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(en) France, UCL AL #347 - History, Years 1880-1890: When anti-Semitism was intended to be a social doctrine (ca, de, fr, it, pt, tr)[machine translation]

Date Mon, 15 Apr 2024 09:36:45 +0300

In the 1880s, the socialist movement was plagued by anti-Semitism. He dissociated himself from it in the 1890s. Then, in 1898-1899, with the Dreyfus Affair, definitively classified him as reactionary, without entirely ridding himself of his dross. What were the foundations of this left-wing anti-Semitism? Why the initial hesitation to kill him? And how does awareness come about? ---- In 1895, on the eve of the Dreyfus Affair, the attitude of anarchism towards anti-Semitism was quite similar to that of the rest of the socialist movement: doctrinally hostile, indifferent even complacent in fact. In this 19th century which rehashes the stereotypes of Christian Judeophobia, and where "scientific" racialist theories are fashionable, anti-Semitism is in no way a shameful opinion. It is even massively spread by the conservative and Catholic press.

The historian Michel Dreyfus calculated that in 1897, its fourteen daily newspapers reached a total of 2 million readers. Very far ahead of the 250,000 readers reached by the six left-wing republican and socialist titles. The papist daily La Croix alone, which proclaims itself "the most anti-Jewish in France," reaches 500,000 readers. Michel Dreyfus's thesis is that there was no formulation of an original anti-Semitism by socialism, but a powerful impregnation by an ambient anti-Semitism. This is why, rather than "left-wing anti-Semitism" he preferred to speak of "left-wing anti-Semitism"[1].

The first to politicize the old medieval Judeophobia with arguments of his time was the fourrierist Alphonse Toussenel, who published in 1847 The Jews, Kings of the Age[2]. Writing under the July Monarchy, which saw the rise of French capitalism, Toussenel essentially affirmed that the era which was opening marked the triumph of the "Jewish spirit", that is to say the arrival at power of businessmen, speculators and bankers, of whom Baron Rothschild is the tutelary figure - and who will be the obsessive target of anti-Semites.

Anti-Semitism is present in Auguste Blanqui, the most eminent revolutionary leader of the 1850s-1860s, but not in a structuring way. On the other hand, it became central to some of his disciples, notably Gustave Tridon[3].

It was in the 1880s that this political anti-Semitism made a breakthrough in socialist and former communard circles, through Blanquism and Benoît Malon's La Revue sociale. The works of Gustave Tridon, Auguste Chirac[4]and Albert Regnard[5]then gave it its credentials. But no one will do as much as Édouard Drumont with his book published in 1885, Jewish France[6].

Unlike the previous ones, Drumont is a staunch Catholic, and his anti-capitalism is only superficial. His talent as a pamphleteer, on the other hand, is much greater, and he knows how to present anti-Semitic theses to the general public in a sensational light. His style is scandal and excess. The bookstore success is phenomenal: 140 reissues in two years.

Doctrinal refutation, but political indifference
Tridon, Regnard, Chirac or Drumont only construct, on a theoretical level, a hodgepodge mixing anti-capitalism and racism - a racism where "race", an all-purpose word, comes at the same time from blood, religion, culture and belonging to the capitalist class. They nonetheless elevate their anti-Semitism to the rank of political doctrine[7]. How did the labor movement react to this doctrinal proposal? With a shrug of the shoulders.

Throughout most of the 1880s, anarchist and socialist newspapers officially considered anti-Semitism to be an erroneous doctrine. Not on the basis of an anti-racist argument, but because, from their point of view, the anti-Semites, by limiting their attacks to the Jewish fraction of the bourgeoisie, do not designate the real target: capitalism as a whole.

That being said, anarchists and socialists do not give a bad reception to Drumont's book: his diatribes against "Rothschild" and "Jewish bankers" are not seen as counterproductive if they can arouse popular revolt against capitalism in general .

The ignorance of a Jewish proletariat
The fantasy of the "Jew usurer" circulates all the more easily on the left since the average French proletarian does not mix with Jews or Jews. In 1882, the Consistory counted 60,000 in France, or around 0.17% of the total population, essentially invisible because they were totally assimilated. Well-known Jews, by necessity, belong more to the intelligentsia and the bourgeoisie, where they are actually over-represented: in 1892, out of 440 bosses of financial establishments, there were 90 to 100 Jews[8]. So much so that before the 1900s, as Michel Dreyfus points out, "no thinker, no analyst imagined that there could also be a Jewish proletariat"[9].

It was only after the Dreyfus Affair that the image of Judaism became proletarian. Yiddish immigration from Eastern Europe will form large contingents of tailor and hat maker workers, who will also form unions affiliated with the CGT. In 1898, for the first time, the reality of the Jewish proletariat was studied in a thesis published in Brussels[10].

The 1880s therefore marked both the penetration of anti-Semitism and its highest level of acceptance within socialism. A first dissociation occurred at the end of the Boulangist phenomenon of 1888-1889.

A drawing by Adolphe Willette for Le Courrier français, November 7, 1886.
A locomotive stamped "Israel and Co.", driven by a probable Jewish capitalist, devastates the country. The clergy, the judiciary and the general staff failed to stop him. Only the people (workers, peasants, but also a soldier and a policeman), under the leadership of the revolutions of the past, seem willing to resist. In the caption: "Sons of France, come together to destroy this abominable machine, or you are lost! ". Willette was a great admirer of Édouard Drumont.
First dissociation following Boulangism
An anti-parliamentary, patriotic and confusionist movement, bringing together right and left tendencies, Boulangism reshuffles the cards within socialism. While the "possibilists" of Brousse and Allemane engaged in the defense of the republic, the majority of Blanquists supported Boulanger. The Guesdists, for their part, display a rather benevolent neutrality towards the "brav' general". As for the anarchists, they denounce both the "Caesarism" of Boulanger and the hypocrisy of the republic.

When Boulangism declined, from the end of 1889, it sought a second wind by activating the anti-Semitic lever, capable of striking popular chords, while attracting subsidies from the reactionary and clerical aristocracy. In the absence of its exiled leader, the Boulangist general staff then formed an alliance with the National Anti-Semitic League of Édouard Drumont[11]. Their speakers united for a large meeting on January 18, 1890 in Neuilly, under the slogan "war on the Jews!"» The audience of 1,500 people is unusual: the Prince of Tarente, Prince Poniatowski, the Duke of Luynes, the Duke of Uzès, the Count of Dion and the Viscount of Kervéguen came to mingle with the little people of the western suburbs[12]... The event was widely reported by the press, which saw it as the possible birth certificate "in France, of an anti-Semitic party like one that already exists in Germany, Austria, and Russia"[13].

While anti-Semitism had until now been, so to speak, neither left nor right, this reactionary marking could only make it suspect in the eyes of the revolutionaries. It is undoubtedly for this reason that, in the 1890s, anti-Semitism was identified, on the left, as a fraud. He disappeared from La Revue sociale, and was rejected by the anti-boulangist socialists[14].

Prejudices and stereotypes die hard
After the Boulangist episode, the anti-Semitic doctrine was therefore, as a political project, rejected by the left. But prejudices and stereotypes die harder. For a long time, they will still appear sporadically, through an article, in the anarchist or socialist, reformist and revolutionary press.

And then there is the impregnation of popular language. The words "Jew", "youtre", "youdi" or "youpin" then commonly designate stingy people, profiteers and exploiters, in a more or less deracialized way[15]. In a completely symptomatic article by Father Peinard, Émile Pouget explains: "Religion, race, there is no longer any question. The yurt is the exploiter, the eater of proles: one can be a yutr while still being Christian or Protestant." Just as, according to him, the word "Jesuit", far from designating a Catholic missionary, now means, in the popular imagination, "a vile scoundrel, a disgusting bastard, making out with you to better strangle you"[16]. A way, no doubt, of excusing the habits of its readership. Pouget completely renounced it when, eight years later, he fully committed himself to the Dreyfusard camp.

Surprisingly, this semantics is conveyed including by Jewish revolutionaries like Bernard Lazare who, in a book from 1894, strives to establish an acrobatic distinction between "Jews" and "Israelites" - the first term should, according to him, apply to the big bankers and speculators, and the second to the penniless shopkeepers[17]. Lazare goes so far as to admit that anti-Semitism can play a positive role: by encouraging hatred of the rich, it will hasten a revolution which will remove the capitalists and therefore the causes of anti-Semitism.

But the following year, Bernard Lazare became aware of these ambiguities, and disowned his book[18]. During a controversy with Drumont, he asserted that the "history of anti-Semitism in France is only a corner of the history of the clerical party". And to regret: "Yesterday, we specified with affectation that, under the name of Jew, we designated the wolf-wolf of the Stock Exchange, the shady financier, the brown broker, the one who lived on agio and predation, without distinction of origin and cult. There were some who almost apologized for using the word Jewish, a word, it was said, consecrated by usage and which honest Israelites would have been wrong to show offended"[19].

Lazare, now, thinks that it is time to show offence, and to put an end to anti-Semitism on the left. This was the time when, a pioneer of the Dreyfus Affair, he worked tirelessly to prove the captain's innocence and convince socialists in general, and more particularly his anarchist comrades, to get involved. His efforts will pay off. And the Dreyfus Affair will be the second, more fundamental moment of rejection by the left of anti-Semitism.

Guillaume Davranche (UCL Montreuil)

This article only covers the period 1880-1898. For subsequent developments, you should read the excellent summary by Michel Dreyfus, L'Antisémitisme à gauche, La Découverte, 2009.
A few months before the launch of the daily La Libre Parole, one of the leaders of the anti-Semitic party, the Marquis de Morès, tried in vain to obtain the collaboration of prominent anarchists.

Under the Third Republic, it was common for far-right and far-left activists condemned for speeches or press articles to rub elbows in prison under the political regime. This is how, during a stay in Sainte-Pélagie, in 1891, the anarchists Charles Malato and Michel Zévaco met the Marquis de Morès. This megalomaniac adventurer, hitter, baker and then figure of the Anti-Semitic League, worked with Drumont to launch a newspaper and longed to associate libertarian writers - the cream of subversion! Among the names considered: Michel Zévaco, Constant Martin, Émile Pouget and Charles Malato. This offer was rejected with disgust by those concerned[20].

"One is called reaction, the other is revolution"

A few months later, in April 1892, the famous newspaper was born: it was La Libre Parole, which carved out a market share by continuously denouncing "Jewish scandals". Soon he attacks Malato by calling him an "agent of the Jews", and more precisely of Baron Rothschild - an obsessive target of anti-Semites.

After sending an insulting letter to Drumont, Malato executed the crook in a book published in 1894: "to divert popular anger against the Jews alone. Rid the Christian bank of a happy rival, make people forget the expropriation of productive capital by burning a few scraps of paper at Rothschild's, replace social war with religious war, pull the chestnuts out of the fire for the clerical monarchy[...], oh well, no!» And to draw an insurmountable line between anti-Semitism and anarchism: "between our parties, the struggle is to the death: one is called the reaction, the other the revolution"[21].

This assertion would be verified four years later when, when the Dreyfus Affair tore the country apart, the anarchists violently clashed with the anti-Dreyfusards[22].

To validate

[1]Michel Dreyfus, Anti-Semitism on the Left. History of a paradox from 1830 to the present day, La Découverte, 2009.

[2]Alphonse Toussenel, The Jews, kings of the era: history of financial feudalism, G. de Gonet, 1847.

[3]Gustave Tridon, Jewish Molochism. Critical and philosophical studies, Brussels, Édouard Maheu, 1884.

[4]Auguste Chirac, The Kings of the Republic. History of Jewry, P. Arnould, 1883.

5]Albert Regnard, Aryans and Semites. The assessment of Judaism and Christianity (compilation of articles published in La Revue sociale), Dentu, 1890.

[6]Édouard Drumont, Jewish France, Paris, Marpon & Flammarion, 1885.

[7]Pierre-Jospeh Proudhon (1809-1865) is not listed here because his fundamental Judeophobia remained at the stage of a feeling confined to his private notebooks. He did not make it a political doctrine, unlike Toussenel, Drumont and the others.

[8]Esther Benbassa, History of the Jews of France, Seuil, 2000, cited by Dreyfus, op. cit., p. 21.

[9]Dreyfus, op. cit., p. 93.

[10]Leonty Soloweitschik, An Unsung Proletariat, study on the social and economic situation of Jewish workers, Brussels, Henri Lamertin, 1898.

[11]Zeev Sternhell, The Revolutionary Right (1885-1914), Folio, 1997, pp. 161-162.

[12]Grégoire Kauffmann, Édouard Drumont, Perrin, 2008, pp. 176-179.

[13]"The Jewish question", Gil Blas, January 23, 1890.

[14]Michel Dreyfus, op. cit., p. 73.

[15]Catherine Fhima, "The Left and the Jews", in History of the Left in France, vol. 1, The Discovery, 2004.

[16]Émile Pouget, "Youtres et jesuits", Le Père Peinard, April 20, 1890.

[17]Philippe Oriol, Bernard Lazare, Stock, 2003, p. 30.

[18]Bernard Lazare, Anti-Semitism, its history and its causes, Léon Chailley, 1894. This book, which Lazare disowned shortly after, was recovered decades later by various anti-Semitic publishers, including Kontre Kulture, by Alain Soral.

[19]Bernard Lazare, Against anti-Semitism (History of a controversy), Stock, 1896.

[20]Sébastien Faure, "Sold to the Jews", Le Libertaire, June 26, 1898; Charles Malato, From the Commune to Anarchy, Stock, 1894, p. 272.

[21]Charles Malato, op. cit., pp. 272-273.

[22]"January 1898: A first victory over the anti-Semites in the Dreyfus affair", Alternative libertaire, January 2008.

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