Thursday, June 14, 2018

Daniel Guerin on Jew-hatred and fascism

....Would it be possible to transmute the anti-capitalism of the masses into still something else? Fascism found in the Jews-under favorable circumstances-a second scapegoat.

Anti-Semitism exists in a latent state in the subconscious of the middle classes. Throughout the entire nineteenth century, the petty bourgeoisie, victim of capitalist development, had a tendency to concentrate its animosity on the Jewish usurer or banker and the little Jewish merchant. Toussenel, the Frenchman, gave his Financial Feudalism the subtitle, "The Jews, kings of the epoch," and wrote: "I advise all makers of revolution to take the banks from the Jews." By exploiting the theme of racism, the fascists were sure to please the middle classes; at the same time it protected its own financial backers from popular anger, and it diverted the anti-capitalism of the masses to the Jews.

In Italy 

In Italy, where the Jews were only a small minority of the population (fifty or sixty thousand out of forty-four million), this demagogy had little chance of success, though fascism did not completely neglect it. The newspaper, Il Tevere, stated after the publication of the Labor Charter that the time of domination by Jewish bankers is now past. 10 The fascist "extremists" readily attributed the economic miscalculations of their regime to the Jewish action of international banking. 11

It was not until July 1938 that Italian fascism, in imitation of its ally Hitler, and to distract attention from its current difficulties, officially added anti-Semitism to its demagogic arsenal.

In Germany

Anti-Semitism found a much more favorable field in Germany. Numerically the Jews constituted only one per cent of the population, but following the war a sudden influx of more than 100,000 Jewish immigrants from Poland, the Ukraine, and Lithuania, revived the "Jewish question." The role played by the Jews in the economic, political, and intellectual life was considerable. There were enough Jews at the head of banks for the identification of high finance with Judaism to be readily accepted by the masses; at the head of the big department and one-price stores there were enough Jews for the anger of the small shopkeepers to be transferred to the Jews. There were enough Jews prominent in Anglo-Saxon finance for its debtor, Germany, to seem to be the slave of "world Jewry," and among the speculators carrying on profitable operations on the Stock Exchange there were enough Jews for the small investors to consider them responsible for their ruin. The Marxist parties also had at their head enough stirring and brilliant Jewish leaders to make it possible to denounce the collusion of capitalism and Marxism, and to represent Jewish bankers and Jewish workers as working hand in hand for universal domination by the Jewish race, according to the plan revealed by the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion-a legend already invented in the nineteenth century. Finally and most important, there were enough Jews belonging to the middle classes and the liberal professions-enough small Jewish shopkeepers, doctors, lawyers, journalists, writers and artists, hated by their "Aryan" rivals-to make it possible when the time came to unleash popular fury against them, and thereby protect not only the "Aryan" industrial magnates and bankers but even the big Jewish financiers! 12

National Socialism's trick is to transmute the anticapitalism of its followers into anti-Semitism. "Socialism," Goebbels wrote, "can be achieved only in opposition to the Jews, and it is because we want socialism that we are anti-Semitic." 13

Subsequently the sorcerer's apprentice, as in Goethe's famous ballad, became a prisoner of the evil spirits which he had invoked. Besieged by a fearsome coalition of great powers which he caused to unite against him, face to face with the dilemma "to be or not to be," his delirious imagination saw in the Jews, by the very fact that he persecuted them, not only a scapegoat, but a servant of the Devil: at home invincible adversaries, and abroad directors of a global encirclement. He imagined they were some foreign body that he must "kill or be killed by."

In the madness of a persecutor himself persecuted, he massacred an entire people, like Herod not even sparing the infants who, though innocent, were threatening because they might perpetuate this race of bogeymen. The slaughter was heaviest in Eastern Europe with its heavy Jewish population; the German conquest made this area the eastern rampart of the Third Reich. Thus anti-Semitism, which began as a racial prejudice exploited as a demagogic trick, ended in the most abominable genocide of all time.

Although fascism arouses the popular masses especially against the "international plutocracy" and the Jews, it cannot avoid-without unmasking itself-an attack on its own big bourgeoisie. However, the fascist declamations against the big bourgeoisie, if examined closely, are in no way socialist.

The middle classes' opposition to the big bourgeoisie differs sharply from that of the working class. The middle classes do not desire the elimination of the big bourgeoisie as a class. On the contrary, they would like to become big bourgeois themselves. When fascism proclaims itself anti-bourgeois, and when it denounces the "degeneration" of the big bourgeoisie, it has no intention of attacking the existing social order; rather, it wants to rejuvenate that order by injecting fresh blood, plebeian blood. Thus it flatters the middle classes, while at the same time diverting the masses from the class struggle and proletarian socialism.

In Italy

Gorgolini sneers when he describes this "bourgeoisie inhibited by the timidity which frequently attacks those who are too refined and made sluggish by digestive difficulties." 14 Lanzillo, at the time of the occupation of the factories, also ridiculed the "humiliated, clumsy, rotten, and corrupting bourgeoisie." 15 But here the cloven hoof appears. To restore to the big bourgeoisie "some of its energy," 16 new talents must come on the scene: "The dynamic law of social history," declares a motion voted on October 5, 1924, by a fascist "trade union" congress, "consists less in an irreconcilable struggle between the classes ... than a struggle of ability, that is to say, the struggle led by professionally skilled groups who are acquiring the ability to assume the functions of management, against groups who are losing their ability to fulfill these functions of command .... " To translate this gibberish into clear language: the big bourgeoisie must gradually give way to the "competent" -that is, to the fascist plebeians.

In Germany

The Nazis make the big bourgeois their whipping boy. Hitler has not enough epithets at his command with which to flay the big bourgeoisie. He denounces its "proverbial cowardice," its "senility," its "intellectual rottenness," its "cretinism." But later his real meaning appears: it is necessary, he writes, "to take care that the cultivated classes are continually renewed by an influx of fresh blood coming from the lower classes." 17 August Winnig devotes an entire book to the theme that the mission of the popular masses is to rejuvenate an aged social order and regenerate an exhausted ruling class: "The raw material that is the proletariat has the vocation of creating its own new values, its own ideas, and introducing these forces into the old community, not in order to destroy it, but to rejuvenate it." 18

Fascism and Big Business by Daniel Guerin


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