The Persistence of Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories
Anyone who has spent a fair amount of time on the internet has invariably encountered some form of anti-Jewish rhetoric. In many ways, it has become fashionable to hate on the Jews again. It’s a phenomenon that isn’t just on the right or the left, contrary to popular belief, but reaches across the entire political spectrum. The difference now is that it’s no longer relegated to the fringes, but has gone mainstream.
Anti-Semitism is certainly nothing new. In Europe’s Middle Ages, Jews were blamed for everything from the crucifixion of Christ to spreading diseases by poisoning wells. Blood libel accusations asserted that Jews routinely kidnapped children and murdered them to use in their blood religious rituals.
According to historian Walter Laqueur, “Altogether, there have been about 150 recorded cases of blood libel (not to mention thousands of rumors) that resulted in the arrest and killing of Jews throughout history, most of them in the Middle Ages. In almost every case, Jews were murdered, sometimes by a mob, sometimes following torture and a trial.”
A defining feature of anti-Semitism is that it’s often rooted in conspiracy theories. One such conspiracy theory that has persisted in modern times is the belief that Jews control world politics. Much of this belief comes from a book published in Russia in 1905 titled the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It has since been revealed to be a plagiarism of a French satire against Napoleon III called The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu by Maurice Joly. Despite being a hoax, the conspiracy has persisted.
A related conspiracy theory is Jewish (or Judeo) Bolshevism. Jewish Bolshevism is the belief that Jews are not only the originators of communism but dominate communist movements around the world. It was a belief held by Adolf Hitler who used the Jews as scapegoats to blame for Germany’s many problems. The idea of Jewish Bolshevism is what in part ultimately led to the Holocaust.
Overall, only a small percentage of Jews were Bolsheviks. Most Jews were never communists, and most communists were never Jews.
Neither is Communism distinctly Jewish. It was never based on Judaism or Jewish tradition nor was it ever a Jewish sect. In actuality, Jewish communists intentionally tried to shed their Jewishness to become communists. They abandoned Jewish traditional, religion, and communal life. The Bolsheviks, including the Jewish Bolsheviks, were atheists and hostile to Judaism. They were communists first and foremost and cared little about Jewish concerns.
A prime example of this is the father of communism himself, Karl Marx. Marx was ethnically Jewish, but paradoxically anti-Semitic. In 1856 he wrote an article for the New York Tribune in which he stated:
“We know that behind every tyrant stands a Jew, as a Jesuit stands behind every Pope. As the army of the Jesuits kills every free thought, so the desire of the oppressed would have chances of success, the usefulness of wars incited by capitalists would cease, if it were not for the Jews who steal the treasures of mankind. It is no wonder that 1856 years ago Jesus chased the usurers from the Jerusalem temple. They were like the contemporary usurers who stand behind tyrants and tyrannies. The majority of them are Jewish. The fact that the Jews have become so strong as to endanger the life of the world causes us to disclose their organization, their purpose, that its stench might awaken the workers of the world to fight and eliminate such a canker.”
Anti-Semitism was a common feature of communism and many Jews themselves became victims of communism. There were anti-Semitic purges within most communist parties in the hopes of achieving “national purification.” Many prominent Jews who were a part of the early Bolshevik governments, including Béla Kun, Leon Trotsky, Karl Radek, among others, were either removed from power or murdered.
Stalin himself killed almost all of them and his anti-Semitism almost led to a Russian holocaust. In 1948, Stalin organized an anti-Semitic campaign based on a conspiracy called the “doctors’ plot.” Jewish doctors in Moscow were accused of conspiring to murder Soviet leaders. Jews were subsequently dismissed from their jobs and arrested. It is believed the case was intended to trigger mass repressions and deportations of Jews across the Soviet Union. However, when Stalin suddenly died the case was dropped and later declared to have been fabricated.
While Marx is considered the father of communism, his ideas weren’t developed in a vacuum. Marx was influenced by individuals such as Immanuel Kant, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel among others. The seeds of Communism were essentially born out of European enlightenment thinkers, many of whom were not Jewish. On a side note, some of the greatest intellectual arguments against Marxism came from Jews like Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, and Arthur Koestler.
Then there’s Friedrich Engels. If Marx was the father of communism, then Engels could be considered its uncle. Engels worked hand-in-hand with Marx to help develop his ideas and was instrumental in getting two of Marx’s final manuscripts of Das Kapital published after his death.
Engels was not Jewish, and neither were many prominent communists that succeeded him, including Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, the Kim family of North Korea, Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro among many others.
In summary, the origins of communism can be traced to the non-Jewish philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment. It’s true, however, that many prominent Jews were involved with communism, largely due to the complex social factors of the time. We can certainly judge those Jews by their actions while not eternally condemning all Jews, many of whom had no connection with communism. It also does not make non-Jewish communists any less culpable for their part.
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