The Jew in American Politics (part 4): abolitionism, utopian socialism, and anti-Semitism

Nathaniel Weyl, a Jewish Communist turned anti-Communist, is eager to persuade his Jewish (or, if we're being realistic, mostly non-Jewish) readers that the true interests of Jews lie with conservatism and that Jewish leftism is not motivated by Jewish pursuit of self-interest -- thus the focus on highlighting "anti-Semitism" on the left wherever possible and the emphasis on Karl Marx as a self-hating Jew.

But the following section is of interest mostly because it correctly situates American experiments in utopian socialism like Brook Farm (one of Moldbug's favorite "proofs" that leftism is really New England Puritanism) in their European context.

Slavery, Abolitionism, Anti-Semitism

As the United States moved toward mid-century, the conflict over slavery began to overshadow all other political issues. The large majority of Jews opposed slavery as immoral and sympathized with the nascent Republican Party. There were, however, dissenting voices. One of them was Rabbi Isaac M. Wise, the eloquent, gifted and organizationally brilliant leader of Reformed Judaism in America. Wise viewed the abolitionist movement with suspicion and strongly opposed any radical solution of the slavery issue. Similarly, Emanuel Hart, perhaps the most influential of Northeastern Jewish politicians, refused to abandon the Democratic Party despite its pro-slavery stand.

In part because it was a coalition of minorities, the Democratic Party had been the traditional political home for American Jews. Its geographical minority was the South; its religious minorities the Catholics and Jews; its ethnic minorities the more recent and less respectable waves of immigrants, of whom the most important were the Irish. While a few American Jews supported the Know-Nothing movement with its hysterical anti-Catholicism, the vast majority viewed the nativists as potential enemies. In fact, their hatred of Catholics and of the newer immigration was already spilling over into anti-Semitism and such prominent leaders of the movement as William G. Brownlow and Henry Wilson were "notorious few haters."l9

The Know-Nothing element in its majority later swung over to the Republican camp and some of its leaders became prominent abolitionists. Among these was the anti-Semitic Henry Wilson, who wrote an enormous, impassioned and prejudiced history of slavery,20 became Vice president of the United States under Grant and was implicated in the corrupt Credit Mobilier scandals. An anti-Semite who was even more prominent in the abolitionist movement was Thaddeus Stevens. During a long life, Stevens discharged his venom at one target after another, changing his beliefs and convictions with bewildering speed. At one time, his political career had been based on hatred of the Masons whom he characterized as "a secret oath-bound, murderous institution that endangers the continuance of Republican government." At other times, he had raged against the banks and the moneyed aristocracy. In his later years, when his power to wound his enemies was greatest, he concentrated the full force of his cold, implacable will on the destruction of the institutions and way of life of the white South.21

Utopian Socialism and Anti-Semitism

The abolitionist movement eventually absorbed most of the utopian Socialists who had flourished in America during the first half of the nineteenth century. These movements derived primarily from three European thinkers--Saint-Simon, Fourier and Robert Owen--two of whom were anti-Semitic.

A member of the French nobility who had survived the Reign of Terror, Saint-Simon claimed that he had been visited by the ghost of Charlemagne. He planned a world without war in which properly would be held in common and a managerial class would direct labor. This authoritarian society was the very antithesis of the rapidly expanding world capitalist economy and was conceived as an aristocratic reaction against it. Since the Jews seemed to represent the free-market economy which he detested, Saint-Simon became an anti-Semite. He assailed Jews as imbued with "a spirit of greed and cupidity" and as "the very incarnation of the capitalist system of exploitation. . . ."22

The second of the great utopian Socialists, Charles Fourier (1772-1837), was a bourgeois who lost his fortune during the French Revolution, failed as a soldier and spent the remainder of his life as a small-time broker. His Socialist scheme consisted of reorganizing human activity in phalanges or colonies of 1,620 members. These were to be based on agriculture with rotation of tasks between members, division of income according to a rigid formula and a close association between rich and poor that would break down the arrogance of the former and the humility of the latter.

Considering the simplicity, indeed the naivete, of his formula for saving society, it is strange that Fourier should have at any time exerted a major intellectual influence on the world. Yet between 1840 and 1850, in the decade following Fourier's death, his writings had a great vogue and no fewer than 4l phalanges were attempted. Fourier's doctrines were introduced into the United States by Albert Brisbane and the most famous of all the phalanges, Brook Farm, attracted such superior minds as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, William Henry Channing Theodore Parker and Charles A. Dana.

Like Saint-Simon, and for the same reasons, Fourier was an anti-Semite. "To grant the Jews citizenship," he asserted, was "the most shameful of all the recent vices of contemporary society." The Jews were "parasites, merchants, usurers," who "pillaged the country like pirates and were guilty of mercantile depravities."23 [. . .]

Because of Fourier's eminent reputation, this invective had considerable impact on American intellectuals of the day. It was disseminated widely through the strange alliance of Charles A. Dana with Karl Marx. A frontier boy of Puritan background, Dana had had to leave Harvard because of failing eyesight and had then joined Brook Farm to become one of its leaders. "A militant idealist widely read in Socialist literature and warmly espousing associationism as a cure for the evils of competition,"26 he left Brook Farm after the phalange was burned down, joined Horace Greeley on the New York Tribune and for fifteen years was one of its directing intelligences.

In 1848, he went to Europe as foreign editor to observe its epidemic of revolutions. At the age of 39, Dana had run through Jacksonian radicalism and utopian Socialism and was eagerly awaiting a new ideology and a new destructive hero. He met Karl Marx in Cologne in 1848 or 1849 and shared the opinion of his colleague, Albert Brisbane that Marx was "the leader of the people's movement" whose "star was just in the ascendant" and who possessed, behind a reserved exterior, "the passionate fire of a daring spirit."

Dana promptly employed Marx as roving correspondent on foreign affairs for the Tribune. This radical newspaper, which had been established by followers of Fourier, had a circulation of 200,000, which was probably greater than that of any other paper in the world at that time. Opposing autocracy and slavery and favoring free trade, it was critical of practically every government in Europe.2o [. . .]

When the Civil War broke out, the Tribune had to retrench and Greeley urged the dismissal of its cantankerous, ultra- revolutionary and anti-Semitic correspondent. Dana was able to stave off the inevitable for a time, but in 1862 Marx was finally sacked.

Marx probably first acquired his virulent anti-Semitism from his father, who had been a disciple of Voltaire, and from his father-in-law, Ludwig von Westphalen, an ardent follower of Saint-Simon. To trace the pedigree of an obsession is, of course, not the same thing as to explain its underlying rationale. Since Marx was distinctively Jewish in appearance and so dark that he was nicknamed "the Moor," his anti-Semitism was a source of embarrassment to his friends. It must have seemed to them a revelation of his own self-hatred.

Karl Marx and American Anti-Semitism

From the beginning of his connection with the Tribune, Marx had used it as a vehicle for his profound hatred of Jews. Describing the political situation in eastern Europe, he observed: ". . . the money lender, the publican, the hawker-a very important man in these thinly populated countries-is very generally a Jew, whose native tongue is a horribly corrupted German."

In 1856 he wrote a long article, inveighing against a loan to the Russian government, launched under the auspices of the Jewish house of Stieglitz. This piece could have been accepted with few editorial changes by the Goebbels Propaganda Ministry had Marx been alive at the time and able to submit it under an Aryan pseudonym.

After harping on his theme that the ruling dynasties of Europe were sustained by Jewish banking houses, Marx concluded: "Thus we find every tyrant backed by a Jew, as is every Pope by a Jesuit. In truth, the cravings of oppression would be hopeless, and the practicability of war out of the question, if there were not an army of Jesuits to smother thought and a handful of Jews to ransack pockets." [. . .]

Possibly as a result of Marx's insidious propaganda against his own people even such minds as Emerson's seriously believed that the world was dominated by the Jews, and a writer of the stature of James Russell Lowell could rhetorically ask, perhaps unconsciously plagiarizing one of Marx's diatribes, "Where would a Jew be among a society of primitive men without pockets. . . ?"

The abolitionists fell heir to this unsavory crew of Socialists, utopians, crackpots and anti-Semites. Horace Greeley became increasingly hostile to Jewry as he became more deeply committed to abolitionism, perhaps because of his resentment at the skill with which Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin was directing the foreign policy of the Confederacy, perhaps for other reasons. Occasionally, one of Marx's disciples, such as the man he termed "our philosopher," Joseph Dietzgen, would voyage to America. Among Dietzgen's philosophic contributions was the equation of Polish Jews with evil spirits. Fourierists, Socialists and the American representatives of the anti-Semitic hate movements which Proudhon, Marx and Bakunin had managed to create plunged into the Civil War and enthusiastically supported the radical wing of abolitionism. Their hope, like that of Marx, was that the end of chattel slavery would sound the funeral dirge for "wage slavery." As America entered her great fratricidal conflict, the seeds had been planted for a significant anti-Semitic movement, not among the majority of Americans of either North or South, but in the minds of a few intellectual radicals and a rabble driven by resentment. [. . .]

The Civil War

At the time of the Civil War, there were about 150,000 Jews in the United States among a white population of 27 million. Jews thus constituted slightly more than half of one per cent of the total. [. . .]

The intense loyalty of Southern Jews to the Confederacy was to be expected in view of the fact that the South was the first region in the United States to tear down the barriers blocking the political and social advance of Jews. Thus, the first few to serve as a state governor was David Emanuel, who, having distinguished himself for valor in the siege of Savannah in the Revolutionary War, was elected Governor of Georgia in 1801. By contrast the last state to retain discriminatory laws against Jews holding public office was New Hampshire, which did not remove them until 1876.2 [. . .]

Jewry and the Union Cause

By 1860, a large majority of American Jews lived north of the Mason and Dixon line and a decided majority of them sympathized with the Republican Party which had been organized in Wisconsin six years previously. In Chicago, four of five organizers of a mass meeting to launch a local Republican Party were Jewish. In Philadelphia and New York, Jews were almost equally prominent in the new party. A Kentucky Jew, Lewis Napthali Dembitz (whose nephew, Louis Dembitz Brandeis would later sit on the Supreme Court), was one of those who placed Abraham Lincoln's name in nomination for the Presidency.r,

The Northern Jews and the Germans tended to be strongly Republican and anti-slavery both before and during the Civil War. The other great new immigrant group, the Irish, in the main sympathized with the South and was antagonistic toward Negroes. The draft riots which swept New York City in July 1863 were a barometer of the intensity of this feeling. Mobs, largely Irish, threw up barricades, stole carbines, made headlong assaults on the State arsenal, repulsed 2,000 armed police, burned some $5 million worth of property and shot, stoned, trampled, hanged or burned to death some 30 Negroes, hunting others down like rabbits. When the storm in the streets subsided, the North became aware of the power and fury of a primarily Irish proletariat which deeply resented a conscription system bearing down upon the poor and a war seemingly fought to free the Negro slaves.

Union Generals and Jewish Peddlers

As the Union armies advanced into the South, merchants, many of them Jews, proceeded in their wake. Their main interest was in buying cotton from those Southerners whose plantations and warehouses were now behind Union lines and in moving this desperately needed raw material into the normal channels of international trade. To do so meant to violate various military economic regulations and to interfere with the punitive policies of the War Department and the radical anti-Southern element in Washington.

The first to raise the issue of the "Jew peddlers'," was General William Tecumseh Sherman who on July 30, 1862 complained of "swarms of Jews" in a letter to General John A. Rawlins, which Grant read. At about the same time, General Samuel R. Curtis wrote General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck that his camp was "infested with Jews." [. . .]

The New York Times regarded Grant's order as "one of the deepest sensations of the war" and expressed editorial dissatisfaction with both Lincoln and the sycophantic Jewish delegation:

"The order, to be sure, was promptly set aside by the President, but the affront to the Jews conveyed by its issue, was not so easily effaced. A committee of Jews took it upon themselves to thank President Lincoln at Washington for so promptly annulling the odious order. Against the conduct of this committee the bulk of the Jews vehemently protest. They say they have no thanks for an act of simple and imperative justice--but grounds for deep and just com- plaint against the Government, that General Grant has not been dismissed from the service."

The proposal that Lincoln sack his best general on such grounds was unreasonable; the Times' belief that the "Jew peddlers" incident was serious was not. It seemed ominous to many American Jews that three of the Union's outstanding generals--Halleck, Sherman and Grant--had singled them out for discriminatory attack. By contrast, the Confederacy never issued any orders which singled out Jews by name. Jefferson Davis considered Grant's conduct an arbitrary abuse of power.

No comments: