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Socialist Anti-Semitism, Defense of a Bourgeois Jew and Discovery of the Jewish Proletariat: Changing Attitudes of French Socialists Before 1914*


The anti-Semitism of the mid-nineteenth-century French socialists has often been cited. Charles Fourier saw the Jews as the incarnation of commerce: parasitical, deceitful, traitorous and unproductive. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon attacked the Jews even more violently, declaring the Jew the incarnation of finance capitalism and “by temperament an anti-producer”. The Fourierist Alphonse Toussenel argued in Les Juifs rois de l'époque that finance, that is to say, Jews, were dominating and ruining France, while Auguste Blanqui sprinkled his correspondence with remarks about Jewish usury and “Shylocks”, and in a general anticlerical critique blamed the Jews for having given birth to Catholicism, an even greater evil than Judaism. In the late 1860's Gustave Tridon, who was a close follower of Blanqui, wrote a book entitled Du Molochisme juif, in which he also attacked the Jews on anti-religious as well as racial grounds, in addition to using the usual economic terms of disparagement.

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1 For an inventory of anti-Semitic quotes by Fourier, Proudhon, Toussenel, etc., see the following articles by Silberner E.: “Charles Fourier on the Jewish Question”, in: Jewish Social Studies, VIII (1946), pp. 245–66; “The Attitude of the Fourierist School Towards the Jews”, ibid., IX (1947), pp. 339–62; “Proudhon's Judeophobia”, in: Historica Judaica, X (1948), pp. 61–80; “French Socialism and the Jews”, ibid., XV–XVI (1953–54), pp. 4–38; “Anti-Jewish Trends in French Revolutionary Syndicalism”, in: Jewish Social Studies, XV (1953), pp. 195–202; and Szajkowski Z., Antisemitizm in der Frantseyzisher arbeter-bavegung (New York, 1948).

2 For the first two categories, see the works of Poliakov L., Histoire de l'antisémitisme (4 vols; Paris, 19551977), III, pp. 377–91; Byrnes R., Antisemitism in Modern France (New Brunswick, 1950), pp. 118–25, 156–78; Wilson S., Ideology and Experience: Antisemitism in France at the Time of the Dreyfus Affair (Rutherford, 1982), pp. 6472, 181, and ch. 11; and Sternhell Z., La Droite révolutionnaire (Paris, 1978), pp. 177214. As for the recent “philosopher”-polemicist of French national-socialism, see Lévy B.-H., L'Idéologie française (Paris, 1981), particularly pp. 114–39, and the numerous criticisms of Lévy's essay, particularly in Esprit, May 1981, Le Débat, June, and Le Monde, January 16 (B. Poirot-Delpech attacking, among other things, Lévy's a-historicism). See also the interesting article by Winock M., “La Gauche et les Juifs”, in: L'Histoire, No 34 (1981), pp. 1325, and Birnbaum's P.analysis of anti-capitalist anti-Semitism in Le Peuple et les gros (Paris, 1979), pp. 1526.

3 Cahm E., “Socialism and the Nationalist Movement in France at the Time of the Dreyfus Affair”, in: Socialism and Nationalism, ed. by Cahm E. and Fišera V. C. (3 vols; Nottingham, 19781980), II, pp. 4864; Lichtheim G., “Socialism and the Jews”, in: Dissent, XV (1968), pp. 314–42; Glasberg V. M., “Intent and Consequences: The ‘Jewish Question’ in the French Socialist Movement of the Late Nineteenth Century”, in: Jewish Social Studies, XXXVI (1974), pp. 6171; Wistrich R., “French Socialism and the Dreyfus Affair”, in: Wiener Library Bulletin, Nos 35–36 (1975), pp. 920.

4 Green N. L., “The Dreyfus Affair and Ruling Class Cohesion”, in: Science and Society, XLIII (1979), pp. 2950.

5 For a discussion of the Jewish immigration to France before World War I, see Green , The Pletzl of Paris: Jewish Immigrant Workers in the Belle Epoque (New York, Paris, 1985), especially Appendix A concerning an estimate of the number of immigrants to Paris.

6 Drumont E., La France juive (2 vols; Paris, 1886), I, p. xii; see also Winock M., Edouard Drumont et Cie.: Essai sur I'antisémitisme et le fascisme en France (Paris. 1982).

7 Drumont, La France juive, I, p. 530.

8 Cf. Wilson, Ideology and Experience, op. cit., ch. 11, “Socialist Anti-Semitism: ‘A Kind of Socialism’”, for a good discussion of the “socialism” (populism) of the anti-Semites, and pp. 334–39 on the anti-Semitism of the socialists.

9 Benoît Malon was editor until 1893; Alexandre Millerand from 1893 to 1896; Jules Guesde for a short period in 1896; then Alfred-Léon Gérault-Richard from 1896 to 1898 and Jean Jaurès from 1898 to 1904.

10 Malon B., “Les Morales religieuses”, in: La Revue Socialiste (hereafter RS), III (1886), pp. 117.

11 RS, V (1887), pp. 499–518; VI (1887), pp. 26–46, 383–403; VII (1888), pp. 473–90; VIII (1888), pp. 70–82, 168–78; IX (1889), pp. 171–89; and X (1889), pp. 401–21, all of which were published as one piece by E. Dentu (Paris) in 1890.

12 Chirac A., Les Rois de la République: Histoire des juiveries (2 vols; Paris, 1883).

13 Id., “L'Agiotage de 1870 à 1884”, in: RS, IV (1886), p. 605. The entire series ran from November 1885 to January 1888 and was reprinted as a book entitled L'Agiotage sous la Troisième République, 1870–1887 (Paris, 1888).

14 B. Malon, “La Question juive”, in: RS, III, pp. 505–14.

15 G. Rouanet, “Revue des livres”, in: RS, VIII, p. 662.

16 As pointed out justly by Lévy, L'Idéologie française, op. cit., p. 129.

17 Rebérioux M., La République radicale? 1898–1914 (Paris, 1975), p. 32.

18 Poliakov, Histoire de l'antisémitisme, op. cit., III, pp. 383–84.

19 Chirac, Les Rois de la République, op. cit., I, chs 4–7, and id., letter to Drumont in RS, V, pp. 84–85.

20 In Vol. IX of the Larousse Grand Dictionnaire Universel du XIXe Siècle, published in 1873, Israélite appeared in colloquial usage in the phrase “Bon Israélite” (“applied by Jesus to St John, and still used today to designate an honest and forthright man”), whereas Juif could designate in colloquial usage “a person who practices usury, who sells extremely dearly; a person who earns money through unjust and sordid means”. A rather apropos, for our purposes, example of the usage of the term Juif was given from Balzac: “Tous les banquiers ne sont pas des Juifs. Tous les Juifs ne sont pas en Israël.” (A polemic over these dictionary definitions occurred again recently in a French lycée, Le Monde, April 8–9, 1979.) See also Glasberg, “Intent and Consequences”, loc. cit., p. 66.

21 The French Jewish community itself, especially after the French Revolution, encouraged a distinction between the two terms in order to distinguish itself, as Israélites, from the atavistic Juifs of ghetto days. Girard P., Les Juifs de France de 1789 à 1860: De l'émancipation à l'égalité (Paris, 1976), pp. 140–42; Schnapper D., Juifs et Israélites (Paris, 1980). Although there is no real equivalent in English, a differentiation of this sort, although less pronounced, is made by using the noun instead of the adjective, as in “(S)he is a Jew” rather than “(S)he is Jewish.”

22 Rouanet G., “La Question juive et la question sociale”, in: RS, XI (1890), p. 220. Pierre Leroux also explained his usage of the term by appealing to an Académie Française definition of Juif. Poliakov, Histoire de l'antisémitisme, III, p. 385.

23 Glasberg, “Intent and Consequences”, p. 64.

24 Lichtheim, “Socialism and the Jews”, loc. cit., p. 317. Glasberg, in his otherwise interesting article, also goes too far when he exculpates Chirac and Malon in concluding: “In fact, the anti-juif socialists, far from indulging in antisemitism, clearly and categorically repudiated it.” “Intent and Consequences”, p. 70.

25 See de Seilhac L., Les Congrès ouvriers en France de 1876 à 1897 (Paris, 1899), pp. 222–23; Veber A., “Le Congrès de Bruxelles”, in: RS, XIV (1891), p. 355; Silberner E., “Anti-Semitism and Philo-Semitism in the Socialist International”, in: Judaism, II (1953), pp. 117–22. Cf. statement of the Blanquist Comité révolutionnaire central in 1897 when it declared it was “as opposed to anti-semitísm as it was to the Jews”, quoted in Cahm, “Socialism and the Nationalist Movement”, loc. cit., pp. 53–54.

26 Chirac, letter to Drumont, loc. cit.

27 Rouanet, “La Question juive”, loc. cit., p. 221.

28 Sternhell, La Droit e révolutionnaire, op. cit., p. 205.

29 Rouanet, “La Question juive”, p. 223.

30 Ibid., p. 220.

31 Ibid., p. 223.

32 Ibid., p. 229.

33 Ibid., p. 234.

34 Regnard A. in RS, XI (1890), pp. 348–49.

35 The most recent general work on the Dreyfus Affair is Bredin's J.-D.interesting L'Affaire (Paris, 1983).

36 See Cahm, “Socialism and the Nationalist Movement”, for an interesting if somewhat overdrawn distinction between the timidity of parliamentary socialists in coming to Dreyfus' defense as compared to the boldness of the extraparliamentary Allemanists and anarchists, who, uninhibited by electoral politics, had freer reign in condemning the anti-Semitism and nationalism of the Affair. Persistent anti-dreyfusism and anti-Semitism among certain anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists cannot be ignored, however, e.g., J. Grave's Les Temps Nouveaux and E. Pouget's Le Père Peinard. See also Wistrich, “French Socialism and the Dreyfus Affair”, loc. cit., and Sternhell, La Droite révolutionnaire, for distinctions between different leftists' attitudes.

37 Zévaès A., Le Socialisme en France depuis 1871 (Paris, 1908), p. 279.

38 Ibid., p. 280.

39 Ibid., pp. 282–83.

40 Zévaès A., Histoire du socialisme et du communisme en France de 1871 à 1947 (Paris, 1947), p. 264. On Jaurès see Rebérioux M., “Classe ouvrière et intellectuels devant l'Affaire: Jaurès”, in: Les Ecrivains et l'affaire Dreyfus, ed. by Leroy G. (Paris, 1983), pp. 185–95; id., “Zola, Jaurès et France: trois intellectuels devant l'Affaire”, in: Cahiers Naturalistes, No 54 (1980), pp. 266–81; and Goldberg H., “Jean Jaurès and the Jewish Question”, in: Jewish Social Studies, XX (1958), pp. 7093. See Jack Jacob's article in this issue concerning Kautsky's high praise of Jaurès' stand on the Affair.

41 With notable exceptions such as the Blanquist Emmanuel Chauvière and the Guesdist Paul Lafargue. On the Guesdists and the Affaire see Willard C.. Les Guesdistes (Paris, 1965), ch. XXI.

42 Zévaès, Le Socialisme en France, op. cit., pp. 286–88.

43 Cahm, “Socialism and the Nationalist Movement”, p. 57.

44 Congrès général des organisations socialistes françaises (tenu à Paris, Décembre 3–8, 1899) (Paris, 1900), p. 399.

45 Jaurès J. and Guesde J., Les Deux méthodes, 2nd ed. (Paris, 1925), pp. 34.

46 Jaurès J., Les Preuves (Paris, 1898), p. 12. Cf. id., Histoire Socialiste, XII, (Paris, 1900), p. 267.

47 Jaurès et Guesde, Les Deux méthodes, op. cit., pp. 10, 9. Guesde agreed, p. 25.

48 See Marie-Oswald B., “Les Socialistes et les partis sociaux en Autriche”, in: RS, XXVII (1898), pp. 448–63; Phalippou H. J., “Juifs de Russie”, in: RS, XXIX (1899), pp. 188–98; L. Durieu, “Le Prolétariat juif en Algérie”, ibid., pp. 513–33; id., “La Naturalisation des Juifs algériens”, in: RS, XXX (1899), pp. 1–12, 269–93, 436–62, 573–90, 679–701; XXXI (1900), pp. 68–95, 200–22, 327–48; and Rouanet G., “Les Juifs en Roumanie”, in: RS, XXXVI (1902), pp. 82106. Note also that Rouanet delivered a speech at the Chamber of Deputies on March 19 and 24, 1899, on “L'antisémitisme algérien”.

49 Durieu, “La Naturalisation”, p. 590. Cf. Rouanet, “La Question juive”, p. 224, where he practically apologized for Rothschild.

50 C. Bouglé, “La Banqueroute de la philosophic des races”, in: RS, XXIX, pp. 385–94.

51 G. Rouanet, “La Question juive”, ibid., p. 84. See also E. Fournière, “Le Nationalisme”, in: RS, XXXVI, p. 140.

52 Tubiana H., “Les croisades au XIXe siècle”, in: RS, IV (1886), p. 635 (emphasis added).

53 See note 48.

54 See Green, The Pletzl of Paris, op. cit.

55 Speiser W., Kalendar (Paris, 1910), pp. 7880. Furthermore, 1.2% of the immigrants were listed together by Speiser as barbers, wigmakers, brushmakers, store clerks, lemonade makers and waiters.

56 Archives Israélites (Paris, hereafter AI), December 31, 1891.

57 For these debates, see AI, May 30, June 6, 13 and 20, 1895. This liberal bourgeois Jewish paper was obliged to recognize then and in other instances the socialists as the only defenders of the Jews in the face of the “Silence of the French Parliament”. See AI, July 19, 1906, along with AI, December 31, 1891, March 8, 1893, September 29, 1898, and July 2, 1908; and L'Univers Israélite (Paris), March 10, 1899. See also Naquet A., “Discussions d'interpellations sur la question juive”, in: Journal Officiel de la Chambre des Députés, 05 27, 1895.

58 AI, March 9, 1893.

59 Le Prolétariat juif: Lettre des ouvriers juifs de Paris au Parti Socialiste Français (Paris, 1898), p. 17. Cf. Wistrich's treatment of this letter, in his otherwise interesting article, “French Socialism and the Dreyfus Affair”, p. 18. This letter is indeed an important critique of the French socialists by Jewish immigrant workers. However, Wistrich seems to imply that it revealed post-Dreyfus-Affair anti-Semitism when in fact the letter, published in 1898, was clearly a response to the tergiversations of the socialists in that period.

60 Le Prolétariat juif, p. 8.

61 Ibid., p. 18.

62 See Journal du Peuple (Paris), September 18, 1899; Les Droits de l'Homme (Paris), September 17 and 19; and L'Aurore (Paris), September 18.

63 XIXe Siècle (Paris), July 21.

64 Forverts (New York), May 5, 1911; AI, April 20, 1911; Szajkowski Z., Di profesyonele bavegung tsvishn di yidishe arbeter in Frankraykh (Paris, 1937), pp. 3744; and report, April 26, 1911, Archives of the Préfecture de Police, Paris (hereafter APP), BA 1423: Syndicat général, Travailleurs de l'habillement, 19091918. According to Marc Jarblum Longuet, Marx's grandson, used to say: “I don't know exactly what percentage of Jewish blood I have in my veins, but I consider myself one-fourth-Jewish.” Jarblum M., “Deux rencontres avec Lénine”, in: Les Nouveaux Cahiers, No 20 (1970), p. 8.

65 Der idisher arbayter (Paris), August 9, 1913.

66 La Guerre Sociale (Paris), December 20–26, 1911.

67 On Jaurès and the Kishinev meeting see Jaurès J., “L'autocratie, voilà l'ennemi!”, in: Les Nouveaux Cahiers, No 11 (1967), pp. 3539; and M. Rebérioux, “Jean Jaurès et Kichinev”, ibid., pp. 29–34. For other meetings see L'Univers Israélite, November 17, 1905; AI, April 11, 1912, October 23, 1913; Der idisher arbayter, March 7, 1914; and reports, November 19 and 21, 1913, APP, BA 1709: Russo-Juifs à Paris.

68 Bund Archives, New York, files “Pariz Bundisher Fareyn Kemfer Afishn” and “Kemfer”.

69 Report, November 21, 1913, APP, BA 1709.

70 Szajkowski, Di profesyonele bavegung, op. cit., p. 123. See also pp. 92, 97; and Green, The Pletzl of Paris, ch. 6.

71 See articles by Toussaint L. (cabinetmakers' union) in Der idisher arbayter, 11 17, 1911, and February 8, 1913, and by Pierre Dumas ibid., July 5.

72 On the contradictions inherent in the creation of Yiddish-language sections, see particularly Green, The Pletzl of Paris, ch. 7.

73 Report, July 2, 1914, APP, BA 1423; Archives Nationales, F7 13740: Habillement, file “Presse 1914”.

74 Letters, September 29 and October 8, 1915, APP, BA 1709.

75 Tabarant A., Socialisme et antisémitisme (Paris, 1898).

76 See S. Fraisse, “L'antidreyfusisme de gauche entre 1906 et 1910”, in: Les Ecrivains et l'affaire Dreyfus, op. cit., pp. 113–21; and the interesting article by Sand Shlomo, “Sorel, les Juifs et l'antisémitisme”, in: Cahiers Georges Sorel, No 2 (1984), pp. 736. Sand explains how disappointment in the reformism of the Radicals and Combism, in the actions of a former Dreyfusard like Clemenceau, led a fraction of the Left to become post-Affair anti-dreyfusards, complete with a (sometimes quite virulent) anti-Semitic vocabulary.

77 Cited in Cahm, “Socialism and the Nationalist Movement”, p. 59.

78 Jarblum M. and Jemnitz J., “Démocratic, question nationale, et sionisme en Europe centrale: qu'en pensait Jaurès?”, in: Le Mouvement Social, No 52 (1965), p. 88.

* I would like to thank M. Rebérioux and J. Rojahn for their very helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.

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