JACOB TALMON: JEWISH HISTORY AND WORLD HISTORY

October 29, 2006 at 6:31 am | Posted in Books, Globalization, History, Israel, Judaica, Philosophy, Zionism | Leave a comment

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Jacob Talmon

19161980

Jacob Leib Talmon (19161980) was Professor of Modern History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has been categorised as a ‘Cold War liberal’ because of his devout anti-Marxism which permeates his main works.

He notably studied the genealogy of totalitarianism
arguing that such political Messianism stemmed from the French Revolution, and stressed the similarities between Jacobinism and Stalinism.

He coined the terms Totalitarian Democracy
and Political Messianism.

Talmon was born in Poland, into an orthodox Jewish
family. He left in 1934 to study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, then Mandate Palestine, now Israel. He continued his studies in France but left for London after the Nazi invasion; in 1943 he was awarded a PhD from the London School of Economics.

He received the Israeli Prize in 1957.

His main works are The Origins of Totalitarian
Democracy
and Political Messianism: The Romantic Phase. Talmon argued that Rousseau‘s position may best be understood as “totalitarian democracy“; that is, as a philosophy in  which liberty is realized “only in the pursuit and attainment of an absolute collective purpose.”

Talmon’s anti-utopian liberalism shares affinities with the political thought of Isaiah Berlin, Friedrich August von Hayek and Karl Popper.

Major works

  • The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy, 1952
  • The Nature of Jewish History-Its Universal Significance, 1957
  • Political Messianism – The Romantic Phase, 1960
  • The Unique and The Universal, 1965
  • Romanticism and Revolt, 1967
  • Israel among the Nations, 1968
  • The Age of Violence, 1974
  • The Myth of Nation and Vision of Revolution, The Origins of Ideological Polarization in the 20th Century, 1981
  • The Riddle of the Present and the Cunning of History 2000 (Hebrew, p.m.)

External links

J. L. Talmon, Israel Among The Nations

Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London 1970.

http://users.cyberone.com.au/myers/talmon.html.

Talmon was Professor of Modern History at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem; his best-known book is The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy.

The word “Goyim” means Non-Jews, Gentiles, Pagans; but it is also translated “Nations”.

Israel Among the Nations, then, is about Israel’s mission to bring
Light to the Pagans, and overcome their resistance – which is called Anti-Semitism.

As one who grew up Catholic, thinking of others (including
Protestants) as “Pagans”, it is stunning to find oneself considered
“Pagan” by fundamentalist Christians; and equally stunning to find all
Christians considered “Pagan” by fundamentalist Jews. Once one sees this,
further recognitions follow: that Zoroastrianism, 2500 years ago in the First Persian
Empire, was branding others “Pagan” in the same way. Islam, of course, does it
too.

This is how J. L. Talmon is described in Who’s Who in World Jewry,
Pitman Publishing Co., New York 1972:

“TALMON, Jacob L, Isr, educator; b. Rypin. Pol, June 14, 1916; s.
Abraham and Zipora (Lichtenstein); MA, Heb U, 1939, att Sorbonne, 1939 PhD, LSE, 1943; m.
Irena Bugajer, Nov 23, 1961. Prof modern hist, Heb U; visiting f: St Catherine’s Coll,
Oxford; Inst for Advanced Study, Princeton, 1967-68, visiting prof, MIT, 1968-69, secy,
Pal comm, asst secy fgn affairs comm, Bd of Dep of Brit Jews, 1944-47. Mem, The Isr
Academy of Scis and Humanities. Author: The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy, 1952; The
Nature of Jewish History-Its Universal Significance, 1957; Political Messianism – The
Romantic Phase, 1960; The Unique and The Universal, 1965; Romanticism and Revolt, 1967;
Israel among the Nations, 1968. Recipient: Israel prize; grant, Rockefeller Found. Home:
41 Ramban St, Jerusalem, Isr. Office: Heb U, Jerusalem, Isr.”

… the highest accolades. Now the quotes from Talmon’s Israel Among the Nations:

{p. 1} It has for a long time been almost an axiom that The Revolution was
the ally, some were even wont to say saviour of the Jews, and that the Jews were the
natural standard-bearers of the revolution. Just now, however, only a quarter of a century
after the apocalyptic confrontation between revolution and counter-revolution, in the
course of which a third of the Jewish people were put to death by the latter as part of
its crusade against the former, various upholders of revolution are adopting anti-Jewish
attitudes {ed. – a reference to Stalin & his successors refusing to accept the Jewish
domination characteristic of the early USSR}, and yet Jews continue to be taking an active
and often leading part in the revolutionary wave of today; although also their
social-economic situation should on the face of it be drawing them away from revolution
rather than driving them to it. These developments are a sufficient justification for
attempting another look at the now nearly two centuries old association between Jews and
revolution, or on a wider canvas – at the problem of Jews between revolution and
counter-revolution. This is not a subject that can easily be treated with lofty
detachment. It is indeed like a foundling, a waif, an abandoned child. No one is willing
to claim it for its own sake. Those who should be most interested, revolutionaries of
Jewish extraction, or revolutionaries in general, tend to deny the very legitimacy of the
juxtaposition, ‘Jews and revolution’. It is, they argue, men, classes, peoples who rise in
revolt against oppression, that many revolutionaries have

{p. 2} been of Jewish ancestry is quite irrelevant and the very desire to
see it as relevant arises out of a sinister intention to discredit the cause of revolution
itself

Then there are those Jews who are unable to ignore the intimate relation
between Jews and revolution, but wish they had never heard of it. They too sense
mischievous designs in the raising of the issue, and they respond by nervously disclaiming
any connection with their distant kinsmen gone astray.

There are Jews, nationalists, usually, who like to dwell on the subject,
but only as a cautionary tale. How fatuous, vain and perilous it is to wander into alien
vineyards: ‘Back to your tents, oh children of Jacob.’ This has become also the attitude
of the survivors of those groups in Jewry which in the past desired to combine
revolutionary commitment with a sustained endeavour to assert some form of national Jewish
identity. They feel now utterly rejected, almost a reproach unto themselves. It is indeed
a charged, infinitely sensitive, not to say explosive subject, while being at the same
time maddeningly vague and elusive, with no definite structure.

{p. 3} By revolution, I mean the process of change which has been in
permanent motion first in the Western world, and now throughout the whole planet, since
the French and the Industrial revolutions converged two centuries ago. …

The bourgeoisie – we read in The Communist Manifesto – cannot exist
without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the
relations of production, and with them all the relations of society. Conservation of the
old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of
existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production,
uninterrupted distrubance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation
distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones.

{so class war, rather than an essential feature of civilized society as
Marx claimed, is specifically a feature of the capitalist i.e. Free Trade economy which
Marx himself promoted as a means to achieve Communist Revolution: classwar.html}

{p. 9} But as the nineteenth century moved to a close, the varying
sentiments of resistance to revolutionary universalism began to show signs of developing
into an ideology. Gradually the forces involved coalesced into a confraternity of the
counter-revolution, acquiring in the process a new dynamism and a mass following. In this
encounter between revolution and counter-revolution the Jewish factor played an
incalculable part. The role of Jews as agent, irritant, actor, test case and victim of
that mighty clash is the subject of these reflections.

No other group betokened more strikingly the fact of change. With the
exception of the ultra-orthodox, desperately fearful of change of any kind, Jews
everywhere looked upon the French Revolution as a date comparable to the exodus from
Egypt, and to the issuing of the Law from Mount Sinai, this time not to the Jews alone,
but to all the nations. France of the Revolution became to them a second country, to more
exalted believers in the superiority of the spirit over matter, their sole spiritual
fatherland, just as the Soviet Union was to millions of Communists throughout the world
just a short while ago. Indeed, as late as 1939, and only one year before the anti-Jewish
laws were issued by the Vichy Government, the Chief Rabbi of France celebrated the one
hundred and fiftieth anniversary of that great deliverance in precisely such dithyrambic
language.

The revolution brought the Jews out of the ghetto into the forum. They had
never been seen there before. It was not

{p. 10} unnatural for the casualties of the revolution to view the Jews as
among its main beneficiaries, profiting from the misfortunes of the losers. In the
deliberations in the French National Assembly on Jewish emancipation in I789, some
clerical right-wingers from Alsace raised the spectre of an imminent Jewish take-over of
all Christian property in that most Jewish province of France: ‘Within one month they will
own half of the land of the province; within six years all of it.’ In 1790 Edmund Burke
called the Jews birds of prey hovering over the spoils of Church property nationalised by
the revolution in France. From seeing the Jew as the beneficiary the counter-revolutionary
losers soon moved to ascribe to him the authorship of the undesirable things. At the turn
of the century German Romantics and reactionaries would dub the theories of natural law,
human rights and popular sovereignty as a Jewish import from France. At the end of the
nineteenth century Charles Maurras proclaimed the same teachings a Jewish import from
Germany. In both cases the accusation was that these doctrines were part of a plot to
break the natural resistance ofthe body politic to the Jewish invasion of the national
culture and society, and of a godless resolve to destroy the Christian State.

From Burke and Bonald onward, spokesmen of the counter-revolution kept
saying that they knew Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, for that matter a member of a dass,
group or locality, but had never met a man. No wonder that abstract international finance,
commodity economy, mass production, standardised procedures, free trade, liberal values,
not to speak of Socialist internationalism – all a-national or even anti-national –
appeared in the eyes of the counter-revolution to be ‘Jewish phenomena’. …

There were hardly any Jews among the first great inventors and the early
captains of industry on the Continent. But

{p. 11} there were the Rothschilds, spread across Europe, in Frankfurt,
London, Paris, Vienna and Naples. They captured the imagination of Europe, to the point of
putting all Gentile banking houses of Europe into the shade, while making the Jewish
bankers everywhere appear as Rothschild agencies. And they specialised in as it were
invisible, yet immensely powerful things, and no government could carry on, it was
believed, without loans from them. … it was the Jewish Saint-Simonists who were among
the most fervent apostles of railway building, as incidentally also a means of uniting
Europe and in due course the world, for that peaceful industrial endeavour which was sure
to exorcise the spectre of war from our planet for ever. It was no accident that Jews were
the founders of the first international telegraphic news agencies and very prominent in
building up the European press. In brief, they conformed beautifully to the classical
image of the hinges and pegs in the European economy and polity. … And, as said,
credence was added to this image by the conspicuousness of

{p. 12} the Jews in the central arteries of the body politic and the most
sensitive foci of the economy.

On the identification of capitalism with Jews there was the curious, and prima
facie
paradoxical agreement between counter-revolutionary writers who hated capitalism
as a materialist solvent of old traditions and national peculiarity on the one hand, and
Socialist revolutionaries who condemned it as a system of social oppression and human
alienation on the other.

Tocqueville expresses in an elegant way the same idea which Marx was
hammering out in a ponderously Hegelian and arrestingly aphoristic language: the
bourgeois-liberal state had abolished all privileges and all inequalities of birth, race
and creed, but failed to touch property, proclaiming economic inequality irrelevant from
the legal and political points of view. It had thereby given property free rein and in
fact turned it into the dominant factor. In an unrecognised, almost illegal manner, money
was made into the sole and supreme privilege in a society where birth, religion, tradition
had become entirely subordinated to the supremely real cash nexus. But whereas
Tocqueville was not concerned with the Jews at all, partly
because of his utter abhorrence of racism, as illustrated in his correspondence with Count
Gobineau, Marx spells out the anti-Semitism argument fully. ‘What is the secular basis of
Judaism?’, asks Marx. ‘Practical need, self-interest. What is the wordly cult of the Jew?
Bargaining … Money has become a world power, and the practical Jewish spirit has become
the practical spirit ofthe Christian nations. The Jews have emancipated themselves in so
far as the Christians have become Jews.’ Judaism has attained ‘universal dominion’ by
connecting ‘externalised man and nature into alienable and saleable objects subservient to
egoistic need, dependent on bargaining’.

The very fact that the Jews had not yet gained equal rights underscored
and indeed epitomised the great lie at the bottom of the liberal-bourgeois regime: the
credibility gap between the official, seemingly popularly elected political rulers and the
hidden holders of real power. Alluding to the Rothschilds, Bruno Bauer says: ‘The Jew who
is only tolerated in Vienna, for example,

{p. 13} determines the fate of the whole Empire through his financial
power. The Jew who may be without rights in the smallest German state decides the destiny
of Europe. While corporations and guilds exclude the Jew or are unfavourable to him,
audacity in industry mocks the obstinacy of these medieval institutions.’ It was a
favourite argument with the early Socialists that capitalism had in fact re-established a
kind of neo-feudalism, while it took great pride in having abolished its venerable
predecessor. Inherited privilege and all special legal status had been abolished, but
surely capitalism was bound to perpetuate the distinction between the haves and have-nots.
Inherited wealth will face inherited poverty, for as the former will become more
consolidated, it will become much more diffilcult for those plunged in the latter to come
out of their penury. And so the Jews were destined to become the feudal lords of the
modern world – Toussenel’s ‘industrial-financial feudalism’ .

We are thus faced with a sriking paradox: to the conservatives the Jews
are the symbol, beneficiary, finally the maker of the capitalist revolution which was in
their eyes a kind of preparation for the Socialist revolution; to the Socialists – the
embodiment and pillar of that capitalism, which the revolution was rising to destroy.

And yet it would be a great mistake to tar all the Socialists with the
same brush and proclaim tham all anti-Semites. While Fourier, Toussenel, Proudhon, Pierre
Leroux and Bakunin loathed the Jews, Saint-Simon and his disciples were emphatically
philo-Semitic, whereas Marxism was in spite of Marx’s spleen against his own race
fundamentally not anti-Semitic. The line of demarcation in this was the approval or
disapproval of change, indeed one may say of the modern world, and also the presence or
absence of direct Jewish inspiration, which in most cases meant the same.

While the Saint-Simonists, and in a somewhat ambivalent

{p. 14} form Marx himself, saw in capitalism, notwithstanding its evils, a
necessary prelude to socialism, a station on the winding way to a Messianic denouement, a
moment in the dialectic of history, the anti-Semitic Socialists regarded the emergence of
industrial capitalism as an event comparable to the original Fall of Man. Whereas the
former wanted to hasten the process of industrialisation, the latter would have liked to
dismantle industrial society altogether. The former take a universal view of change,
thrill at innovation and love bigness. The latter feel their integrity and identity
threatened. It is no accident that Jews and Jewish inspiration were so prominent in
Saint-Simonism and Marxism, and that the opponent of these two movements came to be
motivated by such fierce hatred of the Jews.

Under the influence of his Jewish disciples, the wealthy Rodriguez
brothers and their cousins, the Pereira brothers, who took care of him in his old age, and
in fact played an apostolic role in his movement – that first Socialist movement in Europe
– Saint-Simon quite explicitly links his vision of the future to the Messianic hopes of
Judaism.

{quote} The people of God – writes St Simon – that people which received
revelations before the coming of Christ, that people which is the most universally spread
over the surface of the earth, has always perceived that the Christian doctrine founded by
the Fathers of the Church was incomplete. It has always proclaimed that a grand epoch will
come, which has been given the name of Messiah’s Kingdom; an epoch in which religious
doctrine shall be presented in all the generality of which it is susceptible, and shall
regulate alike the action of the temporal and of the spiritual power. All the human race
will then have but one religion and one organisation: the Golden Age was not behind us, it
was before us! {endquote}

In the vindication of capitalism as a necessary and beneficial phase in
history, the Saint-Simonists went so far as to glorify the role of bankers as unwitting
planners of the national economy through granting or withholding credit. Indeed Jewish
usury, the butt of infinite contempt and moral indignation, was rehabilitated by them in a
rather quaint manner. By lending money to the idle parasitic feudals, and by squeezing
them dry, the Jewish usurers

{p. 15} were instrumental in passing on unproductive money, which would
otherwise have been squandered by spendthrifts, into the hands of the productive elements,
bourgeois entrepreneurs, and in hastening thus the capitalist development which was the
necessary prelude to Socialism. And we have read Marx’s hymns on the glorious achievements
of capitalism on the way to Socialism.

The anti-Semitic Socialist theoreticians and prophets were united in a
basic disapproval and fear of a world tossed about by incessant change and moving
constantly in the direction of abstract universalism. Fourier, Proudhon, and Bakunin stand
in horror before the anonymity of industrial society and the centralisation it entails.
They look back, as said before, to the lost innocence of pre-capitalist society or to some
pristine state of nature. They extol the virtues of independent craftsmen and peasants and
glorify the instinctive nobility of the unsophisticated, primitive rebel. They dream of
small communities, anarchistic groups held together by mutual aid. They look forward to a
utopian world of ‘pure justice’, to the abolition of all authority and to the release of
the passions. They loathe credit, exchange, the market mechanism, modern communications,
the international press: all embodied for them in the Jew, the ghostly hand which holds
the disparate parts together, and manipulates the figures on the chess-board. Thus
Toussenel:

{quote} The Jew is by temperament an anti-producer, neither a farmer, nor
an industrialist, not even a true merchant. He is an intermediary, always fraudulent and
parasitic, who operates in trade as in philosophy, by means of falsification,
counterfeiting [and] horse-trading. He knows but the rise and fall of prices, the risks of
transportation, the incertitudes of crops, the hazards of demand and supply. His policy in
economics has always been entirely negative, entirely usurious. It is the evil principle,
Satan, Ahriman incarnated in the race of Shem, which has already been twice exterminated
by the Greeks and by the Romans, the first time at Tyre, the second time at Carthage; the
cosmopolitan Jew … Europe is entailed to the domination of Israel. This universal
domination, of which so many conquerors have dreamed, the Jews have in their hands.
{endquote}

{p. 16} At another point it is Proudhon and Bakunin who meet and sharply
diverge from Saint-Simonism and Marxism. The two latter philosophies shared with the
former the vision of a reborn man with a new morality, but their postulate was grounded
upon faith in the power of social conditions, educational influences, and reason to
engender that change. The man of the future was man per se, neither Jew, nor Greek,
nor Gentile {an allusion to Paul’s Epistle to the Galations, 3:28: neither.html}, nor was he envisaged as being in any way helped or
hampered by his ancestry, blood, race or nationality. Not so with Proudhon, who was
enamoured of the peasants and artisans of France and who loathed all foreigners; not so
with Bakunin, to whom the authentic revolutionary was not a man who reasoned and planned,
but a creature of instinct and of an existential situation: so he successively looked for
salvation to the unspoilt spontaneous Slavs, the rebellious Russian peasants of Pugatchev
and Stienka Razin, the primitive bandits, finally the declasse outcasts of all kinds,
including criminals whose passion for destruction – the necessary condition for total
reconstruction – was not hampered by any possessions or vested interests. For both
Proudhon and Bakunin it was a short step from populism to racism, to the hatred of whole
racial or national groups in defiance of the universality of the Socialist ideal. Bakunin
could thus describe the Jews as ‘an exploiting sect, a blood-sucking people, a unique,
devouring parasite tightly and intimately organised … cutting across all the differcnces
in political opinion’. But no one could have gone further in this than Proudhon:

{quote} Jews – Write an article against this race which poisons
everything, by meddling everywhere without ever joining itself to another people. – Demand
their expulsion from France, with the exception of individuals married to Frenchwomen –
Abolish the synagogues; don’t

{p. 17} admit them to any kind of employment, pursue finally the abolition
of this cult. It is not for nothing that the Christians called them deicides. The Jew is
the enemy of the human race. {endquote}

This leads us to try to elicit the Jewish ingredient of the religion of
revolution in contrast to the anti-Semitic strand in it, or at least as distinct from the
non-Jewish elements in the revolutionary movement.

{p. 17} Is it possible to detect significantly distinct, or at least
especially accentuated characteristics in the Jewish revolutionaries in the early pre-1848
days of capitalism (and Socialism)? I believe that there is reason to speak of a certain
common denominator linking the Jewish Saint-Simonists – among the first Socialists in
France, Moses Hess – the first Communist (at a later date Zionist) in Germany, the two
leading Socialists of Europe, Karl Marx and Ferdinand Lassalle, and many lesser Jewish
figures in the camp of revolution.

To be sure, it was not the Jews who created that particular climate of
Messianic revolutionary expectation and preparation which it takes today some effort of
imagination to conjure up. Babeuf, Buonarotti, Blanqui, Barbes, Mazzini, Harney,
Mieroslavski – none of them and hardly any of their immediate followers were Jews. But it
was the Jews who experienced and articulated that state of mind with peculiar intensity
and their restless zeal spilled over into effective organisational activity.

No other group, not even the uprooted villagers who flocked into the
rapidly growing industrial centres, underwent a more

{p. 18} thorough break with their former mode of existence than Jews,
almost suddenly cut off from their ancestral faith, unique style of life, communal
cohesion and isolation, and pariah status. Nothing existing could any longer be taken for
granted. Everything seemed provisional, a preparation for the real thing to come. Ready as
it were to absorb all these complex feelings of malaise, expectation, hope and zeal was
the ancient Messianic disposition.

Having abandoned their own extremely compact tradition, but not really or
fully admitted to any other living tradition, and indeed unable to respond to the myths
and symbols of the surrounding nation or to share fully the life of the working classes,
it was only to be expected that those alienated Jews who could not bring themselves to
submit to Baptism would seek an anchor in the dream of a mankind one and undivided, in
Marx’s human essence, where there would be no distinction between Jews, Greek and Gentile
{another allusion to Paul’s Epistle to the Galations, 3:28: neither.html},
eventually not even between worker and intellectual, where all things were made for all
men, and where only the personal qualities of mind and heart and individual merit
mattered.

{quote} All life, – writes young Hess – every aspiration is bound to end
in frustration, so long as the aristocratic poison flows through all the arteries of
society. I do not mean only the aristocracy of blood, nor solely the aristocracy of money.
I mean every type of rule which is not based upon personal merit, but derives from blind
chance, privilege of birth. In brief, I mean every so-called historic right. {endquote}

The early Jewish revolutionaries dream of a new religion, a religion of
mankind the essence of which would be a new social gospel. It is curious to see them, all
the same, employing Christian imagery and ideas to express their universalist longings,
and dwelling on the superiority of the universal message of Christ over the tribal
exclusiveness of Judaism. Otherwise they dream of a new Christianity without dogmas. ‘So
long as it [Christianity]’ writes young Hess – ‘has not yet become the truly universal
religion … true entirely and solely to its Founder, striving for the salvation of man in
the fullest and most human sense, will the Jew be unable to espouse it’. Eugene Rodriguez,
who died at the age

{p. 19} of twenty-three, consumed by a Messianic fervour which his ailing
body could not contain, translated Lessing’s ‘Letters on the Enlightenment of Humanity’
into French, and prefaced them with a lengthy statement in which he pleaded in exalted
language for a religion of mankind which would synthesize the best contained in all
existing religions and turn the progressive endeavour of mankind into an act of religious
self-expression. We have the striking confession from his older brother Olinde, the St
Paul of Saint-Simon:

{quote} The crisis of reorganisation in politics and morality commences
with me, through Saint-Simon, whose heir I am by virtue of function. … From the day when
Saint-Simon met the man who … understood the sciences, was sensitive to the fine arts
and practised industry, the man who carried in him by blood the tradition of Moses, by
disinterestedness that of Christ; from the day when that man, who … had learned from
contact with industrialists and scientists the secret of their force and the weakness of
their morality; from the day when that man, burning to his innermost with the living flame
of Saint-Simon, felt himself penetrated by a new life, and recognised in Saint-Simon … a
new father; from that day was born the association of the universal family; from that day
there became possible the reunion of Jews and Christians in the bosom of a new
Christianity, a universal religion. {endquote}

One could quote many cases of an ardent young Jew suddenly smitten by a
revelation and enabled to make the decisive leap. He feels suddenly reborn; he has
discovered the real truth; he has found an anchor, a cause to live for; such was the case
of Olinde Rodriguez, Marx himself, of Lassalle, and so many others; often men who had
previously thought of dedicating themselves to their own suffering people, half in love
for and half in contempt of them.

The most distinct and most effective ‘Jewish’ feature of the early
Messianic Jewish revolutionaries was, however, I think, their inability to comprehend, and
consequently their unwillingness to accept the fundamental Christian dogma of original sin
– the idea of the eternal and inescapable dichotomy between the knowledge of what was good
and the impotence to do it, between what should be and what is, between theory and
practice, the world of

{p. 20} pure ideas and defective reality, private and social morality,
politics and ethics, faith and works, heaven and earth, spirit and matter – as the
essential human condition. No genuine revolutionary experience is in the last analysis
possible as long as that fatalistic attitude persists.

The Jewish disciples of Saint-Simon, the Rodriguez brothers and the
Pereira brothers, as well as the convert Gustav d’Eichthal, voice the sense of their
ancestral prophetic mission to dedicate themselves to the work of bridging the gap between
theory and practice. Their rational society was to be based upon the precise
determinations of modern technology, and guided by technocrats filled with overflowing
love and prophetic premonitions. The Gentile Saint-Simonists have visions of the Jewess
from the East announcing the Messianic tidings by undoing the evil deed of Eve, and
cancelling the effects of the original sin which had made man, devoured by concupiscence,
impotent to secure his own salvation, and ensnared him in that terrible contradiction of
‘I know the good, and cannot help doing evil’, and then erected barriers of hatred between
men, classes, religions and nations.

‘Because I not only know’ – writes Hess in a letter to Herzen ‘what I
want, but also want what I know – I am more of an apostle than of a philosopher’ – ‘the
social revolution is my religion’. Without a philosophy, man – says Hess in another place
often comes to doubt the supreme truth, God, virtue, morality and liberty. But knowledge
alone is not enough to give one bliss. Only the identity of thought and action can give
it. {This is the Marxist concept of Praxis} It was from Hess and the Pole
Cieszkowski that Marx drew the inspiration for his famous device that it was not enough to
understand and criticise reality, it was imperative – and possible – to change it. There
was no ideal history beyond concrete history, and no transcendental meaning above the
concrete logic of social development. But Marx escapes the danger of relativism – one
phase as necessary as the other, one ruling class as justified in its own day as its
successor next day – by the vision of the proletariat carrying the burdens, afflicted with
the evils of all classes – dialectically evolving into free and pure humanity, acting as
the heart of philosophy.

The relentlessly universal nature of the Messianic vision and the

{p. 21} strenuous conviction of the inevitability of its fulfilment are at
the bottom of Marx’s fierce condemnation of and indeed denial of any raison d’etre to the
pastoral, pig-raising and pig-headed little tribal Slav nations, and for that matter
Denmark in 1848. Through their particularistic aspirations and alliance with feudal
reaction they were impeding the march of world revolution which was carried by the great
and advanced nations, like the Germans. This basic attitude will, at a later date, cause
Marx to approve and extol the work of British imperialism in fighting superstition and
fatalistic lethargy in India, forcing upon it industrialisation and thus bringing the
great continent nearer to revolution. …

The great wave of revolutions in 1848, spreading with lightning speed from
capital to capital, almost from town to town across Europe, was greeted by very many Jews
as proof that all nations were about to enter into a revolutionary world association.
{i.e. World Government, i.e. the messianic age}

Not only the democratic and Socialist aspirations, but even the national
liberation movements bore at least in the early phase a distinctly universalist character.
So great was the enthusiasm of the Jews that they were prepared to overlook the
anti-Jewish excesses or gloss them over as tokens of too great an exuberance, misguided
expressions of social resentment, marginal episodes, unavoidable accidents or
counter-revolutionary provocations, or ‘birth pangs, which bring redemption to our world’;
and even to proclaim that the victory of universal brotherhood had put ‘an end to any
distinct Jewish history’, ‘for liberty, like love, is cosmopolitan, wandering from people
to people’.

There was hardly a revolution – that year of revolutions – in which Jews
were not prominent or at least very active.

{p. 22} In France, where there was no Jewish proletariat and where Jews
except for the Jewish Saint-Simonists, were generally no further to the Left than
bourgeois republicanism, Adolphe Cremieux and Goudchaux joined the government of the
Republic as mild liberal Republicans. In Germany, where the Jews were more numerous, of a
lesser social status, and less a part of the general society than across the Rhine, we
find a much greater proportion of Jews in the Radical Left. Karl Marx is the editor of the
extreme Neue Rheinische Zeitung, Jacoby is the spokesman of radical democracy, who
will dare to castigate Friedrich Wilhelm IV to his face for refusing to listen to the
truth, Stephen Born emerges as the first organiser of trade-unionism in Germany,
Gottschalk heads the Communist demonstrations in the Rhineland. Dr Fischhof is the leader
of the Vienna students who raise the standard of revolt in the Danubian capital. Daniel
Manin plays an immortal role in the defence of revolutionary Venice against the Austrians.

Although it would be a wild exaggeration to depict the wave of revolutions
as led by Jews or as a result of a Jewish plot, it was possible for King Friedrich Wilhelm
IV of Prussia to charge ‘the circumcised’ for having brought ‘that shame upon Germany’,
and for a Catholic journal in Vienna to speak of the ‘most intense pain experienced by
those who saw … the Jew Fischhof marching as head of the Committee of Public Safety just
behind the canopy under which the Crucifix was carried, holding a candle, like formerly
His Imperial Majesty the Apostolic King, and to ask ‘was it an accident or was there in it
a symbol pregnant with significance?’ Affirmative answers to this question were given by
some contemporary Jews.

We have two astonishingly similar comments on the role of the Jews in the
revolution from two eminent Jews standing at opposite poles of the political spectrum. One
comes from Benjamin Disraeli in his Life of Lord George Bentinck, published in
1852, and the other from the German-Jewish Socialist J. L. Bernays in the {p. 23} New York
German-Jewish journal Israels Herold in 1849. Disraeli had set out to prove the
superiority of the Jewish race. ‘The degradation of the Jewish race is alone a striking
evidence of its excellence, for none but one of the great races could have survived the
trials which it has endured.’ There was indeed no other race ‘that so much delights, and
fascinates, and elevates, and ennobles Europe, as the Jewish … the most admirable
artists of the drama … the most entrancing singers, graceful dancers, and exquisite
musicians [including incidentally Mozart – J.L.T.] are sons and daughters of Israel’ …

{p. 24} {quote} Had it not been for the Jews … imbecile as were the
governments, the uncalled-for outbreak would not have ravaged Europe. But the fiery energy
and the teeming resources of the Children of Israel maintained for a long time the
unnecessary and useless struggle … everywhere the Jewish element. … And all this
because they wish to destroy that ungrateful Christendom which owes to them even its name,
and whose tyranny they can no longer endure. {endquote}

By contrast, ‘the great transatlantic republic is intensely semitic and
has prospered accordingly’ – Disraeli seems to re-echo an observation of Marx, but one
made in an entirely different spirit.

Bernays gives a similar evaluation of ‘the Jewish element in the latest
European movement’, but in a spirit that he himself recognises ‘will be considered by a
large part of the readers as highly dangerous’, namely that of joyous triumph, instead of
the anxious regret of Disraeli. Bernays is soaked in young Hegelian modes of thought, and
often employs the same terms as Marx, only to reach the opposite conclusion. Both were
agreed that the surest way of destroying political and social oppression was through the
destruction of the faith in and respect for God and all religious authority – the
fountain-head of all systems of oppression and alienation which the Gentile leftist
Hegelians like Feuerbach, Fr. D. Strauss, Rugge, and Bauer brothers actually set out to
do. The Jews – Bernays claims – have succeeded in ‘galvanising the raw mob’ against Pope,
bishops, kings and princes, feudal potentates and plutocrats. They ‘laid bare the human
essence buried under the thick crust of intolerance’, and ‘in the face of human worth, …
there comes an end to priest and Rabbi’. In order to obtain their emancipation, the Jews
had first to destroy the Christian essence of the state, the ‘Christian State’. ‘They
criticised Christianity with great dialectical skill and with no pity’, and by becoming
‘in the process atheists, radicals, they became truly free men, with no prejudices’. And
once they had shown that the Christian religion was nothing but a myth, ‘the work was
accomplished’.

More than that, the Jews ‘have rescued men from the narrow idea of an
exclusive fatherland, from patriotism. … The Jew is not only an atheist, but a
cosmopolitan, and he has turned men into

{p. 25} atheists and cosmopolitans; he has made man only a free citizen of
the world.’ Almost consciously contradicting Marx’s famous dictum on the emancipation of
mankind through its emancipation from Judaism, and of the Jews from Judaism, Bernays
triumphantly proclaims: ‘In their struggle for emancipation the Jews have emancipated the
European States from Christianity’. In other words it is not the Christians who gave
emancipation to the Jews, the Jews enabled the Christians to obtain their own
emancipation. ‘The Jews took their revenge upon the hostile world in an entirely new
manner … by liberating men from all religion, from all patriotic sentiment … from
everything that reminded them of race, place of origin, dogma and faith. Men emancipated
themselves that way, and the Jew emancipated them, and the Jew became free with them …
They achieved the incredible, and historians of the people will in the future recognise
their merit willingly and justly.’ It was not their religion or racial qualities that
enabled theJ ews to accomplish all this. It was their existential situation, their fate:
‘Only as the result of a general emancipatory effort could they become free themselves.’
The Jews succeeded in forging for themselves some mighty levers of power to help them in
their work: ‘the power of mobile property represented by the Rothschilds’; the
psychological, spiritually therapeutic influence of
Jewish doctors whose very existence
and sought-after activity defied religious taboos and differences of religion, race and
tradition; and above all the press, ‘which fell everywhere in Europe into Jewish hands’.
And when the revolution broke out, the Jews were everywhere in the forefront. After all,
Christendom had now become atheistic and cosmopolitan, the Jews might as well leave the
stage as a separate people. Their mission had been fulfilled. In a Hegelian manner the
highest assertion of their particularity marks their disappearance within universality.

Bernays concludes with a prophecy, which he finds himself ‘unable to
suppress’. There will be more waves of anti-Jewish persecution. Attacks on the Jewish
religion and the Jewish nationality will be turned into an assault upon radicalism and
free thought. ‘Stand firm, Jews, bear that blow too, because it will be the last ! He who
will dare to attack the man in the Jew, will

{p. 26} bring upon himself all mankind; and that this should not take its
terrible revengc one day, of such a thing there is no example in history.’

Bernays and the Jews in general, so eager in that year of universal
brotherhood to renounce their corporate identity, in some cases even their religious
separateness, entirely misread the real significance of the revolutionary upheaval. The
victor in that revolution proved to be not universalism, but nationalism of the exclusive
type {symbolised by Emperor Napoleon III, target of Maurice Joly’s Dialogues}; not
abstract idealism, but historic continuity; not rationalism, but the powers of instinct;
not the idea of concord, but the fact of force. The Jews became the test case and
whipping-block, when the victory of these counter-revolutionary forces had time to work
itself out.

In the meantime, some fifteen years after the debacle of the revolutionary
hopes in 1848, two Jews emerged as the acknowledged leaders of the revolution. German
workers made their appeal to the Jewish litterateur Lassalle to become their chief
and in response the young dictatorial leader launched his terrific campaign, which was cut
short by his death in an absurd duel, and Karl Marx became the head of the First
International.

At that very time the problem of Jews and revolution began to assume truly
vital significance in the Empire of the Tsars. All comprehensive bondage on the one hand
and the Messianic disposition of the Russian people on the other fed here the vision of
total redemption through total revolution; that yearning could not but affect most deeply
young Jewish men and women, straining to enter the great strcam of humanity, but hemmed in
on all sides by sustained and deliberately humiliating oppression. We know of at least one
Jew, actually a convert by the name of Peretz, who was involved with the gentry and
officers who led the Decembrist rebellion of 1825. We then hear of a Jewish revolutionary
by the name of Dr Robert Feinberg who was deported back into Russia from Prussia for his
participation in the

{p. 27} events in Bcrlin to be sent to Siberia and die there insane in
1860, after having been exempted from amnesty. In the fifties we hear of two doctors,
Benjamin Portugalov and Lev Zelensky, who, especially the former, became popular figures
as ‘physicians humanists’ and defenders of Jewish honour, though adversaries of
traditional religion. It was only in the eighteen-sixties or rather seventies that the
Tsarist authorities woke up to the fact of Jewish prominence in the revolutionary
underground. There occurs then a striking shift in the anti-Jewish argumentation – the
charge of clannish self-centredness and superstitious backwardness gives way to the
accusation of rebelliousness and nihilism. The change reflects far-reaching
transformations in Jewish life in Russia. In the earlier decades the few Jews who made
good by amassing vast fortunes or – less often – entering the ranks of the professions,
professed deep loyalty to the state as their benefactor. Not unlike the Sephardi notables
in the early French Revolution, they drew a line between themselves, enlightened and fully
mature for emancipation, and their unfortunate brethren, steeped still in the dark
Talmudic past. There was a kind of war between the Jewish ‘progressives’ and the Jewish
masses which refused to be ‘reeducated’. The pro-Government official leadership often
stooped to collaborating with the police in rounding up poor Jewish boys in their early
teens for forced military service, while in their despair the orthodox elements did not

shrink from acts of rebellion. The liberal reforms in the early reign of Alexander II
opened the gates of secondary schools and the universities to thousands of the Jewish
youth, among them sons and daughters of poor parents of the Pale, and also enabled
students of the Rabbinical seminars to obtain a university education. And so, by way of
polarisation there emerges a whole class of immensely rich and influential Jewish
entrepreneurs and bankers, to whom we should perhaps also add those converts who reached
the highest positions in government service and in the academic world, but retained close
ties with the Jewish community, on the one side, and revolutionary extremists, especially
among the Jewish students, on the other. But it would be a mistake to lump all the latter
together into the one category of frustrated educated plebians. Besides the wretchedly

{p. 28} poor Paul Axelrod, who was later to make his living in Switzerland
as a milkman, we have Michail Gotz, a member of the multi-millionaire tea magnates family
Wysotzki, besides the cobbler Hirsch Leckert, the famous assassin of the Governor of
Vilna, there is the grand bourgeois Marc Natanson, and while Trotsky came from a farmer
family with not much education, Jewish or general, Ossip Minor, the SR leader, was the son
of the distinguished Chief Rabbi of Moscow (deported for ‘arrogantly’ trying to
build an elegant synagogue in a posh
Moscow district), and the Menshevik leader, Martov, the grandson of the leading Jewish
publicist Zederbaum.

Jewish participation in the revolutionary movement in the seventies was
the excuse for both the 1881 pogroms and the new draconian repressive legislation against
the Jews, which only served to drive many more Jewsinto revolutionary activity – another
case of the vicious circle, so permanent a feature of Jewish existence.

A secret police survey for the years 1873-7 speaks of 67 Jews out of the
1054 defendants tried in courts for revolutionary activity, which means 6 per cent, and
another report of 103 Jews tried for political offences in the Vilna district alone in the
years 1875-90. Among those sentenced for taking part in the famous demonstration on the
Kazan Square in January 1877 there were 5 or 6 Jews out of 21 detained and tried. The
proportion of Jews among the Narodnaya Volia defendants in the years 1880-90 rose to 17
per cent, and of the 54 prominent terrorists sentenced in that period 22 were Jews. In the
years 1884-90, out of 4307 serving prison sentences for political offences 579 were Jews.
In his famous interview with the Tsarist Minister Witte, Herzl was faced with the question
why the Jews who constituted only 3 per cent ofthe population of Russia supplied 50 per
cent of its revolutionaries. In an ill-tempered note jotted down at the time of the famous
Second Congress of the Social-Democratic Party in Brussels and London, which saw the split
into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, Lenin refers to the fact that a third of all the delegates
were Jews.

But absolute figures do not tell the whole story. The qualitative aspects
were more significant. Through their concentration in the

{p. 29} two capitals of Russia, in the other large cities, and in the more
advanced Western provinces, likew Vilna, Minsk, Kiev, Kharkov, not to speak of Warsaw and
other purely Polish cities, the Jews were able to play a role out of all proportion to
their numbers. And if for reasons to be soon adduced there were no Jews among the leading
theoreticians and terrorists in the Narodnaya Volia phase of the Russian revolutionary
movement, they were extremely important and fulfilled the role of pioneering leadership as
far as organisation is concerned; in setting up organised groups, in obtaining the
finances, in the creation of printing shops and the distribution of illegal litcrature, in
smuggling men, arms and literature through the borders, in initiating periodic
publications, and above all in maintaining contacts between the centre and the periphery
within and outside Russia.

Mark Natanson was the real founder and Semion Klatchko, Tchudnovski and
Axelrod were the leaders in Moscow, Odessa and Kiev of the Czaikovski circle. Four of the
twenty-five members of the Grand Council of ‘Zemlya i Volia’ were Jews and upon the famous
‘Ispolinitelin’ Committee of the Narodnaya Volia in 1879 there were three Jews out of
twenty-eight: the famous Aron Zundelewich, Grigori Goldenberg, Saveli Zlotopolsky. The
first two took part in the consultation (of six) which authorised the famous (abortive)
attempt of Soloviev on Alexander II, and Goldenberg had a month earlier shot the
Governor-General of Kharkov. Jews were prominent among the leading Bakuninists in Russia
itself, notwithstanding the leader’s bitter anti-Semitism; it is enough to mention the
first Jewish woman revolutionary, Anna Rosenstein-Makarewitch, Moisei Rabinowitch and Lev
Deich, who was destined to become a legendary figure, the elusive and ubiquitous Flying
Dutchman of the Russian revolutionary underground.

The first Jew to be hanged for terrorist activity was the shoemaker, later
railway worker, finally mechanic, Aharon Gobet, the son of a poor artisan, who at the age
of eleven was forcibly drafted into the Tsarist Army and served in it for thirteen ycars,
coming out of it a non-commissioned officer, hard as steel, with intimate knowledge of
Russian life, looking also a typical Russian …

{p. 50} Georges Sorel says somewhere that the eighteenth century came to
an end only in 1848. The first half of the nineteenth century continued to believe in the
goodness of man, indulged in spinning utopias to secure the happiness of mankind.

{p. 51} The man who epitomised this change more than any other person was
Richard Wagner … Wagner fought in 1848 on the barricades of Dresden alongside the knight
errant of world revolution, Michael Bakunin.

{p. 54} For decades the petite bourgeoisie had been told that its demise
was near. In comparison with the proletariat, which had developed a sense of purpose,
indeed a buoyant conviction that the earth belonged to it, as well as strong
organisational cohesion, the lower middle class lacked a sense of mission. Despised both
by the upper and educated classes and by the workers, it responded with its own version of
nationalism – the claim that it was the real nation as against the selfishly privileged
upper classes and the Socialist workers with their internationalist ideals.

In this assertion by the lower middle class of its identity, anti-Semitism
played an indispensable part. Identity is always brought into relief by contrast, cohesion
requires enmity, solidarity implies strangers. In countries like France and Germany the
position of the Jews as a well-to-do and educated minority which was at the same time a
pariah community, made them a perfect target for those who were neither rich nor educated

{p. 55} Early enough the economic crisis and parliamentary corruption were
laid at the doorstep of the Jews. Some French historians claim that modern anti-Semitism
as a mass movement, emerged upon the collapse of the Union Generalebanking concern,
which was a Catholic enterprise catering for the lower-middle-class interests, as a result
allegedly of the machinations of the House of Rothschild. It was in those days that the
distinction between productive industrial capitalism, practised by high class Gentiles,
often noble or ennobled, or married into nobility, and parasitic predatory speculative
finance capitalism, entirely Jewish by definition, won much currency. It is also only too
true that among the master minds and the go-betweens in the Panama scandal, the chief hero
of which was the venerable Ferdinand Lesseps of Suez Canal fame, were many Jews, indeed
foreign Jews, the German baron Reinach, the American Jew Cornelius Hertz, and Artom from
Italy. The image of Judas Iscariot and

{p. 56} Shylock fitted them beautifully. No wonder the wire-pullers and
corrupters were immediately identified as an international Jewish conspiracy. It did not
escape the notice of contemporaries that in the financial negotiations following the
1870-71 War, Rothschild represented France and Bleichroder, Bismarck’s private banker and
financial adviser, Germany.

{p. 57} To the fearful traditionalists, however, the alienated Jew
appeared as the solvent of established orders and organic cohesion; a nihilist rejoicing
at the sight of disintegration and confusion; the rootless, botched and resentful
outsider, who could never feel at home and at ease, and who therefore turned his impotent
and envious rage against ancient loyalties, sacred myths and hallowed symbols: the Jew, in
brief, was cosmopolitan radicalism incarnate. His tremendous curiosity and receptiveness
betokened the lack of inner core. His mental agility was nothing but glibness or the
sterile erudition of Alexandrian grammarians. His penchant for abstract generalised
thinking was the sign of an inability to come to grips with the concrete realities, the
deep facts of life. His worldly successes were gained by trickery and unscrupulousness.

{p. 58} Here again the Jew emerged as the gravest danger. He was an
outsider and insider at the same time.

{p. 61} The Jews as an ethnic group were deeply anxious to maintain the
supra-national Habsburg Empire, and Jews were also prominent in the leadership of the
Liberal as well as Socialist parties, and they were the spearhead of universalist culture.

The Jews appeared to their racist enemies in two forms, as a universal
solvent and a ghostly anti-race on the one hand, and as a most cohesive and tenacious
racial group determined to establish its rule over the whole world on the other. The Jews
preached brotherhood of men, the superiority of universal values, the irrelevance of
blood, race, nationality, history. Jewish capitalism destroyed national cohesion through
materialist individualism, Jewish socialism with the help of class war. But the Jews
themselves, in spite oftheir dispersion, retained their clannishness, remaing a nation
apart, linked together by unbreakable ties. The preaching of the Jew was subtly intended
to drug and weaken

{p. 62} the nations of Europe, while Judah, congregated in metropolitan
centres, master of the mass media, close to the most sensitive arteries of power, bent
upon experiment and adventure in every new field, spread his dominion over them all.
Erikson suggests that the anti-Semites were filled not only with fear, but also envy of
what to them seemed the Jew’s supreme instinctive self-assurance and single-minded
purposefulness, the very things they lacked and craved for. Hence the fear of being
submerged and swamped by Jewish world mastery. Well before the Protocols of Zion
had started upon their career, with their lurid descriptions of secret conclaves of the
sinister sages formulating precise blueprints for debauching and dominating the Gentile
world, of the worship of Satan and anti-Christ upon deserted cemeteries and under a pale
moon, culminating in a dance around the golden calf, men of exceptional erudition and
acumen were writing seriously about the danger of Jewish world domination.

{p. 65} An in ideologieal shift takes place: chauvinist passion is fused
with anti-capitalist slogans. From now on, however, the capitalist is the Jewish
capitalist. It is no exaggeration to say – and this indeed was the view of contemporaries,
of anti-Semites and Marxists alike – that anti-Semitism becomes elevated into an
alternative and rival creed to Socialism.

{p. 69} Three years later the Tsar and all his family were helpless
prisoners guarded by a Jew and a few Latvian assistants. ‘There was grim although probably
quite accidental retribution’ – says
W. H.
Chamberlain in his monumental Russian Revolution – ‘in the fact that the chief
executioner of Tsar Nicholas II and his family in the Ekaterinburg cellar was a Jew’,
Jacob Yurovsky … As if to heighten the symbolism of that dreadful end of one of the most
powerful Royal dynasties in history at

{p. 70} the hands of an obscure Jew, soldiers of the counter-revolutionary
army seized Ekaterinburg a short time after, and found in the murdered Tsarina’s room a
copy of the Protocols of Zion with drawings of the Swastika. {ed. – if the
Protocols were a forgery produced by the Tsar’s own secret police, why would the Tsarina
have kept a personal copy in her own room?} There is little doubt that the latter had no
political significance and was only a superstitious emblem to the poor, hysterical and
half-crazy woman. Still, here was an Aryan royal martyr at hand for future use.

{As at p. 188 below, with regard to Stalin, Talmon seems to be following
Norman Cohn’s book Warrant For Genocide. Cohn writes, “Some months
before her murder at Yekaterinberg the
deposed Empress had received from a friend, Zinaida Sergeyevna Tolstaya, a copy of Nilus’
book containing the Protocols. … the Empress took Nilus’s book with her to her
last home …A week after the murder of the imperial family … the remains of the Tsar,
the Tsarina, and their children, dismembered and incinerated, were discovered at the
bottom of a disused mine-shaft … … the examining magistrate found three books
belonging to the Empress: the first volume of War and Peace, the Bible in Russian,
and The Great in the Small by Nilus” (Penguin edition, 1970, p. 126-7)}

The role of the Jews in the Bolshevik revolution and in the establishment
of the Soviet system is a daunting subject which still awaits its historian.

{p. 71} It is by far not enough to limit the consideration of the part of
Jews in the Bolshevik revolution to the role of Jews in the

{p. 72} top layer of leadership. Not less vital was the role of Jews in
the cadres, in the machine, the bureaucracy, administration, party organisation, the
economy, technical services, in a situation in which the civil servants of the former
regime as well as the professional intelligentsia refused to collaborate or could not be
trusted. In all this the contribution of the Jews to keeping the system going in a country
shattered by external and civil war afflicted by famine, was of the utmost importance.
Many Jews gave their services not because of any Bolshevik conviction, but because they
were left with no choice; the counter-revolutionary forces in the Civil War had embarked
upon a campaign of pogroms.

The most distinct feature of the Jewish revolutionaries in 1917 and after
was certainly their internationalism. Lenin himself professed more than once that he would
hardly have embarked upon his course, had he not believed that a revolution in the West,
above all Germany, was imminent. If the Gentile Bolsheviks thought the revolution in the
West a guarantee of success of the revolution in Russia, the Jews, like Trotsky, Radek,
Zinoviev and others, felt most intensely that the Russian revolution was only a local
version of the world revolution. It is no accident, and not only a matter of linguistic
proficiency, that Jews, and such non-Russian Jews as Radek and Larissa Reisner, were so
active in the Comintern and at international Communist Congresses such as the famous Baku
Congress of the Asiatic and African Communist parties. Radek kept shuttling backwards and
forwards between Russia and Germany, and while in a German prison negotiating with the
leaders of the German Reichswehr and political leaders, Borodin went East – to China.

The fact that apart from the inevitable and largely decorative
woman-worker and bearded peasant practically all the Soviet negotiators at Brest Litovsk
were Jews, was sure not to escape the notice of the opposite side, for instance, General
Hoffinan, who was to crush the Jewish-led Communist regime in Bavaria less than two years
later.

One may say that once the momentous struggle between Trotsky and Lenin was
decided in favour of socialism in one country, {ed. – note that he says “between
Trotsky and Lenin”, not “between Trotsky and Stalin”}

{p. 73} Russia had taken the first step towards that development, which
was to lead to a revival of Jew consciousness in the masses and a renewal of the special
status of the Jews. {ed. – another reference to Stalin.} But before these things had time
to work themselves out, the world, or at least that part of it which was disposed that
way, had imprinted upon its consciousness the image of a sinister Judeo-Bolshevik world
conspiracy.

… Nothing could have played more into the hands of the anti-Semitic,
racist counter-revolution and serve better as a corroboration of the Jewish
stab-in-the-back legend than Kurt Eisner’s revolutionary seizure of power at that time in
conservative, royalist and Catholic Bavaria, and then the prominence of Jews like
Jogiches, Levine, Levinas, Georg Landauer and Joffe in the short-lived Communist
government after Eisner’s assassination and

{p. 74} in the Spartakist and Marxist parties in general. To a Germany
exasperated by defeat, inflation, unemployment and hunger, moreover, the central role of
Jews in the Weimar Republic lent further credence to the legend. The Jew Hugo Preuss was
the author of the Weimar Constitution; Walter Rathenau was the first German Foreign
Sccretary to make an agreement with Bolshevik Russia; and Kurt Eisner published classified
Foreign Office documents to show German guilt for the outbreak of the war, in the hope of
showing to the West Germany’s repentance and thereby obtaining better terms. The somewhat
too zealous and aggressive interrogation of Field-Marshal Hindenburg by Cohn, the Counsel
of the Reichstag Committee set up to investigate the military conduct of the war gave rise
to a most effective slogan, ‘Cohn versus Hindenburg’. It was no use arguing that in the
war the Jews had been as overwhelmingly patriotic as everyone else. {ed. – Talmon says
nothing of the Balfour Declaration, the deal between Britain and World Jewry; how could
such a noted intellectual leave out this most important factor in German grievance? See Behind the Balfour Declaration}. They were ‘anti-national’, and by
the time Hitler came along hardly a German could be found to speak out in their defence.

The struggle between nationalism and revolutionary universalism achieved
still greater poignancy in Eastern Europe. The most important and most striking example
was Poland, but the same drama was to be played out in the other countries as well. It had
been a cardinal point with the European camp of revolution, and very much so with Marx and
Engels, that Poland must be resurrected. The Poles were the oldest freedom fighters on all
the barricades and battlefields of Europe, and the restoration of Poland was sure to deal
a mortal blow to the Tsarist regime. Rosa Luxemburg, however, as leader of the
internationalist Polish Socialist party, never tired of reiterating the conviction that
with the emergence of a vast revolutionary movement in Russia, it was the sacred duty of
the Polish workers to join hands with their Russian comrades and not squander their
energies on a nationalist deviation which was sure to help to bring about a bourgeois
capitalist Poland. In brief, there was no such thing as a Polish national interest, there
were only class interests, and Poland as a political entity was altogether an abstraction.
It is easy to imagine

{p. 75} the fury and the rage this caused among the majority of Polish
Socialists – among them incidentally, many Jews – to whom the resurrection of Poland was a
supreme goal, a glorious vision.

The group headed by Rosa, and containing a very high proportion of Jews in
its leadership as well as in the rank and file, became the nucleus of the Polish Communist
party after 1918, while some of the leaders made their way to Moscow. Soviet Russia
disclaimed any imperialist designs. She proclaimed herself at the same time duty bound to
help to make the revolution victorious everywhere. To the small and weak nation states
which had just regained, or indeed for the first time won their independance from Russia
and her former allies, a revolutionary Russia was in a sense a greater danger and a more
insidious menace to their national uniqueness and integrity than Tsarist Russia. After
World War One, the Jews overnight found themselves no longer citizens of vast multi-racial
empires and participants in great cultures like the German and the Russian, but minorities
subject to Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, Slovaks, Rumanians and Hungarians, whose social
and cultural development had been arrested centuries before, whose languages they often
did not know and did not care to learn, and whose anxious, jealous nationalism was as
intense as their resources were scarce. Treated as aliens, undesirables, an obstacle to
national self-expression, many of the best of the Jewish youth responded with a thrill to
the message of universal revolution. When the test came, twenty years later, the
Rumanians, Slovaks and Hungarians let their differences sink, and became the willing
allies of the great standard-bearer of antiSemitism and anti-Bolshevism; Latvian,
Lithuanian, Ukrainian and White Russian thugs were employed by the Nazis for the dirtiest
jobs in the liquidation of the Jewish ghettoes in Poland and the despatch of their inmates
to the death camps.

The Bolshevik revolution was seized upon by Hitler as final proof of the
revolutionary role of the Jewish ingredient in the drama of history from the beginning to
the end of time. Ernst Nolte has recently drawn our attention to a forgotten pamphlet
published in

{p. 80} The story seems to have come full circle. Preachers of
revolutionary universalism {ed. – this is a reference to Soviet resistance to the earlier
Jewish domination} and of the subordination of national sovereignty to the interests of
the whole Socialist conmunity, place racial uniqueness above revolutionary universalism –
where the Jews are concerned. It is they, and not the nationalist-racists of old, who are
putting an irreversible and irrevocable end to a thousand years of Jewish history. One is
reminded of another momentous development many centuries eadier. No sooner had the pagan
nations joined the Jewish sect than they turned in fury against the begetters of their
religion. {ed.- this is a reference to the Soviets’ refusal to be dominated by the Jews
among them}.

A little while ago it scemed as if the book ‘Jews and Revolution’ had been
closed. But it appears now that new pages are to be added to it, in the turbulent
universities of America and Europe and in the tumultuous conclaves of riotous
demonstrators. This time it is not oppression or humiliation that egg on the young Jews,
children of comfortable homes and young men to whom the whole world seems to be open, to
rebel and often to lead the rioters: the Pavel Litvinovs and Ginsburgs in Russia, the
Ginsbergs and Rudds in the US, the Cohn-Bendits in Europe, not to speak of such veterans,
loaded with memories of some three scores of years of turmoil and disaster, as Herbert
Marcuse. They seem to be driven by the kind of guilty conscience that plagued the Russian
intelligentsia in the nineteenth century. The descendants of countless generations of
victims of injustice, and the heirs to a most ancient tradition of revolt against it, they
feel uncomfortable, unhappy and guilty for being comfortable, while there is so much evil
and falsehood around; ‘a little more so’ {ed. – 30 times more so} than their Gentile
comrades, because of the great intensity peculiar to their race, and the unquenchable
spirit of non-conformism and restless quest which partly at least stems from the lack of a
firm Jewish commitment and an anchorage in a vital collective experience. The latter makes
the Jewish rebels turn with obvious self-hatred against their own race. Having absorbed
the criteria of the detractors of Judaism and never having quite come to terms with their
Jewishness – in a positive or negative way – they are

{p. 81} unable to take Judaism as it is for granted. They are defying it
with standards which can never be met, and attack Israel with ferocious glee for its
‘crimes’. {ed. – Talmon himself seems to absolve Israel of any guilt.}
Ultra-internationalists, they become racists where Jews are concerned. They are
incidentally taking in that way their revenge upon parents who themselves preached
‘revolutionary’ values, but then settled down very comfortably to enjoy all the good
things provided by our rotten society. All the same, the European observer, with the
European experience in his mind, cannot but wonder in a deja vu mood, whither things are
moving. There is to him something ominously familiar in such terms as the ‘system’ as
something all embracing and indivisible and more real than individual men with their
conscious ideas and free choices. Similarly sinister sounds the apotheosis of the
existential situation, which makes those within it appear right and innocent whatever they
do, and altogether dooms those outside. The devil is lying in wait for protagonists of
such views, and behind him the mass murderer.

{p. 98} humanitarians, the Jewish reformers were emasculating and
falsifying a concrete, historical, living and authentic substance in favour of a pale
lifeless abstraction: universalist deism and humanitarian benevolence. But the historic,
genuine personality of the Jews had found its articulation in historic memories, beliefs,
customs, rites. In this respect it was impossible to dissect and sever an organic whole
into a pretended rational essence and supposedly historic accidents, external
excrescences. The life and antecedents of the individual were rooted in a
social-historical texture, for no one was able to live alone and by himself, and we
received more than we gave, inherited more than we created. In other words, the most real
thing in history was the life of the nation, the race, in comparison with which the
individual was a mere abstraction, in isolation a shrivelled leaf. But abstract
universalism could not of course exist without isolationist individualism. In brief, all
that frantic anxiety of Jewish reformers to divest the Jewish religion of all that was
specific to it, historical memories, national pride, reminiscences of and hopes for Zion,
not to speak of those who were trying to run amok away from the Jewish fold, showed only
pitiful characterlessness, indeed lack of self-respect and even honesty, and not a
striving for light. Far from a way to equality and happiness, it betokened irretrievable
inner misery. Hess states emphatically that if he had the choice before him of either
equality at the price of assimilation or the maintenance of Jewish identity in a ghetto
existence, he would unhesitatingly choose the latter. If he were convinced that
sacrificial offerings were an essential part of the Jewish religion, he would insist on
their restoration in the future Temple.

Hess almost justifies anti-Semitism if it takes the form of a defensive
reaction of Gentiles rooted in their nation and past to Jewish over-eager and
gate-crashing attempts to prove themselves as good and even better Germans or Frenchmen
than themselves. Hess recalls the wounding incident of twenty years earlier. At the time
of the Franco-German tension around 1840, the patriotic German poet Nicolas Becker wrote
the famous poem They will not have it, the German Rhine. Hess got so excited by that
Marseillaise that he sent the author a musical composition for his

{p. 99} hymn. Becker wrote back a frigid letter of acknowledgement and
then scribbled on the cover as if from a foreign hand ‘You are a Jew’. Remembering the
incident Hess feels less disgusted or hurt by the rudeness of the poet, than ashamed of
himself. Following in the footsteps of Herder and the other philosophers, Hess seems to
deny reality to any abstract dogmatic religious doctrine. There are ultimately no
universal religions, there are national cults. It was not the Jewish religion that shaped
the Jewish nation: the Jewish genius engendered that type of religion (future Ahad
Ha’am?), just as medieval Christianity was more an expression of the Germanic spirit than
the pure Christian message. Hess is too much of a Hegelian and indeed too much of a
Marxist to admit the distinction between pure spirituality and concrete external
phenomena, spirit and matter, theory and practice. This enables him to elevate the Jewish
phenomenon into a decisive force in the history of mankind. The two most remarkable
religions of antiquity were national religions, the Greek and the Jewish. The Greek was
that of nature, the Jewish of history, that is to say grounded upon historic events,
Abraham, the exodus etc., {ed. – largely mythic.} but also upon a messianic vision of the
purposeful unity of history in the hands of Providence. It was a national religion also in
the sense that its concern was not the individual, but the nation and its fate,{ed. was
Nazism so different?} not his personal salvation or immortality, but social justice. The
Jewish religion made in that respect no distinction between private ethics and the general
interest, individual conscience and the laws of the land. Stern and exacting, it left the
individual no easy escape into a private realm of human frailty and self-indulgence. It
was the decay of national sentiment at the end of the ancient era that turned Christianity
into an abstract universal religion, and at the same time into the faith of the individual
{ed. – yet Talmon quotes Herzl’s self-proclaimed concern for the Arabs, and the universal
messianic age; is Zionism so different from Christian Europe in its tension between a
universalist ideal and a nationalist reality?}. Owing to that gap between its Judaic
provenance and the concrete personalities of the barbarian races {ed. – i.e., the Jews
regarded their hosts as barbarians} in Europe, Christianity was forced to become that
exclusively spiritual religion which severs theory from practice, the individual from the
collectives, by making original sin the basis for the perpetuation of this dualism. Weak,
sinful men will never be able to realise perfect justice, to live by the light of the

{p. 100} pure truth. They will never be able to redeem themselves by their
own exertions. Only grace from above embodied in a church of superior priests, could save
them. This led to self-contempt, resignation. It encouraged the self-willed to oppress the
lowly, and deprived the exploited of any pride and strength necessary to resist and fight
for their rights.

When the Reformation and Descartes brought the Christian dualism to
culmination, the Jewish spirit, working through Spinoza, came astir, as it had fifteen
hundred years earlier, to reassert the divine unity of life, nature and history. And then
came the French Revolution and gave a most powerful impulse to the Judaisation of the
modern world.

{despite this stunning admission, Talmon avoided any mention of a Jewish
connection in his book on the French Revolution, The Origin of Totalitarian Democracy (1952).
The paperback edition (Sphere Books, 1970) does not list ‘Jews’ or ‘Judaism’ in its index}

It broke the trauma of original sin-ridden society. Men felt free to shape
their own lives, and confident that a just and perfect society would in every case be a
national society, based upon the national characteristics, the history, the unique destiny
of each nation, free and able to realise at last that positive freedom which comes from
free self-expression. In this respect every nation will like the Jews evolve a national
religion. As a society of free and equal men the nation of the future will be a true
confraternity. The life of the nation will be a true partnership of all in all, things
unlike the aggregate of classes hostile to one another, which the nations had been in the
past. There will then be no distinction between the private and the general good. And
since there will be no room for different standards, clash of interests, for that
discrepancy between different imperatives, between theory and practice, every nation will
become a real nation of priests, a holy nation, like the Jews. To Marx the expression of
utter selfishness, Judaism is to Hess the very embodiment of the spirit of solidarity.

The final defeat of the Papacy at the hand of Italian nationalism marked
the ultimate victory of that uprising against the forces of old, of which the French
Revolution was the first act. The rise of the Italian nation precisely upon the ruins of
Papal Rome betokened the triumph of the principle of nationalities, the national cults. To
this authentically Mazzinian prophecy Hess adds his gloss: the liberation of Rome presages
the imminent liberation ofJerusalem to crown the process.

{p. 101} For the final revindication of universal justice and the
reassertion of meaning in history, it was absolutely imperative, nay inevitable, that the
people, whose earliest destiny was to foreshadow this late Messianic fruition, should be
restored as of old. And all the nations will come to bow before the Lord, on Mount Moriah,
and the Great Sabbath, the pre-ordained goal of all history, will come about.

There were other signs of that Second Coming. The idea of the restoration
of the Jews to Palestine was steadily gaining momentum among Jews and Gentiles. France,
the leader of nations, the standard-bearer of their liberation, was now directing her
efforts towards the Middle East. The Suez canal had been dug. The Orient was awakening
from its centuries-long slumbers. A French official close to Napoleon III, Laharanne, was
crusading for a return of the Jews to Palestine as a spearhead in the effort of reviving
the East with the help of Western dynamism. The nations of the West were ostensibly
looking for a road to India. One such quest, centuries earlier, led to the discovery of
America. Man proposes, God disposes. The present search was destined to engender another
unexpected and momentous result: the restoration of Israel in his Land.

The revival of the Jewish national consciousness through Jewish learning,
above all the national conception of Jewish history represented by Graetz, the vitality of
hassidism – the religion of the heart – the multiplication of Zionist programmes in
various parts of the world, were all tokens of the ripening of the Jewish national
resolve.

Hess reveals an ambiguity of the most far-reaching significance. The
dilemma and the solution proposed by Hess remind one irresistibly of the French
prophet-historian Michelet, whom the author of Rome and Jerusalem of course knew. Largely
influenced by his interest in the sciences on the one hand, and by Ernest Renan on the
other, Hess came to regard race as a primary datum, and a present-day reader is made to
feel somewhat uncomfortable by his hymns to the purity and tenacity of the Jewish race.
Without, of course, the latter-day implications, Hess accepts the fundamental division
into Semitic and Aryan races. The unique and

{p. 102} integral character of the Jewish heritage was to him, as already
hinted, the result of race. At the same time Hess’s fondest dream, in fact the sole way of
vindicating meaning and purpose in history, was the future universal harmony of free
nations. With the aid of quite fanciful and abstruse speculations, Hess tries to prove
that the cosmic evolutionary process was about to be accomplished in the ‘historic
Sabbath’: social harmony within each national society and international concord, both
represented by Judaism and post-revolutionary France, were about to be enthroned, bringing
thus to final consummation the evolutionary cosmic process which had already resulted in
the wonderful harmony in nature. This consummation demonstrates to Hess as to Michelet the
victory of the spirit over matter, of free reason over blood and soil determinism, of
history over geography, of willed unity over irrational multiplicity.

The gravamen of Hess’s argument against the Germans is that, unlike the
French and the Western nations, the Germans had remained steeped in exclusive, instinctive
racialism {ed. like the Jews?}, and of course anti-Semitism, so that even their pretended
philosophical universalism was in fact a rationalisation of racial pride {ed. – surely
this is true of Zionism too?}, and their irrational aversion to men of other races,
especially Jews, was never far below the surface. It is difficult to make out whether Hess
expected that German disposition to change. At all events, no true unification of Germany
seemed to Hess possible so long as that racial exclusiveness remained a force, because it
was indissolubly connected with the deep class divisions in German society – the
consequence of the fateful fact that the German social revolution had been arrested in the
sixteenth century with the bloody suppression of the peasant revolt. And Hess could not
envisage a national rebirth which was not at the same time a social-democratic
transformation. Little did Hess, Mazzini, Mickiewicz and their like know that in endowing
nationalism with the dimension of a salvationist religion, and in transferring to it so
much of the Socialist appeal, they were unwittingly offering a rationale to that type of
racial, exclusive nationalism, which Hess so abhorred among the

{p. 1O3} Germans, and indeed to anti-Semitism, in both its racial and
social versions. ‘Nationalism that is Socialism reduced to one country’ – were the
Fascists to say in the next century.

… From the Jewish point of view this was the decade that saw Disraeli
effectively in power, Lassalle creating the German labour movement, Fould administering
the finances of France, the Rothschilds and Pereiras building up her credit system and
carrying out her industrial revolution, a galaxy of able and influential Jewish
parliamentarians playing a very considerable part in the Prussian Landtag, and Karl Marx
presiding over the First International. {ed. – note that Talmon depicts Marx & the
Rothschilds as collaborative, despite their differences.} Soon after 1870 clouds began to
gather over a fair sky, and by 1890 the sky looked dark and menacing to Jews. {ed. – one
might expect that so great an intellectual as Talmon might have been able to free himself
from Jewish perspectivism, and consider the Gentile perspective occasionally.}

{p. 104} In 1896 Herzl speaks a different language from Lassalle in the
1840’s, and Hess in the 1860’s. This difference is accounted for not only by personal
differences, but by a change of historical context. On reading Herzl’s Judenstaat with a
detached mind and against the background we have been trying to trace, the historian
cannot but be struck by the fact that whereas Lassalle seems not to give a thought to
anti-Semitism, and Hess only refers to it almost casually when speaking of the Germans, it
is to Herzl a reality which is overshadowing everything else. The same is true of Pinsker,
some fifteen years earlier. That flaming manifesto by a man who, unlike Herzl, lived
within the rich texture of the Eastern European Jewish civilisation, was also born from a
sense of injured pride, and not from a positive consciousness of a distinct national
identity. The mood of Herzl and Pinsker seems so remote from the conquering, brash
self-confidence of thc young Lassalle with his unquenchablc faith in the imminent world
revolution, an arrogance, incidentally, still alien to a Jew of an earlier generation,
with his feet still in the ghetto. It is worth quoting a description of young Lassalle by
Heine in 1846:

. . . a young man of the most distinguished mental gifts, the widest
learning, the most thorough scholarship and the greatest penetration I have ever met. He
combines the most extraordinary power of penetration with a vitality in knowledge and a
skill in action which amaze me . . . Lassalle is emphatically a son of the new age and
will have nothing to do with that renunciation and humility with which we in our time more
or less hypocritically bunglcd our way and drivelled our way through life. This new
generation is determined to enjoy itself and make itself felt in the visible world; we
older ones, bowing down humbly before the invisible world, chased after shadow kisses and
the scent of blue flowers, renouncing and sniveling, and yet perhaps we were happier than
those tough gladiators who go forth so proudly to death in battle.

{p. 105} In the case of both Pinsker and Herzl it is not the pressure of
some inner light seeking expression, as with Hess, but the fact of rejection by others
that throws the authors, and the Jews, back upon themselves. They do not want us, so we
shall be oursclves, for indeed we are different and we have a past and dignity, a
character and values of our own. Are we worse or less significant than the Serbs, the
Rumanians and Bulgarians, who have just obtained or been granted national freedom? Who had
ever heard of them in the West? Earlier as well as later national movements have shown the
same dialectic in their historical development: we are not they – the majority or ruling
nation; we are different; we have to show what our distinctness consists of – the Czechs,
Rumanians, Pakistanis, etc.

The other difference between Herzl and the earlier Jews is in the fact
that Herzl completely eschews any attempt to establish a metaphysical or rather
metahistorical connection between the Jewish phenomenon and the course and meaning of
world history, or the universal trends of the age. This treatment of the Jewish issue as a
case sui generis reflects again general developments. In the second part of the century,
people in Europe had lost all taste for those sweeping generalisations and vast systems
which the Romantic Age loved so much, and as a reaction a positivist analytical mood won
dominance. The idea of mission so dear to the Jewish assimilationists, and in his own way
to Hess, was a replica of the Mazzinian idea of Roma Terza, of the Fichtean ideology of
Urvolk, the vision of Poland as the Christ of the nations, and the Russian PanSlav claim
to some pristine purity and unadulterated excellence, destined to save the rotten West.
Only in the case of the Gentiles the mission was a justification for fostering a unique
national identity in an independent state, while to the theorists of religious reform and
assimilation among Jews it was precisely an argument against political nationalism and
statehood, although

{p. 110} so learned a man as Duhring should be capable of such horrifying
views on Jews shocked Herzl to his depths. There was no more the consolation, resorted to
by Jews in the earlier decades of the century, that Jew-baiting was a medieval relic, a
ruse utilised by cunning clericals or feudal reactionaries for their selfish ends,
something on the way out as the light advances. Moreover, like so many educated Jews who
lack any system of inner defences in the form of positive Jewish experience, and who love
and admire Western civilisation with all their hearts, and indeed are completely saturated
with its values and modes of thought, Herzl could not help viewing the Jews from outside,
with the eyes and the yardstick of the Gentiles. The Jews have to engage in duelling. They
should observe the rules of medieval chivalry. In not doing that, they show themselves to
be lacking in courage and dignity, not quite up to the requirements of the universal code
of honour. More significantly still, Herzl again and again returns to the point that the
Jews had a surplus of mediocre intellectuals, as if underscoring the anti-Semitic argument
that the Jews were not endowed with creative gifts, but got along with glib and facile
improvisation – probably to Herzl a way of self-castigation. Did not the anti-Semites
scoff at the feuilleton, of which Herzl became an acknowledged master, as a spurious
Jewish kind of art, concoction and not creation?

{compare Herman Hesse, The Glass Bead Game, Holt Rinehart &
Winston, NY 1969: ‘The Glass Bead Game contributed largely to the complete defeat of
feulletonism and to that newly awakened delight in strict mental exercises to which we owe
the origin of a new, monastically austere intellectual discipline.’ (p. 33); ‘The world
had changed. The life of the mind in the Age of the Feuilleton might be compared to a
degenerate plant … ‘ ( p.33-34). The Glass Bead Game was also published as Magister
Ludi
.}

We may recall the half-despairing, half-triumphant conclusion of Herzl’s
play The New Ghetto, and still more to the point is Herzl’ s fantastic plan of a deal with
the Pope. On a beautiful Sunday morning all Jewish children in holiday attire, with
garlands of flowers on their heads, are marched up by their parents to the gates of the
cathedrals as the church bells toll. They are then ushered in for baptism, while the
elders remain outside, for they themselves would not – on a point of honour – renounce
their identity in exchange for full recognition as equal citizens. As soon as the next
generation of Jews have gone through the ceremony of baptism, the priests in all the
churches read out a solemn condemnation of anti-Semitism by the Pope. And that would put
an end to a centuries-old predicament.

Herzl gives the impression of a man suffering from a toothache. He is told
he must not touch it, but touch it he must.

Herzl

{p. 111} manages to live down one anti-Semitic incident, and for a time
encountering no similar unpleasantness, he begins to feel that after all one should not
lose one’s sense of proportion and be unduly weighed down by an occasional rudeness of a
drunken bully. Then he suddenly and utterly unexpectedly on walking out of a beer cellar
hears the ‘Hep, hep!’ call, and the shock is still greater than the last, and the malaise
deepens. Why and how, and for what reason? And what is to be done so that such an
honourable, highly cultivated man as he, who has never done any harm to anyone, should not
be subjected to such indignities? We all know the effect of the Dreyfus affair on Herzl.
That France – ‘the second fatherland’, as Moses Hess repeatedly called it in the wake of
Jefferson, of every enlightened person in the world, and especially, in view of France’s
pioneering role in granting emancipation, of every Jew wherever he be, and a country in
which Jews formed a tiny minority only and were thoroughly assimilated – should give rein
to such a frenzy of anti-Semitism, with the blessing of some of the greatest lights of the
Academie, was indeed calculated to become a traumatic event to a man like Herzl.

But the Austro-Hungarian background was in my opinion still more important
in gradually preparing that disposition which under the impact of the Paris shock evolved
into a farouche obsession. The more democratic that ramshackle, multi-racial Empire grew,
the more untenable became the old dynastic structure. Democracy involved not merely
universal suffrage, but also national self-determination. The only linchpin of the Empire
was the House of Habsburg, and its cement was the mutual hatreds of the races and the
impossibility of severing them in a way that would satisfy each one, and also enable it to
have a viable existence from the economic and strategic point of view. In an age of
democracy and nationalism, it was extremely difficult to work up enthusiastic loyalty for
a royal dynasty and an emotional response to its medieval-feudal symbols. The
semi-religious humble loyalty of illiterate peasants – to a large extent of Slavonic stock
– to the God-anointed apostolic Emperor-King had given way to nationalist zeal. On the
other hand, the ethnic group which

{p. 112} had for centuries formed the core and governing elite of the
Empire, the Germans, had turned into a dangerous solvent {ed. – is there a parallel with
American whites today?} in a way that was destined to have the most far-reaching and most
disastrous effects on the world in general, and upon the Jews in particular. With the
growth of democracy the Austrian Germans began to feel that they were doomed to be swamped
by the larger numbers of Slavs, whom they had ruled and despised for so long. The
parliamentary system based on the counting of heads and on equal vote to all appeared as a
mortal enemy. This gave rise to elitist-racist tendencies and agitation for a union of the
Austrian Germans with the German Empire (through a disruption of the Habsburg Empire) into
a vast state, powerful enough to crush the Slavs in between and on the periphery. It is
one of the great ironies of history that as a reaction the doctrinaire Austro-Marxists
were driven to preach the unity of the Habsburg Empire, on the basis of very wide cultural
autonomy for each ethnic group upon the model of the Jewish Kehilla. Their reason was that
the disruption of the Empire by nationalism would be taken as proof that isolationist
nationalism was stronger than international working-class solidarity, and nationalist
separatism more real than the idea of a universal proletarian revolution, and politics
more potent than economics and class struggle.

The Austrian Jews were in a peculiar position. All their interests and
instincts were for the maintenance of the unity of the Empire. The supra-national
pluralism of the easy-going and indulgent Empire was infinitely more favourable to them as
individuals and as a community than the status of a minority within a homogeneous
nationalist state. Jews were extremely prominent in the Socialist as well as the liberal
leadership of Austria. It was this orientation as well as their role as competitors in the
social-economic sphere that made the Jews the butt of German hatred, and turned the
Austrian Germans into bitter anti-Semites, whether of the racialist Schonerer variety or
of the Christian-Social brand of Leuger {ed. – a century later, the same scenario is
playing out in the United States}. Tragically enough, Austria’s Jewish intelligentsia,
with the exception of that of Galicia, was almost entirely German in lan-

{p. 113} guage and culture, which was not of course calculated to endear
it to the other nationalities of Austro-Hungary. A man like Herzl, who grew up in Budapest
and was technically, like Max Nordau, a Hungarian, having settled in Vienna only when he
was at the threshold of manhood, evinces in his writings neither interest in nor sentiment
for the Magyar Kingdom. He is an Austrian tout court. For indeed, the Jews were the only
Austrians, or if one likes, Austro-Hungarians, of the Empire. The surrealist realities of
Austria, a country whose situation, it was said, was desperate, but never serious,
engendered three types of response: Hitler, Freud and Herzl, if one may be forgiven for
invoking the three names in the same breath.

Freud, as indeed also pre-Zionist Herzl, may be taken to represent the
liberal Jewish frame of mind in Vienna around 1900. Its mouthpiece, the Neue Freie Presse,
Herzl’s newspaper, owned and run by assimilationist Jews, had won for itself a world-wide
reputation for quality. Every issue of the journal was a feast for reflective readers and
lovers of exquisite style, wit and elegance. But although it could boast very extensive
international news coverage, and informed and penetrating comment on all events, it was
not a militant organ at all. It was in fact prouder of its feuilleton than of its leading
article. It cared more for opera, theatre, literature – all of universal appeal – than for
party struggle. It was fundamentally apolitical, and it had a most curious way of dealing
with phenomena and issues which disturbed it: ignore them. We know that the word ‘Zionism’
was never mentioned in its columns, although one of the paper’s leading lights and its
literary editor was running himself literally to death as its founder and head. We find a
wry comment on this in Herzl’s diaries. He was back from one of the Zionist Congresses
where he had been worshipped like a king, and under the glance of his editor he sneaked
into his room at the editorial office like a furtive little clerk who had overstayed his
leave. Ignoring Zionism Die Neue Freie Presse never printed the word social-democracy, its
liberal Jewish editor boasted to Herzl. That seems rather odd – reflects Herzl. I have not
examined the old files of the great newspaper to find out, but one would in the

{p. 116} reminiscent of American, and as my friend Professor Yehoshua
Arieli would have said, American future-minded nationalism: we resolve to be a nation – a
model nation, let it be added. Those who must and want to go to their own state,
Palestine, if that be the territory, determine to be Jews, although in their country they
will like the Swiss continue to speak their former languages (for can you buy a railway
ticket or box of matches with prophet Isaiah’s Hebrew?). Those who would prefer to stay
behind would presumably be opting for total assimilation, although Herzl does not state
this in so many words. In brief, nationality is a matter of individual choice and
decision. Herzl’s rather grudging consent to communal educational activities and
Landespolitik in the Diaspora in general was an expression not of his wish to cultivate
Jewish identity wherever it be for its own sake, but of a search for means to strengthen
Jewish consciousness and organisational cohesion in the struggle for independent
statehood.

The lack of full clarity and consistency in Herzl’s view of anti-Semitism
is very meaningful. The wounded pride is the beginning of everything. But beyond that
Herzl does not seem to be sure, no more than Freud in regard to the problem of evil,
whether anti-Semitism was a relic, an excrescence that could be removed, only it would
take too much time, and the Jews have had more than their fill of humiliation in the West
and are driven by pogroms and hunger in the East; or an incurable disease, one of those
perversions inseparable from the human condition. At times Herzl seems to reduce it all to
a social problem – Jewish competition in the free professions. He appears to believe in
the possibility of a kind of deal with the anti-Semites: you say there are too many Jews
in your country, and granted the circumstances and your mentality the Jews are too
numerous for you to bear them, let us therefore agree: we help you in taking out the
superfluous Jews, and you help us to get a place for them, and a state of their own. Alas,
time was to show that no bargain was possible with real anti-Semites. But this Theodor
Herzl, deeply steeped in European fair-play liberalism, could not even contemplate. As I
have said, there are quite a few inconsistencies in Herzl’s attitude, but they are easily
explicable.

{p. 117} The Jewish predicament revealed to Herzl something of the abyss,
of the ultimate intractable unreasonableness and horrible beastlillcss of man, yet in his
vision of the solution of the Jewish qucstion there is nothing apocalyptic or
catastrophic, no war, no clash of rights, no human sacrifices, no gnashing of teeth, no
dreadful break-through. It is a commercial transaction as far as the preparations are
concerned. The passage to Palestine is a pleasure trip, without as much as sea-sickness.
Settlement in the country is depicted as almost a Fourierist Arcadia, with congenial
company of Landsmannschaften, fine airy dwellings, wonderful technology and gadgets and
not much physical effort. That killjoy Ahad Ha’am was quick to seize upon the reference in
Altneuland to the Jews’ experience in their new country as a possible lesson to the
American Negroes, once they decide to return to Africa and establish themselves there as
an independent nation. The Herzlian recipe was as suited to Jews as it was to Negroes: a
wholly abstract utopia, not so much based on principles of morality as upon labour-saving
deviccs and enlightened self-interest.

There is the other inconsistency. Herzl never tired of insisting that the
misfortunes and humiliations of the Jews were due to their political weakness. Rich and
powerful as they were as individuals, they counted for nothing politically, because they
were atomised, unorganised and represented no power, and in this world of power politics
pleas for justice and appeals to conscience had no effect. We had nothing to offer in
return. In all his dealings with monarchs and potentates Herzl was always deeply conscious
of the need of a quid pro quo: Jews would offer money, support, services, etc. At the same
time, the Jewish state of the future is depicted in Altneuland as a neutral state, hardly
a state at all, just ‘a Jewish Society’, internationally guaranteed like Switzerland, with
no army and no foreign policy. And the Arabs, unmentioned in the ‘Jewish State’, barely
noticed in his diaries, appear in Altneuland as willing and eager to join the ‘Jewish
Society’, because of the material benefits accruing to them. And of course the idea of the
Charter was based upon the hope of international endorsement by all the Powers. This
conscious wish of Herzl’s to lift the Jewish state issue out of international politics and
the rivalries of the

{p. 118} Powers, baffling as it is, can only be explained as the liberal
recoiling from the facts of irreducible conflict and from the spectre of force as the
ultimately decisive factor in politics. Have not most of us behaved like this for decades
in regard to the Arab issue? {ed. here Talmon hints at the inconsistencies in his own
stand.} And surely this is Herzl s version of the Messianic faith in the ultimate and
inevitable triumph of good, which had propelled Lassalle and Hess, and indeed all Jewish
liberals and Socialists, for so long. At this juncture we may ask how Herzl looks from the
vantage point of seventy years after. A utopian? A prophet? A child of his time? People
are inclined to dismiss as fantastic the three main points of Herzl’s practical programme.
He hoped to buy from the Sultan the ‘Charter’ for Palestine. He believed he could get the
rich Jews – then, when he had learned his lesson, Jewish subscribers in general – to foot
the bill. He envisaged a mighty Jewish effort to transport within the shortest possible
time all the willing immigrants and settle them in Palestine – under the aegis of the two
national Jewish organs, the political – the Society of Jews – and the financial or
economic – the Company of Jews. On a closer look at the realities of the late nineteenth
century, Herzl appears less a utopian in regard to his international orientation than in
his evaluation of the Jewish people.

There was nothing fantastic in the idea of obtaining a concession from the
autocrat of Turkey, and, as events were to show, from the Powers that were to divide up
the dead corpse of the Empire. Turkey had a cord around her neck in the form of her
international debt. Her main sources of revenue were not merely pawned, but actually
supervised and run by representatives of foreign creditors,{ed. – Jewish, by any chance?
The very ones who would offer to swap land for debt?} backed by their respective powerful
governments. The expression, ‘the Public Debt of Turkey’, was never absent from the
newspaper columns of the day and constituted an international issue for many decades. In a
sense, Turkey could call nothing her own. That state

{p. 119} of affairs at the end of a long process of internal decay,
utterly cruel harassment by foreign powers, and continuing secession of one Balkan
nationality after another at the end of bloody revolt and with the help of European
powers, made the corruption at the top utterly hopeless. The North African domains of the
Caliph Egypt, Tunis and then Tripoli – were lost in a manner as injurious to Ottoman
interests and pride as possible. In each case state bankruptcy invited European loans, and
of course interference. Unhonoured promissory notes, impediments placed in the way of the
foreign creditors, and finally bloody incidents paved the way for foreign occupation – by
the British in Egypt, the French in Tunis, the Italians rather belatedly in Tripoli. The
idea of the Jews’ offer to redeem Turkey’s international debt in exchange for a concession
of Palestine, under some form of Turkish suzerainty – provided the money could be raised –
was not at all fantastic {ed. – if Turkey could not avoid debt, why was it
“fantastic” for Jews to own so much wealth, if not through the fraud of
money-creation under Capitalism?}. No one, least of all Turkey, bothered at that time
about the rights of natives to self-detennination in Asia and Africa. Palestine was held
by the Turks by the right of conquest. And then, if Turkey had been prepared in the 1830’s
to cling, as the Sultan put it, to a serpent for fear of being drowned (by Mehmet Ali),
and to invite the Russian navy and troops to the Bosphorus, why should she refuse aid from
a politically innocuous factor? And if mighty Britain could put a premium upon the good
will of world Jewry,{ed. – an oblique reference to the Balfour
Declaration
} and even Wilhelm II in his letter on Zionism to the Grand Duke of Baden,
such sympathy was surely not less important to the tottering Porte. Owing to fair
treatment throughout the centuries, Jews were well disposed towards Turkey. At the time of
the Bulgarian uprising against the Sultan, British anti-Turks and anti-Semites, like the
historian Freeman, publicly accused Disraeli of pro-Turkish sentiments and anti-Russian
bias owing to his Jewish prejudices.

Neither were Herzl’s ideas on colonisation absurd in the context of
colonial history, especially in the age of imperialism. British and Dutch rule in India
and in South East Asia began and was carried on well into the nineteenth century by
state-supported chartered trade companies, enjoying the widest political, administrative,
judicial and fiscal, and indeed military powers.

{p. 122} But there was another rcason for Herzl’s refusal to allow for
slow infiltration into Palestine without international guarantees and a clear definition
of the ultimate goal. … Herzl was mortally afraid that a defenceless Jewish minority,
which had settled there in the teeth of Turkish prohibition, could be wiped out overnight.
He may have under-

{p. 123} rated the power of concrete though piecemeal and gradual
achievement. In his pride he felt a deep aversion for the old Jewish methods of oiling the
palms of officials, arranging things behind the counter, sneaking in when unobserved and
bowing the head before or pretending not to perceive brutal insult.

There is an ironical and tragic paradox in the fact that while resolved to
treat with the leaders of the world, emperors and kings, princes and ministcrs, on terms
of equality and in the light of the day, in his capacity of representative of the Jewish
people, Herzl was at bottom compelled to resort to the very, very old Jewish methods of
backstairs diplomacy. … Wherever he went, Herzl had to oil palms.

{p. 188} dictated by the government, they are bound to conclude that
through the intermediary of American Jewry Israel is of course an American puppet and
agent. There are other considerations behind Russian policy as well. In so far as it has
been stirring up Jewish sentiment among the Russian Jews, making this ‘indigestible’ group
still more difficult to digest, Israel is resented by the Soviet government as a nuisance
and an irritant. The social achievements of the Israeli Labour movement, far from
impressing the Bolsheviks, evoke contemptuous hostility: how dare a tiny country like
Israel prcsume to build Socialism better than Russia itself! Similarly the demand to
permit emigration from Russia to Israel must appear as an anti-Soviet device, implying as
it does a vote of no confidence in the achievements and nature of the regime: one is
supposed to be happy in a Socialist regime.

Thus, while not motivated by conventionally anti-Semitic convictions and
aims, the Soviet Union is almost objectively, to use its own language, led to adopt
policies which, given the murderous hostility of the Arabs and the role of Israel in the
post-holocaust period of Jewish history, amount to a definite threat to the survival of
the Jewish people.

Particularly horrifying is the Soviet-Arab sponsorship of an updated
version of the Protocols of Zion: the Zionist-American-Imperialist world plot,
operating not only against Arabs, Asians and Africans, but also against all the Socialist
regimes, causing economic difficulties, student unrest, Catholic intransigence.

{Talmon uses “literary licence” here, equating any assertion of
Jewish conspiratorial action, with endorsement of The Protocols of Zion. The Soviet
Union, it seems, never issued The Protocols of Zion, but Stalin
did conclude that there was a Zionist plot for World Domination
, and Yuri Ivanov’s book Caution: Zionism is an example of material
issued by the Soviet Union
on that theme.

As at p. 70 above, with regard to the Tsarina, Talmon seems to be following Norman Cohn’s book Warrant For Genocide: “Stalin in his last years produced a new version of
the conspiracy-myth, in which the Jews figured as agents of an imperialist plot to destroy
the Soviet Union and assassinate its leaders … ” (Penguin edition, 1970, p. 15). Stalin was murdered on this account.}

We have travelled a long way from the revolutionary universalism of Marx which recognised neither Jew nor Greek nor Gentile, but only workers and capitalists.

{Yet Marx never wrote that the first Communist state would be a Jewish dictatorship over non-Jews. Was that consistent with his views, or a subversion of them?}

And yet, there is a glimmer of hope that the spectre of China and the inexorable compulsions of modern technology and warfare may still work to bring about a
Russo-American agreement to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. As a very great power, Russia finds it extremely difficult to do nothing for the Arabs beyond replacing the arms they have lost, and to take Israeli defiance lying down. At the same time there can be no
doubt that the Soviet Union will never risk a nuclear war over the Middle East, any {p. 189} more than the United States will. This may induce the two Super
Powers to search for a face-saving formula for a Middle-Eastern settlement. Understandable
as their anxieties are, the Israelis would do well to pause and reflect whether it be in
the long-term interest of Israel to be irretrievably tied to America in the way South
Vietnam, South Korea or Western Germany are. It is not only a question of the image of
Israel in the eyes of the world, especially the Afro-Asian nations, with whom Israel must
live and trade in amity. As France has shown, a Great Power finds it easier to change
allies or abandon clients than a small isolated state to win new protectors. The Israelis
would be well advised not to bank too much on the ‘special relationship’ between Israel
and the US, always liable to yield to isolationist moods. Nothing would be more dangerous
for them than to act on the assumption that they have America in their pocket. The Suez
War has shown that they did not even have American Jewry in their pocket. The only hope of
a peaceful settlement in the Middle East lies in an American-Soviet agreement, however
difficult and distant such a prospect continues to look, and not in the preponderance of
Israeli armies backed by the Sixth Fleet.

For the Israeli liberal to be able to come out against the rising tide of anxious and militant intransigency and press his case with any effectiveness, the condition sine qua non is that the Arab leaders wish in their hearts to be more gently or more forcefully cajoled. For when all is said and done, Israeli hawkishness is really a function of Arab obduracy and hostile intent. Without some clear and convincing proof that Nasser was prepared to be coaxed – and the latest portents are by no means encouraging – the Israeli liberals would be powerless Don Quixotes. Worse, they would be decried as faint-hearted defeatists, capitulationists, traitors. They would inevitably be reduced to watching fatalistically and impotently the great cruel ironies working themselves out in a seemingly inexorable manner: the heroic exertions and astonishing talents of so hard pressed a nation, with a deep yearning for peace and justice, beating in vain against an unattainable …

{end of selections}

J. L. Talmon, The Origin of Totalitarian Democracy

J. L. Talmon’s book The Unique and the Universal asks whether any universalism is possible, given national particularisms.

http://users.cyberone.com.au/myers/talmon.html

Excerpts from the

Origins of Totalitarian Democracy

by Jacob L. Talmon

(London: Secker and Warburg, 1955)

Intro, Part I, Part II and Conclusion

http://www.coloradocollege.edu/Dept/PS/Finley/PS425/reading/Talmon.html.

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