The French Debate on Zur Judenfrage

From an Anachronistic Trial to the Crisis of Secularism

Jean-Pierre Couture

While arguments about the ‘antisemitic’ character of Marx have been well rehearsed in the English-speaking world,[1][2]this debate has been particularly lively and revived in the French context since the Six-Day War and well into the Twenty-first Century. On each occasion, intellectuals dispute the correct interpretation of Marx’s 1844 article published in response to the theses of Bruno Bauer, hence the often-misreported title: Zur Judenfrage (On the Jewish Question).[3]Among Jewish intellectuals, who are at the forefront of this debate, the relation to Marxism in toto is coupled with their specific positioning towards the State of Israel and Jewish identity.

Our article traces the multiple shifts in meaning assigned to Marx’s text throughout these debates by contextualising them within the broader political controversies of post-war and contemporary France. If ‘every generation rewrites Marx in a new way,’[4] then this article shows that such rewriting necessarily takes shape within an intellectual and political struggle that not only clarifies the positions present, but itself proves to be the driving force of the shifts in meaning within competing ideologies. In short, we demonstrate that claims about Marx’s supposed ‘antisemitism’ emerge out of politicised, anti-Marxist, and right-wing Zionist readings, against which an historicised reading of Marx is made necessary.

To conduct this critical inquiry, the article is split into two sections. First, it examines the French debate over ‘Marx’s antisemitism’ in detail, which serves a double function: to elucidate the context and reasons for opposition between French intellectuals regarding this trial and to extend our knowledge of which evidence must be considered to indict or exonerate Marx. While this lengthy historical overview may break the interpretation of Marx’s work into several pieces, it nonetheless allows us to comprehensively collect and assess all of the counter-arguments thrown at a politically-inspired and anachronical accusation. Second, it briefly sketches an argument for a better, more historicised criticism of Marx’s thinking on the Jewish question by working through a problem which haunts the young Marx’s mechanistic view of assimilation: namely, the flaws involved in his materialistic desecration of religious views that are brought to light by the contemporary crisis of secularism and the proliferation of racialised intolerance, especially against Muslims.


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 Anachronistic Trial over Marx’s ‘antisemitism’

The problem: Profaning Bauer’s Theology and the Religious Jew

Let us recall that what paves the way for Marx's trial concerns a few sentences taken from the second part of his article.[5] Indeed, Marx launches out in a kind of brutal exercise of ‘profanation’ of the religious Jew, which many commentators have avoided addressing directly.[6] While seeking ‘to escape from the [Bauerian] theological formulation of the question,’[7] he borrows from the imagery of Jewish selfishness conveyed by Hegel and Feuerbach and uses radicalised formulas which reduce religion to its socio-economic function: in effect, reducing the sacred to the profane. ‘What is the profane basis of Judaism? Practical need,self-interest. What is the worldly cult of the Jew?Huckstering [Der Schacher]. What is his worldly god?Money’.[8] A few paragraphs later Marx adds: ‘Money is the jealous god of Israel, beside which no other god may exist.’[9] Left to their own devices, these sentences obviously nourish the most tenacious medieval prejudices about the figure of the Jew indulging in illicit trade and the cold calculation of interests.

This problem becomes more complex since the second part of Marx’s article proposes a mechanistic or assimilationist solution to the Jewish question. This causal mechanism has two inseparable components. In the first place, Marx dissolves practical Judaism into the generalised ethos ‘of the trader, and above all of the financier,’[10] into ‘the perfection of civil society,’ and into ‘the sway of egoistic need…namely money.’[11] He claims that the specificity of commerce traditionally vested in the Jew has spread to bourgeois society, thus echoing an analysis of money and its ability to alienate objects, including individuals, believed to have a practical origin in Judaism. We will see below that Marx is not at the origin of this reductive idea. However, this first step – mechanically posing Judaism as equivalent to the bourgeois egoism of civil society – consequently implies an equally mechanical solution.

If the basis of religion is necessarily profane, the abolition of a profane practice entails, in the second place, the abolition (Aufhebung) of the corresponding religious need. For Marx, achieving emancipation insofar as it is onlypolitical still maintains the split life of the citizen and the believer, which Bauer naively believes to be abolished by the suppression of religion. Thus, Marx seeks ahuman emancipation that abolishes this division itself and, consequently, implies the disappearance of Judaism.

While arguing in favour of this assimilationist option, the Judeophobic commonplaces that Marx inserts in his ‘profanation’ of religious Jews appear to loosely align him with nineteenth-century French socialists, such as Fourier, Toussenel, and Proudhon. Any reader showing antisemitic leanings could easily find in these few sentences a validation of their views, including among the late twentieth-century Holocaust deniers in France, such as Robert Faurisson, Roger Garaudy, and Pierre Guillaume. The same applies to any anti-Marxist reader who wishes to infer from these sentences alone a complete disqualification of Marx’s argument on the Jewish question (if not of Marx’s ideas on human emancipation entirely).

After World War II, this ‘profane perspective’ has regularly been labelled as ‘antisemitic’,[12] and the French intellectual context seems to give this accusation a renewable and recurring character. The virulence of this debate in France is so strong that it should be made clear from the outset that there is no code of ethics governing the field of rhetorical and political strategy. Nevertheless, following certain precautions allows us to approach the debate from a balanced position, the first of which involves asking the following questions: are notions of religious anti-Judaism or Judeophobia the same as antisemitism? Do they call for the same diagnosis and the same resolution? In his recent biography of the young Marx, Michael Heinrich distinguishes these terms:

In the case of anti-Judaism, a person’s Jewishness ends with their conversion to Christianity. Ethnic and national anti-Semitism regards converted Jews with considerable distrust; one is not sure whether converted Jews have really made a turn toward the cultural and religious community of a nation, but the possibility is fundamentally recognized. For racist anti-Semitism, conversion and cultural assimilation is irrelevant, since it assumes that supposed racial characteristics cannot be shed.[13]

Quite concretely, this typology explains why Marx’s father was able to overcome, around 1818, the anti-Judaism of his time by converting to Protestantism,[14] while on the other hand Walter Benjamin escaped racist antisemitism in 1940 only through suicide.

This elementary caution in the use of terms is not generally observed in the French debate. But even if militant or political reason often drive interpretations, we argue that the evidence produced by the various contributions to this 50-year-old debate, stretching from the Six-Day War to the recent publication of the Grande Édition Marx et Engels (GEME), tends to demonstrate the anachronism of the accusation of ‘antisemitism’ levelled against Marx.

Before reviewing the debate, let us also note that antisemitism has had several lives in France and that its presumed collusion with Marxism is the result of a change in the meaning of what is considered ‘antisemitic’ after the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. In post-war France, antisemitism was not only delegitimised, but it even seemed to be eradicated. ‘Morally, philosophically, [and] religiously, traditional antisemitism suffered irreparable blows after the war.’[15] From its existentialist premises, Sartre condemned antisemitism as a cowardly passion that invents itself a scapegoat – the Jew – in order to avoid responsibility for one’s own situation as a free and indeterminate human being.[16] The Shoah delegitimised antisemitism to its roots and bound both Christian and secular Europeans, accustomed to stigmatising the ‘Jewish deicide’, in the same guilt. Moreover, ‘the Shoah will have become not only the mental and psychic matrix of the Jews after World War II, but also the ultimate “proof” in favour of the historical necessity [of the Jewish nation-state].’[17] This necessity appeared obvious in 1948, when the Zionist project was devoted to the construction of a new secular, socialist democracy.[18] These several post-war developments earned Zionism strong support from the French left and put antisemitism on hold for a period of some twenty years.

The revival of Marx’s article after the Six-Day War

The first French scholarly translation of Zur Judenfrage by Jules Molitor was published in 1927 by Édition Costes.[19] Forty years after this initial publication, and twenty years after the birth of the State of Israel, ‘a disturbing news – the revival of French antisemitism since the Six-Day War in June 1967 – [had] prompted those responsible for 10/18 [a paperback publisher] to re-edit the little-known work of the young Karl Marx.’[20] Indeed, France fiercely debated the 1967 war and Israeli annexations, while President De Gaulle’s remarks on the Jews as ‘an elite people, sure of themselves and domineering,’[21] also fuelled a broad controversy against Israel. ‘The Jews of France went through a deep identity crisis during this period: publicly affirming effective solidarity with the Hebrew state, they were very marked by the hostile policy of the French government towards Israel.’[22] So much so, in fact, that the Chief Rabbi of France, Jacob Kaplan, protested and expressed ‘the deep emotion felt by all of Judaism in the presence of the theses presented by President [De Gaulle].’[23] Ben Gurion, former Prime Minister of Israel, also relayed his concerns to the French President,[24] while Raymond Aron broke the ‘silence des intellectuels’ and attacked De Gaulle, accusing him of opening ‘a new period of Jewish history and perhaps of antisemitism.’[25]

The new face of annexationist Zionism, which marginalised the Israeli left and the self-governing socialist experiment of the kibbutz, effected a shift in what Zionism could mean. According to the retrospective opinion of the French historian François Azouvi, the antisemitic passion described by Sartre would have been deprived of its justifications and would have slumbered ‘until the Six-Day War enabled a Third Worldist left to furbish a newlegitimacy to its antisemitism: anti-Zionism.’[26] This possible collusion between post-1967 anti-Zionism, the left, and the revival of French antisemitism fuelled in turn the controversy surrounding the young Marx’s article.

In this incendiary context, the Union générale d’éditions (UGE) put into circulation a new translation of Zur Judenfrage by Jean-Michel Palmier, along with the very first French translation of Bauer’s 1843 book.[27] Robert Mandrou wrote the short introduction to this paperback edition, using it to take a stand against ‘the critics of Marxism who pity the antisemitic Jew.’[28] To cut this accusation short, Mandrou minimises ‘the apparently contemptuous formulas’ or ‘terms of derision’ used in the second part of Zur Judenfrage. For him, only the malice of readers in a hurry can explain the distortion of Marx’s text when read in light of the ‘contemporary antisemitism [which] took shape at the turn of the [Twentieth] century’.[29]

This clarification surrounding the anachronism of antisemitic accusations against Marx was not deepened at this point, although the re-publication of the young Marxs piece in 1968, quickly followed by Marianna Simon’s translation (with introduction by François Châtelet) in 1971,[30] were undertaken with the aim of dissipating these various conceptual misunderstandings. That goal, however, was never achieved. Rather, Mandrou and Châtelet’s attenuations provided an occasion for a counter-exaggeration, that of an entirely antisemitic Marx posited by Robert Misrahi in 1972.

The ‘antisemitic’ Marx: from accusation to cross-examination

Born in Paris of Jewish parents, a contributor to Les Temps Modernes, and professor of philosophy at Sorbonne, Misrahi filled Marx’s anti-Jewish passages with speculative comments in Marx et la question juive (1972).According to Misrahi, Marx would have avoided slipping into such ‘antisemitism’ had he considered the possibility of a national solution to the Jewish question [which] existed in the Jewish and non-Jewish consciousness of Europe in the 1840s.[31] Against all historical cautionabout the limited space that even proto-Zionism would have had in the political spectrumof the early-nineteenth century, Misrahi goes further and reveals the heart of his anachronistic grievance towards Marx:

If he had mentioned the Zionist solution, he would have been forced to adopt it by the very logic of his system: to suppress the Jews is also to bring them together and bring them back to Israel. Mankind would have been emancipated from the Jews, and the Jews, emancipated from oppression.[32]

This sentence characterises Misrahi’s overall argument as well as the more general position of Marx’s accusers. On the one hand, he confuses the abolition (Aufhebung) of Judaism withthe suppression of the Jews, which is nowhere to be found in Marxs text yet clearly corresponds to the lexicon of racist antisemitism to which Marx is mixed up. On the other hand, Misrahi posits that Marx’s sin would have been avoided had he been a Zionist and a supporter of the Jewish nation instead of being critical of the state and nationalism. In short, to avoid accusations of antisemitism Marx would have had to not be Marx.

However, in arriving at these criticisms and accusations the broader position that Marx stood for was not adequately reported. For example, Misrahi partially quotes Marx’s March 13th, 1843 letter to Arnold Ruge:The Israelite religion inspires me with repulsion.[33] When placed in context, however, Marx’s position displays an entirely different perspective:

I have just been visited by the chief of the Jewish community here [in Cologne], who has asked me for a petition for the Jews to the Provincial Assembly, and I am willing to do it. However much I dislike the Jewish faith, Bauer’s view seems to me too abstract. The thing is to make as many breaches as possible in the Christian state and to smuggle in as much as we can of what is rational. At least, it must be attempted – and the embitterment grows with every petition that is rejected with protestations.[34]

Misrahi’s omission removes one of the few pieces of evidence of Marx’s clear support for Jewish emancipation in the wake of his own father’s commitment.[35] It conceals his analytical intention, which will have been sketched out in the 1844 article: to submit to an equal critique Bauer and his abstractions, the Jewish and Christian religions, and the PrussianState.

For the philosopher Elisabeth de Fontenay, a disciple of Louis Althusser in the 1970s and later a supporter of Zionism, this partial and partisan reading of Marx is due to the ‘hesitations of rigor’ on the part of the ‘antisemitic Marx’ camp. In her work, Les figures juives de Marx (1973), De Fontenay never mentions Misrahi but her contribution as a whole clearly aims to fill his silences and especially the ‘historical falsifications’ of any ‘reader-judge’ (lecteur-juge)[36] such as himself. Of Jewish descent through her mother, De Fontenay rejects the thesis ‘of a transhistorical ever reborn antisemitism,’[37] and seeks instead to historicise ‘the multiple anti-Jewish campaigns according to their irreducible forms’ and ‘to consider as decisive the date on which texts are drafted.’[38] To thwart the accusations of the anti-Marxists, De Fontenay reduces the violence of Marx’s lexicon to a ‘sole methodological dimension’ and favours a softened translation by speaking of the ‘Juif du change.[39] Nonetheless, the true strength of the work lies in De Fontenay’s restoration, development, and refinement of Marx’s argument in the Manuscripts of 1844, theTheses on Feuerbach, andThe Holy Family. It is also worth noting that the author produced a major piece of evidence against Marx’s accusers by appending to her book the first French translation of Moses Hess’Essence of Money.

The figure of Hess is a focal point in this debate. By drawing attention to this text, De Fontenay unmasked one of the strategies used by Misrahi for clearing Hess of the accusations set against Marx. Let us recall that Moses Hess (1812-1875) had a decisive influence on Marx and Engels’ adherence to communism and that he co-authored with them at least one section of the initial versions of The German Ideology. A few months before the forthcoming issue of theDeutsch-französische Jahrbücher, Hess placed in Marx’s hands his manuscript entitledEssence of Money [Über das Geldwesen], in which the brutal match between Jew and money is a leitmotiv.[40]

Misrahi reports these facts in a curious way – that is to say, without reporting them. He states: ‘To the articles of the Jew Moses Hess against money, property and the State, in 1843, answers the article of the liberal Protestant Karl Marx, son of a converted Jew and himself converted against the Jews and their religion of money.’[41] In this sentence, Marx is no longer only a Jew or a socialist; he becomes the author of theses which are in fact attributable to Hess himself. The attention to detail in portraying Hess’ political thought and his friendship with Marx is meticulous, except in the mention of the text submitted for publication in Marx and Ruge’s journal. Misrahi’s omission stands up to his polemical task, as Hess’ text is indeed a violent charge against Jews found guilty of the development of selfishness in mankind. Hess even speculates on the Hebrew etymology of the words blood (dam) and money (damim) and constantly alludes to cannibalism – i.e., the alleged link between human sacrifice and monetary punishment in Judaism.[42] The series of appalling passages which fill this anti-Judaic and Judeophobic article exceed in number and violence the statements endorsed by Marx:

Just as the animal tastes in blood only his own life in an animal-like, brutal way, so man tastes in money his own life in a brutal, animal-like, cannibalistic way. Money is the social blood, but externalised, spilt blood. The Jews had the world-historic mission in the natural history of the social animal world of developing the beast of prey out of man; they have finally fulfilled their mission. The mystery of Judaism and Christianity has been made public in the modern Jewish-Christian world of shopkeepers… In face of money, kings… have they only the right, like the other animal-men, arising from common natural right, from their common quality of beasts of prey, bloodsuckers, Jews, money-wolves… Money is the life-killing means of intercourse which has solidified into a dead letter just as the letter is the spirit-killing means of intercourse which has solidified into dead money. The invention of money and letters is attributed to the Phoenicians, the same people to whom is also attributed the invention of the Jewish God.[43]

Why does Misrahi not refer to these passages? Wouldn’t they be just as worthy of charges of ‘antisemitism’ from a ‘self-hating’ Jew as Marx’s writings? Are not these passages even more aggravated by the fact that Hess received, unlike Marx, a religious Jewish education and that these views on Judaism in 1843 cannot be explained by sheer ignorance or prejudice? This double standard is no secret, however, as Misrahi and most anti-Marxist Zionists see in Moses Hess the very model of the path to be taken from socialism to Zionism. By publishing Rome and Jerusalem in 1862, Hess pioneered modern Jewish nationalism with ‘one of the first major Zionist works’ which ‘advocates the resurrection of Palestine [sic] by a Jewish population.’[44] In a strange reversal, Hess’ later text is seen as the precursor of an idea (i.e., ‘to prefer [Jewish] nationality and to sacrifice to it an emancipation which would be illusory’)[45] that, according to Misrahi, the young Marx would have to have known and promoted before Hess. In fact, even before the rise of ethnic and national antisemitism, against which Hess rose in the 1860s and upon which he relied to criticise the assimilation of German Jews, Marx should have anticipated these developments and also refused ‘the possibility of emancipation through assimilation.’[46] In short, to use a contemporary label, Hess is portrayed as offering the correct version of a Jewish identity politics. Having become a Zionist, he has therefore taken the ‘right path’ since his anti-Jewish writings of the 1840s. This is enough to spare him a close examination of his pre-conversion writings, which is why Essence of Money is carefully ignored.

But Marx also traces his own path, and this very quickly in the short interval between 1843-1845. If his alleged ‘antisemitism’ were a key to understanding his work, then the Jewish figure should have continued to play a role, with all its weight, in his arguments. Rather, De Fontenay shows that Marx quickly detached himself from the Hessian phrases he reverberated in his 1844 article. Drawing on György Lukács, she argues that Hess’ moralising criticism of money could only be both ‘stuck in repetition and derailed in anti-Judaism.’[47] To get out of this dead end, Marx gradually avoids the language of Essence of Money. Hess’ chain of logic leading fromblood - money - egoism - Jews - bourgeois society becomes, for Marx,money - egoism - Jews - bourgeois society. However, in theManuscripts of 1844, Marx already speaks of money without the Jew and prefers to borrow from Goethe and Shakespeare to illustrate the simplified chain ofmoney - egoism - bourgeois society.[48] He even returns to Shakespeare – the favourite author of the whole Marx family – to seize upon the ‘essence of money.’[49] At the end of the section titled ‘The Power of Money’, Marx sums up the Shakespearean conception:

1. It is the visible divinity – the transformation of all human and natural properties into their contraries, the universal confounding and distorting of things: impossibilities are soldered together by it.

2. It is the common whore, the common procurer of people and nations.[50]

In a similar spirit of abandoning the Hessian perspective, Marx criticises Feuerbach for the fact that his material practice ‘is conceived and fixed only in its dirty-Judaical manifestation.’[51] Marx no longer wishes to stay on this phenomenal surface; he wishes to shift the terms of the question without yet providing an answer of his own. Nevertheless, these few traces of a reassessment of the question found in this series of posthumous writings inform us of the path Marx took before returning to the Jewish question for a second and final time.

According to De Fontenay, Marx’s first book, The Holy Family (authored with Engels), brings a new maturity to the question:the writing helps itself, the reflection recovers from what had been written a bit quickly and is given a chance to be seriously rethought.’[52] While the failure of the Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher project was confirmed after only one issue, Marx returned to the Jewish question in three subsections of the sixth chapter ofThe Holy Family, totalling a number of pages similar to his initial article.

As De Fontenay rightly urges us, reconstructing or criticising Marx’s thought on the Jewish question requires an account of the inflection of the argument in his work. In regard to The Holy Family, the first fact to report is that Marx, in his second duel against Bauer andhis Jewish question, completely drops the Hessian lexicon used in his 1844 article. The other new facts that must be reported, apart from the abandonment of the profanatory tone towards the ‘Sabbath Jew’, concern the support that Marx gives to a series of reviews by other Jewish rationalist and liberal writers who also reject Bauer’s theses. Marx aligns with these positions, pleads again for civil rights, and insists even more on the legitimacy of a Jewish difference (i.e., a freedom of religion). ‘Herr Bauer was shown that when the Jew demands freedom and nevertheless refuses to renounce his religion, he “is engaging in politics” and sets no condition that is contrary to political freedom.’[53] Jewish emancipation is even a criterion for judging the advancement of a state, because ‘states which cannot yet politically emancipate the Jews must be rated by comparison with the perfected political state and shown to be under-developed states.’[54] By way of Marx’s self-comments on his intentions in Zur Judenfrage, he returns at least ten times to his initial article. These make clear that his contribution inThe Holy Family is intended to be a clarification – not a revision – because the problem was, in the author’s opinion, already quite well positioned: political emancipation is progress for the Jews, but it does not yet amount to their social emancipation. ‘That is the point of view from which the “political emancipation” of the Jews should have been dealt with and is dealt with in theDeutsch-französische Jahrbücher.[55]

Right-wing Zionism’s attack on Marxism

Against all expectations, this turn in the debate and the evidence that accompanies it do not at all resolve the question in France. The discursive function of an antisemitic Marx is far too convenient to its proponents to be abandoned. Added to this was the aggravation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which, with the definitive victory of the Israeli right in 1977, infused the Zionist project with a good dose of religious fundamentalism and obsession with security. This rightward shift of Zionism reconfigured the ideological map of its supporters: ‘after having aroused sympathy within the non-communist left gathered within the Socialist International, it is mainly in US neoconservative circles and evangelical sects that he now reaps a full support.’[56] The legitimacy of anti-Zionism, within a left-wing horizon, diminished just as much as the discredit which struck Marxism increased during the 1980s. Indeed, since the conquest of the media space in 1979 by the anti-Marxist Nouveaux philosophes, Bernard Henri-Lévy and André Glucksmann, and the coming to fashion of totalitarianism’ studies, which in the 1980s brought together the Leftist critics of the USSR (e.g., Claude Lefort) and conservative critics of the revolutionary tradition (e.g., François Furet), the anachronistic ‘antisemitic’ reading of Marx has persisted all too well.

Claude Lefort[57] negatively judges Marx’s contribution to the criticism of the rights of man, even if the latter conceived them as ‘a necessary, but transitory, phase of human emancipation.’[58] Although these rights remain ambiguous, as Zur Judenfrage attempts to demonstrate by opposing the right to property to other formal rights inboth the French and American constitutions, Marx, according to Lefort, wouldn’t ‘give the notion of human rights its full meaning.’[59] Marx would not have seen that these rights challenge state sovereignty and the fiction of the One-People. Against the Marxist critique of civil rights, Lefort makes a call to go beyond the categories trapped in the 1844 article and recognise, contra Marx, that a social power arises from the democratic revolution of political rights, which then gives rise to new rights, including for social, identity, and gender issues. In the light of the Fifth French Republic – and not of the bloody repressions of 1848 or 1871 that Marx rightly links to bourgeois rule – Lefort sees in the struggle for the extension of human rights in the East (against Moscow) and in the West (against undemocratic tendencies) a common political will ‘to exploit the resources of freedom and creativity.’[60] Despite his post-Marxist critique of Marx and his critical judgment that accusations of an antisemitic Marx come from ‘some imprudent or foolish individuals,’[61] Lefort nonetheless contributes to the anachronistic critique of Marx himself, demonstrating that (at least in France) it still has wind in its sails.

To wit, Francis Kaplan, whose father, Rabbi Kaplan, criticised de Gaulle in 1967, invested this niche and reiterated the ‘antisemitic Marx’ thesis launched by Misrahi in 1972. Kaplan’s 1990 essay, Marx antisémite?, quickly rids itself of the question mark in its title. He admits with nuance that the first part of Marx’s article expresses a ‘non-antisemitic position’ and even claims that the link between the Sabbath Jew and the profane Jew contained in the second part is faithful to Marx’s materialism, and is not as such antisemitic in itself. For Kaplan, however, things are quite different in the rest of the article. From the moment when Marx connects Jews, egoism, and huckstering as well as money, god, and Israel, he lapses into an ‘antisemitism in itself scandalous,’[62] which takes a ‘delusional form’ in his 1844 article and returns in an ‘ordinary form’ in later works and in Marx’s private letters.

Kaplan’s book, unlike Misrahi’s, confronts the question of Hess’ possible youthful ‘antisemitism’, for which Essence of Money is briefly cited, but concludes that the latter’s antisemitism is ‘less violent than Marx’s’[63] while refraining from alluding to the blood–money linkage in Hess. Even if Kaplan conducts a fair analysis at times, he eventually unleashes against those interpreters of Marx who do not arrive at his conclusions – regardless of whether they are from France (Rubel, Mandrou, Châtelet, De Fontenay) or elsewhere (Hannah Arendt, Isaac Deutscher, Roman Rosdolsky). While geopolitical trends of the early 1990s crushed the vestiges of the USSR and really-existing socialism, Kaplan’s charges unfolded violently: ‘those who find Marx’s language normal are antisemites who dare not display themselves as such,’ and criticism of the State of Israel by these same interpreters acts merely ‘as the justification for current antisemitism.’[64] These out of place remarks did not give rise to any sustained response, but they do show that, for some, criticism of Zionism can never be legitimate.

Against Counterfeits: the ‘right path’ for Jewish identity formation

In this vein, the Jewish sociologist Pierre Birnbaum revived the French controversy over the ‘antisemitic Marx’ some fifteen years later. A child survivor of the collaborationist Vichy government, Birnbaum lived in hiding with peasants from the Pyrénées at the height of the Nazi deportations to the death camps. For him, the question of how the French state, having once emancipated the Jews and allowed them to attain high public offices, could suddenly reverse course and collaborate in their extermination,remains a ‘mystery’.[65]Birnbaum is thus interested in the history of the French Jews and of the antisemitic hatred of which France shows itself to be capable. It is in light of this last theme that he ventures, in Géographie de l’espoir,[66] into the field of political ideas by reviewing the life and work of some European Jewish intellectual figures including Durkheim, Simmel, Arendt, Aron, Berlin, and, first and foremost, Marx.

Birnbaum’s overall thesis still resembles the ‘right path that the Jewish identity-formation must take. The latter must be assumed by resisting assimilation or the fluidity of multiple identities. The author borrows heavily from Francis Kaplan’s argument, including from the exhaustive inventory of all of Marx’s anti-Jewish remarks in his letters. In Birnbaums narrative, Marx is cast as the anti-model: one should have “[convinced] him to take into consideration questions of identity without relating them solely to the logic based on means of production that are indifferent to popular values and imagination.”[67] Instead of Judaism disappearing through socialism, in and with human emancipation, Marx shall disappear through Judaism, in and with Jewish nationalism.

In the critical words of Enzo Traverso and Sai Englert, we could say that Birnbaum represents the culmination of a ‘conservative turn’[68]among many Jewish intellectuals, like Raymond Aron or Isaiah Berlin, who adhere to ‘an understanding of identity, one which assumes it to be static and individual.’[69] We note that Birnbaum’s approach innovates relatively little in the debate. It relies on the Zionist Moses Hess of 1862 to draw the right line while being completely silent on his anti-Jewish writing of 1843, which influenced Marx and from which Marx quickly detaches himself. The argument is, as in Misrahi and Kaplan, in the past conditional and therefore remains anachronistic or teleological: Marx should not have been materialist and socialist; he should have been a Zionist and a Jewish nationalist – even religious. This incriminating or exculpatory criterion, depending on whether it is Hess or Marx, still dictates the standards of evidence used to prove or disprove their ‘antisemitism’.

Two elements, however, distinguish Birnbaums approach. First of all, he is laudatory towards Bauer, who expresses ‘a surprising sensitivity to the most concrete history,’ especially when he uses the expression ‘Jewish people’ and when he ‘seems to briefly envisage favourably the Zionist hypothesis.’[70] What might seem like another mystery here – the sympathy for the reactionary Bauer – is explained by the fact that Birnbaum prefers an argument against the assimilation of Jews, even if it comes from an ethnic and nationalist antisemite, rather than an argument for the social emancipation of Jews from a materialist in search of human emancipation. As a result, even if Birnbaum concedes that the Jewish reference disappears from Marx’s work after The Holy Family, he sees this as more ground for suspicion. Therefore, he takes up the idea of a tight collage, already available in Kaplans work, of all the anti-Jewish occurrences in Marx’s private letters to infer a sort of basso continuo ofhis (mis)conceptions on the Jewish question. From this string of Judeophobic insults – especially towards the socialist Jew Ferdinand Lassalle, who also does not escape, paradoxically, the suspicions of ‘Jewish antisemitism’[71]Birnbaum goes further than all the anti-Marxists listed above and seeks to link Marx to the conspiratorial spirit of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.[72]With regard to the polemical goal he sets for himself, this testifies to Birnbaum’s lack of sensitivity to the most concrete history.

The anger of Birnbaum’s opponents followed soon after. This new anti-Marx argument not only provided another pretext for a new French translation of Zur Judenfrage by Jean-François Poirier, published by La Fabrique, but also for the very first French publication of Bauer’s second text criticised by Marx.[73] Herein, the Jewish Marxist theorist and activist, Daniel Bensaïd, presents a detailed, critical apparatus which is just as polemical as Birnbaum’s. The ground for this was prepared by a previous work by Jacques Aron, a Belgian-Jewish intellectual who takes issue with the false parallel between criticism of the State of Israel and antisemitism and with the role attributed to Marx in this anachronistic trial.

In Karl Marx, antisémite et criminel ?, Aron provides a strong argument in defence of Marx. He recalls that his ‘infamous’ 1844 article, which appeared in a German-language journal in Paris, had very little readership since the print was almost entirely seized at the French-German border.[74] To lend such influence to a text instantly forgotten is a material impossibility. Aron also insists on the anti-Judaic context (perfectly embodied by Bauer and the Christian State of Prussia in 1843) which determines the state of the question before Marx:

Marx’s article is at the same time a theoretical approach to the institution of the state, to the place that religion should or should not hold in it, to the notion of emancipation, and to the ‘Jewish question’, in the sole religious sense of the question both for Jews and non-Jews at this moment.[75]

He recognises that Marx proceeds to an ‘abusive criticism of Judaism’ and he excuses this along a line similar to De Fontenay by speaking ‘of a theory still in formation and still elementary in several matters.’[76] In short, his strategy borrows a little from a teleological perspective to compensate for what remains an anachronistic trial.

In Bensaïd, who was leader of the Revolutionary Communist League and of the Fourth International, teleology by excess of sympathy towards Marx also plays a compensatory role in the face of the dubious strategy chosen by the opposing camp. Thus, the conjunction of money and Jew would be ‘a pending concept’[77] and not a vulgar prejudice, because Marx’s fixation thereon would anticipate ‘without yet understanding... commodity fetishism,’[78] which he developed in the first volume of Capital some twenty years later. More rigorously, Bensaïd does recognise that Marx reflects from inside a theme imposed on young radical Hegelians, namely the criticism of religion which is coming to the end of its course. Bauer chooses to essentialise the Jews, like others do for Muslims today, who he believes ‘voluntarily excluded themselves from the common society by their stubbornness in cultivating their religious singularity and [who are held] therefore responsible for the oppression suffered.’[79] Marx tears this line of argument apart by pleading for freedom of religion and by reflecting not on the will but on theexternal circumstances which found religious beliefs.

Against the rigidity of identity that facilitates state power, Bensaïd closes his response with a critique of the State of Israel and the instrumentalisation of the Shoah. ‘The corollary of the absolute uniqueness of the Jewish tragedy is then the theological justification of the secular existence of Israel, and the absolution of its misdeeds in the name of the Jewish exception.’[80] These comments on contemporary politics reveal, as Sai Englert shows in the UK context, that Bensaïd is indeed very distant from Misrahi, Kaplan, and Birnbaum when he resists the ‘state’s essentialisation of Jewishness under the banner of Zionism.’[81]

In France, anti-Zionism is indeed either caricatured or fought by an ‘equally’ legitimate defence of intransigent Zionism. Yves Charles Zarka, director of the journal Cités, endorses this discourse:

Anti-Zionism today aims to completely delegitimise the Israeli fact. For some, this contestation is not only about the territories occupied since 1967, but about the very existence of this state. The theme of the radical delegitimisation is: Israel is one state too many. We must end it. New version of the final solution, no doubt.[82]

Similar to Judith Butler,[83] Bensaïd’s critical position, which relates to the minority current of Jewish anti-Zionism, certainly thwarts this equivalence between criticism of Israel and genocide.[84] However, Bensaïd reflects little, if at all, on the poverty of Marx’s analysis of religious beliefs and pleads for a resumption of the same critical and profaning attitude in the face of the return of theology. He is wary of ventures, à la Birnbaum, aimed at reconnecting the sacred and the is now commonin Jewish Studies,[85] and prefers by far Marx’s call to ‘transform theological questions into profane questions.’[86]

Finally, another upsurge in the anachronistic trial against Marx is found in the work of André Sénik, an ex-communist Jew and a particularly harsh anti-Marxist voice. Unlike Lefort’s nuances of Marx’s mistakes in his criticism of human rights, Sénik posits Marx’s youthful text as nothing less than ‘the origin of the communist catastrophe.’[87] His book, Marx, les Juifs et les droits de l’homme, is said to be inspired by Francis Kaplan, but the subject matter and quality of his commentary on Marx’s work are quite different. The author attacks the very idea of emancipation by equating it with totalitarianism. This shift is for us symptomatic of the exhaustion of the attempt to link Marx to antisemitism. As a matter of fact, the book’s equally anti-Marxist afterword is signed by a specialist in French antisemitism, Pierre-André Taguieff, who is careful not to repeat the accusation of an ‘antisemitic Marx’. He speaks of the 1844 article as an ‘essay with Judeophobic overtones.’[88] Nevertheless, he agrees with Sénik in deriding the word ‘emancipation’ used today by the left (from Jacques Rancière to Philippe Corcuff), with very little sympathy for the term which has historically described the advancement of Jews, Blacks, women, and ethnic and sexual minorities for two centuries.

From our standpoint, the French controversy over an antisemitic Marx, although it does not bridge the two camps together over the value of historical materialism, nonetheless helps develop a factual basis regarding this ill-founded accusation. The latest French edition of the unique issue of the Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher, published in the GEME by Alix Bouffard and Pauline Clochec, departs from this controversial field of debate. A new generation of scholars ‘rewrites Marx in a new way’ and proceeds meticulously to establish the 1844 text according to the best standards ofmarxologie, that is to say, by treating Marx as a nineteenth-century author and not as a weapon speaking directly to today’s struggles. Published in 2020, Clochec’s introduction claims to take a middle position, that is to say, it refuses to considerZur Judenfrage as an antisemitic textwhile recognising in it Judeophobic traits and a philosophical anti-Judaism.[89]

This position fits between the absolutions of Daniel Bensaïd and Jacques Aron and the calls to see in it a fully antisemitic text calling for the extermination of the Jews as do Robert Misrahi, André Sénik, and Pierre Birnbaum.[90] It should be noted, however, that as the translator of the disputed text, Clochec opts for the more neutral formulas of trade and greedto talk about ‘the everyday Jew’. This differs from the edition commented on by Bensaïd that speaks of ‘agiotage’, which is closer to the pejorative meaning associated with the wordSchacher used by Marx.Nevertheless, she does stipulate that Marx proceeds to a revival of the Judeophobic stereotypes attributing to an essence of Judaism the social activities to which medieval Christendom assigned the Jews.[91]

In a concise manner, the following observations that the GEME collects in its scholarly commentary on Zur Judenfrage nonetheless clear the young Marx of the accusation. These three statements (and their pieces of evidence) are certainly binding for any mind sensitive to historical caution: 1) ‘Against Bauer, [Marx] seeks to defend this emancipation for which he had signed a petition in March 1843[92] (e.g., Marx’s letter to Ruge); 2) ‘Judeophobic representations are common at the time and are even shared by intellectuals of Jewish origin, such as Hess and Marx[93] (e.g., Hess’ Essence of Money); and 3) ‘Marx does not reject all instrumental use of human rights. Rather, he relativises their use by making them the means of an only incomplete emancipation[94] (e.g., The Holy Family). Building from a long history of virulent debate in France that helped produce and refine a deeply-contextualised evidentiary basis for interpreting the young Marx’s text, these observations characterise an historically-cautious reading in light of which we cannot but view Marx’s trial as anachronistic. Nevertheless, to avoid the naivety of concluding that scholarly reason can guide political reason, let us simply note that the debate could be reopened at anytime as the relationships between Marxism, Zionism, and antisemitism are reconfigured in the years and decades to come.For now, however, we must admit that the anachronistic character of Marx’s trial over antisemitism does not excuse the flaws of Marxism itself. Whether in its understanding of late nineteenth-century antisemitism or of the persistence of the Jewish and religious questions to the present day, Marxism leaves us with several thorny problems that we shall now briefly examine.

Historicising Marx in the face of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and Secularism

Through his adherence to the democratic radicalism of the early 1840s, Marx adopted an assimilationist position that will never have left him and whose influence will have been present in the socialism of the following century.[95] As a consequence, Marx’s – and Marxism’s – prognosis for the abolition or ‘fade out’ (Aufhebung) of Judaism through the disappearance of its profane conditions does little either to foresee the perpetuation of Judaism (and other religions) or to explain the strength of racist antisemitism from the end of the nineteenth-century.

As Zionist and nationalist opponents have pointed out, Marx remains largely ignorant of the concrete situation of the Jews, their oppression by the Prussian state, and their real social position in the European economy. While Marx’s ‘pre-Marxist conception of capitalism’ is trapped in the sterility of the Jewish–bourgeoisie association, which is ignorant of the fact that ‘[Jewish traders] were rather pushed out by the nascent bourgeois classes,’[96] his democratic radicalism – tinged with the Enlightenment’s secular rationalism – leads to the underestimation of the scope and persistence of antisemitism.[97]

These issues are crucial. And if the ambiguity of classical Marxism with regard to antisemitism has led us to mention them, they are, however, only the prelude to a second challenge posed to the young Marx’s analysis. Namely, the post-2001 context that many identify with a ‘return of religion’, or even a ‘crisis of secularism’, indeed seems to correspond to ‘a revenge of the sociology of religions against a Marxian “master narrative.”’[98] Among the elements of this narrative, the ‘secular prejudice’ which characterises Marx’s article does not resolve the point ‘that religious consciousness does not fade or die with a secular commitment to its formal expungement from spheres or practices.’[99] The mechanistic thesis of the disappearance of religion through the disappearance of its profane conditions of existence still poses an analytical and, above all, political problem.

On the one hand, we could say that, due to an oversight in the materialist critique of religions and the persistence of the idealistic cult of secularism and the state, ‘the 1840s still lie ahead of us.’[100] The return of religious questions makes it thus possible to reconnect with Marx in order to unmask the hypocrisy of debates on secularism which are disinterested in the material and social condition of believers. On the other hand, we have to admit that Marx does not prepare us to understand how the ‘presumptions that implicitly forecast a combination of reason, science, liberal democracy, and the market as dethroning religious political authority and energies [never took place].’[101]

In light of the secularism crisis and growing Islamophobia in France, the question of religious minorities and their ‘assimilation’ to the ‘national majority’ is conducive to such a renewal of the question and the problem tackled by the young Marx. Indeed, theLaw on religious symbols in French public schools, voted into force in 2004, targets Muslim girls and reveals the specificity of France’s – and of a large part of the French left’s – conviction ‘that Muslim religious practices are incompatible with the secular, republican traditions of the French state.’[102] This rather ‘Bauerian’ conviction, which passes from the thesis of ‘unassimilable’ Jews to that of ‘unassimilable’ Muslims, is not shared, for example, by the Anglo-Saxon left which, in the vast majority of cases, has no principled opposition to the wearing of religious symbols. The troubled context of French secularism, which grants a historical privilege to Catholicism while crushing minority religions, perhaps means that its catholaïcité ‘has acquired an ethnic and exclusivist connotation, slipping into what amounts, relative to a more genuine and egalitarian universalism, to a racially coded particularism.’[103]

The French left, in particular Marxist thinkers, had to end up confronting these issues. Directed by Michael Löwy and Étienne Balibar, a special edition of Actuel Marx, entitled ‘Religions’, admits that ‘the current situation forces us to put into perspective what was for a long time a certainty of Enlightenment rationalism and of a certain Marxism, that of an irreversible progress of secularisation, and for republican France, oflaïcisation.’[104]

Against the return of the type of grievances that Bauer threw at Jewish ‘incapacity for emancipation,’ André Tosel notes that the context of the 1840s seems to ‘come back’ with the same arrogance on the part of the post-Christian states which are hunting for the ‘infamous’ from within:

On the one hand, Christianity would be the only religion to have exited from religion and, on the other hand, this character would speak to its own superiority. Western society, in the name of universalist and secularised Judeo-Christianity, comes to erect its superiority en bloc by developing a critique of foreign religions asothers, still ‘backward’ foreigners, and by granting this superiority to itself with a good conscience that touches on racialisation.[105]

This racialisation, now directed against Muslims, means that the so-called neutrality of secularism becomes more of an anti-immigration battle horse, prioritising post-Christians above Muslims in terms of their capacity for ‘secularisation’. This diagnosis joins that of Rogers Brubaker about a “civilizationist” [turn in] national populisms, founded on the notion of a civilizational threat from Islam.’[106]This shift is currently benefiting the rise of the far right[107]and confines the left, which criticises the ‘weaponisation’ of secularism, to the perimeters of the insult drawn by Islamo-leftism’ – a bad copy of the former antisemitic fear towards Judeo-Bolshevism’.[108]

In order to fight against new forms of racism, contemporary critical thinkers must again problematise Marx’s relationship to religion. Mohamed Amer Meziane criticises, for instance, the spirit of the Feuerbachian critique of religion and goes so far as to argue that its incorporation into Marxism leads to aporias in the anthropology of religious beliefs.[109] By adopting the ‘secular prejudice’ which makes the United States a norm in matters of religious concord under a secular state, Marx gives in to the conception of both religion and humanity ‘in general,’ and this abstraction leads him to reduce religion to ideology ‘in general.’[110] In a sometimes-cryptic way, the author reproaches the young Marx’s profanatory tone, an abstract atheism which dismisses a little quickly, according to him, the foundations of religious beliefs:

Atheism demands that humans liberate themselves from an illusion, but this requirement makes no sense if it does not require the suppression of the world that makes this illusion necessary and vital. The project of merely abolishing religion in an inhuman world equals a desire to suppress the only breathable air in a world where people suffocate without making this very world more breathable.[111]

While 1840s Germany made the air rather unbreathable to a whole generation of atheist philosophers who were banished, for this reason, from the academic profession, it must be recognised that the enlightened critique of religious beliefs, radicalised in different tones by Bauer, Feuerbach, and Marx, comes back to haunt the contradictions of the contemporary situation. A double movement of secularisation and de-secularisation is unleashing around the globe. ‘As Europe becomes more secular, it is increasingly represented as (Judeo-) Christian, in constitutive opposition to Islam.[112] The return of the religious might not be the mote in the Other’s eye, but rather the beam in the eye of the ‘proudly secular Euro-Atlantic societies [who] are “outing” their own religious predicates as they defend their expressly Christian nature and give the lie to the notion that secularism entails religious neutrality.’[113]

Actuel Marx recognises this critical perspective by translating an article by Talal Asad. The anthropologist of religions outlines a research program which poses a challenge to Marxism and which consists in re-examining the link between religion and the State, because ‘the categories of “political” and “religious” are involved with one another, in the final analysis, more deeply than we thought.’[114] In the competition to shape and govern life, including in its material, bodily practices, state and religion perpetually reformulate their relationship to one another, and this porosity that no secularisation has so far managed to contain ‘makes them both equally “political.”’[115]


In a formula which honours Marx and invites us to continue his critical work, Tosel does say that ‘secularisation becomes de-secularisation by realising a world full of fetishes and not void of religion.’[116] The religiosity that can quickly take hold of the ‘secular’ admirers of the state was already part of Marx’s sarcasm towards the theologian Bauer: ‘His faith in Jehovah changed into faith in the Prussian state.’[117] Among other new fetishes, the Jewish identity that Birnbaum et alii conceive ahistorically is also discredited by the young Marx who conceived the Jewish question only ‘through history,in andwith history.’[118]

Let us note again, by way of conclusion, that Marx remarked in 1843-1845 that political emancipation and formal equality recognise the citizen while maintaining the believer; they both recognise the exercise of citizenship in the state while consecrating the egoistic individual who enjoys their property in civil society. Thus, there is no contradiction between political emancipation and the supposed Jewish ‘essence’. Jews are just as fit as Christians for emancipation ‘within the framework of the prevailing social order.’[119] The Jewish question, and nowadays the Muslim question, points rather to the still unsolved problem of concrete human emancipation, the one which unites humans to their species ‘in [their] everyday life, in [their] work, and in [their] relationships,’[120] and which challenges the abstract idols of state, citizenship, and legal rights.

In this vein, the Israeli political scientist Schlomo Avineri inspires us with some further conclusive words about Marx’s intentions. In an article as short as it is illuminating, which appeared almost 60 years ago, Avineri already recalls that Marx was in favour of Jewish emancipation within the limited framework of bourgeois society.[121] Returning to his own analysis, he adds that there were, of course, two contradictory faces in Marx: ‘a radical critique of Judaism (and, incidentally, of Christianity) as a religion, coupled with unequivocal support for civic equality.’[122] The coexistence of solidarity and repulsion, which is nothing so unusual, is called in Freud ambivalence. This malaise is overcome the moment one considers ambivalence and contradiction as parts of a critical, self-critical, and analytical ethos open to movements in history.


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[1] An early version of this article was presented at the Relectures de Marx seminar, held by Michel Lacroix at the University of Québec in Montréal. I thank Émilie Bernier, Sai Englert, Frédéric Miville-Deschênes, Robert Sparling, Philippe Corcuff and the reviewers for their inspiring comments on the advanced manuscript. The actual version owes a lot to the careful reading of Robert Marinov, whom I warmly thank. I dedicate this article to the memory of Jean-Marc Piotte (1940-2022).

[2] See Leopold 2009, Stedman Jones 2016, and Fine and Spencer 2017. It is worth also noting that Yoav Peled brought out the detailed nuances necessary to understand the Marx-Bauer debate thirty years ago (Peled 1992).

[3] Karl Marx, Zur Judenfrage, MEGA I/2. Quoted hereafter in English translation (Marx 1844a).

[4] Jameson 2003, p. xi.

[5] The piece is part of the Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher, the only issue of which appeared in the winter of 1844 in Paris.

[6] For example, Kouvelakis (2003, 2005) does not deal with Marx’s criticism of Jewish religion. He takes up an interpretative line close to Georges Labica (1976) that Peled ranks among those who ‘downplay [Marx’] discussion of the Jewish question itself’ (Peled 1992, 463).

[7] Marx 1844a, p. 48.

[8] Marx 1844a, p. 48. Marx’s emphases. Isaac Deutscher recalls that this anti-Jewish prejudice is so common that the Oxford English Dictionary included it among the accepted meanings of the term ‘Jew’ (Deutscher 1958).

[9] Marx 1844a, p. 50.

[10] Marx 1844a, p. 51.

[11] Marx 1844a, p. 52.

[12] Edmund Silberner's early works seek all traces of antisemitism in socialism and help document the historical ambiguity of the latter towards the former. See Silberner 1949a, 1949b, 1953a, 1953b.

[13] Heinrich 2019, p. 51.

[14] Heinrich Marx (1777-1838) benefited from Jewish emancipation by pursuing a career as a lawyer following his conversion. He was in favour of Jewish civil rights and liberal Enlightenment, and it is reasonable to assume that his son Karl was aware of these political positions (Heinrich 2019, p.81).

[15] Azouvi 2016, p. 22.

[16] Sartre 1946.

[17] Zuckermann 2011, p. 172

[18] Greilsammer 2011.

[19] After Molitor, the French translations of Marx were momentarily placed under the responsibility of Maximilien Rubel, who published four volumes in the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade at Gallimard between 1963 and 1994. Les Éditions Sociales, initially aligned with the French Communist Party, took over the scientific edition of Marx within the GEME. Zur Judenfrage was retranslated in 1968 (UGE), 1971 (Aubier), 1982 (Pléiade), 2006 (La Fabrique), then in 2020 within the GEME.

[20] Mandrou 1968 p. 7.

[21] De Gaulle 1967.

[22] Danan 2007, p. 138.

[23] Danan 2007, p. 139.

[24] Gurion 1967.

[25] Aron, R. 2007, p. 59.

[26] Azouvi, 2016, p. 22. Author’s emphasis.

[27]Bauer 1968. For the English version, see Bauer 1958.

[28] Mandrou 1968, p. 7.

[29] Mandrou 1968, p. 10.

[30] Châtelet 1971.

[31] Misrahi 1972, p. 32.

[32] Misrahi 1972, p. 33.

[33] Misrahi 1972, p. 230.

[34] Marx 1843.

[35] Marx also signed the Merkens petition of May 23, 1843. See Monod 2016, p. 275.

[36] De Fontenay 1973, pp. 13-14.

[37] De Fontenay 1973, p. 15.

[38] De Fontenay 1973, p. 67.

[39] De Fontenay 1973, pp. 23-24.

[40] Bensussan 2017.

[41] Misrahi 1972, p. 233.

[42] Avineri 2019, p. 47

[43] Hess 1845.

[44] Misrahi 1972, p. 232.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid.

[47] De Fontenay, 1973, p. 62.

[48] Marx 1844c.

[49]Shakespeare schildert das Wesen des Geldes trefflich [Shakespeare excellently depicts the real nature of money] (Marx 1844c).

[50] Ibid.

[51] Marx 1845b.

[52] De Fontenay 1973, p. 39.

[53] Marx 1845a.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Charbit 2011, p. 120

[57] Lefort 1981. Quoted hereafter in English translation.

[58] Lefort 1986, p. 250.

[59] Lefort 1986, p. 245.

[60] Lefort 1986, p. 272.

[61] Lefort 1986, p. 250.

[62] Kaplan 1990, p. 50.

[63] Kaplan 1990, p. 87.

[64] Kaplan 1990, p. 68.

[65] Birnbaum 2020.

[66] Birnbaum 2004. Quoted hereafter in English translation.

[67] Birnbaum 2008, p. 38.

[68] Traverso 2016.

[69] Englert 2018, p. 150.

[70] Birnbaum 2008, p. 53.

[71]Silberner 1953b.

[72] Birnbaum 2008, p. 59-60.

[73] Bauer 2006. For the English version, see Bauer 1978.

[74] Aron, J. 2005, p. 167. Details of the seizure of this one-issue, almost confidential publication can be found in Mehring: ‘They succeeded in confiscating 100 copies […] on a Rhine steamer, and well over 200 copies on the French-Palatinate frontier near Bergzabern’ (Mehring 1962, p. 62).

[75] Aron, J. 2005, p. 50. Author’s emphases.

[76] Aron, J. 2005, p. 66.

[77] Bensaïd 2006b, p. 100.

[78] Bensaïd 2006b, p. 107.

[79] Bensaïd 2006a, p. 20. Emphasis added.

[80] Bensaïd 2006b, p. 133. This position is also shared by Traverso, who criticises the ‘civil religion’ of the Holocaust (Traverso 2016, pp. 113-127).

[81] Englert 2018, p.171.

[82] Zarka 2011, p. 17.

[83] Butler 2012.

[84] Philippe Corcuff, a close comrade of Bensaïd, is nevertheless of the opinion that ‘the current majority of so-called “anti-Zionist” discourses on the Internet and on social networks, in France, are antisemitic in style’ (Corcuff 2020, p. 408). This strengthens those who, against this disguised return of antisemitism, fully defend Israeli policy. For a radical critique of anti-Zionism in France, see Taguieff 2010.

[85] Bensaïd 2006b, p. 129.

[86] Bensaïd 2006b, p. 135. The author takes up a reading which, like Labica and Kouvelakis, penetrates as little as possible into the religious field to focus only on the Marxian critique of political emancipation.

[87] Sénik 2011.

[88] Taguieff 2011, p. 227.

[89] Clochec 2020, p. 35.

[90] Ibid.

[91] Clochec 2020, p. 32.

[92] Clochec 2020, p. 31.

[93] Clochec 2020, p. 34.

[94] Clochec 2020, p. 33.

[95] Traverso, 2018 p. 22. The author offers a comprehensive critical analysis of these problems. First published in France in 1990, The Jewish Question: History of a Marxist Debate, is not even mentioned once by Birnbaum or Senik. This omission is self-explanatory because, unlike proponents of the ‘antisemitic Marx’ thesis, Traverso retains Marx and Engels’ historicisation of social realities, including the Jewish question.

[96] Traverso 2018, p. 21. In 1942, Abram Leon brings nuances to these approximations of Marx by proposing the concept of people-class – ‘a social group with a specific economic function’ (Leon 1970, p. 74). Once made obsolete by the rise of the capitalist bourgeoisie, racist antisemitism instrumentalises the ghost of the largely dispossessed Jewish ‘people-class’. Leon denounces, Traverso recalls, the deadly ruse of Nazi antisemitism which ‘allowed the bourgeoisie to turn against the Jews the anti-capitalist radicalisation of the middle class’ (Traverso 2018, p. 191).

[97] The premises of the Marxist analysis, lavished by Engels, underestimate the scope of the phenomenon. Accordingly, Edmund Silberner shows that these ambiguities leave their traces in the ‘neither for nor against the Jews’ position taken by the Second International (Silberner, 1953a, p. 119). As for Engels, Mario Kessler recalls that he had two successive positions with regard to the Jewish question: the first corresponds to an anti-Judaic context (from 1840 to 1878), the second to an antisemitic context (after 1878). As racist variants of antisemitism replaced long-standing anti-Judaism, Engels revised his positions (Engels 1890) and attacked the theses of Eugen Dühring, who brandished ‘the killing and extermination’ as a solution to the Jewish problem. Around 1890 he even wrote an introduction to the Yiddish edition of the Manifesto (Kessler 1998, p. 40). Despite his sympathy about the appeal that socialism has held for generations of Jews, Isaac Deutscher also acknowledges that international socialism did not resolve the Jewish question (Deutscher 2017).

[98] Toscano 2010, p. 4.

[99] Brown, 2014, p. 112.

[100] Toscano 2010, p. 6.

[101] Brown 2014, p. 110.

[102] Callinicos 2008, p. 144.

[103] Callinicos 2008, p. 163.

[104] Tosel 2018, p. 8.

[105] Tosel 2018, p. 11.

[106] Brubaker 2017, p. 1193.

[107] Corcuff 2020. For the author, the strength of the far-right is primarily due to the imposition of its discursive themes within the entire political spectrum, from the right to the far-left. The result is a particularly dangerous ideological fog which he labels as ‘confusionism’.

[108] Traverso 2016, p. 90.

[109] Meziane 2018. Quoted hereafter in English translation.

[110] Meziane 2020. pp. 226-227.

[111] Meziane 2020, pp. 232-233.

[112] Brubaker 2017, p. 1212.

[113] Brown 2014, p. 110.

[114] Asad 2018, p. 100.

[115] Asad 2018, p.99.

[116] Tosel 2018, p. 11.

[117] Marx 1845a.

[118] Marx 1845a. Marx’s emphases.

[119] Marx 1844a, p. 35. Marx’s emphasis.

[120] Marx 1844a, p. 46.

[121] Avineri 1964.

[122] Avineri 2019, p. 53.