Fast Capitalism issue 4.1 2008

The Disintegration of Fordism and the Transformation of Black Anti-Semitism in America, 1945-2005

Mark P. Worrell

Once abjured by all but the most recalcitrant of crackpots, it is difficult to imagine that, after 50 years, we are witnessing what may very well be a renaissance of anti-Semitism. No longer relegated to the fringes of European political thought “anti-Semitism is now genuinely global – and increasingly angry and delusional...” (Smith 1996:203). Relying on data from the Roth Institute, the U.S. State Department reports a rise in the number of what it calls “major anti-Semitic incidents” in North America as a whole (2008:11) and, importantly, recent data from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) indicate that anti-Semitism is not only on the upswing among some segments of the U.S. population but, importantly, shifting from ‘earthly’ concerns to more nebulous and sinister issues: “When ADL first began polling the American public in 1964, the predominate negative ethnic stereotypes about Jews dealt with issues of honesty and business ethics. Over time these have been … replaced in the minds of anti-Semites by perceptions of Jewish power in the U.S.” (2005:14). Not only has the theme of ‘Jewish power’ made a comeback, so has the notion of Jewish guilt for the murder of Christ. This shift from a ‘nuts and bolts’ (concrete) set of issues to a ‘cosmological’ (abstract) form of anti-Jewish demonology is evidently acute within the African American community.

In this paper I (a) examine the remarkable differences between Black and White attitudes toward Jews during the 1940s such that Blacks were among the least prejudicial segment of the American population and, when they did criticize Jews, those criticisms tended to be relatively mild, specific, and related to mundane social tensions. Here I draw upon a small but rare and early body of data generated by the Frankfurt School during World War Two; (b) situate the growth and transformation of African American antisemitism within the context of the dissolution of the Fordist regime of capital accumulation and diminishing life chances among African Americans; (c) discuss the transformation of Jewish-Black relations from the early 20th Century into the post-war era – especially within the context of the emerging ‘Whiteness’ of Jews after World War II with an eye toward their changing class interests during the same period such that Jews and Blacks lost their bases for mutual support; and (d) put forward a tentative social-psychological theory of Black anti-Semitism. Ultimately, I hope to make a plausible case that the growth and transformation of Black anti-Semitism from the end of World War II is due to the decline of Fordism and its replacement by a ‘flexible’ regime of capital accumulation that increasingly leaves African Americans on the sidelines ( i.e., in a descending phase of integration vis-à-vis the capital-labor axis). This descending phase of Black participation and social exclusion coincides with changing ethnoracial and class statuses of Jews from about 1940 to the end of the Fordist period such that Black attitudes toward Jews at mid-century reflected a concrete and interconnected relationship that, over time, dissolved into an abstract and disconnected ideology of class abandonment. Specific accusations about Jews in 1945, for example, may have been rooted in the realities of Black-Jewish relations but that abstract, power-centric accusations reflect not contemporary relations but the relationship of alienated Blacks toward the dimly comprehended logic of capital itself. Finally, another contributing factor determining shifting Black attitudes toward Jews is the authoritarian ideological climate intimately bound to changes in the regime of capital accumulation that pins blame for social failures on the devilish Other (a fantasy) rather than on objective social forces that can be changed.

Black Anti-Semitism, 1945-2005

What is anti-Semitism? Concrete, specific, garden-variety recriminations (e.g., “My Jewish landlord is cheap.”) fall short of what we consider true anti-Semitism. It would be unsurprising to learn, for example, that some landlords are in fact cheap (tight-fisted) and that some cheap landlords are also Jews. Frequently, garden-variety accusations segue into prejudice, stereotyping, and racism[1] but these kinds of accusations are not, automatically, indicative of pathological Judeophobia. Genuinely anti-Semitic accusations posit, to use the above example, ‘cheapness’ as identical with Jewishness such that, to be Jewish is to be, essentially, money-personified or the living embodiment of rapacious greed. Anti-Semites believe, in ways that aggrieved renters do not, that Jews are inherently evil and harbingers of impending doom.[2] It appears that Black anti-Jewish attitudes are currently undergoing a transformation from low-intensity, concrete prejudice to abstract anti-Semitism: from mild-as-milk accusations regarding business practices and rent to more extreme and nefarious manifestations. Bias rooted in the minutia of everyday social relations is combatable but Judeophobia, the belief that Jews are “one-dimensional vessels of evil” (Smith 1997:136), represents the kiss of death for democratic sentiments and institutions that protect minorities from the onslaught of political authoritarianism. Are some African Americans the unwitting supporters of the very forces that would subjugate them further?

An April 2004 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 42% of African Americans believe that Jews were responsible for the death of Christ – up from 21% in 1997.[3] The belief that Jews were to blame for the murder of Christ has risen, according to the ADL, over the last three years from 25% in 2002 to 30% in 2005. Black anti-Semitism is of special concern because only a few generations ago African Americans were the least anti-Semitic among minority groups in the United States. Since at least the early 1990s, though, African Americans have consistently expressed elevated levels of anti-Semitic belief according to the ADL: 1992 (37%); 1998 (34%); and 2002 (35%). It appears much has changed regarding the nature of Black feelings toward Jews, both quantitatively and qualitatively.[4] This shift is partly (and perhaps largely) due to structural transformations in the regime of capital accumulation such that Fordism has given way to a ‘flexible’ regime of exploitation where Blacks are increasingly relegated to the fringes of the economic mainstream and sink-or-swim conservatism of various flavors has exacerbated authoritarian sentiments on both sides of the class divide (Harvey 1990). During the 40s, the majority of Black Americans were situated far differently in relation to capital and, consequently, held different conceptions of class, race, and power. As the Frankfurt School discovered, Blacks also had a different relation with, and conception of, Jews.

The Frankfurt School’s Wartime Study of Fordist Labor in America[5]

During WWII the Institute of Social Research (Frankfurt School) undertook a large study of the American working class whereby researchers gathered data from major metropolitan areas including New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. Their targets were CIO, AFL, and nonunionized workers. They gathered data on skilled, semi-skilled, and manual laborers. There are also data regarding ‘professionals’ and office workers (i.e., non-factory employees). Agricultural and mining workers were neglected, as were Southern workers.[6]

The Institute interviewed 566 workers of which 525 were White and 41 (7.2%) were Black. The sample size and composition were recognized problems: “The Negro sample at our disposal is much too small to warrant any definite conclusions.” Nonetheless, “It may be useful”, they said, “to discuss the reactions of our Negro interviewees as compared with the reactions of the rest of the workers interviewed. Even a small sample may reveal significant differences” (1945:518). For our purposes, though small, this sample is nonetheless priceless because it gives us our earliest, scientific glimpse at Black attitudes toward Jews.

A Climate of Authoritarianism: Overall Worker Anti-Semitism, 1944-1945

The Institute classified the 566 workers into eight distinct groups on the basis of their attitudes toward Jews:

Type A: Exterminatory. 10.6%. These people were actively violent, vicious anti-Semites who openly favored the extermination of all Jews.
Type B: Intense Hatred. 10.2%. These were definitely and unwaveringly hostile toward Jews but avoided openly advocating the extermination of Jews. Taken together, Types A and B (20.8%) constituted beliefs that were proto-fascist or "Nazi-like."
Type C: Inconsistently Hostile. 3.7%. These people were outspokenly hostile to Jews and possessed a desire to see Jews regulated or controlled but were inconsistent in this attitude; they exhibited an inner conflict.
Type D: Intolerant. 6.2%. This type of person wanted to avoid Jews, get away from them, and to see legislative action taken to separate Jews from everyone else.
Type E: Ambivalent. 19.1%. These people could not make up their minds. While they were potentially anti-Semitic, they could have gone both ways in terms of their tolerance of Jews. This type felt that Jews had too much power or money, and that something should have been done about it, but they didn’t know what should be done. They were undecided.
Type F: Consciously Tolerant/Emotionally Inconsistent. 19.3%. These types were opposed to anti-Semitism at the level of humanitarian ideals and distaste for injustice. The Type F worker may have been mildly intolerant of Jews but was opposed to it at the level of "conscious intentions" so they worked to control any emotional prejudice.
Type G: Anti-discriminatory/Tolerant but still prone to stereotypes visible in friendly criticism. 10.8%. These people did not harbor any dislike of Jews, were opposed to discrimination but did criticize some character traits commonly ascribed to Jews. Their criticism was based, said the Institute, on reasoning if not in facts.
Type H: Absolutely not anti-Semitic. 20.1%. No resentment, no criticism whatsoever.

That more than 20% of the interviewees were in some ways similar to Nazis vis-à-vis their hatred of Jews (an additional 10% were clearly intolerant) came as a surprise to the ISR. Taken together, the first four anti-Jewish categories (A-D) consisted of 30.7% of the sampled workers. When we include ambivalent workers, roughly one half of workers held feelings that ranged from the desire to see Jews destroyed or imprisoned to contradictory feelings of tolerance mixed with scorn and mistrust.

White Rank and File Hostility toward Jews and Blacks

Racists have always enjoyed the smorgasbord of differences that America has to offer. But despite the panoply of languages, skin colors, religious affiliations, and cultural expressions, and despite wave after wave of immigration, two groups continuously stand out as default targets of intolerance and rage: Blacks and Jews. As the ISR put it: “Anti-Negro and anti-Jewish attitudes as expressed by the workers interviewed are more articulate, patently more deeply ingrained than objections against other minority groups voiced by members of different nationality or ethnic groups. This density of prejudice they share with each other” (1945:491). Out of the 525 White workers in the study, 389 answered the two questions below.

Table 1. Percent of workers that mind working with Jews and Blacks

Jews Blacks
Definite Objections: Mind in general, under any conditions 29.3 30.3
Qualified Objections: Mind, but would work under certain conditions (with some certain types, in a specific situation, when inevitable, etc.) 22.3 10.3
Total Minding 51.6 40.6

Even though Jews and Blacks shared the burden of White racism there were real differences when it came to discrimination against both groups; there was a “difference in the texture of prejudice.” In short, the Jew was the phantom menace whereas Blacks were viewed in much more mundane, ‘traditional’ terms: when representations of Blacks and Jews were held in the mind simultaneously, Blacks were thought of as concrete competition on the job front whereas Jews functioned as an amorphous threat: “Abstract and remote, the idea of ‘the Jew menacing society’ comes down to earth in innumerable attempts to ‘explain’ the Jews’ economic ‘guilt’. It is expressed in rational terms which disguise the core of the problem, namely, the worker’s antagonism to the prevailing social order” (ISR 1945:510-11).

Union Officers, Jewish-Black Relations, and Black Anti-Semitism

Interviewing union officers corroborated the Institute’s findings vis-à-vis feelings of rank and file members. It was felt that the greatest point of conflict between Blacks and Jews was not due to shop floor tensions but at the point of exchange (ISR 1945:1128). Jewish “house owners, straw landlords, rental agents, [and] real estate brokers” were perceived as exploiters of Blacks but the view among some labor officials was that the “real” (non-Jewish) powers of exploitation were using Jews as “fronts” or “screens” for gouging people in Black neighborhoods “for the purpose of directing the Negroes’ protest against white supremacy into anti-Semitic channels” (ISR 1945:1132). “In general, emphasis is laid on activities of Jews in industry and commerce as responsible for the spread of anti-Semitism among Negroes” (ISR 1945:1133). Even a Jewish organizer, formerly with the ILGWU, “‘regrets that Jewish people not rarely are quite callous and insensitive about colored people’” (ISR 1945:1135). After housing, retail trade was seen as the next biggest problem between Jews and Blacks. In total, union officers restricted their understanding of Black resentment toward Jews to the realms of property, money, and exchange dynamics but not to issues of unorganized domestic workers employed by Jews (ISR 1945: 1131). It appears that, though not fully grasping the nature or extent of the problem, union officials were aware of the basic issues, knew that steps had to be taken to alleviate tensions, and that Blacks, when they disliked Jews, did so for particular reasons rather than on the bases of mythical and abstract accusations.

Anti-Semitism among Black Workers during World War II

Black workers during the 40s were primarily hostile to Jews on the basis of specific grievances but were they immune from demonological interpretations of Jews? The ISR sought to measure this difference by comparing White and Black reactions to “Nazi Terror” perpetrated against Jews. “How far” asked the ISR, “has the ‘harmless’ Negro been swayed by the siren song of his arch-enemies? Does he consider ‘the Jew’ his enemy? Is he neutral? Does he regard Jews as human beings who can be counted on to act upon rational judgment? Or does he assume that they are his natural friends and allies?” (1945: 518).

Table 2. Percent of Interviewees Who Object to Working with Jews:

All Whites Blacks
Definite Objections: Mind in general, under any conditions 29.3 12.2
Qualified Objections: Mind, but would work under certain conditions 22.3 14.6
Total Minding 51.6 26.8

The differences between Blacks and Whites on these two questions are striking (Table 2). But did these questions measure Black anti-Semitism per se or Black attitudes toward Whites in general? (cf. Cose 1993:157). “It may be said that a colored worker, if given a chance, can be expected not to reject the opportunity of breaking down race barriers, and thus would readily work with any white person – regardless of the white person’s creed or ethnic origin” (ISR: 520). We may wonder about their reasoning but the underlying question was sound: were Black workers thinking of Jews as Whites or Jews as ethno-racially distinct from generic Whites?[7] Gurland pointed to this tendency for Blacks to see Jews as the face of white supremacy: “It certainly is not the Negroes’ fault that ‘white supremacy’ in the cities is personified by the Jewish businessman, store-keeper, pawnbroker or landlord. And they cannot possibly have sufficient information, hardly available even for statistical purposes, on actual distribution of ownership. They cannot know how many Jewish landlords are real estate owners in name only (acting as a ‘front’ for big corporations and non-Jewish banks), and how many Jewish stores are nothing but retail outlets for non-Jewish chains, manufacturing combines, etc” (ISR 1945: 530). To clarify the issue of Jews as White and Jews as distinctly Other, Blacks were asked questions pertaining to the Nazi persecution of Jews. Did Blacks specifically condemn “Nazi terror” against Jews?

Table 3. Answers on Treatment of Jews under Nazi Rule:

All Whites All Blacks
Definitely disapprove of Nazi terror 53.1 65.9
Halfheartedly disapprove of Nazi terror 23.2 12.2
Definitely approve of Nazi terror 17.9 9.7
Don't know, no opinion, no answer 5.8 12.2
Total % 100 100

Blacks were far more likely to reject Nazi terror than were Whites, they were significantly less likely to approve of Nazi terror, and were less ambivalent (if we can treat “halfheartedly disapprove” as ambivalence). In absolute, cross-historical terms there is a natural inclination to try and compare the 1944-45 data with contemporary data of the kind the ADL periodically gathers or that the Pew Research Center recently generated. Is it true that African Americans are today three times more anti-Semitic than their wartime predecessors? For one thing, the two sets of data are not easily compared. Today, there are no concentration camps and mass executions of Jews to condition popular opinion and the ADL surveys do not contain questions that probe levels of support for things like mass persecution. The ISR found that in 1945, nearly 10% of Black workers interviewed approved of extermination and/or the imprisonment of Jews in concentration camps. Relative to White responses the Black workers were much more immune to fascist fantasies of violence but if today we were to find that almost 10% of the African American population could positively imagine the mass extermination or imprisonment of Jews we would be shocked. A more optimistic figure was that nearly 66% of Black workers rejected the Nazi program outright.

African Americans and the Fordist Regime of Capital Accumulation

It is sometimes claimed that economic conditions are not related to levels of anti-Semitism. Maurice Samuel’s classic formulation tells us that hunger may make people hallucinate but it cannot account for why the hungry hallucinate about Jews in particular (1940). Income or wage levels are poor predictors of anti-Semitic feelings. Job loss does not convert people into anti-Semites. It is not simply that African Americans are disproportionately prone to receive low wages or suffer high rates of unemployment, but that millions of Blacks are being shutout altogether from the capital-labor axis: “low-skilled Black labor – which is most of Black labor – has gone from plantation to factory to permanent underemployment and unemployment” (Katz-Fishman and Scott 1998:311). Joblessness and low wages are tied to low quality education and substandard health care, greater exposure to punitive social control, degraded primary and secondary group socialization, as well as the more subjective aspects of hope, optimism, and self-esteem associated with the powerful myth of upward mobility and the “American Dream”. Economic crises are associated with the flourishing of anti-Semitism because they create favorable conditions for the work of ideological entrepreneurs to articulate pre-existing, malleable cultural codes (Volkov 1979) that use prejudicial references to mythical Jews such that, according to demagogues like Farrakhan, it is somehow significant and revealing that a Jew on the island of St. Thomas, Barbados bought and sold slaves in 1670 (The Historical Research Department of The Nation of Islam 1991:231). In short, when the hope for mainstream integration turns to permanent exile on the margins of society, explanations turn from the mainstream to the margins, from the factual to the fantastical.

From the beginnings of the First World War through to the Second World War there was a mass exodus of Blacks from the South into the Northeast, Midwest, and West, moving out of farm jobs and into urban-industrial employment. In 1920, Du Bois wrote:

As workers in northern establishments we are getting good wages, decent treatment, healthful homes and schools for our children. Can we hesitate? COME NORTH! Not in a rush – not as aimless wanderers, but after quiet investigation and careful location. The demand for Negro labor is endless. (in Lewis 1995:530).

Essentially, we can think of this as the beginning of an ascending phase of relative Black integration into Fordist production and labor relations where “southern black migrants took their place at the bottom of ... the occupational hierarchy” (Nelson 2001: xxviii). But the idea was, of course, not to stay at the bottom of the economic order. Indeed, Blacks were drawn, in part, by the “illusive American dream” (Katz-Fishman and Scott 1998: 313).

Fordism was a complex of bureaucratized and regulated systems of buying and selling labor power; state intervention; a relatively high degree of worker discipline; business unionism (labor collaboration); highly productive labor processes and mass production techniques based on the technically rationalized detailed division of labor that separates mental conceptualization from physical execution; product standardization; high wages; job security; legal protections and appeals systems for workers; mass consumption; sufficient leisure time; and corporate cultivation of popular monoculture (Harvey 1990:125-40; Harrison and Bluestone 1998:84-85). As Harvey puts it, “Postwar Fordism has to be seen … less as a mere system of mass production and more as a total way of life” (1990:135).

Even though they faced discrimination and harassment, from 1945 to 1970 African Americans benefited, unevenly, as did other minorities, from postwar prosperity: their wages rose, their standard of living increased, poverty levels declined, migration from the South continued and African Americans penetrated the blue collar manufacturing sectors in the West, Midwest, and Northeast (Gordon, Gordon, and Nembhard 1994:516). And the economic gains, supported by progressive anti-poverty programs, were real.[8] Analyzing historical changes in White and Black pay differentials, Alexis found that from 1940 to 1980 “full-time employed African-American men with less than five years of experience moved from 46.7% of the white wage to 84.2 percent. Those with 36-40 years experience had their relative wage increase from 39.8% to 68.5 percent, impressive gains” (1998:369). And Black inroads into organized labor, as well, were substantial. “By the mid-1970s,” says Honey, “black workers in a core of unionized factory jobs had torn down most Jim Crow barriers within their workplaces and unions, after decades of painful effort.” But, “Just as their labors began to really bear fruit in the form of family-wage jobs distributed on an equal basis, factory closings began to undercut all they had fought to achieve. The dawning progress of black industrial workers made the deindustrialization of parts of North America seem all the more disastrous” (1999: 322).

African Americans and Post-Fordism

In the late 1960s and early 70s Fordism began to wane: overproduction, market saturation, and related (rigid) limits to capital accumulation prompted a turn to corporate restructuring, and market reconfiguration that “ruptured the social order associated with Fordism” (Krier 2005:63). The state’s initial response, printing money, ushered in a deadly wave of inflation “that was eventually to sink the postwar boom” (Harvey 1990: 142). “Flexibility” (essentially a war on the working class) “with respect to labour processes, labour markets, products, and patterns of consumption” (ibid:147) entailed an attack against the welfare state, entitlements, unions, liberal policies in general, and saw the emergence of new forms of regressive, authoritarian politics and a new emphasis on technology and technical education (Harvey 1990). Blacks were among the first to feel the effects and they experienced an eventual reversal of their postwar gains. Alexis reports that, after 1970, Black men (aged 36-45) experienced a drop in labor force participation rates of 5-6% compared to a 1.3% drop for Whites (1998:369). And for Black men (aged 46-54) labor force participation dropped nearly 10% during the 1970s – compared to a drop of 3.5% among their White counterparts (ibid.). Vetter and Gallaway (1992: 698) substantiate these changes by charting African American unemployment rates increasing from 9% in 1950 to nearly 14% in 1975). Between 1975 and 1987 Blacks were essentially routed from jobs in durable goods manufacturing with a displacement rate of nearly 50% compared to a 21.7% decline for White workers (Alexis 1998:371-72). It is clear that African Americans are, in relation to the main currents of the capital-labor axis, in a descending phase. In the Midwest it was, says Alexis, “an unmitigated disaster” and, generally, wherever White workers suffered job losses and unemployment, African Americans experienced twice the suffering (ibid.). Rifkin bleakly pronounced that Blacks, today, are “‘hopelessly trapped in a permanent under-class. Unskilled and unneeded, the … value of their labor has been rendered virtually useless by the automated technologies that have come to displace them in the new high-tech global economy’” (in Katz-Fishman and Scott 1998:326).

An October 2004 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) labor force status of high school graduates report indicates that among the “civilian, non-institutionalized population” the unemployment rate among Black high school graduates exceeded 25%. If this rate were generalized across the entire population we would be in the midst of a second Great Depression (see Willie and Willie 2005:491; Morris and Western 1999:633). Higher proportions of foreign-born Blacks were, in 2003, participating in the labor force (74.5%) than were native-born Blacks (63.2%). Although Blacks constitute 12% of the labor force in the United States, according to a June 2004 Monthly Labor Review report, in 2003 they made up 14% of those working part time “for economic reasons”; 20% of the unemployed; 24% of the long-term unemployed; 21% of the “marginally attached workers” – marginally attached workers are those that are “available for work and had searched for work during the prior 12 months but who were not currently looking for work” (see also Bates 1995).

African American mothers also had the highest employment participation rate among mothers in any segment of the population in 2003. For mothers with children under the age of three: Blacks (67%); Whites (57.8%); Hispanics (47.9%); Asian (55.1%).[9] African Americans, in 2003, spent on the average one month longer searching for jobs or being unemployed (22.7 weeks) than did Whites (18.0).[10] And when they were working full time, weekly earnings among Black men were lower than for any other segment of the population except for Hispanics: Asians ($772); Whites ($715); Blacks ($555); and Hispanics ($464). Weekly wages among full time working women were predictably lower than males: Asians ($598); Whites ($567); Blacks ($491); and Hispanics ($410). A June 2003 report (covering the period 1996-2000) from the BLS reveals great discrepancies between Blacks and Whites relative to retirement: whereas gender distributions among Whites was nearly equal for men (52%) and women (48%) it was dramatically different among Blacks: only 38% of eligible retirees were men whereas 62% were women; mean income among Black retirees was 27% lower than their White counterparts; and Blacks were 33% less likely than Whites to live free of rent or mortgage payments (Bahazi 2003).

During Reagan’s first term, Michael Harrington wondered if it was not the case that Blacks were becoming not only marginalized but “completely superfluous” members of society (1984:123). It appears as though his fears were warranted. Increasingly, Blacks are no longer required or desired as sellers of labor power. This was precisely the problem that Sidney Willhelm raised (1986:219) when he observed that African Americans were assuming the role of surplus labor power that went even beyond the structural requirements of the reserve labor army: “will capitalists be content only to impoverish Blacks whose labor can no longer be absorbed through economic expansion or will they resort to a solution to dispose of such people?” It is difficult to imagine mass liquidation but the neglect of the working poor and unemployed in America represents a kind of liquefying structural solution to a surplus population that is seen by many conservatives as constituting a moral and financial drag on society. Through stereotyping Blacks as a homogenous mass of irresponsibility the White right has done its part in segregating even middle class and financially buoyant African Americans into isolation while the Black right stoke ‘the flames of separatism, challenging blacks with the question of whether whites are really worthy of integration” (Anderson 2000:264-65).

Other ‘solutions’ are clearly under way. Incarceration of Blacks, especially young, unskilled, unemployed males, is one such measure. During the 1980s and 90s incarceration became, according to Western, “a common life event in the lives of disadvantaged and minority men” such that “[b]y 1999, over one-fifth of black noncollege men in their early thirties had prison records” (2002:526). Incarceration became, quite literally, a way to “solve” the problem of unwanted labor power as the work force polarized during the 1980s and 90s (ibid.). Moreover, incarceration has the effect of lowering future wages of ex-inmates by 10 to 20% and lowering the rate of wage growth by 30% of their life course (ibid:541). Solutions abound from the passive to the aggressive: from poor access to health care, decaying schools, police brutality, institutional racism, etc. to willful inaction on the part of the state to the plight of whole populations facing natural disasters.

The problem is not some fluke of our domestic economic condition but part and parcel with the logic of globalization (Wilson 1996-97:568-71). “The popular classes of the centers [core countries] benefited,” says Amin, “after the end of the Second World War, from an exceptional situation based on the historic compromise the working classes forced on capital. This compromise ensured security for the majority of workers in large factories organized on Fordist principles.” But the situation has changed in the post-Fordist period:

The major social transformation which characterized the long period of the second half of the twentieth century can be summarized in a single suggestive figure: the proportion of the popular classes in a precarious position has gone from less than a quarter to more than half of the global urban population and this phenomenon of pauperization has reappeared on a significant scale in the developed centers themselves. The total number of people in this destabilized urban population has gone in a half century from less than 250 million to more than one and one-half billion individuals … (Amin 2004:38-39).

When we look beyond stock and bond performance, federal domestic policies were not kind to workers, the working poor, and the unemployed during the 1990s. Measured in 2001 dollars, the “poverty gap” in America rose by more than 5% from 1993-1999 and “child care costs rose sharply for a high percentage of poor households after Clinton slashed federal welfare support for single mothers” (Pollin 2003:21-22, 45-46; Wilson 1996-97). Add to this, zealous investments in the state security and incarceration apparatus, rising costs of education, prohibitively expensive housing, the evaporation of full-time employment, and the rise of a persistent, conspiratorial form of right-wing demagoguery and the full authoritarian potential of the moment comes into view. Black anti-Semitism has to be seen within this larger context of a multi-front war waged against the working poor and unemployed, generally, and large segments of the African American community in particular.

So long as industrialization and post-war prosperity were on the upswing, and African Americans were being drawn into the industrial labor pool, their attitudes toward Jews were, we might say, ‘friendly.’ Reporting on data generated in 1963, Heller and Pinkney found that Blacks harbored generally positive attitudes toward Jews such that the latter were considered to be “helpful to the cause of Negro rights” (on average only 9% of surveyed blacks thought of Jews as “harmful to the cause of Negro rights” and, interestingly, Jews as a whole were felt, by leaders of the African American community, to be as helpful to the Black cause as Catholic priests (1965: 367-69). During the 60s it was generally believed that anti-Semitism was, if not extinct, then “a disappearing problem” such that between 1964 and 1974 Jewish defense organizations did not bother with much polling (Rosenfield 1982:431-32). One might recall that this was the backdrop for the late-50s and early-60s optimism classically expressed in Beyond the Melting Pot that posited the continual and eventual harmonization of racial and ethnic relations. However, part of what was melting in the 60s was also the distinction in the mind of Black America that Jews formed a discrete status separate from ‘White’ America. Jewish social mobility during the 20s and 30s was limited but the post-war period saw a dramatic change in the status of Jews and their integration into ‘White’ society (Brodkin 1998: 33-52).

The Transformation of Jewish Ethnoracial and Class Status
During the Fordist Period and the Alienation of Blacks

Fordist-era hegemony involved a degree of racial integration unknown by previous generations[11] and Black-Jewish relations in the first half of the 20th Century were relatively harmonious.[12] Before World War Two, Jews worked on many fronts to support Black civil rights and “played an important role in advocating that equality be fully extended to the nation’s African American citizens” (Feingold 1995:112). During and immediately after the war Jewish defense organizations, most notably the American Jewish Committee, discovered that Jews and Blacks were routinely lumped together in the racist and authoritarian imagination (Svonkin 1997:37-38) and that a rational course of action for Jews included aid to Blacks.

At the end of World War II the Jewish passage to Whiteness was still negatively incomplete in the minds of perhaps as many as half the workers interviewed in the Frankfurt School’s labor study and that, for Blacks too, Jews were something positively other than generically White. Though on their way, Jews were, still, not ‘White.’ Roediger maps a phenomenology of Jewish racial assignment[13] moving from, in the case of Eastern Europeans, a subhuman swarm before the turn of the century, to a discrete but inferior ‘race’ before World War II, to an ‘ethnicity’ after the war, to ‘ethnically white’ by the early 60s and, finally, to generic White (ibid:3-27). What were the social dynamics that led to the whitening of Jews?

According to Brodkin several factors were decisive in the whitening of Jews and other “Euromales” and their eventual assimilation into mainstream American life: the association of Judenhass with Nazi ideology meant that anti-Semitism was no longer respectable in the postwar era;[14] from 1940 onward government census categories no longer distinguished between native and immigrant origins resulting in “an expanded notion of whiteness”; our conceptions of being shifted from “nature and biology” to “nurture and culture”; the postwar economic boom, coupled with expanded legal protections, eased restrictions on Jewish socio-economic mobility – and Jews were well-situated to take advantage of the new demand for “professional, technical, and managerial labor, as well as on government assistance in providing it”; the GI Bill meant an educational explosion and expanded home ownership; the push of urban renewal and the pull of suburbia – those barred from suburban sprawl, like Blacks, were denied access to the American “middle class” (1998:35-52). Importantly, the dynamics and institutions that drew Jews into White, ‘middle class’ American life largely excluded Blacks from participation in any comparable manner. For example, the benefits of postwar programs like the GI Bill were not widely enjoyed by Blacks: “The military, the Veterans Administration, the U. S. Employment Service … and the Federal Housing Administration effectively denied African American GIs access to their benefits and to new educational, occupational, and residential opportunities” (Brodkin 1998:43). In labor organizations, too, Jews came into conflict with Blacks as early as the 50s. ‘The years following the merger’ of the AFL and CIO ‘were marked’ says Hill, “by widespread disappointment among African American workers as the AFL-CIO failed to implement the civil rights policy adopted with much fanfare at the time of the labor federation’s formation…. Soon after the merger, Black workers protested against the continuing pattern of discriminatory practices by many AFL-CIO-affiliated unions, both industrial and craft” (1998:264).

Earlier in the century liberal Jews had been supporters of Black equality and identified with Blacks to a great extent. Roediger quotes a 1912 edition of the Jewish Daily Courier commiserating with Blacks: “‘In this world…. the Jew is treated as a Negro and a Negro as a Jew’” (2005:98). Later Jews would be supporters of the NAACP and work within labor organizations, especially the CIO, radical political parties, and other institutions to promote Black equality. However, by the early 60s the liberal Jewish alliance with African Americans began to destabilize and, after the Six-Day War in 1967 and the Ocean Hill – Brownsville incident in 1968, Jewish commitment to Black civil rights would never be the same (Staub 2002:45-75; Hill 1998:284-86). As the Black civil rights movement gained steam:

Jewish communities were surprisingly resistant … because of an uneasy perception that ‘Jewish’ schools and neighborhoods were among the first to be targeted for desegregation. Furthermore, there was a growing sense that blacks were not ‘worthy’ of the gains they demanded because they sought to have handed to them advantages that Jews had worked incredibly hard to achieve. There was also the perception – unevenly applied and hotly contested – that blacks were ant-Ssemites who took out their resentments and frustrations most especially on the Jew whom they way only as a different shade of white person (Staub 2002:76).

The fear of Black anti-Semitism was exacerbated with the emergence of militant Black movements that rejected White America including resentment toward Jewish success.[15] Jews were still willing to support Black political aspirations on a case-by-case basis, Harold Washington in Chicago for example, but Jewish support for Jesse Jackson in his 1984 Presidential bid was low. Jackson not only referred to New York City as “Hymietown” but also supported the Palestinian cause and failed to distance himself sufficiently from Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam (Levine 1996:239; Feingold 1995:112).

Jews completed the journey to whiteness but were beginning to be seen by some in the African American population as not merely White in a generic sense but also the face of White power and privilege.

The years immediately following World War II found Jews joining in the civil rights movement but the combination of their ethnoracial shift toward generically white and their developing middle and upper class interests brought them to an asynchronous relationship with Black America; “White immigrant groups, once they achieve integration into American society, defend their own privileges and power when confronted with demands from Blacks” (Hill 1998:279). That Blacks perceived Jews as an elite was not mere illusion. Katz-Fishman and Scott report that, by the 1990s:

Clearly, American Jews had a presence and, in most instances, were overrepresented in the power elite of American society – on top corporate boards, among the rich and the superrich, in the cabinet, in Congress, and in the military. They were also overrepresented among the most highly educated Americans, among the professional and managerial class, and among the cultural and media artists and moguls. With this fabulous success of the American Jews and their integration to society’s power elite also came their embrace of the worldview and ideology of the ruling class, distancing them more than ever from their advocacy for the truly disadvantaged in the United States (1998:336-37).

But even though Jews figure into the composition of the power elite we must reiterate that ‘overrepresented’ does not in any way constitute a majority. Jews are, just like other Whites and Blacks, members of the working class. In what follows I examine the emergence of ‘the Jew’ as the representation of post-Fordist forms of social power.

The Social Psychology of Black Anti-Semitism

Even though Blacks did not enjoy postwar integration and ascendancy into the ranks of the middle class the way Jews had they did experience an ascending phase of integration into the Fordist system of work, rising wages, and consumption. But the limits of Black integration were not only structural but ethno-racial as well: unlike Jews, Italians, Greeks, and Irish, Blacks were not, evidently, going to become White. By the time Jewish class interests crystallized around a new set of privileges, Black-Jewish relations became fraught with elements that began to slip beyond the threshold of empirical reality. This is an important distinction: the contradictory relations between Jews and Blacks during the Fordist period were predominantly concrete and specific. Blacks had real grievances and they had empirically-based complaints with some Jews – specifically those that barred their way to union positions, high-wage jobs, housing, and so forth. But Jews were not, at this time, the objects of demonological fantasy. As Fordism gave way to flexibility in the 70s and 80s, the concrete nature of Black-Jewish relations gave way to abstract ideologies including those centered on Jews as power-mongering Christ killers. In the Post-Fordist world there is an ever-decreasing need for African American participation in the ‘jobless future’ and we now face, potentially, a future where millions of citizens are abandoned and dealt with as unwanted ballast.

Post-Fordist insecurities and attending intellectual currents opened the political field in the 80s to populist, authoritarian, racist, and anti-immigrant political appeals (Phillips 2006; Worrell 1999; Harvey 1990). The White Right is filled to the brim with paranoid authoritarians who have cultivated a veiled anti-Semitic code but the African American community has its own anti-Semites and the references to Jews are often explicit. Whites may see Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam as a bunch of eccentrics but Singh makes a case for not underestimating this kind of ideology as it is embedded in a long history of American paranoid politics (1997:188) and can be linked at times to mainstream political agendas (recall that the Rainbow Coalition was hindered by its association with the NOI). That Blacks will convert anti-Semitic fantasy to an active, organized project of violence against Jews is unlikely but what it does accomplish is the political disorganization of the working and unemployed poor.

Collective thought is poorly comprehended as a mere reflection of material interests or an economic mode of production. But shared ideas are inextricably bound to the forms and dynamics of social organization and class relations. Durkheim convincingly argued that collective representations of the sacred (both pure and impure) are moral communities in their outward, transfigured forms. If a person looks into a mirror they see a reflection of their self. If a community could look into a mirror it would see a god (its positive sacred form). Evil (negative god) and its personifications are “nothing other than collectives states objectified; they are society itself seen in one of its aspects” (Durkheim [1912] 1995:416).[16] And each aspect of society is reflected in ideological variances ( i.e., the wartime differences between Black and White anti-Semitism and the divergence between American and European forms). The differences serve to highlight the truth that ideology follows the developments of social organization (Cohn 1993). The fantasy Jew is like any other devil: it is a form of consciousness and logic of representation, peculiar to some segment of society, devoted to explaining power, inequality, contingency, injustice, and the unseen workings of impersonal forces.[17] Mills echoes this point: anti-Semitic conspiracy among Blacks “is an attempt to think the whole” that follows “a general tendency in complex modern societies for their human-made character to disappear, so that their causality becomes impersonal, fetishized, like a force of nature. Things happen but no one is to blame…. The conspiracy theories of the oppressed refuse this causal evisceration, or causal misdirection, by expressly categorizing the group’s plight as a state of oppression (which presupposes the hostile agency of other humans)” (1998:154). In the case of Black anti-Semitism, the hostile other is the Jew – the transfigured image of White wealth and Black immiseration.

Within anti-Semitic ideology, ‘the Jew’ is tantamount to this impure other representing social pathology and exploitation. Given all the super-human capacities and omnipresent activities attributed to Jews, within anti-Semitic propaganda and paranoid perception, nowhere do we find an alternative explanation to refute the conclusion that ‘the Jew’ is none other than the monstrously awesome power of an impure society condensed into a unitary image. Where one feels the trauma of capitalism but is unable to attribute the effects to specific processes, the ‘Jew’ serves as the symbolic shorthand. ‘The Jew’ in Black anti-Semitism is the smirk of post-Fordist flexibility as seen from the vantage point of outcasts at the bottom of society. What other force but capital could account for the supposed machinations of the diabolical Jew? Only one force has the power to destroy gods, scuttle nations, deliver chaos and mass death, and steer the destinies of the planet: global capital. But for most people ‘capital’ is an abstraction, formless, impersonal ether, whereas ‘the Jew’ is a ready-made envelope.

When minority groups embrace anti-Semitism it is tantamount to embracing an ideology that guarantees subjugation – a fantasy cannot be defeated. According to Gurland, anti-Semitism operates such that “Minority groups, which only a democratic system of government can protect, are to be pitted against each other and made to disregard and forsake democratic processes and institutions” (ISR 1945:518). Insofar as African American’s are concretely anti-Semitic then there are real grounds for citizens to work together toward rolling back the political and social forces that would keep a significant segment of Black America in a permanent state of poverty and subjugation. Khalid Abdul Muhammad, Farrakhan’s right hand man in the Nation of Islam, accused Jews of “sucking the blood” of Black Americans at his now infamous speech at Kean College in 1993 (Lipset and Raab 1995:102). While the idea that Jews are responsible for devitalizing the Black community is absurd it is nonetheless true that Black Americans have been and continue to be cruelly exploited. But it is not Jews that are vampires; it is capitalism itself, which Marx repeatedly characterizes, literally, as vampirism. In a vampire society, by definition, the majorities are fated to be consumed by a handful of elites. It is true that some among the power elite are Jews but it is not their Jewishness that makes them thirsty for blood and profits. Rather, it is their class position as masters of capital that make them vampires. In the absence of dialectical materialism the exploited will grasp the nature of exploitation fetishistically such that, for example, to be Jewish is to be essentially a vampire.

Durkheim noted that even the most absurd and distorted fantasy is rooted in some kernel of concrete reality. Anti-Semitism is a kind of reversal. It is true that (a) where there is slavery you will find Jews ... and Protestants, Catholics, and so forth, but the anti-Semite inverts the terms: (b) where there are Jews you will find slavery. The result is to convert the accidental into an essential trait of Jewish Being. Then the demagogue is left with only the functional operation of constructing the myth backwards from the terminal point of Jewish essence: the secret Jew, Columbus, financed by a cabal of Jews, for the purpose of enslaving millions of Africans, and so on – what is this but a mythical, fetish reading of globalization? In truth, the bedrock upon which antisemitism is rooted is not the empirical Jew or the mental aberrations of the anti-Semite but the primary contradictions of capitalist society refracted through a particular historical class and ethnoracial trajectory.

My interpretation of the available data is such that Black anti-Semitism is highly contradictory but tending to edge into the realm of fantasy and will continue to do so unless countervailing forces are thrust upon it. What is unknown, importantly, is the degree of ambivalence masked by contemporary poll data. People are seldom fully committed to a demonological worldview (with Freud, the presence of one tendency does not preclude the presence of countervailing tendencies within the psyche). Given the nature of the data available, conclusions must be provisional and qualified.


In the preceding I tried to make a plausible case that the growth and transformation of Black anti-Semitism from the concrete to the abstract from the end of World War II is due to the decline of Fordism and its displacement by a ‘flexible’ regime of capital accumulation that reversed Black postwar gains – tantamount to a descending phase of integration vis-à-vis the capital-labor axis. This descending phase of Black socio-economic participation, coincides with changing ethnoracial and class statuses of Jews from about 1940 to the end of the Fordist period such that Black attitudes toward Jews at mid-century reflected a concrete and interconnected relationship that, over time, dissolved into an abstract and disconnected ideology of class abandonment. I also linked shifting Black attitudes toward Jews to the authoritarian ideological climate intimately tied to changes in the regime of capital accumulation that pushes thought away from sociological explanations and toward fantasy.

One of the contradictions of Fordism was the relative pacification of labor. Expectations for participation in the main currents of the capital-labor axis, the mythology of class mobility, dreams of financial independence, home ownership, rising wages, increasing access to credit, job security, labor representation, geographic mobility, increasing levels of education, and consumerism drained away excess energies that are now accumulated in economically deactivated segments of the working class. As David Sears might put it, the issue is a simple one: “get these people some honest jobs so they can go to work...” (1994:480). But African Americans are being pushed out of even bottom-of-the-barrel jobs for a complex set of reasons made visible in the ongoing wave of immigration, especially among Latinos, after changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965 which added fifteen million immigrants to the labor pool over a twenty-five year span – from 1970 to 1996 the number of immigrants in America basically doubled (Morris and Western 1999: 630; see also Kaplan 2006 and, especially, Sears 1994: 480).

The African-American community, not just the poor but also all Black America (Anderson 2000:264) is under siege. Why anti-Semitism? On the one hand it is true that Black reactionary organizations such as Nation of Islam promote anti-Semitic propaganda. But propaganda does not function in a vacuum. If anti-Semitism is a ‘social disease’ it is because society itself is diseased. Anti-Semitism exists because society has failed to achieve the form of an ethical order in which all members of society are afforded the opportunity to participate, to be productive (even if that simply means to alienate labor power), to be a person, and have a life project.

In the case of the unethical, arbitrary social order alienation comes with an excessive ‘price’ – that which is leftover from the ‘exchange’ is, to use ·i·ek’s phrase, a “plague of fantasies” – demonological hatred, periodic destruction, that is. If a society has failed to raise itself above the status of an ethical abomination then there will be anti-Semitism, or, in the absence of the ‘Jew’ there will be its functional equivalent. In the end, Marx was correct: “The religious reflections of the real world can, in any case, vanish only when the practical relations of everyday life between man and man, and man and nature, generally present themselves to him in a transparent and rational form” (1976: 173). Anti-Semitism is not a religion but it is a cult. The ‘Jew’ is the anti-Semite’s negative social form and object of devotion.

Will Black America be wooed into supporting arch-reactionary programs or movements? Not likely, but reaction wins not only by active mobilization but also by diversionary demobilization and tilting at windmills. For decades social observers have noted that the poor and downtrodden often feel no rage at all about their plight (Williams 2006: 230; Shipler 2004: 24; Jahoda et al 2002; DiFazio 1998) and, even if they feel anger, see no way to couple that energy to a progressive political or social movement. Anti-Semitism generates profits for demagogues, resentment in subscribers, and, in the case of Black America, an emotional substitute for the real and untouchable target: capital.


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[1] Anti-Semitism is not another flavor of generic racism or prejudice (Smith 1997, 1996; Postone 1980). In no case of racism and prejudice can we find beliefs that approximate the anti-Semitic paranoia that Jews are behind a global conspiracy to enslave the world; that Jews run a secret world government (e.g., ZOG); that Jews are behind finance capital and international communism; that Jews were instigators of most revolutions; that the African slave trade was a Jewish plot, etc. Anti-Semitism, unlike any form of racism, is capable of embodying any and all accusations from the petty to the most otherworldly.

[2] This distinction between abstract and concrete forms of hatred falls in line with the main currents of critical social scientific and historical analysis over the last couple of generations that treats ‘the Jew’ of anti-Semitic propaganda as a socially constructed object. Adorno, Maurice Samuel, Sartre, Norman Cohn, Gavin Langmuir, David Norman Smith, and Slavoj ·i·ek have all put forward constructionist explanations that distinguish between concrete and demonological Judenhass. The most comprehensive examination of the literature and defense of the constructionist perspective has been put forward by Smith (1996).

[3] The Pew Research Center, “Belief that Jews were Responsible for Christ’s Death Increases”, April 2, 2004. This figure is probably aggravated due to the release of the movie, The Passion of the Christ, the sadomasochistic film by Mel Gibson that has contributed, according to “Anti-Semitism Worldwide 2003/04”, to an upsurge of anti-Semitic propaganda and sentiment in the United States and on the internet. However, the rate of change among Blacks compared to Whites is startling: in March 1997, 19% of Whites believed that Jews were responsible for killing Christ compared to 31% of Blacks. In March 2004, 24% of Whites believed in Jewish guilt for the death of Christ while the Black rate shot up to 47%. The Pew study shows that men and women 50 or older with college degrees are relatively immune from this belief and the kind of anti-Jewish propaganda found in Passion of the Christ. Some college was evidently worse than high school degrees or among those with less than high school degrees. For background on Gibson’s anti-Semitism and the resurgence of radical Catholic anti-Semitism see the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “The New Crusaders” report (

[4] The ADL’s data is based on phone surveys in which respondents were asked agree (“probably true”) or disagree (“probably false”) to “index statements” designed to measure antisemitic feelings. The “Anti-Semitic Index” is comprised of the following questions: (1) Jews stick together more than other Americans; (2) Jews always like to be at the head of things; (3) Jews are more loyal to Israel than America; (4) Jews have too much power in the U.S. today; (5) Jews have too much control and influence on Wall Street; (6) Jews have too much power in the business world; (7) Jews have a lot of irritating faults; (8) Jews are more willing than others to use shady practices to get what they want; (9) Jewish business people are so shrewd that others don’t have a fair chance at competition; (10) Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind; (11) Jews are (not) just as honest as other businesspeople (Anti-Defamation League 2005:7).

[5] Over the last few years I have explored various aspects of the Frankfurt School’s neglected labor study (Amidon and Worrell, Forthcoming; Worrell 2006; see the “References” section for a list of several forthcoming publications directly related to the labor study).

[6] By ignoring the South it is impossible to test claims such as those advanced contemporaneously by Reddick ([1943] 1999: 450) that Black antisemitism was exclusively an urban and Northern phenomena: The question of sample representativeness was certainly an issue and one that the Institute acknowledged. They concluded that, given their task of determining the level of anti-Semitism within wartime industries, their sample was adequately drawn and representative of American labor. That was not entirely true and slightly veiled their true intent. The sample was heavy on CIO workers because it was felt that the CIO represented the vanguard of labor anti-fascism. They wanted to know if the ostensibly left-leaning elements of labor would be able to repulse fascism on the domestic front. To some extent, the American labor study was an extension and refinement of their work on the Weimar proletariat during the 30s (Fromm 1984).

[7] “In the American context, the most ironical thing about Negro anti-Semitism is that the Negro is really condemning the Jew for having become an American white man – for having become, in effect, a Christian. The Jew profits from his status in America, and he must expect Negroes to distrust him for it. The Jew does not realize that the credential he offers, the fact that he has been despised and slaughtered, does not increase the Negro’s understanding. It increases the Negro’s rage...[The Jew] is singled out by Negroes not because he acts differently from other white men, but because he doesn’t” (Baldwin [1967] 1969: 9, 11).

[8] Beginning in the late 1950s, there was, as Wilson and Aponte put it, a “rediscovery of poverty” and a raft of social policy programs were initiated including the Kerrs-Mills Act (1959) that redressed old-age health care; the 1961 food stamp pilot program; 1962 Manpower Development and Training Act and various other programs initiated by the Kennedy and Johnson administrations (1985: 233-34).

[9] Monthly Labor Review, June 2004. “Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics in the Civilian Labor Force.”

[10] Monthly Labor Review, June 2004. “Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics in the Civilian Labor Force.”

[11] Graham Cassano’s work is especially relevant here: “During the Cold War period, overt Jim Crow racism declined in the United States even as new ‘ethnic’ groups were included under the broad rubric of whiteness. On the surface this may seem like progress toward an ever more inclusive pluralistic and multi-cultural community. But this multi-cultural community was bound together by an American nationalism that depended upon a racialized imperial policy” (2006).

[12] What was lacking in the past was, on the one hand, demonization and, on the other, relative exclusion from criticism on the part of the Black press. “While disparaging remarks about white immigrants ran though the speeches and writing of black Americans throughout the century, blacks were usually careful to exclude Jews from these attacks…. Jews alone among whites in America, whether native-born or immigrants, were viewed as sharing with black people the status of second-class citizenship” (Foner 1975:359-60).

[13] On the distinction between “ethnoracial assignment” and “ethnoracial identity” see Brodkin (1998: 3).

[14] “This is not to say that anti-Semitism disappeared after World War II, only that it fell from fashion and was driven underground” (Brodkin 1998: 36-37; on the importance of anti-fascism and the reinterpretation of anti-Semitism see also Roediger 2005: 25; Sollors 1996).

[15] For a review of the literature dealing with Black nationalism see Davis and Brown (2002). For nationalist anti-Semitism see Marx (1967).

[16] Anti-Semitism represents a kind of distorted realism toward social facts. “If we attempt to formulate in abstract terms the principle to which the anti-Semite appeals, it would come to this: A whole is more and other than the sum of its parts .... [T]he anti-Semite has chosen to fall back on the spirit of synthesis in order to understand the world” ([1948] 1976: 34). We should amend Sartre, here, by saying that the whole is not only greater than the sum of its parts but also qualitatively different as well.

[17] The contradictory nature of anti-Semitism “is perhaps better understood if [historical] anti-Semitism is regarded as a complex myth, whose function, like that of other myths, was precisely to contain and express contradiction, to map out the social universe in terms of polarities, such as Money versus Honour, Stock Exchange versus Land, Gold versus Blood, Jew versus Christian or Aryan. In this way, it expressed the experience, the cultural dilemmas of those living in a society whose traditional structures and values were being altered by the process of modernization with unprecedented rapidity” (Wilson 1982: 639). Of course, myths are attempts to explain and/or legitimate the present with distorted historical elements as well as outright fabrications.