Opium for the People

“Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.” — Napoleon.

A few decades before Marx, a few folks already had it all figured out. Twenty years after the Jacobin Liberation, another great liberation was planned, this time of all of Europe. Across the continent, from Lisbon to Moscow, there was one ancien regime after another. Bonaparte, prefiguring Woodrow Wilson and the democracy-spreading neocons, was out to liberate them all. A spectre haunted Europe, the spectre of Napoleon. The lords and royals trembled in their boots. Feudalism had barely been overthrown in much of the land, and in decrepit or pure forms it struggled on. All across Europe, progressive, liberals and what passed for the Left supported Napoleon. The Modern Right, defined by Burke for the first time during the Revolution, shook with fear. Prior to Burke, the Right was only those who ruled in the name of God. In his own land, Napoleon opened the gates of the Jewish ghettos, extended full rights to them and in so doing, to all minorities. With the stroke of a pen, he extended what was nearly the world’s first full rights to minorities. Previously, human society had always been the usual zero-sum game, majority rule meant majority abuse, and it was never easy being a minority. After centuries in the ghetto, the Jew emerged a pitiful and damaged creature. Progressives and liberals all over Europe took up the cause of the assimilation of the Jews, the only logical response to the plight of the Jews. As Napoleon is the father of all modern Jews in sense, so was he the father of the modern Jewish progressive spirit. It is little known, but prior to Napoleon, the Jews had always been deeply conservative. Their politics was the usual reactionary politics of the rich. As they emerged from the ghettos and tasted real discrimination, the Jews became lit with the fire of revolution. If the Jews could be liberated, then so could all men. It was from here that the Jewish reform movements sprang, and passionate Jews, eyes lit with fire, burst forth to be a light unto nations. This was the impetus for the 200 years of Jewish reformers, progressives, liberals and revolutionaries that followed. By the late 1800’s, Jewish reaction had had enough. Orthodox Judaism was formed, really just the old reconstituted rabbinic superstition and stultifying stupidity of the ghetto. Several decades later, nationalist revolutions rocked all of Europe. The empires, religious and otherwise, were crumbling. The era of the nation-state (in its own way really a democratic movement at core), for better or for worse, had begun. The same year Marx published his Manifesto. In another 2 or 3 decades, the streets of Paris would run red with blood, and the Paris Commune was smashed. 30,000 corpses lay in the Parisian streets. The Age of Revolution had begun, but really it all started in 1812 via a proud little man, his hand warming in his coat.

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