E. Belfort Bax

Jews, Boers and Patriots

(28 October 1899)

Jews, Boers and Patriots, Justice, 28th October, 1899, p.6.
The unsigned editorial comment after this article is clearly by Hyndman.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Let us take the Jews first. The infamous and dastardly crime which England is now perpetrating in South Africa is alleged by certain of our friends to be due to the malign agency of the Jew-financier – not the capitalist in general, not even the financial capitalist in particular, but the financial Jew as Jew. There is no getting over the fact of this as Jew, seeing that otherwise the introduction of race would be quite irrelevant. Now we will see on what basis of fact this assertion rests. Is the policy of the raid, of the “diplomacy” which was only too obviously designed from the first by Chamberlain and Milner, with the sole object of leading up to war, with the end the annexation of the Transvaal – is all this the work of Jew or Briton? There are two aspects of this question – (1) the political and (2) the gold-mining financial. They are both capitalistic: The political has as its end the expansion of the British Empire, with the view of finding fresh outlets for British capital and new markets for British goods; the gold-mining financial fixes its eye on a certain coveted tract of land containing gold which it aspires to seize by political means. That the occasion of the present situation is the hunger for gold-fields on the part of certain financiers may be quite true. But the real cause certainly does not lie there, and the present political policy is no more than a carrying out of the policy pursued by this country in South Africa for more than a generation past. Sir George Grey, Theophilus Shepstone, Bartle Frere, Hercules Robinson, etc. – all went in for expansion in South Africa at all costs. Did not Shepstone first of all trick the English Government into the original annexation of the Transvaal at the end of the seventies? Yet, will anyone pretend there was a Jew in the whole business? Still further, the policy carried out in South Africa by Theophilus Shepstone and his successors was simply the particular application of a system of absorption of territory by fair means or foul, in India, Canada and elsewhere, pursued by this country since the British Empire first began. Certainly I have yet to learn of any Hebrew having been connected with this policy with the exception, perhaps, of Benjamin Disraeli, and I am not aware that he has ever been accused of having had any special financial interests of himself or his race to subserve by it, while he has been accepted by a considerable section of the English people as the embodiment of British supremacy of the purest national water. That the immediate occasion for giving effect to this traditional land-grabbing policy at the present time in South Africa is gold-mine speculation, and that Jews are involved in this, I do not for a moment deny. But what are the proportion of Jews to non-Jews among those gold-speculators who have been instrumental in machining the Transvaal business? Are Chamberlain, Milner, Rhodes, Lennard, Hammond, the Duke of Fife, Earl Grey, Macguire, Robinson, Jameson, Jews? – No, it will probably be answered, but the guileless innocents in question are only the “tools” of the wicked Jew! But what is a tool in the human sense? Surely a weak person who, without being fully conscious of what he is doing, is led by the nose by a stronger person.

Now, I think most of us will agree that the idea of even Messrs. Beit, Eckstein and Co. being able to make of such very naive persons as Messrs. Chamberlain and Rhodes “tools” in the above (the only intelligible) sense of the word is a little funny. For nay part I confess to an intellectual incapacity for conceiving either Chamberlain or Rhodes as a “tool”. And yet these are the men who have undoubtedly been engineering the whole scoundrelly business. Again, take the “yellow press.”

Is the Times a Jew organ, or the Daily Mail, or the Pall Mall, or the Standard? If, as has been suggested, there is any danger of an anti-Semitic movement in this country, I sincerely hope every true Social-Democrat will not only hold no truce or parley with it, but will give the infamous red-herring rascals who foment a rotten agitation of race hatred, something to remember. The last time it happened, when Stocher was over here, if I remember rightly, our friend Andreas Scheu, by dint of a little gentle pressure on the part of a handful of stalwart Socialists, effectually put a stopper on that worthy. If it were to happen again, I know I for one should be found on the side of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I heartily agree with our friend Rothstein that this howl for the liver of financing Jew, taking him as it were out of the category capitalist or even financier in general, and holding him up to special obloquy, is a disgrace to our movement; indeed, if it goes on much longer I would be disposed to borrow a classical phrase of Rothstein’s and say it constituted an “indelible burning stain” on English Socialism.

As to the Boers, it seems by some of our friends to be thought necessary to qualify their protests against the present infamy by carefully repudiating all sympathy with those shocking people the Boers. Now, I do not hesitate to say that I hold a brief for the Boers, as such, in this question. I am pro-Boer. The long catalogue of (when all’s said and done) not exceptionally heinous tokens of desperate wickedness in the Boer character, contained in a recent article of our comrade Hyndman, is obviously taken from the Outlander press; a very different account is given by persons who have lived among the Boers for years, If the Boers have behaved “arrogantly” to the scurvy scum of Anglo-Saxon and other riff-raff collected for the last few years in Johannesburg, I for one cannot blame them very much. The only count, it seems to me, that will bear one moment’s investigation is that of ill-treatment of the natives, but, since, unfortunately the Boers have this crime in common with the English and, indeed, all white colonists in Africa, as between English and Boer it cancels itself – the present is, in fact, one of those cases in which two wrongs neutralise one another, or, if you like, “two blacks make a white.” (I am told, by the way, on good authority, that the treatment of the Matabele and Mashona in Rhodesia by the English is far worse than that of the Transvaal Kaffirs by the Boers in their worst days.) The issue is now between two white races, not between “white man” and “native.” When the latter issue arises I will be with the native against both Boer and Briton alike. The introduction of the native question at this juncture is an only too transparent device to obscure the issue. Apart, then, from this the Boer has, it would seem, the virtues and the qualities of all peasant populations in a pre-capitalistic economic stage. Narrow-mindedness and bigotry is probably the worst vice that can be laid to his charge. But in this respect, unlike (too often) the pious and philanthropic Noncomformist manufacturer of Great Britain, the Boer is no humbug. Ignorant as he is, he sincerely and undoubtedly believes in his Bible, like his protagonist, the English Puritan of the seventeenth century, who lived amid similar economic surroundings. At the time of the raid I remember comrade Hyndman himself spoke in terms of admiration of the primitive simplicity of the Boer’s faith and his pluck. The fact is the Boer’s religious and moral scruples, as has been shown throughout the present campaign, his shrinking from firing the first shot, etc., heavily handicap him in conflict with an unscrupulous enemy who would laugh at the idea of his professed religion or morality interfering with his worldly advantage. The Boer believes that his God being just will save him from unscrupulous enemies. He will find out I before he is done, poor fellow, what a broken reed to lean on is the theological dogma to which he pins his faith! For the rest he seems to be a manly, upright, honest fellow, staunch to his friends if a disagreeable enemy. Mr. Ashley in his letter of last week finds the bare assumption that a Dutch or Boer supremacy in South Africa might possibly be better than that of British place-hunters and financiers, “comic.” Probably an Afrikander would not view the matter in this light. Mr. Ashley’s smug jingo self-assurance would be “comic” if it were not silly.

The Boer is not an angel, it may be said. Perhaps so. I do not profess to know much about angels, but judging from the accounts of those who do, they are a folk whose society I should not care for. Anyway, there is ample evidence that the Boer is a “man and a brother,” and that is enough for me.


E. Belfort Bax



Editorial Comment

[We gladly publish the above as showing how little fear there is of the Socialist movement here drifting into anti-Semitism. But it certainly appears to us that our comrade is not altogether free from that unsocialistic race antipathy against which he would warn us. Only his prejudice is raised not by the Semite but by the Briton. The present war, it would seem, is specially odious because it is being waged by the British. We cannot share this feeling. This way is a crime. It is no more and no less a crime whether Britons or Jews are responsible for it. A Jew criminal is no worse than any other, neither is a British criminal. Our comrade writes as if we condemned none but Jews in this connection. Have we been sparing m our denunciation of Rhodes, Chamberlain, Jameson, and the rest of the unholy crew? But the Jew capitalists have been specially prominent in this nefarious business, and it is the Jew-owned yellow press which has been specially virulent in exciting the jingo mob here and inciting the rowdies to violence. It was one of these sheets which specially distinguished itself in organising the Trafalgar Square outrage, and only the other day suggested that Mr. Schreiner should be hanged. Our comrade speaks scornfully of the “Anglo-Saxon scum” at Johannesburg. Is he so sure that the scum there was Anglo-Saxon ? Our information is that it was a very “mixed lot” indeed; and it is curious that natives should have been accused of murdering Jews found among this Anglo-Saxon scum. Why should our comrade single out the Anglo-Saxon if we may not even mention the Jew? Once more we ask, is it permissible to denounce all capitalists and money grabbers in unmeasured terms, except when they are Jews, and is it then alone that we must speak “with bated breath and whispering humbleness”?]


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