Jews and the Left

A Review of “Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism,” Part 1 of 3

Editor’s note: I am reposting this extensive review by Brenton Sanderson of Alain Brossat and Sylvie Klingberg’s Revolutionary Yiddishland, originally posted in January of 2018. This is an important contribution to understanding the importance of Jews and the left. The book, written by Jews mainly for a Jewish audience, reveals the importance of Jews for the success of communism in the USSR and Eastern Europe, and it does so in an refreshingly unapologetic manner—quite a change from the many apologetic accounts of Jews and communism that are standard academic wisdom these days.


Alain Brossat and Sylvie Klingberg’s Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism was first published in France in 1983. A revised edition appeared in 2009 and an English translation in 2016. Intended for a mainly Jewish readership, the book is essentially an apologia for Jewish communist militants in Eastern Europe in the early to mid-twentieth century. Brossat, a Jewish lecturer in philosophy at the University of Paris, and Klingberg, an Israeli sociologist, interviewed dozens of former revolutionaries living in Israel in the early 1980s. In their testimony they recalled “the great scenes” of their lives such as “the Russian Civil War, the building of the USSR, resistance in the camps, the war in Spain, the armed struggle against Nazism, and the formation of socialist states in Eastern Europe.”[i] While each followed different paths, “the constancy of these militants’ commitment was remarkable, as was the firmness of the ideas and aspirations that underlay it.” Between the two world wars, communist militancy was “the center of gravity of their lives.”[ii]

While communism in Europe in the early- to mid-twentieth century was characterized by economic dysfunction, systematic oppression, summary executions, and the elimination of entire ethnic groups, Brossat and Klingberg wistfully recall it as a time when European Jewry “failed to achieve its hopes, its utopias, its political programs and strategies.” Instead, the messianic dreams of radical Jews were “broken on the rocks of twentieth-century European history.” A product of their ethnocentric infatuation with the “romance” of Jewish involvement in radical political movements, Revolutionary Yiddishland is Brossat and Klingberg’s hagiographic attempt to resurrect a history that is today “more than lost, being actually denied, even unpronounceable.” Read more

Review: The Trial of the Chicago 7

“Aren’t the Chicago 7 all Jews?”
President Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon was wrong when he assumed that every member of the Chicago 7 was Jewish, but he was close enough. The 1969 trial of seven leftwing activists for inciting a riot at August 1968’s Democratic National Convention was an intensely Jewish moment in American history. Of the seven activists on trial, three were Jews (Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Lee Weiner), and a further two (Tom Hayden and David Dellinger) lived their lives in a heavily Jewish milieu and dedicated themselves to Jewish causes. The judge in the trial, Julius Hoffman, was Jewish, as were both defense attorneys (William Moses Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass) and one of the prosecutors (Richard Schultz). For several reasons, I’ve always regarded the ultimately chaotic and clownish trial of the Chicago 7 as nothing more than a piece of degenerate Jewish political performance art, demoralising to the American justice system and energising to a new generation of Judeo-Anarchist activists. These shambolic events of 1968/9 have now been disinterred for Netflix’s propagandistic and revisionist account of the episode, The Trial of the Chicago 7, in which Jewish writer/director Aaron Sorkin attempts to refashion its “lessons” for application in Trump’s America. The result is both historically disingenuous and artistically bland.

Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 opens with a montage of eight [including Bobby Seale] activists preparing to protest at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. There are several clear dogwhistles to Black Lives Matter, with barely veiled justifications of violence, including an exchange in the opening montage between Black Panther Leader Seale and a woman named Sondra. Sondra attempts to reason with Seale that his presence as a Black leader at a potentially violent rally will be taken “out of context” by “every White person in America.” As Seale persists in his preparations, Sondra begins to invoke “Dr King” before Seale responds:

[King] Is dead. He has a dream? Now he has a fuckin’ bullet in his head. Martin’s dead, Malcolm’s dead, Medgar’s dead, Bobby’s dead, Jesus is dead. They tried it peacefully, we gonna try something else.

This “something else” isn’t explored in any significant way because the film proceeds from the understanding that the violence and unrest in Chicago was purely the result of police brutality and bad local government. Painfully unaware of itself, the film sits uneasily in the aftermath of catastrophic policing and government during Charlottesville’s 2016 rally, an event that has unfairly gone down in history and popular consciousness as an exemplar of a “bad protest.” The ghost of Charlottesville, for me at least, hangs heavily over The Trial of the Chicago 7, highlighting its hypocrisy and lending the film a somewhat satirical or parodic quality that is entirely unintended and which, to my mind, is never shaken off.

The necessity of portraying the radical defendants as sympathetic has required a remarkable taming of all the characters involved, to the extent that all appear innocent to the point of mediocrity. Almost everyone in the film is two-dimensional with the possible exception of Hoffman and Rubin who are nevertheless portrayed as harmless, big-hearted clowns. Noted in history for their vulgarity and aggression (Abbie Hoffman declared of his intentions on going to Chicago:” We are dirty, smelly, grimy and foul. … We will piss and shit and fuck in public. … We will be constantly stoned or tripping on every drug known to man”), Hoffman and Rubin are reduced by Sorkin to rather bloodless and timid comic relief. We are given no indication as to the motivations or life trajectories of either Jewish activist, or indeed any of the Chicago 7, presumably because we are meant to assume that they were simply “good people” who wanted only to end the war.

As The Times of Israel has noted, the film represents a trial bleached of its intensely Jewish qualities. I’ve written previously that the 1960s New Left was indisputably a Jewish subculture. Jerry Rubin, given no backstory in Sorkin’s film, had “solidly Jewish roots” and after receiving his baccalaureate “he attended Hebrew University and later returned to Israel to spend a year there with his brother.”[1] His ‘Youth International Party,’ or Yippies, was co-founded with fellow Jewish radicals Abbie Hoffman and Paul Krassner. He married a Jewish woman, Mimi Leonard. Rubin conceived of himself as being at war with the White race. By his own admission, Rubin stated that in forming the ‘Yippie’ movement he had “dropped out of the white race and the Amerikan [sic] nation.”[2] Rubin believed that Jews in particular were “obligated to resist the fascism of whiteness.”[3] He was motivated by narcissistic notions of Jewish moral superiority, indicating a strong identification with his fellows Jews. In a book he wrote while in County Jail, he noted that “It is the Jew who should always be on the side of the poor, the oppressed, the underdog, the wretched of the earth. … And thousands of ex-Amerikan, ex-Jews are. Three of the kids killed at Kent State were Jews. An unusually high proportion of hippies and revolutionaries are Jews.”[4]

Despite having no attachment to the religious content of Judaism, Abbie Hoffman was undoubtedly also deeply connected to his Jewishness and the “invisible” Jewish subculture. He attended Brandeis University (mentioned in the film) at a time when it was basically a refuge for blacklisted Jewish academics, such as the Frankfurt School’s Herbert Marcuse, that had been rooted out from Harvard and MIT as ‘subversive’ by McCarthy. Brandeis survived the purge unscathed because McCarthy refused to target the university for fear of being branded anti-Semitic.[5] One of Hoffman’s psychology professors was Abraham Maslow, who imparted to the young Hoffman that society needed changing, and that nonconformity was “a positive sign of mental health.” Hoffman adored Maslow, later reflecting on his Brandeis days by stating, “Most of all I loved Abe Maslow.” During Hoffman’s attendance at Brandeis, Maslow formed a committee of correspondence which widened the circle of Jewish intellectuals who would essentially incubate the younger generation of Jewish radicals who would comprise the new Jewish subculture. As Gerald Sorin puts it, “Jewish overrepresentation in New Left movements looked like Jewish overrepresentation in old left movements.”[6] Maslow began corresponding with fellow Jewish gurus Eric Fromm, Kurt Goldstein, Paul Goodman, Ashley Montagu, and David Reisman among others, and together they founded The Journal of Humanistic Psychology. Hoffman, awed by these fellow-ethnic subculture figures, referred to them as “giants” who “walked in the space of my intellectual world.”[7] Hoffman was clearly engrossed in non-religious expressions of Jewish identity and in the Jewish subculture, writing in his autobiography that “I came into this world acutely aware of being Jewish and I’m sure I’ll go out that way.”[8]

None of this is probed in the film, which altogether dodges the prospect of exploring Jewish radicalism in the New Left. What is offered instead is a watered down, ethnically ambiguous, court procedural designed to act as a feel-good movie for comfortable, immature, middle-class leftists who daydream about sticking it to an image of “the Man” that hasn’t had any relevance for over 50 years.

After the opening montage, the film shifts forwards to the trial, returning during key witness testimonies to important moments from the protest. This has the doubly negative effect of both stalling any potential for building tension within the courtroom setting, and splintering any coherent narrative of how and why the protest/riot was planned and executed. John N. Mitchell, the Attorney General, appoints Tom Foran and Richard Schultz as the prosecutors, while all the defendants except Seale are represented by William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass (played by the Jewish actor Ben Shenkman). Schultz, who in reality was highly ambitious and quite aggressive during the trial [transcripts are available here], is played by the Jewish actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a mawkishly written role as very much in sympathy with the protestors, and as clashing with an oppressive and legally questionable WASPish system that he has reluctantly become entangled with. The overall impression, despite Sorkin’s bleaching of Jewishness from the trial, is that of brave, big-hearted Jews and Blacks against cruel WASPs and violent police.

Judge Julius Hoffman, played here by Frank Langella (not Jewish), demonstrates clear bias for the prosecution as well as total incompetence, bad hearing, and poor memory. The trial is constantly interrupted by Hoffman’s inadequacies and biases (exaggerated in the film), by shouts from Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, and by the interventions of the defense lawyers. In reality, the leftwing audience in the gallery during the trial was notoriously noisy, violent, and difficult, which caused many breaks in proceedings. In the film, however, the gallery is extremely well-behaved with Hoffman himself responsible for most of the disruptions. Judge Hoffman, who is as two-dimensional as every other character in the film, is used mostly as a foil for the childish activities of Abbie Hoffman and Rubin, who show total contempt for the entire judicial process. Hoffman, inept more than malevolent, makes for a poor villain, but since his worst excesses are intercut with faceless, helmeted police wielding batons, we are presumably supposed to perceive him as the representative of “the System” against which the Chicago leftists are “bravely” warring against. Notably stripped from the film is any reference to the real-life exchanges between Abbie Hoffman and Julius Hoffman that involved Jewishness. In particular, Abbie Hoffman accused the judge of betraying Jewish interests, calling out in Yiddish during the trial that Julius Hoffman was a ““Shande fur de Goyim [Disgrace for the Gentiles]” a “Front man for the WASP elite,” and a “disgrace to the Jews, you could have served Hitler better.” During one episode, Hoffman and Rubin entered the courtroom in judges robes. This is repeated in the film with very one notable omission — in reality the robes had yellow stars on them. Sorkin’s omission can be attributed to the desire to clean the film of explicit allusions to Jewishness, and possibly also the desire to absolve the pair of a tastelessness that was in fact their hallmark.

In his  The Ordeal of Civility (1974, 193) John Murray Cuddihy notes the overtly ethnic subplot of the trial, particularly the infighting between defendant Abbie Hoffman and Judge Julius Hoffman, the former representing the children of the Eastern European immigrant generation that tended toward political radicalism, and the latter representing the older, more assimilated German-Jewish establishment.

Seale’s attorney is not present due to illness, but Seale is repeatedly told by Judge Hoffman that he can’t represent himself. The constant silencing of Seale, historically accurate, along with some broader subtle commentary on police violence against Blacks, is the only clearly sustained narrative of the film, and was the only aspect I found remotely interesting. Deprived of legal assistance, Seale takes informal advice from his associate Fred Hampton. Seale finds out during the trial that Hampton has been killed during a police raid. This prompts Seale to become more assertive in pushing for his right to defend himself. Judge Hoffman responds by having Seale taken to another room, beaten, and returned gagged and shackled. The sequence is milked in the film for propaganda value, omitting the fact that, in reality, Seale had violently lunged at prosecutor Schultz and that it was the plan of the defendants to have Seale “bound and gagged so they could demonstrate to the world that the federal courts were racist.” The scene ends with Hoffman, losing control of the courtroom, taking Schultz’s suggestion of declaring Seale’s case a mistrial.

Aside from the propagandistic treatment of Seale’s experiences, The Trial of the Chicago 7 lacks authenticity and emotion. With Seale released from the trial, the film loses even more narrative direction. Kunstler and Weinglass decide to call Ramsey Clark, who was Attorney General during the riots, as a witness. Although Clark is willing to co-operate, and is willing to go on record that violence was started by the police, Judge Hoffman refuses to let the jury hear his testimony. Dellinger reacts furiously, punching a bailiff, resulting in his arrest, but since Dellinger has hardly featured in the film apart from waving to his wife and son, it’s difficult to care. There is a last-minute scramble to introduce tension by focusing on the discovery of a tape in which Hayden is heard, prior to the riot, declaring “Let blood spill everywhere.” The sequence is treated in a very ham-fisted way by Sorkin, and is destroyed by being explored, yet again, in flashbacks. Bringing the movie to a close, Hayden uses his closing statement by naming over 4,500 soldiers that died in the Vietnam War since the trial began, in spite of the judge’s instructions and objections. This prompts many in the court room to stand and cheer, and even Schultz joins in. This closing sequence prompted the real-life Schultz to comment: “That never happened. It was a total fantasy for Hollywood.”

The film closes by listing the various convictions for contempt handed down by Judge Hoffman, all of which were later overturned by other courts. We then find out that Tom Hayden went on to become a politician, and that Jerry Rubin became a stock trader. The seeming incongruity in these career choices, and the feeling that it undoes the trite anti-establishment theme we’ve been presented for two hours, embodies the fact that, stripped of the dirty reality, this is a film without any clear message at all. It isn’t focused enough to be an anti-war film, it hints at commentary on police violence but never directly engages with it, and it never explores the motivations of the radicals and so can never explicitly endorse them. In this sense, Sorkin’s movie is a perfect work of filmic neoliberalism, capable of digesting leftist radicalism and regurgitating it in a more palatable, marketable fashion while ignoring its glaring contradictions and ethnic identifications. Sorkin’s film has absolutely nothing to do say about the way in which these “radicals” became part of the System, or rather that they became an iteration of a new system of control via their participation in politics, the stock market, and, in Lee Weiner’s case, the ADL.

Weiner, a sociology professor and the last surviving Jewish member of the Chicago 7, has perhaps two lines in the entire film. Known in reality as the “quiet one,” this is perhaps justified, but his post-trial career trajectory is probably the most interesting. A 1976 article in Mother Jones reported that Weiner “is said to be somewhere near New York, leading a quiet life, sorting out what being Jewish means to him.”[9] Weiner in fact began working for the ADL where, according to Spencer Tucker, he has been directing “special projects” for years.[10] When contacted in 2007 by Jeff Kisseloff for a phone interview, Weiner responded that he was “raising money to fight hate.”[11] So Weiner, the “free speech” radical has become a key member of one of the most significant censorship organisations in the world.

Never explicit, it’s in the contradictions and subtleties of the film that it’s Jewish subtexts are revealed. I found it especially interesting that, during a heated exchange between Tom Hayden (played by the very WASPish Eddie Redmayne) and Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron-Cohen), there is a very prominent poster of Hitler in the background (with the caption “Visit Chicago” above it). The actual history of the poster is a play on contemporary accusations that Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley was an authoritarian anti-Semite (he did in fact at one point shout at Senator Abraham Ribicoff: “Fuck you, you Jew son of a bitch, you lousy motherfucker go home.”) In any case, Hayden stands directly in front of the Hitler poster, while Rubin, Hoffman, and Weiner stand on the other side of the room, giving the momentary impression of Jews vs WASP/Hitler. This takes on greater significance when one considers that there was some real-life antagonism between Jewish leftists and non-Jewish radicals like Hayden. Hayden was known to have disparaged “the New York intellectual culture,” prompting Irving Howe, especially worried by New Left anti-Zionism, to denounce Hayden for his own authoritarian proclivities and to suggest that the New Left was becoming more “Christian” and “utterly American” (his most scathing insult) due to declining Jewish influence.[12] Howe needn’t have worried — Hayden went on to work closely with Jews to innovate Holocaust reparations legislation in California (Holocaust Victims Insurance Act), to be celebrated by the Jewish National Fund for his support for Israel, to employ a Jewish press secretary (Ralph Brave), and to help pioneer “Holocaust education.”

In some ways, it’s the chaos underlying both the real trial, and its filmic representation, that embody the Jewishness of it best. As I wrote at the outset, I’ve always regarded the ultimately chaotic and clownish trial of the Chicago 7 as nothing more than a piece of degenerate Jewish political performance art, demoralising to the American justice system and energising to a new generation of Judeo-Anarchist activists. There was ultimately no meaning to the trial, just as there is no meaning to the film, other than directionless Jewish protest. As Jon Stratton has noted, echoing the comments of John Murray Cuddihy in The Ordeal of Civility, regarding the historical and ethnic issues underpinning the real trial:

The point I want to make here about these people, about the personas they presented which merged with the performances they undertook, is that they lacked civility. Their disruption was, at bottom, a public unsettling of the civility that orders American sociality … The Jews’ lack of civility, and therefore the failure of Western people’s attempts to develop reciprocally civil interactions with Eastern European Jews spread shockwaves through nineteenth-century society. In arguing a larger alienation — since the norms of civility merely spell out and specify for face-to-face interaction the more general values of the culture — the failure of civility came to define the “Jewish problem” as this problem reconstituted itself in the era of social modernity.[13]

The trial of the Chicago 7 was ultimately a demonstration of Jewish tastelessness, chaos, and discord in the midst of American society, involving more than the specific antics of Rubin and Hoffman. The entire episode was a demoralising demonstration of Jewish disruption within the legal system, and the fact that basic Western values and modes of behavior have been viewed by Jews as hostile and oppressive. The trial of the Chicago 7, like so much Jewish activism, was essentially a war on civility. The same antagonisms can be seen today in the quintessentially Jewish vulgarity of comedians like Sarah Silverman, in the riots of Antifa, and in the increasing degeneracy of our cultural and political life. The spirit of the trial lives on in the ceaseless absolving of Antifa rioters of any legal responsibility for their violence and vandalism. Today’s Antifa, of course, will be tomorrow’s politicians, stock traders, and ADL speech monitors, certain to reminisce, without the slightest hint of self-awareness, on the good old days when they fought “the Man.” They might even make a film about it.


[1] S.R. Lichter and S. Rothman, ‘Jewish Ethnicity and Radical Culture: A Social Psychological Study of Political Activists,’ Political Psychology, Vol.3, No.1, (Spring 1981), 135.

[2] E. Sundquist, Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America, (Harvard University Press, 2005), 350.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] M. Jezer, Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel (Rutgers University Press, 1993), 21.

[6] G. Sorin, Tradition Transformed: The Jewish Experience in America (John Hopkins University Press, 1997), 223.

[7] Jezer, 25.

[8] Ibid, 8.

[9] Mother Jones Magazine, Aug 1976, 8.

[10] S. Tucker, The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War (ABC-CLIO, 2011), 192.

[11] J. Kisseloff, Generation on Fire: Voices of Protest from the 1960s, An Oral History (University Press of Kentucky, 1997), 83.

[12] E. Lederhendler, New York Jews and the Decline of Urban Ethnicity, 1950-1970 (New York: Syracuse University Press, 2001),198.

[13] J. Stratton, Jewish Identity in Western Pop Culture: The Holocaust and Trauma Through Modernity, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 182.

Leather-Jacketed Coke-Snorting Jews in the Soviet Secret Police Torturing, Raping and Killing Gentiles: The Evidence

In “Ted Gold and the Jews of Weatherman” (September 2017 in TOO), I wrote, in describing a envisioned takeover of the United States by the Jewish radical group Weatherman, “Cue the return of leather-jacketed coke-snorting Jewish secret police rounding up the gentiles for rape, torture and murder in dank abattoirs. It happened, look it up.” This somewhat jarring historical reference left one commenter, “Jim,” nonplussed. He wrote, whether ironically or seriously (but amusingly), “Where can I find info on coke snorting Jews raping people.” Somewhat belatedly, I thought I would review some of the evidence for the separate elements of my statement: leather jackets, cocaine, and torture, rape and murder in “dank abattoirs.” And, of course, Jewish Cheka agents.

The Cheka

When the Bolsheviks seized the power that was so famously “lying in the streets” in early November 1917, they didn’t disguise the fact that they meant to rule by force and terror. Within weeks they established the coercive arm of their permanent revolution, the “Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counterrevolution and Sabotage,” Ve-Cheka for short or Cheka for shorter. Lenin placed the fanatical Pole Felix Dzerzhinsky in charge of it, and he in turn recruited a cohort of Latvians, Jews, and renegade Russians to help him devastate the Russian nation. The Cheka almost immediately launched into one of the most horrifying orgies of mass murder ever recorded, and men of Jewish blood, who like other Jewish leftists, retained their Jewish identity, played a very prominent role in it.

It is very well-attested that Jews were, for the first twenty years of its history, vastly over-represented in the ranks of the Cheka in proportion to their numbers in the population of the Soviet Union. A few citations will suffice. The historian Richard Pipes quotes a member of the early Kiev Cheka to the effect that three-quarters of its personnel were Jewish.[1] Another source shows that 37 of the top 96 NKVD (later nomenclature for the Cheka) officials in 1934 were Jews, an astounding number considering they made up only 1.7 percent of the population.[2] The Jews actually outnumbered ethnic Russians in these top positions all the way up to early 1937, when Stalin began purging them. The Soviet-born Israeli journalist Sever Plocker writes, “Many Jews sold their soul to the devil of the Communist revolution and have blood on their hands for eternity”—at a time, incidentally, when celebrating the Bolshevik Revolution was entirely mainstream in the Jewish diaspora community in the West. At the same time, Jews were underrepresented in the population of the Gulag, by roughly twenty-five percent.[3]

Within months of the institution of the Cheka, provincial Chekas were sprouting up throughout the territory controlled by the beleaguered Bolshevik dictatorship. Because the central Cheka was essentially an extra-legal body, and had for some time little bureaucratic control over the provincial Chekas, the latter often amounted to little more than local strong-arm groups, composed of criminals and Jews, whose motives were plunder and revenge. Central authorities did eventually succeed in bringing their Cheka franchises under discipline, but the murder, torture, and plunder continued, the only change being central direction and a better paper trail.

The prestige and élan that surrounded the early Cheka and its personnel is strange to evoke at this point in time, but it was significant, at least among some circles. The organization had no problem recruiting. They affected a hard-edged style that featured leather jackets or trench coats. Yakov Sverdlov, an important early Jewish Bolshevik commissar—Chairman of the Central Executive Committee and thus de jure head of state—apparently spread the vogue for leather jackets and even leather trousers.[4] Here he is, to the right of Lenin:

The Jewish functionary and terrorist Rozalia Zemliachka, best known for butchering 50,000 people in the Crimea after the Civil War, was also well-known for her fondness for leather jackets and a hardline persona: “In her forties when the Civil War began, Zemliachka dressed in the stereotypical garb of a Bolshevik commissar and killed with a vengeance.”[5] Another source relates that Dzerzhinsky commandeered a shipment of leather coats meant for air force pilots, and outfitted his men in them.[6] In the early days, every self-respecting Bolshevik commissar and Cheka officer sported leather jackets.

The Jews who flocked into the ranks of the secret police were burning for revenge on their Christian neighbors, and nobody nurses a grievance quite like the Jews—the pogroms, despite their exaggeration by Jewish activists at the time and since, were certainly a component of Jewish hatred toward the Russian Empire. A variety of sources confirm a sense of revenge as a motive. Yuri Slezkine reviews some of the works of early Soviet Jewish writers that illustrate the revenge theme. For example, the amorous advances of the Jewish protagonist of Eduard Bagritsky’s poem “February” are rebuffed by a Russian girl, but their positions are changed after the Revolution when he becomes a deputy commissar. Seeing the girl in a brothel, he has sex with her without taking off his boots, his gun, or his trench coat—an act of aggression and revenge:

I am taking you because so timid
Have I always been, and to take vengeance
For the shame of my exiled forefathers
And the twitter of an unknown fledgling!
I am taking you to wreak my vengeance
On the world I could not get away from!

 Igor Shafarevich, a mathematician and member of the prestigious U. S. National Academy of Sciences reviewed Jewish literary works during the Soviet and post-Soviet period, finding a prominent theme of Jewish hatred mixed with a powerful desire for revenge toward pre-revolutionary Russia and its culture. But Shafarevich also suggests that the Jewish “Russophobia” that prompted the mass murder is not a unique phenomenon, but results from traditional Jewish hostility toward the non-Jewish world, considered tref (unclean), and toward non-Jews themselves, considered sub-human and as worthy of destruction—a very reasonable interpretation given traditional Jewish ethics in which non-Jews have no moral standing. People with such beliefs have no moral compunctions about the torture, rape, and murder of their perceived enemies. Hatred toward the peoples and cultures of non-Jews and the image of enslaved ancestors as victims of anti-Semitism have been the Jewish norm throughout history—much commented on, from Tacitus to the present.

Finally, the Jewish hatred and desire for revenge was not confined to the USSR. Jewish members of the internal security force in post-World War Poland often appear to have been motivated by personal rage and a desire for revenge related to their Jewish identity:

Their families had been murdered and the anti-Communist underground was, in their perception, a continuation of essentially the same anti-Semitic and anti-Communist tradition. They hated those who had collaborated with the Nazis and those who opposed the new order with almost the same intensity and knew that as Communists, or as both Communists and Jews, they were hated at least in the same way. In their eyes, the enemy was essentially the same. The old evil deeds had to be punished and new ones prevented and a merciless struggle was necessary before a better world could be built. (Schatz, J. (1991). The Generation: The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Communists of Poland, 226)

“A ‘Continuous Spree’of Rape and Robbery.” And Torture and Murder

The Cheka official quoted by Pipes above said the early days in Kiev (1918–1919) amounted to a “continuous spree” of rape and robbery, though they were “careful to spare fellow Jews.”[7] For some reason, Pipes left out mention of horrific torture and murder, but I’ll fill in those details.[8] A major element of revenge has always been humiliation of the target group and rape of its women, and the Red Terror had plenty of both. The acme of vengeance, for the truly dedicated, is torture and murder: the infliction of terrible suffering directly on the object of hatred, flaunting one’s dominance, then the total destruction of the victim. The frenzied nature of the excesses of the Red Terror resulted from a combination of factors, including an atmosphere of brutalization brought on by revolution and civil war and a perverse ideology, but an ethnic factor was also clearly present.

A recent historian of Stalin’s executioners affirms the Jews “ruthlessly avenged the victims of a century’s pogroms.”[9] Another states that “the “ranks of the Cheka were filled with social elements anxious for revenge.”[10] A historian of the Russian Civil War states, “Always anxious to use national and racial hatreds to advantage, Dzerzhinskii placed Jews in seven of the Cheka’s top ten positions. . . . The victims of centuries of anti-Semitic abuse, the Jews of the Ukraine now had a chance to take revenge.”[11]

The Cheka officers, with literally nothing hindering their action, assaulted women on a mass scale. There is plenty of evidence for this.

“Convicted criminals and certified psychopaths appointed themselves officers of the Cheka and terrorized, raped, and murdered whom they liked.”[12] “Rapes of female prisoners by Cheka guards and interrogators were so commonplace that they occasioned comment from superiors only if performed in some particularly brutal or perverted fashion.”[13] Rape of Russian women by Cheka men “took on gigantic proportions, particularly in the second reconquest of Ukraine and the Cossack regions of the Crimea in 1920.”[14]

Sergey Melgounov wrote the classic account of early Bolshevik rule, The Red Terror. On page 136 he describes Cheka “food detachments” that plundered the food in the countryside to feed the cities, the base of Bolshevik power: “Whenever an expedition that was collecting the grain tax in the Khvalinsky district reached a village the peasants were commanded to surrender their best-looking girls to the officials.”[15]

A story from Ekaterinodar in the Caucasus, c. 1919:

Madame Dombrovskaya, an ex-school teacher, was tortured in her solitary confinement cell . . . . The Che-Ka had been informed that she had . . . jewelery . . . in her keeping: wherefore . . . she was ordered to be tortured until she should reveal where the jewelery might be. For a beginning she was raped and outraged generally—the raping taking place in order of seniority of torturers, with a man called Friedmann raping her first, and the others in regular sequence. And, that done, she was questioned further as to the whereabouts of the jewelery, and further tortured by having incisions made into her body, and her finger tips nipped with pliers and pincers. Until at last, in her agony, with the blood pouring from her wounds, she confessed that the jewels were hidden in an outbuilding of her house. The same evening (the date being November 6) she was shot.[16]

From southern Ukraine: “a witness testified before the Denikin Commission [an investigative body set up by the White Armies] that licentious orgies had been carried out systematically by the Che-Ka and tribunal of Nikolaev, and included even women who had come to beg for relatives’ release, with that inclusion as the price of their relatives’ freedom.”[17]

Some local Chekas were so atrocious that even Bolsheviks were outraged. One—a Serafina Gopner—complained to Lenin about the Cheka in Ekaterinoslav in Ukraine:

This organization is rotten to the core: the canker of criminality, violence, and totally arbitrary decisions abounds, and it is filled with . . . the dregs of society, men armed to the teeth who simply execute anyone they don’t like. They steal, loot, rape, and throw anyone into prison, forge documents, practice extortion and blackmail, and will let anyone go in exchange for huge sums of money.[18] 

Virtually all of these poor women were Christian Russians; a great many of the rapists were revenge-minded Jews. I imagine that Jews, with their strong sense of respect for their martyred ancestors, would wish us, too, to “never forget” these victims.

As for cocaine, it was used very widely in the decades before and after 1900. The coca plant grows only in South America, but its properties became known in Europe by the early 1800s. The chemical was isolated from the leaf by a German chemist in 1860, and its use as a stimulant and local anesthetic quickly spread. An early booster of the drug was Sigmund Freud, who wrote a glowing report of its effects and pushed it on his friends and patients. (His addiction lasted twelve years.) By the 1880s, pharmaceutical companies were producing hundreds of thousands of pounds yearly, and Parke-Davis in the U.S. was actually marketing a little kit with cocaine and a syringe and needle for convenient use, although it could also be snorted as a powder. The drug was one ingredient of early Coca-Cola, at least until 1903, when there began a reaction against it because of its addictive and harmful properties. There were an estimated 200,000 addicts in the U.S. at the turn of the century. In addition, Americans became alarmed at the prospect of Blacks committing violent crimes under its influence. One authority maintained that “most of the attacks upon the white women of the South are the direct result of a cocaine-crazed Negro brain.” In 1914 the government placed it under federal control, which did not, of course, eradicate its availability.

Cocaine was also readily available in Russia. The following passages show that Cheka men used it commonly, even maniacally. Some of them claimed that the constant bloodshed and strain necessitated a resort to drugs, but it probably fueled some of the atrocities as well. Whatever the case may be, it was clear that many Cheka men were out of their minds with drugs and sadism. The combination led to mental breakdowns among Cheka agents. A number of them were committed to psychiatric wards.[19]

From a 1919 report on the Cheka in Yaroslavl: “The Cheka are looting and arresting everyone indiscriminately. . . . They have transformed the Cheka headquarters into a huge brothel where they take all the bourgeois women. Drunkenness is rife. Cocaine is being used quite widely among the supervisors.”[20]

The White Armies freed Kiev from Cheka rule for a brief period in 1919. One of the resulting reports stated, “In almost every cupboard and, for that matter, in almost every drawer, we found empty cocaine bottles in piles.”[21]

The Cheka placed their men in all Red Army units. Here is a report from a supervisor on certain of these units: “No administrative norm is being respected by these people. . . . Orgies and drunkenness are daily occurrences. Almost all the personnel of the Cheka are heavy cocaine users. They say that this helps them deal with the sight of so much blood on a daily basis.” The man who composed this report, Rozental, concluded that although these units needed tighter control and were “drunk with blood and violence,” they nevertheless “are doing their duty.”[22] Well, that’s a relief.

Maks Deich, a Jew, was the head of the Odessa Cheka in 1920–1922. There “he earned [a] reputation for extreme cruelty, and suffered a neurosis and addiction to cocaine.”[23] What harrowing atrocities could have earned him notoriety for “extreme cruelty” in this milieu? A Cheka officer in Georgia named Schulmann, very likely a Jew, also earned notice. A prisoner witnessed “brutal executions . . . especially at the hands of a certain Schulmann, who was addicted to morphine and cocaine.”[24]

As for “dank abattoirs,” here is what the White Armies found in Kiev in late August 1919, after they drove out the Bolsheviks:

The place had formerly been a garage, and then the provincial Che-Ka’s main slaughter-house. And the whole of it was coated with blood—blood ankle deep, coagulated with the heat of the atmosphere, and horribly mixed with human brains, chips of skullbone, wisps of hair, and the like. Even the walls were bespattered with blood and similar fragments of brain and scalp, as well as riddled with thousands of bullet holes. In the centre was a drain about a quarter of a metre deep and wide, and about ten metres long. This led to the sanitary system of the neighbouring house, but was choked to the brim with blood. The horrible den contained 127 corpses, but the victims of the previous massacre had been hurriedly buried in the adjacent garden. What struck us most about the corpses was the shattering of their skulls, or the complete flattening out of those skulls, as though the victims had been brained with some such instrument as a heavy block. … And in every case the corpses were naked … [a grave in the courtyard] contained eighty bodies which in every instance bore almost unimaginably horrible wounds and mutilations. In this grave we found corpses with, variously, entrails ripped out, no limbs remaining (as though the bodies had literally been chopped up), eyes gouged out, and heads and necks and faces and trunks all studded with stab wounds. Again, we found a body which had had a pointed stake driven through its chest, whilst in several cases the tongue was missing.[25]

This happened in Kiev, where, you remember, three-quarters of the Cheka staff were Jews.

The Cheka rampage continued for decades. The Terror would reach crescendos, such as “The Great Terror” of 1937–1938, but it never died down until after the death of Stalin in 1953. Robert Conquest, speaking of early 1937, used this chilling description: “Russians who had thought that the country was already in the grip of terrorists were now to see what terror really meant.”[26] When I first read that sentence twenty-five years ago, I had a palpable sensation of horror, and profound sadness for the Russian people.

The German invasion of Russia in June 1941 lifted the curtain on later Bolshevik atrocities.[27] Nearly a quarter century of bloody vengeance had not quenched the Bolshevik/Jewish bloodthirst. The retreating Bolsheviks massacred their prisoners in the frontier prisons rather than transport them to the east, and the incoming Germans carefully preserved the evidence. They didn’t simply kill them, however. One witness, a German doctor, gives the following testimony concerning the scene in Lvov:

I ordered that the cellars [of Brygidky prison] should be immediately cleared, and in the course of the next three days 423 corpses were brought out . . . Among the bodies there were young boys aged 10, 12, and 14 and young women aged 18, 20, and 22, besides old women. . . . [At] the military prison in the northern part of the town . . . the stench of decomposition was so strong and there was so much blood under the mountain of corpses that we had to wear a Polish gas mask in order to enter the cellar. . . . Young women, men, and older women were piled up layer upon layer all the way to the ceiling. . . . The third and fourth cellars were only about three-quarters full. Over 460 corpses were taken out of these cellars. Many of the bodies showed evidence of serious torture, mutilations of arms and legs, and shackling.[28]

Another witness saw

a large space, filled from top to bottom with corpses. . . . The bottom ones were still warm. The victims . . . laid in various poses, with open eyes and masks of terror on their faces. Among them were many women. On the left wall, three men were crucified, barely covered by clothing from their shoulders, with severed male organs. Underneath them on the floor in half-sitting, leaning positions – two nuns with those organs in their mouths. The victims of the NKVD’s sadism were killed with a shot in the mouth or the back of the head. But most were stabbed in the stomach with a bayonet. Some were naked or almost naked . . .

Citizens of Lvov searching for relatives among the victims of the NKVD

More victims. It looks like they endured severe beatings, and the man in the foreground is partially undressed. Both of the above photos are from

Other witnesses also stated that many of the dead were naked, which naturally leads to the question whether they were raped.[29] The Ukrainian Red Cross estimated that 4,000 people had perished in Lvov alone.[30] Another source says the victims numbered 10,000.[31]

When the local Ukrainian and Polish population saw the terrible scenes, they “immediately started to drag the Jews out of their homes and to abuse them in the streets.”[32] Thousands were killed. The locals pinned the atrocities upon the Jews, so deep-set was the impression that Bolsheviks = Jews. I have not found information on Cheka agents in Lvov for this period, but Jews composed thirty percent of the population of the city.[33] The top-ranks of NKVD officials by this time had a much-reduced Jewish contingent, but that doesn’t mean the middle and lower ranks were reduced in the same proportion. Arkady Vaksberg writes, “But the NKVD was not free of Jews, despite the . . . purges. Among the sadists who came to fill the emptied slots, including very high ones, were “more of the same.”[34] One source states that there were almost 600 Jewish officers in the Ukrainian NKVD in January 1945.[35] Certainly there would have been many more in June 1941.

When I wrote the sentence that introduced this short essay, I was predicting what a Weatherman takeover in America would look like. The communists in Weatherman had important similarities with the Bolsheviks: a smug and fanatical superiority complex, a messianic ideology, slavering hatred of Whites/Christians, and plans for “re-education” camps. The Weathermen have mostly passed away, but the spirit that produced them is far stronger than it was in the 1960s; it is the same ancient and murderous hatred that propelled the Bolsheviks. powerful desire to avenge the evils of the old social order.

The Weathermen were not alone on the Jewish left in the 1960s with fantasies of hatred and revenge. For many Jewish New Leftists “the revolution promises to avenge the sufferings and to right the wrongs which have, for so long, been inflicted on Jews with the permission or encouragement, or even at the command of, the authorities in prerevolutionary societies” (Cohen, P. S. (1980). Jewish Radicals and Radical Jews. London: Academic Press., 208; here, p. 85). Interviews with New Left Jewish radicals revealed that many had destructive fantasies in which the revolution would result in “humiliation, dispossession, imprisonment or execution of the oppressors” combined with the belief in their own omnipotence and their ability to create a non-oppressive social order (Ibid.). These findings are also entirely consistent with Kevin MacDonald’s personal experience among Jewish New Left activists at the University of Wisconsin in the 1960s (here, p. 103, note 13).

The body of this essay is a glimpse at a state of affairs that hovers over the horizon like a vast terrifying storm. No revolutionary overthrow will be needed at this point, for the levers of power are already in the hands of our enemies, awaiting only a situation where they can seize absolute power comparable to their power in the post-revolutionary USSR. Time is short; the great question of this generation is this: does the spirit of our ancestors, the warriors of the steppe, merely slumber in our countrymen? Or is it in fact dead? I’m not sure I want to know the answer to that question.


[1] Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution (Vintage Books, 1991), p. 824.

[2] Paul Gregory, Terror by Quota: State Security from Lenin to Stalin (An Archival Study) (Yale University Press, 2009), p. 63.

[3] Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (Cornell University Press, 2001), p. 425. See also here, p. 1028.

[4] Yuri Slezkine, The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution (Princeton University Press, 2017), p. 152

[5] W. Bruce Lincoln, Red Victory: A History of the Russian Civil War (Simon and Schuster, 1989), p. 386.

[6] Donald Rayfield, Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him (Random House, 2004), p. 69.

[7] Pipes, p. 824.

[8] I am aware that Pipes is Jewish.

[9] Rayfield, p. 75.

[10] S. Courtois, N. Werth, J.-L. Panne, Andrzej Paczkowski, K. Bartosek and J.-L. Margolin (eds), The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Harvard University Press, 1999), p. 102.

[11] W. Bruce Lincoln, p. 314

[12] Rayfield, p. 83.

[13] W. Bruce Lincoln, p. 383.

[14] S. Courtois et. al., p. 105.

[15] Sergey Melgounov, The Red Terror in Russia (Hyperion Press, 1976), p. 136.

[16] Melgounov, p. 163.

[17] Melgounov, p. 218.

[18] Courtois et. al., p. 103.

[19] George Leggett, The Cheka: Lenin’s Political Police (Oxford University Press, 1981), p. 271. Donald Rayfield tells of a Hungarian female Chekist who had to be confined to a psych ward after she began shooting witnesses of crimes. Rayfield, p. 83.

[20] Courtois et. al., p. 103.

[21] Melgounov, p. 201.

[22] Courtois et. al., p. 103-04.

[23] Leggett, p. 447.

[24] Amy Knight, Beria: Stalin’s First Lieutenant (Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 236 note 12.

[25] Megounov, p. 176

[26] Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment (Oxford University Press, 1990), p. 181.

[27] An even later account, and more directly tied to Jewish perpetrators, appears in An Eye For An Eye: The Untold Story of Jewish Revenge Against Germans in 1945 (Basic Books, 1993) by John Sack. It is the story of Jewish secret police in the Polish Communist regime after World War Two rounding up Germans in concentration camps for even more rape, torture, and murder.

[28] Alfred M. de Zayas, The Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau, 1939-1945 (University of Nebraska Press, 1995), p. 216.

[29] De Zayas, p. 220.

[30] De Zayas, p. 221.

[31] Courtois, et. al., p. 225.

[32] De Zayas, p. 223.

[33] Dov Levin, The Lesser of Two Evils: Eastern European Jewry Under Soviet Rule, 1939-1941 (The Jewish Publication Society, 1995), p. 54

[34] Arkady Vaksberg, Stalin Against the Jews (Alfred Knopf, 1994), p. 101. The reaction of the local population is also telling; they had no doubt that Jews were to blame.

[35] Amir Weiner, Making Sense of War: The Second World War and the Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution (Princeton University Press, 2002), p. 269.

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


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.


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,

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, 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.”, 2019, Accessed 13 Dec. 2019.

—. “The Holy Family by Marx and Engels.”, 2019, 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.

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

Go to Part 1.
Go to Part 2.
Go to Part 3

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.


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