The Clare Spark Blog

June 22, 2010

Moishe Postone on anti-Zionism: an unorthodox view from the Left

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 8:04 pm
Tags: , , , (Download this link for Postone’s views.

  Here is one Marxist perspective that sees much of the history of antisemitism and anti-Zionism as I have related it on this website.  I am especially pleased that he makes a distinction between antisemitism and racism.  Note that Postone faults the Left with failure to envision a post-capitalist society.  Also that he is no Third Worlder.

    However, I don’t see how he and other Marxists of my acquaintance can read Marx’s “On The Jewish Question,” and not see that Marx was himself guilty of that which Postone criticizes. I strongly recommend Frank E. Manuel’s short study, “Requiem for Karl Marx.” If anyone wants to criticize Manuel, himself a great historian and former Leftist (in the mid-1930s he left academe for a while to develop a curriculum for the labor movement, moreover he wrote a book in support of the Communist position in the Spanish Civil War), I welcome such a rational critique and will post it here.


  1. Dave,

    A good place to start with Postone is his essay “History and Helplessness” – which you can find here:

    The essay expands and deepens the critique of anti-semetism that Postone offers in the interview. If you’re up for some more difficult reading, check out “Time, Labor, and Social Domination” which offers a full reinterpretation of Marx’s critical theory.

    I want to disagree, very slightly, with Ms. Spark. Postone’s perspective is unusual on the left. A great many so-called progressives have given in to the worst forms of third-worldism and native-worship. But there’s strand on the Left that attempts to critique and overcome such perversions of Marx’s emancipatory politics. The project I participate in, Platypus, attempts such a critique. Our motto: “The Left is Dead, Long Live the Left” There’s also a handful of groups and thinkers that do somewhat analogous work. You start by looking at the Anti-deutsch movement in Germany, or check out the work of Adolph Reed.

    Comment by Max Katz — July 4, 2010 @ 6:10 pm | Reply

  2. clare, a cogent analysis. can you recommend any of postone’s published work? my attitude toward marxism was fundamentally shaped by kolakowski’s(a former stalinist) “main currents of marxism.” hence, it is mostly negative. nonetheless, i always find some marxist analyses to be edifying. by the way, what do you think of kolakowski?

    incidentally, i attended a talk you gave in la many years ago while still in graduate school at ucla. it was entitled “how do we know whether we are fascists”. or something like that. i still don’t know whether I’m a fascist.

    Comment by david gansel — June 25, 2010 @ 8:50 pm | Reply

    • Thanks, Dave. My neocon friends think very highly of Kolakowski. As for fascism, what it was continues to be hotly debated. I think that it is best to know the contending parties, and see how they appropriate a set of statisms that were specific to a particular interwar context: the reaction to the Soviet coup in 1917, the Versailles conference, the desire of many countries to end class warfare with Keynesian economics during the Depression (the causes of which remain contested), and the continued fury of enlisted men in response to the slaughter and mismanagement of the Great War.
      Today the word “fascism” is thrown around to smear either the statists of the Obama administration or the Tea Party, depending on who is throwing the mud. As a synthesis of left and right in a unique postwar context, the various “fascisms” are too hard for many people to comprehend.
      I can’t say anything further about Postone, as he was recommended by a friend. But he is very atypical on the Left.

      Comment by clarespark — June 26, 2010 @ 8:05 pm | Reply

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