It’s often argued that National Socialism’s roots partly lie in Friedrich Nietzsche’s notions of “God is dead”, master and slave morality, and the Übermensch. But when it comes to the Nazi’s anti-Semitism, Karl Marx provided a lot of intellectual firepower.
Disturblingly, one rarely hears about Karl Marx’s anti-Semitism. Modern-day champions of Marxism never bring it up. Professors sympathetic to Marxism don’t assign reading material on the subject. The media never talk about it.
But it’s there. And perhaps no greater evidence of this lies in Marx’s essay, “On The Jewish Question”. Following, in all their repugnance, are excerpts therefrom.
“What is the profane basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money.”
“In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.”
“What was, in itself, the basis of the Jewish religion? Practical need. Egoism”
“The god of practical need and self interest is money….The god of the Jews has been secularized and has become the god of this world.”
“The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew.…As soon as society succeeds in abolishing the empirical essence of Judaism – huckstering and its conditions – the Jew becomes impossible, because his consciousness no longer has an object.”
“The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism.”
There’s a reason for the word “socialism” in National Socialism. That becomes clearer when the full name of the party is written out: The National Socialist German Workers Party.
To quote Adolph Hitler, “We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions.”
Planks in the Nazi party platform fell right in line with those of conventional socialism/communism. The Nazis demanded:
- the abolition of all unearned income, and all income that does not arise from work;
- the nationalization of businesses involved in cartels;
- the communalization of department stores, to distribute to small business;
- land reform, confiscation from owners without compensation any land needed for the common purpose, the abolition of ground rents, and the prohibition of land speculation.
So Nazism was much like conventional socialism, with its anti-business and anti-financial attitudes, and demonization the affluent. Nazism particularly demonized a subset of affluent people (many of whom weren’t even affluent), the Jews. Envious Germans prior to and during the Nazi period hurled accusations exactly in line with Karl Marx’s slanders, smearing them as swindlers and worshiping money. Never mind that their hard work, high levels of education, willingness to take risks, and willingness to be merchants early on (upon which other members of society looked down) tended to have a positive effect on income. Success breeds contempt.
Socialism/communism blames the world’s ills on economically better off people. But in some societies those people tend to be members of a certain religion or ethnic minority group – be they Jews in Nazi Germany, Armenians in early-twentieth-century Turkey, Chinese in Indonesia, or Tutsis in Rwanda. That makes them easy to identify and pick out. The minority group becomes synonymous with the wealthy class. By scapegoating the rich, they’re scapegoating the minority group.
So Marx in the nineteenth century helped sow the seeds for both Nazism and Communism in the twentieth.
Some say Marx was the most influential thinker who ever lived. If you measure that by totaling the number of deaths resulting from Nazism and Communism – over a hundred million – then yes, he was the most influential.
Patrick Chisholm is editor of PolicyDynamics.