|Foto: Astrid Nydahl
I have little doubt that Jeremy Corbyn was sincere when he originally denied that anti-Semitism could be a problem for the Labour Party, since it had always been staunchly opposed to racism. London’s former Labour mayor Ken Livingstone also probably believes that his fierce anti-Zionism has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. As he put it: “A real anti-Semite doesn’t just hate the Jews in Israel, they hate their Jewish neighbour . . . It’s a physical loathing”. But hating Jews in Israel is apparently OK; they are Zionists, after all, and the loathing isn’t physical.
The reason Corbyn and Livingstone can make these claims with such conviction is that anti-Semitism long ago came to be associated with the Right. To them, left-wing anti-Semitism is an oxymoron; such prejudices are strictly for reactionaries. This view owes a great deal to the Dreyfus trials. The Dreyfusards were, on the whole, liberal, secular defenders of the French Republic. And the haters of Dreyfus were right-wing Catholics who still detested the fruits of the French Revolution, and blamed Jews, liberals, Protestants and Freemasons for undermining the national Gemeinschaft with their talk of individual freedom and universal rights. Conservatives who lamented the loss of the old order were very often anti-Semites too.
With the collapse of the ancien régime, the onset in the nineteenth century of a self-regulating market economy and the rise of a newly empowered urban bourgeoisie, various groups felt victimized. In Catholic countries, the Church and aristocracy were deeply resentful of losing their traditional privileges. The guilds and corporations, which no longer had a role to play in the capitalist economy, were equally bitter. And the peasant class, no longer protected by traditional patronage, felt ex- cluded in the new economy that privileged liberal urban elites, such as bankers, financiers and businessmen.
After reading Battini’s painstaking investigation of so many odious texts one can only marvel at the sheer toxic idiocy put to paper by famous intellectuals, not just in France of course. But interesting though all this is, there is a touch of monomania to Battini’s book. Over and over, he bangs away at the concept of anti-capitalist anti-Semitism, as though this were the only key to the catastrophic fate of the Jews in Europe. The Shoah, he writes rather blithely, can be considered modern “because ‘the Jew’ had been definitively adapted to the image derived from the forgeries of propaganda and of the anti-Jewish anticapitalist literature”. Really? Was that all? Battini arrives at this conclusion largely because he concentrates his scholarship almost exclusively on Italy and France. Other scholars, who paid more attent- ion to the history of anti-liberalism in Germany, such as the Hungarian philosopher Aurel Kolnai, have highlighted the specifically racist aspects of anti-Semitism, which Battini tends to ignore. If Battini is to be believed – and he quotes Hannah Arendt’s theories to corroborate his own – modern anti-Semitism was social and political, rather than religious or racial. Without universal rights and Jewish emancipation, this type of anti-Semitism would never have emerged.Hela Burumas artikel kan förstås läsas i TLS.
|Propaganda från det tyskockuperade Frankrike 1943. Illustrerar Burumas artikel i TLS.