Marx set the anti-religious tone of twentieth century political ideologies, in particular, anti-Semitism. Defenders of Marx will take scholars to task who question Marx on alleged anti-Semitism, claiming that the critics are quoting Marx out of context. Whether or not Marx is or was anti-Semitic (which this author is maintaining is the case), he was perceived so in his time and his writings were used by later Soviet regimes to help justify its anti-Jewish and anti-Israel actions as this author will demonstrate below.
It is ironic that a heretical Jew and a descendent of rabbis should have provided such powerful ammunition to anti-Semitism. The reason for his may be grounded in his Jewish background itself. Dr. Tzvi Marks of the Boston University Institute of Law concludes that Jewish law is characterized by dialectical tendencies (Marx 235). Marx, grandson of a Jewish rabbi and a Jewish attorney father was steeped in Jewish dialectical analysis. In this author's opinion, his revolt against Judaism was grounded in Hegel.
Indeed, what do we include in the repertoire of the "mature" Marx? Both Marx's admirers and critics both include the Communist Manifesto and Capital as book ends on a complete set of his developed political philosophy. Somehow, the Marx of the Manifesto has been disconnected from the early writings. Do we live in such an Orwellian situation that they get shoved down the memory hole? Mysteriously, Marxist analysts do not see them as inhabiting the same philosophical body of work as Capital and the Communist Manifesto. Marx's pamphlet on the Jewish Question does not fit at all in the secular humanist or liberally minded picture of Marx as the humanitarian and liberator of oppressed people. Rather than embrace the Jewish people, the great socialist liberator spurns them. A few off-color remarks, especially in private correspondence could possibly be excused. However, an entire pamphlet against the Jews, as well as a plethora of other statements against Jews and Judaism is not readily explained away.
Marx made very specific charges against Jews in this virulent polemic. Firstly, they worship money instead of God (quite an accusation coming from an avowed atheist). Secondly, Jews practice usury. Their true religious drive is to make money by any means. With these charges in the background, Marx declares that the emancipation of all Europeans meant their emancipation from Jewry would bring their freedom. For Marx, Judaism is a pseudo-culture that seeks only material gain for its practitioners.
Since Marx believed in man's goodness in his original state, he therefore looks on physical objects as extensions of himself. If they were not, he is alienated from them. Because in Marx's view, the "Jewish mentality" seeks only material gain, the objects produced from it are inevitably alienated. In essence, the Jew is beyond redemption. He can not create anything new or even ephemeral. Rather, since all he can produce is related to money, he is essentially parasitic in nature.
To be fair, Marx is simply reflecting the world as he sees it at that time as a true white European. All other races are also looked down upon. Marx's own auto anti-Semitism magnifies his fixation with Jews and Judaism. This is understandable since Hegel never provided for the dialectic's Weltgeist (World-Spirit) to be extended to other civilizations that those traditionally grouped as Western Civilization. Marx preserved Hegel's dialectic intact, including this as well. Since a nation that is not part of the dialectic does not exist for Marx, they stand outside of history and necessarily pass away, just as the state will. This is all inevitable and scientific for him (Leopold 34).
It would be well for a moment to consider the sources of this anti-Semitism. All throughout on the Jewish Question as well as Theses on Feuerbach, Marx exhibits a contempt and hatred for Jews and Judaism that would not be equaled for a century in Nazi Germany at Nuremburg.
While many leftist professors have dried up a lot of ink arguing over the level of Marx's anti-Semitism, his words were used extensively by leftist anti-Semites as a justification of their position. On the Jewish Question was first published in English by the Soviets during the 1950's. Viewed from the "market view" of the "good German," it is very interesting to borrow Freud's couch and to understand what was going on in Marx's young mind at the time. It is necessary to consider a short excerpt from on the Jewish Question:
Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man -- and turns them into commodities. Money is the universal self-established value of all things. It has, therefore, robbed the whole world -- both the world of men and nature -- of its specific value. Money is the estranged essence of man's work and man's existence, and this alien essence dominates him, and he worships it.
The god of the Jews has become secularized and has become the god of the world. The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange.
The view of nature attained under the domination of private property and money is a real contempt for, and practical debasement of, nature; in the Jewish religion, nature exists, it is true, but it exists only in imagination (Marx).
Marx's negative attitude towards the bourgeoisie pale in comparison to his attitudes about the Jewish people and by extension himself. Despite page upon page of spin, it is impossible to stay away from the reality of what he said. Whether Marx was speaking in Freudian slips or in non-edited nineteenth century nuanced, bigoted parlance, the statements themselves were seen as authoritative and affected the opinions of at least thousands of volumes, he accuses the Jews of doing exactly what he is doing, that is reducing reality to a material one. In addition, he more than hinted that the only solution to the Jewish question was the final one. It is little wonder that the later Socialist Zionists ran from their fellow Jew like they would from a wildfire. For instance in Marx's Theses on Feuerbach, Marx rails at Feuerbach's Das Wesen des Christentums for its lack of practical revolutionary utility due to his theoretical attitude toward revolution that is "conceived and fixed only in its dirty judaical manifestation (Arthur 121)."
What is truly ironic in Marx's writings, especially in on the Jewish Question is that he exclusively identifies a marginalized group as being part of the oppressive capitalistic class. While we have to realize that Marx is auguring for the abolishment of all religions. However, since Judaism is the basis for Western Religion, it is singled out for special treatment. To negate the traditional roots of Western Religion and Civilization and start from a premise in concert with pure human nature, one must deal with the religious opiate that is motivating them to wait for other-worldly or future fulfillment of promises. The messiahs of Judaism and Christianity must be dethroned to make room for the Marxist utopian and the revolutionary ferment that will bring it about. To make this revolutionary "omlette," "eggs" (i.e., heads) not only need to be broken, but a new frying pan is needed as well. Dialectical economic materialism provided this (Labriola 96-99).
In addition, historical determinism itself must be overthrown. The ultimate historical determinism is exhibited by Judaism with its particular, yet exclusive view of itself. While Israel has a particular place in history according to the Jewish sages, it also has a universal mission as a light unto the nations. Marx needed to appropriate and remake this mission statement in the likeness and image of dialectical materialism. It is only thinly veiled there. This "opiate" needs to be eliminated as a group. It is not hard to see how Stalinist or Hitlerite flourishes could be added to the nineteenth century public mentality that came to value materialism above all else.
Dr. Bernard Lewis of Princeton has described "On the Jewish Question" as "one of the classics of anti-Semitic propaganda (Lewis 112)." In Marx on the Jewish Question: A Meta-critical Analysis, Michael Maidan explains that even Marx's most sincere admirers are at a loss but to admit that he had deeply anti-Jewish prejudices and that it is difficult to explain this away, even though the statements have to be qualified and considered in the context of the totality of his work and development of his post-Bauer/Young Hegelian views on historical materialism (Maidan 27).
Indeed, from whichever direction one can approach this thorny problem of Marx's anti-Semitism, at a baseline level it provides a real problem in terms of the packaging and the presentation of his ideas. Historical materialism does not look so "scientific" and so rational when it seems to contain a…