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Anti-Semitism is Rife Among America’s Far Left (REVIEW)

November 25, 2013 7:51 am 20 comments

Karl Marx. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Antisemitism and the American Far Left, by Stephen H. Norwood (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

If you’ve ever wondered why “do-gooder” is a pejorative label, Stephen Norwood’s book on “Antisemitism and the American Far Left” will enlighten you. Rarely has there been a group of Americans so prone to mistake feeling good about what they are doing for actually doing good as “far leftists.”

They comprise Stalinists, Trotskyists, Old Leftists, New Leftists, loyal readers of The Daily Worker, New International, PM, Labor Action, The Nation, Ramparts, Tikkun; members of the CP, SP, SWP, SDS, SNCC, and indeed the whole alphabet soup cooked up by the dissidence of dissent.

That is why, more than 70 years after Soviet communism has become synonymous with expropriation, show trials, organized famines, gulags, secret police, ethnic cleansing, Jew-hatred, and mass murder on a scale surpassing that of Nazism, its former devotees take pride in their communist past. (If you’ve not had the pleasure of meeting these friends of the human species and their liberal admirers, you can find them celebrated in both the Streisand-Redford film “The Way We Were” (1973), and in the 1981 documentary about John Reed called “Reds.” Both films express the liberals’ view that their own misfortunes under Senator Joseph McCarthy were far worse than those visited upon his victims by Josef Stalin.)

Since Norwood’s book deals specifically with the left’s relationship to anti-semitism, let us remember that Stalin, in 1952, executed 26 of the USSR’s leading Jewish writers; the worst that an American-Jewish writer suffered because of McCarthy was being “blacklisted” in Hollywood (and not because he wrote screenplays in Yiddish).

Norwood begins his book with an account of the American far left’s indebtedness to Karl Marx (Jew by birth, Lutheran by religion) and other European anti-semites for their raw hatred of Jews (“the filthiest of all races” was Marx’s delicate sobriquet for Polish Jews, the biological and cultural center of European Jewry) and of Judaism (“money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist”).

Such European crudities usually had to be refined for American consumption, but perhaps there was something genuine in the American socialists’ sense that the tenth commandment (“you shall not covet …anything that is your neighbor’s”) and the precept that “the poor shall always be with us” put Judaism permanently at odds with socialist policies of world betterment through confiscation and redistribution of wealth.

The foundation stone of Norwood’s narrative is his lengthy discussion of “World War II: The Limits of American Far Left concern for European Jewry.” Prior to the summer of 1939, American communists had by and large been supportive of the Soviet Union (where, they believed, humanity was being reborn in collectivist test-tubes) and hostile to a Hitlerite Germany whose core principle was Jew-hatred. But the signing of the Molotov-von Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact between the two countries in August 1939 caused American communists to obfuscate or deny the “problem” of Germany’s war against the Jews of Europe. The Pact allowed Germany to invade Poland on September 1 and eventually to destroy more than 92 percent of its Jewish population. But American Communists ridiculed Jewish organizations (from the American Jewish Congress to the Jewish garment workers) that protested the Germans’ genocidal campaign.

The Communist Party, in obedience to the Pact, opposed American participation in a war against Germany, and—for good measure—labeled FDR a “fascist” at least as dangerous as Hitler. Its tone changed, of course, when Hitler ended the Pact by invading the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.

Although the Trotskyists are often supposed to have staked out a more honorable position on World War II than their Stalinist rivals in the Marxist family, Norwood shows that their position did not differ appreciably from that of the Communist Party during the period of Molotov-Ribbentrop. Irving Howe, long an ardent Trotskyist and anti-Communist (who for years attacked American liberals like F. O. Matthiessen for being soft on the USSR) consistently (even during his years in the U. S. Army) opposed American entry into World War II on the side of the Allies.

From his perch as Managing Editor of Labor Action, the weekly paper of the Workers Party, Howe insisted that the real “war aims” of the Allies were no better than those of the Axis, i.e., imperialism and support of dictatorships. His hero Trotsky, as if to demonstrate just how much world affairs are ruled by sheer stupidity, not only outdid the Stalinists in minimizing German antisemitism –“only worldwide social revolution,” he insisted, could save European Jewry — but believed that the working classes of all European nations, including the German ones busily slaughtering Jews, would band together to overthrow the Axis governments. Holocaust historian Lucy Dawidowicz asserted, in 1983, that “Hardly any group or party along the Marxist spectrum…ever gave a passing thought to the fate of the European Jews.”

Later sections of Norwood’s chronicle suggest that perhaps some Marxists gave some thought to the European Jews. He devotes much of Chapter 4, for example, to the Communist Party’s “pioneering role in promoting secular Jewish studies in the decade following World War II.” On a much higher level than the Communist Party, a penitent Irving Howe (born Horenstein) and Eliezer Greenberg published in 1954 (two years after the Russian Yiddish writers were murdered in the cellars of Moscow’s Lubyanka prison) the magnificent act of critical salvage and recovery entitled A Treasury of Yiddish Stories; and they dedicated it “To the Six Million.”

But these efforts were of a mortuary sort: one does not perform an autopsy except on a corpse. When the time came to defend the living state of Israel, one of the most remarkable assertions of the will to live ever made by a martyred people, the leftists failed again. True, there was a brief period of Communist support for partition of Palestine and the Jewish War of Independence in 1947-48. But when the Soviet Union turned against Israel, so did its obedient American leftist acolytes; and they have remained hostile to this day, obsessively reworking the old question “Do Jews have the right to live?” to read “Does Israel have the right to exist?”

In his gloomy conclusion to this prodigious work of scholarship, Norwood observes that “the far left’s relentless propagandizing against Israel and Zionism, replete with classically antisemitic concepts and images, has outlived the movement that fashioned it. American colleges and universities are ensuring the transmission of antisemitism to the next generation.”

If there is a hopeful element in the story of far left Americans and their relation to anti-semitism, it lies in the substantial number of “unconversions” – especially in its large Jewish branch – from leftist orthodoxy on the Jewish Question. Paul Novick, Albert Glotzer, David Horowitz, Ronald Radosh, and Sol Stern took up arms, at times quite skillfully, in defense of the beleaguered Jewish state they had been taught to hate.

Stern, in a 2003 essay in City Journal, recalled how in 1971 Ramparts, “the flagship publication of the New Left,” permitted him to “deviate from the party line on Israel” because he was a reliable left-wing radical “on virtually every issue.” But it was the “last time that anything sympathetic to the Jewish state appeared in Ramparts or in any other New Left journal.”

True enough—but, a skeptic might ask, when was the last time that anything sympathetic to the Jewish state, or indeed to “the Jewish side” in any political conflict, appeared in the New York Times? Elderly friends of mine say it was the Leo Frank affair of 1913 in Georgia, when the Times did disapprove of his lynchi”Žng.

Edward Alexander is the author of Irving Howe: Socialist, Critic, Jew (Indiana University Press, 1998). This article was originally published by the Chicago Jewish Star.


  • To Doug: Anti-semitism was made illegal by the Soviet regime, and was not made a capital offense. “Jewish conquest of Russia”…? Read a little history and see a psychiatrist.

  • Extremests,communists-far left vs reactionaries-far right, will always be the losers in human history. It’s just too bad they both leave tragedy behind in their attempts while in power. Unfortunately, they will always be around to test the moral majority,if the moral majority survives to defeat them whenever they raise their ugly heads, omayne!

  • We shall soon find out if all this is true about the new mayor of New York!

  • Today the foundational antisemitism of Islam has merged with the antisemitism of the left….Jew hatred is now critical to both.

  • Islam is the most rightist force on earth. Nevertheless, Marxists have united with Islamists so that they can oppose Israel’s existence.

  • To prove the article’s point, all one has to do is watch replays of the 2012 DNC, or videos of the obama owned “occupy wall street”

  • The Jews are always caught between the Anvil & the Hammer, no matter what the situation. The realities do not matter but the fixation do. Hitler & Stalin had a field day with the Jews using them as scapegoats & murdering millions. The same fixation seem to govern even to day nothing has changed, just a lot the blame.

  • With today’s technology, investigating your ancestry has become a passtime for me. I can’t find anything for my grandfather -no birth record. Found his marraige, some other stuff but not his birth registry. There’s a chance that his father was jewish and snuck into Maine w/o filing an I-130 at USCIS. I identify with everyone whose persecuted. Jew, Native Americans. I, too, am being persecuted -by the U.S. Government.

  • Are you kidding me? Communism is Jewish invention. The 1917 Russian Revolution was a Jewish conquest of Russia. The Warburg banking family financed Lenin (Jewish father) then Trotsky (Lev Bronstien). Trotsky left New York City with 250 jewish communists and helped Lenin overthrow the Provisional Government. Anti-semitism was made a capital punishment and the Christian Churches were razed.

    “There is no need to exaggerate the part played in the creation of Bolshevism and in the actual bringing about of the Russian Revolution by these international and for the most part atheistical Jews…”
    Winston S. Churchill

    • Michael Garfinkel

      Funny, Jean Jacques Rousseu didn’t look Jewish.

      Communism has intellectual roots that go much deeper than the twentieth century.

      Yes, the Bolsheviks were a bloody disgrace, but the simplistic assertion that “Jews did it” is contemptible.

      Regardless, the Left was, and is anti-Semitic.

    • You have a twisted learning of history. Trotsky did not consider himself to be a Jew. Lenin was a bigger anti-semite than Stalin. Your so called Provisional Government as you called it was corrupt from the Tsar down. The Russian Revolution could not come about if not for the masses of Russians that wanted it. They were in the most part Eastern Orthodox Christians. The so called White Russians that fought to retain the Tsar were notoriously anti-semetic.

    • The use of so-called individual “Jewish” frontmen (there was nothing Jewish about these “Jewish” individuals. They were in fact virulently anti-Jewish) is a technique used by the global shadow gov mafia to conceal itself and setup the Jewish community at large as scapegoat for massive theft and genocide.

      The real power that selected and empowered these so-called “Jewish” frontmen is the Vatican, via its fascist banking and corporate subsidiaries in the US. The same power which sponsored the Communists also sponsored the Nazis (see Antony Sutton), and used both in pincer movements to annihilate “heretics”. These “heretics” included Orthodox Christians, Protestants, Jews, Liberal Catholics. Both “Stalin” and “Hitler” were Roman Catholic priests. That is where they were selected and sponsored for their mission of genocide.

      The same goes on today. If you follow who are the main victims of US/NATO wars along their Roman Catholic spawned Jihadistani proxies, it is Jews/Israelis, Orthodox Christians, liberal Catholics, etc.

      Follow the money. Follow who it is that runs the NSA the CIA the FBI the propaganda outlets and rest of the US gov mafia, it is all Catholics. The richest counties in the US are all connected to the military industrial complex — they get trillions of dollars spend there — and they are ALL majority Catholic. That’s no coincidence.

    • “250 jewish communists”

      This is supposed to be a meaningful number? “250 jewish communists” out of a population of 18 million Jews at that time.

      “250 Jewish communists” of out a global population of millions of communists, again, this is supposed to meaningful?

      People are so propagandized by empty rhetoric they lose all capability of reason.

    • Your Jew hate is showing Doug. Care to provide proof your canards. The Churchill quote, not unsurprisingly, only appears on sites like the KKK and stormfront.

      As for Tritsky, yet again your version only appears on nazi blogs. FACT is he left NY alone and was immediately detained and imprisoned. But then, why let the truth obfuscate your nazi tendencies

    • No shock Doug posts his canards and then slithers off back to his roach hole

  • For Hitler the Jews and the Bolsheviks were one and the same. (But then so were the Jews and Capitalists).

  • Yet Hitler came to power as a violent anticommunist. The power and wealth of the German industrialists and nobility launched his career.It is ironic that many communists in those years were Jews. An excellent book on this topic is Hitler’s Willing Partners.

    • Hitler’s rise to power came both from the German industrialists – who saw it as a way to eliminate the Jews and attain slave labor (Schindler for example) coupled with overwhelming support for adolf by US industrialists – including Ford, Edison and Lindbergh – as well as a push by the US State Dept to help adolf eradicate the Jews …much like today’s US State Dept is in concert with obama to help the ayatollahs achieve

      • To Arie: Your bunching of “US industrialists” with Ford, Edison and Lindbergh as supporters of Hitler along with the State Dept. with Obama is utter nonsense. Your bridging of these individuals with institutions and State demonstates ignorance beyond belief. Proof is not shown;proof can’t be shown; there is no proof!

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