A good deal of today’s anti-Semitism rests upon the fantasy that ‘the Jews’ control the world through finance and banking. Right-wing nationalists stir up solidarity and hatred with this narrative. The same fantasy also fuels left-wing anti-Semitism, which mostly expresses itself in one-sided criticism of Israel: that is, outrage at any bad behaviour of Israel, while ignoring the fact that Israel’s neighbours have consistently called for the murder of all Israelis and started several wars with that declared intent.
The fact that some Jews are good at finance is, apparently, enough to justify a fantasy that they rule the world in the anti-Semite’s mind. There are, of course, any number of Jews who are prominent as scientists, civil rights activists, generals, actors, musicians and songwriters, historians, hairdressers, without anyone blaming science, civil rights, theatre, war, music and song, history, hairdressing etcetera on ‘the Jews’. This highlights one of the traditional functions of anti-Semitism in Christian and post-Christian nations: if something is obviously bad, reach for ‘the Jews’ (God’s first love) as scapegoat.
There is a lot wrong in capitalism and finance, but the most superficial scrutiny of reality reveals that what is wrong has almost nothing to do with ‘the Jews’ as a people or as a tradition, and almost everything to do with a tradition and practice that for centuries excluded Jews. The fact that money is created and destroyed by commercial banks has transformed capitalism from an honest business into a system that steals from working people and gives to governments, bankers and financial predators. But commercial banking (unlike merchant banking) has been a highly-protected Christian monopoly until very recently.
What is Wrong in Capitalism and Finance?
Capitalism, so the story goes, begins when citizens save money: banks gather up those savings and lend them to entrepreneurs who put them to use for the benefit of all. Today, that narrative is a lie. Banks create money out of nothing; savings have become negligible in comparison, earning next to no interest or even less than nothing (negative interest rates).
How did this situation come about? How did banks come to create the money supply? (If you don’t believe – or understand – the simple fact that banks create the money supply, the Bank of England’s report on Money Creation states it quite clearly: http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Pages/quarterlybulletin/2014/qb14q1.aspx )
The story of how the situation came about is simple. Whenever, in history, people with wealth in money (as opposed to, for instance, wealth in land) have gained the upper hand, they have made laws supporting the buying and selling of debt. These laws enable banks to create money, and also governments and corporations to create wealth (bonds) for those who lend to them. This gives huge advantage to the rich: by exploiting these laws, sixty-two individuals have (according to Oxfam) come to own more than what is owned by the poorer half of the world’s population.
The change brought about by these laws is easy to understand. If I lend money to a friend, I no longer have that money until (perhaps) one day I get it back. No new money has been created. If, on the other hand, I lend money to a government or a corporation, I get a ‘bond’ in return – a piece of paper which can be bought and sold, and which is as valuable as the money I am lending. I can buy things with it: it is a form of money. Value has been created. If this simple story seems hard to believe, read it in the sacred text of economics, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations: ‘The merchant or monied man makes money by lending money to government, and instead of diminishing, increases his trading capital.’ (Book 5, Chapter 3).
Bonds and bank-money are both forms of ‘negotiable debt’ – debt which can be bought and sold, and which passes from hand to hand as money. Bankers create and rent out their own debt – it makes up 97% of the money supply in the West. Creators of bonds make wealth that circulates among the rich.
These unjust laws have contributed to the huge inequality in our world today – and to many other problems besides. As far as modernity is concerned, these laws were passed first by the English Parliament at a time when it was composed of rich men voted for by other rich men. After that, country by country, copy-cat laws were adopted. Globalization has completed the process worldwide. The world is now a feeding ground for the powers of government, speculation and finance.
So, how does that relate to fantasies of Jewish dominance? For many years after these laws were passed, both in Europe and America, the process of money-creation was and remained a highly protected Christian activity. Banking, government and corporate debt were administered by institutions deeply anti-Semitic and protected by Christian oath-taking. Jewish money-lenders had to make do with lending money that already existed.
When, eventually, a Jewish family – the Rothschilds – was able to profit from bond-creation and join the club of the immensely rich, the name soon became a convenient by-word, for anti-Semites, for the hidden power of money. Incidentally, the sickness of anti-Semitism has many people believing that the Rockefellers – a Protestant family of German origin – are Jewish too, merely because in addition to being rich and powerful their name is sort-of-foreign. The fantasy-narrative deflects attention from the majority holders of money and power, and from the source of its concentration – the laws of negotiable debt.
Serious historians of banking have had to refute anti-Semitic accounts of corrupt capitalism, attempting to combat their noxious influence. For instance, Raymond de Roover refuted thus the anti-Semitism of Werner Sombart: “the leading international bankers, such as the Medici or the Fuggers, were all Christians. There is, therefore, nothing to support Sombart’s thesis according to which the Jews were the originators of international finance and the founders of modern capitalism.” Sombart’s thesis was, in its day, influential in nationalist, right- and left-wing circles.
Nowadays, of course, bankers and financiers are Anglo-Saxon, African, Indian, Chinese, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Latino – assorted individuals from almost every ethnic and religious background who have no more consuming interest than to make lots of money. Governments also use ‘negotiable debt instruments’ – bonds – to borrow without asking permission of their citizens. The shared interests of governments, plutocrats and banks are the basis of a collusive relationship that has survived all attempts to break it – except when communism and fascism, by combining all three powers in the hands of the State, created a totalitarianism which turned out to be even worse.
These three groups set the tone for our world. If we dislike what they do – that is, if we want to avoid the effects of their concentrated power and wealth – we must reform the laws that allow them so much power. This would be a lot better than standing by and watching further growth of the toxic extremisms emerging in so many places today.
Right- and Left-Wing Anti-Semitism.
Right-wing anti-Semitism, responsible for probably the most massive crime in history, has become discredited except among the most vicious – of whom there are always more than enough in every population; some, indeed, are emerging in the entourage of Donald Trump.
Left-wing anti-Semitism has strong roots in the writings of Karl Marx, who was brought up a strict Lutheran and Prussian patriot. His anti-Semitic utterances – an assiduous reader has counted more than 8,000 in his writings – bear a strong resemblance to Luther’s own poisonous late-in-life rantings in ‘The Jews and their Lies’. Luther and Marx both focused on a supposed Jewish love of money. In addition, Marx seemed to regard religious observance and individual moral conscience as impediments to his imagined socialist utopia, which would be managed and dictated to by a self-anointed elite among his followers – a classic Protestant ‘enlightenment’ model for a brave new world.
Left-wing anti-Semitism is also fed by the support of various American interest groups (including Christian fundamentalists) for ‘right-wing’ tendencies in Israeli politics. This support may or may not be helpful to Israel’s future, but it is plainly fantastical to blame it on ‘the Jews’. It is hard to know what America is up to in the Middle East. Oil, arms sales, territorial influence and military presence certainly play their part; but to suggest that Israel is the organ-grinder, and America the monkey, is ludicrous.
A revealing example of left-wing anti-Semitic fantasy occurred when the famous historian J.A. Hobson republished, in 1938, the sentence, ‘Does anyone seriously suppose that a great war could be undertaken by any European state, or a great state loan subscribed if the house of Rothschild and their connections set their face against it?’ The remark displays astonishing ignorance. The Nazis, having robbed German Jews and side-lined German commercial banks, were paying for war preparations with credit-money created via State institutions in the ratio of 12,000 credit to 1 of assets. Non-state bankers hesitate to go above a ratio of 60:1. It is the evidence we choose to ignore that allows us to become fanatics.
There is a Jewish joke from the 1930’s. Two Jews, robbed by the Nazi’s and destitute, are sitting on a bench. One is reading the local Jewish newspaper; the other man is reading the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer. The first man says, ‘Why are you reading that poisonous rubbish?’ The second replies: ‘In your newspaper, we Jews are everywhere in misery and desperation. In the one I’m reading – we rule the world!’
Things are not so extreme for Jews today. Let us resist any attempt to push them in that direction. Let us rather cope with our own contributions to the destitutions that are rampant in the world today through wars, climate change and the growth of fanaticism, hatred and intolerance.