George Mosse
Toward the Final Solution

The mainstream of French anti-Semitism attempted to link nationalism to social and political reform. The anti-Semites were interested above all in national unity; they rejected class war in favor of class integration, without, however, approving of the existing capitalist and bourgeois order. They desired a more equal distribution of wealth, and demanded that all classes of the population participate in the political process. It is necessary to explain the social and political attitudes of this anti-Semitism somewhat fully because it gave racial thought in France its dynamic. Ever since mid-century the men and women who held such views had been known as National Socialists, a name Adolf Hitler adopted for his political party long after it had become common currency for a political theory which desired a government both social and national.

National Socialism did not accept the existing capitalist order, nor did it condemn all private property. On the contrary, social hierarchy was to be maintained, even while the right to work must be guaranteed and insurance schemes for the working classes initiated. The enmity of National Socialism was directed toward finance capitalism only: the banks and the stock exchange. The abolition of the 'slavery of interest charges' would produce both social justice and national unity. Edouard Drumont described shortly after 1870 the fears which haunted the National Socialists; 'The expropriation of society through finance capital takes place with a regularity which resembles the laws of nature. If nothing is done to arrest this process within the next fifty to a hundred years, all European society will be delivered tied hand and foot into the hands of a few hundred bankers.'

Arresting this development meant eliminating the Jews from national life, for they had become the symbol for the dominance of finance capitalism. We have seen earlier the role which the House of Rothschild and even the legend of the wandering Jew played in the growth of this myth, while the Jew as usurer presented a traditional image reaching far back into antiquity. Now within the economic crises of the last decades of the nineteenth century in which Jews were prominently involved, the Jew as finance capitalist stood revealed, symbolic of the power of unproductive wealth confronting the producers who unjustly lived in misery and want. The emphasis upon production is important here; for although the Jew as usurer had always presented an image opposed to 'honest work,' this image, especially in the second half of the nineteenth century, was now projected upon the strains and stresses of a developing capitalism. Critics of finance capitalism turned to the past, when productivity had been defined as money earned through the sweat of one's brow, while making money multiply without individual labor was traditionally branded as unproductive. The association of Jews with finance capitalism was Europe-wide, as indeed were the banking interests of the Rothschild family; but in France this myth dominated all others and from time to time received considerable working-class support.

Alphonse de Toussenel (1803-1885), a onetime disciple of the utopian Socialist Charles Fourier, was influential in popularizing National Socialism. He was to write one of the most important attacks upon the inborn and irremediable faults of the Jewish rule. The Jews, Kings of the Age, (Les Juifs, Rois de l'Epoque, 1845), subtitled History of the Feudal Aristocracy of Financiers, linked the medieval image of the Jew as usurer to the populism of a society suddenly plunged into the maelstrom of early capitalism.

The Jews, according to Toussenel, dominated the world through their control of finance capital. Toussenel supported his contention by attacks on the House of Rothschild, and indeed just after his book was published, a flood of pamphlets was unleashed against this symbol of capitalist and Jewish conspiracy (see Plate II). Toussenel came from a rural background, and for him the Jews were also the despoilers of the countryside—a view shared by many German writers for whom the Jew was the enemy of the peasant. Other anti-Semitic Socialists, like Fourier and Pierre Joseph Proudhon, also came from a rural background; however, Toussenel's rural orientation, unlike Proudhon's, did not entail oppsition to centralization. Indeed, he praised the centralizing efforts of the Ancien Regime and castigated the decline of authority which, to him, meant the abandonment of weak and defenseless workers.

Patriotism made Toussenel long for the kings of old, whom he conceived not as despots but as the voice of their people. He expressed his hatred for the English and Dutch as well as Jews, for these Protestants had sought to reduce the power of France. Toussenel's ideas at mid-century were nor markedly different from the National Socialism of men like Edouard Drumont at the end of the nineteenth century. Toussenel's 'socialism' consisted in his preoccupation with the right to work, his opposition to finance capitalism, and his demand for equality among all the French. He believed such equality had existed in the Middle Ages, when Frenchmen had formed a true community.

Pierre Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865) differed from Toussenel, above all in his belief that free association should be the basis of government and that individual moral reform would make any use of force among men unnecessary. But such optimism about man's potentialities was, once more, combined with a rather primitive cast of mind, which saw in Jews and finance capitalism the implacable, hated enemy. The social concerns of men like Toussenel and Proudhon were based upon a rejection of modernity, a hostility to civilization as an urban accomplishment. Here they agreed with Richard Wagner, their younger German contemporary, that equality among people and a nation committed to social justice meant the destruction of the 'power of gold.' Jews symbolized this power, hence the exploitation of the people among whom they lived.

The Jew who used gold as a weapon was thought incapable of honest labor; therefore, Proudhon could write that the Jew 'is by temperament an anti-producer, neither a farmer, nor even a true merchant'; in short, he had solely negative characteristics. Proudhon was circumspect in public. But in private, he called the Jews the enemy of the human race, who should be excluded from all employment and expelled from France, and whose synagogues should be closed. Like Toussenel, Proudhon was driven by his anti-finance capitalism to a racist stance. 'One must send this race back to Asia or exterminate it,' he declared. Proudhon wanted to establish communities based upon the individual consent of all members; indeed, voluntary agreements made between ail of those who entered such a community would render it truly reciprocal without the use of force or authority. That the call to exclude the Jewish race came from a man committed to communitarianism is of more than passing significance.

Through such men and their successors, racism became a part of the communitarian experience for which so many longed toward the end of the nineteenth century. Racism attempted to provide the cement for a human community linked by affinity, not created by social compulsion. Both the nationalists and some Socialists advocated such a community. For Fourier, Toussenel, and Proudhon, this meant a communitarian socialism which had nothing in common with Marxism. Moreover, they agreed with those nationalists who defined community through shared history, the native soil, and a vague inner necessity. The communitarian ideal of Toussenel and Proudhon centered upon the nation. Universalism had no part in their theories, for they were primarily concerned with the fate of France.

The Jewish race, as they put it, was predatory, competitive, and without morality, and was therefore to be excluded from participation in a genuinely national and socialist community. The First World War encouraged an emphasis upon cameraderie, which in turn deepened the longing for such a community. Fascism would subsequently take up this heritage, but starting from the thought of these early French National Socialists, racism had already allied itself with this ideal.

  The World was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They, hand in hand, with wand'ring steps and slow,

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Through Eden took their solitary way.