After some years of relative quiescence, the anti-Semitic demagogue is once more astir in the land, peddling the same line of goods but in a new package. Impossible, after the lessons of Hitler, that he should have any success in America! But he has already had successes, and has hopes of more. JAMES RORTY, veteran reporter on the American social and political scene, has for thirty years observed, studied, and written about the demagogue and hate-monger in our midst. He here tells us what the anti-Semitic operator, 1954 style, looks like in his “new look,” and offers for our sober consideration some tentative appraisal of his present potency and future prospects.
Today, if you wish to move in the best anti-Semitic circles and at the same time have hopes of back door entree and financial support from respectable corporation executives and businessmen who are not openly anti-Semitic, you will speak sympathetically of the good, upstanding Jews of B’nai B’rith and the American Jewish Committee, and in the same breath denounce Communists, Zionists, “Khazars,” and the Anti-Defamation League, in approximately that order. As a patriotic publicist, you will denounce the menace, not of Jews and “international Jewry” as such, but of the international Communist conspiracy and its agents and sympathizers in high places, most of whom you discover to be Jews, whose original Jewish names, where they have been changed, you restore parenthetically for the instruction of the unwary. It is also de rigueur to support Joe McCarthy, and you will be the first to attack as Communists or Communist sympathizers all who criticize the Senator.
That’s the new anti-Semitic look—the fact that it is worn by some of the same faces that during the 30’s bore a remarkable resemblance to Bundists, Fascists, and Falangists is of course purely coincidental. You wouldn’t hold an ex-Communist’s past against him, say their rich if somewhat shy supporters; why can’t an anti-Semite also repent? And anyhow, they are likely to conclude in a tone of exasperation, “anti-Semite” and “fascist” are words the Communists invented to smear all those who opposed the Sovietization of America. The new line of the anti-Semites is to holler “smear” when they are called just that. The fact that these are some of the same people that screamed “kike” at Joe McWilliams’ street corner rallies in Yorkville fifteen years ago is something well-heeled ultra-nationalist industrialists wave aside with a pained expression.
The bridge between anti-Semitism and political respectability is like the underwater pontoon bridges devised during the Korean war: it is submerged under a river of Aesopian doubletalk, it cannot be used for daytime traffic, and because of the natural obstacles of the American political terrain its completion will be difficult.
It may be prudent, however, to look closely at some of the creators of the new anti-Semitic look, and appraise their chances of building this bridge to reach what is clearly their objective: the infiltration and ultimate control of a reactionary nationalist political movement wielding substantial power.
With a certain reluctance, because one does not wish to exaggerate his present importance, we introduce Mr. Joseph P. Kamp, who is a veteran nationalist publicist and editor of Headlines, organ of the Constitutional Educational League. Born in Yonkers, New York, in 1900, the son of a German American tailor, Kamp started life as a process-server, and his weathered blond features still bear the feral stigmata of that profession. Later he worked as a newspaper reporter and in the construction business. During the 20’s, when the Constitutional Educational League was still a significant organization (it was once sponsored by William Howard Taft), Kamp began lecturing under the League’s auspices. In 1933, after Hitler’s capture of power in Germany, Kamp became executive editor of The Awakener, a pro-fascist periodical which was repeatedly applauded by the Nazi propaganda organ World Service. Among Kamp’s associates during this period were Harold Lord Varney, who was decorated by Mussolini and is now a contributor to the American Mercury; Lawrence Dennis, called “the brains of American fascism”; and Allen A. Zoll. It was Zoll who in 1939 organized the picketing of Station WMCA when it put Father Coughlin off the air, and who was indicted by a grand jury for allegedly demanding and accepting a bribe to call off his pickets. Kamp’s literature, produced for the Constitutional Educational League, was distributed at the Bund’s Madison Square Garden Rally in 1939.
Those were the bold, rough, pre-war days when the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a best-seller at the Aryan Book Store in Los Angeles, when anti-Semitism glared and shouted on a hundred street corners all over America, and when Nazi, Fascist, and Japanese subsidies were fed freely to a motley assortment of American rabble-rousers.
Today anti-Semitism wears a very different look, as does Joseph P. Kamp. The Constitutional Educational League, which for all practical purposes has been Mr. Kamp’s personal property for over a decade, occupies modest but well-furnished offices on Madison Avenue in New York City. There you are received by a stately, white-haired receptionist whose manner would lend dignity to the United States Steel Corporation. When, after proper preliminaries, you are permitted to see Mr. Kamp, he assures you with some belligerency that he is not anti-Semitic at all.
“I challenge you,” says Mr. Kamp, “to show that I have ever been guilty of anti-Semitism, by so much as a single spoken or written word.”
There would seem to be not one but several such words in the leading article, entitled “White House Masterminds Plot to ‘Get’ McCarthy,” which appears in the April 5, 1954 issue of Headlines. Frequently these words appear in parentheses, thus: David Niles (Neyhus), Max Rabb (Rabinowitz), and C. D. Jackson (Jacobson). Mr. Kamp (Kampf) justifies this identification of the Jewishness of his pet hates by what he insists is a legitimate Gentile resentment against the adoption by Jews of “Christian” names. He explains, further, that the seeming concentration of his attack upon these and other Jews prominent in the Truman and Eisenhower administrations (Felix Frankfurter, Max Lowenthal, and Michael Greenberg) is merely a reflection of the “recorded facts” about the pro-Communist infiltration of both the Democratic and the Republican administrations.
But that his campaign is motivated by any subjective bias against Jews—this Mr. Kamp energetically denies. Such charges, he insists, are base slanders disseminated by his (Jewish-Communist) enemies; they have not stained the white radiance of his patriotic dedication, nor has he been tempted into retaliatory bitterness—not even after he had been convicted of contempt for refusing to reveal to the Buchanan Committee on Lobbying Activities the sources of his financial support. (That bridge remains pretty much under water, although there is a good deal of circumstantial evidence to suggest that Mr. Kamp receives the overflow from the generous contributions given to such somewhat more respectable ultra-conservative publicists as Merwin K. Hart, and that Kamp’s pamphlet salesmen, some of whom have made as much as $16,000 in commissions during a single year, get large orders from prominent industrialists who are careful to avoid open association with the one-time Nazi apologist.)
This, then, is Joe Kamp’s current line, and its very disingenuousness is politically significant. Huey Long once observed that if fascism ever came to America it would arrive as anti-fascism. In the present social and political climate of the United States, overt anti-Semitism is more an embarrassment than a help to aspiring demagogues. Anti-anti-Semitism is likely to work much better: witness Joe McCarthy.
Whatever its degree of truth (it differs sharply from other accounts) Joe Kamp’s description of how Joe McCarthy came to make his peace with the Jewish organizations has a raffish humor reminiscent of the late W. C. Fields. They had put pressure, alleges Mr. Kamp, on the Senator.
“They had threatened,” writes Kamp in an open letter to J. Edgar Hoover dated October 15, 1953, “to label him with that damning little Communist smear word ‘anti-Semitic’ They had forced him to repudiate a helpful friend, the nationally known radio commentator Upton Close,” who had already been “destroyed” by “smear terror” and “threats” against radio stations and program sponsors.
“Joe McCarthy had a bitter choice. He could stand idly by and see his fight against Communism effectively sabotaged, or he could swallow his pride, betray his principles, and sacrifice his self-respect.
“It took guts to do what Joe McCarthy was compelled to do in order to continue his fight.”
But not more guts than Joe has always had, according to his early poker-playing associates, who credit him with “the guts of a burglar.” So, putting his guts in his pocket, so to speak, the Senator bravely consummated the required surrender.
Such, in Mr. Kamp’s view, are the detours from the straight and narrow path of principle that a patriot must sometimes make, if he is to continue to fight Communism in this country. Mr. Kamp understood and forgave. He will also understand and forgive, one suspects, if Joe McCarthy finally yields to the urging of friends who have long wanted him to repudiate Joe Kamp. This the Senator may be reluctant to do, however, because of the services rendered by Kamp’s “Committee for McCarthyism,” including the recent Kamp pamphlet attacking Frederick Woltman, author of the devastating “McCarthy Balance Sheet,” published serially in the Scripps-Howard newspapers. The same pamphlet attacks the American Committee for Cultural Freedom, which sponsored publication of McCarthy and the Communists, by this writer in collaboration with Moshe Decter. Kamp’s counter-attack against “Red Fred” Woltman and myself, with its attribution of pro-Communist motivation to Woltman and me, was promptly quoted at length by the notorious anti-Semite Conde McGinley, whom McCarthy has also failed thus far to repudiate. But it won’t matter much if he does. McGinley, and also Gerald L. K. Smith, Gerald Winrod, and other loyal anti-Semitic defenders of the Senator, may be counted upon to continue their support of McCarthy no matter how often he repudiates them, or how many Jews he employs on his staff.
In The 1952 Republican primary contest, Smith, Winrod, and Allen A. Zoll led the mixed rabble of hate-merchants, fundamentalist “apostles of discord,” and crackpots who, along with a few more respectable elements, brought about a temporary coalition of the Christian Nationalists and the Constitution party. These two groups supported Mac-Arthur (without his consent), and were violent opponents of Eisenhower. A similar alignment of right-wing isolationist, fundamentalist, and more or less anti-Semitic fringe groups may be expected in the 1956 Presidential primary, in which McCarthy may, or may not, be a candidate.
The question is, how much is such sup port worth in terms of practical American politics? McCarthy answered that question for himself when he repudiated Upton Close. The chances are that any working demagogue with anti-Semitic “principles” would have to swallow them and return a similar answer if he wanted to get anywhere. As of today, the public acceptance of anti-Semitic support would be the kiss of death to an aspiring power politician: for the mass of Americans political anti-Semitism is not respectable, and the non-respectable fringe groups don’t muster enough votes to count.
Joe Kamp1, who went to jail rather than reveal the names of his financial supporters, understands this very well. So, one may be sure, do other fringe group publicists. In their determination to become respectable they are now working the anti-Communist side of the street exclusively, filing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion for future reference, and even, when challenged, repudiating the “Jew” half of the “Jew-traitor” amalgam.
This shift of tactics dates from about 1947. By that time, consciously or unconsciously, our native agitators had absorbed certain important lessons from the failure of the Nazi-inspired anti-Semitism of the 30’s, and from the precipitate postwar collapse of their movements. Nazism, having proclaimed itself “braver, stronger, better organized, and above all, successful,” had gone down in the rubble of the smashed German cities and in the stench of the opened concentration camps. The anti-Semitism that Hitler had tried to transplant to America was revealed in all its horror, and Americans recoiled.
Other postwar factors accelerated the decline of anti-Semitism in the United States; by 1947 domestic tensions were easing and employment was high, while on the international front the rise of Red imperialism was threatening American security from the left. Even during the earlier period, anti-Semitism had had no real success, as the veteran hate-monger Gerald L. K. Smith had at least one excellent opportunity to learn. After the assassination of Huey Long, Smith hoped to inherit the crown of the Louisiana Kingfish and ride his radical, populist “Share the Wealth” movement to power. But the Long gang didn’t want him—partly because they were embarrassed by his anti-Semitism.
Untaught by this experience, Smith distributed “Ike the Kike” cards during the 1952 Republican primary contest, while Winrod circulated an Americanized version of the Protocols “proving” that a Jewish cabal has been selecting American Presidents since the days of Theodore Roosevelt, with Dwight D. Eisenhower as their latest standard bearer. Smith and Winrod make up the lunatic fringe, along with Elizabeth Dilling, Eugene Sanctuary, and Conde McGinley; the latter charged in Common Sense that the Israelis used “germ warfare” against the Arabs. These are the Bourbons of the movement, who have learned nothing and forgotten nothing; thus they are much less dangerous than more resourceful and flexible operators such as Hart, Kamp, and Zoll.
Since 1947 this latter group appears to have realized that if their anti-Semitism was to gain converts it had to be tied up in a larger, more respectable package of public opinion and labeled “anti-Communism.” To accomplish this maneuver required only a slight change of strategy. The anti-Semites had always talked an anti-Communist line, but after the Hitler fashion: they called it, in the “Fuehrer’s” phrase, “Judeo-Bolshevism.” Now, with aggressive Communism emerging as the chief danger confronting the United States and the free world in general, they saw their chance to infiltrate, after the Communist fashion, conservative political formations and wherever possible give an anti-Semitic twist to issues that are not necessarily anti-Communist, but often merely isolationist and conservative. Such issues are provided by the Bricker amendment and other anti-UN programs, by “creeping socialism,” and by the traditionalism versus modernism controversy in education. The anti-Semitic hand is apparent in the stress laid on the Jewish-ness of the liberal organizations and persons selected for attack—not as Jews but as Communists or Communist sympathizers, or more broadly as left-wing collectivists.
The public memory being notoriously short, most Americans have forgotten that in pre-Pearl Harbor days Allen A. Zoll headed the American Patriots, an organization listed by the Attorney General as “fascist,” and that in his spare time he directed Christian Front picket lines. Sensing that the temper of the postwar era required a different pitch, Zoll organized in 1948 the National Council on American Education, which was initially endorsed by such men as the late Senator Arthur Vandenberg, Gene Tunney, and Stanley High, all of whom hastily repudiated the connection when they were informed of Zoll’s history and background. The Council survived these and other setbacks, however, and in 1949 Zoll successfully organized many local groups into a kind of united front against intergroup education, teacher workshops, nursery schools, and sex education. Dr. Willard Goslin, an outstanding educator, gave up his post as Pasadena’s superintendent of schools rather than be continuously embroiled with the vociferous antagonists whom Zoll had helped to organize.
In a strenuous coast-to-coast campaign, Zoll carefully avoided his old anti-Semitic contacts and tactics. In his speeches he now avoids open ant-Semitic incitement, while managing to get his point across. Thus, after a two-hour audience with General Naguib, the Egyptian newspapers quoted this “leading American businessman” as saying: “What I have seen in Egypt made me think of the dirty propaganda which the enemies of Egypt—and they are well known-are conducting to prevent tourists from coming to Egypt and to make businessmen and capitalists afraid to invest their capital in Egypt.”
Merwin K. Hart dominates the National Economic Council and its promotion of laissez-faire economic policies. Around 1947 Hart’s anti-Semitism, which had previously expressed itself chiefly in the listing of Jewish names in unfavorable context, became somewhat more explicit; the NEC’s publication, Economic Council Letter, began attacking “Zionists” and “Zionist Jews” as supporters of Soviet Russia, conspirators, marplots, and fomenters of war. A year later the NEC sponsored the radio broadcasts of Upton Close, whose newsletter, advertised over the program, specialized in attacking prominent Jews. Additional clues to Hart’s attitudes and associations are provided by his one-time employment of Zoll to help the NEC’s drive for contributions, and the aid he gave to Lawrence Dennis when he too wanted to get started in the newsletter business.
Both Zoll and Hart have been supported and aided by reputable businessmen who do not share their anti-Semitic attitudes. Because of this support, both of these bigots have been enabled to move in respectable conservative circles that would otherwise be closed to them. In many communities, Zoll succeeded in enlisting the cooperation of solid citizens who had more or less valid objections to the “frills and fads” of modern education and to the fellow-traveling proclivities of some of the educators, but who would have equally objected to Zoll if they had known the details of his career, or even if they had understood the kind of “education” he recently promoted in his publication. A few months ago Zoll tipped his hand by recommending to his readers a book by Professor John O. Beaty, one of the vice presidents of the National Council on Economic Education, entitled Iron Curtain Over America.
Professor Beaty’s book is a hodge-podge of heavily footnoted pseudo-scholarship that defends the strictly crackpot “Khazar” thesis, first propounded by Benjamin Freedman, a financial supporter of the violently anti-Semitic Common Sense. According to Freedman and Beaty, the “so-called” modern Jews are not Jews at all, but descendants of the Khazars, a Tatar tribe of South Russia whose rulers were converted to Judaism in the 9th century. Anthropologists and historians say this is nonsense; the Khazars disappeared from history after they were scattered by a Mongol invasion. Beaty insists, however, that these “Khazar Jews” have survived to this day as an aggressive Eastern European minority which “nurtured the amazing quadruple aims of international Communism, the seizure of power in Russia, Zionism, and continued migration to America.” The book is now in its ninth printing; one of those who encouraged its distribution is Russell Maguire, financial angel and publisher of the American Mercury, who is also a supporter of Zoll and Hart.
Yet Mr. Maguire has not yet given space in the American Mercury to the Khazar “theory” or any other expression of forthright anti-Semitism—the magazine has even published articles condemning Communist anti-Semitism—and the National Economic Council, controlled as it is by a directorate of industrialists and financiers, can scarcely be considered an anti-Semitic organization, despite the persistent Aesopian references of the Economic Council Newsletter.
Do the NEC’s directors read its official newsletter? If so, do they approve its half-concealed bigotry, or do they condone it because of their enthusiasm for Mr. Hart’s ultra-conservative economic ideas? Also, how about the directors and stockholders of the companies that contribute corporate funds to the support of the National Economic Council? Is there no way by which stockholders can prevent a strategically placed bigot from diverting the funds of a corporation to the fostering of racial and religious hatred?
Other and equally troubling questions are prompted by the current masquerade of familiar anti-Semitic rabble-rousers in the spats and homburgs of economic conservatism, political isolationism, and super-patriotic anti-Communism.
When right-wingers get together, are there no restrictions on the invitations, no doorman authorized to bar anti-Semitic infiltrators and gate-crashers, as the organizers of America First tried to bar known Bundists from their meetings? A while back a Washington publicity man, Arnold Kruck-man, promoted a “Congress of Freedom” in Omaha, Nebraska, which he described modestly as “the greatest Conservative-Rightist Conclave since the days of America First.” Among those invited to keynote the congress were Frank E. Holman, supporter of the Bricker amendment and a former president of the American Bar Association; Dr. John T. Wood, former congressman from Idaho; and Frank Chodorov, now editor of the Freeman —all reputable and even distinguished conservatives. But also invited to the congress were the White Circle League, an inflammatory anti-Negro group led by the notorious Joseph Beauharnais; the National Patrick Henry Organization, a Klan-like anti-Semitic group which reprints Streicher cartoons; the Southern Patriotic Breeze, a flagrantly anti-Semitic publication issued by Stephen Nenoff; the American Flag Committee, headed by W. Henry MacFarland, Jr., a leader of the Nationalist Action League when it was listed as a subversive organization by the Attorney General; these, and more than a score of other organizations and individuals of unquestionable fascist complexion. (The Congress of Freedom, now under the energetic management of Robert Le Fevre, plans to hold another national convention in San Francisco in April 1955.)
Was ever such a menagerie assembled before? And, having permitted it to be assembled, how much does it help when ultra-conservatives, under pressure, repudiate their anti-Semitic allies and camp followers? Do the latter have good reason for believing that the private attitudes of some more respectable economic and political conservatives do not match the virtue of their public pronouncements?
Almost, it would seem that the more pragmatic anti-Semites have developed a party line which they privately share with economic ultra-conservatives and political nationalists, although there is as yet no anti-Semitic movement, or even an organized faction, capable of successfully colonizing an existing party or of launching a third party. A major theme of this Aesopian anti-Semitic line is the Jewishness of White House policy advisers in both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations and their alleged responsibility for warping American foreign policy in the direction of Soviet appeasement. Another is the alleged influence of the “Jewish vote” on American policy in the Near East. This is Zoll’s favorite refrain, repeated endlessly despite the clear evidence that the legitimate concern of American Jews with the fortunes of Israel, like the equally legitimate concern of Polish Americans with the decisions at Yalta and the truth about the Katyn Forest massacre, has had too little weight—regrettably, from the viewpoint of American interests—in the development of American foreign policy.
Put all this together and it adds up to a good deal less than an adequate party line, although it probably represents the largest common denominator of doctrine on which it would be possible to unite the “respectable” nationalists and economic reactionaries and the lunatic-fringe anti-Semites in this country. Its weakest aspect, of course, is its necessary Aesopianism. Only the Smiths, the Winrods, the Conde McGinleys are ready to scream “kike.” Zoll, Hart, Kamp, and company say “Zionist” instead of “Jew,” and any practical demagogue is obliged to avoid even these euphemisms on pain of political suicide, as Kamp himself acknowledged to the writer.
This, then, is the look of our current neo-anti-Semitism nearly a decade after the defeat of Nazism. It is not a prosperous look and the continuing tensions of our cold war with another anti-Semitic totalitarian power are not likely to give it color and bloom. If anything might have fused the “Jew-Communist” amalgam in the popular mind it would have been the Communist and crypto-Communist agitation in behalf of the Rosenbergs. It failed, as did the party’s earlier attempt to persuade any substantial section of public opinion that the Peekskill riots were anti-Semitic and anti-Negro, rather than essentially anti-Communist, as they were.
Even abroad, Communist exploitation of the Rosenberg case was effective only in nourishing anti-American and neutralist sentiment, without inducing very many people to swallow the nonsense that this country is “fascist.” The predictions made a few years ago that the cold war, Korea, and the atom bomb would cause an increase in anti-Semitism and anti-Negroism sound today like the wishful thinking of Kremlin strategists. The trend, as expressed by declining indices of anti-Semitism and even more by the accelerating social, economic, and political emancipation of the Negro, has been in the opposite direction, and for obvious and powerful reasons.
A people locked in cold-war struggle and intent on building and strengthening its productive capacities cannot afford the luxuries of racial and religious conflict. We could not afford segregation in the armed forces—and in the end even our most prejudiced Southern generals and admirals bowed to that necessity. We could not afford segregation in the schools—and the Supreme Court outlawed it.
Similarly, we cannot now afford an anti-Semitic movement; besides, at this writing, there is no large segment of our people that is actively anti-Semitic. At the peak of the Bundist agitation in 1941 there were from three to four hundred different groups of racial and religious hate-mongers in this country. Now there are less than forty, and many of these are seedy, one-man operations that express little more than the venality or psychopathology of an individual racketeer or fanatic. As far as the keenest observers can judge, anti-Semitic stereotypes have shown little increase in intensity and prevalence since the war. Given the prominence of Jewish names in the news stories reporting the anti-Communist investigations of the Justice Department and Congressional investigation committees, it is rather surprising that there was not a marked increase.
That there wasn’t is perhaps due to the coincidental impact of Communist anti-Semitism, revealed in Prague and other satellite capitals where the Kremlin’s Gauleiters needed scapegoats, in Moscow by the allegations (subsequently withdrawn) of a Jewish doctors’ plot, and in the Near East where Communist propaganda among the Arab populations required the denunciation of Israel.
Quite apart from anti-Semitism’s older social roots in Russia and Eastern Europe, it is now clear that Communist totalitarian society cannot tolerate the existence of any kind of organized Jewish group, communnity, or culture. Hence it will be difficult for our native anti-Semites to inflate the legend of an international Jewish-Communist conspiracy; few Americans are likely to fall for something so transparently absurd as the accusation that their American Jewish neighbors are members of a conspiracy so plainly dedicated to obliterating the Jewish people. Lacking the support of the legend of an international Jewish-Communist conspiracy, anti-Semitism in and of itself is scarcely a sufficient doctrine around which to build a party or a movement in this country. Not even Hitler, in the much more propitious circumstances of Germany with its socially acceptable anti-Semitic tradition and parties, made it his only appeal. Anti-Semitism was an indissoluble part of National Socialism, but still only a part.
Obviously no such possibilities as favored Hitler in Germany are to be found on the American scene in 1954. Even the Nazi-cultivated anti-Semitism that was transplanted to this country in the 30’s was no hardy and vigorous growth; it failed because it found here only a shallow and eroded soil in which to root itself. As Oscar Handlin has pointed out in this magazine (“How U. S. Anti-Semitism Really Began,” June 1951), the roots of American political (rather than the relatively innocuous social or religious) anti-Semitism go back to the Populist agrarian radicalism of the turn of the century, with its hostility to the cities and the Wall Street “money power.” The Jews as a predominantly commercial group were of course closely connected with the cities; and although they enjoyed little financial power in the United States, the great European Jewish banking houses seemed clothed with an awful mystery and power—paradoxically, just when the development of modern industry and modern statecraft ousted them as an important source of financial credit for the governments of Europe. In an America painfully making the transition from an agrarian to an urban and industrial society, it seemed to many of the embittered Populists that the Jews, with their presumed money power, were the explanation for all those varied developments which were working to destroy the traditional society of independent farmers and small towns. The fear of the Jew was, in short, a fear of the modern world of business and industry, which seemed to offer only uncertainty and ruin to the defeated American countryside and humiliation and despair to the hard-pressed, still imperfectly urbanized lower middle classes.
Since then the United States has become a predominantly industrial land; the typical American is a dweller with the Jews in those cities which Populism denounced as the seat of Mammon, and is employed in industry and commerce, as his Jewish neighbors are predominantly, too. For the average American, the great cities have lost their mystery, and commerce its secrets; and with this the Jews have lost much of that aura of mystery with which political anti-Semitism conjured up Jewish schemes to rule the world. In the Great Depression, modern industrial society seemed a malignant enigma once again, and ideological ex-plain-alls, anti-Semitism among them, acquired currency again. But twenty years of the Welfare State has dispelled much of the mystery and with it the agrarian radicalism and urban despair which had served as carriers of anti-Semitism.
There remains, of course, some residual ideological anti-Semitism and plenty of social anti-Semitism, some of it sufficiently virulent to provide subsidies for Joe Kamp’s pamphlets; but not enough to provide a mass base for a political movement. What would happen in a climate of mass hysteria, generated by a severe economic depression or a military disaster, is another matter, and quite unpredictable. For the present, all that one can say is that today, in America, anti-Semitism lacks social fuel even more than it lacks talented promoters. One might almost say that anti-Semitism’s new look is reassuring. Our anti-Semites wear it simply because the franker fashion of the 30’s is no longer socially respectable or politically safe. Hence the bridge between political anti-Semitism and the ultra-nationalist formations of the extreme right must be kept pretty well submerged; it can bear little traffic and, indeed, may never be completed.
Does this mean that there is no class, or section of a class, that provides a soil for the anti-Semitic plant? Some liberals, still under the influence of the native radical if not of Marxist stereotypes, point an accusing finger at “Big Business.” But the recent course of history has sufficiently demonstrated the unlikelihood that the businessmen of our mixed, mass-consumption economy, as a class, are likely to promote racism. Among other good reasons, racism is not good business; anti-Semitism and anti-Negroism are not merely backward morally, they are backward economically and lose customers, actual and potential. The retreat of racism in the South can certainly be partly ascribed to the influence of the business community.
But is there any part of the business class, any political interest or group, that might serve as a hospitable medium to keep alive the virus of political anti-Semitism against the day of catastrophe and hysteria when a mass racist movement becomes a possibility? Certainly there will always be individual maverick industrialists wealthy enough to finance propaganda organizations to promote their extremist ideas with “educational” facilities sizeable enough to command national attention and publicity. In the nature of things, some of these patrons, and their organizations, will fall under the influence of high-powered anti-Semitic operators. As for groups, the Communists have perfected the techniques by which large numbers of respectable people can be organized into letterhead front organizations, in support of ideologies and programs of whose real character they are only partly aware; and they have developed methods, as well, for infiltrating and winning control of traditional organizations of high repute. The anti-Semitic demagogue shows signs of having absorbed a great deal from the Communist organizational handbook and, as we have seen, has already scored some ominous successes, which he may hope to repeat on a broader scale among vulnerable conservative economic and civic groups.
Among potential hosts (and victims) one thinks particularly of the ultra-nationalist, isolationist elements whose hatred and incomprehension of a modern democratic America with serious international responsibilities has led them down a path of ever greater bitterness and extremism. As time goes by, ever more radical measures are required to reverse the democratic and egalitarian direction of social and political developments in the U. S. Some embittered right-wing extremists would not shrink from the most demagogic and hate-mongering appeals to turn the clock of social progress back, and to conceal the contradiction between their violent public anti-Communism and their refusal to support the risks and sacrifices of a firm policy against international Communism. How far they will get is a question—but they may try. They can bear watching.
1 Correction: Kamp’s conviction for contempt of the Buchanan Committee, mentioned on p. 414 of this article, was later appealed; after a new trial, he was acquitted.