Socialism and the Jews

Socialism and the Jews

The following remarks have been occasioned by a recent revival of interest in the topic of socialist anti-Semitism. Or, to put the matter in a different context, by a rereading of scholarly studies dealing with the role assigned in socialist theory to the problem of nationality in general and the Jewish problem in particular. Some of these writings have clearly been inspired by the rise of fascism in Europe, the aftermath of the “final solution,” the revival of traditional Russian anti-Semitism in the U.S.S.R., and the Arab-Jewish hostilities consequent upon the establishment of Israel in 1948. Others have concerned themselves primarily with the religious sources of anti-Semitism and the Jewish reaction thereto.

The most recent and most distinguished of these studies—here accorded special mention because it falls outside the theme of the present essay—is Professor Georges Friedmann’s work published in France in 1966 under the challenging title Fin du peuple juif? and translated into English as The End of the Jewish People? (New York: Doubleday, 1967). This book presents a critical but friendly analysis of Israel and Zionism by an eminent sociologist who may fairly be described as a representative of the great tradition of French liberal humanism. For reasons that will appear later, he can also be classified as belonging to a tradition associated with Jean Jaures, which became dominant in the French socialist movement around the turn of the century in response to the political and intellectual upheaval touched off by the Dreyfus Affair. Professor Friedmann’s work is, however, marginal to the theme of the present essay which focuses upon earlier phases of the complex process whereby European socialism in general, and French socialism in particular, shed its antiSemitic aspects.

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