Although much attention has been given to race and the political right, much less has been written about race and the political left. Regardless of the low level of interest, the approach to race by the left has been rather more complex than is commonly supposed. Beginning in perplexity in the eighteenth century, advancing to ambiguity and ambivalence in the nineteenth century, and culminating in an absolute denial of the existence of race in the late twentieth century, the approach of the left to race does show some development, albeit one that overall has been the reverse of engagement. Nonetheless, the historical record has been marked here and there with noteworthy exceptions to the rule of an increasing unconcern about race.
In the following survey, only those men of the left are considered who were primarily thinkers and writers, not those who were primarily publicists, activists, revolutionaries, politicians. Thus Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, all of whom owed their thought to Karl Marx, are excluded. The selected men of the left are, furthermore, considered only to the extent that they addressed the topic of race in itself, not “racism” or race relations. Thus, many major figures on the left (e.g., Georg Lukacs, Jean-Paul Sartre, the Frankfurt School) who wrote about racism, not race, are outside the scope of this survey. Individuals who were identified with the left for only a brief period of time (e.g., Richard Wagner in 1848) are also excluded. This survey is, by necessity, cursory and dependent upon secondary sources. Not only are many primary works as yet untranslated, but the originals are almost absent from American libraries.
The concept of race employed here is that presented in John R. Baker’s Race (1974), an extended definition emphasizing phenotypical characteristics detectable by the unaided human senses, but with common terms (white, yellow, black) substituted for Baker’s (Europid, Mongolid, Negrid). Race in depth, as revealed by studies of the human genome, is not considered because it was not known to the leftist thinkers or ideologues who are the subjects of this survey.
The term “racialism” is employed here, where possible, as a more emotionally neutral synonym for the term “racism.” “Racism” is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed., 1989) as “The theory that distinctive human characteristics and abilities are determined by race.” “Racialism” is defined in the OED as a “Belief in the superiority of a particular race leading to prejudice and antagonism towards people of other races, esp. those in close proximity who may be felt as a threat to one’s cultural and racial integrity or economic well-being.” Although the more pejorative term in the OED is not the more pejorative term in American usage, racialism is used here to refer primarily to the theory. A contemporary definition of the “left,” that of Christopher Lasch, follows:
Left wing is a term that means a radical party or branch of a group. The term originated in the first French legislature after the French revolution. Later, people throughout the world used the terms left and right to denote the opposing political beliefs, radical egalitarianism and conservatism…. In general, the left has valued equality more highly than individual freedom, while the right has valued liberty more highly than equality. Today, the left wing is often identified with socialism or Communism.
The left exists in two major temporal divisions: (1) that of classical liberalism, first emerging as republicanism in the middle of the eighteenth century, and (2) Marxism, emerging as “scientific socialism” in the middle of the nineteenth century. The left most prominent during the twentieth century in Western Europe and the United States, that of the Fabians or Social Democrats, though ostensibly a development of Marxism, is, objectively, probably better defined as a shift to the left of a section of classical liberalism.
The call for equality raised by the classical liberals, most notoriously Thomas Jefferson’s in the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence, was overshadowed by a concern for freedom and was obviously intended to be only a declaration of the equality of legal rights between noblemen and commoners. As the power of the nobility declined, classical liberals had less reason to mention equality at all. Gracchus Babeuf’s Conspiracy of the Equals was an exceptional episode in the eighteenth century, an uprising that called for an equality of condition which so stressed equality as to exempt itself from the general Marxist label of being merely “bourgeois liberalism.”
The philosophical anthropology of the left in both of its major divisions begins with the tabula rasa (“blank slate”) theory of human nature, that one becomes what one is through environmental conditioning. (For an extended definition of the “blank slate” theory, see Pinker.) The concept of man as a created being having a fixed and inherent and irremediably flawed nature belongs to the right throughout the past two centuries. The left’s basic optimism, its historicist faith in which man is inevitably developing to higher and higher stages, would seem to be dependent upon this one great assumption that man is a blank slate.
From this standpoint, the details of race, ethnicity, nationality are seen only as impedimenta of the past, superstitions to be dissipated before the advance of reason and trade, boorish Aberglaube to be banished by the parliament of man, the federation of the world. This ideal of a cosmopolitan world citizenship is especially implicit in much of the work of Voltaire. His fictional characters, such as Candide, wander about the world and find that people are much the same wherever they are. Voltaire’s often-quoted harsh judgments of the Jews do not disprove this because the fault of the Jews, in his view, is their obdurate refusal to assimilate. In this, he resembles one of his later disciples, H. G. Wells, a man of this optimistic, historicist left who greatly admired Voltaire and whose own criticism of the Jews seems to have been similarly motivated (see Coren, pp. 211-217).
Assessment of the blacks’ place in humanity has always been, however, a kind of pons asinorum for the left. Those who see in blacks a great exception to egalitarianism usually begin gravitating towards the political right on other issues. That this movement to the right did not happen with Voltaire may be due only to the marginal relevance of blacks to life in eighteenth century France. Blacks drew attention to themselves only through their successful revolution in Santo Domingo. Poliakov, nonetheless, calls Voltaire a “racist” and speaks of “his hatred of coloured people” (175), but offers only scant quotation from Voltaire’s works in support of this assessment. Voltaire’s rejection of monogenism, the Christian belief that all humans have descended from Adam, is seen by Poliakov as an attack on his old teachers, the Jesuits, though Voltaire’s insistence that whites are as far above blacks as blacks are above apes, polygenism, is seen by Poliakov as “an enigma” in the man who was “the leading apostle of toleration” (175).
Rousseau was probably the most left-wing of the philosophes, but, like Voltaire, he wrote little about race. Baker has taken a quotation from Rousseau as the epigraph to his book. Rousseau inveighs against “that fine dictum of morality so much bandied about by the philosophical crowd, that men are everywhere the same, and that having everywhere the same passions and the same vices, it is rather useless to attempt to characterize the different races; which is just about as reasonable as if one were to say that one could not distinguish Peter from James, because each of them has a nose, a mouth, and eyes” (Baker, p. 16). It is interesting to note that “Rousseau regarded the chimpanzee as human” (Baker, p. 22). What seemed absurd a few decades ago has now become at least arguable in the light of recent DNA studies, which have motivated some to argue that Pan troglodytes be taxonomically promoted to the status of Homo troglodytes (Connor). Poliakov believes that Rousseau was rather less racialist than were Voltaire and Buffon (170). Moran, writing most recently, would exonerate him from the charge of racialism altogether, arguing that Rousseau’s development of an ideal image of the natural man was an overcoming of eurocentrism.
David Hume, although not on the political left as were Voltaire and Rousseau, as an Enlightenment thinker did belong to the cultural left of his age. Baker quotes him as observing that “there is some Reason to think, that all the Nations, which live beyond the polar Circles or betwixt the Tropics, are inferior to the rest of the Species, and are utterly incapable of all the higher Attainments of the human Mind” (18). Poliakov quotes Hume’s frank opinion that “I am apt to suspect the negroes, and in general all the other species of men (for there are four or five different kinds) to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was a civilized nation of any other complexion than white, nor even any individual eminent either in action or in speculation” (176).
Immanuel Kant might seem to be a strange nominee as a man of the left, but Kantian ethics was taken as the foundation for revisionist Marxism by Bernstein and others (Bottomore, “Kantianism and neo-Kantianism”). A twentieth century Marxist, Lucien Goldmann, believes that the egalitarianism explicit in Kant’s categorical imperative places him on the left. The fact that Kant argues that man must be regarded always as an end, never as a means, is a consummate condemnation of class society (Goldmann, p. 1). Kant is also famed as the great herald of cosmopolitan citizenship and world peace.
Baker notes that Kant’s one work on anthropology is focused on philosophical anthropology only, and that his other work which seems to approach the topic only addresses the characteristics of the various nationalities of whites (18-19). Poliakov quotes what he calls a “diatribe” of Kant against the Jews, but there is no indication that Kant’s assessment of the Jews assumed that they possess a peculiar racial character (172). Mosse cites a little-known pre-critical essay by Kant, “Uon den verschiedenen Rassen der Menschen,” in which he “asserted that those animals who maintain their purity despite migrations from one region to another, or despite the temptation to mix with others, may be called a race, and that the same applies to human beings…. Kant put forward four main races (white, Negro, Mongol or Kalmuck, and Hindu), but of these he considered white and Negro to be the basic races (Grundrassen) because of the clear difference in personality and character” (Mosse, pp. 30-31).
Bernasconi finds in Kant “an unfamiliar source of racism,” worthy of more attention than Hume’s, which is “much less extensive than Kant’s and far less integrated into his philosophy” (147). He quotes Kant’s Physical Geography: “Humanity is at its greatest perfection in the race of the whites. The yellow Indians do have a meagre talent. The Negroes are far below them and at the lowest point are a part of the American peoples” (147). Bernasconi finds most striking a note in Kant’s Nachlass which states that whites “contain all the impulses (Triebfedern) of nature in affects and passions, all talents, all dispositions to culture and civilization and can as readily obey as govern. They are the only ones who always advance to perfection” (147-148). Elsewhere, Kant writes: “The Negro can be disciplined and cultivated, but is never genuinely civilized. He falls of his own accord into savagery” (158).
Although Kant opposed colonialism (Bernasconi, pp. 152-153), he also opposed race-mixing (154-155). In Bernasconi’s words, Kant opposed race-mixing “because he recognized a hierarchy between the races in which Whites were the most favored race. What might look like fusion would, from the point of view of Whites, be a degradation…. Kant was saying more than that Providence established the permanence of race and that one should not try to undo it by what in the late nineteenth century came to be known as miscegenation. Kant saw race-mixing as leading to a degradation or pollution of Whites, a loss of some of their talents or dispositions” (159). Further, “The fact that Kant did not solve the problem of how, within the framework of a universal history, cosmopolitanism can be reconciled with a view of White superiority meant that he left to posterity a dangerous legacy” (160). Bernasconi does believe that “Kant’s opposition to polygenesis set him against some of the more extreme forms of racism….” (161). Benjamin Franklin began his political career on the left, but he did not remain there. With his stress on entrepreneurship and his (albeit belated and pragmatic) defense of religion in his famous letter to Thomas Paine, Franklin was one of the most conservative of Enlightenment thinkers. He was definitely racially conscious and pro-white, asserting that only “whites” should be allowed to enter the new nation and arguing for the exclusion of “swarthy” whites indigenous to areas outside northern Europe. Deploring the influx of “Palatine Boors” into Pennsylvania, he found only “Saxons” to be acceptable as potential immigrants from Germany and favored England above all other sources of immigration (Franklin, pp. 374, 445-446, 710). It is also doubtful that Jefferson is to be accounted among thinkers of the left, but he was to the left of the Federalists. Jefferson’s reservations regarding the intellectual abilities of blacks are frankly stated in his major work Notes on the State of Virginia. Weyl and Marina have produced a useful compendium of the views concerning race expressed by Jefferson and other Founding Fathers.
Thomas Paine was undoubtedly a man of the left. As early as 1775, he wrote an essay advocating the abolition of slavery and the settlement of freedmen on the frontier, believing that they would hold and occupy the territory (Hawke, pp. 36-37). Soon after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, he advocated the settlement of black freemen there, again believing that they could be educated to be responsible citizens (Hawke, p. 378).
Ralph Waldo Emerson, a freethinker, abolitionist, and champion of women’s rights, was a representative of the cultural left of his age, sympathetic to the utopian vision of Charles Fourier. His essay on “Race” draws upon his reading of Robert Knox’s The Races of Men (1850), an early contribution to scientific racialism. According to Emerson, “It is race, is it not, that puts the hundred millions of India under the dominion of a remote island in the north of Europe?… Race is a controlling influence in the Jew, who, for two millenniums, under every climate has preserved the same character and employments. Race in the negro is of appalling importance” (547). Emerson stresses the importance of what would later be called the Nordic type: “When it is considered what humanity, what resources of mental and moral power the traits of the blonde race betoken, its accession to empire marks a new and finer epoch” (557).
Bronson Alcott, another Fourierite and an early advocate of progressive education, was also subject to the crosscurrents of ideology. According to Van Wyck Brooks, “Alcott had a passion for the blonde complexion worthy of those who, in times to come, were to preach the mystical virtues of the Nordic race. Blue eyes and fair hair, he thought, were signs of the angelic type, determined in a former state of existence, while the dark eye and the swarthy face betokened the demonic, a remnant of the brute in human nature” (277).
The first great movement of the left in Europe, the republican movement growing out of the Enlightenment, did not come to its end until a generation after Marx’s advent as a political thinker. It had by then become divided into a right wing, the market-oriented, anti-protectionist, anti-statist classical liberalism best represented by Adam Smith in the eighteenth century and Herbert Spencer in the nineteenth century, and a left wing, the school of the utopian socialists beginning with Robert Owen and ending with Pierre J. Proudhon. Marx, of course, sought to displace the utopian socialists with his “scientific socialism,” which was also to be a replacement of parliamentary gradualism with revolutionary transformation.
With regard to the race question, the utopian socialists of the early nineteenth century in France are possibly significant for their anti-Semitism. Arendt finds in this “Leftist Antisemitism” a harbinger of German National Socialism, but the anti-Semitism of the utopians was largely economic, an attack upon the Jews as international bankers, not racial (42-50). Racial anti-Semitism was the invention of leftists who were definitely “post-utopian.” Fourier was anti-Semitic largely because he identified the Jews with commerce (Riasanovsky, p. 165). “Fourier’s thinking was not based on race” (Riasanovsky, p. 167). Alphonse de Toussenel, similarly, saw “Jew, usurer, and merchant” as “synonymous” (Byrnes, p. 120). Proudhon’s anti-Semitism, in addition to its motivation in his personal antipathy to Marx and to the largely Jewish followers of Saint-Simon, arose from his aversion to finance capitalism (Byrnes, pp. 121-125).
Mosse believes that Proudhon at least foreshadowed racial anti-Semitism: “Like Toussenel, Proudhon was driven by his anti-finance capitalism to a racialist stance. ‘One must send this race back to Asia or exterminate it,’ he declared” (153). Mosse’s final assessment of the French utopians is that
[t]hrough such men and their successors, racism became a part of the communitarian experience for which so many longed toward the end of the nineteenth century. Racism attempted to provide the cement for a human community linked by affinity, not created by social compulsion…. For Fourier, Toussenel, and Proudhon, this meant a communitarian socialism which had nothing in common with Marxism .
Schapiro also believes that Proudhon’s anti-Semitism was racial. He believes that Proudhon was a precursor of fascism and a complete racialist, denying equality to the blacks:
Anti-Semitism, always and everywhere the acid test of racialism, with its division of mankind into creative and sterile races, led Proudhon to regard the Negro as the lowest in the racial hierarchy. During the American Civil War he favored the South, which, he insisted, was not entirely wrong in maintaining slavery. The Negroes, according to Proudhon, were an inferior race, an example of the existence of inequality among the races of mankind [Schapiro, p. 359].
Proudhon’s view of blacks was exceptional. The left in France, like the left in other countries, generally agreed with the view of Auguste Comte, the founder of sociology and of positivism, that amalgamation would be the solution to any problem presented by race. According to Comte
[T]he continually increasing mixture of races, has a direct tendency to do away with this source of variety; but furthermore, the progress of mankind in the mass, is gradually undermining the consequences of race differences, even more completely than it overcomes the effects of climate [Thompson 146].
Ironically, the first American to use the word “sociology” in a book title, George Fitzhugh with his Sociology for the South (1854), was a defender of slavery (Weaver, p. 73). Fitzhugh probably could not be called a man of the left, but he did offer the opinion that “slavery is a form, and the very best form of socialism” (Weaver, p. 73). Weaver sees in his book “an outline of the totalitarian state, which substitutes for individual liberty and free competition a fixed hierarchy and state provision for all classes” (73). While it is an evident fact that Fitzhugh does argue that the laissez-faire capitalism championed by David Ricardo is a worse fate for white workers than slavery is for blacks, it is difficult to tell to what extent Fitzhugh is flatly sincere and where his polemic veers off into Swiftianism.
Again ironically, an avowed American disciple of Comte, David Goodman Croly, was a foe of the party of Lincoln and of the abolitionists, possibly because of his association with the New York World newspaper, albeit that he was on the left on virtually all other issues. Croly, “a loyal follower of the French thinker, Auguste Comte” (Levy 5: 756), published A Positivist Primer (1871), but is best known for an early effort in “black propaganda.” Croly, with George Wakeman, another journalist and defender of the Democrats, wrote and published anonymously a short book called Miscegenation (1864), which was distributed gratis to abolitionists. The short book has numerous offensive references to Irish Americans and was widely distributed in New York City. Levy calls this effort a “wild hoax…hoping to embarrass the Republicans by slyly creating the impression that the party favored race-mixing. The authors are credited with inventing the term miscegenation” (Levy 5: 756-757).
Hinton Rowan Helper achieved fame for his abolitionist book, The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet It (1857), which “attacked slaveowners for bringing Blacks into American society and for perverting American democracy” (Hoover, p. 178). In his Nojoque: A Question for a Continent (1867), Helper advocated deportation of all blacks to Africa, arguing that they are an inferior race (Bailey, pp.153-154). His The Negroes in Negroland, the Negroes in America; and Negroes Generally (1868) was a compendium of writings of contemporary anthropologists, statesmen, and others arguing for the racial inferiority of blacks (Hoover, p. 179). In his Noonday Exigencies in America(1871), “Helper sought to convince his readers of the need for the creation of a nonsectional labor party” (Bailey, p. 147). Half of the eighteen planks of his platform for a new political party concerned race, including demands for the deportation of all blacks and exclusion of all “Asiatics” (Bailey, p. 149-151). The National Labor Union adopted Helper’s proposed party platform in 1872, but the party did not come into existence, largely due to Helper’s absence from the U.S. while serving as U.S. consul in Argentina (Bailey, pp. 152-153).
Georg W. F. Hegel is not usually considered to be a man of the left, albeit that the most famous of the Left Hegelians was Karl Marx. Herbert Marcuse, in his Reason and Revolution (1941), insists that Hegel is the source of the left’s concept of rationality. Considering these factors and the fact that the Right Hegelians, though they existed, have had little influence, it may be appropriate to consider Hegel’s assessment of the blacks. In his Philosophy of History (1823-1827), Hegel dwells on the lack of spiritual development of the blacks (9395), but also gives some weight to the African continent’s geographical isolation (91-92) in his explanation for the fact that Africa south of the Mediterranean littoral remains “the land of childhood, which lying beyond the day of self-conscious history, is enveloped in the dark mantle of Night” (91). At some length, Hegel dwells on the tribal despotism of the blacks, their delight in cannibalism, their readiness to sell even their own children into slavery (95-99). Nevertheless, his is not a scientific racialism. The Africa of the blacks “is no historical part of the World” (99) because, for some reason, the World-Spirit has not manifested itself in it.
Kant seems to be closer to scientific racialism than is Hegel.
Max Stirner (nom de plume of Kaspar Schmidt) was for a long period the most prominent of the Left Hegelians, so prominent that Marx and Friedrich Engels devoted two-thirds of their lengthy book The German Ideology (1845) to a refutation of Stirner’s book The Ego and His Own (1844).
Kropotkin’s article on anarchism in the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica credits Stirner with the founding of individualist anarchism. Early in his book, Stirner devotes a few pages to what seems to be a discussion of race. The following excerpt is worthy of further analysis because it demonstrates a Hegelian use of racial labels that helps to explain Marx’s own understanding of racial labels:
The history of the world, whose shaping properly belongs altogether to the Caucasian race, seems till now to have run through two Caucasian ages, in the first of which we had to work out and work off our innate negroidity; this was followed in the second by Mongoloidity (Chineseness), which must likewise be terribly made an end of. Negroidity represents antiquity, the time of dependence on things (on cocks’ eating, birds’ flight, on sneezing, on thunder and lightning, on the rustling of sacred trees, and so forth); Mongoloidity the time of dependence on thoughts, the Christian time. Reserved for the future are the words, “I am owner of the world of things, and I am owner of the world of mind” [Stirner, p. 67].
Here Stirner is, of course, not considering the races from the standpoint of the physical anthropologist. Rather, the races are here only Hegelian concepts, examined much the way that Hegel examines them. The inherent Negroidity is the level of animistic fetishism, Mongoloidity shamanism, etc. throughout the exposition of concepts on the following few pages in Stirner’s work. Marx and Engels quote the above and other references in The German Ideology and make it clear that Stirner is analyzing a hierarchy of concepts, not of peoples (176-86). Overcoming one’s innate Negroidity or one’s innate Mongoloidity is thus understood by Marx as having nothing to do with some primal amalgamation, but rather with the peculiar Hegelian use of metaphors. In a totally different philosophy of history, that of Spengler, the terms “Faustian” and “Magian” are used not to describe cultures that are physical descendants of Dr. Faustus or of the magi, but those that are exemplary of these archetypal figures. Similarly, Negroidity, and Mongoloidity in Stirner are even more conceptual, more non-physical, than they are in Hegel. Moses Hess, “the earliest German socialist,” according to Isaiah Berlin, introduced Marx to utopian communism and remained a utopian communist throughout his life (Berlin, pp. 218-219). He also was a Zionist before that word was coined (Berlin, p. 213). His Rome and Jerusalem (1862) presents his argument for a Jewish national homeland. Writing before the term “anti-Semitism” had been coined, Hess nonetheless recognized a racial basis for the Jewish problem. In Berlin’s words, “He says again and again that the Germans are anti-Jewish racially. The tall, blond Germans are much too conscious of the small, dark Jews as being something intrinsically different from themselves…. Jews belong to a race which is not that of the Germans” (233-234). In Hess’s words, as quoted by Berlin, “Jews are not a religious group, but a separate nation, a special race, and the modern Jew who denies this is not only an apostate, a religious renegade, but a traitor to his people, his tribe, his family” (233-234). Initially enthusiastic about Hess’s ideas (Berlin, p. 228), Marx soon dismissed him along with Proudhon, Stirner, and the other Left Hegelians as “abstract moralists—men who condemned capitalism for no better reason than that they believed it to be evil” (228). While the first great movement of the left denounced the old order as a violation of human rights, as an injustice, Marxism claimed an understanding of the inevitable movement of historical development, a movement arising from and grounded in the ever-higher level of development of the economic means of production. Arguments about rights and justice, according to Marx, belong to bourgeois society, a level of social development which is obsolescent. In the words of one of Marx’s contemporary interpreters,
One of the most serious indictments of capitalism—and of all class-divided societies—is not that they are unjust or that they violate a person’s rights, but that they are based on defective modes of production which make reliance upon conceptions of justice and right necessary…. Communism will be a society in which juridical concepts…have no significant role in structuring social relations [Buchanan, pp. 50-51].
Legal disputes over right and justice only need arise in a social order that is riven by internal contradictions as is capitalism. This dismissal of concerns about justice and rights is one of the aspects of Marxism that has relevance for the treatment of race. If Marx had found evidence leading him to believe that one or more races or groups of humans were inherently incapable of acting as agents of historical development, he would not have hesitated to declare them lacking or even inferior through any fear that they might be denied their rights or be subjected to injustice. Rights and justice are phantoms of bourgeois society. Such inhibitions would seem to have been in effect among the representatives of classical liberalism, but there is no reason to believe that they would have been operant within Marx as he surveyed the history of human development. As an idealist historian, Hegel offered only the nebulous explanation that the World-Spirit had failed to manifest itself among the peoples outside Europe, the peoples who did not show a true historical development. As a materialist historian or, more precisely, historical materialist, Marx would not have hesitated to offer a racial explanation for the fact that only European peoples had developed according to his paradigm of slavery/feudalism/capitalism/socialism had he been led to that conclusion by the evidence.
Ollman, another of Marx’s contemporary interpreters, maintains that Marx was prepared to admit a role for heredity in the determination of man’s “species-being” (Gattungswesen). Ollman admits that
Heredity may be played down and insufficiently integrated into Marx’s system, but it is never dismissed. That it is present in his thinking can be inferred from such a statement as, “differences of brain, of intellectual capacity, do not imply any differences whatever in the nature of the stomach and of physical needs.” It would also appear that Marx saw certain racial characteristics as transmissible through heredity. What precisely can be inherited we never learn; nor, consequently, are we ever instructed as to the kind of interplay that exists between heredity and environment .
Ollman cites a mention in the third volume of Capital of “inborn racial characteristics.” In the “Introduction” to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), Ollman finds that Marx “says the starting point of world history is to be found in certain facts of nature embodied subjectively and objectively in clans, races, etc.'” (285).
These are merely incidental references, none of which is given any further development. Ollman suggests that the tabula rasa concept of human nature in Marxism becomes almost an a priori principle of equi-potentiality. In his words,
What evidence there is suggests that Marx believed the forces of environment, if properly marshaled, could remake any and all human qualities transmitted through heredity. Such, it seems, was to occur in communism: Marx says, “Even the natural diversity of species, as, for example, the differences of race etc…are and must be checked historically” .
Ollman here quotes the section of The German Ideology devoted to Feuerbach.
In lieu of a comprehensive Marx concordance, which Bekerman is not, the three volumes of Capital posted on the Internet by marxists.org were searched for the words “race” and “racial.” “Race” almost invariably appears in the term “the human race” or as a reference to progeny. The Internet version is taken from the English translations originally published by Progress Publishers at Moscow. A more thorough approach would be a complete examination of the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe (“MEGA”), published at Weimar from 1927 to 1935. No concordance is known to exist for this in any American library. Ollman appears to have made a comprehensive assessment of the concept of race in Marx.
Nathaniel Weyl believes that Marx himself could not bring himself to cross over the bridge of fools, that he was hypocritical, privately “anti-Negro.” He argues this thesis in his book Karl Marx: Racist. Weyl emerged from the American Communist underground shortly after Whittaker Chambers did (Chambers, p. 347). Unlike Chambers, who apparently accepted the equipotentiality of the races and who also denied any attitudinal racialism (Chambers, p. 393-394), Weyl himself published a number of works emphasizing inherent differences among the races, the most notable of which was The Geography of Intellect.
Weyl’s evidence for Marx’s supposed “anti-Negro” racialism is drawn almost exclusively from Marx’s private correspondence with Engels. 0ne exception is taken from Marx’s reply to Proudhon, The Poverty of Philosophy (1847). Weyl states that Proudhon had advocated the emancipation of the slaves in the United States and that Marx answered him “contemptuously” (75) as follows: “Without slavery, North America, the most progressive of countries, would be transformed into a patriarchal country. Wipe out North America from the map of the world and you will have anarchy—the complete decay of modern commerce and civilization. Abolish slavery and you will have wiped America off the map of nations” (Marx, Poverty, pp. 111-112). According to Weyl, Marx is here defending slavery as essential to the economic development of the United States (76). In Weyl’s words,
The first thing that is interesting about the quoted paragraph is that Marx again makes it abundantly clear that he has no interest whatsoever in the fate or welfare of Negroes. The second point of interest is his preposterous predictions…. Evidently, Marx believed that emancipation would wipe America off the map of the world; America would cease to exist as a nation .
In fact, as becomes evident if one examines the total context of the quotation, Marx is here not advocating his own views. On the contrary, he is expounding the argument of Proudhon. Marx begins his presentation as follows:
For him, M. Proudhon, every economic category has two sides—one good, the other bad. He looks upon these categories as the petty bourgeois looks upon the great men of history: Napoleon was a great man; he did a lot of good; he also did a lot of harm. The good side and the bad side, the advantages and the drawbacks, taken together form for M. Proudhon the contradiction in every economic category. The problem to be solved: to keep the good side, while eliminating the bad. Slavery is an economic category like any other. Thus it also has its two sides. Let us leave alone the bad side and talk about the good side of slavery. Needless to say we are dealing only with direct slavery, with Negro slavery in Surinam, in Brazil, in the Southern states of North America .
For Marx, slavery does not have a good side as well as a bad side because these categories belong to bourgeois idealism, not to science. Science, as expounded by Marx, sees only historical development, driven by the development of the means of production. Good and bad sides belong to the idealistic system of Proudhon, which Marx is here deriding. Proudhon, in fact, opposed the abolition of slavery because of the “good” which he saw in it, a good which at that point in time more than counterbalanced its bad. In Marx’s words, “What would M. Proudhon do to save slavery? He would formulate the problem thus: preserve the good side of this economic category, eliminate the bad” (112). In Marx’s exposition of how Proudhon thinks, or how Marx presents him as thinking, his sarcasm is almost obvious. It is a recurrent pattern in Marx’s early works attacking the utopian socialists that he expounds their ideas at length in his own terms with sporadic interruptions of sarcasm. It was his preferred polemic style. Regarding Proudhon’s preposterous predictions of what would follow the end of slavery, Engels added a qualifying note to the 1885 German edition, which also appears in the cited English translation (112).
Weyl devotes several pages to the fact that in 1866 both Marx and Engels were favorably impressed by the work of what Weyl calls “a racist philosopher” (131). This was Pierre Tremaux’s Origins and Transformations of Man and Other Beings (1865), originally published in French. Weyl cites no direct influence of Tremaux in the published works of Marx or Engels, only references to Tremaux in their correspondence. Furthermore, he states that both Marx and Engels were soon disillusioned with Tremaux’s pseudo-scientific theories (135-136).
Tremaux, in his own words, had discovered “the great law of the perfecting of beings,” that is “the perfecting of beings is or should be proportionate to the degree that the soil on which they live is worked! And, in general, the soil is more heavily worked to the extent that it belongs to a more recent geological formation” (Weyl, p. 132). In Weyl’s words, Tremaux’s discovery was
that the beauty, health, intelligence, energy, and civilization level of peoples corresponded directly to the geological age of the land they occupied. Crude, brutish, stupid and lazy peoples and races lived on geologically old terrain. Refined, civilized, handsome, healthy, bright, and energetic peoples occupied geologically new land .
This was extreme environmentalism, Lamarckianism. Weyl states that “Tremaux denied that race differences in ability were permanent” (136). The remaining basis for the assertion that Marx was “anti-Negro” is the fact that Marx used the pejorative term for Negro in his private correspondence with Engels. The term was applied to Lassalle, Marx’s rival in the socialist movement, and to Paul Lafargue, Marx’s future son-in-law (Weyl, pp. 71-73). According to Weyl, Lafargue “was apparently one-quarter Jewish, one-quarter Carib Indian, probably less than an eighth Negro, and the rest French” (73).
Marx’s first letter to Lafargue makes no reference to race. He merely asks about the man’s prospects. Marx’s daughter, Laura, was twenty, Lafargue, twenty-five, and without visible means of support. When Marx learned that Lafargue was a medical student and that he came from a wealthy family who supported him, he seems to have been more accepting of him as a future son-in-law (Wheen, pp. 270-271).
Seigel does not believe that Marx was anti-Semitic or racialist in the way a white gentile would be. Rather, he was using rather coarse language to express his exasperation with people whom he considered as belonging to his own ideological and even ethnic circle. In Seigel’s reading,
Certainly, Marx’s language in regard to Lassalle was hostile and ugly. When he really lost patience with him, however, it grew still uglier; not merely a Jew, Lassalle became a “nigger,” worse, a “German-Jewish nigger”: his physical characteristics and his actions all betrayed this hybrid origin. Was Marx, therefore anti-Negro as well as anti-Semitic? Yes, in a way. But Marx also spoke of the French mulatto Paul Lafargue as a “nigger,” and used this language at exactly the moment he was accepting Lafargue as the fiance of his daughter Laura. Lafargue was “our Nigger,” or “our little Nigger” (unser Negrillo). Moreover, it was to Paul and Laura Lafargue that Marx commented on the racial theories of Gobineau, which were beginning to grow more influential in late nineteenth-century European politics: “For such people it is always a source of satisfaction to have someone to estimate according to their opinions and to despise.” Gobineau, Marx observed, had been forced to recognize the important contributions of black people to civilization in spite of himself…if his language makes us squirm, his actions do not justify putting him in the camp of the racists. [113-114] Although Marx in his letter of March 5, 1870, addressed to Paul and Laura Lafargue, quite clearly repudiates the racialist theoretician Gobineau [Marx, Letters, pp. 269-270], Wheen notes that Marx continued to express reservations about Lafargue’s “Creole temperament” in letters written later to Engels: “As late as November 1882 he was still going on about it, telling Engels that ‘Lafargue has the blemish customarily found in the negro tribe — no sense of shame, by which I mean shame about making a fool of oneself'” [Wheen, p. 291]. Schwarzschild, who is prepared to report anything negative about Marx as a person, revealing in detail the story of Marx’s illegitimate son, Freddy Demuth, offers nothing to indicate that Marx was hostile to his future son-in-law. Paul Lafargue, in fact, according to Schwarzschild, undertook a rather hazardous assignment in Spain on Marx’s behalf, investigating the followers of Bakunin while pretending to be a Spaniard .
The basis for the charge that Marx was anti-Semitic is largely his essay “On the Jewish Question” (1844). This was a review of Bruno Bauer’s publication opposing Jewish emancipation. Believers in the anti-Semitism of Marx, who include Whisker as well as Weyl, point to the last sentence of this essay: “The emancipation of the Jews is, in the last analysis, the emancipation of mankind from Judaism” (Wheen, p. 56).
McLellan offers the following reading of Marx on the Jewish question: “Judentum, the German word for Judaism, had the derivative meaning of ‘commerce,’ and it is this meaning which is uppermost in Marx’s mind throughout the article. ‘Judaism’ has very little religious, and still less racial, content for Marx and it would be little exaggeration to say that this latter part of Marx’s review is an extended pun at Bauer’s expense” (142). Wolfson (82-92) presents a useful synopsis of the development of ideas in the essay “On the Jewish Question.” This development suggests a Hegelian use of concepts, albeit that Marx substitutes Hegel’s idealism with Feuerbach’s materialism, a use of concepts in the way that Stirner uses the concepts of Negroidity and Mongoloidity. The Judaism that Marx deplores is a Judaism within every man in civil society, much in the way that Stirner deplores “Negroidity” as a developmental stage of all societies and individuals. It is difficult to read in an earthly, tangible sense the following ruminations, for example, from Marx’s essay:
Christianity is the sublime thought of Judaism, Judaism is the common practical application of Christianity, but this application could only become general after Christianity as a developed religion had completed theoretically the estrangement of man from himself and from nature. Only then could Judaism achieve universal dominance and make alienated man and alienated nature into alienable, vendible objects subject to the slavery of egoistic need and to trading [Wolfson, p. 92].
Feuer perhaps gives a more balanced reading of Marx on the Jewish question, finding in him a “hatred of Judaism,” but offers the novel theory that this hatred was “the outcome of an animosity toward all that his mother signified for him” (35). Feuer cites several abrasive references to Jews in his journalistic writings (36-38), but does not conclude that Marx was a racial anti-Semite. Feuer notes, however, that in later life one of Marx’s best friends was Heinrich Graetz, “the leading orthodox Jewish scholar of the era” (49). Wilson, who is highly skilled in the interpretation of literary texts, does not believe that Marx was an anti-Semite, finding that
the animus of those of his writings which are sometimes characterized as anti-Semitic is mainly directed against the Jew as moneychanger or as truckler to bourgeois society…. If Marx is contemptuous of his race, it is primarily perhaps with the anger of Moses at finding the Children of Israel dancing before the Golden Calf [208-209].
Wheen also believes that Marx was not truly an anti-Semite. Wheen stresses the fact that Marx advocates the “emancipation of mankind from Judaism,” but “not from the Jews” (57). Moreover, Marx’s essay was “a retort to Bruno Bauer, who had argued that Jews should not be granted full civic rights and freedom unless they were baptised as Christians” (Wheen, p. 56). Rather, according to Wheen, it was Marx’s great rival, the anarchist Michael Bakunin, who in his attack against Marx in 1871, revealed himself to be a genuine (i.e., racial) anti-Semite. In Bakunin’s words:
This whole Jewish world which constitutes a single exploiting sect, a sort of bloodsucker people, a collective parasite, voracious, organized in itself, not only across the frontiers of states but even across all the differences of political opinion — this world is presently, at least in great part, at the disposal of Marx on the one hand and of the Rothschilds on the other. I know that the Rothschilds, reactionaries as they are and should be, highly appreciate the merits of the communist Marx; and that in his turn the communist Marx feels irresistibly drawn, by instinctive attraction and respectful admiration, to the financial genius of Rothschild. Jewish solidarity, that powerful solidarity that has maintained itself through all history, united them [Wheen, p. 340].
Wheen believes that Marx’s reference was to the economic Jew,
But Bakunin directed his vicious diatribes at “blood Jews,” regardless of their actual religious observances, business methods, social class or political ideology. Where Marx had argued that the emancipation of mankind would free Jews from the tyranny of Judaism, Bakunin wished only to annihilate them. “In all countries, the people detest the Jews,” he wrote in a circular letter to the Bologna section of the International. “They detest them so much that every popular revolution is accompanied by a massacre of Jews: a natural consequence…” [Wheen, p. 341].
Bakunin, writing in 1871 with his attack on “blood Jews,” is a transitional figure between the largely economic anti-Semitism of the French utopians and the racial anti-Semitism which was soon to follow. Drucker believes that 1873, when the Vienna stock market collapsed, “marked the end of the Liberal era, the end of the hundred years in which laissez-faire was the dominant political creed” (4). At this time, the successors to the classical liberals, the socialists, “almost immediately split into Marxist and anti-Semitic Socialists.” The latter were not without importance. In fact, “the first politician anywhere to put into effect a Socialist program and to expropriate the gas company, the electric power company and the streetcar company, was not a Marxist but an anti-Semitic Socialist: Karl Lueger, elected as Lord Mayor of Vienna in 1897” (Drucker, p. 5).
Wilhelm Marr, who most probably coined the term anti-Semitism (in German, Antisemitismus) (Zimmermann, p. 112), and who pioneered racial anti-Semitism, was a man of the left, well enough known on the left to merit being mentioned by Kropotkin, who states that Marr was a disciple of Ludwig Feuerbach, as well as an erstwhile associate of Wilhelm Weitling, an early utopian communist who broke with Marx, then drifted into anarchism. Mosse characterizes Marr as “a democrat believing in universal suffrage and freedom of thought,” one of the early “National Socialists, as they were called long before Adolf Hitler usurped the term” (123).
Zimmermann has provided an extensive account of Marr’s career, which was primarily in the field of journalism. Marr’s earliest work on the Jewish question, Der Judenspiegel (1862), was non-racial, advocating assimilation of the Jews through “crossbreeding” and their abandonment of their religion (Zimmermann, p. 136), basically the position of Marx’s essay in reply to Bauer. At this early stage, Marr’s belief in “crossbreeding,” which he later repudiated as “somewhat confused” (136), was similar to that of Comte. This pre-racial optimism appears also in Marr’s journalistic account in 1863 of the Civil War in America. According to Zimmermann, Marr
claimed that the problem of slavery would be solved by the mechanization of agriculture, and not by Negrophilic ideology. He made fun of the idea of raising an army of three hundred thousand Negroes to fight the South, an army which would stir up controversy in the North and would be worthless militarily…. He reemphasized his racist position: the attempts made in the North to advance the culture of the Negroes were doomed to failure; the Negroes, as Negroes, would never advance. The only method he proposed to eliminate the Negro problem was the crossbreeding of whites with Negroes .
At this stage in his development, Marr was obviously at the most only a cultural racialist, not yet a biological racialist. His avowal of Comte’s solution to the race problem, amalgamation, is evidence of that. One of Marr’s liberal critics, nonetheless, found in Der Judenspiegel evidence of an un-German degree of intolerance. His attack, as quoted by Zimmermann, is interesting in its own right:
Marr despises the “race” of the Jews…just as a pure-blooded Southern Yankee despises the colored race, and any person in whose veins flows even one drop of African blood…. But Marr’s attempt to find supporters for the American South’s Yankeeism here in Germany, is doomed to failure. Thank God, we have already gone beyond the stage of fine distinctions between humans on the basis of “races” and religions .
Marr’s most influential work, Der Sieg des Judentums fiber das Germanentum, was published in 1879. Its lengthy subtitle, “vom nicht konfessionellen Standpunkt ausbetrachtet” (“considered from a non-confessional standpoint”), is more than a hallmark of nineteenth century polemics. Marr now stresses that he does not attack Jewry from a religious standpoint. There can be no question of a solution of the Jewish problem through “crossbreeding.” According to Lindemann, Marr’s work “emphasized racial rather than religious factors” (129) and was “a condensation, simplification, and vulgarization—evidence of a filtering down—of the thought of more serious theorists of race in the nineteenth century” (128). “Marr blended into…familiar charges against Jews some significant uses of the racist and Social Darwinist language of the day, implying that Jews were physically and intellectually superior, while morally inferior” (Lindemann, p. 130).
Eugen Duehring was a man of great influence in the socialist movement. He was so influential within the socialist movement and so threatening as a rival for power that Friedrich Engels wrote a lengthy book entitled Anti-Duehring (1876), which became “the most widely read work of either Marx or Engels” (Lindemann 160). Mosse notes that Duehring was praised by August Bebel and that he favorably impressed Eduard Bernstein (164). Duehring entered “the anti-socialist faculty of the University of Berlin, and…championed the workers’ right of association and their right to strike. However, contrary to Marx, Duehring gave the state a role as mediator between workers and employers, while at the same time denying that economics were regulated by immutable laws. Friedrich Engels sounded the alarm against Duehring’s deviations from Marxist orthodoxy. Indeed, his danger to socialism seemed proven when Karl Liebknecht publicized letters from workers supporting Duehring’s theories rather than Marx’s” (Mosse, pp. 164-165).
In 1880, Duehring published his Die Judenfrage als Frage des Rassencharakters und seiner Schddlichkeiten fair Existent und Kultur der Volker. Duehring’s thesis is given in his title: the Jewish question is a question of that race’s character, specifically its deleteriousness for the existence and culture of all peoples. Writing of Duehring, Lindemann finds that “much more unequivocally than Marr, he saw a cosmic evil in an unchanging, destructive Jewish race” (161). From the beginning, Duehring stresses that the nature of the Jews is one of race, not religion, religion being not even a tenth of its reckoning (Duehring 5). Duehring does not, however, work from any general theory of race. It is almost as if the Jews were the only other race, a kind of parahuman ethnie which has evolved alongside humanity and which preys upon it. Obviously, baptism and conversion cannot be part of any answer to the Jewish question as it is addressed by Duehring.
As do other freethinkers, Duehring takes a critical look at the biblical history of Jewry, citing the bargain that Abraham makes with God as an example of the Jewish preoccupation with trade (44). As the Greeks were above the Hebrews, so was Socrates above Jesus in moral as well as in intellectual stature (55). He denies to the Jews any creative role in science, literature, and art (56-99). Spinoza is derivative. The lack of judgment on the part of “Professorphilosophierern” such as Schelling and Hegel has led to his overestimation (59-63). Ricardo and Marx have brought nothing new to economics (76-78). Germany’s Social Democrats, under their Jewish “marxokratische” leadership, offer only a “kommunistelnden Humbug” (104-105). The Jew as conservative politician, exemplified by Disraeli, is equally wanting (110-113). Richard Wagner is faintly praised for initially speaking out against Jewry, but damned for surrounding himself with Jews (91-92). Amazingly, Duehring finds Nietzsche to be one of these Jews (“einer seiner Juden, ein polnischer oder vielmehr polnisch gemischter, namens Nietzsche”) (93), but offers no evidence of Nietzsche’s Jewish origin. In this same edition (the 6th, 1930, the last to appear before Duehring’s death), he mentions the supposed cases of Jewish ritual murder at Tisza-Eszlar and at Xanten (121).
Jacob has translated most of the second, less strident, edition of Die Judenfrage and prefaces it with a useful synopsis of Duehring’s concept of German socialism (9-18) and an assessment of his political influence (29-47). According to Jacob, Duehring’s German socialism influenced not only the Third Reich, but also Werner Sombart, Oswald Spengler, Moeller van den Bruck, and Edgar Julius Jung. Weissmann, in his study of national socialism before Hitler, designates Rudolf Jung, author of Der nationale Sozialismus (1919), as another follower of Duehring (275-276). Duehring was a primary leader of the current of anti-Semitic socialism which Drucker identifies as beginning in 1873.
Edouard Drumont was another major figure among those whom Mosse calls “National Socialists…long before Adolf Hitler usurped the term.” His La France Juive (1886), “which sold over a million copies, spread the message that the mercantile, covetous, scheming, and cunning Semites were responsible for the existing state of national and social degeneration” (Mosse, p. 155). Drumont begins his work with “an ethnographical, physiological and psychological comparison of the Semite and the Aryan. They represent two distinct races which are irremediably hostile to each other, whose antagonism has filled the world in the past and will disturb it even more in the future” (Drumont, p. 88). His concept of the Aryan is obviously derived from Gobineau:
The generic term Aryan comes from a Sanskrit word meaning noble, illustrious, and high-minded, and is commonly applied to the superior branch of the white race, the Indo-European family which had its cradle in the vast plains of Iran [Drumont, p. 89].
La France Juive addresses “the revolutionary worker and the conservative Christian” (Byrnes, p. 156). In his La Fin d’un Monde (1888), Drumont proclaims himself a socialist and calls for “the revision of the Revolution,” the revolution of 1789 being only a bourgeois revolution which excluded the workers (Byrnes, 162-163). Like other nineteenth century National Socialists, Drumont denounces capitalism as an outgrowth of finance, but defends property (Byrnes 161). Drumont’s concern, in his own words, is that
The expropriation of society through finance capital takes place with a regularity which resembles the laws of nature. If nothing is done to arrest this process within the next fifty to a hundred years, all European society will be delivered tied hand and foot into the hands of a few hundred bankers [Mosse, p. 151].
Mosse believes that Drumont “looked to the lower classes and workers for success in his venture” (155), but Byrnes maintains that “the class in which he was most interested was the lower middle class” (165).
Weissmann states that Georges Vacher de Lapouge, Gobineau’s foremost exponent in France, “advocated a socialist order because only such an order could assure that each individual’s racially based abilities could be determined independently of his class” (260). Vacher de Lapouge believed that socialism and eugenics are mutually reinforcing and that one cannot be sustained without the other (Weissmann, p. 260).
Drumont’s influence extended to the U.S. where, in 1888, Telemachus T. Timayenis published his book The Original Mr. Jacobs. This work took most of its material from Drumont, though Timayenis’s racism was also directed against the black and the yellow races (Greenberg and Jonas, pp. 272, 274-280). Timayenis had previously published an attack on John D. Rockefeller and promised that his Minerva Publishing Company would produce other works of a populist nature (Greenberg and Jonas, p. 267). Possibly the most significant expression of racial anti-Semitism among the American populists is to be found in Ignatius Donnelly’s dystopian novel Caesar’s Column (1891). At the end of the twentieth century, in Donnelly’s tale, Jews have risen to become “the aristocracy of the world” because of the principle of “survival of the fittest.”
Christianity fell upon the Jews…and forced them, for many centuries, through the most terrible ordeal of persecution the history of mankind bears any record of. Only the strong of body, the cunning of brain, the long-headed, the persistent, the men with capacity to live where a dog would starve, survived the awful trial. Like breeds like and now the Christian world is paying, in tears and blood, for the sufferings inflicted by their bigoted and ignorant ancestors upon a noble race [Donnelly, p. 32].
Jack London is famous for having told a meeting of the Oakland, California, chapter of the Socialist Labor Party, of which he was a member, that he was unconcerned that his warnings against “the yellow peril” violated Marx’s principle of international proletarian solidarity: “What the devil! I am first of all a white man and only then a socialist!” (Kershaw, p. 143). As a proponent of eugenics and white superiority (Kershaw, pp. 214-215), London came closer than any other American to national socialism as it has been defined by Mosse (151) and by Weissmann, although neither one mentions him. However, London generally reserved his proto-national socialism for his correspondence, where thoughts such as the following appear:
I do not believe in the universal brotherhood of man…. I believe my race is the salt of the earth…. Socialism is not an ideal system devised for the happiness of all men; it is devised for the happiness of certain kindred races. It is devised so as to give more strength to these certain kindred favoured races so that they may survive and inherit the earth to the extinction of the lesser, weaker races [Kershaw, p. 102].
London’s racialism also appears in his marginalia to the books in his library (Hamilton, pp. 38, 242-243).
Many of the Fabian socialists were proponents of eugenics, but there is little evidence that they regarded race as a serious factor in human nature and history. George Bernard Shaw in his “Revolutionist’s Handbook,” an appendix to his play Man and Superman (1903), argued that eugenics necessitated socialism (698), a concept that would be especially puzzling to the American left of a century after (regardless of the fact that the only government-sponsored eugenics program in the world of 2003 is that of the People’s Republic of China). However, Shaw does not consider race in his “Handbook.” Bentley in his lengthy examination of Shaw’s support of fascism also makes no mention of any Shavian interest in the race question (Bentley, pp. 164-184).
There is more evidence that another prominent Fabian, H. G. Wells, was a racialist as well as a proponent of eugenics. Evidence of Wells’s racialism is largely to be found in his early non-fiction utopian study Anticipations (1901) (Goren, pp. 63-67). There he asks, “And how will the New Republic treat the inferior races? How will it treat the black? How will it deal with the yellow man? How will it tackle that alleged termite in the civilized world, the Jew ?” (Goren, p. 65). Wells is here writing non-fiction, but he seems to maintain an authorial distance from the questions he raises. Wells’s anti-Semitism would seem to be non-racial (Goren, pp. 211-219), somewhat in the tradition of Voltaire.
While eugenics was promoted by many Fabians and other democratic socialists, their support for it did not necessarily arise from racialism. Rather, they were concerned with the heredity of individuals and not groups. Karl Pearson, a British mathematician, was a prominent exponent of eugenics and also published a short book called The Moral Basis of Socialism (1887), which to him meant (in Mosse’s paraphrase) “the evolution of the national community through struggle” (79). However, Pearson’s later writings on race included a repudiation of the concept of racial purity (Snyder, pp. 61, 118), though earlier he had affirmed that “there is no natural equality of human races, any more than there is a natural equality of human beings” (Weissmann, pp. 263-264).
Ludwig Woltmann is considered by Gregor, in his Contemporary Radical Ideologies, to have been the primary ideological influence upon Adolf Hitler. At one point, Gregor calls the ideas of Hitler “the transmogrified Hegelian and Marxist ideas of Woltmann” (196). Woltmann began his career as “a classical Marxist.” One of his early works, Der historische Materialismus: Darstellung und Kritik der Marxistischen Weltanschauung (1900), was “a Marxist work sufficiently noteworthy to merit Lenin’s recommendation” (181).
The process by which Woltmann took the first step in a logical process at the end of which he transformed himself from a Marxist into a racialist of the Nordicist school is sketched out by Gregor as follows:
[Woltmann] contended that Marx’s treatment of the logic of technological development was unconvincing. Technology does not develop itself. The instruments of production do not simply appear. Marxism’s treatment of technology as an independent variable was, Woltmann argued, prima facie implausible. He argued that the instruments of production and the development of productive forces were contingent upon the creative and intellectual activity of men.The economic theory of history, if it is to afford a compelling and complete account of human history, must be supplemented by a coherent explanation of the organic evolution of man and the development of the physical basis of creativity, the human brain. Marx, Woltmann maintained, had neglected the organic basis of man’s development. Woltmann, quoting from Capital, revealed that Marx had indicated that the productiveness of labor, and by implication all subsequent social history, was “fettered by physical conditions…all referable to the constitution of man himself (race, etc.),” but he had failed to pursue the insight. The development of the productive forces, Woltmann went on to argue, was not an independent, but a dependent, variable, determined by the differential creative potential of the races of man [181-182].
Woltmann achieved a synthesis of Hegel, Marx, Darwin, and Gobineau. Again, quoting Gregor:
Woltmann advances a conceptual model of man which is essentially that of Hegel and Marx. Woltmann maintained that man lives not in isolation, but within a historical and social community (“Gemeinschaft”). The individual conceived outside society is an abstraction. Liberal social and political theory failed to adequately appreciate this essential consideration. Man evinces an “elemental, inborn social drive” that requires membership in a community for fulfillment, and that membership is not the consequence of choice but of biological origin. The individual’s manifest traits are those of his biological community, his race. The life of the individual is explicable only in terms of his racial provenience [188-189].
Woltmann believed that “the civilizations of Malaya, Polynesia, India, China, Central America, Persia, Greece, Rome, Babylonia, and Egypt were the products of Nordic creativity” (Gregor, p. 190). Gregor translates from Woltmann’s Politische Anthropologie (1903) the following: “[T]he Nordic race is destined to mastery of the earth, to exploit (‘auszubeuten‘) the wealth of nature and labor-power and employ the passive races as servitors (‘dienendes Glied‘) in [Nordic] cultural development” (Gregor, p. 191). This statement is as remarkable for its use of the standard Marxist vocabulary (“exploit,” “labor-power”) as it is for its extreme Nordicism. Also Marxist is Woltmann’s apparent unconcern about questions of right or justice. It suffices that a higher level of economic development can be attained through the Nordics’ hegemony over all other races.
Was Hitler a man of the left? Weissmann argues that Hitler was a socialist (279). Gregor, in his The Faces of Janus, presents evidence that the Soviet Marxist concept of fascism evolved so that, shortly before the end of the Soviet Union, Soviet Marxists saw fascism as a phenomenon to the right of Marxism-Leninism but to the left of the bourgeois capitalist parties. Lipset argues that Hitler’s national socialism was a movement of the extreme center (130-148). If Hitler was of the left, then the chapter on “Nation and Race” in his Mein Kampf (1925), which presents a unique synthesis of Darwin, Gobineau, and Duehring or (in Gregor’s reading) a popularization of Woltmann, becomes significant for this survey.
In the twentieth century, especially, Marxists wrote about racialism rather than about race. The example of Woltmann remained without parallel. As Bottomore notes,
The concepts of race and race relations are necessarily ones which raise doubts among Marxist sociologists. On the one hand they seem to suggest biologistic, or at least cultural-ist, explanations of social and institutional behavior. On the other hand they seem to refer to forms of social bonding in political contexts which compete with those which arise from class formations (“Race”).
A representative mid-twentieth century work expounding the Marxist perspective on race is Oliver Cromwell Cox’s Caste, Class, and Race (1948). Cox, an American black who was professor of sociology at Lincoln University, bluntly employs Marxist terminology and concepts (485-588). His stance is most evident in his critique of Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dilemma (509-538). Cox calls this “a mystical approach to the study of race relations.” This is because Myrdal believes that progress can be realized through bringing American democratic values into race relations. This, of course, must be dismissed by a Marxist as bourgeois idealism (though Cox does not use the term). From Cox’s perspective both “race prejudice and Negro standards” of living are “produced by the calculated economic interests of the Southern oligarchy” (530). Throughout his book, Cox refers to “the class struggle.” It is his leitmotiv.
Lucius Outlaw, a black American professor of philosophy at Haverford College, delineates three Marxist approaches to race: “‘race’ is without scientific basis as an explanatory notion (Frankfurt School); ‘race,’ while real, is a factor of conflict secondary to the primary contradiction of class struggle (‘classical,’ ‘official’ Marxism); ‘race’ is the basis of a nation — a group whose members share common history and culture (‘official’ Marxism of 1928-1957)” (Outlaw, p. 75). Cox’s work fits into the third (Stalinist) frame, while Outlaw favors the approach of the Frankfurt School, an emphasis on the social construction of race.
By the end of the twentieth century, Marxists had progressed from considering only the social construction of race (i.e., the sociological dimension of race) to a flat assertion that race in itself is only a social construction. Thus, Franz Boas’s argument that culture is much more significant than race in determining the great diversity of human behavior (Degler, pp. 183-184) has been extended into a flat assertion that race itself is only a cultural artifact. John Garvey and Noel Ignatiev write that “The ‘social construction of race’ has become something of a catchprase in the academy, although few have taken the next step. Indeed, we might say that until now, philosophers have merely interpreted the white race; the point, however, is to abolish it” (Garvey and Ignatiev 346). Garvey and Ignatiev refer to a time “before race was invented” (347).
Ironically, while the left in America was abolishing race, the left in the Soviet Union was showing increased tolerance to those who dared to find a greater salience for race. Gregor, in his The Faces of Janus, notes “the convoluted ethnobiological work” of Lev Gumilev, which “has become a doctrinal favorite among those Marxist-Leninists in post-Soviet Russia who have made the easy transition from ‘left’ to ‘right'” (150). Gregor’s synopsis of Gumilev’s reasoning is worthy of extended quotation:
Gumilev’s major work, Ethnogenesis and the Biosphere, was written as a supplement to, and an application of, the historical materialism of Karl Marx, and was published as such by the Marxist-Leninist state publishing house before the definitive collapse of the Soviet Union. Concerned with the rise and fall of civilizations and the formation and decline of ethnoi, Gumilev’s work has been assessed as “racist” by critics…. Gumilev’s discussions turn on the evolution of ethnic communities that, in time, stabilize themselves as nations and civilizations—not simply as socioeconomic and political communities, but as “biophysical realities…surrounded by a social envelope of some sort.” Gumilev insists that his concepts have nothing to do with traditional racial theories, but he does speak of ethnogenesis as a complex biological process that, over time, sees ethnoi organized as tribes, clans, city-states, and more complex configurations, ultimately to find expression in the history of nations. He speaks of ethnoi as “stable collectives of individuals each of which opposes itself to all other similar collectives.” In opposing themselves to out-groups, the survival needs of ethnoi compel the cultivation of behaviors “by which the interests of the collective will become higher than personal ones.” Gumilev holds that “group sentiment,” out-group enmity and in-group amity, is a common element in the evolution of ethnoi and the history of nations, and that collectivities must inculcate norms of behavior that enhance the survival, perpetuity, and prevalence of the community…. Ethnoi arise, expand, stabilize, contract, and decay in response to “an irrational…passionate… craving for power” that invests not only individuals, but entire ethnoi, in the perpetual struggle for survival and triumph that is at the center of ethnogenesis. The ethnoi that survive and prevail in that struggle, create “superethnoi” — civilizations that shape the history of the world [150-151].
Gumilev’s approach, which seems to be the “biologistic” approach that Bottomore finds objectionable to Marxism, is not anti-socialist. On the contrary, the collective endeavor which builds, promotes, sustains socialism would seem to be an outgrowth of the collective sense that is developed in the evolution of ethnoi. Perhaps it is not too much of a forced reading to see in this aspect of Gumilev an insight into the origin of national socialism in its most comprehensive and generic sense.
Laqueur believes that Gumilev “came close to advocating racial segregation” (147). He notes, though, that Gumilev also has critics on the Russian right who reject what they believe to be his tendency toward Eurasianism (147). The latter critics are “continentalists, who…stand for an all-European alliance based on a Berlin-Moscow axis as a counterweight to the United States with its overwhelming power” (Laqueur, p. 147).
Thinkers considered in this survey are, with few exceptions, not historically significant, because the left typically declines to consider race in itself as having a salience approaching that of social class. While the political left historically denies reality to race, insisting upon a strict bifurcation of nature and culture, the political right historically denies reality to society and social class, insisting that only individuals exist. The political left opposes any concern with race as a threat to proletarian solidarity, while to the political right those who see any significance in race deny the supremacy of the individual. Critical realism in political inquiry belongs only to centrists.
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Tags: immanuel kant, karl marx, race, racism