The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Capitalism in Decay Revives Anti-Jewish Conspiracy Theories

Dec 5, 2022

NBA star Kyrie Irving posted a link to the Amazon site for a movie, Hebrews to Negroes, that claims that the Holocaust was a lie, modern Jews are linked to Satan worship, and that they aren’t real Jews—that instead, they are a conspiracy bent on world domination.

None of this is true: the Nazis murdered about six million Jews in one of the most well-documented atrocities in history, and there is no Jewish conspiracy to run the world. But Irving is not the only one putting out these ideas. In addition to the rantings of Ye (formerly Kanye West), various versions of antisemitic (anti-Jewish) ideas seem to be circulating with increasing frequency throughout society.

Antisemitism has been called “the socialism of fools,” because it is a way to explain the problems of capitalism by pointing to one small group. It works because even though Jewish people never formed the most powerful layer of the ruling class in any country (until the founding of Israel), many Jews have occupied a position within capitalist society that has pitted them against the poorest layers of the population. For this reason, antisemitism has long been useful for the capitalist class, especially in times of crisis.

In the Middle Ages, when the church barred Christians from loaning money at interest, some Jews found a way to become rich by playing this role within the developing capitalist economy. As soon as banking became a highly profitable, important part of the European economy, the church took away that restriction and Christians took over the highest levels of banking. But the reputation stuck. The ruling classes of Europe soon found Jews a convenient scapegoat when people in the countryside threatened to revolt.

In Russia, the Czarist government organized groups that said, in effect: the government isn’t the problem, the landlords aren’t the problem, the businesses aren’t the problem—it’s the Jews! These groups organized pogroms, or riots, in which thousands of Jewish people were murdered.

The Czarist government wrote a forgery that still circulates, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, pretending that it was written by a Jewish conspiracy to run the world. During the Russian Revolution, the counterrevolutionary armies even claimed the workers’ revolution was really a Jewish conspiracy, and again carried out mass murder of Jewish people.

It was this idea that Hitler eventually played on in Germany, blaming the population’s problems on a conspiracy of Jewish bankers and communists, instead of the German capitalists who actually ran that society. This eventually led to the attempt to kill all of Europe’s Jews in the Holocaust.

Some Jewish businesspeople were also counterposed to black people in the U.S., setting the stage for antisemitism in the black population. Many black neighborhoods in the northern cities had previously been Jewish neighborhoods. Most Jewish people moved out of those areas as black people moved in, but some kept ownership of apartment buildings and little stores. Jews did not set up slavery, Jim Crow, or segregation in the North, but some of them profited from it, overcharging black renters and shoppers who could not go elsewhere.

So while few Jews occupied the highest levels of U.S. capitalism, they formed an easy—and understandable—target for some of the anger of the black population.

Here, as in Europe, antisemitism has been useful for the ruling class. Henry Ford himself famously pushed that same conspiracy-theory forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Some of the richest people in the country today funnel money to far-right groups and websites that push antisemitic ideas, as well as anti-black racism. As Kyrie Irving himself pointed out, the Amazon corporation distributes the antisemitic video he linked to.

We are again in a time of crisis because the basic operation of capitalism is in decay. But no one outside a tiny handful of socialists and communists points out the real cause of this decay. Instead, this system destroying our living standards and threatening the world with war and environmental collapse is defended by the “mainstream media” and by the politicians of both parties. And so, people looking for an explanation for humanity’s problems can be pulled into conspiracy theories that seem to explain what’s happening—and some version of antisemitism still lurks at the bottom of nearly every conspiracy theory rabbit hole.

This only serves the capitalist class. The problem of capitalism is not a Jewish problem, any more than it’s a Christian problem. Jews may have been disproportionately in certain branches of business, but they were also disproportionately in the socialist and communist movements that sought to overthrow capitalism and put the working class in power, and they formed a disproportionate share of the white people in the Civil Rights movement.

In the long run, the only antidote for “the socialism of fools” in this society in decay is the socialism of the working class, organizing itself against its real enemy, the capitalist class.