Far-Right antisemitism and Heteronationalism

Building Jewish and Queer Resistance

Peter Drucker

Even after Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 US presidential election, the rise of the far right remains a defining feature of our time and a central challenge for the left. As analysts have pointed out, Trump’s losing vote total was the second-highest ever won by a US presidential candidate. Events since the election have confirmed his hold over the Republican Party and its transformation into a nationalist party of the far right. Even as Republicans continue to enjoy broad support from capital on such issues as tax cuts and social and environmental deregulation, multinational capital has lost the hegemonic influence over the Republican Party that it exercised over both major US parties from the 1980s through the first decade of the twenty-first century. [1]

Nor has Trump’s narrow defeat dented the prospects of far-right parties elsewhere, including in Western Europe. Besides the US, this article focuses on three northwest European states: Britain, France and the Netherlands. In all four of these countries, the far right is now either sharing power or a serious contender to gain or regain power.

In England, the ruling Conservative Party has since the 2016 Brexit referendum been undergoing a transformation into a right-wing nationalist party, even if its transformation is not yet as far-reaching as Trump’s transformation of the Republican Party. In France, National Rally leader Marine Le Pen won a record 41.5% of the vote in the second round of the presidential election in spring 2022, and the 89 seats her party won in the subsequent legislative elections made it the single biggest opposition party in parliament. In the Netherlands, the far-right Freedom Party (PVV) and Forum for Democracy (FvD) won almost 16 per cent of the vote in the 2021 parliamentary election.

The clear main task for the left in this situation is to organise the broadest, most effective possible resistance to the far right’s advance. At the same time, the prospect looms larger of having to resist the far right, in one or more countries, after its accession to government – as in the US under Trump from 2017 to 2021. This increases the importance of understanding the ideology that binds the far right together, helping account for its support in some parts of the population and its vulnerability in others.


This piece is being made available as a preprint edition of the double-volume Marxism and the Critique of Antisemitism special issue of Historical Materialism. Further additions will still be made before then. The final published version of this text will be made available on the Brill website in the coming months. We ask that citations refer to the Brill edition.All Illustrations are by Natalia Podpora.


The central and defining ideological hallmarks of the far right today, along with hostility to the left, are nationalism and racism, and particularly in northwestern Europe what is called ‘Islamophobia’. Strictly speaking, this is a relatively new, culturalised permutation of racism in which ‘the Muslim immigrant has replaced the Jew’ and ‘fear of multiculturalism and hybridity … brings up to date the old anxiety about “blood mixing”’.[2] With nationalism and racism as the core elements in its popular appeal, the far right can be flexible and even opportunistic on other issues in different countries, or even from year to year in the same country. On many issues, demogogy is the far right’s only consistency.[3]

This flexibility and opportunism are evident in relation particularly to Jews and LGBTIQ people. Historically, antisemitism and hostility to gay people were manifest in Nazism and many other fascist movements; for the Nazis, antisemitism was central. Today, however, the far right’s relation to Jews and LGBTIQ people is more variable and complicated. This article traces and analyses the far right’s varying, shifting and contradictory relationship to Jews and LGBTIQ people in Britain, France, the Netherlands and the US.

The article argues that the contemporary far right’s conflicted attitudes towards its countries’ Jews reflects its hesitation to wholeheartedly embrace a vision of a racially pure, culturally homogenous nation. This reflects processes of capitalist globalisation and European capitalist integration that are so far advanced as to make a complete break with them seem dubious even to leading sectors of the nationalist far right. Similarly, women and lesbian/gay people have come to play such an extensive and visible role in the North American and European waged labour force as to make a complete rejection of feminism and of lesbian/gay rights seem implausible even for many far-right forces that try to draw the line at ‘gender ideology’ and transgender liberation.

At the same time, far-right leaderships’ quest for a modus vivendi with capital fuels tensions with the intense nationalism, racism, sexism and heterosexism, not only of more extreme far-right currents, but also of much of the far right’s own broad base. Hostility towards Jews and LGBTIQ people among many of the far right’s adherents reflects a vision of both groups as prosperous and powerful. This is a drastic distortion of reality, even if Jewish working classes have declined since 1945 and there have been new openings for professional and managerial careers for gay/lesbian people since the 1970s.

This article contends, however, that feminist social reproduction theory reveals a certain rational kernel in far-right hostility to Jews and queers. In very different ways, Jews and LGBTIQ people play distinctive roles in the mutating social reproduction of contemporary capitalist societies: Jews disproportionately in cultural and ideological sectors, and LGBTIQ people in shifts from ‘biological’ to market-oriented families. Antisemitism and anti-LGBTIQ ideology feed on deeply rooted anxieties among millions of working-class and petty-bourgeois people about threats to ‘their’ cultures and ways of life, anxieties on which the far right can sometimes capitalise.

All these contradictory trends result in a constant tension on the far right between rejection of Jews and LGBTIQ people, on the one hand, and efforts to harness some Jews and some lesbian/gay people to the project of a more authoritarian, nationally-oriented and socially-conservative capitalist order, on the other. The clash between strands of the far right that are explicitly antisemitic and anti-LGBTIQ and strands that are only implicitly antisemitic and anti-LGBTIQ correlates, though far from perfectly, with the divide between far-right currents that I would define as ‘post-fascist’ and ‘neo-fascist’. ‘Post-fascist’ parties, by my definition, are those that are less committed to the effective suppression of opposition parties, opposition media and civil society, as carried out in recent years by ‘neo-fascist’ regimes in countries like Hungary and Turkey. While post-fascist leaderships retain the European far right’s trademark anti-Muslim racism, they present their criticism of Islam as a defence of European democratic values, and even of Jews’, women’s and lesbian/gay rights.

This post-fascist strategy can sometimes enable far-right parties to appeal to some Jews and some LGBTI people. More often, it can help inhibit even Jews and LGBTI people who vote for the left or centre-left from taking part actively in mobilisations against the far right. Jews and LGBTIQ people can for example be reluctant to mobilise against the far right because they have been influenced by right-wing portrayals of blacks and Muslims as antisemitic and homophobic. Even many left-leaning Jews and LGBTIQ people can be inhibited by ideological presuppositions that they share with the far right: homonationalist presuppositions among LGBTIQ people, Zionist presuppositions among Jews. Although the available data do little to justify portrayals of blacks, Muslims and the radical left as the main reservoirs of antisemitism and hostility to LGBTIQ people today, these portrayals are influential enough to complicate solidarity against the far right.

Fortunately, this article concludes, a base exists among both Jews and LGBTIQ people for radical antiracism, wide-ranging internationalist solidarity and defence of democracy from below. Growing minorities that embrace such perspectives exist today among both Jews and queers. A large minority of young US Jews today support antiracism and Palestine solidarity, for example, and queer antiracist and internationalist activism has been on the rise in both North America and Europe. There are grounds for hope that Jews and queers can be a significant part of the struggle, however challenging, against the far-right threat.

Roots of far-right ambiguities

The far-right threat to Jews and queers, though daunting, is ambiguous. The ‘fine people’ in far-right groups whom Trump saluted when they mobilised in Charlottesville in 2017 chanted ‘Jews will not replace us’, yet Trump’s Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner played a prominent role in his administration. This ambiguity was reflected in Trump’s contortions in trying to distinguish between the ‘bad Jews’ who opposed him and the good Jews who supported him.

In the Netherlands, the Dutch Zionist Israel Documentation and Information Centre (CIDI), despite its traditional ties to social democracy, showed sympathy for years for the far-right, pro-Israel Forum for Democracy (FvD). It gave FvD leaders a public platform as recently as May 2020, praising them for their support for Israel – until 2021, when the antisemitism of Thierry Beaudet and other FvD leaders, notably in comparing public health restrictions in the COVID-19 pandemic to the Holocaust, finally impelled CIDI to take its distance.[4]

The far right also takes contradictory positions on LGBTIQ issues. Trump repaid white evangelicals for their support by defending their ‘religious freedom’ to discriminate, yet he gave gay Republican Richard Grenell several high-ranking jobs and used him as an envoy to the European far right while Grenell was ambassador to Germany. US Republicans remain divided today on gay issues: when the 2022 Texas Republican Party platform called homosexuality an ‘abnormal lifestyle choice’,[5]  Florida’s right-wing Republican Senator Rick Scott criticised the Texas position as not ‘inclusive’.[6] In France, Le Pen has tried to rally gays by emphasising the Muslim threat to them, yet pledged to repeal same-sex marriage if elected.

Beyond pure opportunism, these contradictions have deeper roots. They reflect the open-ended, ambiguous character of far-right societal projects today, rooted in the contemporary crisis of capitalist political economies.

Like the European far right of the 1920s and 1930s, the far right today feeds on the crisis of a prior wave of capitalist internationalisation. In countries like Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, the internationalisation of capital from the 1890s to 1914 had been dislocated by the First World War, and further derailed by tariff wars in the 1930s. In response, Nazism in power opted after a few years for an economic model of virtual autarky,[7] with ‘Jewish capital’ being a convenient bogeyman standing in for the capitalist internationalisation the Nazis were rejecting.

By contrast, as Robert Went has shown, the wave of internationalisation of capital from 1945 to about 2008 went much further and deeper, linking and internationalising all three circuits of capital: not only trade and finance, but also production.[8] Today’s far right, while seeking to enlist more nationally-oriented sectors of capital in an effort to turn back the clock to some extent, still has a hazy ultimate horizon for its economic project. The Trump administration’s renogotiation of NAFTA, Boris Johnson’s attempt to renogotiate the UK’s relationship to the EU, and Le Pen’s shifting attitude towards the euro are examples of this unclarity.

The contemporary far right’s attitude towards its countries’ Jews ideologically reflects its hesitation so far to wholeheartedly embrace a vision of a racially pure, culturally homogenous nation. Its attitude towards Jews is further complicated by its sympathy with far-right Zionism, which today promotes its own vision of a racially pure, culturally homogenous nation (Israel). Similarly, while pre-Second World War fascists openly denounced feminism and at least claimed to champion women’s return to the domestic sphere, today’s far right strives to roll back women’s professional, political and sexual emancipation without (as yet) a consistent vision of the gender and sexual order it advocates.

Especially in those far-right currents that continue today to centrally emphasise militant nationalism and traditional Christian identity, anti-LGBTIQ ideology, like antisemitism, remains a key mobilising theme. Even in those far-right parties that most strongly insist on their democratic character and attachment to Western humanist values, both anti-LGBTIQ ideology and antisemitism have a persistent appeal to their base and cadres. A range of far-right currents, besides seeing Jews as unreliable allies or even adversaries in the defence of white and/or Christian civilisation, see ‘gender ideology’ or ‘LGBT ideology’ as undermining the natural and/or Christian family. This has been manifest notably in attempts in the US and several European countries to block or roll back transgender rights.

By analogy with the philo-gay/lesbian ‘homonationalism’ in the service of imperialism that Jasbir Puar has described,[9] anti-LGBTIQ ideology today can be seen as ‘heteronationalism’, mobilising hostility to LGBTIQ people as a way of channeling popular anger at neoliberalism.[10] In a reflex response to the instrumentalisation of LGBTI rights by neoliberalism, heteronationalism has been instrumentalising anti-LGBTI attitudes in the service of right-wing populism, particularly in increasingly authoritarian countries from Poland to Brazil but also for example in the 2012 mobilisations against same-sex marriage in France. Even in power, the right can play on resentment of neoliberal ideology even as it maintains many key features of neoliberal economics, allowing neoliberal austerity and far-right reaction to continue to feed on one another.[11]

In this climate, violence against pride events, notably in Eastern Europe, has been partly the work of neo-fascist groups who believe that the European Union is ‘run by “fags”’.[12] The EU’s policy of imposing legal LGBTI rights since the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam as part of its ‘acquis’ helps fuel such beliefs.[13] In fact credence in the malevolent power of LGBTIQ people, and of Jews, extends well beyond the far right.

Far from being limited to fascist and neo-fascist groups, antisemitism and anti-LGBTIQ attitudes lie just beneath the surface even in far-right parties that deny any continuity with the fascist past. Trump’s attempts to reach out to ‘good Jews’ evoked no sympathy from his admirers in Charlottesville who chanted ‘Jews will not replace us’. In France, despite the far-right National Rally’s appeals to gay voters, it could not resist the temptation in 2012 when a centre-left government’s project for same-sex marriage elicited mass resistance to claim leadership of the crusade against marriage equality. In its programmes for the 2017 and 2022 elections it tried to square the circle, pledging to convert existing same-sex marriages into civil unions.[14]

Similarly, even where far-right parties ostensibly abjure antisemitism, their rise has propelled substantial increases in antisemitic harassment and violence. There were more antisemitic incidents in the US in 2019 than in any year since the Anti-Defamation League began collecting records 40 years earlier, a rise which the ADL’s head has blamed partly on Trump’s failure to condemn far-right antisemitism.[15] UK Home Office figures show a spike in hate crimes generally in post-Brexit England and Wales.[16] This paralleled a 78 per cent rise in anti-LGBTIQ harassment and violence in France in the year after the massive movement against same-sex marriage took off there in 2012.[17]

The fact that antisemitic and LGBTIQ attacks are usually the work of gangs of hooligans or ‘lone wolves’ allows the organised far right to deny responsibility. Yet the connection is evident. As a result, while most Jews and gay/lesbian people do not experience the constant levels of violence suffered by black and other racialised people, the fear that intermittent violence creates affects Jews and LGBTIQ people generally. The far right’s rise has plunged them into lives of endemic if unequally felt anxiety. 

Antisemitic and heteronationalist themes are sometimes bizarrely linked in far-right psychopathology. In Ben Lorber and Heron Greenesmith’s words, many on the far right ‘believe Jews advance “white genocide” – in addition to engineering increased immigration of Black and brown people, orchestrating racial justice movements, controlling the government and giant corporations, using space lasers to start California wildfires, and other dastardly schemes – by liberalizing societal attitudes around gender and sexuality’.[18] Despite the sexual conservatism of contemporary Islamic fundamentalism, far-right ideologues depict Muslims as promiscuous and sexually barbaric,[19] explicitly or implicitly linking them to queers.

There are notable parallels between antisemitic and anti-LGBTIQ ideology, despite the drastically different character of their respective targets: on the one hand, Jewish communities defined by shifting religious/ethnic/cultural identities transmitted across centuries; on the other, LGBTIQ communities that have to be reinvented in each generation through the coming out of diverse, initially isolated individuals. Even the two groups’ geographical location varies: unlike Jews, LGBTIQ people are present in substantial numbers in every country, including dependent countries, though less visible in countries where repression and persecution are most harsh. Yet the far right attacks Jewish and LGBTIQ groups in strangely similar ways, seeing them both as alien and threatening to the nation – as an insidious, barely visible enemy within.

The far right today still sometimes – if not always – harkens back to the classical far-right stereotype of the Jew ‘as the embodiment of marginality, otherness, cosmopolitantism, and critical thought’.[20] It also takes up the old far-right loathing of Jewish cosmopolitans like Rosa Luxemburg, ‘figures who profoundly marked the modern definition of internationalism’, as well as of Jewish champions of the cultural and intellectual avant-garde.[21] It also sometimes – if not consistently – replicates the hostility to homosexuality that Dagmar Herzog has described as one of ‘the distinctive markers of fascist sexual politics’,[22] exemplified in the Nazis’ 1928 declaration rejecting the ‘love between men or between women’ that ‘emasculates our people’.[23]

Transgender people are a special focus of contemporary far-right attacks, even in milieus where more normalised lesbian and gay people enjoy apparent acceptance. Trans activism is seen as part of a scheme to ‘overrid[e] biological sex with the amorphous concept of gender identity’.[24] In more moderate forms, such attitudes are echoed on the more mainstream conservative right. Former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss has written that ‘feminists who believe there are biological differences between men and women’ are being intimidated by a ‘zealous cabal … that has control of nearly all of the institutions that produce American cultural and intellectual life’.[25] In its more virulent forms, the anti-trans offensive has been sweeping much of the US as part of the general far-right offensive – orchestrated to some extent while Trump was in office from the top of his Justice Department.[26] Views like this have global far-right support. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for example declared in a speech at the UN in 2019 that efforts are being made to ‘destroy the innocence of our children, perverting even their most basic and elementary identity, the biological one’.[27]

Even far-right parties that avoid adopting a virulently anti-LGBTIQ profile adopt positions that threaten LGBTIQ people widely, particularly LGBTIQ people who have or want to have children. The far-right defence of the so-called ‘natural’ family order against ‘gender ideology’ often entails opposition to LGBTI parenting rights, such as adoption (including partner adoption) and medically-assisted procreation. Even far-right ‘tolerance’ of LGBTIQ people thus means keeping them second-class citizens in the fundamental sphere of social reproduction.

Jews, queers, class and social reproduction

Understanding far-right hostility to Jews and LGBTIQ people from a Marxist standpoint is complicated by the difficulties of analysing these target communities’ class composition and positions. The far right portrayal of both Jews and LGBTIQ people in general as wealthy and powerful can be refuted without much difficulty – and should be, particularly since this imagery is widely shared beyond the far right. This is a complex task, however. The image of Jews as wealthy and powerful flourished even in societies and periods when the great majority of Jews were in fact poor and persecuted. It has acquired somewhat more superficial plausibility in the decades since the Second World War, as official and ruling-class antisemitism has become less virulent and relative Jewish poverty has become less widespread.

Clearly the socioeconomic reality of Jewish and LGBTIQ communities is more complex than the ideology. Of course, all ethnic, cultural and sexual groups are divided by class, with all the social and ideological differentiation that this entails. However, some groups are more divided by class than others. Marxist analyses of black and similarly racialised groups trace the structural racism against them back to the low position they generally occupy in segmented labour markets and their outsize share of the reserve army of labour.[28] Neither Jewish nor LGBTIQ groups can be analysed in such straightforward class terms.

The long historical record of Jewish communities in pre-capitalist and capitalist societies reveals a continually shifting and always highly differentiated class landscape, with Jews playing notable roles at different times in petty commerce, working-class sectors largely excluded from heavy industry, more or less intermediate positions in welfare-state sectors such as teaching, healthcare and social work, and law and finance.[29] Unfortunately, contemporary data is scarce, geographically uneven, and couched in sociological categories that tend to obscure class affiliation.

In the US, the National Jewish Population Survey, last conducted 20 years ago, does show relatively higher levels of education and income for US Jews than for the US population at large. Twice as many Jewish households surveyed in 2000 (34 per cent) reported incomes above $75,000 than the US average (17 per cent). At the same time, the Jewish population was on average older, less likely to be in the workforce, and not that much less likely to have a household income below $25,000 (22 per cent as opposed to 28 per cent).[30] While PEW surveys have shown that Jews are disproportionately likely to have postgraduate degrees,[31] this category unites people in high class positions with some who are notoriously insecure and marginal.

As for LGBTIQ people, in the increasingly class-divided communities of a country like the US, studies have shown that both gay men and lesbians are under-represented in higher income brackets, that gay men in particular are over-represented in the lower income brackets, and that 39 per cent of LGBT adults in the US have incomes under $30,000 (compared with 28 per cent of adults in general). Trans people were even worse off, with one San Francisco study showing that 9 per cent had no source of income at all.[32] Poverty is a reality for millions of Jews and LGBTIQ people, with the Jewish and LGBTIQ elderly being especially vulnerable to it.

In short, the picture painted by far-right antisemites and heteronationalists, of communities that are largely prosperous and invested in maintaining the economic status quo, is a drastic distortion of reality, even if Jewish working classes have declined since 1945 and there have been new openings for professional and managerial careers for gay/lesbian people since the 1970s. There is of course no one-to-one correspondence between class position and politics. Still less can politics be explained by simplistic, non-Marxist analyses that equate ‘working-class’ with ‘uneducated’, and conclude that the far right has predominantly working-class support.

More careful, particularly Marxist analyses have shown that Brexit and Trump voters in particular have not only had higher average incomes than their opponents but have been proportionally stronger in petty-bourgeois layers.[33] Confusions of education with class are particularly prone to distort the class position of Jews and LGBTIQ people. Still, class analysis narrowly speaking does not yield full explanations of the position of Jews and LGBTIQ people in relation to the far right.

Nevertheless, despite the psychotic aspects of the conspiracy theories that many far-right groups peddle, a nuanced, intersectional Marxist approach can reveal a certain rational kernel in far-right hostility to Jews and queers. This analysis must be founded, not on class alone, but on feminist social reproduction theory.[34]

In very different ways, Jews and LGBTIQ people both play distinctive roles in processes of social reproduction of contemporary capitalist societies. In the case of Jews, this reflects their exclusion in mediaeval and early modern Europe from owning land or bearing arms, on the one hand, and the emphasis in rabbinical culture on literacy and study, on the other. In Enzo Traverso’s words, ‘Their culture oriented to writing placed them at the centre of an emerging cultural industry, based around publishing and press.’[35] These factors have resulted in the relative prominence in capitalist societies of Jews in such fields as the media (the Sulzberger family’s ownership of the New York Times in the US recalls the liberal-leaning, Jewish-owned publishing firms of Mosse and Ullstein in Weimar Germany[36]), academia and cinema. This has helped make Jews in these sectors convenient targets, explicit or implicit, of the far right from Hitler to Trump. Trump summed up his idiosyncratic twist on this old theme in a recent podcast: ‘they’re Jewish people that run the New York Times’, he said, and the newspaper ‘hates Israel’.[37]

The historical exclusion of Jewish men from traditional male roles in the exercise of violence has helped give far-right antisemitism a gender and sexual dimension.[38] What the far right perceives as Jewish men’s failure to conform to its model of proper masculinity parallels its vision of LGBTIQ people, especially transgender people and the most openly queer, as enemies of the family. Paradoxically, attempts by Jews and LGBTI people to adapt to predominant gender and sexual norms can seem as diabolical to the far right as open nonconfirmity. In France in the 1890s, the presence of a Jewish officer like Alfred Dreyfus in the army only convinced right-wing antisemites that he had to be a traitor to the nation. Today, many LGBTI people’s efforts to marry, adopt children and found socially-reproductive families only convinces right-wing heteronationalists that there is a plot to destroy the family from within.

Intersectional analysis can help illuminate the ways in which gender, class and racism interact in the far right’s vision (or paranoid fantasies) of the danger that Jews and LGBTIQ people pose to proper gender roles, proper capitalist economic relations and a world of white and/or Christian predominance. Queer Jews, located at the point where these perceived threats converge, epitomise them. At the same time, the parallels between far-right demonisation of Jews and LGBTIQ people sometimes seem to be less illuminated by intersectional analysis than by a relationship of structural homology, or even the simple concept of ‘adjacency’.[39] However different the real economic and social dynamics of Jewish and LGBTIQ communities are, there is just enough substance to Jewish transnational ties and to LGBTIQ  ‘chosen families’ to juxtapose them in far-right fears and fantasies.  These parallels can burgeon in far-right discourse into an elaborate ideological edifice in which fact sits cheek by jowl with free association run amok.

Between post-fascism and neo-fascism

There is a constant tension on the far right between a virtually psychotic rejection of Jews and LGBTIQ people, on the one hand, and efforts to harness some Jews and some lesbian/gay people to the project of a more authoritarian, nationally-oriented and socially-conservative capitalist order, on the other. The clash between strands of the far right that are explicitly antisemitic and anti-LGBTIQ and other strands that are only implicitly antisemitic and anti-LGBTIQ correlates, though far from perfectly, with the divide between far-right currents that I would define as ‘post-fascist’ and ‘neo-fascist’.

What is distinctive in the far right today, especially in the US and northwestern Europe, is the salience of institutionalised, less blatantly violent parties alongside the violent groups that more clearly harken back to a fascist past. To some extent, the far right’s contrasting attitudes to Jews and LGBTIQ people parallel this divide. Alongside groups that see all Jews and queers as evil, there are large far-right parties that allow for the possibility of inoffensive Jews (particularly those in or loyal to the state of Israel) and inoffensive gays and lesbians. This divide overlaps with the distinction between those far-right forces that can be defined as ‘neo-fascist’ or ‘post-fascist’.

As used in this article, the terms ‘neo-fascist’ and ‘post-fascist’ refer to the character of governments that the far right could participate in or even dominate. A survey of current or recent far-right governments or governments with far-right participation around the world shows that none of them so far fully meets the classic Marxist definition of fascist regimes: regimes that effectively suppress the independent labour movement and other social movements, opposition parties and opposition media.[40] This makes the concept of fascism, in Enzo Traverso’s words, ‘both inappropriate and indispensable for grasping this new reality’.[41] Instead many analysts describe most of the world’s major far-right parties and actually existing far-right governments as ‘post-fascist’ or ‘neo-fascist’.[42]

The difference between post-fascist and neo-fascist governments can be of crucial importance in elaborating strategies of resistance. As used in this article, the difference between them relates particularly to different degrees of commitment to the effective suppression of opposition parties, opposition media and civil society. The Trump administration in the US from 2017 to 2021, for example, despite its links to violent, racist, extraparliamentary paramilitary groups, never effectively subjugated the AFL-CIO, the New York Times, the courts or even state-level Republican election officials; it can be defined as post-fascist. By contrast, Viktor Orbán’s government in Hungary, despite its superficial adherence to constitutional rule and multi-party elections, has managed to progressively bring the courts, the major media, the state apparatus and much of civil society under its control.[43] I define Orbán’s and kindred regimes as neo-fascist.

One feature of the new far right which has a bearing on its post-fascist or neo-fascist character is its varied, shifting ideological profile. Marine Le Pen in France pioneered the process of ‘de-demonising’ the National Front after she became its top leader in 2011, ultimately renaming it ‘National Rally’, for example by dropping the antisemitism that had characterised it under her father Jean-Marie Le Pen. In its new packaging, the National Rally has retained the European far right’s trademark anti-Muslim racism, but presents its criticism of Islam as a defence of European democratic values, and even of women’s rights – a tactic deployed by the Italian and Dutch far right as well, as Sara Farris has shown.[44] The National Rally’s marketing strategy has been widely replicated, particularly on the Western European far right.

Renunciation of antisemitism in particular is a marker of a post-fascist ideological profile. More than anything else, it enacts the adaptation of post-fascist parties to the official, liberal Western European and North American mainstream. In the years after 1945, condemnation of antisemitism and integration of Jews into society was seen as proof of a definitive break with the defeated Nazi adversary. It also served as evidence of Western democracy’s superiority to the Soviet Union and much of the East Bloc, where manifestations of institutionalised antisemitism were not hard to find.

With the rise of racism (anti-Muslim as well as anti-black) on the European right since the 1980s, Jews have largely been incorporated into its vision of embattled Western civilisation, and its spokespeople have denied the evident links between antisemitism, colonialism and racism. Israel in particular is imagined as sharing a common ‘Judeo-Christian heritage’.[45] It is no accident that censures of her father’s antisemitic statements were an early hallmark of Marine Le Pen’s rebranding of the National Front, and that Geert Wilders tried from the outset to keep his PVV free of members tainted by the earlier antisemitic traditions of the Dutch far right.

Yet increasingly in recent years, the far right’s post-fascist new look has proved difficult to keep up. In Western Europe, far-right parties with a new look face competition from others that harken back to a more sinister past. In the Netherlands, for example, the PVV lost terrain (for a few years) to the FvD of Thierry Beaudet, whose misogyny and peculiar championing of ‘boreal [read: ‘white’] civilisation’ have become increasingly notorious.[46]

To some degree, antisemitism and heteronationalism are particularly characteristic of neo-fascist, as opposed to post-fascist currents. Yet the growth of antisemitism and anti-LGBTIQ ideology cuts across this divide, with the rank and file and low-level leaders of ostensibly post-fascist parties being far from immune to them. Even in the more post-fascist-looking parties, the top leadership faces challenges from harder-line mid-level cadress and embarrassing statements and actions by the rank and file. An official Dutch study concluded in 2011 that despite the far-right PVV’s public pro-gay statements, its voters showed more anti-LGBTIQ attitudes than those of any other major party.[47] Beyond Europe, the US Republican Party seems to have been permanently affected by Trump’s sympathies for Klan groups, neo-Nazis, the QAnon conspiracy theorists and various neo-fascist splinters.

Challenges for Jewish and queer resistance

The continued prominence of antisemitism and heteronationalism, both on the neo-fascist far right and in supposedly ‘de-demonised’ post-fascist parties, should make the far right’s rise a cause of particular alarm in Jewish and LGBTIQ communities. Yet there are factors that hinder even the majority of Jews and LGBT people who vote against the far right from taking part actively in broad alliances and mobilisations against it.

In some cases, this is due to a failure by anti-far-right organisers to actively reach out to Jews and queers. This can at times reflect heteronormative attitudes among them, or discomfort with ‘too Jewish’ Jews. At the same time, Jews and LGBTIQ people can be reluctant to mobilise against the far right because they have been influenced by right-wing portrayals of blacks and Muslims as antisemitic and homophobic. Even many left-leaning Jews and LGBTIQ people can be inhibited by ideological presuppositions that they share with the far right: homonationalist presuppositions among LGBTIQ people, Zionist presuppositions among Jews.

Particularly in the US and northwestern Europe, sectors of the far right have taken advantage of conservative trends that influenced growing minorities of Jews beginning in the 1960s, and of open gays and lesbians beginning in the 1980s. Enzo Traverso’s The End of Jewish Modernity uses Henry Kissinger as the emblematic figure of a divorce among some Jews from the centre-left and radical left to which they had been loyal for much of the twentienth century.[48] By the 1990s a visible gay/lesbian right emerged, epitomised by figures such as Andrew Sullivan and Camille Paglia.[49]

The growth of a conservative minority among Jews has in part been a response to tensions with increasingly militant movements of black and immigrant communities and other racialised groups. In the US, some Jews have been reluctant to accept the implications of the reality that most Jews in the course of the twentienth century had been incorporated into majorities defined as white (thus marginalising Sephardic, black or otherwise racialised Jews).[50] The rise of a disproportionately Jewish neoconservative current under Reagan and the two Bushes in the 1980s[51] prefigured some US Jews’ ambiguous relationship to the right in the era of Trump, which can hinder solidarity against the racist far right. The reasons for solidarity are clearer and more dramatic than ever, epitomised in the killing of ten people in a predominantly Black neighbourhood in Buffalo in May 2022. The white supremacist killer expressed sympathy for ‘great replacement theory’, which blames Jews for subverting the white race, and claimed the 2018 shootings that killed 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 as an inspiration. The American Jewish Committee tweeted in response, ‘White supremacist violence is a threat to us all.’ Yet at the same time the Anti-Defamation League, one of the Jewish organisations that condemned the Buffalo killings, continues its surveillance of pro-Palestine and Black Lives Matter organisers and continues to back police exchange programmes with Israel that contribute to racist police violence. As Rebecca Pierce commented, ‘there are unfortunately some within the Jewish community for whom investment in whiteness ranks above any interest in shared struggle’.[52]

In northwestern Europe, despite British and Dutch Jews’ tradition of support for their countries’ labour parties, tensions have risen in recent decades between established Jewish organisations, like the British Board of Deputies and the Dutch CIDI, and activists of Muslim immigrant origin. Israeli attempts to magnify Jews’ fears, along with a few European Muslims’ inclination to target Jews in general in retaliation for Israeli actions, have exacerbated this dynamic. Against this backdrop, several repulsive attacks on Jews by people of immigrant origin have given rise to charges of widespread Muslim antisemitism. In both the US and northwestern Europe, tensions like these have strained Jews’ earlier ties to the left and facilitated some Jews’ movement towards the right.

All these trends can complicate Jewish integration into mobilisations against the far right. Jews are aware of growing antisemitism, which was manifest for example in the murderous attack on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in the US in 2018, which killed 11 Jews. Since people gradually became aware after the Second World World of the full extent and horrors of the Nazi genocide, fears of recurrence have become a basic constituent element of Jewish identity in countries in Europe and the Americas with sizeable Jewish communities (as well as a liberal ‘state religion’, in Enzo Traverso’s words[53]). Yet Jewish fears of resurgent antisemitism have taken different forms over the decades.

From the 1890s to the 1930s, Jewish communities, particularly in much of Eastern Europe and North America, were to a substantial extent made up of working classes, organised in labour movements, which explicitly and rightly linked antisemitic threats to far-right ideology and attacks.[54] Consequently, masses of Jews influenced by working-class  movements were particularly likely to identify the right and far right as hotbeds of antisemitism. For several decades after 1945, as Jewish labour movements shrank, a left-wing and proletarian interpretation gave way to other interpretations of antisemitism. There was a spread of Zionist ideology that portrayed non-Jews as inherently prone to antisemitism, and of racist ideology that portrayed Muslims and blacks as a main source of antisemitism.[55]

Large-scale immigration of Jews since the late 1950s and 1960s from the Maghreb, especially Algeria, accentuated this slippage, notably in France. Algerian Jews combined devotion to the French Republic (which had emancipated them and given them citizenship) with colonial, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab prejudices.[56]

Recently this immigration to France indirectly contributed to the rise of the far right through the 2022 presidential candidacy of Eric Zemmour, a descendant of Algerian Jews who is an apologist for the Vichy regime’s antisemitic crimes and an anti-Muslim racist, as well as an opponent of LGBTI rights. Zemmour’s candidacy sowed divisions in the French Jewish community;[57] although official French Jewish organisations boycotted his candidacy, he won 53.6 per cent of the first-round presidential vote among the few thousand French citizens voting in Israel (versus barely 7 per cent of the vote in metropolitan France).[58] Ian Buruma has pointed out that Dutch far-right leaders Wilders and Beaudet have settler-colonial family roots, in their case in the former Dutch colony Indonesia.[59]

Allegations of ingrained Muslim antisemitism have spread in northwestern Europe in the far right and beyond. Analysing the relative weight of different sources of antisemitism today is a challenging task. Surveys show a steady, significant level of antisemitism in many contemporary societies. Clearly it has deep roots in European cultures going back to European mediaeval expulsions of Jews and nineteenth-century mass antisemitic movements, which had few parallels in the mediaeval and early modern Islamic Middle East or North Africa.

Yet today the European right tends to hunt for antisemitism mainly in immigrant communities of Muslim origin – citing evidence mostly in expressions of solidarity with Palestinians. Some pro-Palestinian protesters in Europe in fact identify with Hamas, whose 1988 charter reflected an amalgam of anti-Zionism and hostility to Jews first concocted in the 1920s and 1930s.[60] Most crudely and provocatively, this amalgam has surfaced in some young Dutch protesters’ chant ‘Hamas, Hamas, Joden aan het gas!’ (‘Hamas, Hamas, gas the Jews!’).[61] Right-leaning Jewish organisations have seized on the prevalence of such antisemitic discourses in northwest European immigrant communities.

The available evidence, while limited, gives a more nuanced picture. One 2022 survey in the Netherlands for example showed that 36 per cent of people of non-Western immigrant origin (most of them from Muslim countries like Morocco and Turkey) blamed Hamas for the persistence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, compared with only 59 per cent who blamed Israel and 26 per cent who blamed the Palestinian Authority.[62] A report by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London found no polling that indicated a prevalence of antisemitism among Muslim populations.[63] In France, studies show that the recent wave of anti-Jewish attacks has coincided with a marked decline of antisemitism in public opinion.[64]

The available data do little to buttress assertions that ethnicity, religion or nationality are key factors in explaining antisemitism. A recent survey by the Anti-Defamation League – not an organisation known for its sympathy for the radical left or for non-Jewish immigrants – showed that in Western Europe religion was a minor factor in forecasting antisemitic attitudes, with Christians (at 25 per cent) wedged in between Muslims (29 per cent) and atheists and unaffiliated (22 per cent). Gender differences were at least as significant (males 27 per cent, females 21 per cent).[65] As for nationality, although the range was much greater, Germany had the same ranking as Belgium (27 per cent).[66]

Such data provides little basis for the widespread argument on the right that the fight against antisemitism in Europe and the Americas should take immigrant communities and the left as its main targets. This issue has been highlighted in Britain by the campaign by the Board of Deputies, the country’s most prominent established Jewish organisation, to portray the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership as pervasively and exceptionally antisemitic. Taken up and amplified by much of the media, the Board of Deputies’ campaign succeeded in obscuring the well-documented fact that Labour Party members have less antisemitic attitudes on average than backers of the Conservative Party. Research has shown that antisemitic attitudes are less prevalent on the British left than on the right, and declined among Labour supporters between 2015 and 2017.[67]

The British data fit in with the outcomes of other studies, suggesting that differences between the left and right are more significant overall in accounting for antisemitism than religion or ethnicity, and that the right is more antisemitic. Referring to France, one major European survey concluded, ‘The radical right remains the most attractive political area for those expressing racist and antisemitic attitudes, whereas people who vote for the radical left are the least racist and the most likely to consider Jews and Muslim as French.’[68] The surprise here is that there is no surprise: so pervasive have efforts been in recent years to overturn evidence correlating far-right support with antisemitism, drawn from almost two centuries during which antisemitism ‘had been symbiotically interwoven within all European nationalisms’.[69]

Signs have been multiplying that a wide range of far-right currents still suspect Jews of undermining the nation and white/Christian culture by promoting the ‘Great Replacement’ and ‘Eurabia’. This tendency cuts across the divide between violent, conspiracy-minded extremists and more ‘respectable’, ‘rational’ intellectuals on the post-fascist right. In response, Jewish individuals and groups participate actively and visibly in mobilisations against new outbreaks of far-right antisemitism. Yet many Jewish organisations perceived as representative are absent from anti-far-right mobilisations – due in part to tensions around Israel.


Liberal and post-fascist condemnations of antisemitism and far-right flirtations with antisemitism meet and mix strikingly in a shared allegiance to Zionism. From a minority current among Jews almost everywhere before the Second World War, Zionism became the focus of Jewish loyalties broadly after the foundation of the Israeli state, cementing a newly secured integration of Jews into the ideological order of the capitalist ‘free world’.

This shift in world Jewish opinion reflected in part the fact that, following the Nazi genocide and the massive emigration of Jews from the Arab region to Israel, the global Jewish population outside Israel became more concentrated than ever before in the imperialist states of North America and northwestern Europe.[70] By the time of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, these imperialist states (especially the US) were closely allied to Israel. This reinforced the steadily growing tendency of Jews in these countries to rally around Israel. The popularity of Zionism made support for Israel a convenient vehicle for Jewish political, ideological and social integration.

The minority of Jews seeking a place on the political right often justified their rightward moves by portraying the Palestinian struggle, and its supporters on the global left, as motivated by hostility to Jews – a portrayal buttressed by a tendentious reading of history. Gilbert Achcar’s painstaking reconstruction of Palestinian and Arab history has demonstrated for example how instances of collaboration with Nazism by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem have been used to construct a globally false characterisation of the Palestinian struggle as a whole as antisemitic.[71]

Room for even right-wing Jews in neo-fascist currents today is very limited. Yet the US and European right has a natural affinity with the Israeli right. For Geert Wilders of the Dutch PVV, Israel is ‘the West’s first line of defense against Islam’.[72]

For Jews on the centre-left, by contrast, even in the past when the Histadrut and the kibbutzim were the public (though in reality never representative) face of Zionism, sympathy for the Israeli project always had unsettling implications for European Jews. However much they tried to combine support for Israel with defence of Jews in the ‘diaspora’, they shrank from forcefully denouncing the central Zionist tenet that Israel is Jews’ only ultimate refuge. They found themselves caught up in a sort of official philosemitism that, as Houria Bouteldja has noted, itself embodies an oppressive position and has a certain underground affinity with antisemitism.

By contrast with an earlier tendency to link Jewish integration with cultural assimilation (outside the privatised sphere of religion), today’s apparent philosemitic message – we accept and even love the Jews – is combined with an implicit message: we love them in their ineradicable differentness.[73] This became glaring in recent years when Benjamin Netanyahu, visiting France in the wake of antisemitic attacks, declared that Jews had no future there and would be better off all emigrating to Israel.

As Sai Englert has pointed out, Zionist rhetoric has duplicated commonplaces of antisemitic ideology, identifying its aims as ‘casting off the pariah, the weak, the parasitic, and replacing it with the conquering, the productive, and the strong’.[74] Focusing on the UK and US, Englert has identified a dynamic of separation at the heart of the liberal project of integration: ‘The emergence of the nation-state … placed the Jew firmly outside of its limits … accompanied by the application of colonial processes of racialisation to explain this exclusion’. More recently, Jewish historical memory of the Nazi genocide and the establishment of Israel have been situated in ‘a state-led framework that has both placed Jews at the centre of Western hegemony while simultaneously keeping them at arm’s length of full integration’.[75]

The neo-fascist far right’s combination of Zionism with antisemitism thus makes explicit a substratum that has existed all along in the anti-antisemitism of the liberal mainstream. It also evokes strands of historical, classic fascist thought that have largely been buried in more recent historical memory, going back to the early Nazi regime’s Transfer Agreement with the German Zionist movement to facilitate German Jewish emigration to Palestine.[76]

Today the Israeli right’s ties to the increasingly antisemitic European far right are creating tensions with US and European Jews. The growing prominence of antisemitism on the far right should both spur Jews to redouble their activism against it and focus non-Jewish activists’ attention on understanding and fighting antisemitism wherever it appears. At the same time, the history of the past 60 years makes clear that effective Jewish opposition to the far right would benefit from an ideological change of course (already under way particularly among young Jews) towards allying with victims of other forms of racism and taking a greater distance from Zionism.


In parallel to the post-fascist renunciation of open antisemitism, some far-right currents, particularly in northwestern Europe, have taken their distance from the crudest forms of anti-LGBTIQ ideology. As with antisemitism, far-right appeals to some gays and lesbians have piggybacked on earlier rightward trends in LGBTI communities and on movement by a minority of gays and lesbians towards the mainstream conservative right.

The neoliberal hard right under Reagan and Thatcher initially courted Christian heteronationalists, for example through a wave of reactionary campaigns in the US against lesbian/gay anti-discrimination ordinances beginning in 1977 in Dade County, Florida, and British Conservatives’ adoption of the anti-gay Section 28 in 1988. In the course of the 1990s, however, space opened up in Western European and North American right-wing parties for openly gay conservatives. This development was linked to a right-wing turn in US gay/lesbian politics manifest in the national lesbian/gay rights march in 2000.[77] The new gay right adopted (with some delay) the cause of same-sex marriage, with one gay right-winger defending it on the grounds that marriage in conjunction with an unfettered market imposes discipline and privatises dependency among the poor.[78]

Following on Lisa Duggan’s exploration of the links between neoliberalism and homonormativity, Jasbir Puar’s account of neoliberal homonationalism has focused on widespread gay/lesbian celebration of the imperialist order. The rightward turn in gay/lesbian communities gained momentum in the US after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, as the ‘American flag appeared everywhere in gay spaces, in gay bars and gay gyms’.[79] This new homonationalism fostered an apparently ‘seamless articulation of queerness with an imperial nation state’.[80]

Homonationalism gained strength in European countries like the Netherlands as well, fuelled by anti-gay pronouncements by Muslim fundamentalists,[81] making the PVV the most popular party among Dutch white gay men in the 2010 elections. As Gloria Wekker has noted, the dominant Dutch narrative became that ‘everything was fine with gay and lesbian liberation until Islamic people turned up and … caused a rupture in the trumphant march of progress’.[82]

Like tensions between Jews and Muslims in France, anti-Muslim racism among gay men has fed on real fears of violence. The role in anti-LGBTIQ violence of young immigrants of Muslim origin has however been blown out of proportion. While a study in Amsterdam showed that young men of Moroccan origin are disproportionately charged with such crimes – a statistic that may reflect the Dutch police’s documented propensity to charge racialised people more often than white ones for the same offences – it showed that the majority of anti-LGBTIQ violence is still committed by white, native-born Dutchmen.[83] Anti-LGBTIQ violence in the Dutch fundamentalist Protestant ‘Bible Belt’, though well known, gets far less media attention than violence by young people of immigrant origin.

Besides the influence of skewed media coverage, the focus on violence by immigrants of Muslim origin may express a desire among some gay men to safeguard what they perceive as their newfound acceptance and social integration. They may feel that they can cement their integration into the white majority by adopting prejudices that have spread in white society.

Many LGBTI people who adopt homonationalist rhetoric still identify with the left. Yet this rhetoric creates a more favourable climate for some gays and lesbians to move to the right or even far right. The meteoric rise of gay far-right politician Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands in 2002, with his simultaneous attraction to and repulsion at Muslim men, played a role in launching this dynamic.[84] Although Fortuyn’s party quickly collapsed in the years after his assassination that same year, by 2006 Geert Wilders and his PVV had taken over Fortuyn’s supposedly pro-gay, anti-Muslim message,[85] with significant success among gay male voters in the 2010 election (as noted above).

The French far right has sometimes won gay voter support as well: an estimated 32.45 per cent of married gay couples in the 2016 regional elections.[86] Gay support for the far right has also been observed outside the US and Europe: a poll in Brazil the week before the second round of the country’s 2018 presidential election showed that 29 per cent of self-identified non-straight voters planned to vote for Bolsonaro despite his open homophobia.[87]

Jewish and queer internationalism

This article has dwelled at length on the challenges facing efforts to build Jewish and queer resistance. A forthright acknowledgment of the obstacles posed by racism (particularly anti-Muslim racism), Zionist sympathies and homonationalist attitudes among Jews and LGBTIQ people is a precondition for building clear, consistent Jewish and queer opposition to the far right. Yet the challenges are only one side of the picture. The potential for radical Jewish and queer resistance to the far right is there as well.

Paradoxically, the far right’s suspicions of Jewish internationalism and of queer subversion of the family, however exaggerated and even pathological, point towards potential Jewish and queer contributions to building an internationalist, sexually liberatory alternative to right-wing reaction. Jews working in the media, academia and the arts have skills to contribute that are badly needed to help the left reach out broadly in the ‘culture wars’ against the right. Queers pioneering new forms of personal and domestic life can show the groundlessness of anxieties about change, while demonstrating that alternatives are not the exclusive privilege of an economic elite or subcultural ghetto. In these ways, Jews and LGBTIQ people, particularly working-class and otherwise subaltern Jews and LGBTIQ people, can be an integral part of mobilisations against the far right. This potential is greatest among Jews who turn away from Zionism and queers who reject homonationalism.

A base exists among both Jews and LGBTIQ people today for radical antiracism, wide-ranging internationalist solidarity and defence of democracy from below. Growing minorities that embrace such perspectives exist today among both Jews and queers. Israeli and Zionist leaders have been shocked by signs of disaffection among Jews outside Israel, especially young Jews. A 2021 survey showed, unprecedentedly, that 25 per cent of US Jews were willing to characterise Israel as an ‘apartheid state’.[88] There are far-flung, growing Jewish networks in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, which converge (and overlap) with international queer solidarity against pinkwashing.[89] This solidarity took a leap forward in the US a decade ago with the organisation by radical queers (many of them Jewish) of a countrywide speaking tour by Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).[90] It has grown since then.

Pro-Palestinian internationalism reflects the international character of the lives lived by many Jews and many queers. Queers in particular today ‘live in a global world, bound to each other by the transnational flow of images and artefacts … and the migration of queer bodies across continents.’[91]

Besides internationalism, Jewish and queer integration into struggles against the far right also call for critical perspectives on racism and neoliberalism. On these terrains too, there are active Jewish and queer minorities promoting and developing such perspectives. Since 1990, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice has been organising in New York, notably against Trump’s Republican Party under the banner of Jews Against Fascism. Similarly, Queers for Economic Justice, active in New York from 2002 to 2014, sought to overcome the invisibility of poor queers in both LGBTI rights and economic justice movements.[92] More recently, the unprecedently massive Black Lives Matter mobilisations against police violence in the US in 2020 were accompanied by unprecedented mobilisations on the theme Black Trans/Queer Lives Matter, echoed internationally from the Netherlands to Brazil. In Britain, Jewish Voice for Labour has now broken the monopoly long held by the Zionist establishment in the Labour Party.

Taken together, these groups are still minorities in Jewish and LGBTIQ communities. The scale and imminence of the far-right threat confronts them with a daunting challenge. Nor are they are without their political ambiguities. On the one hand, the magnitude of the far-right threat and the weakness of the radical left put pressure on all the far right’s adversaries to accomodate to the forces of political neoliberalism. Although it is precisely neoliberal policies that created the conditions over the past forty years for the far right’s rise, the short-run imperatives of electoral politics tempt even radical Jews and queers to throw their support to Democrats in the US and to liberal, social-democratic and pro-neoliberal green parties in Europe – a temptation that should be resisted. It risks disfiguring opposition to far-right racism into a defence of the neoliberal caricature of cosmopolitanism.

What radical resistance demands instead is a far-reaching analysis of structural racism and a programme that rolls it back. For Jews and queers in particular, this raises some thorny issues. Jewish and LGBTIQ sympathy for the right has fed for example on fear of and anger at violence, especially antisemitic and anti-LGBTIQ violence among some Muslims. Without ever making excuses for such violence or the prejudices that underlie it, radicals need to take a hard look at the socioeconomic dynamics that can contribute to it – like gentrification, in which, cruelly, lower-income white Jews and LGBTIQ people are particularly likely to be caught up as both gentrifiers and victims. While there are no simple answers to problems like these, accomodating to neoliberalism makes solutions impossible.

On the other hand, the manifest dangers of accomodating to neoliberalism tempt some radical Jews and queers to turn away from the difficult work of reaching out to the masses of Jews and LGBTI people who are not yet ‘woke’, and focus exclusively on building safe spaces for themselves. Important as safe spaces are, this temptation, too, needs to be resisted. The far right can never be defeated without mobilising millions of people, including Jews and LGBTIQ people; and as long as the far right is not defeated, no space can be safe. The decline of Jewish working classes since 1945 and the new openings for professional and managerial careers for gay/lesbian people since the 1970s only increase the necessity and urgency of finding broad new left constituencies among Jews and queers, which can be found particularly among the large numbers of educated but economically marginal or precarious people.

Marxists obviously do not have ready-made answers to all these difficult strategic issues. The far right’s varying, shifting and contradictory relationship to Jews and LGBTIQ people, which this article has explored, complicates the issues all the more. Yet a sophisticated Marxist analysis can make an important contribution to responding to them. This makes a concerted effort by Marxists at intellectual and practical solidarity with Jews and queers organising against the far right all the more urgent.


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Lemoine, Cécile 2022, ‘Zemmour domine dans le vote des Français d’Israël’ (‘Zemmour Dominates the French Vote in Israel’), Terresainte.net, available at: <https://www.terresainte.net/2022/04/zemmour-domine-dans-le-vote-des-francais-disrael/>.

Leon, Abram 1971, The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation, New York: Pathfinder.

Levin, Nora 1977, While Messiah Tarried: Jewish Socialist Movements, 1871-1917, New York: Schocken Books.

Liebman, Arthur 1979, Jews and the Left, New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Lorber, Ben and Heron Greenesmith 2021, ‘Antisemitism Meets Transphobia’, The Progressive, available at: <https://progressive.org/magazine/antisemitism-meets-transphobia-greenesmith-lorber/>.

Moody, Kim 2007, ‘Who Put Trump in the White House?’, Against the Current 186, available at: <https://againstthecurrent.org/atc186/p4859/.

Moser, Laura 2021, ‘My Grandfather Fled the Nazis. I Moved to His Old Neighborhood’, available at: <https://www.newyorker.com/culture/personal-history/my-grandfather-fled-the-nazis-i-moved-to-his-old-neighborhood>.

Obermaier, Lena 2021, ‘Far-Right Parties in Europe Have Become Zionism’s Greatest Backers’, Jacobin, available at: <https://www.jacobinmag.com/2021/09/germany-afd-zionism-antisemitism-isr…;.

Oudenampsen, Marijn 2018, De Conservatieve Revolte: Een Ideeëngeschiedenis van de Fortuyn-Opstand (The Conservative Revolt: An Intellectual History of the Fortuyn Uprising), Nijmegen: Vantilt.

Parrot, Clément 2017, ‘Le Front national est-il vraiment devenu “gay friendly”?’ (‘Has the National Front Really Become “Gay-Friendly”?’), France Télévisions, available at: <https://www.francetvinfo.fr/politique/marine-le-pen/le-front-national-est-il-vraiment-devenu-gay-friendly_2061745.html>.

Pengelly, Martin 2021, ‘Trump Condemned by Anti-Defamation League Chief for Antisemitic Tropes’, The Guardian (18 Dec.), available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/dec/18/donald-trump-antisemitic-tropes-anti-defamation-league>.

Pierce, Rebecca 2022, ‘Shared Grief Is not Enough’, Jewish Currents, available at: <https://jewishcurrents.org/shared-grief-is-not-enough>.

Post, Charlie 2020, ‘Beyond “Racial Capitalism”: Toward a Unified Theory of Capitalism and Racial Oppression’, Brooklyn Rail, available at: <https://brooklynrail.org/2020/10/field-notes/Beyond-Racial-Capitalism-T…;.

Puar, Jasbir 2007, Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Rosenberg, Jordana and Amy Villarejo 2012, ‘Introduction: Queerness, Norms, Utopia’, GLQ 18, 1.

Schulman, Sarah 2012, Israel/Palestine and the Queer International, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Sears, Alan 2017, ‘Body Politics : The Social Reproduction of Sexualities’ in Tithi Bhattacharya and Lise Vogel (eds.), Social Reproduction Theory: Remapping Class, Recentering Oppression, London: Pluto Press.

Seymour, Richard 2018, ‘Labour’s Antisemitism Affair’, Jacobin, available at: <https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/04/labour-party-jeremy-corbyn-antisemitism-jewdas>.

Shield, Andrew D.J. 2017, Immigrants in the Sexual Revolution: Perceptions and Participation in Northwest Europe, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Singh, Kanishka 2020, ‘Watchdog Reports Record Number of Anti-Semitic Incidents in U.S. Last Year’, available at: <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-antisemitism-idUSKBN22O1LK&gt;.

Stryker, Susan 2017, Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution, New York: Seal Press.

Traverso, Enzo 2016, The End of Jewish Modernity, London: Pluto Press.

Traverso, Enzo 2019, The New Faces of Fascism: Populism and the Far Right, London: Verso.

Trotsky, Leon 1932, What Next? Vital Question for the German Proletariat, New York: Pioneer Publishers, available at: <https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1944/1944-fas.htm>.

United Jewish Communities 2004, National Jewish Population Survey 2000-2001, New York: UJC, available at: <https://cdn.fedweb.org/fed-34/136/National-Jewish-Population-Study.pdf>.

Vogel, Lise 2014, Marxism and the Oppression of Women: Toward a Unitary Theory, Chicago: Haymarket.

Volkskrant 2011, ‘PVV-kiezer negatiefst over homo’s’ (‘PVV Voter Most Negative about Gays’) (6 Sept.).

Weinstock, Nathan 2002, Le Pain de Misère: Histoire du Mouvement Ouvrier Juif en Europe (2 vols.), Paris: La Découverte.

Weiss, Bari 2021, ‘The Self-Silencing Majority’, Deseret News (2 March), available at: <https://www.deseret.com/indepth/2021/3/2/22309605/the-silenced-majority…;.

Went, Robert 2002, The Enigma of Globalization: A Journey to a New Stage of Capitalism, London: Routledge.


[1] Thanks to Christopher Beck, Ashley Bohrer, Sai Englert, Layal Ftouni, Michael Löwy, Alan Sears, Andrew Shield, Enzo Traverso, Alan Wald and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of this article. It has benefited enormously from their feedback, but I alone am responsible for the views expressed in it.

[2] Traverso 2019, pp. 66, 69.

[3] Thanks to Enzo Traverso for this phrase (in an email to the author).

[4] Hamburger 2021.

[5] Lavietes 2022.

[6] Colvin 2022.

[7] See e.g. Kitson 1992. This brief contrast obviously cannot do justice to the vast subject of pre-1945 fascist economic policy.

[8]Went 2002.

[9] Puar 2007.

[10] Drucker 2016.

[11] Drucker 2019b.

[12] Herzog 2011, pp. 190-1.

[13] Drucker 2017; Chetaille 2013.

[14] Drucker 2019b.

[15]Singh 2020.

[16]BBC News 2019.

[17]Le Monde/AFP 2014.

[18] Lorber and Greenesmith 2021.

[19] Puar 2007.

[20] Traverso 2019, p. 66.

[21] Traverso 2016, pp. 31, 41-42.

[22] Herzog 2011, p. 60.

[23] Haeberle 1989, p. 374.

[24]Bilek 2018.

[25]Weiss 2021.

[26]Gill-Peterson 2021; Stryker 2017, pp. 201-02.

[27] Lorber and Greenesmith 2021.

[28] Post 2020.

[29]Past Marxist attempts to analyze the class structure of the Jewish community include labour Zionist Ber Borochov’s concept of the ‘inverted pyramid’ (see Abidor [n.d.]) and Trotskyist Abram Leon (1971)’s concept of the ‘people-class’.

[30] United Jewish Communities 2004, p. 6.

[31] Dashefsky and Sheskin (eds.) 2015, p. 43.

[32] Drucker 2014, pp. 228-31, 259-60.

[33] Moody 2017.

[34] Vogel 2014; Ferguson 2019; for a specific analysis of LGBTIQ people’s role in social reproduction, see Sears 2017.

[35] Traverso 2016, pp. 10-11.

[36]Gay 1968, pp. 134-38.

[37]Pengelly 2021.

[38] Boyarin 1997.

[39] Hettinga 2021 has used this concept of adjacency insightfully to explore the relationships between transgender bodies and disability.

[40]Traverso 2019, pp. 97-8; Drucker 2019, pp. 10-11. For a classic Marxist definition of fascism see Trotsky 1932: ‘After fascism is victorious, finance capital directly and immediately gathers into its hands … the executive administrative, and educational powers of the state: the entire state apparatus together with the army, the municipalities, the universities, the schools, the press, the trade unions, and the co-operatives…. [T]he workers’ organizations are annihilated … and … a system of administration is created which penetrates deeply into the masses‘.

[41] Traverso 2019, p. 4.

[42] Traverso 2019 e.g. uses neo-fascism to refer to ‘the attempt to perpetuate and regenerate an old fascism’ (p. 6). In his terms, therefore, what I call neo-fascism is simply one variant of post-fascism.

[43] Drucker 2019a, p. 10.

[44] Farris 2007.

[45]Obermaier 2021.

[46]De Jong 2019.

[47] Volkskrant 2011.

[48] Traverso 2016, pp. 2-3.

[49] Drucker 2014, p. 285.

[50]Kaye/Kantrowitz 2007.

[51] Traverso 2016, p. 54.

[52] Pierce 2022.

[53] Traverso 2016, pp. 113-27.

[54] Among the more extensive surveys of the Jewish working-class left are Weinstock 2002, Levin 1977, Liebman 1979 (on the US) and Hofmeester 2004 (on London, Amsterdam and Paris).

[55] To the extent that antisemitism is seen as a real and present danger today in Europe, the danger is often traced back, not so much to the heritage of fascism and the rise of the new far right, as to some innate tendency to antisemitism lurking in national cultures or psyches. Moser 2021 provides a striking example: a thoughtful article by a Jew who grew up in the US before moving to Germany, herself a left-leaning Democratic Party activist, who describes herself ‘watching in horror as white supremacists attacked the Capitol’, and yet discusses her fears of antisemitism in Germany without mentioning the rapid growth of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

[56]Drucker 2015.

[57]Cohen 2021; Abidor and Lago 2021.

[58]Lemoine 2022.

[59]Buruma 2021.

[60]Achcar 2009, pp. 113-19, 250, 253, .

[61] Author’s personal observation.

[62] I&O Research 2022.

[63]Obermaier 2021.

[64] Traverso 2019, p. 77; see also Traverso 2016, pp. 87-90.

[65] ADL 2019.

[66] ADL 2019.

[67]Seymour 2018 (among many other articles marshalling similar evidence).

[68] European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia 2004, p. 111.

[69] Traverso 2019, p. 66.

[70] With only scattered exceptions: the USSR/Russia and Hungary in Eastern Europe, Argentina in Latin America.

[71]Achcar 2010.

[72]Obermaier 2021.

[73]Bouteldja 2017.

[74] Englert 2019, p, 167. This is a central theme of Boyarin 1997.

[75] Englert 2018, pp. 154, 167.

[76] Brenner 1983.

[77]Drucker 2014, pp. 280, 283-5.

[78] Duggan 2003, p. 64.

[79] Puar 2007, p. 43.

[80] Rosenberg and Villarejo 2012, p. 10.

[81] Herzog 2011, p. 201.

[82] Wekker 2016, pp. 109, 119.

[83]Buijs, Hekma and Duyvendak 2011.

[84] Wekker 2016, pp. 127-30; for a general account of Fortuyn’s movement see Oudenampsen 2018.

[85]Shield 2017, pp. 1-2.

[86] Parrot 2017.

[87] Drucker 2019b.

[88]Kampeas 2021.

[89] Drucker 2014, pp. 339-40.

[90] Schulman 2012.

[91] Drucker 2014, p. 391.

[92] Drucker 2014, p. 356.

Marxism and the Critique of Antisemitism

Sai Englert and Alex de Jong

01 September 2023

Antisemitism has grown exponentially over the last decade or so. While it has done so in tandem with other forms of racism, oppression, and prejudice, fuelled by a growing global far right, its recent trajectory from the periphery to the centre of Western racist ideas, discourse, and action deserves attention.

In the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century, antisemitism could easily be considered to have become a fringe phenomenon. The Holocaust and its memory were central – as they still are – to Western states’ self-image, not without irony (forgetting in the process that European ruling classes had fuelled antisemitism throughout the continent and supported fascism and Nazism as a counter force to the threat of Communism at home and abroad).[1]

Simultaneously, a newly rising far-right appeared to have abandoned antisemitism altogether – or at the very least having pushed it to the outer edges of its political organisations. This process was most strikingly captured by the struggle within the French National Front (now renamed the National Rally), between Le Pen father and daughter, over the place of antisemitism in the party and the centrality of Islamophobia as a mobilising mechanism.[2]

Yet, perhaps predictably, the stronger the far-right became, the bolder it grew and ideas that were previously considered to be incompatible with ‘dediabolisation’ resurfaced. Antisemitism reappeared more obviously within its arsenal and continues to be normalised as far-right parties take power (Hungary, Italy, Brazil, India) or exert growing influence on elected officials (the US government under Trump and most European countries). We are now in a situation in which antisemitic violence carried out against Jewish people and places of worship repeatedly occur, most strikingly in France and the United States, while antisemitic ideas about ‘globalists’ and other ‘Jewish space lasers’ have taken central stage in the far-right’s rhetoric. They played a central role in the election of Donald Trump, are reappearing in the Tory right, and are now a regular feature in the public pronouncements of the Forum for Democracy in the Netherlands, to name but a few.


This piece is being made available as a preprint edition of the double-volume Marxism and the Critique of Antisemitism special issue of Historical Materialism. Further additions will still be made before then. The final published version of this text will be made available on the Brill website in the coming months. We ask that citations refer to the Brill edition.All Illustrations are by Natalia Podpora.


The Left

In the face of such a striking and worrying phenomenon, one could be forgiven to assume that the response of those who claim to maintain the liberal status quo would have been swift and uncompromising. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. While playing into the hands of the far-right on issues of migration, Islamophobia, trans-rights, and law-and-order narratives – thereby severely constraining their ability to challenge its rise – centrist politicians, journalists, and commentators have turned their ire against the left and its support for Palestinian liberation instead. Through conflations of antisemitism with anti-Zionism – itself based on the antisemitic notion that Jews everywhere and the state of Israel are synonymous – pro-Israeli activists and lawmakers have constructed a narrative that the real danger to Jewish people in the West are not those violently targeting them or resuscitating old and dangerous conspiracy theories, but left-wing parties, movements, and organisations. It is worth restating in passing that, more often than not, the very same organisations are at the forefront of the fight against the growth of the former.

While pro-Israeli – or indeed Israeli – politicians continue to cosy up with far-right demagogues (Steve Bannon), far-right governments (Italy and Hungary) or antisemitic politicians (Poland), they simultaneously aim to institutionalise the criminalisation of pro-Palestinian voices and movements as a threat to the Jewish people. They have done so through the widely discredited International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working-definition of antisemitism (most recently rejected by the UN special rapporteur), as well as decrees aiming to outlaw the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in France, Germany, Austria, numerous US states, Canada, and (so-far unsuccessfully) Britain.[3] 

The story of the “Hijacking Memory: The Holocaust and the New Right” conference is a useful illustration in this regard.[4] Organisers and participants – among the leading specialists in the field – gathered in Berlin to discuss the importance of Holocaust memory and its (mis)use by the political right, including the growing threat of outright Holocaust revisionism. One solitary contribution in the three-day conference came from a Palestinian participant, Dr Tareq Baconi,[5] who pointed out the dangers of weaponising Holocaust memory in order to deny the Palestinian people’s right to liberation. Nothing, at first glance, controversial or out of place given the conference’s stated aims. Yet, first Baconi and then the conference organisers, were accused of antisemitism, dragged through the German press, and the venue where the conference was held was even threatened with losing its funding by the state. The real danger in the eyes of the German establishment were not those weaponising or trivialising the Holocaust. It was the very people targeted by said weaponisation.[6]

The tendency to flip reality on its head in order to delegitimise the left – and any anti-systemic critique that it might offer in a time of simultaneous ecological, economic, and political crisis – was perhaps most visible in the sustained campaign waged by pro-Israeli organisations and right-wing politicians (in both the Labour and Conservative parties) against Jeremy Corbyn.[7] A life-long campaigner against racism and antisemitism was vilified as an existential threat to the Jewish people, while Tory politicians built statues to Nazi-sympathisers and maintained friendly relations with Steve Bannon and Viktor Orban.[8] Unfortunately, many on the left similarly failed to see the wood for the trees and participated in the construction of a narrative of a specific, if not primary, left-wing problem with antisemitism.[9]

This issue is certainly not limited to Britain, or to those who failed to understand the attacks on Corbyn, the left, and the Palestine solidarity movement for what they were. As Leandros Fischer reminds us in his paper, the conflation of antisemitism and anti-Zionism, the characterisation of Palestine solidarity activism and migration as the sources of contemporary European antisemitism, and the failure to challenge the (often pro-Israel) far-right as the key driver of antisemitic reaction has a long history on the left, especially in Germany. In dissecting the political history and theory of the anti-German current, he offers us the tools to understand, critique, and challenge these wider processes that have become so familiar, well beyond the borders of the German state. Jean-Pierre Couture, in focussing on France and the specific history of the systematic (and wilful) misreadings of Marx, recasting the radical thinker and the movements that take inspiration from his thought as antisemites, similarly helps us make sense of the current impasse and the intellectual tools necessary to break out of it.

This is where the impulse for this special issue is located. How to make sense of the contemporary rapid growth of antisemitism, its importance in the rise of the (far-)right, and the striking inability to name, locate, and fight it effectively that has paralysed much of the left? What can Marxism offer us in this process, beyond the well-rehearsed reflections on the Marxist classics of the beginning of the twentieth century? And if these classics remain of importance to our present moment, how are we to understand, engage with, and mobilise them today? How can the left rebuild an analysis of contemporary antisemitism – and social movements against it – which neither counterpose it to support for Palestinian liberation, nor isolate it from wider structures of racialised, gendered, or sexual oppression, discrimination, and violence. It is in the hope of addressing these issues – or at least to offer an impetus to the necessary discussion and debates surrounding them – that we put together this collection of essays. We hope that they will elicit critical engagement, reflection, and responses in the months and years to come.

Marxism and the Jewish Question

When discussing a Marxist approach to the issue of antisemitism, a number of texts are widely shared reference points. This special issue contains papers discussing two of such texts; Marx's essay 'On the Jewish Question' (written in 1843, published in 1844) and Moishe Postone's 1979 essay 'Anti-Semitism and National Socialism'.[10]  Both contain valuable insights but need to be read in their historical context.

Out of all of Marx’s writings, this article might be the most misunderstood. ‘On The Jewish Question’ has often been read as showing antisemitic tendencies in Marx’s thought, or even as proof of the thesis of ‘an antisemitic Marx’ as Couture writes in his article on ‘The French Debate on ‘Zur Judenfrage’: From an Anachronistic Trial to the Crisis of Secularism’. For a supporter of this thesis, like historian Pierre Birnbaum in his Géographie de l’espoir, ‘Marx advocated nothing less than the necessary and unavoidable end of the Jews’[11].

Many readings of 'On the Jewish Question' are in fact anachronistic, missing the emergence of a specific, modern form of antisemitism. As Postone pointed out, ‘modern anti-Semitism’ (a term popularised in Germany in the early 1880’s by the agitator Wilhelm Marr)[12] should not be confused with ‘everyday anti-Jewish prejudice’ – it rather is an ideology, a form of thought, which emerged in Europe in the late nineteenth century.[13] Although building on older forms of Christian hostility towards Jews, modern antisemitism drew on a wider field of references, themes, and identities than only the religious, such as national belonging and ‘scientific’ notions of race.[14] A lack of attention to the historical specificity of modern antisemitism is part of the explanation for the many misreadings of ‘On the Jewish Question’.

To understand ‘On the Jewish Question’, it is necessary to keep the polemical character of the text in mind.[15] 'On the Jewish Question' was Marx’ response to two articles by Bruno Bauer that had appeared in the two previous years, ‘Die Judenfrage’ [The Jewish Question, 1842] and ‘Die Fähigkeit der heutigen Juden und Christen, frei zu werden’ [The capacity of today’s Jews and Christians to become free, 1843]. Before the break between the two authors in 1842, Bauer had been Marx’s closest friend, and he likely exercised a lasting influence on Marx’ conception of critique.[16] Bauer argued that political emancipation entailed human emancipation but would only be possible after the state and its citizens had become ‘emancipated’ from religion.[17] To become ‘truly’ free, the Jews needed to renounce Judaism, and the constitutional state needed to renounce Christianity. Any attempt by Jews to maintain themselves as a group defined by religion was incompatible with such emancipation.

Marx rejected this thesis and argued that the ideas of liberal democracy, such as freedom and equality, in practice are embedded in the bourgeois right to private property:

But, the right of man [menschenrecht] to liberty is based not on the association of man with man, but on the separation of man from man. It is the right of this separation, the right of the restricted individual, withdrawn into himself. The practical application of man’s right to liberty is man’s right to private property.

What constitutes man’s right to private property? […] The right of man to private property is, therefore, the right to enjoy one’s property and to dispose of it at one’s discretion (à son gré), without regard to other men, independently of society, the right of self-interest. This individual liberty and its application form the basis of civil society. It makes every man see in other men not the realisation of his own freedom, but thebarrier to it.[18]

According to Daniel Bensaïd, ‘On the Jewish Question’ marked a decisive moment in Marx’s surpassing of radical liberalism and its illusions.[19] It is the starting point of Marx’s critique of the limits of the French Revolution, of the democratic state, and human rights.[20] In this special issue, Igor Shoikhedbrod shows how Bauer’s opposition to the equal rights of Jews ‘is used by Marx as a foil for dissecting the potential and limitations of political emancipation within the framework of the modern constitutional state’ while simultaneously recognising the necessity of such emancipation, thereby informing a ‘Marxist internationalism – one that is sensitive to the global history of persecution and oppression’.

‘On the Jewish Question’ is first of all a critique of the limits of political emancipation, and was, perhaps unfortunately, of limited use for Marxist movements that were confronted, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with the rise of modern antisemitism. The leaders and thinkers of these movements initially interpreted antisemitism as a response to economic crises and increased competition between different parts of the petite bourgeoisie. One of the most prominent leaders of the German SPD in that period, August Bebel, claimed that only in 1877 antisemitism came out in the open as a political current in Germany. According to Bebel this was the ‘natural effect and consequence of the economic conditions’ that arose after the crash of 1873. It was economic misery and precarity that made the middle-layers of society susceptible to demagogues who scapegoated ‘Jewish’ exploitation. An accident of European history meant that Christian religious hostility against Jews had as an effect that they were over-represented in economic middle layers, in roles associated with finance and trade, and they thereby appeared as convenient scapegoats.

This economic misery was however inescapable as capitalist development increasingly rendered intermediate social layers obsolete. According to Bebel, this meant that antisemitism itself was doomed to become obsolete as its bankruptcy would be revealed by the development of capitalism itself. Even expelling all Jews from German areas, Bebel concluded, ‘would not change the foundations of our society by one inch’; ‘not the Jews, but capitalism is the enemy of the anti-Semitic middle-layers’. It was inevitable that the ‘declining middle-layers’ would increasingly realise this; ‘and they will then come to the realisation that they have not only to fight against the Jewish capitalist, but against the rule of the capitalist class’. At this point, ‘against its will and by necessity’, antisemitism would ‘become revolutionary, and thus play into the hands of us, the Social Democracy.’[21]

Bebel’s faith that the development of capitalism would force even antisemitism to play into the hands of socialism was an extreme example of a belief in progress that characterised much of the Marxist approach in this period. In ‘Rasse und Judentum’ [Race and Jewishness] from 1914, Karl Kautsky likewise expected that capitalist development would inexorably lead to the assimilation of Jews into wider society, thereby dissolving their difference and antisemitic hostility towards it. It had been in the interest of the development of industrial capitalism that the walls around the Jewish ghettos had come down in Europe, and the further development of capitalism towards socialism would end the last vestiges of antisemitism.[22] Antisemitism was the regressive ideology of an outdated petite bourgeoisie, and especially in Tsarist Russia a device with which the state tried to divide the working class. Kautsky denied any historical resilience to the social and cultural distinctions of Jewish populations. Because of their specific social and economic functions and antisemitic hostility towards them, Jews formed a ‘caste’, according to Kausky. Otto Bauer shared a similar approach, explaining the existence of Jews as a national group in historical terms, as supposedly the outcome of their role as merchants in pre-capitalist societies.[23]

‘Only in the ghetto,’ argued Kautsky, ‘in enforced isolation from their environment and under political pressure, without rights and amid hostility, does Jewishness persist.’ Wherever Jews were treated as free and equal, it supposedly dissolved as class contradictions developed among the Jewish population along parallel lines as in the rest of society.[24] The way to their liberation, and hence their assimilation, for Jews was participation in the proletarian class struggle.[25] As individuals, Jews had played revolutionary roles in the workers’ movement, Kautsky recognized, but Jewishness was only reactionary, a ‘feudal remnant’ that ought to disappear ‘the earlier, the better’ for the whole of society, clearing the way for the creation of a higher form of societal organisation.[26]

Bebel’s and Kautsky’s approach was shared by later writers. Otto Heller, a faithful Stalinist, in ‘Der Untergang des Judentums’ [The Decline of Jewishness] (1930) added that the Jewish question was partly a national one. ‘The demise of Jewishness in its social conception’ according to Heller meant ‘the dissolving of the Jewish cast, bourgeois emancipation and assimilation of the Jews in the West; the solution of the Jewish question where it is simultaneously a social and national question, in the East, through the proletarian revolution: all of this destroys the social preconditions for the return of antisemitism’.[27]

As Traverso writes in his survey of the Marxists and the Jewish Question, the ‘classic’ approach to antisemitism probably found its most sophisticated example in the work of Abram Leon, a young Polish Jewish intellectual who was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944 at the age of 26.[28] In his work The Jewish Question, completed in 1942 but published posthumously in Paris in 1946, Leon built on earlier analyses of Jewish history as the outcome of the supposed ‘socio-economic function of the Jews’; ‘Above all the Jews constitute historically a social group with a specific economic function. They are a class, or more precisely, a people-class’.[29] According to Leon, it was capitalism that posed the Jewish Question when, by destroying feudal society, it also ‘destroyed the function of the Jewish people-class’ while being unable to absorb ‘the Jew liberated from [this] social shell’.[30] But this also meant that modern forms of antisemitism were only ‘manifestations of the economic antagonism created by capitalism’.[31] ‘The plight of the Jews has never been so tragic’, wrote Leon, ‘but never has it been so close to ceasing to be that’.[32] Supposedly, ghettos and yellow badges did not prevent ‘the workers from feeling a greater solidarity with those who suffer most from the afflictions all humanity is suffering’. Socialism would open the way for resolving Jewish plight. Traverso observed that Leon concluded the traditional Marxist approach to the Jewish problem, ‘assimilation as a historical trend and an outcome of 'progress'’, ‘at a time when Auschwitz was sounding the death knell for a century of Jewish assimilation’.[33]

It was the horrors of Auschwitz that in the eyes of Adorno ‘makes all talk of progress towards freedom ludicrous’; ‘if freedom and autonomy still had any substance, Auschwitz could not have happened’. Confronted with the direct merger of politics with mass murder in Auschwitz and other camps, such talk becomes ‘the mere assertion of a mind that is incapable of looking horror in the face and that thereby perpetuates it.’[34]  In his contribution to this issue, Traverso considers the work of one thinker who did look the horror in the face, Günther Anders. For Anders, Auschwitz and Hiroshima named the transition to a new historical epoch, one in which humanity itself was ‘exterminable’ (tötbar).[35]

Whereas as the socialist movement historically tended towards a linear vision of progress, there is a need for what Michael Löwy has called ‘a dialectical conception of progress, which takes into account the negative aspect of capitalist modernity’.[36] In his contribution to this special issue, Löwy offers a reading of Kafka as an observer of one such aspect, of a bureaucratic ‘justice’ system ‘crushing the innocent individual under the wheels of the State machine’. In a different view of history Ishay Landa calls to ‘complete the revolution of 1789 and to follow the process of modernity through’ by recognizing the ‘locomotive of world history’ as a force for emancipation.

In a similar impulse to reassess the Marxist classics, Neil Levi subjects Postone’s essay to an immanent critique. Such a critique is all the more relevant because the essay has become a widely cited reference, including among Marxists who otherwise have little in common with Postone’s approach. Part of the explanation is the paucity of Marxist analyses of Auschwitz. While National-Socialism and fascism have been the subject of intense scrutiny, much less attention has been paid to the analysis of Auschwitz and of the processes leading up to it.

Postone’s essay itself dates from 1979. An English translation was published the following year, in New German Critique. The essay starts by examining the West-German response to the televised filmHolocaust and goes on to discuss the lack of attention to Auschwitz specifically in the West-German New Left. Only the second half of the text develops an analysis of antisemitism. According to Postone, this film was the first time that the majority of the generation politicised after 1968 had ‘concretely and viscerally been confronted with the fate of the Jews’; ‘they had known, of course, but apparently only abstractly.’

For Postone, ‘The post-war insistence on not having known should probably be interpreted as a continued insistence on not wanting to know. ‘‘We didn't know’’ should be understood as ‘‘we still don't want to know.’’ Admission of knowledge – even if acquired post factum – would have necessarily demanded an internal distancing from past identification and would have led to political and social consequences. Such consequences would have required among other things that former Nazi-officials could not have continued exercising their functions in the Federal Republic. But rather than an anti-fascist reckoning, ‘the demand was for ‘‘‘normalcy’’ at all costs, one to be achieved without dealing with the past. The strong identification with that past was not overcome, but simply buried beneath a surfeit of Volkswagens’.[37]

At this point, Postone’s essay can be read as an implicit critique of the Holocaust’s use as a universal key to understanding antisemitism as such. The failure to reckon with the specific nature of Nazi-antisemitism ‘was psychic self-denial and repression.’ The German left’s lack of knowledge about concrete Nazi-policies led, on Postone’s assessment, to an incomplete view of National-Socialism. Against this, Postone insisted on the ‘specificity of Nazism and the extermination of European Jewry’ and argued against interpretations of the Third Reich in ‘historically non-specific terms’. According to Postone, German feelings of guilt and shame led to a concern with the Nazi-past but one that avoided ‘the specificity of the past’.[38] In other words, Postone’s essay was not intended to be an analysis of antisemitism in general, nor of murderous, ‘redemptive’ antisemitism, but of specifically National-Socialist antisemitism.[39]

The main argument that Postone developed is that Nazi-antisemitism identified the figure of the Jews with ‘abstract’, financial capital as juxtaposed to concrete ‘industrial’ capital. Where the former was parasitic and rootless, the latter was productive. In Nazi-antisemitism, Jews became identified not only with money and the circulation of capital, as they had been already in pre-existing forms of antisemitism, but ‘were identified with capital itself’.[40] National-Socialism was, in terms of its self-understanding, a movement of revolt.[41] Nazi-leaders described their movement as driven by a ‘great anticapitalist yearning’, even a part of a ‘racial world revolution’.[42] Clearly, this was a very specific form of antisemitism, and an analysis of this form of antisemitism cannot simply be generalised.

Regardless of the value of the analysis developed in the second part of ‘Anti-Semitism and National-Socialism’, attention to the often neglected first part of the text should warn against attempts to use it as a general explanatory model.[43]

What then to make of the widespread use of the text and its analytical categories in ways that ignore Postone’s insistence on the specificity of German National-Socialist antisemitism? ‘Anti-Semitism and National-Socialism’ itself offers a critique avant la lettre of this use of the text; by ignoring the specificity of National-Socialist antisemitism, the antisemitism that had led to Auschwitz, other issues, such as the confrontation with authoritarian policies in the Federal Republic of Germany could be understood ‘as a direct struggle against fascism, an attempt to make up today for the lack of German resistance then.’[44] A similar mechanism can be seen in the contemporary so-called Antideutsch (Anti-German) milieu analysed by Fischer. Although Postone’s essay gained cult status in such circles, Anti-German currents are a stark example of the mechanism of German deflection described by him: attention to the specificity of German National-Socialism is replaced by opposition to a supposedly universal antisemitism. Instead of a reckoning with the German past and its consequences, the current focusses on attacks on the other, foremost on Palestinians and solidarity activists, and, as Fischer shows, a turn towards conformity with German raison d’etat. As Postone wrote in 1979, ‘What happened to the Jews has been instrumentalized and transformed into an ideology of legitimation for the present system’.[45]

Antisemitism, Zionism, and Palestinian Liberation

One important aspect of the contemporary debate – both because of the break it represents with most classical Marxist interpretations of the early twentieth century, and because of its centrality in contemporary public discourse – is the relationship between antisemitism, Zionism, and Palestinian liberation.[46] As already pointed out above, the current dominant narrative propelled by pro-Israeli organisations and politicians, and given material form through IHRA policies and anti-BDS legislation, is that the roots of modern antisemitism are located in the activities of the Palestine Solidarity movements and, by extension, Muslim migrant populations in Europe.[47] In this view, antisemitism is neither a European problem nor one that finds its roots in the classical arsenal of fascism on the one hand, and European nation-state formation on the other.

The so called ‘New Antisemitism’ was theorised around the turn of the millennium by a series of French neo-con intellectuals, some of whom had old roots in the 1968 left, who saw the rise of a new left and militant anti-racist politics in the banlieues as existential threats to the republic – for its stability at home, and its interests abroad.[48] At the very moment when fascism, in the form of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front, grew to becoming a key contender in national politics for the first time in post-war history (the same Le Pen who described the Holocaust as ‘a detail of history’), the French right launched a sustained attack on the left and Muslim populations as the key danger faced by Jewish populations in the republic, to great and long lasting effect. In recent years, for example, the Macron government – following in the footsteps of its predecessors – anxious to demonstrate its ability to challenge the now renamed National Rally on its right, took aim at so-called ‘islamo-leftism’ while banning pro-Palestinian demonstrations and BDS initiatives.[49] The echoes with the similarly racist and repressive scarecrow of Judeo-Bolshevism of a century ago are obvious.

In their early and still seminal critique of this phenomenon, Alain Badiou and Eric Hazan identified the centrality of Palestine to this process.[50] The narrative functions in three steps: i) equate critiques of Israel and of French support for it with antisemitism; ii) claim that Jews are therefore under threat from growing support for Palestinian liberation, which in turn pre-supposes a perfect overlap between Jews and Zionism; iii) identify the left and Muslim populations’ support for Palestinian liberation with antisemitism – even (especially?) when those accused make a clear distinction between antisemitism and anti-Zionism. All protestation critiquing Israel’s ongoing colonial rule over the Palestinian people is therefore not only pre-emptively silenced but also further proof of guilt: it is but a trick of the ‘New Antisemitism’ in order to hide its true colours. If, as Bensaïd wrote in 2005, antisemitism can become ‘the anti-imperialism of fools as it once was the socialism of fools’, the policies of the Israeli state and its allies will have done much to bring this about.[51]

Under this narrative, Palestinians and their treatment at the hands of the Israeli state – supported, armed, and financed by western states – are disappeared from view. Their demands are ignored or, worse, immediately turned into suspicious attempts to ‘single out’ the only ‘Jewish state’ in the world. Jewish populations, on the other hand, are made collectively synonymous with Israel and thereby positioned, as a sort of ideological shield, between the states in question and those protesting their imperialist and colonial practices.[52] This attitude points to a much longer-term historical shift in the imposed identification on Jewish populations in the West, under the dual influence of the Holocaust and the creation of the Israeli state.

Indeed, a number of the contributors to this special issue point to these much longer histories, both of attempts to delegitimise anti-Zionism by conflating it with antisemitism, as well as different forms of resistance against it. Salim Nadi, for example, introduces readers to the figure and work of Abraham Serfaty, a Marxist, Jewish, Moroccan revolutionary who thought through the connections between colonialism, antisemitism, and Zionism as a basis for revolutionary politics in the Maghreb. Readers are also presented with a text, previously unavailable in English, where Serfaty illustrates some of these connections and their practical consequences by focussing on the fate of Moroccan Jews, oppressed at home, exploited in Israel, and yet mobilised as cannon fodder by the reactionary regimes in both countries. Only internationalism, solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for liberation, and the reclaiming of a pre-Zionist North African Jewishness can, for Serfaty, offer a road out of the impasse. If the text today reads more like a testimony of a road not taken, it points to a set of strategic commitments which remain nonetheless vital today.

Benjamin Balthaser and Sune Haugbølle also return to the 1960s and 1970s, in the United States and Denmark respectively, to present us with historical examples of how the left engaged in solidarity with the Palestinian people, addressed accusations of antisemitism, and fought to link their struggles together. Similar to their incarcerated Moroccan comrade, these movements developed ways to think about their own liberation in connection with that of the Palestinians – different circumstances linked through the structures of capitalism, racism, and imperialism.

The period that these texts engage with is crucial if we are to understand the changes to the nature of Western antisemitism, which have led to our current moment. Indeed, from the 1960s onwards, Western States shifted their attitude towards Jewish populations.[53] Under pressure from growing anti-colonial movements in the Global South and anti-racist movements at home, Western states re-imagined their history as one centred around the lessons of the Holocaust. Remembering the Nazi genocide –- without acknowledging the collective responsibility of European and North American ruling classes in financing the Nazi party and whipping up antisemitism in their own states – became a way to claim a newly imagined anti-racist identity for the very states that had either organised the extermination of the Jews in Europe, or been the fertile ground for half a century of antisemitic reaction in the run up to it. This white-washed Holocaust memory became, as Traverso has argued, a civil religion. As he warned: ‘Institutionalised and neutralised, the memory of the Holocaust thus risks becoming the moral sanction for a Western order that perpetuates oppression and injustice’.[54]

Indeed, alongside this process taking place from the early 1960s onwards in Western Europe and North America, Western support for Israel could then be constructed not as the continuation of the very imperialist and colonial policies that were being challenged across the globe, but as a form of anti-racist solidarity and a commitment to the most narrow and reactionary interpretation of the slogan: ‘Never Again’.[55] From pariahs and proto-typical enemies of the state, Jewish populations were re-invented by their oppressors of yesteryear as the defenders of Western civilisation par excellence. This defence was mobilised against racialised communities at home, and anti-colonial/imperialist struggles abroad. Far from protecting them or freeing them from oppression, Western states repositioned Jewish populations at the centre of their racist regimes, albeit in an inverted way. The consequences of this approach are all around us. Western states justify their support for Israel as support for an abstracted Jewish community, rather than self-interested imperialist policy. Jews who dissent are cast out. And the many hundreds of thousands who support Palestinian liberation and challenge their own states’ complicity are no longer anti-racist or anti-colonial activists but antisemites.

Antisemitism, Structural Racism, and Oppression

In this context, the analyses which identify, as Aimé Césaire and Hannah Arendt once did, the continuity between Nazi exterminationist policies and those carried out by the different European empires across the globe, help us to undermine these ideological constructions and to rebuild collective forms of solidarity and action.[56] Already in 1942, Karl Korsch noted that: ‘[t]he novelty of totalitarian politics in this respect is simply that the Nazis have extended to “civilized” European peoples the methods hitherto reserved for the “natives” or “savages” living outside so-called civilization’.[57] This approach, far from belittling the Holocaust or antisemitism, points to vital possible alliances in fighting all forms of oppression and exit the system that produces them as necessary to its reproduction and survival.

The question of the comparability of the Holocaust remains controversial and fractious today. Accusations abound that placing the Nazi genocide in the context of the long history of colonial processes of racialisation, dispossession, mass murder, and extermination, is synonymous with undermining its gravity – or even akin to revisionism. Germany, where furious debate has raged over the nature of the Herero and Nama genocide and its connection to the Holocaust for the last decade, once again serves as a helpful example in this regard.[58] As Jürgen Zimmerer has convincingly shown, it is not only appropriate but necessary to put the genocide carried out by German soldiers and settlers in Namibia in the early twentieth century in relation to the Holocaust in order to understand the latter fully.[59]

Whether in terms of the development of ideas of racial superiority and purity, the need for the German Volk to secure itsLebensraum, or the actual overlap in personnel in developing colonial and occupation policy in Africa and Eastern Europe, respectively, or settling the two territories, Zimmerer shows that the connections are as fundamental as they are numerous. This is of course to say nothing of the ways in which Nazi officials, not least amongst them Adolf Hitler himself, were wont to make these connections and comparisons explicit in their thought – from the racialisation and genocide of Indigenous populations in North America to British colonial rule in India.[60] Yet Zimmerer and others’ careful analyses of these parallels has been met with opprobrium in German public debate. To link the history of the Holocaust to that of colonial genocides is, in the eyes of the defenders of official history, paramount to undermine its gravity.

Leaving aside for now what this approach might tell us about the value such commentators attribute to the lives of former colonial subjects across the Global South, it is clear that positioning the Holocaust as an exclusive event, located almost out of time, is key to the process described above: making its remembrance – ritualised and de-politicised – central to Western self-image, cleansing it of its racist past. If the Holocaust remains disconnected – and implicit in this disconnection is the idea that it is ‘worse’ in an imagined hierarchy of barbarism – from the long history of 500 years of genocidal violence across the world, then Western states can reconcile the recognition and remembrance of one, with the disavowal of the others. It is, in fact, very much this question of recognition and reparations for its colonial crimes in Southwest Africa which lies at the centre of the contemporary German controversy.

It is worth noting, however, that another form of comparison has, in certain quarters, become all pervasive. Both Fisher and Miriyam Aouragh discuss in the pages of this special issue the ways in which Palestinians are repeatedly recast as a modern embodiment of the Nazi party. This phenomenon is long lasting and well documented in the history of Israeli depiction of the Palestinian national movement and its organisations.[61] Not only are early Palestinian notables accused of being the ideological source of the exterminationist policies of the Nazis, despite ample historical evidence to the contrary, but Arab and Palestinian national movements are regularly recast as the contemporary expression of this supposed desire, not to free Palestine, but to wipe the Jewish people of the map.[62]

 As both authors show, the tendency to obscure European histories of colonial and racial violence by projecting responsibility for them on their contemporary victims is not limited to Israel. Palestinians, the global solidarity movement, as well as other racialized groups – primary amongst which are Muslim populations in Europe – have been cast in much the same light by the propagators of the ‘New Antisemitism’ discourse. With the Western elites whitewashed and Israel made synonymous with Jewish people everywhere, any critique of the Israeli state can only be read through the prism of the unaddressed demons of the Western collective past. It is not out of Europe that modern antisemitism emerged, in this narrative, nor is it in the re-emergence of its far-right parties and movements that the danger lies. Instead, it is immigrants, Muslims, Palestinians, and their supporters who are ‘importing’ the scourge of antisemitism into the enlightened West. We return once more to the image with which we started: while Jean-Marie Le Pen announced freely on national television that the Holocaust had been ‘a detail’ in history, the French neo-cons argued it was from the banlieues that the danger came.

Comparison and connections are not only important to understand and identify the threat, but also in developing ways to fight it. If antisemitism is one specific expression of a wider framework of reactionary ideas and structures, then the struggle against it also needs to make these wider connections. Both Peter Drucker and Cihan Özpinar direct our attention to these issues. Drucker shows the striking parallels between the place that antisemitism and homophobia have and continue to play in the organisation of fascist and far-right parties. Both were key in the so-called period of ‘dediabolisation’ in the 1990s and early 2000s, when upholding supposed western values such as the equality of genders, religions, and sexualities in the face of imagined reactionary Muslim invasions became central to these movements’ narratives. It is also striking that as the far-right has grown in strength, this strategy has increasingly fallen to the wayside. Özpinar explores the connections between class and racialisation. While working class Muslims are targeted and isolated from wider society through the ‘New Antisemitism’ discourse, Muslim elites are turned into disciplining agents of ‘their’ community. Both processes, Özpinar argues, work in tandem to disorganise and weaken movements of contestation among Muslim populations in Europe.

It is not possible to understand the nature of antisemitism nor its different expressions without placing it within a broader framework of oppression, repression, and racialisation. Failing to do so also undermines the possibilities to challenge it. Put plainly, in the words of civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer: “nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”[63]

Where Next?

The need, then, for an adequate analysis of what antisemitism is, how to recognise it and fight it, could not be clearer.

Although many of the conclusions of the classical Marxist canon have proven mistaken – not least its emphasis on assimilation as a quasi-automatic (or desirable) process that would prove to be the solution to the oppression faced by Jewish populations – its approach, which insists on historicising the problem and confronting it within specific and changing circumstances, remains crucial. Similarly, the emphasis on reading (and fighting) antisemitism as one part of a broader network of oppression and exploitation, so central to the reproduction of capitalism, is one which serves as an important corrective to contemporary tendencies to exceptionalise and de-contextualise antisemitism.

The Marxist tradition and the socialist movement itself should not be exempt from investigation. Brendan McGeever’s work on antisemitism in the Russian revolution is a powerful example of this. Simon Pirani’s review discusses the crucial importance of not-only acknowledging the ways in which the Bolshevik revolution was a crucial step forward in the struggle against antisemitic terror in Eastern Europe, but also to recognise the ways in which revolutionary movements are not hermetically sealed off from the hegemonic reactionary ideas of their time. Here too, reading antisemitism and the struggle against it in a situated, historically informed, and interconnected manner opens up important avenues for analysis.

Although the Marxist tradition has valuable insights to offer, which we hope the pages of this special issue demonstrate, we also suggest that there is a need to overcome a certain Eurocentrism within it, which projects European patterns of antisemitism onto the world stage. Too often have the contributions of non-European Marxists been neglected, as both Nadi and Aouragh demonstrate. The same is true in how we approach the European Marxist tradition and its classical texts. Levi demonstrates in his critique of Postone, how crucial bringing in the wider history of empire, racialisation, and violence is if we are to understand antisemitism effectively.

However, if a Marxist approach to antisemitism is to be fruitful, that is to be useful both analytically and practically, it needs to turn its attention to the present. The late nineteenth century gave birth to a form of antisemitism that emerged out of the racialisations of the colonial world on the one hand and the emancipation of the Jewish populations in Europe on the other. Jewish difference was being made increasingly fundamental, biological even, at the very time when ‘the Jew’ from the mediaeval ghetto was vanishing from view. No longer kept in place by religious persecution but granted civil rights, ‘he’ could be everywhere. No longer defined religiously but racially, ‘he’ could never assimilate. These processes are not those faced by Jewish populations in the present. If Marxism is to be relevant, it must recognise and engage with the new ways in which ‘the Jew’ is being constructed by the material and ideological structures we face in the present.

This introduction and the special issue as a whole give some possible avenues for reflection: connection with Islamophobia, the place of Zionism and Holocaust memory in the projection of Western power, the rise of a new far right, and the shifting class position of both Jewish and other racialised communities, imperialism, and the ongoing crises of capitalism. We hope this special issue will not only reinforce the need to follow these paths of analysis and critique further, but also be a modest contribution to the renewed Marxist engagement with the critique of antisemitism - and the struggle against it.

[1] See for example, Traverso, Enzo 2016, The End of Jewish Modernity, London: Pluto Press, for a longer discussion of this phenomenon.

[2] Peter Drucker’s excellent essay in this special issue returns to this question and discusses a comparable phenomenon in regards to the far right’s relationship with homophobia.

[3] See for example, Rebecca Ruth Gould (2020), ‘The IHRA Definition of Antisemitism: Defining Antisemitism by Erasing Palestinians’, The Political Quarterly, 91(4), pp.825-831, for an overview and critique. For a full timeline see Palestine Legal (undated),’ Distorted Definition: Redefining Antisemitism to Silence Advocacy for Palestinian Rights’, Palestine Legal,https://palestinelegal.org/distorted-definition

[4] Joshua Leifer’s account, ‘The Challenge of Defending Memory in Germany’,Jewish Currents (7th July 2022) is instructive,https://jewishcurrents.org/the-challenge-of-defending-memory-in-germany

[5] Baconi is the author of (2018), Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance, Stanford: Stanford University Press, and the president of the board of the Palestinian policy Network Al Shabaka, https://al-shabaka.org/profiles/tareq-baconi/.

[6] For an excellent discussion and analysis of the relationship between the Holocaust and the Nakba, see Bashir Bashir and Amos Goldberg, eds., (2019), The Holocaust and the Nakba: A New Grammar of Trauma and History, New York: Columbia University Press.

[7] For a critical overview of this process see Jamie Stern-Weiner, ed. (2019), Antisemitism and the Labour Party, London: Verso; Alex Nunns (Forthcoming),Sabotage: The Inside Hit Job That Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn, Or Books; Ed McNally (2020), ‘Jeremy Corbyn Was Successful When He Stuck to His Socialist Principles’,Jacobin, 7th October,https://jacobin.com/2020/10/jeremy-corbyn-owen-jones-this-land-labour-review

[8] Zoe Tidman (2019), ‘Theresa May unveils statue of 'virulently antisemitic' first woman MP’, The Independent, 29th November,https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nancy-astor-statue-theresa-may-boris-johnson-antisemitism-plymouth-a9226106.html

[9] See for example, David Renton (2021), Labour's Antisemitism Crisis: What the Left Got Wrong, Routledge; Daniel Randall (2021), Antisemitism on the Left: Arguments for Socialists, No Pasaran Media.

[10] Different versions have appeared of ‘Anti-Semitism and National-Socialism’. The first English-language publication was ‘Anti-Semitism and National Socialism: notes on the German reaction to ‘‘Holocaust’’’, New German Critique 19 (1980), pp. 97-115. A reworked and shortened version appeared in A. Rabinach and J. Zipes, eds., (1986),Germans and Jews since the Holocaust, Holmes & Meier. Moishe Postone (2005),Deutschland, die Linke und der Holocaust. Politische Intervention, Barbara Fried et al., eds., Ça ira-verlag contains a version incorporating different English and German language versions of the essay.

[11] Quoted by Daniel Bensaïd in: Karl Marx (2006), Sur la Question Juive. Présentation et commentaires de Daniel Bensaïd, La Fabrique, p. 25.


[12] Enzo Traverso (2000), Nach Auschwitz, ISP-Verlag, p. 38.

[13] Postone, ‘Anti-Semitism and National Socialism’, p. 106.

[14] Philippe Burrin (2005), Nazi Anti-Semitism. From Prejudice to the Holocaust, The New Press, p. 23.

[15] Detlev Claussen (2005), Grenzen der Aufklärung. Die gesellschaftliche Genese des modernen Antisemitismus, Fischer, p. 99.

[16] Michael Heinrich (2019), Karl Marx and the Birth of Modern Society: The Life of Marx and the Development of His Work (Volume I: 1818-1841), Monthly Review Press, pp. 286-288.

[17] Ilse Yago-Jung, introduction to Iring Fetscher, ed., (1974) Marxisten gegen Antisemitismus, Hoffman und Campe, p. 15.

[18] Karl Marx, On the Jewish Question, online: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/jewish-question.

[19] Marx (2006), Sur la Question Juive, p. 13.

[20] Ibid, p. 29.

[21] August Bebel, ‘Sozialdemokratie und Antisemitismus. Rede beim Kölner Parteitag 1893’, online at

[22]  Karl Kautsky, Rasse und Judentum, in: Iring Fetscher, ed., (1974)Marxisten gegen Antisemitismus, Hoffman und Campe, p. 90.

[23]  Enzo Traverso (1994),The Marxists and the Jewish Question. The History of a Debate, Huminaties Press, pp. 76-82.

[24]  Kautsky, Rasse und Judentum, p. 92.

[25]  Ibid., p. 115.

[26]  Ibid., p. 119.

[27]  Otto Heller (1931) Der Untergang des Judentums, Wien/Berlin: Verlag für Literaur und Politik, p. 150. 

[28]  Traverso,Les Marxistes et la Question Juive, p. 225.

[29]  Ibid., p. 226.

[30]  Abram Leon (1970),The Jewish Question. A Marxist interpretation, Pathfinder Pres, p. 258.

[31]  Ibid., 266.

[32]  Ibid., p. 262.

[33] Traverso, Les Marxistes et la Question Juive, p. 243.

[34]  Theodor W. Adorno (2008) History and Freedom. Lectures 1964–1965, Cambridge: Polity, p. 7.

[35]  Enzo Traverso (2020),Critique of Modern Barbarism. Essays on fascism, anti-Semitism and the use of History, Amsterdam: IIRE, p. 48.

[36]  Michael Löwy (2000), Marx’s dialectic of progress: open or closed?,Socialism and Democracy, 14(1), pp. 35-44.

[37] Postone, ‘Anti-Semitism and National Socialism’, p. 99-101.

[38] Ibid, p. 102.

[39] It should be noted that at a later point Postone wrote that ‘modern anti-Semitism’ as such could be understood as ‘as a fetishized one-sided form of anticapitalism’ that ‘biologistically identifies’ Jews with ‘abstract capital’. See Moise Postone (2003),Time, Labor, and Social Domination. A reinterpretation of Marx’s critical theory, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[40] Moishe Postone, ‘The Holocaust and the Trajectory of the Twentieth Century’, in: Moishe Postone and Eric Santer eds., (2003),Catastrophe and Meaning. The Holocaust and the Twentieth Century, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 93.

[41] Postone, ‘The Holocaust and the Trajectory of the Twentieth Century’, p. 84.

[42] Alfred Rosenberg (2015),Die Tagebücher von 1934 bis 1944, Jürgen Matthäus and Frank Bajohr ed., Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, p. 629.

[43] For one recent critique of Postone’s thesis, also see Michael Sommer (2022),Anti-Postone: or, Why Moishe Postone's Antisemitism Theory is Wrong, but Effective, Cosmonaut Press.

[44] Postone, ‘Anti-Semitism and National Socialism’, p. 102.

[45] Ibid., p. 98.

[46] For a sustained and insightful reflection on the relationships between both over the long durée, see Bashir Bashir and Leila Farsakh, eds. (2020), The Arab and Jewish Questions: Geographies of Engagement in Palestine and Beyond, New York: Columbia University Press.

[47] For an excellent study of these processes see Hil Aked (2023), Friends of Israel: The Backlash Against Palestine Solidarity, London: Verso.

[48] See for example Emmanuel Brenner, ed. (2002),Les Territoires Perdus de la République, Paris: Mille et une nuits; Pierre-André Taguieff (2002),La Nouvelle Judéophobie, Paris: Mille et une Nuits; Pierre-André Taguieff (2004),Prêcheurs de Haine: Traversée de la Judéophobie Planétaire, Paris: Mille et une Nuits; Pierre-André Taguieff (2021),Liaisons Dangereuses: Islamo-Nazisme, Islamo-Gauchisme, Paris: Hermann; Alain Finkielkraut (2003),Au Nom de l’Autre: Réflexions sur l’Antisémitisme qui Vient, Paris: Gallimard; Nicolas Weill (2004),La République et les Antisémites, Paris: Grasset.

[49] Selim Nadi (2021),’Emmanuel Macron’s Government Has Banned Palestine Solidarity Demonstrations’,Jacobin, 14th May,https://jacobin.com/2021/05/macron-france-palestine-israel-protests-banned.

[50] Alain Badiou and Eric Hazan, ‘“Anti-Semitism Everywhere” in France Today’, in Alain Badiou, Eric Hazan, and Ivan Segré (2013), Reflexions on Anti-Semitism, London: Verso.

[51] Daniel Bensaïd (2005), Fragments mécréants. Mythes identitaires et République imaginaire. Paris: Lignes.

[52] In responses to the imposition of the IHRA working definition in British universities, more than 120 Palestinian and Arab scholars, artists, and intellectuals, published a letter highlighting how their oppression - both historic and present - was being silenced and denied, while the struggle against antisemitism was being undermined by this weaponisation. See ‘Palestinian rights and the IHRA definition of antisemitism’,The Guardian, 29th November 2020,https://www.theguardian.com/news/2020/nov/29/palestinian-rights-and-the-ihra-definition-of-antisemitism.

[53] For a more detailed account of this process see Sai Englert (2018), ‘The State, Zionism and the Nazi Genocide: Jewish Identity-Formation in the West between Assimilation and Rejection’, Historical Materialism, 26(2), pp.149–177.

[54] Enzo Traverso (2016),The End of Jewish Modernity, London: Pluto Press, pp.126-7.

[55]  For a detailed account of the reimagination of the German State as an anti-racist actor and a friend to the Jewish people - via its support for Zionism - see the excellent Daniel Marwecki (2020),Germany and Israel: Whitewashing and Statebuilding, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[56]  Hannah Arendt (1973), The Origins of Imperialism, London: André Deutsch, pp. 123, 138, 143, 218, passim. Aimé Césaire (2000),Discourse on Colonialism, New York: Monthly Review, pp . 35-40.

[57] Karl Korsh (1942), ‘Notes on History: The Ambiguities of Totalitarian Ideologies’, New Essays: A Quarterly Devoted to the Study of Modern Society, Vol. 6 (1942), no 2 (Fall), p. 1-9.

[58] Thomas Rogers (2023) provides a helpful English language overview of these recent debates in his ‘The Long Shadow of German Colonialism’,The New York Review, 9th March,https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2023/03/09/the-long-shadow-of-german-colonialism-thomas-rogers/

[59] Jürgen Zimmerer (2006), ‘The Birth of theOstland out of the Spirit of Colonialism: a Postcolonial Perspective on the Nazi Policy of Conquest and Extermination’,Patterns of Prejudice, 39(2), pp.197-219. See also Patrick Wolfe (2016),Traces of History: Elementary Structures of Race, London: Verso, for an excellent discussion of modern antisemitism within the general emergence of ‘race science’ and racism.

[60] Jürgen Zimmerer (2008), ‘Colonialism and the Holocaust – Towards an Archeology of Genocide’,Development Dialogue, 50,  p.95. Mahmood Mamdani (2020), Neither Settler Nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, pp. 105-106

[61] Joseph Massad (2006),The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians, New York: Routledge. See especially pp.132-134. Tom Segev (1993),The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust, New York: Owl Books.

[62] For a careful and detailed debunking of these arguments see Gilbert Achcar (2009),The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives, New York: Metropolitan Books.

[63] Maegan Parker Brooks and Davis W. Houck (eds.) (2010), The Speeches of Fannie Lou Hamer: To Tell It Like It Is,University Press of Mississippi, p.134.