Jews and the Left

Karl Marx: Founding Father of the Jewish Left?  

Should The Culture of Critique (CofC) be revised to focus on Karl Marx, the founder of the world’s first Jewish intellectual and political movement? As the Jewish founder of “scientific” socialism, he began a radical critique of European society that has continued into the twenty-first century. Although CofC is concerned specifically with twentieth-century Jewish intellectual and political movements, it would certainly broaden perspective on the Jewish left if Marx could be placed firmly within its framework as the founder of the intellectual and political movement that would guide so much of the Jewish left in the twentieth century.

The first question that must be asked is whether Marx qualifies as a self-identified Jewish leader of a Jewish intellectual and political movement? MacDonald’s CofC lays down a number of guidelines for making this determination. Let’s go over these in some detail.

MacDonald’s methodology is a straightforward one. The first step is to “find influential movements dominated by Jews, with no implication that all or most Jews are involved in these movements and no restrictions on what the movements are.” The second step is to “determine whether the Jewish participants in those movements identified as Jews AND thought of their involvement in the movement as advancing specific Jewish interests.”[i] Finally, we discuss the influence and impact of these movements on European and Euro-American societies.

Given MacDonald’s criteria, we believe that Marx’s scientific socialism certainly qualifies on both counts:

First, Marx had a direct role in the founding of the main organizations of the Left in the nineteenth century. Most of the earliest socialist organizations were directly influenced by Marx, i.e. the Communist League, co-founded by Marx and Engels in 1847; the Social Democratic Party of Germany, founded in 1863; the Socialist Labor Party of America, founded in 1876; the French Workers’ Party, co-founded by Marx’s son-in-law Paul Lafargue in 1880; and the British Social Democratic Federation, founded in 1881. Most of these organizations would eventually shape the political life of twentieth-century Europe and North America.

Marx’s longtime Shabbos Goy, Engels, acknowledged the preponderance of Jews in nineteenth-century leftist movements:

“In addition, we owe a great deal to Jews. Not to mention Heine and Börne, Marx was of purely Jewish origin; Lassalle was a Jew. Many of our best people are Jews. My friend Victor Adler, who is now paying in a prison in Vienna for his devotion to the cause of the proletariat; Eduard Bernstein, the editor of the London Sozialdemokrat, Paul Singer, one of our best men in the Reichstag—people of whose friendship I am proud, and all of them Jews! I myself was made a Jew by the [conservative weekly] Gartenlaube. To be sure, if I had to choose, then rather a Jew than ‘Herr von’!”[ii]   

In 1911, the sociologist Robert Michels drew attention to the “abundance of Jews among the leaders of the socialist and revolutionary parties”:

“In Germany, above all, the influence of Jews has been conspicuous in the labour movement. The two first great leaders, Ferdinand Lassalle and Karl Marx, were Jews, and so was their contemporary Moses Hess. The first distinguished politician of the old school to join the socialists, Johann Jacoby, was a Jew. Such also was Karl Höchberg, the idealist, son of a rich merchant in Frankfort-on-the-Main, founder of the first socialist review published in the German language. Paul Singer, who was almost invariably chairman of the German socialist congresses, was a Jew. Among the eighty-one socialist deputies sent to the Reichstag in the penultimate general election, there were nine Jews, and this figure is an extremely high one when compared with the percentage of Jews among the population of Germany, and also with the total number of Jewish workers and with the number of Jewish members of the socialist party.”[iii]

Second, far from being a self-hating Jewish anti-Semite, Karl Marx had a strong Jewish group identity and was heavily involved in the Jewish community:

“Toward Jews and Jewishness Marx always retained many positive ties. Among his closest friends were the Jews Heinrich Heine and Ludwig Kugelmann; for a time he was close to Moses Hess, and he helped the former Cologne communist Abraham Jacoby emigrate to America (where he became an influential physician).”[iv]

Indicating a strong Jewish identification, when Jacoby was promoting revolution in Europe, his agenda was Jewish “emancipation”—the naturalization and enfranchisement of Jews. Like Marx, his closest associates also had a strong sense of Jewish group identity, with shared goals, beliefs and commitments to Jewish emancipation. Read more

Karl Marx’s Jewish Identity

Introduction

There is a long-standing controversy over whether Karl Marx was a self-hating Jew who promoted anti-Semitism in his essay, “On the Jewish Question,” with prominent scholars weighing in on both sides of the question.[1] In my view, the position that Marx was an anti-Semite is substantiated by cherry-picked passages from his writings and correspondence and by tendentious interpretations of these passages. Here I show that the purpose of On the Jewish Question was to promote Jewish emancipation in the German Confederation (1815–1866) and thereby undermine the official status of the Christian religion, goals quite compatible with Marx having a Jewish identity and seeing his actions as advancing Jewish interests.

Is the claim that Marx rejected his Jewish heritage supported by the evidence? In a letter to his uncle Lion Philip, Marx mentioned “the fellow-member of our race Benjamin Disraeli,” a Jew he personally despised.[i] In another letter to the same Jewish relative, he wrote:

“[S]ince Darwin demonstrated that we are all descended from the apes, there is scarcely ANY SHOCK WHATEVER that could shake ‘our ancestral pride.’ That the Pentateuch was concocted only after the return of the Jews from Babylonian captivity had already been pointed out by Spinoza in his Tractatus theologico-politicus.”[ii]  

These aren’t the only references Marx made to his Jewish ethnic origins. Here he indicates that he was regarded as a Jew by the Prussian authorities:

“In regard to the Cologne communist trial of 1851—in which the Prussian government sought to demonstrate the existence of a conspiracy organized around Marx—he wrote: ‘The Jew-hunt naturally increases the enthusiasm and interest.’”[iii]

Marx was also sympathetic to the plight of Jews all around the world. For example, he was outraged by Ottoman ill-treatment of Jews in Palestine. In an 1854 article for the New-York Herald Tribune, he wrote: “Nothing equals the misery and the sufferings of the Jews at Jerusalem, inhabiting the most filthy quarter of the town . . . the constant objects of Mussulman oppression and intolerance, insulted by the Greeks, persecuted by the Latins, and living only upon the scanty alms transmitted by their European brethren.”[iv]

Marx’s strong sense of Jewish group identity motivated him to help out members of his own race, even at the expense of the collective interests of the European majority in retaining Christianity as the state religion. In 1843, Marx wrote to Arnold Ruge:

“Just now the president of the Israelites here has paid me a visit and asked me to help with a parliamentary petition on behalf of the Jews; and I agreed. However obnoxious I find the Israelite beliefs, Bauer’s view seems to me nevertheless to be too abstract. The point is to punch as many holes as possible in the Christian state and smuggle in rational views as far as we can.”[v]

Like other Jewish ethnic activists, Marx sought to destroy European ethnic identity by promoting Jewish emancipation. His agenda was about “punching as many holes as possible” in the White Christian majority states of Europe, undermining their ethnic and religious cohesiveness and political stability—thus creating an environment in which Jews could pursue their own collective interests without fear of persecution. Even though Marx was contemptuous of “Israelite beliefs,” he nevertheless self-identified as an ethnic Jew. Despite his conversion to Lutheran Protestantism in childhood, Jewishness would remain central to Marx’s identity for the rest of his life.

Marx never concealed his Jewish identity. Like many strongly identified Jews in the present age, the fact that Marx was a non-practicing Jew doesn’t imply that he didn’t have a strong Jewish identification. Even his personal Shabbos Goy and longtime collaborator, Friedrich Engels, never denied that Marx was a “full-blooded Jew.” There is no evidence he was ever afflicted with any pathological Jewish self-hatred, given his willingness to sympathize with his fellow Jews, even coming to their aid in times of distress.

Did Marx promote anti-Jewish views? First, those who call Marx an anti-Semite avant la letter (i.e., before the term had originated) commit the logical fallacy of anachronism. According to Hal Draper, historians who accuse Marx of anti-Semitism are “project[ing] themselves back into history as undercover agents of the Anti-Defamation league.” He continues:

“Mainly, the allegation is supported by reading the attitudes of the second half of the twentieth century back into the language of the 1840s. More than that, it is supported only if the whole course of German and European anti-Jewish sentiment is whitewashed so as to make Marx’s essay stand out as a black spot.”[vi]

Accusing Marx of anti-Semitism ignores the fact that, in pre-Unification Germany, Jews were not discriminated against for being members of the Jewish race. If Jews wanted to escape the civil and legal disabilities they faced in White societies, they could always convert to Christianity. Marx’s anti-Judaism should not be confused with the racial anti-Semitism of Houston Stuart Chamberlain and Georges Vacher de Lapouge. He could never condemn Jewish ethnicity because it would make his demands for Jewish emancipation in European societies nonsensical. The explanation that best fits the evidence is that Marx’s anti-Judaism was motivated by a deep-seated animus harbored toward religion in general.

We shall leave these caveats aside to address the accusation that Marx was an anti-Semite avant la lettre. Does Marx’s derogatory criticisms of Lassalle as a “Jewish nigger,” “Yid,” etc., constitute prima facie evidence of anti-Semitism? Robert Fine and Philip Spencer write:

“Marx is accused of deploying racist and antisemitic epithets in private correspondence with Engels. […] In reading this private correspondence, we may accuse Marx of bad taste or chuckle at his acerbic wit but there is no evidence that he had anything other than disdain for Lassalle’s belief in physiognomy and for the authoritarian and illiberal conception of socialism of which this was part. Marx was clearly making fun of his socialist opponent.”[vii]

For Marx, Lassalle presented himself as an easy target for mockery because of a binary classification scheme reserved for Jews. There were “good Jews” i.e., the Palestinian Jews persecuted by Ottoman authorities, Jewish proletarians, Jewish socialists, etc., who were to be treated respectfully, and “bad Jews,” the money-grubbing Jewish socialists and capitalists whose traits embodied the worst features of bourgeois industrial society. If Marx saw Lassalle as a target for invective, it was because he was a “bad Jew,” a Jewish “parvenu” who “flaunted his money-bags.” There are such people.

When accusing Marx of anti-Semitism avant la lettre, historical context must always be taken into consideration. If Marx was guilty of anything, it was unfettered vulgarity during private moments with friends and family, but he was no anti-Semite avant la lettre, and certainly not by the standards of the time. He negatively stereotyped Jews, but this is not anti-Semitic when based on well-supported fact. Moreover, if anti-Semitism is defined as irrational hatred of Jews because of ethnic group membership, then there is no trace of ethnoracial hatred in any of Marx’s writings. He said and did nothing unusual for the time, apart from being solidly committed to the anti-religious values of the Enlightenment. For example, Marx allowed the French quadroon Paul Lafargue to marry his daughter, Laura. In a letter to the interracial couple, he criticized racial theorist Comte de Gobineau: “I rather suspect that M. de Gobineau, dans ce temps là ‘premier secrétaire de la légation de France en Suisse,’ to have sprung himself not from an ancient Frank warrior but from a modern French huissier.”[viii] Translated into plain English, Marx is saying that belief in White racial superiority is the province of mediocrities, an unusual sentiment for the time he lived in.

There is still the matter of the stereotyping of Jews that appears in “On the Jewish Question.” Some critics have argued that, far from being a “youthful piece of extravagant Hegelianizing which the mature Marx later outgrew,” the essay is in fact virulently anti-Semitic. Jewish academic ethnic activist Robert S. Wistrich warns:

“Marx’s intransigent hostility to religion should not blind one, however, into naively assuming that the insecurity of his own origins or the weight of his Jewish rabbinical heritage contributed nothing toward shaping the intellectual and moral character of his outlook” (1974).

The charge of anti-Semitism avant la lettre is based on a superficial, yet tendentious reading, given the aim of Marx’s critique. To understand why this is the case, let us closely examine the text of “On the Jewish Question,” which is divided into two parts.

In the first part, Marx unravels German philosopher Bruno Bauer’s belief that Jews cannot be emancipated as Jews as long as they remain members of the Chosen People. If Jewry wants political emancipation, they must first work towards the political emancipation of Germany, not as Jews, but as Germans. Marx shows this to be unworkable; in Anglo-Saxon North America, people retain their religion despite political enfranchisement. Emancipating the state from religion merely banishes it to the private sphere, without abolishing man’s predilection for religiosity. In other words, this is a plea for Jews being free to retain their religion and their status as a people apart from the Germans.

The politically emancipated state, the atheistic democracy, says Marx, is the “perfect Christian state.” Because political emancipation entails church-state separation, it no longer contradicts the Gospels, whose message is “supernatural renunciation of self, submission to the authority of revelation” and “a turning-away from the state.” The individual “religious and theological consciousness” is heightened because of political enfranchisement. The Christian majority becomes an authentically Christian one because the Christianity they embrace is without “political significance” and “worldly aims,” just as Christ had commanded in the Gospels. This shows that politically emancipating the state from religion actually backfires because it increases man’s religiosity.

Through political emancipation, the citizen is granted certain democratic rights or “rights of man,” but these also increase man’s religiousness by offering him religious freedom, instead of freedom from religion, which requires human emancipation. These democratic rights have other inherent limitations. In theory, “political life declares itself to be a mere means, whose purpose is the life of civil society.” In other words, political institutions emancipate the citizen by granting him inalienable rights; however, this is not what one observes in practice. The right to freedom of the press is completely subordinated to bourgeois interests, i.e., “human rights,” establishing political life as the aim of civil society, rather than vice versa. Paradoxically for Marx, the political emancipation granted the citizen in the form of rights is, at the same time, the negation of these rights:

“Whoever dares undertake to establish a people’s institutions must feel himself capable of changing, as it were, human nature, of transforming each individual, who by himself is a complete and solitary whole, into a part of a larger whole, from which, in a sense, the individual receives his life and his being, of substituting a limited and mental existence for the physical and independent existence. He has to take from man his own powers, and give him in exchange alien powers which he cannot employ without the help of other men.”[ix]

Political emancipation is chimerical because it reduces man to an abstraction. By substituting man’s powers for “alien powers,” political emancipation reduces “man, on the one hand, to a member of civil society, to an egoistic, independent individual, and, on the other hand, to a citizen, a juridical person.” To fully emancipate himself, man must reclaim his “own powers.” In challenging the dominance of abstraction, he combines his individual and juridical roles to develop his individuality to its maximum extent, creating a society organized around his need for self-realization. This is the human emancipation that frees egoistic man from his religious consciousness so that he becomes, in Marx’s abstruse Hegelian jargon, a “species-being in his everyday life.” This means “the ability of human beings to freely shape the material world in accordance with a consciously adopted plan that provides the essential conditions for human fulfillment” (Wartenberg, 1982).

So far, there is nothing overtly or even obliquely anti-Semitic about any of this. Indeed, Marx may well have understood that a state without an official religion, where Jews could retain their group ties, and with freedom to pursue self-realization would be an ideal vehicle to achieve Jewish interests—which, of course, is exactly what happened.

What about the second part? Marx begins by disagreeing with Bauer that the Jewish Question is necessarily a theological one:

“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.”[x]

Given Marx’s approach, it is no surprise he identifies empirical Judaism with monetary exchange and huckstering. This is not mere “economic reductionism,” but well-supported historical fact:

“Julius Carlebach records that at the time of Marx’s 1843 writings small traders and hawkers constituted 66% of the Jewish working population in Prussia and the great majority of the working population in Eastern Europe. Marx acknowledged the historic role of some Jews in commerce and moneylending in pre-modern societies but saw it replaced by more systematic processes of national capital accumulation.”[xi]

Why is an empirical fact about ethnoracial differences in commercial activity construed as anti-Semitic? Marx was not alone among Jews in sharing these sentiments. Moses Hess, one of the founding fathers of modern Zionism, described Jews as “beasts of prey” who inhabited a “huckster world.” Heinrich Heine, the Jewish poet, said Israel was not known for its liberality, “save when its teeth are drawn by force.”[xii] Yet, no one would ever think of castigating Hess or Heine for anti-Semitism.

Marx continues:

“We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time, 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, at which it must necessarily begin to disintegrate.”[xiii]

Whereas an anti-Semite avant la lettre would have argued Jews bear full responsibility for their “anti-social” behavior — even deserving to be punished for it, Marx dismisses the nefariousness of empirical Judaism as a product of “historical development,” which may refer to standard themes in contemporary Jewish apologia, such as Jews were forced to be money lenders. The “anti-social nature” of Judaism refers to Jewish overrepresentation in financial occupations, as well as its attendant ills. For example, Jews were hired by Prussian Junkers as moneylenders and financiers; as they came to dominate these professions, their commercial immorality aroused the hatred of the peasantry. By explaining this away as the result of the transformation of feudalism into capitalism through the mysterious inner workings of the historical dialectic, Marx absolved Jews of their destructive behavior. If anything, Jews are victims of fate, despite having “zealously contributed” to their own sufferings. If Jewish behavior is historically conditioned, Jewish empirical character is not etched in stone but capable of alteration. Far from being anti-Semitic, Marx is engaged in pro-Jewish polemic.

Marx says Judaism is based on practical need and self-interest. The god of the Old Testament is the idealization of “the bill of exchange” which “is the real god of the Jew.” Marx’s analysis of empirical Judaism also applies to civil society generally: “Practical need, egoism, is the principle of civil society, and as such appears in pure form as soon as civil society has fully given birth to the political state. The god of practical need and self-interest is money.” If the bill of exchange is the “real god of the Jew,” it is the “real god” of Christian civil society as well, since it too is grounded in practical need and egoism. Civil society, despite its Christian character, is really Jewish society, where “money is the estranged essence of man’s work and man’s existence, and this alien essence dominates him, and he worships it.”[xiv]

Some have denounced the second part of Marx’s essay as virulently anti-Semitic. However, it is obvious Marx is not attacking the Jews, he’s attacking the entire bourgeois capitalist system. In doing so, the empirical Jew serves as a stand-in for the bourgeoisie’s capitalist economic interests. Empirical Judaism is turned on its head and used to point out what civil society and its members have become, a society of money-men worshiping at the altar of a money-god, i.e., the bourgeois capitalist system. If civil society and Judaism share the same material basis, then Prussians are just as Jewish as the Jews, if not Jews themselves. Empirical Judaism is Christian civil society in microcosm, since the “real nature of the Jew has been universally realized and secularized.” Marx even says:

“Christianity sprang from Judaism. It has merged again in Judaism. From the outset, the Christian was the theorizing Jew; the Jew is, therefore, the practical Christian, and the practical Christian has become a Jew again.”[xv]

Since Marx has inverted the rhetoric of the Jewish Question to critique bourgeois capitalist society, there is no longer a Jewish Question, but a Christian or Bourgeois Capitalist Question.

Empirical Judaism, Marx’s metaphor for capitalist economic activity, reached its pinnacle of development under Christian hegemony, eventually coming to dominate Christendom. Gentile civil society now embodies the nature of the empirical Jew. Christianity has now replaced man’s species-ties (his ties to the wider community) with egoism and selfishness; it “dissolve[s] the human world into a world of atomistic individuals who are inimically opposed to one another.” The bourgeois “revolutionary iconoclasm” of the Christian world-system destroys “all particulars — property, culture, family, marriage, childhood, education, country, religion, morality, occupation, personal worth” by reducing them “to a money relation.”[xvi] In Marx’s view, Christianity supplants Judaism by becoming like Judaism, but in doing so, it has become the world’s most destructive force.

Once the “emancipation of society from Judaism” has taken place, “the Jew will have become impossible.” This does not mean the extermination of the Jew, nor the dissolution of the Jewish community, as some hysterical critics have implied, such as Dagobert D. Runes’s edition of Marx’s On the Jewish Question, published as A World Without Jews for Cold War propagandistic purposes. Rather, Marx is proposing the dissolution of Judaism and the negative traits acquired by Jews, a result of their participation in the emergence of the bourgeois capitalist system.

The Jew, of course, will continue to exist biologically, as a branch of the Semitic race. Although he seldom wrote about race, Karl Marx acknowledged the reality of Jewish racial identity; in a letter to his uncle, he identified himself as being of the same Jewish race as Disraeli. He mocked characteristically Jewish racial features in his letters and writings. In the case of Joseph Moses Levy, a British newspaper publisher, Marx noted that “Mother Nature has inscribed his origins in the clearest possible way right in the middle of his face.”[xvii] Some Jews even had what Marx described as a “nastily Jewish physiognomy.”[xviii]

Conflating Jewish society with Protestant civil society serves as a literary device that allows Marx to demand Jewish emancipation and the “emancipation of mankind from Judaism,” meaning the liberation of all humanity from the oppressive capitalist economic system. Despite his seemingly “anti-Jewish” views, Marx’s conception of the role of Judaism is a positive one: “But the paradox is that for Marx, Judaism provided the basis for the liberation of modern society precisely because it was emancipation from bargaining and money that would liberate human beings.”[xix]

If Marx were a genuine anti-Semite avant la lettre, why would he be calling for the political emancipation of Jews in Germany? If he were genuinely anti-Semitic, he would have sounded much worse than post-Kantian philosopher Jakob Friedrich Fries, the closest thing we have to an actual nineteenth-century German anti-Semite avant la lettre:

“In a pamphlet titled On the Danger Posed to the Welfare and Character of the German People by the Jews, Fries maintained that the harm caused by Jews was such that they should be prohibited from establishing their own educational institutions, marrying Whites, employing Christians as servants or entering Germany, that they should be forced to wear a distinctive mark on their clothing and that they should be encouraged to emigrate. Fries’ depiction of the Jews as the enemy of the people was coupled with the revolutionary conviction that all political life must derive exclusively from the people, a category from which the Jews were excluded.”[xx]

Marx sounds nothing like Fries, who typically referred to Jews as “bloodsuckers” and “parasites.” He was not even casually anti-Semitic, otherwise his writings and correspondence would be filled with anti-Semitic slurs; instead, there is nothing even remotely anti-Semitic in any of Marx’s writings. This makes the accusation of anti-Semitism avant la lettre a laughable one. By defending Jewish emancipation “unequivocally and without conditions,” Marx is defending the “subjective right of Jews to be citizens, to be Jews, and to deal creatively, singularly, in their own way, with their Jewish origins.”[xxi]

Why some writers consider Marx anti-Semitic is mysterious. Marx is actually pro-Semitic, which is why he argues for total emancipation of the Jew in Germany, who had virtually no civil and political rights. Although he is always sympathetic to Jewish suffering, Marx is contemptuous of Judaism as a religion and as a set of economic practices. He is not contemptuous of Jewish ethnic identity, which can and will be emancipated from religious consciousness. The second part of the essay is what is usually interpreted as anti-Semitic, but this interpretation is based on a superficial and tendentious reading of the passage. The truth is that Marx’s writings were not known for their clarity and economy of language. He relied on an esoteric “Hegelianizing” to get his point across, which has confused many of his critics ever since. Fine concludes: “Marx’s early essays on the Jewish question actually ushered in a lifelong critique of antisemitism. They showed that the point of view of the Jewish question is not an inevitability; that it can be overcome. Marx’s essays remain, for all their ambiguities, a key resource for recovering a tradition of critical thought that repudiates ‘left antisemitism.’”[xxii]

Far from being anti-Semitic, Marx was a “child of Enlightenment who struggled to emancipate the Enlightenment from its own anti-Judaic prejudices.”[xxiii] Marx’s “On the Jewish Question” is really a key document in the struggle for Jewish emancipation at the expense of European majorities. Critics who dismiss Marx as an anti-Semite have not carefully considered the evidence.


Bibliography

Blumenberg, Werner. “Eduard Von Müller-Tellering: Verfasser Des Ersten Antisemitischen Pamphlets Gegen Marx.” Bulletin of the International Institute of Social History, Vol. 6, No. 3, 1951, Pp. 178—197. Jstor, Www.jstor.org/stable/44629595.

Cofnas, Nathan. “Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy.” Human Nature, vol. 29, no. 2, 10 Mar. 2018, pp. 134—156, 10.1007/s12110-018-9310-x. Accessed 13 Dec. 2019.

Draper, Hal. Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution / [Vol. 1], State and Bureaucracy. New York ; London, Monthly Review Press, 1977.

—. Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution / [Vol. 4], Critique of Other Socialisms. New York ; London, Monthly Review Press, 1990.

Fine, Robert, and Philip Spencer. Antisemitism and the Left : On the Return of the Jewish Question. Manchester, UK, Manchester University Press, 2018, www.manchesteropenhive.com/view/9781526104960/9781526104960.00007.xml. Accessed 13 Dec. 2019.

Kaye, Howard. Social Meaning of Modern Biology: From Social Darwinism to Sociobiology. Routledge, 2017.

MacDonald, K. The culture of critique: An evolutionary analysis of Jewish involvement in twentieth-century intellectual and political movements. Westport: Praeger, 1998.

‌‌Marx, Karl. “On The Jewish Question by Karl Marx.” Marxists.org, 2019, www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/jewish-question/. Accessed 13 Dec. 2019.

—. “The Holy Family by Marx and Engels.” Marxists.org, 2019, www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/holy-family/ch04.htm. Accessed 13 Dec. 2019.

‌—. Early Texts. Translated and Edited by David McLellan. Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1971.

‌— and Engels, Friedrich. Collected Works. / Volume 41, Marx and Engels, 1860-64. New York, International Publishers, 1985.

Michel, Robert. Political Parties : A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democrary. New York, Free Press ; London, 1962.

‌Seigel, Jerrold E. Marx’s Fate : The Shape of a Life. University Park, Pa., Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993.

Wartenberg, Thomas E. “‘Species-Being’ and ‘Human Nature’ in Marx.” Human Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, Dec. 1982, pp. 77—95, 10.1007/bf02127669. Accessed 26 Nov. 2019.

‌Wistrich, Robert S. “Karl Marx and the Jewish Question.” Soviet Jewish Affairs, vol. 4, no. 1, Jan. 1974, pp. 53—60, 10.1080/13501677408577180. Accessed 21 Nov. 2019.

Read more

The Life and Times of Fay Stender, Radical Attorney for the Black Panthers, Part 4

Fay at Loose Ends: Feminism and Gay Rights

Fay was disenchanted and depressed. She had turned forty. She had lost her female lover, was losing her husband, and her most cherished political cause had blown up in her face. It was 1973, and the entire “Movement” had sputtered to a halt and was in the process of metamorphosing; the radicals had lost their faith in militant activism outside “the system” and began to enter that system in droves to work from within. The process was not smooth; many leftists spent years coming to terms with the collapse of the movement.

Since any facet of society could be turned into a “cause,” Fay would not be adrift for long. Soon she turned (along with many other radical Jews) to feminist and homosexual issues. She entered another relationship with a woman, called “Katherine” by Pearlman. One of the cases she became involved with helped push California law into accepting the “rights” of lesbians in custody cases.[i] Another gash in the fabric of Gentile society.

In 1978, Fay went on a tour of Europe with her old friend Hilde Stern. It was a soul-searching jaunt. She wanted to ponder her future direction, and whether to try to save her marriage. Once in Europe, her Jewish identity rose to dominate her consciousness. She visited the synagogues and places of Jewish interest wherever she went. In Athens, viewing the ancient structures on the Acropolis, she felt only “an overwhelming urge to reaffirm her own heritage” and peevishly wondered “why her professors had never credited ancient Jewish culture with any lasting influence on Western tradition.”[ii]

In Geneva she visited friends and gifted them, as if it were a priceless artifact, a letter she had kept from George Jackson. She went to Stockholm for a UN conference on children. There she began to do push-ups in imitation of the imprisoned Jackson, who had done hundreds every day, and worked on manuscripts about Jackson and feminism.[iii] She thought about living permanently in Sweden, but it troubled her that Sweden had continued its relations with Germany during World War II. She proceeded to Warsaw for another conference; she had read up on the Warsaw uprising of 1943, and was angered to find so little commemoration of the event in the city. She was well aware of the Jewish history in Poland and was in high dudgeon against Polish “Anti-Semitism.” At the Warsaw Symphony she was “anguished by the absence of any musicians who looked even faintly Jewish.”[iv] (Would she have any sympathy for Whites, who in the near future will look in vain for fellow White faces in their own nations? Would she see the contradiction if she did not?)

She also thought about her sexual identity. She decided to break up with Marvin for good and reunite with her lesbian lover. In early 1979, she returned to Berkeley. She and Marvin ended their marriage amicably, and Fay kept the house and the children, who lived at home in their young adulthood. Fay resumed her relationship with “Katherine.”

The End

May 28, 1979. The doorbell rang, well after midnight. Fay’s son Neal, used to unexpected visitors, opened the door. A Black man stuck a gun in his face and demanded Fay Stender. Neal led him upstairs and roused his mother from bed. The man demanded an answer to a chilling question: “Don’t you feel you betrayed George Jackson?” Fay calmly denied it. He ordered her to write a dictated note and sign it: “I, Fay Stender, admit I betrayed George Jackson and the prison movement when they needed me most.” She protested but finished writing. He pocketed the note then demanded money; Fay escorted him downstairs and gave him some from her kitchen drawer. He walked past her to the door as if to leave, then wheeled, crouched, and shot her five times with hollow-point .38 caliber bullets.[v]

Fay suffered terrible damage to her liver, chest and arms; she was paralyzed from the waist down. She would face months or years of rehabilitation and would never again lead a normal life. She didn’t leave the hospital until late July, going straight into a rehabilitation center.

The shooting shocked the radical community in the Bay Area. The police shared with reporters a purported “hit list” with the names of Fay and others on it. Fay’s family and friends were terrified; some of them asked for police protection. Marvin obtained a gun permit and sent their children into hiding. A few radicals began to suspect the truth about convicts.

Despite her depression and pain, she resolved to put her assailant away. To find justice, she would need the help of—exquisite irony—Lowell Jensen, still District Attorney. Jensen, incredibly, bore her no ill will, and assigned her case to a good prosecutor.

The police quickly apprehended a suspect, Edward Brooks. He was an ex-con and a member of a prison gang co-founded by George Jackson, the Black Guerrilla Family. He had shot Fay from a sense of loyalty to Jackson and other prisoners whom Fay had supposedly betrayed.[vi]

The shooting of Fay highlighted the hypocrisy in the radical community. Almost all of them now supported the police and district attorney and wanted the shooter prosecuted, even though they had “spent their professional lives denouncing the criminal justice system as an instrument of racial and class oppression and defending accused criminals as social victims.”[vii] The hypocrisy reached a greater poignancy when a former colleague of Fay’s, a member of the Prison Law Project, appeared on the shooter’s defense team, stating later, “I was just seething at the way the White Left reacted to Brooks’ arrest. It was racist. They had never taken this attitude . . . in the past. . . . And yet, when one of their own was shot, they immediately cooperated with the cops.”[viii]

Fay was plunged into despair, alternating between self-pity and bitter anger over how the Blacks had repaid her ministrations. She could barely play the piano and could not sit up for long; she found relief only by lying on her back. She sent her Sapphic lover away, unable to have (what amounted to) abnormal relations. She really wanted Marvin back for his steady strength, but he had a new woman and declined her hints. She resolved to commit suicide, but wanted to see Brooks put away first. She would have to summon the strength to testify against him, in the same courtroom she had defended Huey Newton so long before.

On January 18, 1979, Fay took the stand. Charles Garry was in attendance, but not a single Black recipient of her aid showed up to support her. The jury quickly found Brooks guilty, and a few weeks later he was sentenced to seventeen years.[ix]

Fay then burned all her papers, moved to Hong Kong, and after a good deal of hesitation and anguish, killed herself on May 19, 1980. She was forty-eight. Her body was brought back for a Jewish funeral, attended by 300. David Horowitz, former editor of Ramparts, was present; he was struck by how few Blacks attended. (He would write a long article on Fay, based on his conversations with Eve Pell, who had worked with Fay on the Prison Law Project.) Another radical in attendance observed, “no matter what you do, if you are White, it doesn’t matter if you spent your whole life working for Blacks.”[x]

Huey Newton did not attend the funeral; the next month he would earn a sham Ph.D. from UC-Santa Cruz (submitting—perhaps even writing— a paper entitled “War Against the Panthers: a Study in Repression in America”[xi]). He would be shot dead on an Oakland street in August 1989, also by a member of the Black Guerrilla Family. He was forty-seven, the same age as Fay when she was shot.[xii]

The saga of Fay Stender thus sputtered to an end.

Conclusion

Fay’s life perfectly illustrates the nature of radical Jewish activism and the immense harm that it can inflict upon society. Her work amounted to nothing more than “disruption of White society.” Her Jewish perspective could not register the rationales that underlay the compromises between perfect justice and practicality that form the myriad bonds of a Gentile culture. White society is not perfect; it is not perfect because man’s nature and the world are not perfect. However, it is on balance just, and, above all, workable. To strain mightily to “perfect” the solid patterns of a settled society is to create tensions that inevitably build to an explosion. The explosion in Fay’s case saw guards massacred in San Quentin and five bullets pierce her own body.

Fay Stender indicted the entire justice system as “racist” without bothering to regard the nature of Black social pathology, or the damage that her activism could cause to a society that had settled itself around a workable solution to pervasive Black crime, or the personal danger that she risked for herself and her family.

One last note on personality. I believe that Fay possessed a measure of charity; that is, a will to do good. No one is purely evil, of course, and somewhere in the thicket of ego, ambition, leftist ideology, and blind selfishness that was Fay Stender, there was at least a small core of good intentions. Unfortunately, her good will labored under defects greater than these failings. First, unhampered female emotion crimped her ability to see a reasonable approach to problems. (A Gentile spouse of that era would certainly have forced her to accept far tighter boundaries on her activity.) There was the contempt she felt—possibly amounting to hatred—for Whites and their society. Most importantly, the nature of her Jewish radicalism, as applied to a Gentile society, could be nothing but deleterious. If a mathematical formula could be found to represent the harm that an activist Jew can do to a White society, it would have to incorporate a special symbol representing “one Fay Stender.”


[i] Pearlman, Call Me Phaedra, 313-14.

[ii] Ibid., 330.

[iii] Horowitz and Collier, 50-52.

[iv] Pearlman, Call Me Phaedra, 342-43.

[v] The shooting is described by Pearlman in Call Me Phaedra, 355-58, and by Horowitz and Collier, 52-55.

[vi] Horowitz and Collier, 56.

[vii] Ibid., 56.

[viii] Ibid., 57-8.

[ix] Ibid., 62-3.

[x] Pearlman, Call Me Phaedra, 430.

[xi] Pearson, 287.

[xii] Pearlman, Call Me Phaedra, 440.

The Life and Times of Fay Stender, Radical Attorney for the Black Panthers, Part 3

George Jackson and the Soledad Brothers

Meanwhile, Fay met George Jackson.

Huey Newton had told Fay about George Jackson and asked if she could help him. Jackson (whose family had relocated to California) was serving a life sentence in Soledad Prison for a $70 robbery, according to his sympathizers. The truth is a bit otherwise. He had committed a long string of muggings and burglaries, and the State of California finally wised up and sentenced the teenager to one year to life.[i] He could have gotten out in a year or two, if he had behaved. He didn’t. He and a buddy formed a prison gang, ran a gambling ring, sold drugs and alcohol, and pimped homosexual prisoners.[ii] He fought with guards and beat other prisoners. The prison administration considered him a violent sociopath. Consequently, his sentenced was continually extended, and he spent years in solitary with his cell door welded shut.[iii]

Jackson was intelligent and could express himself well. Like Cleaver, he read revolutionary literature—Marx, Lenin, Mao, Fanon—and wrote feverishly. He believed that America’s Blacks were a “colonized” people (an idea picked up by the Weathermen); that “the country’s institutions depended on their continued enslavement and subjugation; and that this state of affairs could only be reversed by an armed, violent revolution.”[iv] While his yearning for violent revolution was genuine, he would admit that Marxism was his “hustle.”[v] Jackson was a leader and a good organizer, and formed a group of dedicated followers.

In mid-January 1970, shortly before Newton told Fay about him, Jackson had murdered a White prison guard in cold blood. It was his response to the killing (by White prison guards) of three Blacks who were engaged in a prison-yard fight with Whites. Jackson and two others were charged with the murder and became famous—the subversive publicity machine roared into action—as the “Soledad Brothers.”

Fay visited Jackson in Soledad in early February. He spoke to her with feigned diffidence and her “heart melted.”[vi] She immediately felt a strong attraction to him, and decided to take on his case. She assembled a legal team, the Soledad Brothers Defense Committee, and worked almost round the clock. Some of her friends smiled at her insistence that this undertaking was (now) the most important cause in the world.

George Jackson

She issued a leaflet: “Three young Black inmates . . . may soon be murdered by the State of California . . . They are innocent. Their right to a fair trial is being systematically and intentionally destroyed by the prison administration . . . They will be railroaded to the gas chamber unless we move to stop this injustice.”[vii] It was a typical effusion from Stender: literally hysterical.

Fay interviewed many Soledad inmates in connection with the Jackson case. Few of them had knowledge of the murder but all of them had grievances to share. Fay believed every word they said, and conceived a major effort at prison reform. This reform was firmly connected in her mind with revolution. Fay was convinced the prisoners were “going to be in the vanguard of the social revolution.”[viii] She “embraced the need for social revolution [and] recognized people might die,” flippantly justifying it all: “People are dying all the time. The important thing is that they die in the right cause.”[ix] She would come to regret these sentiments, but not before blood was spilled. Read more

The Life and Times of Fay Stender, Radical Attorney for the Black Panthers, Part 2

Go to Part 1

Legal Work for the Movement

When she returned to Berkeley, Fay “felt energized.”[i] So did other returnees. Mario Savio, fresh from Mississippi, launched the Free Speech Movement (FSM) at UC Berkeley that fall, kicking off the wider radical crusade of the 1960s. When the police began to clear Sproul Hall of protesting students in the early morning of December 3, Bob Treuhaft was the first one arrested; he had been called by Savio and arrived just in time for the bust.[ii] The Free Speech Movement—surprise—was every bit as Jewish as Freedom Summer. The occupiers of Sproul Hall held a Hanukkah service during the sit-in, and the biggest base of support for the radicals came from the Jews in the student body.[iii] Fay “relished seeing the Berkeley campus develop into a hotbed of Movement fervor.”[iv] The fact that it was a Jewish movement was presumably a source of pride for her, given her strong Jewish identity.

The arrestees called for legal help and Fay jumped into action. Her energy at times like this could be awe-inspiring, and the FSM members “secretly fell in love with her.”[v] Over the years, many people would describe Fay as attractive, intelligent, and generous, especially when she could immerse herself in a cause. She helped arrange for bail and performed other legal work in a blur of activity.

Shortly afterward, Fay held a Seder (a ceremonial Passover dinner) for SNCC personnel at her home. She “incorporated into it references to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement.”[vi] This was fitting because the Jews had invested heavily in the movement; indeed, they had generally succeeded in guiding the direction of the civil rights campaign from the time they initiated the NAACP in 1909.[vii]

Fay had another reason to feel good in the spring of 1965. She and Marvin reunited and leased a house in the Berkeley flats. They made their home a haven for movement friends, who were excited by yet another looming cause: the Vietnam War. (No rest for the wicked.) They plunged into an effort to help young men resisting the draft and others demonstrating against the war.[viii] Fay, Marvin, and their lawyer friends Peter Franck and Aryay Lenske set up the Council for Justice (CFJ) to provide legal services for the entire range of leftist causes. The Executive Committee of the CFJ included Beverly Axelrod, who would soon make Eldridge Cleaver famous.[ix]

The CJF didn’t last long, but not to worry; there is always another cause, another front in the war against White society. Sure enough, one soon appeared, one that carried a menacing—murderous, even—revolutionary swagger, so calculated to set Jewish hearts aflutter. Better yet, this group was Black, and so would be entirely dependent upon Jewish brains and money.

Eldridge Cleaver and the Revolutionary Glorification of Black Criminality

In the wake of Freedom Summer and the racial rancor it generated within the civil rights movement, more pugnacious Blacks rose to ascendancy in SNCC and other civil rights organizations. Stokely Carmichael became chairman of SNCC in May 1966, and quickly repudiated civil disobedience. He embraced “Black Power” and Black separatism, and by the end of the year he expelled Whites from the SNCC. A position paper worked up to explain the move stated, “All White people are racists.”[x] Jewish revolutionaries were outraged; one cited Jewish support of civil rights organizations and their “strategic role in organizing and funding the struggle,” and concluded “it was clear to everyone that [Jews] were the primary target” of Carmichael’s new racial militancy.[xi] Jews can get awfully sensitive when their revolutionary proxies get it into their heads to steer their own way.

It was in this context that the Black Panthers appeared in the Bay Area in October 1966. The Black Panthers reviled the “White power structure” but were open to alliances with White radicals. Jewish leftists immediately connected with their movement. Advocacy for the Panthers would become the dramatic climax of Fay’s career. She would throw herself into the maelstrom of pro-Panther activism with total incomprehension of their true nature, just like many other Jewish revolutionaries.

We begin with Eldridge Cleaver, because his career was so largely a Jewish creation, and provides necessary background for Fay’s new endeavor. In1966 Cleaver was doing time for attempted rape and attempted murder. His infamous predilection for violating White women would soon be broadcast by Jewish publicists. He read politics and history in prison, but his ideas crystallized upon reading George Breitman’s book, Last Year of Malcolm X: The Evolution of a Revolutionary. Breitman, a Jew, depicted Malcolm at the end of his life as less a religious leader than a socialist revolutionary. “The Malcolm X of the Breitman book went far beyond seeing racism as a flaw in the hearts of the American people. It was endemic to the nation’s economic system, a necessary feature of capitalism. The whole structure had to go.”[xii] The book impacted Black inmates “like a lightning strike.” They now spurned mere reform or talk of civil rights; “[t]here was nothing to be gained by trying to fit in. The very structure of the society would have to be razed.” Cleaver was the inmate “who followed this line of thought most closely.”[xiii] A Jew thus lit yet another spark for Black revolution.

From prison, Cleaver managed to contact Beverly Axelrod, a Jewish lawyer and veteran radical. He hoped that he could pay her legal fees with his writing, and she could win his parole. Axelrod smuggled forbidden literature into prison for Cleaver, and he gave her his numerous tracts, which she sent to Norman Mailer, whose 1957 essay “The White Negro” reminded more than one critic of Cleaver’s scribblings. With Mailer’s enthusiastic approval, she was able to get Ramparts magazine, soon to become the most prominent publication of the New Left, to publish selections.[xiv] Robert Scheer, editor at Ramparts (son of a Russian Jewess and a German Gentile), also helped place Cleaver’s work in the magazine; his role would become big enough to earn the description of “perhaps the key person to launch the career of Eldridge Cleaver.”[xv] Eldridge Cleaver was a Jewish creation, and the Jews were on their way to replacing the SNCC as their controlled vehicle of social demolition.[xvi]

In August 1966, Ramparts published Eldridge’s “Letters from Prison,” which included this famous passage: “Rape was an insurrectionary act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the White man’s law, upon his system of values, and that I was defiling his women.”[xvii] Whatever Beverly Axelrod thought of this passage, it didn’t stop her from falling in love with him. By the time she got him out on parole at the end of 1966, they were lovers and planned to marry. Cleaver’s book Soul on Ice came out in the spring of 1967. The book “whipped tough cultural observations in with a froth of sexual lore, and the result was a violence-steeped Maileresque Black sexual-political myth …”[xviii] It featured letters to and from Beverly and was dedicated to her, “with whom I share the ultimate of love.”[xix] Jewish media sources received it rapturously; the lefty Jewish critic Maxwell Geismar in his introduction to the book wrote that Cleaver was “simply one of the best cultural critics writing today.”[xx]

Cleaver could portray his crimes as politically motivated all he wanted, but without Jewish publicists, it would have amounted to nothing. Because he was able to gain the ear of radical Jews, the myth of the criminal-as-revolutionary was born: “crime . . . became a revolutionary challenge to the state.”[xxi] This idea—putting the final touch on a dangerous concoction—created “room for criminal male violence in the ideology of the New Left.”[xxii] A direct path was laid down to domestic revolutionary violence and terrorism. It led in a straight line from the Black Panthers, to the Weathermen, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and now, Antifa.

Huey Newton and Fay Stender

At a party celebrating the publication of Soul on Ice, Fay Stender met Cleaver and toasted his engagement to Axelrod.[xxiii] (The engagement would not last long; Cleaver soon abandoned her for a much younger woman. Cleaver later admitted that he used Axelrod, eleven years his senior, to get out of prison.) It was through Axelrod that Fay would become involved in the case that made her famous.

However, Fay was depressed again. She was no closer to a full partnership in the firm of Garry & Dreyfus; she mostly did research for the “name” partners. She was envious of Beverly Axelrod, the toast of the radical community, and Marvin had embarked upon yet another affair. She needed a new cause. As it happened, it wasn’t long in coming: in the early morning hours of October 28, 1967, the thuggish founder of the Black Panthers, Huey Newton, murdered John Frey.

Oakland police officer John Frey had pulled over a vehicle with Newton and a friend inside. Ten minutes later Frey was dying of five bullet wounds, two in the back from close range.[xxiv] An hour later Newton showed up at Kaiser Hospital with a gunshot wound in his abdomen. There the cops caught up to him; so did Charles Garry and Fay Stender. Eldridge Cleaver, who had joined the Panthers after his release from prison and now stepped up as leader, had called Axelrod for help and she called Garry.[xxv] Fay “would never forget the impact of seeing Huey Newton lying half-naked under armed guard. . . . At first sight, she felt a strong sexual attraction.”[xxvi] Her depression vanished; she “instantly realized this might be the career break she was looking for.” She would be at the center of the “hottest Movement case around”: a capital murder trial for a Black man “struggling” against the “racist” American system.[xxvii]

Huey Newton in Beverly Axelrod’s apartment, 1967. Props by Cleaver.

Fay wasn’t the only turned-on radical. Newton (who reportedly had a Jewish grandfather[xxviii]) and the Panthers had already gotten major press coverage; less than three months before Frey’s murder, Israeli-born Sol Stern had done a write-up on the Panthers for New York Times Magazine (August 6). This was the first exposure the Panthers had received in the mainstream press. “Stern had asked Newton if he was truly prepared to kill a police officer; Newton replied that he was.” Stern couldn’t help concluding that, for the Panthers, “the execution of a police officer would be as natural . . . as the execution of a German soldier by a member of the French Resistance.”[xxix] In the immediate aftermath of the killing of Frey, the underground newspaper Berkeley Barb (owned and run by the Jew Max Scherr[xxx]), which had been covering the Panthers steadily since early 1967, “hastily concluded” that the Newton case was a “clear case of police provocation” and declared him a political prisoner.[xxxi] The Barb would continue to cover Newton’s case full-blast.

Many radicals believed that Newton had killed Frey, and hoped it presaged a real revolution.

Fay would assist Garry in the case, along with Barney Dreyfus and another partner, Alex Hoffmann, a diminutive Viennese Jew. Garry planned a “super-aggressive defense . . . raising every possible factual and legal issue,” with a maximum of publicity to arouse sympathy for Newton.[xxxii] Fay, who had virtually no experience in criminal trials, would do research and write motions and briefs that challenged everything that might lead to plausible grounds for a subsequent appeal. Garry would conduct the trial in the courtroom. Nevertheless, the case looked very bad for the defense; everything pointed to Newton having an electrifying end to his career.

Garry planned to put the “racist” American system on trial and the prosecutor on the defensive. Lise Pearlman describes it as the first “Movement trial”; the Chicago Seven Trial was yet to come.[xxxiii] The Panthers and their White backers would mount large demonstrations around the courthouse at each pre-trial hearing and all through the trial, and the leftwing press and its Jewish scribes would provide fawning coverage.

The Panthers at the time of Frey’s death numbered only about a dozen people. With a cause célèbre like Newton imprisoned in a racially explosive murder case, Blacks flocked to the Party. Within eighteen months, there were over forty chapters around the country with 5,000 members. Their paper, The Black Panther, launched in Beverly Axelrod’s apartment, grew to a circulation of over 100,000.[xxxiv] Newton, many remarked, was more valuable in prison, a likely martyr, than free.

The prosecutor quickly obtained an indictment from a grand jury. Fay and Barney Dreyfus immediately prepared a constitutional challenge to the composition of the jury, because it was too White. It didn’t reflect a “cross-section of the community.”[xxxv] They invested immense effort and time on this angle. (Their argument would fail; they would appeal; again denied.[xxxvi]) This, together with their later agitation against the composition of the trial jury, would have the terrible effect of making juries and the judicial process subject to identity politics, and lead to rampant Black juror sabotage of criminal cases against Blacks.

In January 1968, Fay began visiting Newton regularly in the Alameda County Jail. She was “delighted at his warm reception,”[xxxvii] and began dressing more attractively, with makeup, on her visits. She was “but one of a growing number of his new female devotees.”[xxxviii] Newton was able to bamboozle her completely. He told her he learned to read after high school by repeatedly attempting Plato’s Republic. She in turn shared personal details with him, and was soon panting, “he is truly a great man. Huey is a loving, gentle, kind person . . . He has a righteous force, a fierce combination of moral outrage and anger.”[xxxix] What is this but pure female emotion, utterly duped by radical ideology and a dangerous but charming poseur?

In late February 1968, the government released the Kerner Report. It infamously blamed White racism for Black failure and the Black inner-city riots of the preceding few years, providing top-level government backing for the claim that Huey Newton’s actions were simply the result of frustration with oppression.

Five weeks later, after a night of whoring in Memphis, the Reverend Martin Luther King met God, unexpectedly.[xl] In protest, Blacks across the nation attacked and burned down their own communities.[xli] President Johnson had to call in 13,000 troops to quell the violence and arson in Washington, D.C. Amidst the excitement, Eldridge Cleaver gathered four carloads of heavily armed Panthers and set out to “off” some “pigs” and “stoke the image of [the Panthers] as the future revolutionary vanguard.”[xlii] A shootout ensued. Police killed one Panther and hauled Cleaver off to prison. Cleaver insisted he and the Panthers were innocently “preparing a picnic” for the morrow.[xliii] “To the Bastille!” brayed the Berkeley Barb at this “police outrage.” Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer, among others, demanded Cleaver’s release.[xliv]

Meanwhile, Fay worked round the clock on the case. She attended Panther meetings, read books that Huey assigned her, and prepared motions. When the state rejected her challenge of the grand jury, she assembled a panel of sociologists to help her strategize for the trial. This was “a novel concept. Today professional jury consultants are often used in high profile . . . cases . . . but back then the use of sociologists . . . was pioneering.”[xlv] They specifically sought ways to shape a jury to their liking, i.e., one with as many minorities as possible. Fay reached out to David Wellman, a friend and movement journalist who was working on a Ph.D. in “race relations” at Berkeley. He brought his colleagues Bob Blauner, a “confirmed Marxist,” Professor Jan Dizard, and Dr. Bernard Diamond to meet with Fay.[xlvi] Fay and her “experts” prepared hundreds of questions that Charles Garry could ask prospective jurors to root out racial “bias.” This is another example showing that outsiders or Jews will not play by the “gentleman’s rules” that bind together a homogeneous high-trust society. They literally act as a social corrosive.

Garry and Fay knew full well that their chances of winning an acquittal, or a hung jury, rested on whether they could seat Blacks on the jury. Did they really think that Blacks would judge the evidence with greater acumen and dispassion than middle-class Whites? Not bloody likely. They were well aware that minorities on juries were prone to siding with their racial brothers at the expense of facts.[xlvii] Garry wanted “to create the impression that every member of a minority group would understand his client’s perspective better than Whites, but he knew better” [emphasis added].[xlviii] He knew many Blacks in Oakland did not view the Panthers positively. He was banking on naked racial solidarity to spring a murderer and increase his own fame. Did Fay think of the implications of their strategy? Or did she simply accept the idea that Newton was justified in his actions because of White racism?

The Newton Trial     

The trial began with jury selection on July 15, 1968. Judge Monroe Friedman presided. The prosecutor was the tall, courtly, almost ridiculously decent Lowell Jensen. Even Pearlman points out the contrast in style and behavior between the prosecution and the defense; it was exactly what one might expect between a WASP and a group consisting mostly of Jews.[xlix]

Security for the trial was unprecedented. Outside, Panthers and thousands of supporters marched, chanted, and screamed. Some held signs reading, “The Nation Shall be Reduced to Ashes, the Sky’s the Limit if Anything Happens to Huey.”[l] It was blatant intimidation of the judge and jury, orchestrated by the radicals, and should never have been permitted.

For three days, Fay trotted out her experts to explain to Judge Friedman how biased Whites were: Jan Dizard, Bob Blauner, Alex Hoffmann, Dr. Sanford (one of the authors of The Authoritarian Personality), Dr. Diamond, and even Hans Zeisel from Chicago.[li] It is hard to see how the affair could have been more Jewish; only Dizard and Sanford were Gentiles. The judge denied most of the defense’s requests, but did permit a longer questioning period for possible jurors. Questioning of the jury pool then took nearly three excruciating weeks. One defense strategy ironically backfired; most Blacks stated under oath that they couldn’t impose the death penalty under any conditions, and Jensen logically proceeded to exclude them, greatly reducing the number of Blacks who could sit on the jury. Both Fay and Garry had actually hoped that minorities would lie about their feelings on the death penalty so they could be seated and vote against death, if it came to that.[lii] The fact that the defense assumed they would lie, and that they were eager to profit from it, says everything we need to know about their ethics. Such are the imperatives of tikkun olam.

The jury seated five minorities, including one Black man. Jensen, fair to a fault, didn’t strive to exclude minorities just because they were minorities.

The defense put Newton, a good speaker, on the stand. He denied shooting Frey. Then, with Garry prompting him, he “talked at length . . . about hundreds of years of oppression,” over the objections of Jensen, because Judge Friedman “was fascinated” by the history lesson.[liii] Newton, of course, had no direct knowledge of “hundreds of years” of oppression; his “testimony” was totally extraneous to the case. Newton swore that the Panthers were committed to nonviolence, at virtually the same moment protestors outside were chanting, “Revolution has come – Time to pick up your gun,” and “Off the pigs.”[liv]

The Black juror, David Harper, “found himself profoundly affected” when Newton testified about racism in American society.[lv]

When cross-examined by Jensen, Newton claimed that Officer Frey had been rough with him, called him “nigger,” and pushed him; he fell, Frey pulled his gun, and Newton felt a hot flash on his stomach. He claimed he remembered nothing more.[lvi] Garry brought Dr. Diamond to the stand to testify that soldiers shot in the stomach commonly experience amnesia and unconsciousness.[lvii]

Jensen’s final remarks included a “chilling” account of the killing. Only Newton could have fired the fatal shots, he concluded. Garry then closed. He compared Newton to Christ and invoked both the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide. With tears in his eyes, he embraced Newton and implored the jury to find him innocent.[lviii]

During jury deliberations, the lone Black man and a Cuban held out for acquittal. Finally they compromised by opting for a verdict of manslaughter. It was a “stunning” victory for the defense, but it left Fay and Alex Hoffmann devastated (Pearlman speculates that Hoffmann, a homosexual, may have been in love with Newton).[lix] Newton was sentenced to two to fifteen years, under the “indeterminate” sentencing law. It was an outrageous violation of justice, worked by Jews and non-Whites at the expense of a White policeman and White society. The demoralization of White society consequent upon such a violation of justice would be hard to calculate, but surely it would have serious and long-lasting effects.

Fay began working on the appeal the next morning. Garry was busy with other cases, and handed it over to her. She would read the 4,000-page trial transcript, and eventually write a near 200-page brief arguing for a reversal of the verdict, even though historically there was very little chance for success. She threw herself into fund-raising, recruiting celebrities to lend their names to the “Free Huey” campaign, and speaking at colleges, all with her customary full-bore intensity.[lx] She also reached out to rabbis involved in civil rights work: “Fay relished making connections between her religious heritage and her current mission. In her view, Newton’s freedom should be the rabbis’ cause as well.”[lxi]

She visited Newton in prison, along with Alex Hoffmann. As his attorney, they could meet in a small room with some privacy. She felt it her duty to keep Newton’s spirits up. “She seemed . . . to be almost in love with Newton. They looked deeply at each other during her visits, sometimes touching when the guards’ attention wandered.”[lxii] They did more than touch; once “a startled guard reported seeing Stender bent down apparently engaged in oral sex with Newton.”[lxiii] It was a combination Fay couldn’t resist: her own powerful sexual appetite, a poor victim of brutish White racism, an intimate moment with a real revolutionary. Did she think of her husband? Her children? Venereal disease?

In the summer of 1969, Fay and Marvin took time for a trip to Europe and Israel. They “marveled at the transformation in Israel wreaked by the collective blood, sweat and tears of so many Jews.” A relative with an Uzi on his back showed them around what Lise Pearlman calls the “newly liberated” West Bank.[lxiv] Fay would later become “distanced” from other leftists over the issue of Palestine (they often denounced Israeli imperialism); she acknowledged the Arabs had a right to the land, but so did “the survivors of the Holocaust.”[lxv]

When they returned, Fay left Garry & Dreyfus and joined with Peter Franck (her old friend from the Council for Justice) in a new radical law “collective” in Berkeley: Franck, Stender, Hendon, Hill, & Ziegler. All but Hill were Jewish. Collectives were the new thing; they would have no distinctions in status or pay. Naturally, they would devote themselves to “Movement” work.

She finished her brief for Newton’s appeal in January 1970. In what amounted to a grand fishing expedition, she claimed, among other things, that the grand jury and the trial jury did not reflect Newton’s “peer group,” despite the fact that the prosecutor had not excluded minorities per se. Fay and Garry presented oral arguments on February 11. The appellate decision would come down in late May.


[i] Pearlman, Call Me Phaedra, 98.

[ii] When protestor Joe Blum reached Santa Rita prison after dawn, he heard a voice call out, “Hey Joe! How many of you motherfuckers are coming out here?” It was his friend from Merritt College, Huey Newton, in prison for assault. From Hugh Pearson, The Shadow of the Panther (Addison Wesley, 1994), 73.

[iii] Arthur Liebman, Jews and the Left (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1979), 68.

[iv] Pearlman, Call Me Phaedra, 98.

[v] Ibid., 100.

[vi] Ibid., 100-01.

[vii] See Kevin MacDonald, “Jews, Blacks, and Race” here, and E. Michael Jones, The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit and Its Impact on World History, Chapter 16.

[viii] Pearlman, Call Me Phaedra, 101-02.

[ix] Ibid., 102. Franck is Jewish; so was Axelrod.

[x] Heineman, 42.

[xi] David Horowitz, Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey (New York: The Free Press, 1997), 227.

[xii] Eric Cummins, The Rise and Fall of California’s Radical Prison Movement (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), 97.

[xiii] All quotes from Cummins, 97.

[xiv] Pearlman, Call Me Phaedra, 113.

[xv] Hugh Pearson, The Shadow of the Panther, 104.

[xvi] “Cleaver . . . would do more than anyone else to facilitate Huey Newton’s Black Panther Party replacing SNCC as the national symbol of Black disenchantment.” Pearson, 104.

[xvii] Peter Richardson, A Bomb in Every Issue: How the Short, Unruly Life of Ramparts Magazine Changed America (New York: The New Press, 2009), 69-70.

[xviii] Cummins, California’s Radical Prison Movement, 100.

[xix] Richardson, A Bomb in Every Issue, 121.

[xx] Ibid., 122-23. Cleaver’s warden from San Quentin had a different view of his writing. He thought it was “racist as hell, talking about the White honkies and death to the White man and that sort of thing . . . I consider[ed] it garbage, the words of a diseased mind.” (from Cummins, 98.)

[xxi] Cummins, 103.

[xxii] Cummins, 103.

[xxiii] Lise Pearlman, American Justice, 110-11.

[xxiv] Horowitz and Collier, 29.

[xxv] Pearlman, American Justice, 133.

[xxvi] Pearlman, Call Me Phaedra, 118.

[xxvii] Pearlman, American Justice, 110.

[xxviii] Pearson, 292.

[xxix] Richardson, 92-3. Stern probably knew the “French Resistance” was largely Jewish; see “Was the French Resistance Jewish?” in the Tablet: https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/201308/was-the-french-resistance-jewish

[xxx] See here for Scherr.

[xxxi] Cummins, 113-14.

[xxxii] Pearlman, Call Me Phaedra, 119.

[xxxiii] Pearlman, American Justice, 112, 136.

[xxxiv] Ibid., 38.

[xxxv] Ibid., 117-18.

[xxxvi] Pearlman, Call Me Phaedra, 121.

[xxxvii] Ibid., 122.

[xxxviii] Pearlman, American Justice, 151.

[xxxix] Ibid., 151.

[xl] In his book And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Ralph Abernathy, close associate of Martin Luther King, testifies that King spent time with two women that night, neither one his wife, and beat up a third. See http://articles.latimes.com/1989-11-12/books/bk-1880_1_ralph-david-abernathy/2

[xli] After the Watts riots in August 1965, in which the Blacks of Los Angeles had destroyed much of their community, they nevertheless felt that they had “had chastised the White power structure.” Heineman, 41.

[xlii] Pearson, 154.

[xliii] Pearson, 155.

[xliv] Cummins, 121.

[xlv] Pearlman, American Justice, 161-62.

[xlvi] Ibid., 177.

[xlvii] Ibid., 217.

[xlviii] Ibid., 223.

[xlix] Ibid., 215.

[l] Pearson, 167.

[li] Pearlman, American Justice, 210-13.

[lii] Pearlman, Call Me Phaedra, 126.

[liii] Pearlman, American Justice, 284-85.

[liv] Ibid., 286.

[lv] Ibid., 327.

[lvi] Ibid., 287-88.

[lvii] Pearlman, Call Me Phaedra, 130-31.

[lviii] Pearlman, American Justice, 298-302.

[lix] Pearlman, Call Me Phaedra, xiv.

[lx] Pearlman, American Justice, 357-58.

[lxi] Pearlman, Call Me Phaedra, 143-44.

[lxii] Horowitz and Collier, 31.

[lxiii] Pearlman, American Justice, 358.

[lxiv] Both quotes from Pearlman, Call Me Phaedra, 150.

[lxv] Ibid., 336.

The Life and Times of Fay Stender, Radical Attorney for the Black Panthers, Part 1

Introduction

Fay Stender earned fame as a radical attorney in the 1960s and 1970s, defending two of the most prominent Black Panthers in highly publicized court cases. During the course of her career in left-wing activism, she embraced numerous “causes” with a passion as flamboyant as it was unbalanced. She worked strictly within the stream of Jewish anti-White activism, but inside that framework her aims were essentially random, a consequence of her peculiar personality. She displayed during the course of her work a toxic combination of Jewish radicalism, selfishness, ambition, egotism, and unrestrained female emotion. The blend eventually destabilized social institutions and got people killed.

Fay was the personification of psychological intensity, a classic marker of Jewish activism. Her personality traits were etched in bold lettering. People “who knew her intimately . . . regarded her as one of the most forceful persons they had ever met.”[i] Her sympathetic biographer mentions her “extraordinary” ego, and even her husband was appalled by her “analytic, calculating ambition.”[ii] She was “deeply typical” of the radical movement, says a fellow 1960s leftist, “the paradigmatic radical—relentlessly pushing at human limits; driven to a fine rage by perceived injustices; searching for personal authenticity in her revolutionary commitments.”[iii] Like many subversives of the 1960s, she was also a strongly identified Jew, and consciously linked the supposed values of her Jewish heritage with her social activism.

Her life story is a revealing case study in Jewish activism.

Early Life and Education

Fay Stender was born in San Francisco in 1932, into a middle-class Jewish family. Her grandparents hailed from the old country: Brest-Litovsk, Hungary, and Germany. Her father, Sam Abraham, was a chemical engineer; her mother, Ruby, was a teacher. They were a conventional family, not “political” or activist. Sam was Orthodox, but Fay and her only sibling, Lisie, were raised Reform, and they observed the Sabbath and other Jewish rites.[iv]

Fay began piano lessons at four years of age, and quickly showed real talent. By the time she entered her teen years she was on track to become a concert pianist. She earned the privilege of performing Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with the San Francisco Symphony when she was just fourteen years old.

Not long afterward, she rebelled against her rigorous schedule. She wasn’t happy with her stunted social life (she was attending private school to maximize practice time); she demanded to be allowed to attend Berkeley High School with her friend Hilde Stern. She also wanted to reduce her practice time. Her parents submitted only after much argument. She did not fit in very well in high school, however, because Hilde’s circle of friends considered her arrogant. She was “a loner, restless and impatient with frivolity.”[v] She read much in her spare time and made the National Honor Society.

Fay and her family evinced a good deal of neurosis. Her mother was “controlling” and “tended toward hypochondria,” frequently dragging Fay around to doctors and imposing unnecessary therapies on her. Fay herself suffered periods of serious depression throughout her life, and may have suffered from bipolar disorder.[vi] She also enjoyed provoking authority. At public institutions, she would open doors marked “private” and, boldly entering, implicitly challenging the White social order.

At seventeen, Fay followed Hilde Stern to Portland, Oregon, to study English at Reed College. Reed had a reputation as left wing and iconoclastic. Fay reveled in her freedom from parental control, and began dating for the first time. She was, like many young people, almost painfully idealistic. A letter of advice to her younger sister featured this earnest impression: “The real meaning of life is in three things, love, beauty and pain. And these three are all really one which is God or Truth. And you will only come to know and understand this by giving, and giving too much.”[vii]

A young Fay Stender at Reed College

Jewish idealism does not frown upon unorthodox modes of sexual expression. Sex is also, of course, a well-known tool of revolutionaries. In her sophomore year she fell for a youthful professor, Stanley Moore, a womanizing Communist with a taste for bondage (Fay’s biographer Lise Pearlman describes the relationship as “sado-masochistic.”[viii]) Moore turned her strongly to the left and “convinced her to reject her cloistered upbringing and bourgeois Jewish values.”[ix] It began to dawn on Fay that “there was something wrong with this country, something I wanted to change.”[x] She quickly embraced radical ideas, a rare example of a Gentile converting a Jew to revolution.

In her junior year she transferred to the University of California at Berkeley. There she befriended a fellow student, Chinese immigrant Betty Lee, and, talking “a million miles a minute,” “passionately expounded on Communism, racism and imperialism.”[xi] Her knowledge of these issues must have been superficial, but her passion wasn’t. She was vocal enough with her new beliefs that the FBI opened a file on her and Betty as suspected Communists.[xii] The FBI would track Fay through much of her life. Read more

Jews and the Left by Philip Mendes: Review, Part 3

Go to Part 1.

Go to Part 2.

Herbert Marcuse addressing American students in 1968

Jewish involvement in the New Left

In Jews and the Left, Mendes recounts the disproportionate Jewish involvement in the New Left—a political movement that began in the early 1960s when students travelled to the southern states to support the emerging “civil rights” movement. In the mid-1960s, the movement switched to northern campuses to advocate student rights, free speech and opposition to the Vietnam War. This was the time when the ideas of Frankfurt School intellectuals like Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse began to displace orthodox Marxism in leftist movements throughout the West. Mendes notes that:

Jews contributed significantly to the theoretical underpinning of the New Left. From 30 to 50 per cent of the founders and editorial boards of such New Left journals as Studies on the Left, New University Thought, and Root and Branch (later Ramparts) were of Jewish origin. Radical academic bodies and think tanks such as the Caucus for a New Politics, the Union of Radical Political Economists and the Institute for Policy Studies were overwhelmingly Jewish. A number of the key intellectual gurus of the New Left such as Paul Goodman, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Herbert Marcuse were also Jewish.[i]

The Jews who flooded the ranks of the New Left in the early-to-mid 1960s “appear to have been largely assimilated third-generation Jews from Old Left backgrounds [i.e., “red diaper babies”], although some had participated in Labor Zionist Groups.” Studies of American Jewish New Left activists reveal many had grown up in highly politicized left-wing family environments. Jews made up around two-thirds of the White Freedom Riders who went south in 1961, and about one-third to one-half of committed New Left activists in the USA, including key leaders such as Abbie Hoffmann and Jerry Rubin. In 1964 they represented from one-half to two-thirds of the volunteers who flooded Mississippi to help register black voters. At Berkeley in 1964, around one-third of the leaders of the Free Speech Movement (FSM) demonstrators were Jewish, as were over half of the movement’s steering committee, including Bettina Aptheker, Suzanne Goldberg, Steve Weisman, and Jack Weinberg who coined the famous phrase “You can’t trust anyone over thirty.[ii] Moreover:

In 1965 at the University of Chicago, 45 per cent of the protestors against the university’s collaboration with the Selective Service System were Jews. At Columbia University in 1968 one-third of the protestors were of Jewish origin, and three of the four student demonstrators killed at Kent State in 1970 were Jewish. Jews comprised a large proportion of the leaders and activists within Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Some of the key leaders included the founder Al Haber, Todd Gitlin and Mark Rudd. Approximately 30 to 50 per cent of the SDS membership in the early–mid 1960s were Jewish.[iii] At one point in the late 1960s, SDS presidents on the campuses of Columbia University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Wisconsin (Madison), North Western University, and Michigan University were all Jews. Jewish participation in SDS was particularly high at Pennsylvania University and the State University of New York. There was also a number of Jews in the violent Weathermen group.[iv]

Read more