Eugen Dühring on the Jewish Question, Part 1: The German Socialism of Eugen Dühring

Part 1: The German Socialism of Eugen Dühring[1]

Eugen Dühring (1833–1921) was born in Berlin the son of a Prussian bureaucrat. He studied law, philosophy and political econ­omy at the University of Berlin. Although he began his career by practicing law (1856–59), he was forced to give up this profession at the age of twenty eight when he was blinded through a congenital defect.

However, Dühring accepted his fate heroically declaring that “[this catastrophe] did not dampen but increased the enthusiasm with which I had sketched out for myself even previously a human vocation of intellectual scope—my goal was my consolation—of all the thoughts that remained remote from me. In my later life it has been up to now the remotest to complain about my blindness.”

Dühring took his doctorate in 1861 at the University of Berlin with a dissertation entitled De Tempore, Spatio, Causalitate atque de Analysis Infinitesimalis Logica (On Time, Space, Causality and on Infinitesimal Logical Analysis). In 1863 he became university lec­turer in philosophy and national economy. His earliest published works were national economic ones influenced by his reading of the German-American economist Friedrich List (1789–1846) and the American Henry Charles Carey (1793–1879) who were both in fa­vour of organic economics with a strong emphasis on protectionism and national interest.

Dühring’s economic doctrines are detailed in Kapital und Ar­beit (Capital and Labor) (Berlin, 1865), Careys Umwälzung der Volkswirtschaftshehre (München, 1865), Kritische Grundlegung der Volkswirtschaftslehre (Berlin, 1866), and Die Verkleinerer Careys (Breslau, 1867). Already the ethical orientation of his economic studies was revealed in his early publication of a work entitled Der Wert des Lebens (Breslau, 1865). Two further philosophical publications (Natürliche Dialektik, Berlin, 1865, and Kritische Geschichte der Philosophie, Berlin, 1869) were followed by yet other works on national economy, the Kritische Geschichte der Nationalökonomie und des Sozialismus (Berlin, 1871), and the Cursus der National- und Sozialökonomie (Berlin, 1873). A fuller elaboration of his philosophical system was presented in the Cursus der Philosophie (Leipzig, 1875).

While Dühring’s lectures were very successful, he adopted from the start a critical attitude to the university and its institutions, and the improbability of his acquiring a professorship as a result of this conflict only sharpened his attacks. Finally, in 1877, under the pres­sure created by his attacks on German universities and their pro­fessors as well as those on Helmholtz in his Kritische Geschichte der allgemeinen Principien der Mechanik, (Berlin, 1873), Dühring was removed from the university.

This dismissal was later attributed by him to the machination of the Jewish elements in the university and of their influential agents in the press. His later publications as a private scholar — including two works on literature, Die Überschätzung Lessings und dessen Anwaltschaft für die Juden (Karlsruhe, 1881) and Die Grössen der modernen Literatur (Leipzig, 1893), as well as Die Judenfrage (Karls­ruhe, 1881), an intellectual autobiography, Sache, Leben und Feinde (Karlsruhe, 1882), and a work on religion, Der Ersatz der Religion durch Volkommeneres (Karlsruhe, 1883) — represent his comprehen­sive treatment of the problem of Jewish involvement in European society. His major interest in social and political economy however is reinforced in his last works, a second edition of Capital und Arbeit entitled Waffen, Capital, Arbeit (Leipzig, 1906) and Soziale Rettung (Leipzig, 1907), which are consolidations of his economic and phil­osophic positions.

Dühring battled for reform in all fields of life, being exceptionally qualified to comment in an expert way on most of them. And it must be noted that, while the Jewish mentality is emphatically located as the root of the evil of society in his later works, his anti-Judaism was evident long before his dismissal from the university, in his earliest economic and philosophical works. His social ideal was based on a moral cultivation of the individual spirit which would liberate the personality from all external and internal hindrances and permit it to form a vital culture. To this end Dühring founded a journal called Der Personalist und Emanzipator in 1899, designed to strengthen the human-individual spirit in its opposition to the external powers of nature as well as to those of exploitative social groups, especially the Jews.

Unlike most of the other philosophical anti-Semites, such as Fichte and Schopenhauer and Chamberlain, Dühring was not an idealist but a realist. He dismissed metaphysics as being one of the sources of the superstitious errors of mankind and his mathemati­cal denial of infinity was reflected in his stern view of human life as being empirically and socially determined. However, even in this realism, Dühring retained a vestige of metaphysics since he posited behind all temporality a “primordial being” from which the universe evolves. Only, for human beings in their terrestrial condition, the actually present is far more valuable than speculations regarding the ulti­mate source of reality.

What takes the place of metaphysical ques­tions in Dühring’s work is the Socratean imperative of morality. For, all life, while materially manifested, is informed with vitality and activity, categories which cannot be reduced to matter. Man-made institutions like religion are to be removed only because they are invariably encrusted with superstitions and act as a stumbling block to the full realization of the human personality.

In economics, the Marxist view of class-warfare is to be similarly considered as a dangerous superstition which obscures in convolut­ed dialectic the real sympathy that should and could exist between employers and workers and which alone forms the basis of a healthy social ethos. In this, Dühring was one with the other ‘German socialists’, in­cluding Oswald Spengler (Preuβentum und Sozialismus) and Wer­ner Sombart (Deutscher Sozialismus) who paved the way for Na­tional Socialist economic theory.

Like the anti-democratic thinkers of the Weimar Republic, both Conservative and Socialist, Dühring considered parliamentarism as an outmoded and dangerous system. The Eng­lish Parliament he characterised as a “Repräsentation des Raub- und Raffsystems” (representation of the system of robbery and money-grubbing), since the Tory and Whig parties were nothing but the representatives of belligerent and colonial robbery and capitalis­tic-commercial rapacity. The French parliament was even more basely bourgeois in its representation of financial and stock-ex­change interests. In Germany, parliamentarism receives its hateful stamp from the swaggering Junker and Hebrew bourgeois elements of the so-called Social Democracy in which “one cannot speak of a real rejection of slavery, but which on the contrary uses the traditional familiarity of the masses to slavery to subject them to a party despotism and an exploitation by the parties.”[2] Parliamentary legislation too must be effectively curtailed in its attacks on the workers and their living conditions. Rather, he pro­posed free associations between the concerned parties that resemble economic communes and corporations.

Unlike Marx, Dühring did not consider the reformation of social relations as something that will arise through dialectical necessity from the increasing weakness of the working classes in an industrial society, for this is tantamount to expecting a miracle from the ex­ploitative tendencies of the capitalists. On the other hand, the workers themselves must strive to strengthen themselves through coalitions so as to achieve self-suffi­ciency. The coalitions or communes formed by workers will guaran­tee access of all to property and means of production. The focus is thus shifted away from the concept of personal property altogether to the personal use of this property. Thus owners of property can only own their property according to their individual capacity to do so and if they avoid all tendency to exploitation.

The precondition for the success of such workers’ coalitions, however, is the direction of all their efforts on behalf of the interests of the whole, of the public as a totality, and this can be effected perfectly only when the state enters in their support. The state must act as the mediator between the several socio-economic interests of the pop­ulation, especially since the latter cannot be adequately represented by political parties, which are not truly democratic at all but oli­garchic groupings in which “a considerable part of the people has a place only as a ruled and mostly anonymous mass.”[3] The leadership of the state can be accomplished only by the prevalence of another sense than that of profit-making such as is directive in the British political economy and in that of its followers on the continent.

The prime consideration of the state must be the totality of the as­pirations of the people. Dühring’s Socialitarian economics therefore is nation-bound and not an international economic one. Dühring commends the protective tariff economics of List and Carey, which, as opposed to free-trade economics, is an organic one and

more compatible with the logical consequences of the so­cialist instinct. The tariff party is conscious everywhere of a national interest; it is conscious of a genuine po­litical economy; it does not break up into atomism and individualism that benefit only exploiting individuals.[4]

The Socialitarian principle is thus essentially the replacement of the egoistic individualism of force with the harmonious operation of the sovereignty of the individual. The remedy of the present deplorable situation can be accom­plished therefore only when society is first revolutionized on an an­ti-egoistic basis.

In his discussion of the Jewish question, Dühring makes clear that this revolution may be identified with a revolution against the Jews, as the racial embodiment of self-interest, and points out that “In the country of origin of the French Revolution, in Judaized France, one hears the declaration that the next Revolution will be one against the Jews.”[5]

The fact that parliamentarism has increasingly been dominated by the influence of the Jews and the socialistic proletariat, that is, of those racial and social elements which are the most egoistic, leads Dühring to call for the overcoming of the “Jewish progress and Jun­ker reaction” which represent the system of avarice and rapacity. This can be accomplished only by a transitional dictatorship which gives political expression to the anger of the people. Dühring con­ceives of the bearer of such a dictatorship as an intellectually and morally outstanding person whose power is consolidated by armed force and by an elite of like-minded persons filled with the same sense of social justice. The task of this regime would be to create a fertile ground for true justice so that, even after its passing, the society may continue to develop itself in future through its purified spirit and will.

Thus, although Dühring began as a student of socialist doc­trines, he later rejected all forms of collectivism and maintained that true progress proceeds only from individual powerful personalities. Even where groups seem to be the bearers of creative activities, in the final analysis it is individuals at the head of those organisations in whom the entire association achieves its characteristic effect.

The state as an association itself is to be valued only as a check on the various economic associations active in society so that none exploits or damages the other. Dühring’s increasing reliance on the individual personality caused him in his later years to identify the classification of society according to property and interest as a result of the differences of opportunities for development of personal ca­pacity and character which are propagated through the generations by tradition and inheritance.

Unlike the socialists, Dühring considered all property related to personal accomplishment as vigorously to be defended against the acquisitive grasp of socialistic measures. All Marxist denials of social classifications are thus utopian, since a conflict of interests is indivisibly linked to the natural differences between man and man. Only one sort of differenti­ation is to be rejected, that based on violence. The Jewish socialist propaganda of class-warfare is only a result of the introduction of injustice into these natural differences. This injustice is concocted, in the final analysis, not from economic sen­timents but from the original opposition between a powerful warri­or nobility and a powerless slave group such as the Jews themselves have always been.  It is not surprising that the Jewish economy transvalues econom­ics through the subordination of the higher to the lower aspirations of the people.

The vital importance of the self-emancipation of the individual is reinforced in Dühring’s doctrine of morality freed from all superstitious religion. Considering the Judaic concept of Yahweh as that of a God of “transcendental terrorism,” Dühring sought to replace the Judeo-Christian ethos by a new social and economic feeling for justice. This entails the rejection first of all of all sorts of exploitation whereby the individual is exposed to harm from the robber-types of the society. The latter are directed by the desire for increasing indi­vidual profit, that is, by the cultivation of a ruthless egoism.

The true concept of justice therefore depends on the substitution of egoism by a radical antiegoism. Only on the ground of this sort of justice can a healthy society and culture develop, a social order in which “entire members would be bound by legal interests and would not aim at basing their own existence and power on the re­duction and destruction of other lives.”[6]

The reform of social justice, however, does not mean the simplis­tic socialist demand of equality for all, since rewards are always directly related to performance; what is to be avoided at all cost, however, are unjust encroachments on personal freedom and in­tegrity which represent the mastery of the exploitative members of the present society.[7] The reform of the “intellectually motivated will” to a better and nobler personal disposition will, in its anti-egoism, be naturally restrained in its inter-personal dealings and its partici­pation in the nexus of economic interests.

That the major representatives of the exploitative economy are Jews Dühring never once doubted. In the Kritische Geschichte der Nationalökonomie und des Sozialismus, he comments on the commer­cial ethos of the present:

It denies in no way its Semitic relationship and, even though the discernment that we have to bring to the settling of the question of egoism is clear, we cannot attribute an understanding of this to those who, by virtue of their unchangeable egoism, seem to have no organ for scientific reason and for nobler motives in this direction.

This “theoretical obtuseness” of the Jews is an intellectual fortifi­cation “behind which has been entrenched up to now the apotheosis of egoism, the glorification of the art of cheating, and, in general, the entire celebration of the celebration of the fine strategy of cunning exploita­tion.”[8]

In his Cursus der Philosophie, he reiterates the commercial and financial role appropriated everywhere by the Jews after the fall of their own state and their parasitical infiltration into other nations. The historically attested “cruelty and crass egoism” of the Jews has thus seeped into the public through the press and even into legis­lation, which have been increasingly dominated by them. Indeed, “even parts of science which are especially ventured into by the Jews on account of their exclusion from others already reveal in many ways the stamp of the new form of business directed to profit.”[9] At first agreeing to a subordinate position in exchange for the privilege of making money through underhanded means, and then gradually currying favour with the power-holders through their increasing fi­nancial advantages, the Jews have inexorably developed a mastery in their host societies. “To be a slave or to make slaves—that is the alternative of the peoples disposed to lack of freedom.” The “slave-form of religion” is thus the characteristic and influential contribu­tion of the Jews to intellectual history.

At the time of writing this work on philosophy, Dühring still be­lieved that socialism itself would be sufficient to counter the egoistic system of the Jews since it is based on the organic sensibility of the people which itself is radically opposed to the alien character of ex­ploitative Jewry. In fact, Dühring still hoped that, when society removed the sup­ports for the material egoism and exploitative activity of the Jews, the latter would be forced to live on their own work and not para­sitically on that of others. Moreover, he thought that, since his form of socialism, or Socialitarianism, would guarantee the economic in­dependence of women as well as men, the former would not enter into marriages of economic convenience with Jewish men any longer since, according to Dühring’s belief, there could be no “personal in­clination” thereto.[10] This would preclude ‘’the danger that the Jewish elements may exert some hateful influence on the physiology of the national character.” The removal of opportunities for the exploitative activity of the Jews would at the same time make possible in the long run “a grad­ual improvement of the ways of thought and feeling” of the Jews and equip them for “functions freed of egoism.”

This generous optimism of 1875 was, however, soon replaced by a more realistic understanding of the impossibility of the ethical im­provement of the Jews. Dühring’s, increasing concentration on the Jewish problem since the first publication of the Judenfrage in 1881 led to an increasing annoyance with the destructive alien element in European society until, in the final editions of the Judenfrage, he clearly maintained that, since the Jewish character was an un­changeable one, the only means that would be effective against them would have to be of a violent nature.

In the last edition of Judenfrage (1901), Dühring even suggested that all the specific social and political remedies proposed by him against the Jewish evil in the earlier editions were bound to be inadequate in the long run and must necessarily be reinforced by stronger means which do not permit the possibility of Jewish existence within European communities any longer. As he explained in Sache, Leben and Feinde, the Jewish mentality is a criminal one and its effect on the rest of society is that “the corruption of the senses and the spirit comes first and the lowering of the feeling for justice paves the way for the material ravaging and devouring. For this reason the answer to the Jewish question belongs not merely to economics but in general to life and to existence, in all contexts.”[11]

He now considered the Jewish question not merely in racial terms but in terms of the question of estates, especially those bearing arms and those those that are derived of them. This included the Junkers as a target of Dühring’s criticism, since they represented a segment of the exploitative population that would naturally have to be overcome: “Junker and priest, Jew and bourgeois, were to be analysed from different viewpoints but still in a similar way. . . . Crime has no right to existence and must be destroyed in its embodiments—that is the axiom from which I start everywhere, thus even in the questions of race and estate.”[12]

His animus against the Junker ruling class is due to his convic­tion that militarism and exploitation are the characteristics of an exploitative stratum that harms the peaceful occupation of the peas­ant: “the real peasant is directed to peace from his occupation it­self and . . . the unjustified belligerent disturbances throughout the world are based primarily on a weapon-bearing estate which has lived throughout history only by the sword, thus on the robbed or forced work of others.”[13]

He naturally concedes that even the working class could become degenerate and unworthy of consideration: “Even a working class that has degenerated in its estate can have forms which forfeit the right to existence as much as any other section.” Dühring’s final effort was to raise his reformatory idea to the status of a world-historical principle. The case of the Jews, however, was the “most serious”[14] since it revolved on “original natural defects and criminal natural creatures.”[15] The Jewish eman­cipation is meaningless since the Jews will never be free, for a

true emancipation worthy of the name is accomplished only where the personal freedom and integrity is established and secured fundamentally and in all contexts, but especially in the individual. Therefore, the emancipation of the Hebrews is the real and decisive one for man­kind; for, to remain exposed to the powers of lies and exploitation, of intellectual and material deception, indeed to fall victim to them to a certain degree through the laws themselves and for the sake of justice, so to speak, means to be not free. . . . To be free or not to be is our solution in all things and for all.[16]

Go to Part 2.

[1] This essay is taken from the Introduction to my edition of Eugen Dühring, The Jewish Question as a racial, moral and cultural question, with a world-historical answer, London: Ostara Publications, 2019.

[2] Waffen, Capital, Arbeit, p. 73.

[3] Kritische Geschichte der Nationalökonomie and des Sozialismus, p.486.

[4] Ibid. p.489.

[5] Die Judenfrage, (posthumous edition, ed. H. Reinhardt), Leipzig: O.R. Reisland, 1930, p.134.

[6] Soziale Rettung, p. 181.

[7] Thus Dühring also occasionally called his Socialitarian system an ‘Antikratic’ one (as opposed to an ‘Anarchic’ system).

[8] Ibid., p. 453.

[9] Ibid., p. 391.

[10] This was of course written a century ago, when the natural sense of the Europe­an peoples was still relatively uncorrupted by liberalistic indoctrination.

[11] Sache, Leben and Feinde, p. 281.

[12] p. 282.

[13] p. 512.

[14] p. 284.

[15] p. 283.

[16] p. 508f.

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