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Social Democratic Responses to Antisemitism and the 'Judenfrage' in Imperial Germany: Franz Mehring (A Case Study)

Fischer, Lars; (2003) Social Democratic Responses to Antisemitism and the 'Judenfrage' in Imperial Germany: Franz Mehring (A Case Study). Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines German attitudes towards Jews in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, focusing on a dimension of political discourse typically noted for its resistance to antisemitism: Social Democracy. Most scholarship on the dealings of Imperial German society with matters Jewish tends to focus specifically on self-defined antisemites and overt manifestations of antisemitism. In contrast, this study examines how a broader set of prevalent perceptions of (supposedly) Jewish phenomena was articulated by theoretically more sophisticated Social Democrats.Their polemics against antisemites frequently used the term 'antisemitic' simply to identify their party-political affiliation without necessarily confronting their hostility to Jews, let alone did it imply a concomitant empathy for Jews. While the party-political opposition of Social Democracy against party-political antisemitism remains beyond doubt, a genuine anathematization of anti-Jewish stereotypes was never on the agenda and the ambiguous stance of Franz Mehring (1846-1919) was in fact quite typical of attitudes prevalent in the party.The first two chapters argue that neither Mehring's critique of 'philosemitism' nor his dealings with Marx's Zur Judenfrage made him as exceptional a figure among his peers as has generally been suggested. The third chapter addresses the criticism levelled at Mehring in 1903 for his support of the former antisemitic deputy, Hans Leuß, suggesting that the one issue that criticism did not hinge on was Leuß' stance on matters Jewish. The final chapter deals with an instance in which Mehring denounced Bernstein as an antisemite (1904). It not only illustrates how the attitude towards the person saying something detrimental about Jewry could be rather more decisive when it came to classifying someone as antisemitic than the content or context of the detrimental remark itself but also how pronouncements could address matters Jewish without it being in any way obvious to us that they do so.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Social Democratic Responses to Antisemitism and the 'Judenfrage' in Imperial Germany: Franz Mehring (A Case Study)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Social sciences; Mehring, Franz
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10100422
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