Marx’s “On the Jewish Question”: An Analysis

It’s considered an antisemitic slander to say Jews worship money, but Marx said as much in, On the Jewish Question* when he said the religion of the Jews was…”a religion of hucksterism.”

Apparently he said that Judaism was just capitalism with money as a worship object. On the other hand, Marx didn’t like any other religion either and let’s face it, he was Jewish himself and his own father was a rabbi! I would not call Marx an antisemite. He was too sophisticated for that, and anyway, I’m quite sure he was aware of anti-Jewish prejudice in his native Germany and I doubt if he wanted to go over to the side of his enemies.

*On the Jewish Question, by Karl Marx. Below my comments are in quote marks:

Let us consider the actual, worldly Jew – not the Sabbath Jew, as Bauer does, but the everyday Jew.

Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew.

What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest (capitalism). What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering (capitalism). What is his worldly God? Money (capitalism).

Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money (capitalism), consequently from practical, real Judaism (capitalism), would be the self-emancipation of our time. (We would emancipate ourselves from capitalism)

An organization of society which would abolish the preconditions for huckstering (capitalism), and therefore the possibility of huckstering (capitalism), would make the Jew (capitalism) impossible. His religious consciousness  (capitalism) would be dissipated like a thin haze in the real, vital air of society.

On the other hand, if the Jew recognizes that this practical nature of his is futile and works to abolish it, he extricates himself from his previous development and works for human emancipation as such and turns against the supreme practical expression of human self-estrangement.

(The project of the Jew is to emancipate himself from practical Judaism – capitalism – and in so doing, he also works to liberate the human race in the same way. And he liberates himself and humanity from capitalism alienation.)

We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time (capitalism), an element which through historical development – to which in this harmful respect the Jews have zealously contributed – has been brought to its present high level (a highly developed state of capitalism which is quite toxic), at which it must necessarily begin to disintegrate.

A lot of people think this is an antisemitic text but I doubt if it is. Marx was an opponent of capitalism, and Jews were ardent practitioners of such at the time, that’s for sure.

He’s simply equating Judaism with capitalism and saying the Jewish religion is just capitalism or the worship of money. Fair enough.

Go ask a lot of Jews how their family pressured them to “succeed” (as in make a ton of money) and you might not get a lot of argument.

A lot of Jews are angry about the materialism of Jewish culture. I was on a Jewish Defense League forum once and there were many poor and even homeless Jews on there who were not happy at all about this aspect of their culture. They all said that their families treated them horribly for not being successful in a financial sense. A lot of them were quite bitter about this. I doubt if JDL Jews are antisemites!

I actually think this is a very sophisticated text.

In order to be liberated, the Jew must emancipate himself from his enslavement in Judaism (capitalism). And in order for society to become emancipated, society itself must liberate itself from Judaism (capitalism).

Big deal, huh? So what’s the fuss?

That seems to be all he’s getting at. This is very deep essay that makes very  complex arguments that is quite hard to read and understand and it’s pretty hard to figure out exactly what he’s getting at. I have a feeling it might be easily misunderstood.

You can read it over here and see if you agree with me. Maybe you will and maybe you won’t but I think the “antisemitic” panic over this piece is just silly. Just more Jewish paranoia.

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