18th Nov, 2020
The question of anti-Semitism has been at the forefront of much political discussion and debate in recent years. We are seeing the rise of a new wave of anti-Semitism - not only driven by the street fighting far right, but in close proximity to the Trump presidency and part of the arsenal of those in power in Hungary. An outspoken anti-Semitic right has again become more visible across Western societies as part of the rise of racism and the far right across the board. It is virulent and dangerous. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories target finance, ‘globalists’, and shadowy groups who run the world as responsible for the systemic crises of capitalism, inequality, and war. Violence against Jews in the street intensifies, synagogues are defaced and assaulted, while anti-Semitic theories multiply online and manifest themselves outside the circles of the classic neonazi margins. Much of the new right which develops these ideas does so while proudly supporting Zionism in the Middle East.
States, politicians, and think-tanks across the West have repeatedly raised alarm bells at the danger of growing anti-Semitism and vowed to stamp it out. Simultaneously, attacks against such groups as Black, Asian, and Muslim communities alongside migrants and travellers are ramped up. Yet, for many years now, such groups are accused of being the carriers of a ‘new’ anti-Semitism. This ‘new anti-Semitism’ is claimed to be dangerously vigorous, different from the ‘old’, European, and supposedly declining anti-Semitism.
However, far from doing so with the aim of tackling growing anti-Semitic violence or the rise of the far right, such warnings - and the policies accompanying them - have instead weaponised it to attack Palestinian liberation, Muslim populations in the West, as well as the left. Criticism of zionist policies increasingly tends to be labelled anti-Semitic as zionism is declared to be essential to Jewish identity. This approach has most recently been demonstrated in the campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and the left of the Labour Party but has certainly not been limited to it. Bills aiming to criminalise the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, for example, in France, across the US, in Germany and the UK, amongst others, have instrumentalised opposition to anti-Semitism in doing so. Such weaponisation of the charge of anti-Semitism has been effective in silencing critics of zionism while perversely perpetuating the classic anti-Semitic trope that identifies all Jews with the Israeli state.
While it is already challenging to address the growing danger of anti-Semitism, and combine it with a principled rejection of Zionism, practical solidarity with the Palestinian people, and a defence of left-wing leaders and militants targeted by deligitimisation campaigns, the task is made all the harder for the left by a lack of analytical clarity.
Little of substance has been written on the subject despite its centrality to public discourse over the last few years. The left remains caught between polemics, the immediacy of solidarity campaigns, and the fear of being targeted in return. The critique of contemporary anti-Semitism is neglected.
The Marxist tradition, from Marx himself alongside Trotsky, the writings of the Bund, and Abram Leon’s classic study, has historically analysed and debated what it called ‘the Jewish Question’ in great detail. Such studies attempted to provide materialist analyses of the position of Jewish communities, of the roots and effects of anti-Semitism, and to link the struggle against anti-Semitism with other movements for emancipation.
These contributions, however, while remaining methodologically important, tell us little about the present. The class composition, political commitment, and sociological make up of Jewish populations has dramatically been altered in the intervening decades. The twin disasters of the Holocaust and the Nakba have redrawn the contours of Jewish political life and transformed its global geographical focus, whilst the overall socio-economic position of Jewish communities in the West has changed considerably.
If Marxists are to understand, and act upon, the new rise in anti-Semitic violence across the West today, while developing the tools to oppose the instrumentalisation of the charge of anti-Semitism against internationalist, pro-Palestinian, and anti-imperialist politics, it is crucial to develop analyses that make sense of the transformations mentioned above.
Areas of interests include (but are not limited to):
- Theoretical reappraisals of the historical Marxist canon on ‘the Jewish question’.
- The role of Jewish histories and identities in emancipatory struggles.
- The connection between anti-Semitism and other forms of racism.
- The role of Zionism in contemporary anti-Semitism.
- The relationship between colonialism and Jewish communities in the global south.
- The history of anti-Semitism and the struggle against it.
- The history of Jewish organisations on the left.
- The changing class composition of Jewish communities in the West.
- The place of anti-Semitism and Zionism in the contemporary far right.
- The changes in political traditions and organisational methods in Jewish communities.
- Marxist analysis of ancient Jewish society.
- Marxist readings of the Jewish religious tradition and its texts.
- New perspectives on historical Nazism, fascism, and antisemitism.
Please send a 300-word abstract to firstname.lastname@example.org by December 11.
The paper of no more than 9,000 words will need to submitted by March 12.