Karl Marx On the Jewish question
(Part One) by Karl Marx written Autumn 1843 published february 1844
The jew Karl Heinrich Marx was born on May 5, 1818, in the city of Trier in the Rhine Province of Prussia (now Germany). His mother, Herietta Pressburg, was from Holland and like Karl's father, was Jewish and was the descendentof a long line of rabbi's.
Bruno Bauer, - The Jewish Question_,
The German Jews desire emancipation. What kind of emancipation do they desire? Civic, political emancipation.
Bruno Bauer replies to them: No one in Germany is politically emancipated. We ourselves are not free. How are we to free you? You Jews are _egoists_ if you demand a special emancipation for yourselves as Jews. As Germans, you ought to work for the political emancipation of Germany, and as human beings, for the emancipation of mankind, and you should feel the particular kind of your oppression and your shame not as an exception to the rule, but on the contrary as a confirmation of the rule.
Or do the Jews demand the same status as Christian subjects of the state? In that case, they recognize that the Christian state is justified and they recognize, too, the regime of general oppression. Why should they disapprove of their special yoke if they approve of the general yoke? Why should the German be interested in the liberation of the Jew, if the Jew is not interested in the liberation of the German?
The Christian state knows only privileges. In this state, the Jew has the privilege of being a Jew. As a Jew, he has rights which the Christians do not have. Why should he want rights which he does not have, but which the Christians enjoy?
In wanting to be emancipated from the Christian state, the Jew is demanding that the Christian state should give up its religious prejudice. Does he, the Jew, give up _his_ religious prejudice? Has he, then, the right to demand that someone else should renounce his religion?
By its very nature, the Christian state incapable of emancipating the Jew; but, adds Bauer, by his very nature the Jew cannot be emancipated. So long as the state is Christian and the Jew is Jewish, the one is as incapable of granting emancipation as the other is of receiving it.
The Christian state can behave towards the Jew only in the way characteristic of the Christian state -- that is, by granting privileges, by permitting the separation of the Jew from the other subjects, but making him feel the pressure of all the other separate spheres of society, and feel it all the more intensely because he is in religious opposition to the dominant religion. But the Jew, too, can behave towards the state only in a Jewish way -- that is, by treating it as something alien to him, by counterposing his imaginary nationality to the real nationality, by counterposing his illusory law to the real law, by deeming himself justified in separating himself from mankind, by abstaining on principle from taking part in the historical movement, by putting his trust in a future which has nothing in common with the future of mankind in general, and by seeing himself as a member of the Jewish people, and the Jewish people as the chosen people.
On what grounds, then, do you Jews want emancipation? On account of your religion? It is the mortal enemy of the state religion. As citizens? In Germany, there are no citizens. As human beings? But you are no more human beings than those to whom you appeal.
Bauer has posed the question of Jewish emancipation in a new form, after giving a critical analysis of the previous formulations and solutions of the question. What, he asks, is the nature of the Jew who is to be emancipated and of the Christian state that is to emancipate him? He replies by a critique of the Jewish religion, he analyzes the religious opposition between Judaism and Christianity, he elucidates the essence of the Christian state -- and he does all this audaciously, trenchantly, wittily, and with profundity, in a style of writing what is as precise as it is pithy and vigorous.
How, then, does Bauer solve the Jewish question? What is the result? The formulation of a question is its solution. The critique of the Jewish question is the answer to the Jewish question. The summary, therefore, is as follows:
We must emancipated ourselves before we can emancipate others.
The most rigid form of the opposition between the Jew and the Christian is the _religious_ opposition. How is an opposition resolved? By making it impossible. How is religious opposition made impossible? By abolishing religion. As soon as Jew and Christian recognize that their respective religions are no more than different stages in the development of the human mind, different snake skins cast off by history, and that man is the snake who sloughed them, the relation of Jew and Christian is no longer religious but is only a critical, scientific, and human relation. Science, then, constitutes their unity. But, contradictions in science are resolved by science itself.
The _German_ Jew, in particular, is confronted by the general absence of political emancipation and the strongly marked Christian character of the state. In Bauer's conception, however, the Jewish question has a universal significance, independent of specifically German conditions. It is the question of the relation of religion to the state, of the contradiction between religious constraint and political emancipation. Emancipation from religion is laid down as a condition, both to the Jew who wants to be emancipated politically, and to the state which is to effect emancipation and is itself to be emancipated.
"Very well", it is said, and the Jew himself says it, "the Jew is to become emancipated not as a Jew, not because he is a Jew, not because he possesses such an excellent, universally human principle of morality; on the contrary, the _Jew_ will retreat behind the _citizen_ and be a _citizen_, although he is a Jew and is to remain a Jew. That is to say, he is and remains a _Jew_, although he is a _citizen_ and lives in universally human conditions: his Jewish and restricted nature triumphs always in the end over his human and political obligations. The _prejudice_ remains in spite of being outstripped by _general_ principles. But if it remains, then, on the contrary, it outstrips everything else."
"Only sophistically, only apparently, would the Jew be able to remain a Jew in the life of the state. Hence, if he wanted to remain a Jew, the mere appearance would become the essential and would triumph; that is to say, his _life in the state_ would be only a semblance or only a temporary exception to the essential and the rule." ("The Capacity of Present-Day Jews and Christians to Become Free", _Einundzwanzig Bogen_, pp.57)
Let us hear, on the other hand, how Bauer presents the task of the state.
"France," he says, "has recently shown us" (Proceedings of the Chamber of Deputies, December 26, 1840) "in the connection with the Jewish question -- just as it has continually done in all other _political_ questions -- the spectacle of a life which is free, but which revokes its freedom by law, hence declaring it to be an appearance, and on the other hand contradicting its free laws by its action." (_The Jewish Question_, p.64)
"In France, universal freedom is not yet the law, the Jewish question too has _not_ yet been solved, because legal freedom -- the fact that all citizens are equal -- is restricted in actual life, which is still dominated and divided by religious privileges, and this lack of freedom in actual life reacts on law and compels the latter to sanction the division of the citizens, who as such are free, into oppressed and oppressors." (P.65)
When, therefore, would the Jewish question be solved for France?
"The Jew, for example, would have ceased to be a Jew if he did not allow himself to be prevented by his laws from fulfilling his duty to the state and his fellow citizens, that is, for example, if on the Sabbath he attended the Chamber of Deputies and took part in the official proceedings. Every _religious privilege_, and therefore also the monopoly of a privileged church, would have been abolished altogether, and if some or many persons, or even the overwhelming majority, still believed themselves bound to fulfil religious duties, this fulfilment ought to be left to them as a purely private matter." (P.65)
"There is no longer any religion when there is no longer any privileged religion. Take from religion its exclusive power and it will no longer exist." (P.66)
"Just as M. Martin du Nord saw the proposal to omit mention of Sunday in the law as a motion to declare that Christianity has ceased to exist, with equal reason (and this reason is very well founded) the declaration that the law of the Sabbath is no longer binding on the Jew would be a proclamation abolishing Judaism." (P.71)
Bauer, therefore, demands, on the one hand, that the Jew should renounce Judaism, and that mankind in general should renounce religion, in order to achieve _civic_ emancipation. On the other hand, he quite consistently regards the _political_ abolition of religion as the abolition of religion as such. The state which presupposes religion is not yet a true, real state.
"Of course, the religious notion affords security to the state. But to what state? To what kind of state?" (P.97)
At this point, the _one-sided_ formulation of the Jewish question becomes evident.
It was by no means sufficient to investigate: Who is to emancipate? Who is to be emancipated? Criticism had to investigate a third point. It had to inquire: What kind of emancipation is in question? What conditions follow from the very nature of the emancipation that is demanded? Only the criticism of political emancipation itself would have been the conclusive criticism of the Jewish question and its real merging in the "general question of time".
Because Bauer does not raise the question to this level, he becomes entangled in contradictions. He puts forward conditions which are not based on the nature of _political_ emancipation itself. He raises questions which are not part of his problem, and he solves problems which leave this question unanswered. When Bauer says of the opponents of Jewish emancipation:
"Their error was only that they assumed the Christian state to be the only true one and did not subject it to the same criticism that they applied to Judaism" (op. cit., p.3)
we find that his error lies in the fact that he subjects to criticism _only_ the "Christian state", not the "state as such", that he does not investigate the relation of political emancipation to human emancipation and, therefore, puts forward conditions which can be explained only by uncritical confusion of political emancipation with general human emancipation. If Bauer asks the Jews: Have you, from your standpoint, the right to want political emancipation? we ask the converse question: Does the standpoint of political emancipation give the right to demand from the Jew the abolition of Judaism and from man the abolition of religion?
The Jewish question acquires a different form depending on the state in which the Jew lives. In Germany, where there is no political state, no state as such, the Jewish question is a purely _theological_ one. The Jew finds himself in _religious_ opposition to the state, which recognizes Christianity as its basis. This state is a theologian ex professo. Criticism here is criticism of theology, a double-edged criticism -- criticism of Christian theology and of Jewish theology. Hence, we continue to operate in the sphere of theology, however much we may operate critically within it.
In France, a constitutional state, the Jewish question is a question of constitutionalism, the question of the incompleteness of political emancipation. Since the semblance of a state religion is retained here, although in a meaningless and self-contradictory formula, that of a religion of the majority, the relation of the Jew to the state retains the semblance of a religious, theological opposition.
Only in the North American states -- at least, in some of them -- does the Jewish question lose its theological significance and become a really _secular_ question. Only where the political state exists in its completely developed form can the relation of the Jew, and of the religious man in general, to the political state, and therefore the relation of religion to the state, show itself in its specific character, in its purity. The criticism of this relation ceases to be theological criticism as soon as the state ceases to adopt a theological attitude toward religion, as soon as it behaves towards religion as a state -- i.e., politically. Criticism, then, becomes criticism of the political state. At this point, where the question ceases to be theological, Bauer's criticism ceases to be critical.
"In the United States there is neither a state religion nor a religion declared to be that of the majority, nor the predominance of one cult over another. The state stands aloof from all cults." (Marie ou l'esclavage aux Etats-Unis, etc., by G. de Beaumont, Paris, 1835, p.214)
Indeed, there are some North American states where "the constitution does not impose any religious belief or religious practice as a condition of political rights." (op. cit., p.225)
Nevertheless, "in the United States people do not believe that a man without religion could be an honest man." (op. cit., p.224)
Nevertheless, North America is pre-eminently the country of religiosity, as Beaumont, Tocqueville, and the Englishman Hamilton unanimously assure us. The North American states, however, serve us only as an example. The question is: What is the relation of complete political emancipation to religion? If we find that even in the country of complete political emancipation, religion not only exists, but displays a fresh and vigorous vitality, that is proof that the existence of religion is not in contradiction to the perfection of the state. Since, however, the existence of religion is the existence of defect, the source of this defect can only be sought in the nature of the state itself. We no longer regard religion as the _cause_, but only as the manifestation of secular narrowness. Therefore, we explain the religious limitations of the free citizen by their secular limitations. We do not assert that they must overcome their religious narrowness in order to get rid of their secular restrictions, we assert that they will overcome their religious narrowness once they get rid of their secular restrictions. We do not turn secular questions into theological ones. History has long enough been merged in superstition, we now merge superstition in history. The question of the relation of political emancipation to religion becomes for us the question of the relation of political emancipation to human emancipation. We criticize the religious weakness of the political state by criticizing the political state in its secular form, apart from its weaknesses as regards religion. The contradiction between the state and a particular religion, for instance Judaism, is given by us a human form as the contradiction between the state and _particular_ secular elements; the contradiction between the state and religion in general as the contradiction between the state and its presuppositions in general.
The political emancipation of the Jew, the Christian, and, in general, of religious man, is the emancipation of the _state_ from Judaism, from Christianity, from religion in general. In its own form, in the manner characteristic of its nature, the state as a state emancipates itself from religion by emancipating itself from the state religion -- that is to say, by the state as a state not professing any religion, but, on the contrary, asserting itself as a state. The _political_ emancipation from religion is not a religious emancipation that has been carried through to completion and is free from contradiction, because political emancipation is not a form of _human_ emancipation which has been carried through to completion and is free from contradiction.
The limits of political emancipation are evident at once from the fact that the state can free itself from a restriction without man being really free from this restriction, that the state can be a _free state_ [ pun on word Freistaat, which also means republic ] without man being a _free man_. Bauer himself tacitly admits this when he lays down the following condition for political emancipation:
"Every religious privilege, and therefore also the monopoly of a privileged church, would have been abolished altogether, and if some or many persons, or even the overwhelming majority, still believed themselves bound to fulfil religious duties, this fulfilment ought to be left to them as a purely private matter." [_The Jewish Question_, p.65]
It is possible, therefore, for the _state_ to have emancipated itself from religion even if the _overwhelming majority_ is still religious. And the overwhelming majority does not cease to be religious through being religious in private.