[OPE-L:6505] Re: Re: Marx and the bible

From: paul bullock (paulbullock@ebms-ltd.in2home.co.uk)
Date: Sat Feb 02 2002 - 16:22:15 EST


thanks for your response... which translation are you using?  Please note when I said 'amusing' I explicitly said 'the rest of the letter'.(7.30.62 letter). I hadn't read your point 4 below... which is indeed very unpleasant. 

However looking at your response here and to other exchanges re Moses etc I think that you are being a little bit oversensitive... even though I would grant that you are absolutely correct to object to the comments... the world is a rough and ready place and words and comments are often quite superficial as are the moods behind them.  As I said, I'm inclined to think that Marx and his father even more, had made a big effort to break with the religious nonsense. One can imagine the personal battle, the social pressures etc etc..., as a result he probably had some sharp feelings towards the more conservative section of  the old community. If we are going to dig through his private correspondence, and even then find only a couple of references focused mostly on Lasalle, then draw dramatic conclusions from it... well it seems very much out of proportion given the tasks that face humanity at the moment and Marx's fundamental contribution to that struggle.

 I have heard the term ' a bit of a 'jew-boy'' used by individuals in my parents generation  ie born in 1910's and 20's , very rarely, but to mean any  miser or mean person. Of course it is a thoughtless caricature, unfair etc, but as Marx pointed out, since Europe as a whole had barred Jews from almost all trades except that in money -  interest etc being highly restricted up until the 16th century -  there was an inevitable forced association between money grubbing and jewry. They were set up!   My father's first wife was jewish, anglicised etc, no hocus pokus, so  I have a half brother and half sister who are half jewish, yet my father himself used the term 'jew boy' in passing when refering to nasty 'Christian' money grubbers on one or two occasions. ( and this was some years after he had been on british military duty at Belsen)... he was certainly not anti semetic! So....at least from my experience of life,  I am simply not really too interested or worried about Marx's odd private comment here. It has no material significance for us today.

No more on this from me you'll be glad to hear!

    -----Original Message-----
    From: gerald_a_levy <gerald_a_levy@msn.com>
    To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu <ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>
    Date: 01 February 2002 15:33
    Subject: [OPE-L:6494] Re: Marx and the bible
    Re Paul B's [6490]:
    > Overall you have unearthed  nothing much to blink at, 
    Then let's us again examine the letters in question.
    *  Marx to Engels 2/25/59
    > Marx refers to 'the little Jew  Braun'...the expression is used to poke fun/(nickname) at Lassalle, and is used 3 times in the letter about his work and Marx's correspondence with  him... nevertheless Lassalles work on Hereclitus.. .. is described as 'better than anything the democrats could boast of'.<
    My translation reads 'Jew-boy Braun'.   'Jew-boy Braun' was his name for Ferdinand Lassalle,
    who was very much a *man*  rather than a boy.   Saul Padover wrote that this was 'Marx's
    anti-Semitic tag for Lassalle'.   I think this is supported by the fact that in all cases when
    placed in context this expression was used in a derogatory way by Marx.
    [An interesting sidebar on the Sieber thread is Marx's note in this letter that in _The
    Poverty of Philosophy_  he 'accepted Ricardo's theory'  of money.]
    * Marx to Antoinette Philips  3/24/61 
    > refers to the  'nastily Jewish physiognomy' of  ' the most ugly creature I ever saw in my life'.. Fraulein Ludmilla Assing in a description of an evening meal at Lasalle's place..'a little monster'  clearly an unattractive personality. Marx's letters are really very effective descriptions. Lasalle is not in Marx's bad books at this time.< 
    "This Fraulein, who really swamped me with her benevolence, is the most ugly
    creature I ever saw in my life, a nastily Jewish physiognomy, a sharply protruding
    thin nose, eternally smiling and grinning, always speaking poetical prose,
    constantly trying to say something extraordinary, playing at false enthusiasm, and
    spitting at her auditors during the trances of her ecstasies."
    Here, the 'little monster',  is said to be the ugliest creature he ever saw in his life
    because of  'nasty'  physical characteristics deemed to be Jewish, including a
    'sharply protruding thin nose'.    Doesn't make you blink? Let us continue.
    * Marx to Engels 7/30/62 
    > Here Lasalle gets it again... he is a 'Jewish nigger' and provided Marx with  'one of our nigger's great discoveries'.....and who thinks he ought to live the life of a 'Jewish Baron' etc etc who Marx is glad to see the back of... and the rest of the letter describes Lassalle in very amusing terms.<
    Anti-Semitism and racism is often cloaked in what some believe to be 'very 
    amusing terms'.  Amusing to whom, though?
    > It is very important to remember that the word Nigger in Victorian England, and indeed right up to the post ww2 period in Britain, simply meant black, or dark... a la painters' colour 'nigger black'. perhaps a distance was also intended in the way middle classes and above used it. But amongst working people it was straight description. A african, or even more accurately, a West African. <
    Some items to note:
    1) Marx was not a product of Victorian England.  His comments have to be judged in relation 
    to the standards of the sub-culture that he was part of  -- the  European socialist movement.
    The use of that word was not by any means acceptable in that culture in that time.
    2) Marx was very well aware of a derogatory meaning to that word. Let us, after all,
    recall that he had been a reporter on the US Civil War.  He was also in contact with 
    revolutionary socialists and organizations in the US at this time (although the First
    International wasn't founded until 1864).
    3) In *all* cases when using this word it was used in a clearly derogatory context.
    It was only used, in other words, when attempting to *insult* Lassalle. 
    4) "It is now completely clear to me that he, as is proved by his cranial formation
    and hair -- descends from the Negroes who had joined Moses' exodus from 
    Egypt  (assuming his mother or grandmother on the paternal side had not interbred
    with a *nigger* [in English]).  Now this union of Judaism and Germanism with a basic 
    Negro substance must produce a peculiar product. The obtrusiveness of the fellow
    is also *Nigger*-like [in English]" (emphasis in original, JL).   Still not blinking?
    5) Note 'Jewish' and 'N...' are clearly used in a derogatory way and in *combination*
    with each other.   As in the 3/24/61 letter above, there are also negative comments about 
    alleged Jewish (and Black) physical characteristics.
    * Marx to Engels  8/21/75
    > he refers to ' a crafty little jew' who climbed into Marx's railway carriage, who laments to Marx over being taken in by a trader.  I assume he wasn't a crafty 'tall' Jew, and so Marx wasn't misrepresenting him,  for  the account shows he was consciously crafty. The description seems as fair as Marx's rendering of the man's accent (apparently cockney... perhaps accented). How on earth this is anti semetic beats me. It is a Dickensian portrait. <
    My translation reads 'a cunning-looking Jew-boy [Judel]'.  Yet, again, 'Jew-boy'
    is used to describe a Jewish *man*.  Also, this term is repeated many times in
    this letter. 
    * Marx to Engels  8/25/79
    > Ramsgate ' Place is full of Jews and fleas'. This is a gratuitous remark.  Given his own father's break from the religion and culture, Marx's experience no doubt occassioned a reference that we might not have made. Why should we expect tolerance of  any religion in such a man ? I find it difficult not to mutter when I see  religion stalking the world in any guise. Marx's private expressions of this sort  were so few that one would have had to have been a saint's saint to have not made the occasional  dismissive/irritated remark.<
    You are the one who is muddying the issue here: Marx's comment  was not about
    Judaism or religion *at all*. 
    "Many Jews and bedbugs hereabouts".  Is that _only_ 'gratuitous'? 
    * Marx to Jenny Longuet 4/11/81
    > I can find nothing here (except the lovely description of Kautsky).
    Referring again to Lassalle:
    'the cynical, oily-obtrusive, phony Baronial Jew-manners".
    What a far cry from the courage of Eleanor Marx who: "though
    only half-Jewish, proclaimed constantly and with a certain defiant
    pride at workers' meetings in the East End of London: 'I am a 
    Jewess'" (McLellan _Karl Marx_, p. 5).   One might attempt to
    excuse Marx's comments by virtue of the fact that they were made
    in private correspondence and not intended for publication. Yet,
    this is often the case with anti-Semitism (and racism) since in many
    cultures (including the specific sub-culture that Marx was a part 
    of) individuals know that such sentiments can not be publicly 
    expressed without a negative backlash.  That  these were
    not innocent comments can also be seen by the fact  that in 
    his published writings they were _not_ used. This is because had
    he done so he would have been loudly and publicly condemned by
    progressives and revolutionaries the world over.  It doesn't speak
    well for Engels or his other correspondents that they did not
    challenge him on his comments.
    In solidarity, Jerry
    PS: Just got your [6492]. Thanks for the clarification: it saved me from
    having to respond to issues that are not in question. On Paul Z's
    response [6493]: as late as the 1960's in the US there were 'restricted' 
    neighborhoods and organizations that explicitly and in writing excluded 
    Jewish and Black members.  Exclusion continues to persist -- but not
    in writing or officially.

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