Anti-Jewish Writing

Frederick the Great’s Jewish Policy: Between Containment and Profit, Part 3

Go to Part 1.
Go to Part 2.

The Political Testament of 1752 and the Jews: “The Most Dangerous of Sects”

Frederick the Great’s two political testaments are significant documents—systematic presentations of political doctrine, which rulers of Brandenburg-Prussia had composed since the days of the Great Elector (apparently inspired by Richelieu). These expound not only many of Frederick’s general doctrines but also contain his longest and most explicit comments on Jews and justifications concerning his Jewish policy. These are therefore essential documents for understanding the monarch’s thinking.

In the Political Testament of 1752, the Jews are presented essentially as an economic problem. Their numbers in Prussia had increased substantially following Frederick’s conquest of Silesia in the 1740s, which had also lengthened the country’s border with Poland, where Jews had an important economic role. Under the heading, “On Rules for Commerce and Manufactures,” Frederick writes on the need for industrial policy, local manufacturing, and tariffs. In this context, he says of the Jews:

One must watch over the Jews and prevent them from getting involved in wholesale trade, prevent their numbers from increasing, and, at fraud they do, deprive them of the right of residence, for nothing is more contrary to the merchants’ commerce than the illegal trade done by the Jews.[1]

Frederick, a deist, was essentially contemptuous of all traditional religious stories and organizations. Under the heading “On Ecclesiastics and Religions,” he advocates religious tolerance rather than fanaticism, ensuring civil peace and prosperity for “Catholics, Lutherans, Reformists, Jews, and many other Christian sects.”[2]

All that having been said, Frederick notes that the Jews are nonetheless “the most dangerous of sects” due to their economic practices:

The Jews are the most dangerous of sects, because they harm Christian trade and are useless to the State. We need this nation for some trade with Poland, but one must prevent their numbers from increasing and fix them, not at a certain number of families, but a certain number of heads, and restrict their commerce and prevent them from wholesaling, so that they only be retailers.[3]

Frederick therefore opposed Jews not on religious grounds but because he thought them prone to fraud, detrimental to other businesses, and useless to the State, except in enabling trade with underdeveloped Poland. Frederick argues for Jewish policy to be motivated strictly on utilitarian economic grounds rather than on religious or racial ones: practical measures included both economic policy (keeping Jews out of wholesaling), and a voluntarist population policy aimed at limiting Jewish numbers (headcount not family count), but also including the forcible deportation of those found guilty of fraud.

The Political Testament of 1768 and the Jews: Against Usury and Fraud

Frederick’s Political Testament of 1768 still predates the first partition of Poland, during which the Jewish population of Prussia would grow with the annexations of Polish territory. Nonetheless, this Testament too dedicates significant attention to the Jews, essentially presented as an economic problem. Jews are denounced again, this time not only for fraud but also usury. Hence, under the heading “On the Bank,” dealing with lending, Frederick praises “the Lombards established in the big towns, who lend money for manufacturing and other works at low interest, to prevent the Jews from crushing the peoples through usury.”[4]

Under the heading “Views for the Future,” Frederick expounds on the need to develop the country, its agriculture, cities, and industry. Again, Frederick notes the Jews’ usefulness for trade with Poland, but otherwise finds them harmful:

We have too many Jews in the cities. We need some on the border with Poland, because in that country there are only Hebrew merchants. If a city is not close to Poland, the Jews become harmful by their usury, by the contraband among them, and by the fraud undertaken to the detriment of the Christian bourgeois and merchants. I have not persecuted the people of this sect; but I believe it is prudent to ensure that their numbers do not increase too much.[5]

Frederick mentions the Jews a final time under the heading “On the General Police,” charged with enforcing order, safety, and good manners. He writes that the police must, among other duties, ensure that “the Jews do not crudely conduct their usury.”[6]

Frederick’s basic attitude on Jews had thus not fundamentally changed between 1752 and 1768. Claiming to not be motivated by religious prejudice, purely economic and political reason, he denounced their “crushing the peoples through usury” and their “thousand scams [friponneries] which turn to the detriment of the Christian burghers and merchants.”[7] They were again only useful in Poland and their numbers ought to be carefully limited.

Conclusion: The Contradictions of Frederick the Great’s Jewish Policy

Frederick the Great’s attitudes and policies towards the Jews were free from religious or racial prejudice, animated by the Enlightenment’s spirit of toleration for religious minorities. In other words, because of Enlightenment values, he was naturally inclined in a theoretical, a priori sort of way to view Judaism as deserving tolerance, just like other religious sects. However, in practical terms, he realized the harm that Jewish business practices caused to the non-Jewish population whose interests, after all, were his main concern. And he inherited a contradictory set of policies from his predecessors which aimed at simultaneously limiting the Jewish population and the economic problems associated with it, while economically profiting from that population’s licit or illicit activities. Frederick’s own experience in government and warfare led him to essentially maintain, rationalize, and further develop these policies.

Frederick himself had a liberal reputation as an “enlightened despot.” The French philosopher Jean le Rond d’Alembert wrote him:

[The Austrian emperor] is apparently granting the Jews freedom of conscience and the status of citizens, which his ancestors the august emperors would have regarded as the greatest crime. It is you, Sire, whom humanity and philosophy must thank for all which the other sovereigns are doing and will do to favor tolerance and suppress superstition; because it is [Your Majesty] who gave them the first great example.[8]

In fact, Frederick’s policies were quite restrictive on the whole, but this statement is symptomatic of the secularizing Enlightenment’s move away from religiously-defined citizenship and toward the gradual recognition of Jews as individual citizens, free of any group loyalty or ethnic bias.

In fact, assimilation and shedding of group identities and ties did not occur at any level of the Jewish community, including the movement of Reform Judaism, and it was never intended by any significant segment of the Jewish community. Jews had warmly greeted the Enlightenment and “emancipation” but refused to accept the Enlightenment’s premise that group ties would be rejected in favor of a thoroughgoing individualism. As Israeli historian Jacob Katz noted,

The predicament of emancipated Jewry, and ultimately the cause of its tragic end, was rooted not in one or another ideology but in the fact that Jewish Emancipation had been tacitly tied to an illusory expectation—the disappearance of the Jewish community of its own volition. When this failed to happen, and the Jews, despite Emancipation and acculturation, continued to be conspicuously evident, a certain uneasiness, not to say a sense of outright scandal, was experienced by Gentiles. . . . If gaining civil rights meant an enormous improvement in Jewish prospects, at the same time it carried with it a precariously ill-defined status which was bound to elicit antagonism from the Gentile world.[9] (Katz 1983, 43)

Jewish writers on this period have rightly emphasized the self-contradictory and even self-defeating quality of Frederick’s policy of accepting Jews for economic reasons but seeking otherwise to limit their numbers and influence. As the number of wealthy Jews gradually rose, these steadily increased pressure on the government to eliminate checks against them, a self-reinforcing pattern common in Western history. The Jewish Encyclopedia writes:

During Frederick’s entire reign the Prussian Jews continually protested against harsh edicts, but without much success. In 1763, however, succession to the rights of the Schutzjuden was extended to second sons on condition that these take up manufacturing. For this privilege the Jews had to pay 70,000 thalers. For further privileges the Jews had to purchase a definite number of pieces of porcelain from the royal porcelain manufactory.[10]

The Jewish Virtual Library confirms this trend, also reinforced by the large Jewish population Prussia acquired by conquering parts of Poland:

In Berlin, Breslau, and Koenigsberg the upper strata of the Jews, who were rich and influential, took the first steps toward assimilation, acquiring the General-Privilegium, which granted them the rights of Christian merchants (such as freedom of movement and settlement). Through the First Partition of Poland (1772) Prussia’s Jewish population had almost doubled, and Frederick feared above all an influx of Jews from the newly annexed province of West Prussia.[11]

It is no wonder that Frederick’s policy proved unsustainable and was gradually dismantled by his successors. The Jewish Virtual Library notes: “Frederick’s nephew, Frederick William II (1786–97), inaugurated a period of liberalization and reform in Prussia. As crown prince, he had borrowed large sums from Berlin’s Jewish financiers.”[12] The vicious circle of Jewish emancipation, Jewish economic, political, and cultural empowerment, and anti-Semitism would of course culminate in the apocalyptic conflict between Jews and Germans in the first half of the twentieth century.

[1] Gustav Berthold Volz (ed.), Die Politischen Testamente Friedrich’s des Grossen (Berlin: Von Reimar Hobbing, 1920):

[2]Ibid. Frederick added, in a manner typical for Enlightenment politicians, that while he was contemptuous of religions one ought to be respectful in public:

It is indifferent in politics whether the sovereign has a religion or not. All religions, when examined, are based on some fabulous and more-or-less absurd System. It is impossible for a man of good sense to enter into these matters and not witness Terror; but these prejudices, these errors, this wonder are made for men, and one must know how to respect the public to not scandalize them in their religious practice, whatever their religion be.






[8]Frederick, Œuvres, 25/214.

[9] Jacob Katz, “Misreadings of anti-Semitism,” Commentary 76, no. 1 (1983):39–44, 43.

[10]“Frederick II,” JE:

[11]“Prussia,” JVL:


Frederick the Great’s Jewish Policy: Between Containment and Profit, Part 2

Voltaire at the court of Frederick the Great.

Go to Part 1.

Frederick, Voltaire, and the Jews

Frederick the Great and the famous French philosopher Voltaire had one of the most celebrated relationships between prince and intellectual of the Enlightenment. Indeed, on this rests some of Frederick’s claims to being an “enlightened despot.” Voltaire himself was a vociferous critic of both the Jewish religion and Jews as a people. He wrote in his Philosophical Dictionary: “It is with regret that I speak about the Jews: this nation is, in many respects, the most detestable which has sullied the earth.” Voltaire’s letters to Frederick have numerous critical comments on Jews. For instance, reacting to Catherine II of Russia’s sending a Jew to Egypt to investigate the situation in the country, he said: “The Jews have always loved Egypt, whatever their impertinent story [Exodus] says.”[1] Voltaire appears to have been much more emphatically anti-Semitic than Frederick.

Frederick and Voltaire fell out for various reasons, one of the most important being displeasure over crooked financial dealings between Voltaire and a Jew, Abraham Hirschel. According to Voltaire’s biographer Wayne Andrews:

On November 23, 1750, [Voltaire] called upon Abraham Hirschel, a Jew known for his talent in making money in forbidden transactions, and requested him to buy up for his account in Dresden a certain amount of Saxon bonds. These were then selling at thirty-five per cent below par, but according to a Prussian-Saxon treaty, could be redeemed at par by Prussians. This was such an easy invitation to attack the Saxon treasury that Frederick, on the eighth of May 1748 agreed that the bonds could no longer be imported. Despite this, Voltaire went ahead. Offering a bill of exchange on Paris for forty-thousand francs and a draft on a Berlin Jew for four thousand shillings, he made Hirschel his agent. As agent, Hirschel turned over certain diamonds as security. But then Voltaire saw fit to cancel the bill of exchange that Hirschel cashed, and a nasty quarrel followed with Hirschel demanding the return of his diamonds. Voltaire lost his temper, snatched a ring off Hirschel’s finger, and the affair had to be settled in court. [. . .]

Frederick was not pleased, and the dignity with which he behaved on this occasion was, for once, kingly. He would not allow Voltaire in his presence until the case was settled. He knew that Voltaire was lying when he claimed he had sent Hirschel to Dresden to buy furs and diamonds and was irritated by his language.[2]

Frederick laconically described the affair: “[concerning] Voltaire’s trial with the Jew: it’s a matter of a scoundrel who tried to hoodwink a crook.”[3] This scandal concerning a Jewish financial speculator and a greedy Frenchman contributed to the brevity of Voltaire’s stay in Berlin. Read more

Reply to Jordan Peterson on the Jewish Question — From His Heroes Part Four: Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche

Go to Part 1: Solzhenitsyn
Go to Part 2: Dostoevsky
Go to Part 3: Jung

A Reply from Nietzsche.

Like these other figures, whose thought is sanitized and claimed by Peterson, Nietzsche possessed views of Jews quite at odds with Peterson’s own hasty conclusions. Robert Holub’s 2015 Nietzsche’s Jewish Problem: Between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Judaism (Princeton University Press) convincingly demonstrates that, at best, Nietzsche could be described as ambivalent towards the Jewish Question. Nietzsche was undeniably in tune with Wagner when it came to animosity towards those aspects of modernity most closely linked with the rise of the Jews in Germany: the hegemony of journalists, the press, newspapers, new ‘trends’ in art, and the stock market. He was a critic of both Berthold Auerbach and Felix Mendelssohn, whom he argued produced works typified by foreignness, jargon, mawkishness and internationalism. At Basel, one of Nietzsche’s closest colleagues was the historian Jacob Burckhardt, described in one dedication as “my honored friend.” Burckhardt was unequivocally opposed to Jewish emancipation and believed that everything of worth in European culture was due to its Greek and Roman heritage rather than the Jewish tradition. He would have balked at the idea of Europe as a ‘Judeo-Christian’ cultural entity—a favorite piece of Jordan Peterson’s nomenclature—and he was firmly convinced that Jews were responsible for the worst manifestations of modernity. Early in his career Burckhardt wrote to a friend that the presence of Jews in a theater would be sufficient to entirely destroy his enjoyment of the event.

Like the others reviewed here, Peterson references Friedrich Nietzsche in almost every interview, talk, or text he delivers. In 12 Rules for Life (p.59), Peterson describes Nietzsche as both “great” and “brilliant,” and calls him (p.85) “perhaps the most astute critic ever to confront Christianity.” In much the same way as he cites Solzhenitsyn, Dostoevsky, and Jung as his ideological forerunners, Peterson holds up Nietzsche as a prescient and thoughtful thinker whose work was characterized (p.37) by its “brilliance.” Read more

Reply to Jordan Peterson on the Jewish Question — From His Heroes: Part Three: Jung

C. G. Jung

Go to Part 1: Solzhenitsyn.
Go to Part 2: Dostoevsky

A Reply to Jung.

Jordan Peterson references Carl Jung in almost every interview, talk, or text he delivers, and these references are especially frequent in his lecture series on the Biblical stories. In 12 Rules for Life (p.131), Peterson describes Jung as both a “great psychiatrist” and a “psychoanalyst extraordinaire.” Jung’s ideas about the subconscious and archetypes form the backbone of much of Peterson’s self-concept and public work. One therefore wonders what Jung would have made of Jordan Peterson’s “On the So-Called Jewish Question.”

To begin with, Jung would almost certainly object to Peterson’s implicit assumption that Jews are easily integrated parts in the machinery of Western civilization, equal or even superior in suitability to all others. Jung believed that Jews, like all peoples, have a characteristic personality, and he would have stressed the need to take this personality into account. Even in his own sphere of expertise, Jung warned that “Freud and Adler’s psychologies were specifically Jewish, and therefore not legitimate for Aryans.”[1] A formative factor in the Jewish personality was the rootlessness of the Jews and the persistence of the Diaspora. Jung argued that Jews lacked a “chthontic quality,” meaning “The Jew … is badly at a loss for that quality in man which roots him to the earth and draws new strength from below.”[2] Jung penned these words in 1918, but they retain significance even after the founding of the State of Israel. Even today, vastly more Jews live outside Israel than within it. Jews remain a Diaspora people, and many continue to see their Diaspora status as a strength. Because they are scattered and rootless, however, Jung argued that Jews developed methods of getting on in the world that are built on exploiting weakness in others rather than expressing explicit strength. In Jung’s phrasing, “The Jews have this particularity in common with women; being physically weaker, they have to aim at the chinks in the armour of their adversary.”[3] Read more

Reply to Jordan Peterson on the Jewish Question — From His Heroes Part One: Solzhenitsyn

“The Aryan subconscious has a higher potential than the Jewish.”
G. Jung


I recently took some time to devote serious attention to the work of Jordan Peterson. Until a few months ago, my familiarity with Peterson had been limited to his very weak and ill-advised intervention in the Nathan Cofnas affair. At that time, I toyed with the idea of providing a series of historical examples (there are many) that would contradict every one of Peterson’s assertions regarding the Jewish Question, but, in the end, his intervention was dealt with so conclusively by Kevin MacDonald (see here), that I saw no reason to discuss it further and abandoned that essay at the “skeleton” stage.  Peterson is, however, hard to ignore. As MacDonald put it, Peterson is indeed a “celebrity intellectual,” and one who, despite an occasionally overt philo-Semitism, has engaged in spirited defenses against some manifestations of cultural Marxism. This is admirable, and he is generally pleasing and interesting to watch his TV appearances. Watching and listening to these appearances with any frequency, it’s hard to escape Peterson’s key influences. The Canadian academic is both vocal and (remarkably) repetitive in naming them: summaries, quotes, and interpretations of Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn, and Jung all feature very prominently in Peterson’s content.[1] It’s clear that all four men act as his foremost intellectual and personal heroes. But they share something else in common – they have all confronted the Jewish Question in a manner that quite clearly contradicts the view put forth by Peterson. This is not to say that everyone must follow all the ideas of their heroes, but it does call into question how carefully Peterson has both understood these writers and considered his own position on the Jews. The following essay is intended to tease out some problems and contradictions.

I’ve spent the last couple of months listening to Peterson’s lecture series on the Biblical stories, reading his 12 Rules for Life, and examining (and re-examining) his essay “On the So-Called Jewish Question.” I have to confess to finding his lecture series extremely strange. Listening to the audience question and answer sessions at the end of each lecture, it’s clear that Peterson has a sizeable Jewish following and that his lectures are, if not geared toward Jews, certainly holding great appeal for them. Part of this may be the fact that, for an ostensibly Christian apologist, thus far only one of Peterson’s sixteen lectures have concerned the New Testament. What I find particularly interesting about Peterson’s interpretation of these stories is that he extracts, in abstract psychoanalytic fashion, a series of self-help non-sequiturs without looking at how and why the stories were formulated in the first place, and how they have been understood by Jews during the many centuries since they were written. This is an especially ironic development because Peterson’s approach to these particular texts is rather like that of Jacques Derrida, the Jewish Marxist postmodernist he rebukes in 12 Rules for Life, who argued “there is nothing outside the text.” And it is quite unlike the suggestion of his hero Carl Jung, who, as Peterson notes in 12 Rules for Life, suggested that “if you cannot understand why someone did something, look at the consequences — and infer the motivation.”

Peterson doesn’t seem remotely interested in the psychological needs and motivations of the Jewish authors and readers of the stories, and, by his own admission (in the question and answer session following his discussion of the tale of Jacob and Esau) Peterson has never examined the Talmud to see how Jews have interacted with them. Read more

Is Antisemitism Dead? A Philosophical Consideration

Around six months ago, the influential Oxford Handbooks series published a print and online entry on “The Radical Right and Antisemitism.” The author of the entry is Ruth Wodak, a Jewish academic in Critical Discourse Studies at England’s Lancaster University. I have to confess to having never before heard of this discipline. Unsurprisingly, however, it appears to be a variant of Frankfurt School thought, and, in several respects, continues that philosophical outlook’s obsession with anti-Semitism. Some of Wodak’s most recent publications concern “hate tweets,” and she is especially vexed by popular discourse about “elites” or “traitors,” because she believes, probably with some merit, these are veiled discussions of Jews. Biographical details aside, the reason I found Wodak’s entry for Oxford Handbooks to be interesting and worth sharing here is that it effectively acts as an obituary for antisemitism. Although I don’t agree with much of what Wodak argues, some of the points raised are food for thought, and the products of my own thoughts on the current state of anti-Jewish thought (and its implications for our movement) are presented here.

Wodak opens by considering “the question of whether antisemitism today should be regarded as a genuine structural feature of contemporary society or rather as a relic of an old but now overcome European ideology.” She continues by outlining the scholarly consensus:

Many scholars in the area of right-wing populism believe that antisemitism has practically vanished from the political arena and become a “dead prejudice” (Langenbacher and Schellenberg 2011; Beer 2011; Betz 2013; Botsch et al. 2010; Albrecht 2015; Rensmann 2013; Stögner 2012, 2014) or that anti-Muslim beliefs and Islamophobia have more or less completely replaced it (Bunzl 2007; Fine 2009, 2012; Kotzin 2013; Wodak 2015a, 2016). … The British sociologist Robert Fine critically observes, “Antisemitism is tucked away safely in Europe’s past, overcome by the defeat of fascism and the development of the European Union. . . . Antisemitism is remembered, but only as a residual trauma or a museum piece” (Fine 2009, 463).

Some of these scholars I am unfamiliar with, but Lars Rensmann’s work is well known to me. Rensmann is a particularly sad case. Still under 50 years of age, he’s a classic case of a guilt-ridden German preoccupied with the Jewish experience during World War II. As early as Rensmann’s teenage years, he was obsessively reading the works of the Frankfurt School. When he was 22, he travelled to the United States to meet the last living member of the original Frankfurt gang — the then 91 year old Leo Löwenthal. In his most recent work, a celebration of the Frankfurt School’s work on antisemitism [The Politics of Unreason: The Frankfurt School and the Origins of Antisemitism (2017), Free PDF here], Rensmann recalls the meeting (p. viii) in such a fashion as to evoke the impression he was fully in thrall to the “Jewish guru” phenomenon:

Responding to a letter I had written to him, Leo was so incredibly generous to invite me, the twenty-two-year- old student, to come to visit him, the ninety-one-year- old professor, in Berkeley—where he taught sociology at the University of California since 1956—and to stay at his home. So I did, and we spent days talking about Critical Theory—an experience I will never forget. In my conversations with Leo, for the first time I fully grasped the Frankfurt School’s rich historical and philosophical trajectories and Critical Theory’s potential as a living tradition that can be relevant in the contemporary world. Leo Löwenthal passed away just half a year later, before I could visit him again. But much of my academic work is inspired by him, from my first theoretical musings to my later work on the Frankfurt School, political sociology, the radical right, and authoritarian politics of resentment; and so is this book in particular—in which Leo’s academic research and theorizing play a major role. In this study, Löwenthal’s contribution to the Frankfurt School’s thinking about the “antisemitic question” is attributed the central place in the scholarly canon it thoroughly deserves. For him, as he told me then, the problem of antisemitism remained a pressing concern of our time. The book is, like my first one almost two decades ago, dedicated to the memory of Löwenthal, one of the great intellectuals of the twentieth century.

Rensmann’s 600-page The Politics of Unreason, like Wodak’s entry for Oxford Handbooks, is a kind of intellectual poking through the embers, where, in between a panegyric to his Jewish intellectual fathers, Rensmann declares antisemtism (p.398) “a phenomenon of the past.” Antisemitism is treated, much as Fine suggested it be treated, as a museum piece — a force that was more or less demolished by Löwenthal et al., and has left nothing but occasionally problematic fragments.

The Death of Antisemitism?

The question of antisemitism’s death is necessarily comparative. It implies that aspects of modern antisemitism that were once “alive” are no longer so. These aspects are easily identified. “Political antisemitism,” which probably began in the 1870s, more or less ceased to exist in 1945 in the sense that explicitly anti-Jewish elements vanished from lobby groups, political parties, and public policy throughout the West. Key facets of political antisemitism such as the management and exclusion of Jews in areas of public life (for example, via voting restrictions and educational quotas) are no longer in place in any Western country, and it is currently unthinkable for anyone to even suggest such policies. Another once-lively aspect of modern antisemitism that is now dead is “anti-Semitic discourse.” The historical presence of anti-Jewish thought in Western literature and its broader culture are today distorted and exaggerated by Jewish academics and those eager for grants.

It is undeniable, however, that a mainly negative discourse about Jews was extant in all areas of Western art and culture prior to the 1950s, and this discourse was a powerful force in energizing and disseminating knowledge about Jews. Linked with cultural discourse was popular journalism. Anti-Jewish newspapers, with mainstream or near-mainstream circulation, were once relatively common in the West. Some editors, such as the Frenchman Édouard Drumont, even rose to public (and electoral) prominence. Again, it is quite unthinkable for something of this nature to happen today.

Perhaps more important than the vanishing of any of these aspects, is the relative disappearance of knowledge of Jews among the Western masses. Indeed, there has been the almost total transformation in what the mass of the public “knows” about Jews. The transformation has been a dramatic shift from objective to subjective knowledge. For example, ask a random member of the public today what they know about Jews, and they would very likely respond by regurgitating a series of banal, media-derived tropes: Jews are good actors/directors/comedians; Jews are harmless and very smart/talented; Jews are a historically downtrodden and victimised group. This is essentially “junk” knowledge; entirely subjective, and more or less useless to forming a meaningful opinion on matters involving Jews — or worse, this “knowledge” is actually obstructive to forming a meaningful opinion on matters involving Jews. The contemporary situation contrasts sharply with the knowledge earlier generations possessed about Jews (derived from politics, journalism, and anti-Semitic discourse), and with the knowledge possessed by those today classed as anti-Semites. This knowledge includes objective facts: population statistics of Jews and their relative wealth; the prevalence of actual positions of influence occupied by Jews, particularly in the media and in the political process (e.g., the Israel Lobby, donors to political candidates); the contents of Jewish intellectual efforts (from the Talmud to the Frankfurt School and beyond); the prevalence of Jews in White Collar crime; the reality of the Jewish relationship with moneylending/usury; the extent and nature of Jewish involvement in the pornography industry; and the manner in which Jews view non-Jews.

An intellectual gulf lies between these two forms and levels of knowledge, and the latter is overwhelmingly stifled by the former. Equally important is the fact that, even when the masses are “educated” on ostensibly objective themes, their educators are likely to be Jewish academics, Jewish authors, or Jewish presenters of Jewish-produced television documentaries. Any account or interpretation of the history of Jewish-European interactions rooted in the perspective or interests of their ancestors is almost non-existent. Thus, in the absence of meaningful contemporary knowledge, Jews have an effective monopoly on historical or historiographical perceptions of their group — something unprecedented for any minority group in world history.

This brings us to the reasons for the “death of antisemitism,” or at least those aspects outlined above. Lars Rensmann is probably correct when he writes (p.2) that the Frankfurt School

has had a significant and lasting impact on the social sciences and humanities. It has influenced and partly shaped various fields and subfields, from modern philosophy, social and political research, social psychology, cultural studies, to critical legal studies, international relations, and global political theory.

Rensmann is correct, not in the sense that the Frankfurt School was successful in “debunking” antisemitism as a symptom of an authoritarian syndrome, or as a structural problem of modernity, but in the sense that this clique of Jewish intellectuals was very successful in creating a set of ideas that penetrated all areas of socio-political life, and especially those channels via which a culture converses with itself about itself. These ideas helped to break down Western nations, or at least make them more malleable to Jewish interests. A key part of this effort was the pathologization of ethnic interests among Whites, a move that certainly made increasing censorship of the expression of such interests more palatable and acceptable to the mainstream. In tandem with “Holocaust education,” which was strongly advocated by the Frankfurt School as a kind of prophylactic against what they termed “secondary antisemitism,” the portrayal of anti-Jewish attitudes as quasi-criminal and somehow associated with mental illness undoubtedly had a devastating effect on political, cultural, and journalistic modes of anti-Jewish expression.

Jews have also developed increased capacities for censorship. Censorship has taken both overt and covert forms. Covert forms included gaining decisive influence over key industries, or branches of industries, and setting their agenda. Hollywood and major news outlets are excellent examples of soft, covert censorship, where the public is delivered copious amounts of information with key omissions. The softer side of overt censorship comes in the form of organized boycotts, the deprivation of advertising, and the lobbying of opposition. Hard overt censorship includes the firing and de-platforming of dissenters on social media and, at the extreme end, the criminalization of dissent via “Holocaust denial” and “hate speech” legislation.

Crucially, after effectively killing the “Jewish Question” as a discourse within Western culture, the same intellectuals planted new and, for Whites, self-recriminating ideas in its place. The process was very simple. The starting point of Frankfurt School thought was to deny the existence of a “Jewish Question,” and to posit instead the “antisemitic question.” This was a deft rhetorical manoeuvre that acknowledged the reality of a malfunction in the relationship between Jews and host populations but shifted the role of antagonist away from the Jews. In this scheme of thought, Jews were repeatedly targeted because of neuroses in the societies around them. Identifying Western civilisation as especially pathological, the “antisemitic question” slowly morphed into the “Western civilisation problem.” From there, it was a short distance to assuming there was something wrong about how Westerners (Whites) viewed themselves in relation to the world. Critical theory thus arrived at the “Whiteness problem.” Ironically, or perhaps cynically, for all their dismissals of antisemitism as a crude and pathological “world explanation” for one’s individual problems, the Frankfurt School (particularly in Dialectic of Enlightenment and their works on the “authoritarian personality/syndrome”) laid the groundwork for a new Question — the “Whiteness Question.” Indeed, Whiteness, more or less interchangeable for Western culture in the eyes of Jewish intellectuals and their academic co-conspirators, can today be held responsible for an array of putative social ills (e.g. sexism, racism, colonialism, toxic masculinity, poor health, crime, the excesses of capitalism, social alienation, poverty, war) that far exceeds any charges laid at the feet of the Jews by people now deemed “paranoids,” “failures,” and “obsessives.”

What Remains?

As a consequence of the developments described above, antisemitism is undeniably a marginal element of thought and activism on what is regarded as the Right. There simply isn’t enough room here to go into a discussion of how genuinely “Right” the contemporary “Right” is, but it can probably be agreed that contemporary political conservatism (exemplified by the GOP in the U.S. and by the Conservative party in the U.K.) and most so-called “populist” groups or parties (AfD, UKIP, Dutch Party for Freedom, etc.) are to the right of those groups self-identifying with the political Left. It’s a fact that antisemitism has almost totally vanished from the platforms of every one of these groups, and in many cases these groups profess gushing admiration of both Jews and Israel based on the kinds of “subjective knowledge tropes” discussed above. For many of these organizations, Jews are viewed as a model minority, especially when compared with Muslim immigrants.

Wodak cites the work of Damir Skenderovic who argues in The Radical Right in Switzerland: Continuity and Change, 1945–2000 (2009):

after the Second World War, overt statements of modern antisemitism, making use of blunt categorisations, have largely vanished from the public sphere and have become confined to marginal extreme right groups..

Wodak continues: “Skenderovic … implies that a coherent antisemitic ideology has vanished.” It has been argued by most scholars, including Wodak and Rensmann, as well as organizations like the ADL, that a kind of fossil antisemitism [Skenderovic terms it “post-Holocaust” or “post-fascist” antisemitism] has now taken the place of a coherent antisemitic ideology and associated trappings, and they argue the case for a subliminal, tertiary, highly coded form of antisemitism that relies on faint echoes of the old discourse. Thus, in this New Books in Critical Theory podcast Lars Rensmann accuses Donald Trump of employing coded anti-Semitism in his closing campaign ad, in which George Soros, Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen, and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, all of whom are Jewish, appear onscreen as Trump discusses his ambitions to challenge “levers of power in Washington” and “global special interests.” Similarly, Wodak spends a great deal of time analyzing the contents of statements from Jobbik politicians in Hungary, including this one:

If, after the fifty years of your communism, there had remained in us even a speck of the ancient Hungarian prowess, then after the so-called change of regime your kind would not have unpacked your legendary suitcases, which were supposedly on standby. No. You would have left promptly with your suitcases! You would have voluntarily moved out of your stolen . . . villas, and . . . you would not have been able to put your grubby hands on the Hungarian people’s property, our factories, our industrial plants, our hospitals. . . . We shall take back our homeland from those who have taken it hostage! (“A Magukfajták ideje lejárt: Morvai Krisztina reagál az Élet és Irodalom cikkére in Barikad,Alfahír, November 12, 2008)

It could be reasonably argued that these are indeed subliminal messages that appeal, intentionally or otherwise, to half-forgotten discourses.

Two qualifications are, however, required. The first is that Jews unquestionably occupy elite positions within the social-political-cultural status quo and use these positions mainly to advocate for leftist social policies including mass immigration. Conservative, anti-establishment, and anti-immigration parties will necessarily and eventually come into conflict with Jews simply by identifying some of their opponents. In other words, a political party can (in theory) portray Jewish individuals, or a number of Jewish individuals, as opponents in propaganda without possessing a sophisticated level of objective knowledge about Jews, or a systematic and coherent antisemitic ideology. A good example is George Soros, the target of a very public campaign by the Hungarian government to abolish the influence of foreign-funded NGOs. The second qualification is that, even if antisemitic messages were in fact intentionally and subliminally present, they are almost certainly too subtle and can no longer resonate usefully with a corresponding broader discourse in society. In this sense, even if these are “dog whistles,” it’s the social/propaganda equivalent of using a dog whistle in an area 99.9% occupied by cats. The message simply isn’t going to be received.

Not Dead Yet.

Kevin MacDonald has noted, “the remarkable thing about anti-Semitism is that there is an overwhelming similarity in the complaints made about Jews in different places and over very long periods of historical time.”[1] At the core of these complaints are conflicts of interests between Jews and surrounding populations. That being said, attitudes and discourses concerning Jews have occasionally shed outer ideological skins and adopted more novel and sophisticated forms. These changes occurred mainly due to, first, the decline of religion, and second, the rise of science. The biggest change in outward forms of anti-Jewish attitudes, occurring between the 18th and 19th centuries, thus concerned the shift away from religious explanations of Jewish behavior, and towards racial/biological/ethnic/cultural explanations. The changes necessarily entailed the development of new forms of knowledge about Jews, and new discourses.

This is important, because I believe we are in a position where the onus is on us to develop and further a discourse in which our objective knowledge concerning Jews is once again brought to bear on the mainstream and thus create an atmosphere in which “dog whistles,” when they genuinely occur, resonate more deeply and successfully. It is a call to “revival.” There is no doubt that our demographic and political context has changed sufficiently for us to abandon older forms. By this I refer to the relative contemporary (un)usefulness of attempting to teach members of the general public about the Rothschilds, Jewish diamond monopolies in the nineteenth century, or even the origins of Bolshevism. These are areas of history that are vitally important to research and build a body of work on (even if only for ourselves — and I myself have contributed to this form of knowledge), but I have my doubts about their effectiveness of creating a vital and growing contemporary discourse about Jews.

Whether we are conscious of it or not, our attitudes towards Jews are already significantly different from those termed “anti-Semites” in the past; these changes in attitude are probably occurring “naturally.” To begin with, our attitudes are infused with new concerns and elements. Jewish activism in breaking down immigration control, promoting mass immigration, building and implementing so-called hate speech legislation, and the White guilt industry are just some of the major concerns we are now confronted with that simply weren’t present in earlier eras. Economic matters, a mainstay of anti-Jewish critique for centuries, are now more or less subsumed within other areas of focus simply because of the great diffusion of economic responsibility in the postmodern era. My series of essays on contemporary Jewish moneylending was, in many respects, a detective work in which I was forced to follow the chain of endless companies operating under endless names in order to find who actually owned and operated the world’s exploitative payday loan businesses. This is a radical change from being able to point to a Rothschild or an Oppenheimer, or from a local Jewish credit merchant in rural Russia or 1910s’ Chicago.

Rather than being “dead,” I believe antisemitism is seeing these new elements cohere into a new discourse orbiting an Identitarian form of anti-Jewish critique that is based on a sophisticated level of objective knowledge about Jews, underpinned by a coherent anti-Jewish ideology. I believe we already have what we need in terms of foundational texts, most obviously in Kevin MacDonald’s Culture of Critique series, as well as some of my own essays, and those of other great contributors at this crucially important website, like Brenton Sanderson and Edmund Connelly. One of the great weaknesses of “scholarship” produced by those like Wodak and Rensmann is that they have failed to see this development and take into account how influential it has been on the formation of new political movements like the Alt-Right and, via meme culture, among the young. The task remains, of course, to further the discourse in the face of overwhelming Jewish censorship. This is no easy task, but we might benefit from seeing “the obstacle as they way” — by further drawing out our opponents and then incorporating Jewish censorship itself into the discourse.

Regardless of form, I get the distinct impression we should turn the volume up and let them know that rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated.

[1] K. MacDonald, Separation and Its Discontents: Toward and Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism, (First Paperpack Edition, 2004), 38.

On “Leftist Anti-Semitism”: Past and Present

Leftist Critic of the Jews: William Cobbett (1763-1835)

If I had time, I would make an actual survey of one whole county, and find out how many of the old gentry have lost their estates, and have been supplanted by the Jews, since Pitt began his reign.
William Cobbett, Rural Rides (1826)

I can’t remember a time when the refrain “left-wing anti-Semitism” was more in vogue and yet so woefully misused. A quick Google search for the phrase returns more than four million results, including 65,000 results in which discussion of alleged leftist anti-Semitism forms a substantial element of a book. This curious but prolific fashion has accelerated remarkably in the last five years, with the publication, in relatively quick succession, of a number of texts posturing as ‘definitive’ treatments of the subject. The most notable of these are Stephen Norwood’s Antisemitism and the American Far Left (2013), Philip Mendes’s Jews and the Left: The Rise and Fall of a Political Alliance (2014), William Brustein’s The Socialism of Fools? Leftist Origins of Modern Anti-Semitism (2015), Dave Rich’s The Left’s Jewish Problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism, and most recently, Read more