Reflections: antisemitism, anti-imperialism and liberal communitarianism

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by Marcel Stoetzler

The politically explosive modern form of antisemitism is the one that is central to the modern, conservative-revolutionary reaction to modernity. Two of the key problems in the analysis of (and struggle against) antisemitism are, to what extent does the modern right-wing critique of capitalist modernity overlap with its left-wing counterpart, and why does the latter sometimes fail to distinguish itself unambiguously from this mortal enemy? In varying contexts, from the Weimar KPD, via Foucault on Iran, to contemporary Labour politicians, some on the left grant too much to their enemy’s enemies, and are perhaps too fuzzy in their thinking to distinguish their own longing for the community of an emancipated future from their enemies’ longing for the racially or spiritually purified, re-born community of whichever reactionary fantasy.

The principal strength and attraction of antisemitism lies in its being beyond ordinary politics: antisemitism is meta-political. Both on the right and the left its value is that it connects to the opposite side. The ambiguous meaning of the word ‘socialism’ in its name was one of National Socialism’s strengths, although Hitler made clear enough that his was a socialism ‘the German way’, namely without the corrosive Jewish-Marxist bits about class struggle. Although its specifics put Nazism in many respects into a category all of its own, it also belongs into the wider category of nationalist socialisms that affirm the capitalist mode of production but are ‘anticapitalistic’ in their rejection of this or that detail of capitalist circulation and reproduction – greedy bankers who behave like locust swarms, that kind of thing – and seek a solution to ‘the social question’ at the level of the nation. There are many of those, and they are not about to go away. They are by nature receptive to antisemitism if and when it seems opportune for whichever contextual – cultural, historical – reasons.

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