Victor Serge

On the Jews


Source: Carnets (1936–1947), Agone, Marseilles 2012;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2015.
Translator’s note: Jean Malaquais (1908–1998) was a Polish Jew born Waldimir Malacki. As a young man he left Poland for France, where he became active in Opposition Communist circles. During the war he lived in exile with his wife in Mexico City and was for a while a close friend of Serge, until they had a serious political disagreement and split in 1944. He was the author of two famous novels, Les Javanais and Planète sans Visa, and Norman Mailer revered him and his work, considering Malaquais his mentor.

September 1, 1944 – Jean Malaquais takes us home in his car after two meetings in a row (Spanish socialists, Prieto, Rivet, then the editorial board of Mundo). I'm tired, it’s rainy, one would think it was a fall night in Paris, which here has great charm. J.M. Jew, doesn’t want to be one, sometimes denies he is, or says he’s half-Jewish, profoundly tormented by a racial inferiority complex grafted onto a more general inferiority complex that renders him bitter, acerbic, aggressive, and mocking ... Conversation about the Jews. I say that they constitute a superior variety of civilized man: more active, with a dynamic spirituality that is often very powerful. Extremely materialist as well in materialistic societies. “It’s not by chance that the same ethnic group produced Christ, Maimonides, and Spinoza, and in our times Marx, Trotsky, Freud, and Einstein, incomparable men who have overturned our way of viewing the world.”

J.M.: “Let’s not talk about Christ, please, his historicity not having been demonstrated.”

I go along with him, though it would be easy to demonstrate that the Christian myth, even without Christ’s historicity, is the work of the Jewish people and is a continuation of the tradition of the prophets.

J.M.: “And let’s drop Maimonides, who we know so little about.”

But he seeks in vain great contemporary figures comparable to those I named. He briefly hangs on to Louis Pasteur, and when I said in passing, “That’s a fact,” he goes after the word “fact,” that there are no objective facts, that everything is a personal assertion, debatable subjectivism, etc. He accepts no other measuring stick for reality than himself and in support of this says there is no other. I feel like telling him: My poor friend, what pitiful weakness is revealed by your philosophical aggressiveness so devoid of wisdom. I hold myself back; it would do nothing but vex him.

I returned to this subject this morning with Laurette. Laurette observes that the Jews constitute the sole people whose cultural continuity goes back 4,000 years (the reign of King David, about 1000 B.C.). The most ancient people, the most profoundly cultivated, the one most profoundly accustomed to thought. This, in fact, is an observation of immense importance. All of today’s great peoples of white civilization emerged from barbarism only in the first centuries of the Middle Ages. Greeks, Egyptians, and Latins were engulfed by the barbarian invasions and disappeared as thinking collectivities; the Jews alone demonstrated the extraordinary endurance that allowed them to survive while constantly developing, beneficiaries of and contributors to all civilizations. Role of historical chance in this adventure; dangerous privilege of dispersion; spiritual factor (the most advanced, the most philosophical religion of the ancient world). Laurette outlines other striking ideas: that the hatred of the Jew was the hatred of the oldest people, the Father-People. (Jesus’ revolt against the narrow Judaic law, revolt of the Son against the Old Father; Jesus forever preoccupied with the Father-Son relationship, matter for Freudian analysis.) (Jesus creator of the new concept of the Father, the Christian revolution, expansion of renewed Judaism, the beginning of the advent of the white man, his universalization.)

For obvious social reasons the Jews of eastern and Central Europe have, for the last half century, demonstrated exceptional intellectual dynamism (their role in the United States). The Nazi extermination of this rich and fertile human mass diminishes Europe’s vigor and influence.

Last updated on 24 April 2015