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Mar 2002 Journal

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Leftwing antisemitism - an idea whose time has come

Pierre Joseph Proudhon was a nineteenth-century French socialist (with anarchist leanings) best remembered for coining the slogan 'Property is theft!' In reality, he did not want all property abolished, drawing the line at peasants' small holdings and artisans' workrooms. The property owners he had in his sights were the entrepreneurs who set up factories staffed by ill-paid proletarians.

The advent of no-holds-barred capitalism was an upheaval behind which Proudhon discerned Jews as the main driving force and beneficiaries. (In a similar vein, the Jewish-descended Karl Marx alleged that Judaism embodied the spirit of capitalism.) Another ideologue of that persuasion was the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, who fought alongside Richard Wagner in the Dresden 'Revolution' of 1849. But just as the Slavophile Bakunin could not long collaborate with the Teutomaniac Wagner, so socialism and antisemitism were incompatible. Over a century ago the leader of German social democracy, August Bebel, pithily dubbed antisemitism 'the socialism of idiots'.

However, today one is tempted to rephrase that as 'anti-Zionism is the antisemitism of media hacks'. On 10 January the New Statesman revealed the behind-the-scenes manipulations of wealthy Zionists like the arms trader Shlomo Zabludowicz and Lord Weidenfeld - manipulators whom the journal, truthfully, adjudged rather ineffectual. But the weekly - over which the pro-Zionist Richard Crossman once presided - also launched the concept of 'Big Jewry', thus conjuring up the image of a closely knit group of moneybags influencing Western policy in favour of Israel. What, one asks, is talk of 'Big Jewry' other than a leftwing rehash of the tsarist-inspired Protocols of the Elders of Zion?
Richard Grunberger

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