Editor’s note: The following comprises the fourth chapter of The Jews, by Hilaire Belloc (published 1922).
CHAPTER IV: The General Cause of Friction
The immediate cause of the new gravity apparent in the Jewish problem is the Revolution in Russia. The completely new feature of open discussion now attaching to it (a thing which would have seemed incredible in England twenty years ago) is the leadership the Jews have assumed in the economic quarrel of the proletariat against capitalism.
Most people, therefore, on being asked the cause of friction between the Jews and their hosts at this moment will reply (in England, at least) that it lies in the anti-social propaganda now running loose throughout Industrial Europe. “Our quarrel with the Jews,” you will hear from a hundred different sources, “is that they are conspiring against Christian civilization, and in particular against our own country, under the form of social revolutionaries.”
Such a reply, though it is the almost universal reply of the moment in this country, is most imperfect.
The friction between the Jews and the nations among which they are dispersed is far older, far more profound, far more universal. For a whole generation before the present crisis arose, the comparatively small number of men who were hammering away steadily at the Jewish problem, trying to provoke its discussion, and insisting on its importance, were mainly concerned with quite another aspect of Jewish activity—the aspect of international finance as controlled by Jews. Before that aspect had assumed its modern gravity the reproach against the Jews was that their international position warred against our racial traditions and our patriotisms. Before that again there had been the reproach of a different religion and particularly of their antagonism to the doctrine of the Incarnation and all that flowed from that doctrine. And there had been even, before that great quarrel, the reproach that they were bad citizens within the pagan Roman Empire, perpetually in rebellion against it and guilty of massacring other Roman citizens.
In another civilization than ours, in that of Islam, another set of reproaches had arisen, or rather another species of contempt and oppression. After long periods of peace there would come, in particular regions, the most violent oppression. Within the last few years, for instance, a Jew in Morocco was treated as though he was hardly human. He had to turn his face to the wall when any magnate was passing by. He had to dress in a particular manner to mark him off as something degraded among his fellow-beings. He might not ride through the gate of a town, but had to dismount. There were twenty actions normal to civic life in the Moroccan city which were forbidden to the Jew.
All this is as much as to say that the friction between the Jews and those among whom they live is always present, and has always been present, now latent, now rising furiously to the surface, now grumbling through long periods of uncertain peace, now boiling over in all the evils of persecution—which is as much as to say that this friction between Jew and non-Jew, while finding different excuses for its action on different occasions, has been a force permanently at work everywhere and at all times.
What is the cause of it? What is its nature?
The matter is very difficult to approach, because we are not dealing with things susceptible of positive proof. You can prove from historical record that the thing has existed. You can show its terrible effects, ceaselessly recurrent throughout all our history. But it is another matter to analyse the unseen forces which produce it, and any such analysis can be no more than an attempt.
I take it that the causes of this friction, with all its lamentable results, are of two kinds. There are, first, general causes for it, by which I mean those causes which are always present and are ineradicable. Their effort may be summed up in the truth that the whole texture of the Jewish nation, their corporate tradition, their social mind, is at issue with the people among whom they live. There are, next, special causes, by which I mean social actions and expressions which lead to friction and could be modified, the two chief of which are the use of secrecy by the Jews as a method of action and the open expression of superiority over his neighbours which the Jew cannot help feeling but is wrong to emphasize.
I will deal with these in their order, and first consider the general causes; though I must admit at the outset that a mere summary of them is no sufficient explanation of the phenomenon. There would seem to be something more profound and even more mysterious about it. For it will be universally conceded that, while the closest intimacy and respect is possible between individuals of the two opposing races, the moment you come to great groups, and especially to the popular instinct in the matter, the gravest friction is apparent. It is an issue too deep than to be accounted for by mere differences of temper. It is as though there were some inward force filling men on either side, not indeed with necessary hostility—it is against any such necessity that all this book is written—but certainly with conflicting ends.
It is first to be noted that most of the accusations made against the Jews by their enemies and most of the very proper rebuttals of those accusations advanced by the Jews and their defenders, miss the mark because they attempt to put in abstract form what is really something highly concrete. And this is equally true of the praise bestowed upon the Jews, of the special virtues ascribed to them and of the denials of these virtues.
They miss the mark because they attempt to express in terms of one category what should be expressed in terms of another. They are doing what a man does when he compares two pictures by their outline while in point of fact their interest lies in colour, or when he affirms something of a tune the fundamental point of which something is not the air at all but the instruments upon which it is played: as who should say that “God save the King” was “shrill” because he heard it played on a penny whistle or “booming” because he heard it played on a violoncello. The real point to note is not that the Jews appear to us (or we to them) to possess certain abstract qualities and defects, but that in their case each quality or defect has a special character, a special national timbre which it lacks in ours.
Thus you will hear the Jews arraigned by their enemies for three such vices as cowardice, avarice and treason—to take three of the commonest accusations. You examine their actions and you find innumerable instances of the highest courage, the greatest generosity and the most devoted loyalty: but courage, generosity and loyalty of a Jewish kind, directed to Jewish ends, and stamped with a highly distinctive Jewish mark.
The man who accuses the Jews of cowardice means that they do not enjoy a fight of his kind, nor a fight fought after his fashion. All he has discovered is that the courage is not shown under the same circumstances, nor for the same ends, nor in the same mode. But if the word courage means anything, he cannot on reflection deny it to actions of which one could make an endless catalogue even from contemporary experience alone. Is it cowardice in a young man to sacrifice his life deliberately for the sake of his own people? Did that young Jew show cowardice who killed the Russian Prime Minister, the antagonist of his people, after the first revolution following on the Russo-Japanese war? Was it cowardice to walk up in a crowded theatre, surrounded by all the enemies of his race, and shoot their chief in their midst? Is it cowardice to stand up against the vast alien majority, and to do so over and over again, perhaps through a whole lifetime, insisting on things that are grossly unpopular with that majority and running a risk the whole time of physical violence? You find Jews adopting that attitude all over Europe. Can one think it is cowardice which has permitted the individuals of this nation to maintain their tradition unbroken through two thousand years of intermittent torture, spoliation and violent death? The thing so stated is ridiculous, and it is clear that those who make such an accusation are confounding their own form of courage with courage as a universal attribute.
They think that because Jews show courage under other circumstances and in another way from themselves, corresponding to another appetite, as it were, therefore it is no longer courage: to think like that is to confess yourself very limited.
I can testify, myself, to any number of courageous acts which I have seen performed by Jews. I am not alluding to acts of courage in warfare, of which there is ample evidence, but to acts of a sort in which our race would not have shown the same quality or timbre of courage. I will cite one case.
Rather more than twenty years ago, when feeling on the Dreyfus case was at its height and when the feeling of the French Army in particular was at white heat, I happened to be in the town of Nîmes, through which, at the time, a body of troops was passing. The café in which I sat was filled with young sergeants. There were hardly any civilians present beside myself. There came into the place an elderly Jew, very short in stature, highly marked with the physical characteristics of his race, an unmistakable Jew. He was somewhat bent under the weight of his years, with fiery eyes and a singularly vibrating intonation of voice. He was selling broadsheets of the most violent kind, all of them insults against the Army. He came into this café with the sheets in his hand so that all could see the large capital letters of the headlines, and slowly went round the assembly ironically offering them to the lads in uniform with their swords at their side, for they were of the cavalry.
Every one knows the French temper on such occasions—a complete silence which may at any moment be transformed into something very different. One sergeant after another politely waved him aside and passed him on. He went round the whole lot of them, gazing into their faces with his piercing eyes, wearing the whole time an ironical smile of insult, describing at intervals the nature of his goods, and when he had done that he went out unharmed.
It was an astonishing sight. I have seen many others as astonishing and as vivid, but for courage I have never seen it surpassed. Here was a man, old and feeble, the member of a very small minority which he knew to be hated, and particularly hated by the people whom he challenged. Because he held one of his own people to be injured, he took this tremendous risk and went through this self-imposed task with a sort of pleasure in that risk. You may call it insolence, offensiveness, what you will: but you cannot deny it the title of courage. It was courage of the very highest quality.
I repeat: you may see evidence of that sort of courage in Jewish action throughout the world and in every age. You have the beginning of it in the Siege of Jerusalem; tomorrow, if the fear which we now all entertain should unhappily prove well founded, we shall see it again upon the same scale.
Take avarice. When the Jew is accused of avarice by his enemies they are reading into him that vice in a form of which they know themselves capable, which they themselves practise, which they fully understand, but which he never practises in their fashion. The Jew is adventurous with his money. He is a speculator, a trader. He is also a man who thinks of it in exact terms. He is never romantic about it. But he is almost invariably generous in the use of it. Our race, when it yields to the vice of avarice, is close, secretive, uncharitable. He is pitiless and sly in accumulation. He is vociferous in his insistence upon the exact terms of an agreed compact. He is also tenacious in the pursuit of anything which he has set out on, the accumulation of money among the rest. He is almost fanatical in his appetite for success in whatever he has undertaken, the accumulation of money among the rest. But to say that the money, once accumulated, is not generously used, is nonsense. There is not one of us who could not cite at once a dozen examples of Jewish generosity upon a scale which makes us ashamed.
Nor is it true to say that this generosity has ostentation for its root, or, as it is called, “Ransome,” either. Though a love of magnificence is certainly a great passion in the Jewish character, it does not account for the most of his generosity. It is a generosity which extends to all manner of private relations, and if you will take the testimony of those who have been in the service of the Jews and are not Jews themselves, that testimony is almost universally in favour of their employers, if those employers be men of large means.
They will tell you that they felt humiliated in serving a Jew; that the relations were never easy; that there was always distance. But not often that they were treated meanly. Just the other way. There has usually been present a spontaneous generosity. The same argument applies to the cry of “Ransome.” It is true that some of the more scandalous Jewish fortunes have thrown up defences against public anger by the return of a small proportion in the shape of public endowments: it is an action and a motive not peculiar to them. But that does not explain the mass of private and unheard benefaction to which we can all testify and which is as common with the middle-class Jew as with the wealthy. It is here as in the matter of courage a question of kind. Those of our people who happen to be generous (they are rare) do not calculate. They often forget or confuse the sums they have made away with, as though it were mere extravagance. The Jew knows the exact extent of his sacrifice, its proportion to his total means. Is he then less generous? By no means. He is, in scale more generous—but in a different fashion.
It might be argued that this generosity of the Jew is a consequence of the way in which he regards money. It comes and goes with him because he is a speculator and a wanderer. It has been said that no great Jewish fortune is ever permanent; that none of these millionaires ever founded a family. This is not quite true; but it is true that considering the long list of great Jewish fortunes which have marked the whole progress of our civilization it is astonishing how few have taken root. But though this conception of money may be an element in the generosity of the Jew it does not fully explain it, and at any rate that generosity is there, and contradicts flatly the accusation of avarice. Indeed the general accusation of avarice fails: and that is why it is a sort of standing jest permitted even where the Jews are most powerful. It is a jest they themselves do not resent because they know it to be beside the mark.
The accusation of treason is on the same footing—save that it is even more “to one side” than the others quoted. There is no race which has produced so few traitors. It is not treason in the Jew to be international. It is not treason in the Jew to work now for one interest among those who are not of his people, now for another. He can only be charged with treason when he acts against the interests of Israel, and there is no nation nor ever has been one in which the national solidarity was greater or national weakness in the shape of traitors less. Indeed, that is the very accusation their enemies make against them; that they are too homogeneous; that they hold too much together and are too fierce in self-defence; and you cannot have that accusation coupled with an accusation of treason. What is true is that the Jew lends himself to one non-jewish group in its action against another. He will serve France against the Germans, or the Germans against France, and he will do so indifferently as a resident in the country he benefits or the country he wounds: for he is indifferent to either. The moment war breaks out the intelligence departments of both sides rely upon the Jew: and they rely upon him not only on account of his indifference to nationalism but also on account of his many languages, his travel, the presence of his relations in the enemy country. And this is true not only of war but of armed peace.
But it is clear that in all this there are examples of what in us, would be treason. In him such actions are not treasons, for he does not betray Israel. But they all have an atmosphere repellent to us. They are things which if we did them (or when we do them) degrade us. They do not degrade the Jew.
One might continue the list of such accusations indefinitely, and in every one you would find that the root of the quarrel is not the presence of a particular defect but the presence of a difference in circumstances, temperament, character: a different colour and taste in the quality or defect concerned. It is that which offends. It is that which causes the misunderstandings and which leads to the tragedies.
While this is true of the accusations made against the Jewish people it is unfortunately equally true of the corresponding qualities which they and their defenders advance in the rebuttal. The Jew is essentially patriotic: that is true. But not patriotic to our ends or in our way. He is essentially self-respecting. But not self-respecting to our ends or in our way. A personal obligation which he cannot meet, a personal and intimate contract in which he may default, especially to one of his own people, is abhorrent to the Jew; but not in our way. He has not our shame of bankruptcy for instance, but much more than our shame of personal borrowing. Drunkenness, a vice most offensive to human dignity, is with him the rarest vice: with us the commonest. But our sense of dignity in repose he has not, nor does he feel our sense of injured dignity in mummery. His tenacity, which all know and all in a sense admire and which is far superior to our own, is also a narrower tenacity, or at any rate a tenacity of a different kind. He will follow one end where we will follow many. His wonderful loyalty to all family relations we know: but we do not appreciate it because it is outside our own circle. Even his intellectual gifts, which are less affected by this matter of timbre, have something alien to us in them. They are undeniable but we feel them to be used for other ends than ours: they are coldly used when ours are used enthusiastically: they are used with intensity when we use them with carelessness.
If we leave the controversial field and concern ourselves with an appreciation of Jewish qualities, apart from our like or dislike of them and apart from their difference in intimate texture, as it were, from our own, they may be summarized I think as follows:—
The Jew concentrates upon one matter. He does not disperse his mind. And this concentration carries with it strength and weakness. It has been said in connection with it (all such terms are metaphorical) that his mind is not elastic. But this is a great element in his success. I have noticed that the Jew having once taken up a particular task shows an indifference to other tasks which, from our standpoint, is marvellous. How many instances could not one cite of two Jewish brothers, the one occupied in finance, the other in science, or the one in politics, the other in music, and how clearly do we see in those instances the complete indifference of the Jew to things outside the province he has undertaken! How remarkable in our eyes is his resistance to any temptation which might lead him away from his end. The Jew who is devoted to science, for instance, remains completely indifferent to its opportunities for enrichment. The Jew who is devoted to philosophy (and what great names he can show in this sphere throughout the centuries!) lives in poverty and is perfectly content so to live. The Jew devoted to any particular ideal of social change devotes himself entirely to that, and ends his task often more powerful, hardly ever more wealthy, nearly always much poorer than when he began it. Above all he refuses to be distracted for a moment from his goal.
Another character which is affiliated to this first leading character of the Jew would seem to be the lucidity of his thought. The Jew’s argument is never muddled. That is one of his prime assets not only in all discussion but in all action. It is also, if a cause of strength, a cause of the enmity he arouses: or (to use my milder term) of the “friction.”
For an exactly constructed process of reasoning, from which there is no escape, has in it (for those less capable of it) something of the bully. A man may feel the conclusion to be false: perhaps he knows it to be false. He lacks the power to express his reasons. He may not know how to state the principles which his adversary has left out of account, or when to bring them into discussion, and he feels the iron logic offered to him like a pistol presented at the head of his better judgment. But for strength and for weakness also, lucidity is the mark of the Jew’s mind. He carries that lucidity into the smallest details of whatever he may perform.
One must add to all this a certain intensity of action which is very noticeable and which again is a cause of friction between himself and those about him. Hear a Jew speaking, especially a Jew speaking upon the revolutionary platform, and note the high voltage at which the current is working. The energy which he uses is not the energy of a large flame but of a well-directed blow-pipe: a stream of heat. He is wholly absorbed, not in his own expression, but in actively penetrating the mind of his hearers. And here again is that difference in quality to which I have alluded. One might say indifferently that the Jew is never eloquent or that he is always eloquent when he speaks upon things that possess his soul. He is not eloquent in our fashion; but he is at any rate astonishingly effective in his own.
The Jew has this other characteristic which has become increasingly noticeable in our own time, but which is probably as old as the race: and that is a corporate capacity for hiding or for advertising at will: a power of “pushing” whatever the whole race desires advanced, or of suppressing what the whole race desires to suppress. And this also, however legitimately used, is a cause of friction.
Men get the feeling of a swarm in the presence of such action. They also get the feeling of being tricked: and it breeds bad blood.
In the aspect of the deliberate use of secrecy I shall deal with this character in my next chapter, for I think in that aspect it is a particular cause of friction which can be eliminated. But the general capacity and instinct of the Jew for corporate action in the “booming” of what he wants “boomed” and the “soft pedalling” of what he wants “soft pedalled” is ineradicable. It will always remain a permanent irritant in its effect upon those to whom it is applied. The best proof of it is that after the most violent “boom,” after the talents of some particular Jew, or the scientific discovery of another, or the misfortunes of another, or the miscarriage of justice against another, has been shouted at us, pointed and iterated until we are all deafened, there comes an inevitable reaction, and the same men who were half hypnotized into the desired mood are nauseated with it and refuse a repetition of the dose.
The converse is true. Men who find that some important matter has been suppressed, some bad scandal in the State or some trick in commerce because Jewry desired it to be suppressed, are soon on the alert. They will not suffer the operation as quietly the second time as they did the first. Indeed they tend if anything to grow too suspicious. Anyhow, in both cases this ineradicable racial habit, a cause perhaps of Jewish survival and certainly an element of Jewish strength, is also a cause of acute friction between them and us.
But a mere category of this kind is, as I have said, useless to explain the fundamental quality, the hidden root, of the ceaseless conflict between the very soul of the Jew and the soul of the society around him. All these points are but manifestations of some profound, some subterranean power for contrast, the value of which we cannot grasp, but the effects of which are only too apparent. And there remains in the minds of those who most rely upon this race and of those who most suspect them the sense of an impassable gulf between them and ourselves. It is the recognition, the admission of such a contrast, the telling of the truth about it, the working upon it as a necessary condition, which must form the foundation for any solution at which we can arrive.
* * * * *
There is one feature in the European’s attitude towards the Jews which must be specially dealt with, and that is the false impression that the friction between us and them is in the main a quarrel with their wealth.
That impression has been greatly weakened by the recent revolutionary activity of the Jew surging up from the depths, appearing upon the surface, and producing the great upheaval in Russia, and the attempted upheavals elsewhere. But though the new Jewish revolutionary movement has shaken the old insistence on Jewish wealth it is hard to eradicate it. It has been present throughout the ages, and will remain at the back of people’s minds perhaps for ever, because the few Jews who do concentrate on piling up great fortunes concentrate on that task so entirely. Yet the impression is false and is the fruitful cause of the worst misunderstandings.
For the Jews are not a rich nation, and the very fact that they stand in the popular mind—and especially in the mind of rich people in times of corruption—for wealth, is an example of the way in which they are misunderstood and of the way in which injustice to the Jew arises.
The Jews are a poor nation. An enemy would say that they were poor because they did not work, but this again would be an injustice, because the Jew works exceedingly hard and has often in the past and does still in many places work hard, not only in negotiation and commerce but with his hands.
We see the Jews in the Middle Ages monopolizing important manual occupations in some districts—dyeing and shipbuilding, for instance. And there are many parts of Eastern Europe where they work upon the land today.
The Jews are a poor nation because they are an alien nation and because their activities are for the most part condemned to working against the grain, in a society which is not their own. But that they are a poor nation is not only true but abundantly evident to any one who has travelled and watched their various settlements with any sympathy.
Now that they have arrived in such great numbers in the West people are beginning to appreciate this. We have already seen how, a lifetime ago, when the Jews of the West (I mean especially in France and England and America) were a small number of merchants and financiers, the great wealth of a very small number among them was not counterbalanced in our experience by the exceeding poverty of the mass. But today we can see for ourselves how true it is that, once you get below the exceptional fortunes and a comparatively small middle-class, the Jewish nation is no more than millions of exceedingly poor families.
Those who have watched them outside the West, those who have seen them in their great eastern communities where the bulk of the race still resides, in the Marches of Russia, will abundantly agree. It helps us to understand the Jewish problem if we grasp the fact that a great part of the Jewish complaint against us is precisely this poverty to which the bulk of the Jews are condemned. It is all very well to sneer at the Jewish complaint of persecution and oppression and to cite ironically, whenever it arises, the immense fortunes of a few families like the Rothschilds and the Sassoons, the Monds, the Samuels and the rest. From the point of view of the average Jew that is not the way the thing looks at all. What he notices, and notices rightly, is that he has no part in that well-distributed, solid, permanent, inherited wealth which is the mark of a healthy European community.
Further (a most important point already touched on in passing), these great fortunes are ephemeral.
In the European nations you have a mass of great fortunes far larger in number, and even in total, than the Jewish financial fortunes. But those great fortunes have been in the past and are still, wherever our society is healthy, permanent. They run through European history in the shape of the great families, in the shape of the nobility.
The great territorial families in this country have been wealthy for centuries and remain in established wealth, and the same is in the main true of the great Italian families, it is obviously true of the great German families, and, in spite of the great changes of the last century and a half, it is still largely true of the old French families. It is not true of the Jewish families. The vast Jewish fortunes which have marked history rise suddenly and melt again almost as suddenly. A Jew will begin in some very small way—as a pawnbroker in Liverpool, for instance, or a very small bookseller in Frankfort. You will find his son a great banker, his grandson so wealthy as to command politics for a generation, and then (if you will watch the process in the past—to take a modern unfinished instance is of course misleading) at last, and soon, the name disappears again, and disappears for ever.
Whom have you representing to-day the few great Jewish fortunes of the early Middle Ages in England? They were all ruined before the end of the thirteenth century. Whom have you representing the later great Jewish fortunes on the Rhine, the fortunes of the sixteenth century and the early seventeenth? They have utterly gone. Who have you left representing the considerable Jewish houses of Medieval Venice? of Genoa? of Rome?
The causes of this rapid fluctuation are many. They all attach to the peculiar position, as well as to the peculiar character, of the Jew. We find them partly in the passion for speculation which the Jewish intelligence naturally harbours. We find them still more, I think, in the instinctive opposition to the Jew which his alien surroundings perpetually arouse.
It is, however, important to remember this last point. From our point of view the Jew, when he does get rich, seems to get much too rich and to get rich much too quickly, and he exercises far too much power through his wealth; for we think of him the whole time as an alien with no right to any position. But the Jew sees it in a very different light. In his point of view his effort to accumulate wealth is always heavily handicapped. When he succeeds he only succeeds through his own tenacity and the patriotic co-operation of his fellows, and he always holds his new-found wealth on an insecure tenure. What looks to us like the breakdown of a Jewish fortune through speculation, seems to the Jew the fatal recurrent result of unending opposition.
In connection with the illusion of a wealthy Jewish race, you have, of course, the matter which I briefly mentioned above, the connection between our wealthier, and therefore governing classes, and the Jewish wealth of the moment. A great part of the illusion, as I have said, is due to the fact that the gentry of every epoch come into contact with the Jew only as a rich man, and it is the capital modern vice of our own gentry, their passion for mere wealth and their subservience to it, which has largely accounted for this dangerous misunderstanding.
Look around you in Western Europe today and see what people mean by this story of Jewish wealth. See who the people are that allude continually to it and spread the idea of it. They are the rich Europeans, who, in their subservience to crude wealth, in their habit of gauging everything by that wealth and of submitting to almost any indignity for the purpose of obtaining more wealth, marry their daughters to Jews, serve Jewish interests, and, while perpetually sneering at the Jew behind his back, call him to his face by his most intimate name and make the most of his hospitality. Which of them ever knows a middle-class Jew, let alone a poor Jew? Why, most of them are actually ignorant of the fact that this mass of poor Jews exists at all! They serve the Jew when he is wealthy and only when he is wealthy. They envy him basely as a wealthy man and only as a wealthy man. They prostitute their dignity, they sell their fellow-Europeans, not from any genuine affection for the Jewish race—indeed there is no class in the community, closely intermixed with the Jews as they are, which feel the friction more than the gentry—but simply from a thirst for money, which they happen to find held in great masses by a few Jewish families.
It is most noticeable that other aspects of Jewish activity remain unused by the wealthy class, the gentry—and therefore by the State. Whether it would be wise to use them or not is another matter. At any rate, the motive for leaving them unused is the fact that they are not connected with wealth. The Jewish intelligence which might so often have served the policy of a Statesman is largely left unused. The cosmopolitan position of the Jew when it is used is used for little more than spying; and that profound force, the historical memory of the Jew, is neglected almost altogether. With this neglect goes a natural and evil result, the failure on the part of the European governing classes, especially today, to safeguard the community against the troubles which are bound to arise from the clashing of interests between the Jews and the people among whom they dwell.
It may sound paradoxical, but it is true, that if the Statesmen of Europe, and the hereditary families of the European nations who still take so much part in the conduct of those nations, had thought less of the Jewish money power and more of the Jews as a whole they would have benefited both parties in a very different fashion. We have seen the artificial protection of the Jews of Eastern Europe because individual Statesmen have been subservient to the commands of very rich individual Jewish bankers. But the thing has been done blunderingly. It has served only to anger the independent nationalities of the East, notably the Poles, the Roumanians and the Hungarians who have experience of the difficulties inseparable from an alien minority. Our politicians have treated the whole affair externally and mechanically, merely obeying orders without trying to understand.
The ultimate result of such interference by our Western politicians is unhappily certain. The last state of the Jews in Eastern Europe will be worse than the first. Their sufferings will be greater than in the past, and that because, instead of acting from attempted comprehension and sympathetic comprehension of the Jewish difficulties the politicians, who have acted as the servants of a few wealthy Jews, have merely obeyed the orders of these rich men and have done so with the secret reluctance that always accompanies self-surrender to a wage.
Is it not apparent, as we look through history, that the permanent power of the Jew or, at any rate, the celebrity of his nation is utterly distinct from those chance accumulations of wealth which a few individuals owe to the national passion for speculation and a cosmopolitan position?
One after another the striking Jewish names of history are the names of Jews who have ardently pursued some moral or intellectual thesis; most of them—I had nearly said all of them—were poor men, and for the most part men deliberately poor because they preferred, as it is in the Jewish nature to prefer, the immediate work in hand to any other consideration.
It is these names that remain and are permanent and are the glory of the Jewish race.
* * * * *
There is one aspect of this Jewish wealth which I hesitate whether to put among the general or among the particular causes of the friction between that nation and its hosts.
It falls certainly among the general causes in the sense that it is connected with the Jewish character as a whole and not with any special method in that character’s action. It is connected, I mean, with their very nature, and they cannot change that nature. On the other hand, it might be put among the particular causes on account of its quite modern and probably ephemeral character: it is, as it were, a particular cause of the friction proceeding from the general causes of character just enumerated, and this cause of friction is the presence of Jewish Monopoly.
It is an exceedingly dangerous point in the present situation. I do not think that the Jews have a sufficient appreciation of the risk they are running by its development. There is already something like a Jewish monopoly in high finance. There is a growing tendency to Jewish monopoly over the stage for instance, the fruit trade in London, and to a great extent the tobacco trade. There is the same element of Jewish monopoly in the silver trade, and in the control of various other metals, notably lead, nickel, quicksilver. What is most disquieting of all, this tendency to monopoly is spreading like a disease. One province after another falls under it and it acts as a most powerful irritant. It will perhaps prove the immediate cause of that explosion against the Jews which we all dread and which the best of us, I hope, are trying to avert.
It applies, of course, to a tiny fraction of the Jewish race as a whole. One could put the Jews who control lead, nickel, mercury and the rest into one small room: nor would that room contain very pleasant specimens of their race. You could get the great Jewish bankers who control international finance round one large dinner table, and I know dinner tables which have seen nearly all of them at one time or another. These monopolists, in strategic positions of universal control are an insignificant handful of men out of the millions of Israel, just as the great fortunes we have been discussing attach to an insignificant proportion of that race. Nevertheless, this claim to an exercise of monopoly brings hatred upon the Jews as a whole.
The thing is deservedly hated because it is exceedingly unnatural and exceedingly tyrannical. It would be tyrannical even for one of our own people to hold us up in the supply of things essential to us. It is intolerable in a people alien to us. When we come to discuss, in the next chapter, the unfortunate use of secrecy by the Jews (the most potent, perhaps, of the particular causes which have lead them into their present peril) we shall better understand another odious feature in this modern monopoly of control, which is the way in which it spreads underground and out of sight leaving the world in general ignorant that this, that and the other individual Jew is its master in the matter of some essential thing which he controls.
To put it plainly, these monopolies must be put an end to.
Before the Great War there was only one of which Europe as a whole was conscious, and that was the financial monopoly. Yet here the monopoly was far less perfect than in the case of the metals. The Great War brought thousands upon thousands of educated men (who took up public duties as temporary officials) up against the staggering secret they had never suspected—the complete control exercised over things absolutely necessary to the nation’s survival by half a dozen Jews, who were completely indifferent as to whether we or the enemy should emerge alive from the struggle.
Incidentally, the wealth of these few and very wealthy Jews has been scandalously increased through the war on this very account. And at the moment in which I write the French press, which has a longer experience in the free discussion of the Jewish question than any other, is exposing the abominable increase in value of the Rothschild’s lead mines, an increase mainly due to the use of lead for the killing of men.
But lead is only one of the monopolies, as I have said. A whole group already exists and the extension of the system is going on as rapidly as an epidemic. Not only must it cease before any solution of the Jewish question can be attempted, but the process must be reversed. If the various national Cabinets do not interfere to protect these monopolies, then good-bye to any attempt at justice for the Jew. In the legitimate anger against a few pitiful dozens among the worst specimens of the nation, Israel as a whole will be sacrificed.
There is in this formation of monopolies, as in the more reputable activities of the nation, even in its more justly famous activities, even in its glories, that element of racial character which is never absent from any Jewish action. And that is why I have put the point, modern and ephemeral as it is, among the general causes of trouble.
The reason these general monopolies are formed by Jews is that the Jew is international, tenacious and determined upon reaching the very end of his task. He is not satisfied in any trade until that trade is, as far as possible, under his complete control, and he has for the extension of that control the support of his brethren throughout the world. He has at the same time the international knowledge and international indifference which further aid his efforts.
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But even were the quite recent monopolies in metal and other trades taken, as they ought to be taken, from these few alien masters of them, there would remain that partial monopoly (it is not at all a complete monopoly) which a few Jews have exercised not only today, but recurrently throughout history, over the highest finance: that is, over the credit of the nations, and therefore to-day, as never before, over the whole field of the world’s industry.
Should that partial financial monopoly remain uncorrected it will produce a sufficient hostility against the Jews to precipitate, of itself, the next general attack upon them.
It may be argued that this fear is groundless because the control has now lasted for a long time. It has lasted a lifetime even in its present hardly complete form: and it is secure because its operations are removed from general observation, and because it is mixed up with the interests of all the wealthier classes.
I am afraid these arguments will not hold. Although the Jewish control of finance is not a thing which touches the public at large, yet all educated men down to a comparatively low stratum of society are fully aware of it, and every man who is aware of it resents it. It is resented almost as much by the mass of poor Jews as by the non-Jews, but in a different way.
Again, although this financial monopoly does not directly affect the economic life of the private citizen, he is beginning to understand more and more how it indirectly affects it. It affects him, for instance, through his patriotism. He will not submit to be told that, in order to suit the convenience of these alien bankers, he must forgo the rights of victory and allow some enemy whom he has justly chastised to escape the consequences of that chastisement. Still more urgently will he deny the right of the Jewish bankers to interfere with the national reparation due to him for damage wantonly done in the course of hostilities.
Again, international finance does not live separate from private activities. It touches at last a mass of individual enterprises, and through those individual enterprises its action is questioned and examined by a host of private citizens.
Yet again, the Jews who thus control international finance are at work in many other capacities. For instance, some of them stand behind those great Industrial Insurance schemes which are so detestable to the mass of the people. Action against these may arise any moment. If such action comes one may be certain that the individual attacked will be remembered in his capacity of international financier quite as much as in his capacity of a battener upon the lapsed premiums of the poor. Sooner or later the character of this monopoly, to which men of a lifetime ago were indifferent through ignorance but of which to-day all the educated part of the community is aware and deeply resents, will be appreciated and equally resented at a lower level still. When society is sufficiently filled with indignation against it, then the explosion will come. If that explosion only affected the rich Jews immediately concerned no one would much regret it. There would be little harm done. But the trouble is that it will almost certainly affect the whole nation to which those individuals belong.
I may be told that to put an end to this state of affairs is impossible so long as parliamentary government, with its profound corruption, endures; that the only force capable of dealing with the plutocratic evil of alien monopoly upon this scale is a king; and that a king we have not, among modern nations. To which I answer that the parliamentary system will not last for ever. It is already in active dissolution among ourselves, and badly hit elsewhere. The king may not be so far off as people think him to be.
At any rate, in one way or another the thing will cease, and will probably cease in violence. The danger is that if it ceases in violence a vast number of innocent will be involved with the guilty.