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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: December 2009

1 - Social Democracy's Stance on Antisemitism and the Spectre of ‘Philosemitism’


The Social Democratic response to antisemitism in effect amounted to playing va banque. This was not recognised, though, for the simple reason that the game was supposedly being played with a double safety net. The first ostensible safety net was afforded by the following assumption: not only the much-discussed unpleasant traits ascribed to Jewry but ultimately all features distinguishing Jews from non-Jews merely reflected a specific socio-economic constellation and Jewry's role and status within that constellation. Since historical progress would render this particular socio-economic constellation obsolete, all the features currently still setting Jewry apart, and thus Jewry itself as a distinct entity, would become equally obsolete and consequently disappear. The assumption offering the second ostensible safety net was this: antisemitism could only take hold among specific strata of society. Which sections of society would take to antisemitism could again be defined in socio-economic terms. Those whose livelihoods and economic activities were becoming increasingly incompatible with the emerging fully fledged capitalist economy responded with a cryptic form of anti-capitalist protest in the form of antisemitism. Yet, once their form of economic existence had been rendered entirely obsolete, these strata would also disappear altogether, just as the Jews would.

If Jewry and antisemitism were both destined to disappear as history progressed, the whole issue was obviously at best a transient one and the only substantial problem with antisemitism was its ability to muddy the waters. Yet, reality itself would solve this problem.