Right wing fuses anti-Semitism with anti-communism in its conspiracy theories
A man with a sign reading "No cultural marxism" taunts a group of protesters rallying at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City with Black Lives Matter messages, Sept. 27, 2017. 'Cultural Marxism' has become the new code among anti-Semitic propagandists. | Trent Nelson / The Salt Lake Tribune via AP

It’s hard for anyone reading any reactionary publication to avoid the name George Soros. Many right-wingers claim that Soros, a billionaire Jewish businessman, is funding radical leftists. They claim that Soros pays Black Lives Matter protesters, and some say he helps coordinate leftist activities around the world. Of course, anyone who does the slightest bit of research can easily discover that these accusations are not true. Despite this, millions of Americans believe these lies and repeat them regularly. Why is this, and why is it so easy to convince so many people of something that is obviously not true? The answer is that this lie plays into the long history of the fusing of anti-communism with anti-Semitism that is ingrained in much of American right-wing thought.

From the moment Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto in 1848, anti-communism has gone hand-in-hand with anti-Semitism. Many of Marx’s enemies (both on the right and the left) used his Jewish heritage to disparage his ideas and followers. However, the joining of anti-Semitism and anti-communism reached its zenith after the Russian Revolution and the rise of the Bolsheviks in 1917.

Fox News TV host Glenn Beck ran a series on his program in 2010 depicting billionaire Jewish businessman George Soros as a ‘puppet master’ who pulled the strings of the radical left and Democrats. The connection of anti-Semitism and anti-communism remains a staple of right-wing conspiracy theories. | via YouTube

By the start of the 20th century, the Russian Empire was the third largest empire in history. Its expansion had not only increased the landmass of the country, but also diversified the population of the empire. One of the largest minority groups now under the rule of the Tsar were the Jews, who were seen as second class at best, or as foreign and unwanted at worse. Russian Jews were subject to all kinds of abuse, both official and unofficial. There were laws restricting where Jews could live, and most infamously, they were subject to pogroms. Pogroms were repeated, large scale, violent attacks conducted by Russians against Jewish communities. These attacks were often incited by the anti-Semitic rhetoric of the authorities and the local churches. In the years leading up to 1917, thousands of Jews were murdered, even larger numbers injured and assaulted, and more still had their homes and possession destroyed.

After the October Revolution, Russia descended into Civil War. On the one side, there were the Bolshevik-led forces known as the Red Army. On the other side, there were various anti-Bolshevik groups, the largest being known as the White Army. The White Army was made up of monarchists, conservatives, and other reactionary, anti-revolutionary forces. Some of the elite in the White Army knew that they could use the existing, high levels of anti-Semitism to their advantage. To that end, they sought to merge anti-Semitism with anti-Bolshevism in order to increase their base.

In 1917, they published a pamphlet titled Jewish Bolshevism, which used traditional racist propaganda to vilify Jews and, by proxy, Communists. This was followed by the mass publication of the 1903 Protocols of the Elders of Zion, one of the most infamous publications of the 20th century. The Protocols were produced by the Tsarist secret police, claiming to prove a massive conspiracy by the Jewish people for world domination. The document was arguably the single most influential anti-Semitic publication in modern history, and it threw fuel onto the already raging fire that was the early 20th-century hatred of Jews.

Kornilov’s Shock Detachment, the White Army’s elite Shock Regiment during the Russian Civil War. | Wikimedia Commons

With the success of the Bolshevik-led working class revolution in Russia, reactionary powers and capitalists around the world began to fear communist uprisings in their own countries. In no country was this truer than the United States. The U.S. government began a campaign of persecution and slander against communists, initiating a period now known as “The First Red Scare.” As part of this effort, a White Army officer brought a copy of The Protocols from Russia to the U.S. for distribution. There were many versions, with some freely switching between the words “Jew” and “Bolshevik” in their translation.

Rabid Jew-hater and reactionary Henry Ford—of Ford Motor Co. fame—made it his personal mission to spread the joint anti-communist/anti-Semitic plot. The automobile mogul published excerpts from The Protocols, along with other anti-communist and anti-Jewish pieces, in his newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, as part of a series called, “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem.” He also paid for the book’s translation into various languages and its printing for distribution around the world. Ford knew that he could appeal to people’s existing anti-Semitism to help stoke the fear of communism, and thereby protect his wealth and the wealth of the rest of the capitalist class.

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Without a doubt, the most infamous purveyors of the idea of “Jewish Bolshevism” was the German National Socialist (Nazi) Party. The idea that they would protect the “Aryan race” from “the Communist plot led by world Jewry” was at the center of their ideology and propaganda. In fact, exterminating the large Jewish population in Eastern Europe was a significant impetus for the invasion of the Soviet Union, as was the prospect of destroying the world’s only Communist-led state.

Automobile titan Henry Ford funded the publication and distribution of massive amounts of anti-Semitic propaganda, including ‘The Protocols.’ Here is the front page of a 1920 edition of his ‘Dearborn Independent’ newspaper. | Wikimedia Commons

Many people imagine that the story of this fused hatred ends with the defeat of the Third Reich. Although the Nazis might have been the loudest propagandizers against “Jewish Bolshevism,” they were not the last. The right continued to push this conspiracy theory throughout the Cold War and into modern times. Right-wing authors such as Elizabeth Dilling and Frank L. Britton published works throughout the Cold War warning against a Jewish-Communist plan to take over America.

In the immediate post-war years, the most deplorable instance of this carefully composed fusion of right-wing fantasies came in the high-stakes atom bomb spy trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who, despite worldwide appeals for clemency, were executed by the U.S. government on June 19, 1953, under a cloud of manufactured evidence and perjured testimony. Historians have pointed out that although most of the principals in the case were Jewish—the defendants, lawyers, judge—there was not a single Jew allowed to serve on the jury in the densely Jewish city of New York. A prominent advisor for the prosecution was lawyer Roy Cohn, who would later become a mentor to the young Donald Trump.

At the beginning of the 1990s, with the collapse of the USSR, the propagators of “Judeo- Bolshevism” needed to rebrand, and “cultural Marxism” became its stand-in. The meaning, however, remained the same. The so called “moderate right” in the USA would like people to believe that this problem only exists on its fringes, but many mainstream conservative and reactionary personalities openly and loudly promote this conspiracy theory.

Pat Buchanan, a prominent Republican and frequent presidential candidate throughout the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, has warned his followers against the “threat of cultural Marxism” and its “de-Christianizing of America.” Jordan Peterson, a pseudo-intellectual with a large right-wing following whose books have become best sellers in the U.S. and around the world, often rants about how “cultural Marxism” is destroying “Western Civilization.”

In 2017, at the so called “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., the marchers were recorded chanting “Jews will not replace us.” This is a direct reference to the idea of “Judeo-Bolshevism” in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The next day, President Trump referred to the marchers as “very fine people.” An idea does not get any more mainstream than when it is condoned by the president of the United States and head of the Republican Party.

In this photo taken Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, multiple white nationalist groups march with torches through the UVA campus in Charlottesville, Va., for the so-called ‘Unite the Right’ rally. Pitched as a protest against the radical left, the event prominently featured anti-Semitic and anti-communist themes, as well as the chanct ‘Jews will not replace us.’ One anti-fascist demonstrator, Heather Heyer, was murdered by a right-wing extremist the following day. | Mykal McEldowney / The Indianapolis Star via AP

This tactic of using pre-existing prejudices to build support for reactionary ideas has been very successful for the right. It has been so successful that they are expanding its use in the contemporary USA. While dog whistles like George Soros conspiracy theories are still used, the rhetoric about dangerous conspiracies between Marxists and racial minorities has been expanded to include and focus on the Black Lives Matter movement. BLM is constantly accused of being a radical left organization and Marxist, despite no evidence supporting this claim.

However, when Trump and his minions declare that BLM is a “Marxist group,” what he is doing is telling the many racists in the USA that they should be afraid of communism. At the same time, he is telling those who have already fallen for the red-scare tactics used over the past century to be afraid of BLM.

We now stand at the threshold of a new Cold War. The Trump administration is telling Americans to be afraid of communism, to be afraid of BLM, and to be afraid of China. This coincides with an emboldening of white supremacists across the USA, as well as the growing anti-racist movement to counter the right. We must be aware of the long-used tactic of the reactionary right that links minority groups with Communist thought and uses already-existing racism and bigotry to swell the ranks of anti-communists so that we are better prepared to both recognize it when we see it and combat it successfully.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.


Amiad Horowitz
Amiad Horowitz

Amiad Horowitz studied at the Academy of Journalism and Communications at the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics with a specific focus on Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh. He lives in Hanoi, Vietnam. His articles have appeared in National Herald India, People's World, TRANSCEND Media Service, The Hitavada (India), Northlines, and The Arabian Post.