Works of Karl Marx 1844
Written: Autumn 1843;
First Published: February, 1844 in Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher;
The Jewish Question,
The German Jews desire emancipation. What kind of emancipation do they desire? Civic, political emancipation.
Bruno Bauer replies to them: No one in Germany is politically emancipated. We ourselves are not free. How are we to free you? You Jews are egoists if you demand a special emancipation for yourselves as Jews. As Germans, you ought to work for the political emancipation of Germany, and as human beings, for the emancipation of mankind, and you should feel the particular kind of your oppression and your shame not as an exception to the rule, but on the contrary as a confirmation of the rule.
Or do the Jews demand the same status as Christian subjects of the state? In that case, they recognize that the Christian state is justified and they recognize, too, the regime of general oppression. Why should they disapprove of their special yoke if they approve of the general yoke? Why should the German be interested in the liberation of the Jew, if the Jew is not interested in the liberation of the German?
The Christian state knows only privileges. In this state, the Jew has the privilege of being a Jew. As a Jew, he has rights which the Christians do not have. Why should he want rights which he does not have, but which the Christians enjoy?
In wanting to be emancipated from the Christian state, the Jew is demanding that the Christian state should give up its religious prejudice. Does he, the Jew, give up his religious prejudice? Has he, then, the right to demand that someone else should renounce his religion?
By its very nature, the Christian state is incapable of emancipating the Jew; but, adds Bauer, by his very nature the Jew cannot be emancipated. So long as the state is Christian and the Jew is Jewish, the one is as incapable of granting emancipation as the other is of receiving it.
The Christian state can behave towards the Jew only in the way characteristic of the Christian state – that is, by granting privileges, by permitting the separation of the Jew from the other subjects, but making him feel the pressure of all the other separate spheres of society, and feel it all the more intensely because he is in religious opposition to the dominant religion. But the Jew, too, can behave towards the state only in a Jewish way – that is, by treating it as something alien to him, by counterposing his imaginary nationality to the real nationality, by counterposing his illusory law to the real law, by deeming himself justified in separating himself from mankind, by abstaining on principle from taking part in the historical movement, by putting his trust in a future which has nothing in common with the future of mankind in general, and by seeing himself as a member of the Jewish people, and the Jewish people as the chosen people.
On what grounds, then, do you Jews want emancipation? On account of your religion? It is the mortal enemy of the state religion. As citizens? In Germany, there are no citizens. As human beings? But you are no more human beings than those to whom you appeal.
Bauer has posed the question of Jewish emancipation in a new form, after giving a critical analysis of the previous formulations and solutions of the question. What, he asks, is the nature of the Jew who is to be emancipated and of the Christian state that is to emancipate him? He replies by a critique of the Jewish religion, he analyzes the religious opposition between Judaism and Christianity, he elucidates the essence of the Christian state – and he does all this audaciously, trenchantly, wittily, and with profundity, in a style of writing that is as precise as it is pithy and vigorous.
How, then, does Bauer solve the Jewish question? What is the result? The formulation of a question is its solution. The critique of the Jewish question is the answer to the Jewish question. The summary, therefore, is as follows:
We must emancipate ourselves before we can emancipate others.
The most rigid form of the opposition between the Jew and the Christian is the religious opposition. How is an opposition resolved? By making it impossible. How is religious opposition made impossible? By abolishing religion. As soon as Jew and Christian recognize that their respective religions are no more than different stages in the development of the human mind, different snake skins cast off by history, and that man is the snake who sloughed them, the relation of Jew and Christian is no longer religious but is only a critical, scientific, and human relation. Science, then, constitutes their unity. But, contradictions in science are resolved by science itself.
The German Jew, in particular, is confronted by the general absence of political emancipation and the strongly marked Christian character of the state. In Bauer’s conception, however, the Jewish question has a universal significance, independent of specifically German conditions. It is the question of the relation of religion to the state, of the contradiction between religious constraint and political emancipation. Emancipation from religion is laid down as a condition, both to the Jew who wants to be emancipated politically, and to the state which is to effect emancipation and is itself to be emancipated.
“Very well,” it is said, and the Jew himself says it, “the Jew is to become emancipated not as a Jew, not because he is a Jew, not because he possesses such an excellent, universally human principle of morality; on the contrary, the Jew will retreat behind the citizen and be a citizen, although he is a Jew and is to remain a Jew. That is to say, he is and remains a Jew, although he is a citizen and lives in universally human conditions: his Jewish and restricted nature triumphs always in the end over his human and political obligations. The prejudice remains in spite of being outstripped by general principles. But if it remains, then, on the contrary, it outstrips everything else.”
“Only sophistically, only apparently, would the Jew be able to remain a Jew in the life of the state. Hence, if he wanted to remain a Jew, the mere appearance would become the essential and would triumph; that is to say, his life in the state would be only a semblance or only a temporary exception to the essential and the rule.” (“The Capacity of Present-Day Jews and Christians to Become Free,” Einundzwanzig Bogen, pp. 57)
Let us hear, on the other hand, how Bauer presents the task of the state.
“France,” he says, “has recently shown us” (Proceedings of the Chamber of Deputies, December 26, 1840) “in the connection with the Jewish question – just as it has continually done in all other political questions – the spectacle of a life which is free, but which revokes its freedom by law, hence declaring it to be an appearance, and on the other hand contradicting its free laws by its action.” (The Jewish Question, p. 64)
“In France, universal freedom is not yet the law, the Jewish question too has not yet been solved, because legal freedom – the fact that all citizens are equal – is restricted in actual life, which is still dominated and divided by religious privileges, and this lack of freedom in actual life reacts on law and compels the latter to sanction the division of the citizens, who as such are free, into oppressed and oppressors.” (p. 65)
When, therefore, would the Jewish question be solved for France?
“The Jew, for example, would have ceased to be a Jew if he did not allow himself to be prevented by his laws from fulfilling his duty to the state and his fellow citizens, that is, for example, if on the Sabbath he attended the Chamber of Deputies and took part in the official proceedings. Every religious privilege, and therefore also the monopoly of a privileged church, would have been abolished altogether, and if some or many persons, or even the overwhelming majority, still believed themselves bound to fulfil religious duties, this fulfilment ought to be left to them as a purely private matter.” (p. 65)
“There is no longer any religion when there is no longer any privileged religion. Take from religion its exclusive power and it will no longer exist.” (p. 66)
“Just as M. Martin du Nord saw the proposal to omit mention of Sunday in the law as a motion to declare that Christianity has ceased to exist, with equal reason (and this reason is very well founded) the declaration that the law of the Sabbath is no longer binding on the Jew would be a proclamation abolishing Judaism.” (p. 71)
Bauer, therefore, demands, on the one hand, that the Jew should renounce Judaism, and that mankind in general should renounce religion, in order to achieve civic emancipation. On the other hand, he quite consistently regards the political abolition of religion as the abolition of religion as such. The state which presupposes religion is not yet a true, real state.
“Of course, the religious notion affords security to the state. But to what state? To what kind of state?” (p. 97)
At this point, the one-sided formulation of the Jewish question becomes evident.
It was by no means sufficient to investigate: Who is to emancipate? Who is to be emancipated? Criticism had to investigate a third point. It had to inquire: What kind of emancipation is in question? What conditions follow from the very nature of the emancipation that is demanded? Only the criticism of political emancipation itself would have been the conclusive criticism of the Jewish question and its real merging in the “general question of time.”
Because Bauer does not raise the question to this level, he becomes entangled in contradictions. He puts forward conditions which are not based on the nature of political emancipation itself. He raises questions which are not part of his problem, and he solves problems which leave this question unanswered. When Bauer says of the opponents of Jewish emancipation: “Their error was only that they assumed the Christian state to be the only true one and did not subject it to the same criticism that they applied to Judaism” (op. cit., p. 3), we find that his error lies in the fact that he subjects to criticism only the “Christian state,” not the “state as such,” that he does not investigate the relation of political emancipation to human emancipation and, therefore, puts forward conditions which can be explained only by uncritical confusion of political emancipation with general human emancipation. If Bauer asks the Jews: Have you, from your standpoint, the right to want political emancipation? We ask the converse question: Does the standpoint of political emancipation give the right to demand from the Jew the abolition of Judaism and from man the abolition of religion?
The Jewish question acquires a different form depending on the state in which the Jew lives. In Germany, where there is no political state, no state as such, the Jewish question is a purely theological one. The Jew finds himself in religious opposition to the state, which recognizes Christianity as its basis. This state is a theologian ex professo. Criticism here is criticism of theology, a double-edged criticism – criticism of Christian theology and of Jewish theology. Hence, we continue to operate in the sphere of theology, however much we may operate critically within it.
In France, a constitutional state, the Jewish question is a question of constitutionalism, the question of the incompleteness of political emancipation. Since the semblance of a state religion is retained here, although in a meaningless and self-contradictory formula, that of a religion of the majority, the relation of the Jew to the state retains the semblance of a religious, theological opposition.
Only in the North American states – at least, in some of them – does the Jewish question lose its theological significance and become a really secular question. Only where the political state exists in its completely developed form can the relation of the Jew, and of the religious man in general, to the political state, and therefore the relation of religion to the state, show itself in its specific character, in its purity. The criticism of this relation ceases to be theological criticism as soon as the state ceases to adopt a theological attitude toward religion, as soon as it behaves towards religion as a state – i.e., politically. Criticism, then, becomes criticism of the political state. At this point, where the question ceases to be theological, Bauer’s criticism ceases to be critical.
“In the United States there is neither a state religion nor a religion declared to be that of the majority, nor the predominance of one cult over another. The state stands aloof from all cults.” (Marie ou l’esclavage aux Etats-Unis, etc., by G. de Beaumont, Paris, 1835, p. 214)
Indeed, there are some North American states where “the constitution does not impose any religious belief or religious practice as a condition of political rights.” (op. cit., p. 225)
Nevertheless, “in the United States people do not believe that a man without religion could be an honest man.” (op. cit., p. 224)
Nevertheless, North America is pre-eminently the country of religiosity, as Beaumont, Tocqueville, and the Englishman Hamilton unanimously assure us. The North American states, however, serve us only as an example. The question is: What is the relation of complete political emancipation to religion? If we find that even in the country of complete political emancipation, religion not only exists, but displays a fresh and vigorous vitality, that is proof that the existence of religion is not in contradiction to the perfection of the state. Since, however, the existence of religion is the existence of defect, the source of this defect can only be sought in the nature of the state itself. We no longer regard religion as the cause, but only as the manifestation of secular narrowness. Therefore, we explain the religious limitations of the free citizen by their secular limitations. We do not assert that they must overcome their religious narrowness in order to get rid of their secular restrictions, we assert that they will overcome their religious narrowness once they get rid of their secular restrictions. We do not turn secular questions into theological ones. History has long enough been merged in superstition, we now merge superstition in history. The question of the relation of political emancipation to religion becomes for us the question of the relation of political emancipation to human emancipation. We criticize the religious weakness of the political state by criticizing the political state in its secular form, apart from its weaknesses as regards religion. The contradiction between the state and a particular religion, for instance Judaism, is given by us a human form as the contradiction between the state and particular secular elements; the contradiction between the state and religion in general as the contradiction between the state and its presuppositions in general.
The political emancipation of the Jew, the Christian, and, in general, of religious man, is the emancipation of the state from Judaism, from Christianity, from religion in general. In its own form, in the manner characteristic of its nature, the state as a state emancipates itself from religion by emancipating itself from the state religion – that is to say, by the state as a state not professing any religion, but, on the contrary, asserting itself as a state. The political emancipation from religion is not a religious emancipation that has been carried through to completion and is free from contradiction, because political emancipation is not a form of human emancipation which has been carried through to completion and is free from contradiction.
The limits of political emancipation are evident at once from the fact that the state can free itself from a restriction without man being really free from this restriction, that the state can be a free state [pun on word Freistaat, which also means republic] without man being a free man. Bauer himself tacitly admits this when he lays down the following condition for political emancipation:
“Every religious privilege, and therefore also the monopoly of a privileged church, would have been abolished altogether, and if some or many persons, or even the overwhelming majority, still believed themselves bound to fulfil religious duties, this fulfilment ought to be left to them as a purely private matter.” [The Jewish Question, p. 65]
It is possible, therefore, for the state to have emancipated itself from religion even if the overwhelming majority is still religious. And the overwhelming majority does not cease to be religious through being religious in private.
But, the attitude of the state, and of the republic [free state] in particular, to religion is, after all, only the attitude to religion of the men who compose the state. It follows from this that man frees himself through the medium of the state, that he frees himself politically from a limitation when, in contradiction with himself, he raises himself above this limitation in an abstract, limited, and partial way. It follows further that, by freeing himself politically, man frees himself in a roundabout way, through an intermediary, although an essential intermediary. It follows, finally, that man, even if he proclaims himself an atheist through the medium of the state – that is, if he proclaims the state to be atheist – still remains in the grip of religion, precisely because he acknowledges himself only by a roundabout route, only through an intermediary. Religion is precisely the recognition of man in a roundabout way, through an intermediary. The state is the intermediary between man and man’s freedom. Just as Christ is the intermediary to whom man transfers the burden of all his divinity, all his religious constraint, so the state is the intermediary to whom man transfers all his non-divinity and all his human unconstraint.
The political elevation of man above religion shares all the defects and all the advantages of political elevation in general. The state as a state annuls, for instance, private property, man declares by political means that private property is abolished as soon as the property qualification for the right to elect or be elected is abolished, as has occurred in many states of North America. Hamilton quite correctly interprets this fact from a political point of view as meaning:
“the masses have won a victory over the property owners and financial wealth.” [Thomas Hamilton, Men and Manners in America, 2 vols, Edinburgh, 1833, p. 146]
Is not private property abolished in idea if the non-property owner has become the legislator for the property owner? The property qualification for the suffrage is the last political form of giving recognition to private property.
Nevertheless, the political annulment of private property not only fails to abolish private property but even presupposes it. The state abolishes, in its own way, distinctions of birth, social rank, education, occupation, when it declares that birth, social rank, education, occupation, are non-political distinctions, when it proclaims, without regard to these distinction, that every member of the nation is an equal participant in national sovereignty, when it treats all elements of the real life of the nation from the standpoint of the state. Nevertheless, the state allows private property, education, occupation, to act in their way – i.e., as private property, as education, as occupation, and to exert the influence of their special nature. Far from abolishing these real distinctions, the state only exists on the presupposition of their existence; it feels itself to be a political state and asserts its universality only in opposition to these elements of its being. Hegel, therefore, defines the relation of the political state to religion quite correctly when he says:
“In order […] that the state should come into existence as the self-knowing, moral reality of the mind, its distinction from the form of authority and faith is essential. But this distinction emerges only insofar as the ecclesiastical aspect arrives at a separation within itself. It is only in this way that the state, above the particular churches, has achieved and brought into existence universality of thought, which is the principle of its form” (Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, 1st edition, p. 346).
Of course! Only in this way, above the particular elements, does the state constitute itself as universality.
The perfect political state is, by its nature, man’s species-life, as opposed to his material life. All the preconditions of this egoistic life continue to exist in civil society outside the sphere of the state, but as qualities of civil society. Where the political state has attained its true development, man – not only in thought, in consciousness, but in reality, in life – leads a twofold life, a heavenly and an earthly life: life in the political community, in which he considers himself a communal being, and life in civil society, in which he acts as a private individual, regards other men as a means, degrades himself into a means, and becomes the plaything of alien powers. The relation of the political state to civil society is just as spiritual as the relations of heaven to earth. The political state stands in the same opposition to civil society, and it prevails over the latter in the same way as religion prevails over the narrowness of the secular world – i.e., by likewise having always to acknowledge it, to restore it, and allow itself to be dominated by it. In his most immediate reality, in civil society, man is a secular being. Here, where he regards himself as a real individual, and is so regarded by others, he is a fictitious phenomenon. In the state, on the other hand, where man is regarded as a species-being, he is the imaginary member of an illusory sovereignty, is deprived of his real individual life and endowed with an unreal universality.
Man, as the adherent of a particular religion, finds himself in conflict with his citizenship and with other men as members of the community. This conflict reduces itself to the secular division between the political state and civil society. For man as a bourgeois [i.e., as a member of civil society, “bourgeois society” in German], “life in the state” is “only a semblance or a temporary exception to the essential and the rule.” Of course, the bourgeois, like the Jew, remains only sophistically in the sphere of political life, just as the citoyen [‘citizen’ in French, i.e., the participant in political life] only sophistically remains a Jew or a bourgeois. But, this sophistry is not personal. It is the sophistry of the political state itself. The difference between the merchant and the citizen [Staatsbürger], between the day-laborer and the citizen, between the landowner and the citizen, between the merchant and the citizen, between the living individual and the citizen. The contradiction in which the religious man finds himself with the political man is the same contradiction in which the bourgeois finds himself with the citoyen, and the member of civil society with his political lion’s skin.
This secular conflict, to which the Jewish question ultimately reduces itself, the relation between the political state and its preconditions, whether these are material elements, such as private property, etc., or spiritual elements, such as culture or religion, the conflict between the general interest and private interest, the schism between the political state and civil society – these secular antitheses Bauer allows to persist, whereas he conducts a polemic against their religious expression.
“It is precisely the basis of civil society, the need that ensures the continuance of this society and guarantees its necessity, which exposes its existence to continual dangers, maintains in it an element of uncertainty, and produces that continually changing mixture of poverty and riches, of distress and prosperity, and brings about change in general.” (p. 8)
Compare the whole section: “Civil Society” (pp. 8-9), which has been drawn up along the basic lines of Hegel’s philosophy of law. Civil society, in its opposition to the political state, is recognized as necessary, because the political state is recognized as necessary.
Political emancipation is, of course, a big step forward. True, it is not the final form of human emancipation in general, but it is the final form of human emancipation within the hitherto existing world order. It goes without saying that we are speaking here of real, practical emancipation.
Man emancipates himself politically from religion by banishing it from the sphere of public law to that of private law. Religion is no longer the spirit of the state, in which man behaves – although in a limited way, in a particular form, and in a particular sphere – as a species-being, in community with other men. Religion has become the spirit of civil society, of the sphere of egoism, of bellum omnium contra omnes. It is no longer the essence of community, but the essence of difference. It has become the expression of man’s separation from his community, from himself and from other men – as it was originally. It is only the abstract avowal of specific perversity, private whimsy, and arbitrariness. The endless fragmentation of religion in North America, for example, gives it even externally the form of a purely individual affair. It has been thrust among the multitude of private interests and ejected from the community as such. But one should be under no illusion about the limits of political emancipation. The division of the human being into a public man and a private man, the displacement of religion from the state into civil society, this is not a stage of political emancipation but its completion; this emancipation, therefore, neither abolished the real religiousness of man, nor strives to do so.
The decomposition of man into Jew and citizen, Protestant and citizen, religious man and citizen, is neither a deception directed against citizenhood, nor is it a circumvention of political emancipation, it is political emancipation itself, the political method of emancipating oneself from religion. Of course, in periods when the political state as such is born violently out of civil society, when political liberation is the form in which men strive to achieve their liberation, the state can and must go as far as the abolition of religion, the destruction of religion. But it can do so only in the same way that it proceeds to the abolition of private property, to the maximum, to confiscation, to progressive taxation, just as it goes as far as the abolition of life, the guillotine. At times of special self-confidence, political life seeks to suppress its prerequisite, civil society and the elements composing this society, and to constitute itself as the real species-life of man, devoid of contradictions. But, it can achieve this only by coming into violent contradiction with its own conditions of life, only by declaring the revolution to be permanent, and, therefore, the political drama necessarily ends with the re-establishment of religion, private property, and all elements of civil society, just as war ends with peace.
Indeed, the perfect Christian state is not the so-called Christian state – which acknowledges Christianity as its basis, as the state religion, and, therefore, adopts an exclusive attitude towards other religions. On the contrary, the perfect Christian state is the atheistic state, the democratic state, the state which relegates religion to a place among the other elements of civil society. The state which is still theological, which still officially professes Christianity as its creed, which still does not dare to proclaim itself as a state, has, in its reality as a state, not yet succeeded in expressing the human basis – of which Christianity is the high-flown expression – in a secular, human form. The so-called Christian state is simply nothing more than a non-state, since it is not Christianity as a religion, but only the human background of the Christian religion, which can find its expression in actual human creations.
The so-called Christian state is the Christian negation of the state, but by no means the political realization of Christianity. The state which still professes Christianity in the form of religion, does not yet profess it in the form appropriate to the state, for it still has a religious attitude towards religion – that is to say, it is not the true implementation of the human basis of religion, because it still relies on the unreal, imaginary form of this human core. The so-called Christian state is the imperfect state, and the Christian religion is regarded by it as the supplementation and sanctification of its imperfection. For the Christian state, therefore, religion necessarily becomes a means; hence, it is a hypocritical state. It makes a great difference whether the complete state, because of the defect inherent in the general nature of the state, counts religion among its presuppositions, or whether the incomplete state, because of the defect inherent in its particular existence as a defective state, declares that religion is its basis. In the latter case, religion becomes imperfect politics. In the former case, the imperfection even of consummate politics becomes evident in religion. The so-called Christian state needs the Christian religion in order to complete itself as a state. The democratic state, the real state, does not need religion for its political completion. On the contrary, it can disregard religion because in it the human basis of religion is realized in a secular manner. The so-called Christian state, on the other hand, has a political attitude to religion and a religious attitude to politics. By degrading the forms of the state to mere semblance, it equally degrades religion to mere semblance.
In order to make this contradiction clearer, let us consider Bauer’s projection of the Christian state, a projection based on his observation of the Christian-German state.
“Recently,” says Bauer, “in order to prove the impossibility or non-existence of a Christian state, reference has frequently been made to those sayings in the Gospel with which the [present-day] state not only does not comply, but cannot possibly comply, if it does not want to dissolve itself completely [as a state].” “But the matter cannot be disposed of so easily. What do these Gospel sayings demand? Supernatural renunciation of self, submission to the authority of revelation, a turning-away from the state, the abolition of secular conditions. Well, the Christian state demands and accomplishes all that. It has assimilated the spirit of the Gospel, and if it does not reproduce this spirit in the same terms as the Gospel, that occurs only because it expresses this spirit in political forms, i.e., in forms which, it is true, are taken from the political system in this world, but which in the religious rebirth that they have to undergo become degraded to a mere semblance. This is a turning-away from the state while making use of political forms for its realization.” (p. 55)
Bauer then explains that the people of a Christian state is only a non-people, no longer having a will of its own, but whose true existence lies in the leader to whom it is subjected, although this leader by his origin and nature is alien to it – i.e., given by God and imposed on the people without any co-operation on its part. Bauer declares that the laws of such a people are not its own creation, but are actual revelations, that its supreme chief needs privileged intermediaries with the people in the strict sense, with the masses, and that the masses themselves are divided into a multitude of particular groupings which are formed and determined by chance, which are differentiated by their interests, their particular passions and prejudices, and obtain permission as a privilege, to isolate themselves from one another, etc. (p. 56)
However, Bauer himself says:
“Politics, if it is to be nothing but religion, ought not to be politics, just as the cleaning of saucepans, if it is to be accepted as a religious matter, ought not to be regarded as a matter of domestic economy.” (p. 108)
In the Christian-German state, however, religion is an “economic matter” just as “economic matters” belong to the sphere of religion. The domination of religion in the Christian-German state is the religion of domination.
The separation of the “spirit of the Gospel” from the “letter of the Gospel” is an irreligious act. A state which makes the Gospel speak in the language of politics – that is, in another language than that of the Holy Ghost – commits sacrilege, if not in human eyes, then in the eyes of its own religion. The state which acknowledges Christianity as its supreme criterion, and the Bible as its Charter, must be confronted with the words of Holy Scripture, for every word of Scripture is holy. This state, as well as the human rubbish on which it is based, is caught in a painful contradiction that is insoluble from the standpoint of religious consciousness when it is referred to those sayings of the Gospel with which it “not only does not comply, but cannot possibly comply, if it does not want to dissolve itself completely as a state.” And why does it not want to dissolve itself completely? The state itself cannot give an answer either to itself or to others. In its own consciousness, the official Christian state is an imperative, the realization of which is unattainable, the state can assert the reality of its existence only by lying to itself, and therefore always remains in its own eyes an object of doubt, an unreliable, problematic object. Criticism is, therefore, fully justified in forcing the state that relies on the Bible into a mental derangement in which it no longer knows whether it is an illusion or a reality, and in which the infamy of its secular aims, for which religion serves as a cloak, comes into insoluble conflict with the sincerity of its religious consciousness, for which religion appears as the aim of the world. This state can only save itself from its inner torment if it becomes the police agent of the Catholic Church. In relation to the church, which declares the secular power to be its servant, the state is powerless, the secular power which claims to be the rule of the religious spirit is powerless.
It is, indeed, estrangement which matters in the so-called Christian state, but not man. The only man who counts, the king, is a being specifically different from other men, and is, moreover, a religious being, directly linked with heaven, with God. The relationships which prevail here are still relationships dependent of faith. The religious spirit, therefore, is still not really secularized.
But, furthermore, the religious spirit cannot be really secularized, for what is it in itself but the non-secular form of a stage in the development of the human mind? The religious spirit can only be secularized insofar as the stage of development of the human mind of which it is the religious expression makes its appearance and becomes constituted in its secular form. This takes place in the democratic state. Not Christianity, but the human basis of Christianity is the basis of this state. Religion remains the ideal, non-secular consciousness of its members, because religion is the ideal form of the stage of human development achieved in this state.
The members of the political state are religious owing to the dualism between individual life and species-life, between the life of civil society and political life. They are religious because men treat the political life of the state, an area beyond their real individuality, as if it were their true life. They are religious insofar as religion here is the spirit of civil society, expressing the separation and remoteness of man from man. Political democracy is Christian since in it man, not merely one man but everyman, ranks as sovereign, as the highest being, but it is man in his uncivilized, unsocial form, man in his fortuitous existence, man just as he is, man as he has been corrupted by the whole organization of our society, who has lost himself, been alienated, and handed over to the rule of inhuman conditions and elements – in short, man who is not yet a real species-being. That which is a creation of fantasy, a dream, a postulate of Christianity, i.e., the sovereignty of man – but man as an alien being different from the real man – becomes, in democracy, tangible reality, present existence, and secular principle.
In the perfect democracy, the religious and theological consciousness itself is in its own eyes the more religious and the more theological because it is apparently without political significance, without worldly aims, the concern of a disposition that shuns the world, the expression of intellectual narrow-mindedness, the product of arbitrariness and fantasy, and because it is a life that is really of the other world. Christianity attains, here, the practical expression of its universal-religious significance in that the most diverse world outlooks are grouped alongside one another in the form of Christianity and still more because it does not require other people to profess Christianity, but only religion in general, any kind of religion (cf. Beaumont’s work quoted above). The religious consciousness revels in the wealth of religious contradictions and religious diversity.
We have, thus, shown that political emancipation from religion leaves religion in existence, although not a privileged religion. The contradiction in which the adherent of a particular religion finds himself involved in relation to his citizenship is only one aspect of the universal secular contradiction between the political state and civil society. The consummation of the Christian state is the state which acknowledges itself as a state and disregards the religion of its members. The emancipation of the state from religion is not the emancipation of the real man from religion.
Therefore, we do not say to the Jews, as Bauer does: You cannot be emancipated politically without emancipating yourselves radically from Judaism. On the contrary, we tell them: Because you can be emancipated politically without renouncing Judaism completely and incontrovertibly, political emancipation itself is not human emancipation. If you Jews want to be emancipated politically, without emancipating yourselves humanly, the half-hearted approach and contradiction is not in you alone, it is inherent in the nature and category of political emancipation. If you find yourself within the confines of this category, you share in a general confinement. Just as the state evangelizes when, although it is a state, it adopts a Christian attitude towards the Jews, so the Jew acts politically when, although a Jew, he demands civic rights.[ * ]
But, if a man, although a Jew, can be emancipated politically and receive civic rights, can he lay claim to the so-called rights of man and receive them? Bauer denies it.
“The question is whether the Jew as such, that is, the Jew who himself admits that he is compelled by his true nature to live permanently in separation from other men, is capable of receiving the universal rights of man and of conceding them to others.”
“For the Christian world, the idea of the rights of man was only discovered in the last century. It is not innate in men; on the contrary, it is gained only in a struggle against the historical traditions in which hitherto man was brought up. Thus the rights of man are not a gift of nature, not a legacy from past history, but the reward of the struggle against the accident of birth and against the privileges which up to now have been handed down by history from generation to generation. These rights are the result of culture, and only one who has earned and deserved them can possess them.”
“Can the Jew really take possession of them? As long as he is a Jew, the restricted nature which makes him a Jew is bound to triumph over the human nature which should link him as a man with other men, and will separate him from non-Jews. He declares by this separation that the particular nature which makes him a Jew is his true, highest nature, before which human nature has to give way.”
“Similarly, the Christian as a Christian cannot grant the rights of man.” (p. 19-20)
According to Bauer, man has to sacrifice the “privilege of faith” to be able to receive the universal rights of man. Let us examine, for a moment, the so-called rights of man – to be precise, the rights of man in their authentic form, in the form which they have among those who discovered them, the North Americans and the French. These rights of man are, in part, political rights, rights which can only be exercised in community with others. Their content is participation in the community, and specifically in the political community, in the life of the state. They come within the category of political freedom, the category of civic rights, which, as we have seen, in no way presuppose the incontrovertible and positive abolition of religion – nor, therefore, of Judaism. There remains to be examined the other part of the rights of man – the droits de l’homme, insofar as these differ from the droits du citoyen.
Included among them is freedom of conscience, the right to practice any religion one chooses. The privilege of faith is expressly recognized either as a right of man or as the consequence of a right of man, that of liberty.
Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen, 1791, Article 10: “No one is to be subjected to annoyance because of his opinions, even religious opinions.” “The freedom of every man to practice the religion of which he is an adherent.”
Declaration of the Rights of Man, etc., 1793, includes among the rights of man, Article 7: “The free exercise of religion.” Indeed, in regard to man’s right to express his thoughts and opinions, to hold meetings, and to exercise his religion, it is even stated: “The necessity of proclaiming these rights presupposes either the existence or the recent memory of despotism.” Compare the Constitution of 1795, Section XIV, Article 354.
Constitution of Pennsylvania, Article 9, § 3: “All men have received from nature the imprescriptible right to worship the Almighty according to the dictates of their conscience, and no one can be legally compelled to follow, establish, or support against his will any religion or religious ministry. No human authority can, in any circumstances, intervene in a matter of conscience or control the forces of the soul.”
Constitution of New Hampshire, Article 5 and 6: “Among these natural rights some are by nature inalienable since nothing can replace them. The rights of conscience are among them.” (Beaumont, op. cit., pp. 213,214)
Incompatibility between religion and the rights of man is to such a degree absent from the concept of the rights of man that, on the contrary, a man’s right to be religious, in any way he chooses, to practise his own particular religion, is expressly included among the rights of man. The privilege of faith is a universal right of man.
The droits de l’homme, the rights of man, are, as such, distinct from the droits du citoyen, the rights of the citizen. Who is homme as distinct from citoyen? None other than the member of civil society. Why is the member of civil society called “man,” simply man; why are his rights called the rights of man? How is this fact to be explained? From the relationship between the political state and civil society, from the nature of political emancipation.
Above all, we note the fact that the so-called rights of man, the droits de l’homme as distinct from the droits du citoyen, are nothing but the rights of a member of civil society – i.e., the rights of egoistic man, of man separated from other men and from the community. Let us hear what the most radical Constitution, the Constitution of 1793, has to say:
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
Article 2. “These rights, etc., (the natural and imprescriptible rights) are: equality, liberty, security, property.”
What constitutes liberty?
Article 6. “Liberty is the power which man has to do everything that does not harm the rights of others,” or, according to the Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1791: “Liberty consists in being able to do everything which does not harm others.”
Liberty, therefore, is the right to do everything that harms no one else. The limits within which anyone can act without harming someone else are defined by law, just as the boundary between two fields is determined by a boundary post. It is a question of the liberty of man as an isolated monad, withdrawn into himself. Why is the Jew, according to Bauer, incapable of acquiring the rights of man?
“As long as he is a Jew, the restricted nature which makes him a Jew is bound to triumph over the human nature which should link him as a man with other men, and will separate him from non-Jews.”
But, the right of man to liberty is based not on the association of man with man, but on the separation of man from man. It is the right of this separation, the right of the restricted individual, withdrawn into himself.
The practical application of man’s right to liberty is man’s right to private property.
What constitutes man’s right to private property?
Article 16. (Constitution of 1793): “The right of property is that which every citizen has of enjoying and of disposing at his discretion of his goods and income, of the fruits of his labor and industry.”
The right of man to private property is, therefore, the right to enjoy one’s property and to dispose of it at one’s discretion (à son gré), without regard to other men, independently of society, the right of self-interest. This individual liberty and its application form the basis of civil society. It makes every man see in other men not the realization of his own freedom, but the barrier to it. But, above all, it proclaims the right of man
“of enjoying and of disposing at his discretion of his goods and income, of the fruits of his labor and industry.”
There remain the other rights of man: égalité and sûreté.
Equality, used here in its non-political sense, is nothing but the equality of the liberté described above – namely: each man is to the same extent regarded as such a self-sufficient monad. The Constitution of 1795 defines the concept of this equality, in accordance with this significance, as follows:
Article 3 (Constitution of 1795): “Equality consists in the law being the same for all, whether it protects or punishes.”
Article 8 (Constitution of 1793): “Security consists in the protection afforded by society to each of its members for the preservation of his person, his rights, and his property.”
Security is the highest social concept of civil society, the concept of police, expressing the fact that the whole of society exists only in order to guarantee to each of its members the preservation of his person, his rights, and his property. It is in this sense that Hegel calls civil society “the state of need and reason.”
The concept of security does not raise civil society above its egoism. On the contrary, security is the insurance of egoism.
None of the so-called rights of man, therefore, go beyond egoistic man, beyond man as a member of civil society – that is, an individual withdrawn into himself, into the confines of his private interests and private caprice, and separated from the community. In the rights of man, he is far from being conceived as a species-being; on the contrary, species-life itself, society, appears as a framework external to the individuals, as a restriction of their original independence. The sole bond holding them together is natural necessity, need and private interest, the preservation of their property and their egoistic selves.
It is puzzling enough that a people which is just beginning to liberate itself, to tear down all the barriers between its various sections, and to establish a political community, that such a people solemnly proclaims (Declaration of 1791) the rights of egoistic man separated from his fellow men and from the community, and that indeed it repeats this proclamation at a moment when only the most heroic devotion can save the nation, and is therefore imperatively called for, at a moment when the sacrifice of all the interest of civil society must be the order of the day, and egoism must be punished as a crime. (Declaration of the Rights of Man, etc., of 1793) This fact becomes still more puzzling when we see that the political emancipators go so far as to reduce citizenship, and the political community, to a mere means for maintaining these so-called rights of man, that, therefore, the citoyen is declared to be the servant of egotistic homme, that the sphere in which man acts as a communal being is degraded to a level below the sphere in which he acts as a partial being, and that, finally, it is not man as citoyen, but man as private individual [bourgeois] who is considered to be the essential and true man.
“The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man.” (Declaration of the Rights, etc., of 1791, Article 2)
“Government is instituted in order to guarantee man the enjoyment of his natural and imprescriptible rights.” (Declaration, etc., of 1793, Article 1)
Hence, even in moments when its enthusiasm still has the freshness of youth and is intensified to an extreme degree by the force of circumstances, political life declares itself to be a mere means, whose purpose is the life of civil society. It is true that its revolutionary practice is in flagrant contradiction with its theory. Whereas, for example, security is declared one of the rights of man, violation of the privacy of correspondence is openly declared to be the order of the day. Whereas “unlimited freedom of the press” (Constitution of 1793, Article 122) is guaranteed as a consequence of the right of man to individual liberty, freedom of the press is totally destroyed, because “freedom of the press should not be permitted when it endangers public liberty.” (“Robespierre jeune,” Historie parlementaire de la Révolution française by Buchez and Roux, vol.28, p. 159) That is to say, therefore: The right of man to liberty ceases to be a right as soon as it comes into conflict with political life, whereas in theory political life is only the guarantee of human rights, the rights of the individual, and therefore must be abandoned as soon as it comes into contradiction with its aim, with these rights of man. But, practice is merely the exception, theory is the rule. But even if one were to regard revolutionary practice as the correct presentation of the relationship, there would still remain the puzzle of why the relationship is turned upside-down in the minds of the political emancipators and the aim appears as the means, while the means appears as the aim. This optical illusion of their consciousness would still remain a puzzle, although now a psychological, a theoretical puzzle.
The puzzle is easily solved.
Political emancipation is, at the same time, the dissolution of the old society on which the state alienated from the people, the sovereign power, is based. What was the character of the old society? It can be described in one word – feudalism. The character of the old civil society was directly political – that is to say, the elements of civil life, for example, property, or the family, or the mode of labor, were raised to the level of elements of political life in the form of seigniory, estates, and corporations. In this form, they determined the relation of the individual to the state as a whole – i.e., his political relation, that is, his relation of separation and exclusion from the other components of society. For that organization of national life did not raise property or labor to the level of social elements; on the contrary, it completed their separation from the state as a whole and constituted them as discrete societies within society. Thus, the vital functions and conditions of life of civil society remained, nevertheless, political, although political in the feudal sense – that is to say, they secluded the individual from the state as a whole and they converted the particular relation of his corporation to the state as a whole into his general relation to the life of the nation, just as they converted his particular civil activity and situation into his general activity and situation. As a result of this organization, the unity of the state, and also the consciousness, will, and activity of this unity, the general power of the state, are likewise bound to appear as the particular affair of a ruler and of his servants, isolated from the people.
The political revolution which overthrew this sovereign power and raised state affairs to become affairs of the people, which constituted the political state as a matter of general concern, that is, as a real state, necessarily smashed all estates, corporations, guilds, and privileges, since they were all manifestations of the separation of the people from the community. The political revolution thereby abolished the political character of civil society. It broke up civil society into its simple component parts; on the one hand, the individuals; on the other hand, the material and spiritual elements constituting the content of the life and social position of these individuals. It set free the political spirit, which had been, as it were, split up, partitioned, and dispersed in the various blind alleys of feudal society. It gathered the dispersed parts of the political spirit, freed it from its intermixture with civil life, and established it as the sphere of the community, the general concern of the nation, ideally independent of those particular elements of civil life. A person’s distinct activity and distinct situation in life were reduced to a merely individual significance. They no longer constituted the general relation of the individual to the state as a whole. Public affairs as such, on the other hand, became the general affair of each individual, and the political function became the individual’s general function.
But, the completion of the idealism of the state was at the same time the completion of the materialism of civil society. Throwing off the political yoke meant at the same time throwing off the bonds which restrained the egoistic spirit of civil society. Political emancipation was, at the same time, the emancipation of civil society from politics, from having even the semblance of a universal content.
Feudal society was resolved into its basic element – man, but man as he really formed its basis – egoistic man.
This man, the member of civil society, is thus the basis, the precondition, of the political state. He is recognized as such by this state in the rights of man.
The liberty of egoistic man and the recognition of this liberty, however, is rather the recognition of the unrestrained movement of the spiritual and material elements which form the content of his life.
Hence, man was not freed from religion, he received religious freedom. He was not freed from property, he received freedom to own property. He was not freed from the egoism of business, he received freedom to engage in business.
The establishment of the political state and the dissolution of civil society into independent individuals – whose relation with one another epend on law, just as the relations of men in the system of estates and guilds depended on privilege – is accomplished by one and the same act. Man as a member of civil society, unpolitical man, inevitably appears, however, as the natural man. The “rights of man” appears as “natural rights,” because conscious activity is concentrated on the political act. Egoistic man is the passive result of the dissolved society, a result that is simply found in existence, an object of immediate certainty, therefore a natural object. The political revolution resolves civil life into its component parts, without revolutionizing these components themselves or subjecting them to criticism. It regards civil society, the world of needs, labor, private interests, civil law, as the basis of its existence, as a precondition not requiring further substantiation and therefore as its natural basis. Finally, man as a member of civil society is held to be man in the proper sense, homme as distinct from citoyen, because he is man in his sensuous, individual, immediate existence, whereas political man is only abstract, artificial man, man as an allegorical, juridical person. The real man is recognized only in the shape of the egoistic individual, the true man is recognized only in the shape of the abstract citizen.
Therefore, Rousseau correctly described the abstract idea of political man as follows:
“Whoever dares undertake to establish a people’s institutions must feel himself capable of changing, as it were, human nature, of transforming each individual, who by himself is a complete and solitary whole, into a part of a larger whole, from which, in a sense, the individual receives his life and his being, of substituting a limited and mental existence for the physical and independent existence. He has to take from man his own powers, and give him in exchange alien powers which he cannot employ without the help of other men.”
All emancipation is a reduction of the human world and relationships to man himself.
Political emancipation is the reduction of man, on the one hand, to a member of civil society, to an egoistic, independent individual, and, on the other hand, to a citizen, a juridical person.
Only when the real, individual man re-absorbs in himself the abstract citizen, and as an individual human being has become a species-being in his everyday life, in his particular work, and in his particular situation, only when man has recognized and organized his “own powers” as social powers, and, consequently, no longer separates social power from himself in the shape of political power, only then will human emancipation have been accomplished.
“The Capacity of Present-day Jews and Christians to Become Free,”
Einundzwanzig Bogen aus der Schweiz, pp. 56-71
It is in this form that Bauer deals with the relation between the Jewish and the Christian religions, and also with their relation to criticism. Their relation to criticism is their relation “to the capacity to become free.”
The result arrived at is:
“The Christian has to surmount only one stage, namely, that of his religion, in order to give up religion altogether,”
and therefore become free.
“The Jew, on the other hand, has to break not only with his Jewish nature, but also with the development towards perfecting his religion, a development which has remained alien to him.” (p. 71)
Thus, Bauer here transforms the question of Jewish emancipation into a purely religious question. The theological problem as to whether the Jew or the Christian has the better prospect of salvation is repeated here in the enlightened form: which of them is more capable of emancipation. No longer is the question asked: Is it Judaism or Christianity that makes a man free? On the contrary, the question is now: Which makes man freer, the negation of Judaism or the negation of Christianity?
“If the Jews want to become free, they should profess belief not in Christianity, but in the dissolution of Christianity, in the dissolution of religion in general, that is to say, in enlightenment, criticism, and its consequences, free humanity.” (p. 70)
For the Jew, it is still a matter of a profession of faith, but no longer a profession of belief in Christianity, but of belief in Christianity in dissolution.
Bauer demands of the Jews that they should break with the essence of the Christian religion, a demand which, as he says himself, does not arise out of the development of Judaism.
Since Bauer, at the end of his work on the Jewish question, had conceived Judaism only as crude religious criticism of Christianity, and therefore saw in it “merely” a religious significance, it could be foreseen that the emancipation of the Jews, too, would be transformed into a philosophical-theological act.
Bauer considers that the ideal, abstract nature of the Jew, his religion, is his entire nature. Hence, he rightly concludes:
“The Jew contributes nothing to mankind if he himself disregards his narrow law,” if he invalidates his entire Judaism. (p. 65)
Accordingly, the relation between Jews and Christians becomes the following: the sole interest of the Christian in the emancipation of the Jew is a general human interest, a theoretical interest. Judaism is a fact that offends the religious eye of the Christian. As soon as his eye ceases to be religious, this fact ceases to be offensive. The emancipation of the Jew is, in itself, not a task for the Christian.
The Jew, on the other hand, in order to emancipate himself, has to carry out not only his own work, but also that of the Christian – i.e., the Critique of the Evangelical History of the Synoptics and the Life of Jesus, etc.
“It is up to them to deal with it: they themselves will decide their fate; but history is not to be trifled with.” (p. 71)
We are trying to break with the theological formulation of the question. For us, the question of the Jew’s capacity for emancipation becomes the question: What particular social element has to be overcome in order to abolish Judaism? For the present-day Jew’s capacity for emancipation is the relation of Judaism to the emancipation of the modern world. This relation necessarily results from the special position of Judaism in the contemporary enslaved world.
Let us consider the actual, worldly Jew – not the Sabbath Jew, as Bauer does, but the everyday Jew.
Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew.
What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.
Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our time.
An organization of society which would abolish the preconditions for huckstering, and therefore the possibility of huckstering, would make the Jew impossible. His religious consciousness would be dissipated like a thin haze in the real, vital air of society. On the other hand, if the Jew recognizes that this practical nature of his is futile and works to abolish it, he extricates himself from his previous development and works for human emancipation as such and turns against the supreme practical expression of human self-estrangement.
We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time, an element which through historical development – to which in this harmful respect the Jews have zealously contributed – has been brought to its present high level, at which it must necessarily begin to disintegrate.
In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.
The Jew has already emancipated himself in a Jewish way.
“The Jew, who in Vienna, for example, is only tolerated, determines the fate of the whole Empire by his financial power. The Jew, who may have no rights in the smallest German state, decides the fate of Europe. While corporations and guilds refuse to admit Jews, or have not yet adopted a favorable attitude towards them, the audacity of industry mocks at the obstinacy of the material institutions.” (Bruno Bauer, The Jewish Question, p. 114)
This is no isolated fact. The Jew has emancipated himself in a Jewish manner, not only because he has acquired financial power, but also because, through him and also apart from him, money has become a world power and the practical Jewish spirit has become the practical spirit of the Christian nations. The Jews have emancipated themselves insofar as the Christians have become Jews.
Captain Hamilton, for example, reports:
“The devout and politically free inhabitant of New England is a kind of Laocoön who makes not the least effort to escape from the serpents which are crushing him. Mammon is his idol which he adores not only with his lips but with the whole force of his body and mind. In his view the world is no more than a Stock Exchange, and he is convinced that he has no other destiny here below than to become richer than his neighbor. Trade has seized upon all his thoughts, and he has no other recreation than to exchange objects. When he travels he carries, so to speak, his goods and his counter on his back and talks only of interest and profit. If he loses sight of his own business for an instant it is only in order to pry into the business of his competitors.”
Indeed, in North America, the practical domination of Judaism over the Christian world has achieved as its unambiguous and normal expression that the preaching of the Gospel itself and the Christian ministry have become articles of trade, and the bankrupt trader deals in the Gospel just as the Gospel preacher who has become rich goes in for business deals.
“The man who you see at the head of a respectable congregation began as a trader; his business having failed, he became a minister. The other began as a priest but as soon as he had some money at his disposal he left the pulpit to become a trader. In the eyes of very many people, the religious ministry is a veritable business career.” (Beaumont, op. cit., pp. 185,186)
According to Bauer, it is
“a fictitious state of affairs when in theory the Jew is deprived of political rights, whereas in practice he has immense power and exerts his political influence en gros, although it is curtailed en détail.” (Die Judenfrage, p. 114)
The contradiction that exists between the practical political power of the Jew and his political rights is the contradiction between politics and the power of money in general. Although theoretically the former is superior to the latter, in actual fact politics has become the serf of financial power.
Judaism has held its own alongside Christianity, not only as religious criticism of Christianity, not only as the embodiment of doubt in the religious derivation of Christianity, but equally because the practical Jewish spirit, Judaism, has maintained itself and even attained its highest development in Christian society. The Jew, who exists as a distinct member of civil society, is only a particular manifestation of the Judaism of civil society.
Judaism continues to exist not in spite of history, but owing to history.
The Jew is perpetually created by civil society from its own entrails.
What, in itself, was the basis of the Jewish religion? Practical need, egoism.
The monotheism of the Jew, therefore, is in reality the polytheism of the many needs, a polytheism which makes even the lavatory an object of divine law. Practical need, egoism, is the principle of civil society, and as such appears in pure form as soon as civil society has fully given birth to the political state. The god of practical need and self-interest is money.
Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man – and turns them into commodities. Money is the universal self-established value of all things. It has, therefore, robbed the whole world – both the world of men and nature – of its specific value. Money is the estranged essence of man’s work and man’s existence, and this alien essence dominates him, and he worships it.
The god of the Jews has become secularized and has become the god of the world. The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange.
The view of nature attained under the domination of private property and money is a real contempt for, and practical debasement of, nature; in the Jewish religion, nature exists, it is true, but it exists only in imagination.
It is in this sense that [in a 1524 pamphlet] Thomas Münzer declares it intolerable
“that all creatures have been turned into property, the fishes in the water, the birds in the air, the plants on the earth; the creatures, too, must become free.”
Contempt for theory, art, history, and for man as an end in himself, which is contained in an abstract form in the Jewish religion, is the real, conscious standpoint, the virtue of the man of money. The species-relation itself, the relation between man and woman, etc., becomes an object of trade! The woman is bought and sold.
The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general.
The groundless law of the Jew is only a religious caricature of groundless morality and right in general, of the purely formal rites with which the world of self-interest surrounds itself.
Here, too, man’s supreme relation is the legal one, his relation to laws that are valid for him not because they are laws of his own will and nature, but because they are the dominant laws and because departure from them is avenged.
Jewish Jesuitism, the same practical Jesuitism which Bauer discovers in the Talmud, is the relation of the world of self-interest to the laws governing that world, the chief art of which consists in the cunning circumvention of these laws.
Indeed, the movement of this world within its framework of laws is bound to be a continual suspension of law.
Judaism could not develop further as a religion, could not develop further theoretically, because the world outlook of practical need is essentially limited and is completed in a few strokes.
By its very nature, the religion of practical need could find its consummation not in theory, but only in practice, precisely because its truth is practice.
Judaism could not create a new world; it could only draw the new creations and conditions of the world into the sphere of its activity, because practical need, the rationale of which is self-interest, is passive and does not expand at will, but finds itself enlarged as a result of the continuous development of social conditions.
Judaism reaches its highest point with the perfection of civil society, but it is only in the Christian world that civil society attains perfection. Only under the dominance of Christianity, which makes all national, natural, moral, and theoretical conditions extrinsic to man, could civil society separate itself completely from the life of the state, sever all the species-ties of man, put egoism and selfish need in the place of these species-ties, and dissolve the human world into a world of atomistic individuals who are inimically opposed to one another.
Christianity sprang from Judaism. It has merged again in Judaism.
From the outset, the Christian was the theorizing Jew, the Jew is, therefore, the practical Christian, and the practical Christian has become a Jew again.
Christianity had only in semblance overcome real Judaism. It was too noble-minded, too spiritualistic to eliminate the crudity of practical need in any other way than by elevation to the skies.
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 subjected to the slavery of egoistic need and to trading.
Selling [verausserung] is the practical aspect of alienation [Entausserung]. Just as man, as long as he is in the grip of religion, is able to objectify his essential nature only by turning it into something alien, something fantastic, so under the domination of egoistic need he can be active practically, and produce objects in practice, only by putting his products, and his activity, under the domination of an alien being, and bestowing the significance of an alien entity – money – on them.
In its perfected practice, Christian egoism of heavenly bliss is necessarily transformed into the corporal egoism of the Jew, heavenly need is turned into world need, subjectivism into self-interest. We explain the tenacity of the Jew not by his religion, but, on the contrary, by the human basis of his religion – practical need, egoism.
Since in civil society the real nature of the Jew has been universally realized and secularized, civil society could not convince the Jew of the unreality of his religious nature, which is indeed only the ideal aspect of practical need. Consequently, not only in the Pentateuch and the Talmud, but in present-day society we find the nature of the modern Jew, and not as an abstract nature but as one that is in the highest degree empirical, not merely as a narrowness of the Jew, but as the Jewish narrowness of society.
Once society has succeeded in abolishing the empirical essence of Judaism – huckstering and its preconditions – the Jew will have become impossible, because his consciousness no longer has an object, because the subjective basis of Judaism, practical need, has been humanized, and because the conflict between man’s individual-sensuous existence and his species-existence has been abolished.
The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism.
On the Jewish Question and Anti-Semetism
The question at point is: “Was Marx anti-Semitic?”
The short answer to that question is of course not – he was an advocate for Jewish emancipation from capitalism, as he understood the struggles of Jews in Europe as he was Jewish himself.
The long answer is the following:
Okay, first off, Marx was Jewish himself. I don’t believe he was a practicing Jew, but he came from a jewish background. Second off, “On the Jewish Question” was a response and critique to Bauer, a member of the Young Hegelians. Marx was poking at the holes of absurdity within Bauer’s essay, which was reductionistic on how it viewed a society’s emancipation from religions. He specifically focused on Jews, in of itself antisemitic, and argued in order for Jews to emancipate themselves politically they had to renounce Judaism. Bauer continued to become increasingly more antisemitic with each of Marx’s consecutive responses. Marx argues the following in “On the Jewish Question”:
Therefore, we do not say to the Jews, as Bauer does: You cannot be emancipated politically without emancipating yourselves radically from Judaism. On the contrary, we tell them: Because you can be emancipated politically without renouncing Judaism completely and incontrovertibly, political emancipation itself is not human emancipation. If you Jews want to be emancipated politically, without emancipating yourselves humanly, the half-hearted approach and contradiction is not in you alone, it is inherent in the nature and category of political emancipation. If you find yourself within the confines of this category, you share in a general confinement. Just as the state evangelizes when, although it is a state, it adopts a Christian attitude towards the Jews, so the Jew acts politically when, although a Jew, he demands civic rights.
This is the particular passage cherry-picked by reactionaries to “prove” Marx was antisemitic:
Let us consider the actual, worldly Jew – not the Sabbath Jew, as Bauer does, but the everyday Jew. Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew. What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money. Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man – and turns them into commodities…. The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange…. The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general.[…] The Jew has emancipated himself in a Jewish manner, not only because he has acquired financial power, but also because, through him and also apart from him, money has become a world power and the practical Jewish spirit has become the practical spirit of the Christian nations.[…] In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.
I’m not sure how people who purposefully misread this try to explain what Marx means by “The Jews have emancipated themselves insofar as the Christians have become Jews.” Marx is presenting the typical antisemitic stereotyping of Jews in Germany and shows that these are instead projection of the christian bourgeoisie onto the Jews. Marx was speaking IN DEFENSE of Jews – not attacking them. Much like Hegel and other Hegelians, though, Marx saw religion as something that will disappear eventually. Unlike Bauer, Marx argues that emancipation from religion will come after the emancipation from the capitalist ruling class. Marx, like Stirner, was purposefully using irony to mock racism and prejudiced thought. Yet, Marx gets the butt-end because he’s the one who provides a much more powerful argument on how emancipation from the bourgeoisie should be carried out. Look at most people who call themselves Marxists – there are very few who are outright antagonistic towards Jews as a a cultural group. Engels, Marx’s close colleague and friend, defended his friend constantly from those using Marx’s Jewish heritage as an attack against him. Stalin himself called anti-semitism a “vestige of cannibalism.” The Soviet Union, led by Stalin, defeated the Nazis and freed Jews from concentration camps. Einstein supported Stalin for god sakes! Hell, Trotsky called himself a marxist and he was jewish too!
The following will be from the wikipedia page of On the Jewish Question, but summarize various interpretations, Marxist or not, on how this essay is not really antisemitic:
Shlomo Avineri (1964), while regarding Marx’s antisemitism as a well-known fact, points out that Marx’s philosophical criticism of Judaism has often overshadowed his forceful support for Jewish emancipation as an immediate political goal. Avineri notes that in Bauer’s debates with a number of Jewish contemporary polemicists, Marx entirely endorsed the views of the Jewish writers against Bauer. In a letter to Arnold Ruge, written March 1843, Marx writes that he intended to support a petition of the Jews to the Provincial Assembly. He explains that with the fact that while he dislikes Judaism as a religion, he also remains unconvinced by Bauer’s view (that the Jews should not be emancipated before they abandon Judaism). However, he also clarifies in the letter that his support of the petition is merely tactical, to further his efforts at weakening the Christian state.
In his book For Marx (1965), Louis Althusser claims that “in On the Jewish Question, Hegel’s Philosophy of the State, etc., and even usually in The Holy Family that “… Marx was merely applying the theory of alienation, that is, Feuerbach’s theory of ‘human nature’, to politics and the concrete activity of man, before extending it (in large part) to political economy in the Manuscripts”. He opposes a tendency according to which “Capital is no longer read as ‘On the Jewish Question’, ‘On the Jewish Question’ is read as ‘Capital'”. For Althusser, the essay “is a profoundly “ideological text”, “committed to the struggle for Communism”, but without being Marxist; “so it cannot, theoretically, be identified with the later texts which were to define historical materialism”.
David McLellan, however, has argued that “On the Jewish Question” must be understood in terms of Marx’s debates with Bruno Bauer over the nature of political emancipation in Germany. According to McLellan, Marx used the word “Judentum” in its colloquial sense of “commerce” to argue that Germans suffer, and must be emancipated from, capitalism. The second half of Marx’s essay, McLellan concludes, should be read as “an extended pun at Bauer’s expense”.
Hal Draper (1977) observed that the language of Part II of “On the Jewish Question” followed the view of the Jews’ role given in Jewish socialist Moses Hess’ essay “On the Money System”.
Yoav Peled (1992) sees Marx “shifting the debate over Jewish emancipation from the plane of theology … to the plane of sociology”, thereby circumventing one of Bauer’s main arguments. In Peled’s view, “this was less than a satisfactory response to Bauer, but it enabled Marx to present a powerful case for emancipation while, at the same time, launching his critique of economic alienation”. He concludes that “the philosophical advances made by Marx in ‘On the Jewish Question’ were necessitated by, and integrally related to, his commitment to Jewish emancipation”.
Others argue that “On the Jewish Question” is primarily a critique of liberal rights, rather than a criticism of Judaism, and that apparently antisemitic passages such as “Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist” should be read in that context.
For sociologist Robert Fine (2006), Bauer’s essay “echoed the generally prejudicial representation of the Jew as ‘merchant’ and ‘moneyman'”, whereas “Marx’s aim was to defend the right of Jews to full civil and political emancipation (that is, to equal civil and political rights) alongside all other German citizens”. Fine argues that “[the] line of attack Marx adopts is not to contrast Bauer’s crude stereotype of the Jews to the actual situation of Jews in Germany”, but “to reveal that Bauer has no inkling of the nature of modern democracy”
The political-scientist Professor Iain Hamphsher-Monk wrote in his textbook: “This work [“On The Jewish Question”] has been cited as evidence for Marx’s supposed antisemitism, but only the most superficial reading of it could sustain such an interpretation.” Francis Wheen says: “Those critics, who see this as a foretaste of ‘Mein Kampf’, overlook one, essential point: in spite of the clumsy phraseology and crude stereotyping, the essay was actually written as a defense of the Jews. It was a retort to Bruno Bauer, who had argued that Jews should not be granted full civic rights and freedoms unless they were baptised as Christians”. Although he claimed to be an atheist, Bruno Bauer viewed Judaism as an inferior civilization.
It frustrates me that these absolute falsehoods are spread against Marx simply because the ruling class assumes people are bad at reading.