YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

March 27, 2015

Did German/Austrian Jews assimilate to multiculturalism?

"Weltstar" Peter Pulzer getting award at U. of Vienna

“Weltstar” Peter Pulzer getting award at U. of Vienna

I have just finished reading a classic work by Peter G. J. Pulzer, The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria (1964), focusing on the late 19th C. and the pre-WW1 period (sometimes called the age of decadence). Since American conservatives frequently accuse “cultural Marxists” (i.e. German refugees of Jewish descent) of cultivating the foul soil in which socialism/communism has flourished on “the Left,” I thought that this German Jew, an academic Weltstar in Europe, who distanced himself from traditional Judaism, would be worth quoting and commenting upon. (On the Frankfurt Institute refugees see https://clarespark.com/2013/07/31/the-nefarious-cultural-marxists/.) (On Pulzer’s background see http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_G._J._Pulzer.)

First, he seeks to distinguish the anti-Semites from the Social Democrats (i.e., in Germany, the Communists and Socialists), for he is no anti-Semite himself:

“Despite certain points of superficial resemblance—the radical language, the popular method of campaigning, the rejection of Liberal economics [i.e., laissez-faire capitalism, CS]—anti-Semites and Social Democrats were at opposite poles of the political world and their mutual enmity was deep and lasting. …in its moral appeal Marxian Socialism was clearly related to nineteenth-century Liberalism. It was inspired by a revulsion against tyranny and poverty, by optimism and a belief in progress, by the assumption that if a formula could be found to explain how society worked, spread by education, and applied, the world’s evils could be abolished. It was international in its appeal, its morality was universal. Against these factors…anti-Semitism was concerned not with more emancipation, but with less, with the interests of traditional, not of new classes, with the primacy of the national and the integral over the universal. In particular it could not fail to notice that many of the founders and leaders of international Socialism were Jews. (Chapter 27, p.259)”

A few pages later, Pulzer continues to attach himself to his environment (though he never admits his political affiliation): “It is in the main those Jews who attempted to cut themselves loose most completely from their environment who became the Socialist leaders…They were intellectuals who disavowed their own heritage and background and yet did not feel at home in the new tradition to which they tried to adapt themselves. It was not that they deliberately took up a revolutionary posture in defiance of some snub or indignity they had suffered, rather that they identified themselves emotionally with the ideology of protest that is nature to the uprooted intellectual, whether he is an “angry young man” or a bomb-throwing narodnik. Above all the ideologies of the Left, which promised to emancipate men from restrictive or divisive loyalties, also helped the Jew to reidentify himself with society.”

Now comes the most shocking part, where Pulzer reveals himself as the full-blown moderate man, not too hot, not too cold, oddly owning some of the antisemitic tropes he had identified in earlier chapters: “The influence of the closed Jewish community, too, continued to haunt the deraciné, however much he might try to exorcise it. It endowed him, first, with an exaggeratedly intellectual and cerebral view of the world’s problems, derived from the enforced, undilutedly urban culture of Jewish life and the Talmudic scholasticism which was the mainstay of ghetto education. (This gift also tended to make the Jew better than financial operations than industrial management and, with his international connections, to become the ideal “middleman.”) Second, he was heir to that legacy of the puritanical visionary, the Hebraic tradition, embodied by the Jew who does not feel comfortable unless the prophet’s cloak is warming his shoulders, the living communicant of Judaism’s greatest contribution to Western civilization. …We can see too, why more often than not, the Jew is likely to be associated with the extreme wing of his party.” (Chapter 27, p.262, bold-face my emph.)

This is an assimilated Jew writing, an Oxford academic superstar (and a child Jewish refugee from Austria) who has been tracing the progress of antisemitism in Germany and Austria for hundreds of pages, finally minimizing the prominence of Nazis in comparison to conservative anti-modern antisemitism. He most certainly does not want to be taken for an undesirable ghetto Jew or any type of puritan.

Earlier in the book, Pulzer brought up Herder (p.34), not as a multiculturalist but as nostalgic for the Holy Roman Empire and a greater Germany. But Herder was indeed a cultural nationalist and a subtle precursor of the racialism that Pulzer went on to denounce throughout as associated with the most venomous of the German Rightist parties and factions.  (On Herder’s cultural nationalism see https://clarespark.com/2010/10/18/the-dialectic-of-multiculturalism-helvetius-herder-fichte/.)

Pulzer gave a nod to refugee German-Jew George L. Mosse, in his acknowledgments, but I believe that Professor Mosse would have read and reacted to Pulzer’s book with the same amazement as I have done. Mosse knew a safely rooted cosmopolitan when he spotted one.

rootless cosmopolitan as radical Jew

rootless cosmopolitan as radical Jew

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