Burford on Marx and anti-semitism

Greg Nowell GN842 at CNSVAX.Albany.Edu
Wed Feb 17 12:16:51 PST 1999

Thanks Chris for a thoughtful and well-informed response. I really don't know much about Marx.

In dealing with some irritating passages in Hobson, Polanyi and (possibly) Marx one has to come to grips with a nexus of contradictory issues: 1. That some of the big international banks were in Jewish control; 2. That some otherwise quite progressive people may not have been progressive on all fronts, by our criteria (I think the case of Hobson, whose treatment of the Boer war is great, but also has some nasty passages in it); and 3. I thinik some of this is dealth with rather well by Hannah Arendt in her book on anti-semitism, the Dreyfus affair, etc.

One thing I would like to put to rest: the simplistic notion that Jews were excoriated because they were lenders and Christians were not. Read Georges Duby's "Early Growth of the European Economy." The Catholic church was a big time lender and a borrower. As a lender it competed against Jews, and those nobles who borrowed from Jews rather than the Church were by definition "on the outs" of the power structure. They were higher risk. That meant higher interest, and the stigma of lending to s.o. who might not be favored by the clique running the local esltatles and church, i.e., funding an adversary. In its capacity as a borrower, the Church would offer as security the gold and silver relgious relics/hoards. If it didn't pay the securities were melted down. This obviously sets Jews up as targets not just for "religious discrimination" but for the particularly intense violence which most debtors feel towards most creditors.

This is a rather more complex picture than simply, "Jews did the lending that the Catholics could not." -gn

-- Gregory P. Nowell Associate Professor Department of Political Science, Milne 100 State University of New York 135 Western Ave. Albany, New York 12222

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