Tom Perkins had a point about history and demonizing the ‘1 percent’

Tom Perkins had a point about history and demonizing the ‘1 percent’

The German political activist Wilhelm Marr, originally a man of the left, organized a movement in the 1870s that charged Jews with using their skills “to conquer Germany from within.” …

These were some of its typical ploys: Are you unemployed? The Jews have your jobs. Is your family mired in poverty?  The Rothschilds have your money. Do you feel more insecure in the city than you did on the land? The Jews are trapping you in factories and charging you exorbitant rents.

Anti-Semitism accused Jews of undermining Christian authority and corrupting the German legal system, the arts and the press. and ruthless capitalists exploiting for their own gain the nation’s natural and human resources. To ambitious politicians seeking office, to rulers of still largely illiterate populations, “the Jews” became a convenient catchall explanation for deep-rooted and sometimes intractable problems. …

Features of anti-Semitism are present in other political movements, on the left fully as much the right.

The parallel that Tom Perkins drew in his letter was especially irksome to his respondents on the left, many of whom are supporters of President Obama’s sallies against Wall Street and the “one percent.” These critics might profitably consult Robert Wistrich,
today’s leading historian of anti-Semitism. His “From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel” (2012) documents the often profound anti-Semitism that has affected socialists and leftists from Karl Marx to today’s anti-Israel movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions. …

Stoking class envy is a step in a familiar, dangerous and highly incendiary process. Any ideology or movement, right or left, that is organized negatively—against rather than for—enjoys an inherent advantage in politics, mobilizing unappeasable energies that never have to default on their announced goal of cleansing the body politic of its alleged poisons.

In this respect, one might think of anti-Semitism as the purest and most murderous example of an enduring political archetype: the negative campaign.

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