵ Zur Judenfrage Read ➼ Author Karl Marx – Horse-zine.co.uk

10 thoughts on “Zur Judenfrage

  1. says:

    Good discussion on the relationship between church and state, suffrage, and sovereignty. Marx gives a brief analysis of Hegel's "Philosophy of Right" and "The Declaration of the Rights of Man". It's not as sensational as Arthur Kemp purports; nevertheless, Marx was definitely aware of the problems of Jewish culture, which is described in part two of this book: "The Capacity of Present-day Jews and Christians to Become Free". The articles Marx wrote while working at the New York Tribune would make Adolf Hitler blush.

    This book was the beginning of the polemics between Marx and Bruno Bauer. Although Bauer was Marx's mentor as young hegelians, after this discrepancy, they both went very separate ways. Marx would end up writing two more critical books on Bauer, "The Holy Family" and "The German Ideology". Bauer would end up participating in a number of anti-Semitic journals, and writing books on international Jewry and Freemasonry. Ludwig Philippson, the editor of the "Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums", even called Bauer 'the actual father of anti-Semitism'. Interestingly enough, Bauer was also a mentor to Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche at one time wrote, "Bruno Bauer, who was one of my most attentive readers". Although Nietzsche wasn't anti-Semitic throughout his career, often opposing Richard Wagner in his writings, could it be that the reason for his breakdown was that at the end of his life, he finally realized that Wagner was right? Did Nietzsche see a Jew flogging the horse? Did this trigger Nietzsche into being anti-Semitic? I guess this will always remain a mystery.

    I would also recommend reading Marx's "Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844" first, to get a greater context of his term "species-being", which he uses in this book a lot.

  2. says:

    It's definitely important to be critical about Marx's very dubious and prejudiced portrait of Jewishness in his pamphlet "On the Jewish Question". But the presentation in this little book isn't critical so much as slanderous.

    I'm not sure where the title " A world without Jews" comes from, but the title Marx gave to the essay which is reprinted here is fairly straightforwardly translated to "On The Jewish Question". The Jewish Question was a book written by young Hegelian Bruno Bauer which Marx is directly responding to. At some point someone decided to change Marx's title, probably deliberately done so people would come to a misconception about Marx without actually reading him.

    The introduction is interesting. First the author concedes the point that Marx is thinking about Jewishness or Judaism not in racial terms, but rather as a political and/or social question. He also accepts that Marx was echoing popular prejudices of the times.
    However he then goes on to draw parallels between Marx and 20th century antisemitism " of the Marx-Hitler kind". This involves prejudices about Jews as self interested "hucksters" (something which is certainly present in Marx's text) but also talk of global conspiracies centred in Jerusalem (something Marx never says). The rest of the introduction recalls the anti Semitic crimes of Stalinist regimes, for which Marx is apparently guilty.

    The introduction never mentions the fact that Marx was actually arguing, against Bauer, for the political emancipation of Jews. Nor does it mention that Marx saw, in the end, Jewish liberation as unachievable without human liberation. Which to him meant leaving questions of political emancipation, hence Jewish rights, behind. In fact the introduction doesn't really engage with Marx's substantive argument at all, except to suggest that Marx blames capitalism on Jews. Which is a fairly crude and uninsightful interpretation.

    The vast bulk of Marx's text is aimed at philosophically criticising Bauer's conception of the state and political emancipation, which Marx thinks doesn't get to the nub of the issue. That being that social being determines consciousness, not the other way around. I.e. it is pointless to argue that Jews (or anyone else) should stop practising their particular religion and join the political community as equal citizens, because social divisions (I.e. different religions) are a result of a monetised alienated society, not the other way around.

    However, the focus of this translation is definitely on the rather brief part 2 of the essay, where Marx makes his polemic against Judaism clear. This is definitely the weakest part of Marx's text, and demonstrates him descending into prejudices which only obscure the much more interesting things he had to say in part 1. All the dodgy bits are enlarged here and in bold text, presumably so the reader can skip to them and avoid confusing matters by reading them in their dense argumentative context.

    Marx's main gripe with Jews has nothing to do with their ancestry or their religious practices (seeing "The Jewish Question" in these terms is what he is arguing against here), but rather that he sees Jewishness as a social phenomena, and as the precursor of bourgeois civil society. Namely that a group of people could absolve themselves of general political matters, of the general political questions of the time, and become focussed on their insular community and their private self interest.

    Marx moreover argues that political liberalism perfects this by estranging the citizen, or the abstract political subject, from civil society, or the private individual. According to Marx, if Jews truly want emancipation, they need to go beyond demanding political rights which merely guarantee their atomised privacy, hence retaining this division and even deepen it. Instead they must demand the abolition of the material conditions of alienation --- money, capital, etc. --- the "intermediaries" which maintain human estrangement, and especially the estrangement of the Jew from the rest of humanity. As Marx sees Jewishness as essentially a matter of money worship, the Jew is the man of monetary accumulation par excellence, and he thinks that making the step into human emancipation therefore means ceasing to be a Jew. At no point does he, nor would he, suggest physical elimination of Jews; however the translation in this volume has been manipulated to permit that interpretation.

    Essentially what Marx is saying is that Jews can have their political recognition, but unless they become socialists and stop relating to the whole world simply as a means to make more money for themselves, they won't enjoy anything better than an alienated abstract and contentless freedom. His point against Bauer is to underline that this is a social rather than a religious or ethnic issue. He also argues that Jews are merely the paradigmatic case, and the same thing goes for everyone living in bourgeois civil society.

    I'm not going to defend Marx's comments here, because I think he was wrong to portray Judaism as essentially a cult of greed and self interest. He is also completely insensitive to cultural differences, and how these might actually matter to people. To our 21st century eyes these comments are unquestionably antisemitic, they moreover voice the kinds of stereotypes which Nazis used to justify genocide; but we have the burden of some rather terrifying hind sight that Marx did not.

    To lump Marx together with Hitler based on these remarks is dishonest and absurd. Marx makes it repeatedly clear that pluralistic religious difference (which is what modern religion becomes) is something that forms barriers between human beings, that it is a manifestation of a divided, atomised society. Something he wants to overcome. He makes it clear that attacking religion on its own terms is treating the symptom rather than the cause, and only confuses matters. The conclusions of this essay couldn't be more cosmopolitan. To suggest that these ideas have anything to do with Nazism, which was all about elevating a certain race to the position of domination over all humankind and exterminating others, is either a sign of woeful ignorance or a deliberate attempt to mislead and deceive readers.

    Hence I can only conclude that this book is little more than cold war propaganda, trying to construct a demonized picture of Marx as some sort of proto Nazi.

  3. says:

    Writen in 1842, Marx, with this critique on Bauer's "The Jewish Question", develops a theoritical approach on the nature of the rights of the man. These rights in the industrialised society are divided in political rights and human rights, reflecting the division in the living of the man of the feudal system, where all of its aspects were included in the public/state life and were in part political. After the shutering of that system, while the political rights stand for all people as equals and are not influenced in any way by religion or personal ownership, are separated from the elements that make up their social, private life, such as religion, ownership, equality etc, which are the human rights.
    Where Marx concludes is that the people, in order to be fully emancipated must find the way to connect the two livings, the political and the social into one again, in order to participate in the political life as a united social force.

  4. says:

    "And how is religious opposition made impossible? By abolishing religion. As soon as Jew and Christian come to see in their respective religions nothing more than stages in the development of the human mind—snake skins which have been cast off by history, and man as the snake who
    clothed himself in them—they will no longer find themselves in religious opposition, but in a purely critical, scientific and human relationship. Science will then constitute their unity"

    A decent, albeit brief, essay which is pretty canonical to the 'Young Marx' period. Whilst most scholars consult this essay for Marx's commentary on antiSemitism and religious disputes, there is a great deal of humanistic thought in here, with mentions of 'species essence' peppered throughout. This is interesting for Marx enthusiasts because it gives a nice insight as to how Marx's vision extended into human nature, and the more Romantic visions of human emanicipation, which are more apparent in the early Marx.

  5. says:

    Hitler and his German socialism obtained sick ideas from Marx and this publication. Soviet socialism obtained similar ideas from Marx and this publication. Hitler and German socialism obtained sick ideas from Soviet socialism. Soviet socialism created the "Jewish Autonomous Olbast" (JAO) in 1936. Two years after the JAO was founded, Stalin targeted Jews living in the JAO in purges. Of course, a few years later, in 1939, German socialism & Soviet socialism joined to launch the WWII, invading Poland together, and going onward. Sad.

  6. says:

    So Karl Marx was evidently an Anti-Semite. His argument is actually pretty predictable--religion in general is messed up, and the Jewish religion in particular is really just about capitalism, so once capitalism has been gotten rid of, Judaism will go away, and then Jewish people won't have to worry about being discriminated against. The core of this piece is just anti-Jewish propaganda with a Communist twist. Makes Nazi associations of Jews with Communists all the more ironic.

  7. says:

    The conclusive proof the Marx was an idiot...

  8. says:

    FIRST OFF: The title of this book is unfair. moving on...

    I read this book (like my previous Marx review) because the bulk of it was contained within the text of another book I was reading, so I figured I should just go ahead and plow through the whole thing. This was an odd read for sure. I almost give it two stars just because Marx is an eloquent writer and great arguer, BUT, when the dust settled on this book, I disliked it pretty good. So 1 star.

    Now things get pretty heady, but such is Marx:

    He wrote this book as a response to the Bauer book, "The Jewish Question", in which Bauer discusses how Jews could be emancipated politically. Marx agrees with Bauer that Jews ought to be liberated, but disagrees with how Bauer thinks this ought to play out. Bauer argues that Jews should be given equal access to the political community, but Marx refutes this notion, asserting that the entire political community itself is only rife with class divisions, and an alienated monetized society. Thus for the Jews to be truly emancipated, we must emancipate ourselves from the religious and political superstructures we hold onto as a society. According to Marx, if Jews truly want to be free from the shackles that bind them, their actual business is to eliminate the very concepts which force society to descend into discrimination, namely religion, money, capital, and capitalism.

    In part 2, Marx takes things a step further, but along the way he descends into terrible prejudice (1 star book). Why do Jews necessarily need to see the end of privately held capital? Because they as a race are the self-interested capital hoarders, he says. A capitalistic society is bound to despise them! Only in the Marxist Utopia will Jews (in whatever since they are still Jewish at that point) finally experience emancipation. And what will that utopia be like? Heres a snippet:

    "The state emancipates itself from religion, both as to form and content, by emancipating itself from any state religion - that is, by professing no religion except its own statehood". Marx was by no means the proto-Nazi that some of his critics try to paint him as. That being said, what does history make of his claim here? The two societies who have by far committed the greatest genocide against Jews (or genocide in general for that matter), the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, are the SAME TWO SOCIETIES who went the FURTHEST to "profess no religion except its own statehood". Thats not to say that a "state religion" is a good thing per se. Separation of church and state is another matter. But so far, Godless societies have a pretty bad track record for how they treat Jews.

    In general, in my pursuit to understand Marx, I've found that there's some insight in his diagnosis of problems, and in FORM the solutions he suggests possess some value. But the solutions he poses in FUNCTION can lead to atrocity (whether he intended that or not). As a Christian, I fundamentally disagree with his basic philosophy, but as long as his writings stay in the air, they're like 3-4 star material to me. But when they come down to the ground, you get the rare 1 star review.

  9. says:

    This is a decent essay by Marx, about Bruno Bauer's (a prominent Young Hegelian) book The Jewish Question. Despite this, Marx here is remarkably not very concerned with race, ethnicity or religion, but rather with the State, with Law, with what emancipation means.

    The second chapter (there's only two) does include some pretty anti-Semitic language, largely due to the fact that Marx equates the Jewish petit-bourgeoisie with the real, material core of Judaism as a religion.

    Despite this, however, anyone who tells you that Hitler was influenced by Marx is bold faced lying to you (the Nazis literally came to power as a reaction to a massive failed communist revolution in Germany lol) or incredibly ignorant and extremely idiotic. The quote "The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism" does not mean that Marx advocated for Jewish genocide (he is literally arguing for Jewish emancipation here), he is saying that the way for religious and ethnic emancipation is when ethnicity as a concept disappear and religion becomes excluded from civil society, relegated to simple individual beliefs. The same can be said of white and black people.

    It's insights on Law and the State are quite valuable, however, due to the anti-Semitic language found in the second chapter, which detracts from a real material analysis of the development of Judaism, and the Young Hegelian jargon (not hard to get, but rather dull) that the essay is steeped in, I'll give it three stars. It's certainly worth a read, however.

  10. says:

    He's still quite wedded to Hegel at this point, though the ending does hint of greatness to come.

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