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|From: Irish Foreign Affairs: Editorials|
|Date: June, 2019|
Editorial: This World and the Next: Britain and the Jewish Question
During the midsummer of 2018 the Jewish press in Britain warned the Jewish community that it should be prepared for a mass exodus from Britain if the Labour Party won the next General Election. The Party was declared to be "institutionally anti-Semitic", and generally racist, by the Jewish nationalist lobby, the Zionists.
The characterisation of the Labour Party as institutionally anti-Semitic by Jewish nationalists was echoed within the Party leadership by the Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, apparently supported by a majority of Labour MPs.
The message that came across through television to the public was that the Party had fallen into the hands of anti-Semites when the general membership, against the advice of its Parliamentary leaders, had elected Jeremy Corbyn to be Party Leader.
Corbyn had been the most consistently, and the most actively, anti-racist MP in British politics for a generation. He was therefore a very unusual choice to be Party Leader. British Establishment policy is mildly, and selectively, racist. It is not remotely possible that this racism should lead to extermination. Marginal discrimination in the struggle for upward social mobility was the most that it could achieve—and the most that it aspired to achieve.
I was a bus conductor at a big North London bus garage in the mid 1950s. The bus drivers were, in my experience, mainly ex-servicemen of the anti-Fascist War and the conductors Irish and West Indian, with a handful of Irish drivers.
There was a labour shortage in the British economy in the post-war generation. That is why there was such a strong presence of West Indians. They were imported. They were brought in, rather than coming in. And one of the importers was the famous racist Enoch Powell.
When it became necessary to employ West Indians as drivers, the matter was approached delicately. The management must have known that I consorted with West Indians because one day I was interviewed and asked if I would be happy to work with a black driver.
Black drivers were phased in gradually and in a comparatively short time they became more the rule than the exception. The racism of the society modified itself to accept them.
The anti-Irish bias of the society—which was evident in every sphere—was sharpened in that period by the IRA invasion of the North in 1956. I saw no point in resisting it. I had not gone to Britain thinking I was British, as many West Indians had.
Some time later I married an Arab—a "blackie"—and that brought another race reflex into play. The word "miscegenation"was not in use but the thing was noticed. Race-mixing—white and black—was frowned upon. The mixing of non-white races was not even noticed. They were in popular English eyes, just a single race of non-whites.
In a recent BBC radio discussion of the British Empire it was said that one good result of it was multi-culturalism, which is the enemy of racism.
How did English multi-culturalism come about? Not through multi-culturalist British action in the world.
British action on the world was conducted on an unquestioning assumption of British racial superiority and a profound hostility towards alien cultures. "Let England not forget its precedence in teaching nations how to live", John Milton said in an Address to Parliament in 1641. Milton, a poet of Protestant Christianity, went on to become Cromwell's Secretary of State.
It was self-evident that the nations themselves did not know the right way to live. If they did, they would be living as England lived. And how was England living in 1641? It had no actual way of life but it had the plan and was working on it.
Teaching nations how to live is a delicate matter. The first thing is to stop them from continuing in the false way of life in which they were immersed. That task was begun in Ireland in 1649, soon after the King under whom the Irish were willing to live had been killed. And the first announcement that Cromwell made to the Irish after he landed was that they must stop going to Mass in order to fit themselves to become free. And, to encourage them in the path of spiritual freedom, they were relieved of their earthly encumbrances.
What was begun in Ireland in 1649 was continued here, there and everywhere for 300 years. The world was littered with the wreckage of nations that England had been teaching how to live. The wreckage was free in the sense of having been cut adrift.
In the last, and most destructive, of its many Great Wars England had bankrupted itself, and had brought Soviet Communism into dominance in Central Europe. But America had undertaken to remake the part of the world that had not been liberated by Russia so that it might have a market for the immense industrial capacity it had developed in order to supply the war.
England was the first beneficiary of the restoration of world capitalism engineered by the United States. Through its own efforts it had brought its world to the brink of destruction.
It had been saved in the first instance by Hitler's refusal to make an all-out effort to win the War by crushing its departing army. He was concerned that the British Empire should continue to be the major presence of European civilisation in the world at large.
And then, when Communist forces established military dominance over the German Army in Russia and began to push it back, the USA took matters in hand. It compelled Britain to get back into the fighting war (which it had abandoned for mere bombing in 1940) in 1944, so that the Soviet advance could be stopped before it reached the Channel.
And then it remade the capitalist world market out of what it had saved for capitalism, securing its defences, giving it purchasing power and a new money system, and allowing the British Empire to restore its connections.
Britain was broken as a World Power. It had undermined itself in the two wars that it declared on Germany within a twenty-five year period, and had the appearance of winning. It was broken. But, as the major instrument of US policy in the world, it was wealthy. And it was unable to supply the demands of its wealth out of its own population. The basic British stock, so to speak, was not even maintaining itself. It seems to have been in decline since about the third quarter of the 19th century. (G.B. Shaw was of the opinion that the working class collectively grasped the elements of Ricardian/Marxist political economy and set about reducing its supply in order to increase its wages.)
There was a chronic shortage of labour in the British economy. But there was free labour around the world as a result of British action. And that free labour was imported—labour which had cost Britain nothing to produce.
The need for imported labour quickly outstripped the Irish supply. And the Irish, being white, had little multi-cultural effect on Britain. Multi-culturalism begins with the West Indians. They had something in themselves that was not assimilable by the State English Puritanism of the 1950s, and that was met by distaste on the side of the host. But the West Indians were indispensable. They were there for good, and in increasing numbers. They were followed by Asians of various kinds: "coloured" intermediates between black and white. And finally by Africans.
England did not become "multi-cultural" out of the growth of moral conviction that all men are equal, or that racial distinctions are groundless. England was not born again through the fire of its war on Nazi Germany. Its part in that war was minor, after it had used its world power to launch it. It was racist before the war, and it was racist after it. But the action of its racism at home did not go beyond discrimination.
It 'welcomed' immigrants of various races—that is, it let them in because it needed them. Then, as their numbers built, it had to accommodate them in the interest of civil peace. Its immigration policy was no more philanthropic or altruistic in substance than that of the United States—which needed to import people in bulk to fill out the vast empty spaces created by multiple genocide. (As I write Doris Day is on the radio, singing about the (ethnically cleansed) "beautiful Indian country that I love".)
Are the Jews a race?
"Rooms To Let" notices in London around 1960 often specified "No Irish" or "No coloured", but I never saw a "No Jews"notice.
The Irish and the West Indians found no difficulty in renting rooms in those times when people with rooms to let could express their racial bias freely. Expression of such racial bias was made a criminal offence a generation later, apparently as part of the same development that led to the ending of the casual renting of rooms. And the legal prohibition of certain modes of expression has not led in actual life to the disappearance of the thing expressed, to say the least.
Bias against Jews was not expressed in Rooms To Let notices because there were very few Jews in the lower social stratum which lived in rooms rented on a weekly basis. Anti-Semitism therefore did not figure in the most public form of expression of racial bias. It was a middle-class phenomenon, and it was expressed discreetly but operated effectively.
The Jews were expelled from England in the 13th century, their presence being held to be incompatible with social stability. they were reintroduced by a decision of the Puritan Parliament in the 1650s, after England had destabilised itself and set out on the construction of a new mode of life. They were allocated a function in that new mode of life, and were held to that function.
They were seen as a hyper-active minority, economically, intellectually, artistically, politically, which, while being treasured, must be prevented from getting out of hand. There were no anti-Jewish laws, but there were anti-Jewish practices. The best-known anti-Jewish practice was the real but unacknowledged quota system applied them in the Public Schools.
Within the working class there was a hazy notion of them as remote people who were well able to look after themselves, but no feeling about them resulting from personal contact, as there was in the middle class. John Buchan was the popular middle-class novelist of the Great War, which he hailed as the first middle class war and was its semi-official contemporary historian. And in his novels, as I recall, the ultimately distasteful figure was the greasy Portuguese Jew. (I never got around to finding out the reason why.) And attention has recently been drawn by a Jewish defender of Jeremy Corbyn to the feelings of physical distaste of Jews freely expressed by Virginia Woolf, daughter of Leslie Stephen, one of the great liberal intellectuals of the late Victorian era, in private correspondence.
A number of Jewish intellectuals, highly placed in English society, have attempted in recent decades to make a public issue of middle class anti-Semitism. One of them, as I recall, was Princess Margaret's lawyer. Their facts were not disputed but their exposés were stifled with indifference.
But an effective campaign has been launched against Jeremy Corbyn as the anti-Semitic leader of a Labour Party whose latent anti-Semitism he has activated and reinforced, and whose victory at a General Election would be fatal to Jewry in England.
Corbyn was obviously bewildered by this campaign. He had all his political life been comprehensively anti-racist—pedantically anti-racist one might say, putting all anti-racisms on an equal basis and not prioritising intellectually. And he is also a general anti-Imperialist, which is not practical politics in Britain.
The effectiveness of the campaign against him has pointed up the weakness of the other-worldly Labour Left in which he has lived, and the structural weakness of the Party in having no counterpart of the Tory 1922 Committee—a back-bench Committee which serves as a ballast
Corbyn belonged to the Left which maintained its ideals and therefore never expected to gain control of the Party. But the previous leadership, probably influenced by Blair's charismatic effect on the mass which enabled him to cut through the protective conservative influence of party traditions with his radical rhetoric, gave the mass membership the power of electing the leader. Corbyn could not get his name on the ballot paper by his own political resources. It was put there as an act of charity towards a worthy but hopeless cause by members of the right of the Party. And he won.
Until then the Labour backbenches were always occupied by the Left, but now suddenly the Right found themselves there. And, now the Backbenches stretched right up to the Front Bench. They refused to serve the new leader. They called for a new leadership election, but they lost again. They then looked for indirect means of undermining Corbyn and restoring themselves, and therefore they supported the anti-Semitic charge against him when it came along.
The Tory Party lives in the history of itself, and therefore in the history of the state. The Labour Party, by comparison, lives in slogans. It has little sense of how it came about, or of what it did, apart from creating the NHS. And what the Left knows beyond that is a conviction that the Right has always sold out. And Corbyn apparently knows nothing of the role of the Labour Party in Jewish history. Or, if he knows, the knowledge has not been brought to bear on current politics.
(Or maybe he has been advised not to take issue on the matter because the brand of Anti-Semite will do him no harm electorally, and that the nature of the campaign against him will only reinforce the vague feeling about Jews that is widespread in society.)
On September 9th of last year, when the campaign was at its peak, Sir Anthony Seldon of the University of Buckingham was interviewed on Sky News. He was asked if the issue of Labour Party Anti-Semitism could be resolved while Corbyn was leader. He replied:
"Well the simple answer is, Nobody knows. I imagine that it is the conviction which Jeremy Corbyn will bring to it. So much of this does focus on his history and record and expressions of dislike and discontent with Jewish people and with his Anti-Semitic views. So, if he shows that he really has now got it, and understands the concern of the Jewish community, I think that there could well be a coming back into healing. But he does have to have a mea culpa as a real moment where it's seen not just as a tactical change of mind but an inner and deep recognition that he has offended many hundreds of thousands of people who historically have been sympathetic to his Party.
Sky News: In your view, would it be simpler if he stood down as leader of the Labour Party?
Seldon: Well, we'll have to see what happens. It will obviously be easier to heal this, I believe, when the principal figure who has been responsible for the recognition of a widespread Anti-Semitism is no longer the Labour Leader. But, look, let's wait and see what he says and how much conviction he carries. Perhaps he'll make a gesture and move—maybe he's already gone to the Concentration Camps, to visit Auschwitz, and show that he does understand the long and deep history of the Jewish people, along with obviously many other minorities too. But that kind of gesture would I think go a long way to show that this is not just a political move but is a genuine change of heart.
Sky News: Sir Anthony Seldon, thanks very much for speaking to us."
The suggestion here, that Corbyn denied that large numbers of Jews were killed by the Nazi SS during the War, was not questioned, nor was the clear statement that Corbyn expressed dislike of Jewish people.
Corbyn did not try to defend himself against these patently absurd allegations. Possibly he judged that the attempt would be futile in the atmosphere of media hostility generated against him, actively fuelled by his Deputy, Tom Watson, and supported—actively or passively—by a majority of his own Parliamentary Party. These were resentful at his having gained the leadership of the party, with the support of the membership, against the elite. He relied on his record of consistent anti-racist activity, and particularly his record of activity against anti-Jewish racism, over many decades.
It is possible that many MPs of the old guard were motivated by honest ignorance as well as by political resentment. The normal course of development of Labour MPs is to begin as left radicals, hot on all the issues, and to mature into an essential acceptance of the status quo, and to withdraw from all those activities which, worthy though they might be, are of no political value career-wise.
Corbyn did not "mature". Patronisingly, they nominated him for the leadership election so that there might appear to be a contest. And, suddenly, without any preparatory course of opportunist development on his part, this alien figure from their past was Party Leader, bringing all his lost causes with him.
He was incomprehensible to them. The charge of Anti-Semitism was dropped into the situation. The Lost Leader, Tony Blair, reappeared on the scene to explain that extremes meet and that the radical Left, with its unrealistic notions of Imperialism and Colonialism, had joined the radical Right on the ground of anti-Semitism.
The British Labour Party has not had many high-powered intellectuals in its leading circle. One that it had was Richard Crossman, whose political career stretched from the 1945 Labour Government to Harold Wilson's Government in the 1970s. And his political presence was continued after that with the publication of The Crossman Diaries—diaries in which he gave a day-by-day account of Cabinet business. He was Leftist to the extent that he wrote a book jointly with Michael Foot in the 1940s—Foot who became ultra-Left Party Leader in 1980 and issued an Election Manifesto that was described as "the longest suicide note in history".
Crossman's most influential act was in the late 1940s when he was appointed by the Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, to the Palestine Commission; suffered a strong conversion to Zionism; and set about subverting the approach which he was appointed to facilitate.
Fifty years ago, after I got to know something of the detail of European history after the First World War, I wondered why Anti-Semitism was so widespread in Europe then. It was obvious that it was not invented by Hitler and was far from being limited to Germany.
I understood that the proper way, in post-1945 British culture, to think about Anti-Semitism was to think that there was no reason for it. But how could such a widespread social phenomenon come to exist without a reason? It seemed to me that, to hold that Anti-Semitism was entirely irrational, in the sense of existing without a reason, was itself irrational. And it is not the Jewish view.
The best account I could find was by a Jewish author in the late 1930s. He explained that the destruction of the Hapsburgh Empire by Britain and France in 1919 was the cause of it. The Jews were the commercial and professional middle class of the Empire. The Versailles Conference (Britain and France) broke up the Empire and concocted a series of nation-states in its place. These states were not the product of strong nationalist developments from within, but were Imperialist constructions from outside.
Their nationalist development lay ahead of them. The Jewish middle class of the Empire was in the way of the development of the weak native middle classes which were suddenly established in State power, and it was squeezed.
If that was not the whole of it, it was a great part of it.
Crossman gave a different explanation, which he expressed in a number of publications. This one is from An Englishman Looks At Palestine:
"I am going to tell you what my prejudices are. First of all, I have the prejudice of a Gentile, a discovery which I made in the course of these 120 days, and I discovered that the most dangerous person is a person who says to you, 'I don't know what anti-Semitism means'.
"Every Gentile has the virus of anti-Semitism in his veins. You know that we all carry the bacillus of pneumonia inside our system. What happens is that this bacillus is quite harmless unless we get run down, and then suddenly it comes out in a disease.
"Exactly the same is true of anti-Semitism. Every Gentile has an inclination to it. When he becomes morally run down, it comes out as a violent disease. The only way to check it is to know that you have got it and not pretend that you haven't. Then you can make the rational compensations that are necessary in this life of Jew and Gentile.
"That was something I learned not to be ashamed of in talking to Dr. Weizmann who said to me, 'Well, of course you carry the virus around. We too carry the virus around with us. That virus comes out if we are not rational.'
"The test of democracy in the modern world is how it manages the Jewish problem. It is a very simple test of freedom, Judge every country by the treatment it accords to the Jews and you have a standard of decency and democracy…"
An Englishman Looks At Palestine was published by the South African Zionist Federation, Johannesburg. It is undated. The British Library copyright stamp is "Feb 50".
South Africa passed Crossman's test of democracy. The Jews in South Africa organised themselves as part of the apartheid system, and were specially commended for their loyalty by Dr. Malan, founder of systematic Apartheid.
Crossman's explanation of Anti-Semitism is explicitly racist, and it comes to us with the explicit approval of the Zionist leader, Dr. Weizmann.
The main British inner-circle writer on the Jewish Question, or the Jewish Problem, immediately before the War, and during it, seems to have been James Parkes. In the Oxford War Pamphlet, The Jewish Question, in 1941, he takes it that there is an objective problem about the Jewish presence in European life, and not a problem conjured out of nothing by Nazi irrationality.
He does not, as Crossman did some years later, with authoritative Jewish approval, trace it to a biological source. He says that it is there as an objective potential which will be activated by a particular circumstance. And that circumstance is the presence of a Jewish population above a certain percentage amidst a non-Jewish population. And he recommends that in the post-War settlement care should be taken that Jewish populations are kept below that number.
Parkes with his Oxford pamphlet and Crossman with his Zionist pamphlet are in agreement that there was a Jewish problem which had objective grounds, and they could hardly disagree with Hitler's comment towards the end that he had at least resolved the Jewish problem in Europe for the time being, much though they might deplore the means by which he did it.
I am not saying that Crossman and Weizmann had it right. I am only showing that they held that there was a profound difference with social consequences between Jew and Gentile. And that, of course, was Hitler's view. And Weizmann's view was not an eccentricity within Jewish nationalism—Zionism—but was a belief that energised it.
This belief was elaborated within Nazi culture by Rosenberg.
In the 1960s I worked for a year as a street-sweeper in the Swiss Cottage area of London, which was then a strongly Jewish area. Hampstead Central Library was located there, and I found that it had a large quantity of material on the Nazi era. I spent my lunch-hour reading it. I copied out the following extract from a translation from a Rosenberg publication that I found there, which I don't think I published at the time. It was written by Dietrich Eckhart:
"…the Jewish religion completely lacks belief in a supra-sensible Beyond… the Jews, with their religion oriented to purely earthly affairs, stand alone in the world! This should not be forgotten for a single moment… For it is this exceptional situation which explains why a “shady nation” such as the Jews has survived the greatest and most glorious nations, and will continue to survive, until the end of all time, until the hour of salvation strikes for all mankind. The Jewish nation will not perish before this hour strikes. The world is preserved… only by a positive yea-saying to the world. Among the Jewish people this world-affirmation is totally pure, without any admixture of world-denial. All other nations that have ever existed, and exist today, had, or have, such an admixture, characterised by the idea of a Hereafter…
"The denial of the world needs a still longer time to grow so that it will acquire a lasting predominance over affirmation of the world. At this time it seems again to have sunk to a zero point; its opposite, symbolised by the Jewish people, is triumphant as never before. It seems as if the inner light has completely vanished from this earth. But… it merely seems that way. Denial of the world cannot perish because it is part of the soul of mankind… The non-Jewish peoples… are the custodians of world-negation, of the idea of the Hereafter… Hence, one or another of them can quietly go under, but what really matters lives on in their descendants. If, however, the Jewish people were to perish, no nation would be left which would hold world-affirmation in high esteem—the end of the world would be here. This would also be the case if the Zionist idea were to become a reality, namely, if the entire Jewish people would unite to become a national entity in Palestine or somewhere else.
"…the Jew, the only consistent and consequently the only viable yea-sayer to the world, must be found wherever other men bear in themselves—to the tiniest degree—a compulsion to overcome the world. The Jew represents the still-necessary counter-weight to them: otherwise that urgent craving would be fulfilled immediately, and thereby could not usher in the salvation of the world (since the Jewish people would still remain in existence), but would destroy it in a different way through the elimination of the spiritual power without which it cannot exist either… I wish… to demonstrate that the world could not exist if the Jews were living by themselves. This is why an old prophecy proclaims that the end of the world will arrive on the day when the Jews have established the state of Palestine.
"From all this it follows that Judaism is part of the organism of mankind just as, let us say, certain bacteria are part of man's body, and indeed the Jews are as necessary as bacteria. The body contains… a host of tiny organisms without which it would perish, even though they feed on it. Similarly, mankind needs the Jewish strain in order to preserve its vitality until its earthly mission is fulfilled! In other words, the world affirmation exemplified by Judaism in its purest form, though disastrous in itself, is a condition of man's earthly being—as long as men exist—and we cannot even imagine its non-existence. It will collapse only when all mankind is redeemed.
"Thus, we are obliged to accept the Jews among us as a necessary evil, for who knows how many thousands of years to come. But just as the body would become stunted if the bacteria increased beyond a salutary number, our nation too would gradually succumb to a spiritual malady if the Jew were to become too much for it. Were he to leave us entirely (as is the aim of Zionism, or at least it pretends to be) it would be just as disastrous as if he were to dominate us. The mission of the German nation will come to an end… with the last hour of mankind. But we could never reach it if we lost world-affirmation, the Jew among us, because no life is possible without world-affirmation. On the other hand, if the Jew were continually to stifle us, we would never able to fulfill our mission, which is the salvation of the world…"
So enough Jews were needed to keep the German nation in existence, but not so many that would submerge its existence. For all his paganism, Rosenberg remained in this respect a good Christian.
The Jew as the symbol of world-affirmation, as against the world-negation of Christianity, appears also in Nietzsche, but Nietzsche did not see the Jew therefore as a necessary evil. Having himself opted unconditionally for world-affirmation.
If it was in order for Marx to represent the Jew as the symbol of commodity relations, it is certainly no less in order to represent him as the symbol of the unconditional will to live. With a precarious basis of existence, and under a wide variety of adverse circumstances, the Jewish community survived in dispersion for 2,000 years. Reference can be made to its economic function in mediaeval Europe to explain this survival, but it is far from explaining it.
"…the Jewish communities played a specific economic and social role in European feudalism during the period of its decline; they are doing so again, but this time their role is ideological and political. Formerly their fate was linked to that of feudalism in decline, today it is linked to that of a world imperialism in decline…" (The Arab World And Israel, Monthly Review Press, p.97).
But this glib generalisation from the fashionable intelligentsia of the 'new left' does little to enlarge the understanding of the Jewish question. The Jews had been surviving in dispersal for a thousand years before they began to provide marginal economic services to European feudalism. And isn't it remarkable that a people whose "fate was linked to that of feudalism in decline" so easily survived, and flourished after the extinction of that feudalism?
Heinrich Heine, the German Jewish literary critic, populariser of German philosophy, and democratic political propagandist, who converted to Christianity in his youth—since baptism was, as he put it, the entrance ticket to European civilisation—wrote in his Confessions (shortly before his death in 1855):
"I see now that the Greeks were only beautiful youths, but that the Jews were always men, strong, unyielding men, not only in the past, but to this very day, in spite of 18 centuries of persecution and suffering. Since that time I have learned to appreciate them better, and were not a pride of ancestry a silly inconsistency in a champion of the revolution and its democratic principles, the writer of these pages would be proud that his ancestors belonged to the noble house of Israel, that he is a descendant of those martyrs who gave the world a God and a morality, and who fought and suffered on all the battle-fields of thought."
"Judea has always seemed to me like a fragment of the Occident misplaced in the Orient."
One of the most remarkable things about Jewish survival is that, from the second century (Bar Kochba's revolt) until the 1920s, it was achieved entirely without military force. There was no Jewish Army, or guerrilla force, between the second and the twentieth centuries.
Of all the peoples prominent in antiquity, only the Jews survive today: and they survive, not as a remnant of antiquity, but as a thoroughly modern people. and even the Jews of antiquity have a modern aspect, particularly when contrasted with the other peoples of antiquity, even with the Romans and Greeks. They appear as the harbingers of modern society in ancient times.
The contemporary account of the Jewish War of AD 66 by Josephus, a Jew who assimilated into Roman civilisation, has a very modern aspect. It describes the national war of a small people against a great, and cultured, Empire at the height of its power. The Jewish rebellion against Rome is probably the first historical event that can be considered a national war. It was entirely unlike those between Rome and the European tribes.
The unity of the Jews at the time was far from being a tribal unity. It existed through intense ideological conflict within Jewry of a kind that was occurring nowhere else at that time, and that was to have a much greater impact on history than were the intellectual disputes of Greece and Rome.
Christianity is a variant of Judaism and, even when it broke with Judaism over the question of rites, it remained based on Jewish literature. The psychology of European civilisation (which was the nucleus of modern civilisation in general) was forged essentially by the Jews, and carried into Europe, through the Roman Empire, by the Christian offshoot of Judaism. It is quite different from that of the noble Romans, the philosophic Greeks and the barbaric Germans, though it is been modified by all of them. So there was ample ground for Heine's observation that Judea seemed like "a fragment of the Occident misplaced in the Orient". (Or, as Marx put it: "Judaism has maintained itself, and even received its supreme development, in Christian society… Judaism has survived not in spite of, but by virtue of, history": The Jewish Question.)
The great difficulty in dealing adequately with this matter is that there is no adequate history of Christianity, or of the Jews, with relation to the development of European civilisation. That there are connections is obvious, but the tracing out of those connections is another thing.
It was natural that Marx, when he was forging a new world view on the basis of the achievement of the bourgeois phase of European civilisation, should be concerned to emphasise the break between Marxism and all that went before it in Europe, rather than with establishing the element of continuity. Engels later made some notes towards a history of Christianity, and that work was undertaken in earnest by Kautsky (Foundations Of Christianity), but was not carried very far. Since Kautsky no progress has been made by socialists.
In fact there has been an increasing tendency among Marxists to dismiss the significance of European (or Christian) civilisation as compared with others. This appears to have resulted partly from Communist strategy with regard to the colonial revolution, and partly from the increasing involvement of bourgeois intellectuals in the Marxist movement. The influence of both tended to dismiss the significance of European capitalist civilisation as compared with the civilisation of those countries and continents which became colonies of Europe. In the case of the former this would have had the function of increasing the self-confidence of the colonial people, while in the case of the latter it has to do with the bad conscience of capitalism.
A good example of the latter will be found in the introduction to the recent [this was written a generation ago] Penguin edition of Marx's 1848 writings by David Fernbach. In these writings Marx, in forthright style, makes European civilisation his starting point. He justifies German and Hungarian dominance over the Slavs on the grounds that it was this that held most of the Slavs within the influence of European civilisation. And he treats certain Slav communities which succumbed to Islam as having, by virtue of that fact, dropped out of historical significance.
All of this is too much for Fernbach, with his bad bourgeois conscience. This is Marx's European prejudice, his"Europocentrism", says Fernbach. He hints that Marx later overcame this "Europocentrism", and even became an admirer of Hinduism though no actual evidence of this is presented.
In fact Marx and Engels remained unashamedly "Europocentric" to the end, and the course of history has remained Europocentric in the sense that it has evolved by developing throughout the world (through trade, missionary activity, colonialism, anti-colonialism, anti-missionary activity etc), the conditions and conflicts which characterised Western Europe alone in the 19th century. And the most successful Communist Party that has so far developed was unconditionally"Europocentric", though it existed in a state that was half-Asiatic. (In one of his last statements on the matter, his Address To The Youth Leagues, Lenin went out of his way to emphasise that capitalist civilisation was the starting point of Communism.)
Marx, who commented that Judaism reached its fullest development in a Christian society, was a Prussian Jew writing in England. Prussia was the Protestant state in Germany—one could even say that it was the Protestant state in Europe. Some of the German petty kingdoms were Protestant but they were not modern states. Hegel's glorification of Prussia said little more than that it was a state amongst the petty-kingdoms—a state of the English kind.
Prussia was the historic ally of England, until England decided to destroy it because it had become too much like itself. And England was more Protestant than Prussia. Irish reformers in the early 19th century cited Prussia as proof that it was possible for a Protestant state to allow religious freedom, and also as an example of tenant-right in a landlord system.
Marx must have been thinking about Protestant England when he made that remark about Judaism culminating in Protestant society. The observation clearly did not apply to Roman Catholicism, which was a historical combination of a number of things that were woven into the structure of the Roman Empire by the Emperor Constantine, injecting an element of idealism into the Empire which revived it and led to the emergence of what we know as Europe.
England, when wrenching itself apart from Renaissance Europe, and establishing itself as an absolute sovereignty, placed the Bible at the centre of its culture as unquestionable truth. This Bible is the history of a people chosen by God to be his agent in a world that had misbehaved and was in need of being chastised.
At the beginning of the Protestant Revolution proper, in 1641, John Milton, the future Secretary of State to Cromwell and a strict Biblicalist, wrote, in an Address to Parliament "Let England not forget its precedence in teaching nations how to live". And it can be said that England has ever since been acting as the agent of Providence against the world with catastrophic consequences for everything it touches—beginning with Ireland.
This Bible is the Jewish Old Testament with a puzzling Christian appendix. And, while it would not be sufficient to say that it was the influence of this book on the English mind, conscious and subconscious, that produced what we know as the Middle East Problem, it seems unlikely that things would be quite as they are without it.
Protestant Christianity was beginning to crumble in the English mind when the Liberal Government launched the First World War, but the notion of Providence is very much in evidence in the writings of English officers conquering Palestine in 1918.
The war was justified by the slogan, The rights of nations to self-determination. It was not explained until after the war that this right was meant to have a very special application, which negated it for the most part. It was not intended to apply to the Irish, for example. Nor in Palestine did it apply to the actual people of Palestine. It was a right conferred on the Jewish people who had been deported from Palestine, or who had emigrated, two thousand years earlier, after their state was destroyed by the Roman Empire.
The territory was to be opened up to Jewish colonisation of Palestine, with Jews coming from around the world, so that the Jewish State projected by Britain as an Imperial measure could be given foundations.
The wording of the Balfour letter is vague, but Lloyd George, Churchill and others involved in the enterprise in 1917 later gave testimony that the making of a Jewish State in Palestine was what they intended.
Balfour himself admitted that his "Declaration" was an exception to the principle for which they said the war was fought, and was justified by the fact that the Jews were an exceptional people. But, in the light of the consequences, the category of"exception" hardly applies here. The declaration that the Jews, wherever they lived, were a nation with national rights in Palestine, and the measures set in motion to give effect to those rights, subverted the principle of the League of Nations at the outset. It was on a par with other destabilising measures adopted by Britain and foisted on the League: the intensification of the Starvation Blockade on Germany after the Armistice, the plunder of Germany, and the refusal to allow France to disable humiliated Germany; and the war on the elected Irish Government.
The motivation of the Balfour Declaration was a combination of Imperial realpolitik and anti-Semitism. The Jews were an exceptional people, a remarkable people, but a people that had to be kept in their place, and they were getting out of hand. Their presence in European affairs—look at the Russian Revolution—needed to be diminished, but at the same time it was necessary that they be preserved. That is quite explicit in Churchill's writings. And it accords quite well with Eckhart's article published by Rosenberg.
Amongst the Jewish colonists in Palestine under the British administration in the 1920s and 1930s there was some frank discussion of the reality they were engaged in. Many preferred mental evasions and euphemisms, but the Jabotinsky tendency (called Revisionist for a reason that I forget) insisted that what they were engaged in was conquest and subjugation of a native population that would resist.
A generation later Isaac Deutscher, who had grown up in traditional Jewish culture in Poland, and gone through a phase of systematic Enlightenment culture, to become an influential intellectual in English Left liberal publishing, tried to explain the fierce expansionist Zionism in Palestine post-1945 in this way:
"A man once jumped from the top floor of a burning house in which many members of his family had already perished. He managed to save his life; but as he was falling he hit a person standing below and broke that person's legs and arms. The jumping man had no choice; yet to the man with the broken limbs he was the cause of his misfortune. If both behaved rationally, …(the) man who escaped from the blazing house, having recovered, would have tried to help and console the other sufferer; and the latter might have realized that he was the victim of circumstances over which neither had control. But look what happens when these people behave irrationally. the injured man blames the other for his misery and swears to make him pay for it. the other, afraid of the crippled man's revenge, insults him, and beats him up whenever they meet. The kicked man again swears revenge, and is again punched and punished. The bitter enmity, so fortuitous at first, hardens and comes to overshadow the whole existence of both men and to poison their minds.
"You will, I am sure, recognise yourselves (I said to my Israeli audience)…" (The Non-Jewish Jew and other Essays, Oxford University Press, 1968, p136).
The Israeli audience did not recognise itself in the 'parable', which is in fact a very feeble parable. Those Jews were not refugees fleeing from a burning building and trampling over innocent bystanders in their panic. To have relevance, the parable would have to include the breaking into another man's house and taking possession of it, putting into effect an operation for which the ground had been laid out long before the emergency.
If those Jews had been mere refugees in blind flight from overwhelming danger they could not have formed themselves into an effective state in two or three years and set about doing to the natives of Palestine the kind of thing that had been done to them in Europe.
The framework of the Jewish State in Palestine had been constructed under British authority twenty years earlier.
James Parkes, in 1945, classified as "refugees" only a minority of displaced Jews who were intent on going to the United States. Those whose aim was to go to Palestine were just returning home after a period away. They were not intruders in Palestine. The intruders were those who had taken over their home and lived in it for a thousand years.
Brendan Clifford (To be continued)