Marx wrote about Jews quite a bit, despite having Jewish blood or ancestors.

  • Was Marx an antisemite?
  • If what he says is true, then it is an historical account, or is it prejudice?
    – Rodrigo
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 8:18

4 Answers 4


The Jewish Question is a criticism of Bruno Bauer, who argues that the emancipation of Jews is subordinate to the emancipation of mankind:

Bruno Bauer replies to them: No one in Germany is politically emancipated. We ourselves are not free. How are we to free you? You Jews are egoists if you demand a special emancipation for yourselves as Jews. As Germans, you ought to work for the political emancipation of Germany, and as human beings, for the emancipation of mankind, and you should feel the particular kind of your oppression and your shame not as an exception to the rule, but on the contrary as a confirmation of the rule.


Why should the German be interested in the liberation of the Jew, if the Jew is not interested in the liberation of the German?

By its very nature, the Christian state is incapable of emancipating the Jew; but, adds Bauer, by his very nature the Jew cannot be emancipated. So long as the state is Christian and the Jew is Jewish, the one is as incapable of granting emancipation as the other is of receiving it.

(Marx's emphasys)

So Bauer demands that Jews cease to consider themselves as Jews, as a precondition of their emancipation: you are free to be Jews, as long as... you are not Jews. Then the stigma of Judaism, imposed upon you, is unjust and discriminatory; but as long as you remain Jewish, you cannot argue against discrimination, for you discriminate yourselves:

Bauer, therefore, demands, on the one hand, that the Jew should renounce Judaism, and that mankind in general should renounce religion, in order to achieve civic emancipation. On the other hand, he quite consistently regards the political abolition of religion as the abolition of religion as such. The state which presupposes religion is not yet a true, real state.

Marx then, having expounded Bauer's positions, states:

At this point, the one-sided formulation of the Jewish question becomes evident.

It was by no means sufficient to investigate: Who is to emancipate? Who is to be emancipated? Criticism had to investigate a third point. It had to inquire: What kind of emancipation is in question? What conditions follow from the very nature of the emancipation that is demanded? Only the criticism of political emancipation itself would have been the conclusive criticism of the Jewish question and its real merging in the “general question of time.”

Because Bauer does not raise the question to this level, he becomes entangled in contradictions. He puts forward conditions which are not based on the nature of political emancipation itself. He raises questions which are not part of his problem, and he solves problems which leave this question unanswered. When Bauer says of the opponents of Jewish emancipation: “Their error was only that they assumed the Christian state to be the only true one and did not subject it to the same criticism that they applied to Judaism” (op. cit., p. 3), we find that his error lies in the fact that he subjects to criticism only the “Christian state,” not the “state as such,” that he does not investigate the relation of political emancipation to human emancipation and, therefore, puts forward conditions which can be explained only by uncritical confusion of political emancipation with general human emancipation.

And then he poses the correct question, cleaned up from Bauer's confusions:

If Bauer asks the Jews: Have you, from your standpoint, the right to want political emancipation? We ask the converse question: Does the standpoint of political emancipation give the right to demand from the Jew the abolition of Judaism and from man the abolition of religion?

And then proceeds to clarifying the relation between religious emancipation and what he calls human emancipation:

The political emancipation of the Jew, the Christian, and, in general, of religious man, is the emancipation of the state from Judaism, from Christianity, from religion in general. In its own form, in the manner characteristic of its nature, the state as a state emancipates itself from religion by emancipating itself from the state religion – that is to say, by the state as a state not professing any religion, but, on the contrary, asserting itself as a state. The political emancipation from religion is not a religious emancipation that has been carried through to completion and is free from contradiction, because political emancipation is not a form of human emancipation which has been carried through to completion and is free from contradiction.

The religious citizen is politically free (ie, free to follow the superstition of his own choice without fear of political retaliation) when the State is free from religion. But his political freedom of religion, or even from religion, is not his emancipation from superstition, from religion, as such. Religion ceases to be a State issue, a political issue, but becomes a private, civil, issue, and continues to enslave men and women at that level, while the State is now free to play the role of Pontius Pilatus.

The Jewish citizen can now go the Sinagogue and worship the Abrahamic God in his particular way, without fear of being burnt at the stake by the Christian Leviathan; but he continues to have to abstain from pork, under the fear of whatever punishment YHWH unleashes unto those who so do - and under the fear of whatever merely social, cultural punishment the religion prescribes for such sinners.

And then:

Therefore, we do not say to the Jews, as Bauer does: You cannot be emancipated politically without emancipating yourselves radically from Judaism. On the contrary, we tell them: Because you can be emancipated politically without renouncing Judaism completely and incontrovertibly, political emancipation itself is not human emancipation. If you Jews want to be emancipated politically, without emancipating yourselves humanly, the half-hearted approach and contradiction is not in you alone, it is inherent in the nature and category of political emancipation. If you find yourself within the confines of this category, you share in a general confinement. Just as the state evangelizes when, although it is a state, it adopts a Christian attitude towards the Jews, so the Jew acts politically when, although a Jew, he demands civic rights.

This is the spirit of the book, which can be found at the Marxists Internet Archive. We can of course discuss whether this is anti-semitic, from an informed point-of-view. But we should not take a few sentences out of context, in order to demonise the author. Yes, the book contains the sentences quoted in the OP, and others of similar gist; but they are there not to stand by themselves, but as part of a much more complicated reasoning, in which Judaism is not a race, nor merely a religion, but a especial role necessary for the functioning of the "Christian" society.

  • How about chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030213/1856-01-04/ed-1/… "Thus we find every tyrant backed by a Jew, as is every Pope by a Jesuit. In truth, the cravings of oppressors would be hopeless, and the practicability of war out of the question, if there were not an army of Jesuits to smother thought and a handful of Jews to ransack pockets" etc.
    – Peteter
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 13:55
  • 1
    I don't think that article is by Marx. The New York Daily Tribune doesn't attribute it to him, it is not his style, not compatible with his ideas, and I doubt he would refer to Jesus in the way this article does in its last paragraph. Commented May 19, 2018 at 10:44
  • Thanks for the reply Luís! Someone uses this article as the primary evidence for Marx's antisemitism. I read some of it and searched for some attribution to Marx but could not find it. Hence coming here.
    – Peteter
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 9:39
  • The main argument for this being Marx is that it was included in an antology edited by Eleanor Marx and Edward Aveling. But taking a look at that antology, the article sticks out as a sore thumb. All other references to Jews in all other articles are en passant and either neutral or refer to other aspects of Jewish life, not to loan capital. Moreover, Marx's trust was always to show capital as an impersonal force, that rather commands its owners than the other way round. A conspiracist view such as that of this article is totally against Marx's views as expounded elsewhere. Commented May 21, 2018 at 12:50
  • I am sorry for nitpicking, but the article you are quoting is "On The Jewish Question", which is a response to the book "The Jewish Question" by Bruno Bauer, and 'Sinagogue' is usually spelt 'synagogue'.
    – E Tam
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 18:20

Marx's views were arguably anti-Semitic:

What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his world god? Money.
— Marx, „On the Jewish Question“, 1844; (ref. Francis Wheen — „Karl Marx: A Life“, 2001)

  • hm maybe an anti-semite pas the sociopathy. "A nazi u-boat comes upon a shipwrecked norwegian crew. The u-boat captain gives them provisions and points to the coast of iceland, knowing full well that they will perish. In the nuremberg trial, third reich vice admiral erich schulte-monting offers this commentary: "I do not know what there is about that that is inhumane""
    – user6917
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 16:16

I think it is fair to say that Marx looked at all religions as a method of pacification of the masses. As far as Judaism in particular, for the time and place, there was a predominant antisemitic sentiment. There seems to be some particularly poignant information regarding Karl Marx's father, Heinrich Marx.

H. Marx having lived during the post Napoleonic era of German control of the Kingdom of Prussia, experienced a strict Lutheran based social environment. Antisemitic rhetoric for that era would not be uncommon. So much so that Heinrich Marx, whose father was a rabbi, converted from the religion. I don't mean to say this is definitively an account of what occurred, nor was your question about why he may have been an antisemite.

P.S. This was an interesting question. I really enjoyed delving into the "Napoleonic Jewish emancipation" and about Heinrich Marx as well.

  • Is this a reference to "religion is opium for the masses" because the original quote seems to be "opium OF the masses" so it's a false hope rather than a deliberate act of deception.
    – haxor789
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 13:36

Marx is on record using anti-semitic and racist slurs (as well as other insults) in reference to Ferdinand Lassalle, a major figure in the German socialist movement at the time, whom Marx apparently viewed as a rival.

Here is an example from one of the Marx' letters to Engels:

The Jewish Nigger, Lassalle […] It is now quite plain to me — as the shape of his head and the way his hair grows also testify — that he is descended from the negroes who accompanied Moses’ flight from Egypt (unless his mother or paternal grandmother interbred with a nigger).

I cannot judge whether the N-word correctly translates the German original, however this attitude of Marx has been widely quoted, notably in the works addressing the plight of European Jews and Zionist movement in the same period.

  • Do you have the German original and maybe some context? I mean that is essentially a rant of Marx to Engels about Lassalle. Because Marx apparently was broke and occupied with the civil war in North America, while Lassalle (lodging at Marx's home) was spending lots of money, presented himself as a major figure in politics and belittled Marx's work. So Marx was apparently pretty annoyed. Now idk whether he is taking cheap shots at Lassalle's heritage or whether he's arguing with philosophies associated with social groups. Neither is great but could make a difference in how that is read.
    – haxor789
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 14:30

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