In his book Why Jews Should NOT Be Liberals (2001, rev. 2006), Larry F. Sternberg gives a bit of history, explaining how Jews in the late-18th & early-19th centuries came to think so highly of “socialism”. Unfortunately, they did not understand the true, basic tenets of the system, and it cost them and their descendants greatly.
The link between Jews and socialism in modern times can be traced to the mass exodus that took place from Eastern Europe to the United States, beginning in 1881. Jews fleeing the tyranny of the czar followed the liberal cause, which was to liberate them from the ghettos. Liberal was a heroic term in Europe, and to break the czar’s rule, socialism was the doctrine most often preached as the way to a better life. Probably most Jews accepting socialism really were not aware of the dictionary definition: “Control by the state of all means of production and economic activity.” They knew only that anything was better than living under the czar, and socialism, with its veneer of brotherhood and charity and sharing, was appealing….
Socialism seemed to progress by pretending to be a liberal, revolutionary movement, freeing up the lives of its supporters, when in reality its basic doctrine is more state control over peoples’ lives. The Nazi Party was known as the National Socialist Party. Communism in Russia was identified as the International Socialist Movement. It was no coincidence that the word “socialist” appears prominently in both of these totalitarian regimes, which together practically decimated European Jewry. Still, there is little doubt that socialism continues to cast its enticing spell over many of our intellectuals today, some of whom have influential teaching positions in our leading universities.
The irony of it all is as [Elie] Koudurie writes [in his book The Jewish World], American Jews have long believed anti-Semitism was encouraged by the political right in America, with the right’s alleged ignoring of the social problems of poverty, prejudice, and its alleged practice of discrimination against Jews in business. Only recently are American Jews discovering that many of our problems emanate from the left with its affluence, permissiveness, wishful thinking, and its substitute of secular liberalism for their own Jewish religion.
What American Jews must always remember is that totalitarian regimes come to power by promising everything to everybody, and then remain in power through force and intimidation. And when things eventually go bad for them, there is always the need for a scapegoat, and who else fits that role but the Jew. Sidney Hook, a liberal for much of his life, is quoted as saying,
‘I was guilty of judging capitalism by its operations and socialism by its hopes and aspirations; capitalism by its works and socialism by its literature.’
Winston Churchill wrote,
‘The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.’
…I tend to believe that the socialist theory of life is not making that much headway among the baby boomers in America. Certainly, if one leans toward Judaism in practically any way, and if one does any studying of the history of socialism and its links to present day liberalism, one would have to reject following socialism in any of its forms.
Beyond all of this, there must be the realization that socialism, and its twin liberalism, by granting more and more power to the state, by looking to the state to solve all of our social, economic, and even personal problems, in effect makes the state the “God” whom all should worship. By elevating the state to this supreme position, socialism or liberalism by definition does thereby demote the eternal and One God to an inferior position. In so doing, these philosophies defy the Second Commandment, when God thundered to Moses and the Israelites on Mt. Sinai,
‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me.'”
So, it seems that the first point here is the danger in latching onto a particular movement without fully understanding the doctrines/ideology behind it. The Jews have certainly paid the price, as they may again, but the lesson serves for all of us who value our freedom. I think the American “Progressives” and their agenda — particularly the secularist flavor — serve as the current example to beware of.
[On a lighter note, I keep thinking of the immortal words of Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, who said to his companion, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”]
The second point is a warning against the subtle replacement of God with the State in people’s minds. Not that it is worshiped in quite the same way, of course. But, not all idolatry is directed at a divine being or a statue or icon of one.