antisemitism & the horseshoe theory
The horseshoe theory first appeared in political discourse during the period of the Weimar Republic (1918-1933), in reference to the Black Front, a far-right, anti-Capitalist, virulently antisemitic political party formed by radicals who resigned from the N*zi party. The Black Front never gained much traction, peaking at about a couple thousand members, and was outlawed in 1934. Like many left-wing, socialist and/or Communist groups, the far-right Black Front used a hammer in their flag, highlighting their anti-Capitalist stance.
In 2002, French philosopher and writer Jean-Pierre Faye re-popularized the theory after writing about the ideologies of totalitarian regimes, including the Soviet Union under Stalin and Germany under H!tler.
Antisemitism, known as “the world’s oldest bigotry,” is hostility, prejudice, and/or discrimination against Jews.
Though Jews are not the only group to speak a Semitic language — others include Arabic and Aramaic, for example — the word “antisemitism” was first used in the late 1800s in reference, specifically, to anti-Jewish hatred. In a period of social Darwinism and scientific racism, the word “antisemitism” sounded more “scientific” than Jew-hatred, and thus, antisemitism was considered “acceptable.”
While the word “antisemitism” itself is relatively new, antisemitism is 3000 years old. It’s institutional and systemic, most notably in Europe, Southwest Asia (the Middle East), and North Africa. It also long predates modern politics. It exists — in its deadliest iterations — all across the political spectrum.
LEFT VS RIGHT POLITICS
The concept of left vs. right politics is relatively new, originating during the French Revolution (1789-1799). Those considered to be on the right were those who remained loyal to the king, while those on the left were the supporters of the revolution.
It wasn’t until the early twentieth century that the “left” and the “right” became associated with specific political ideologies. Both “left” and “right” were initially considered slurs against political opponents of a differing ideology (for example, someone on the left might insult a conservative by calling them “right-wing,” and vice versa).
Antisemitism long predates all of this. Antisemitism does not subscribe to one political ideology. It’s everywhere.
THE ANTISEMITIC HORSESHOE
If there is one thing that the far-right and the far-left have had in common, historically, it’s virulent, violent antisemitism. From N*zis on the far-right to Stalin’s persecution, ethnic cleansing, and possible plans of genocide against the Jewish People (disguised under the pretense of “anti-Zionism”), it’s not hard to see how both ends of the spectrum have mirrored each other in their treatment of the Jewish People. For more on Stalin’s persecution of Jews, see my posts THE PERSECUTION OF SOVIET JEWS, THE DOCTOR’S PLOT, and THE JEWISH AUTONOMOUS OBLAST.
Unfortunately, neither far-right nor far-left antisemitism are a thing of the past. For example, on the far-right, a white supremacist murdered 11 people at the 2018 Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting. On the left, violent antisemitism skyrocketed just this past summer, hiding under the facade of pro-Palestinian activism (to clarify: I am not saying pro-Palestinian activism is inherently antisemitic. What I am saying is that many hijack the Palestinian cause as an excuse to hurt Jews). Jewish people, businesses, and synagogues were attacked. Protestors called for the r*pe and genocide of Jews. Sometimes they didn’t even bother to use the word “Zionists” instead of “Jews.”
The horseshoe theory is not without its vocal critics. Those on both the far-right and the far-left resent the association with the other.
A big criticism is that the far-right and far-left only mirror each other in the vaguest sense, such as in their opposition to the liberal status quo, but, that in nearly every other aspect, both ideologies are vastly different. Another argument is that those on the far-left, for instance, oppose the rise of far-right governments in their countries, and vice versa. Many on the left argue that it’s centrists that have historically enabled fascism, not leftists.
First, a disclaimer: I’m not, by any means, an expert on political theory. My expertise lies with Jewish history and antisemitism, although, of course, these subjects all overlap at times. Second disclaimer: this slide is, as the title states, my opinion. You are welcome to disagree with it, but please be respectful in the comment section and adhere to my boundaries.
I do not fully disagree or agree with the horseshoe theory. I think that when one is on either far end of the political spectrum, one is more susceptible to totalitarianism. And while there are, for example, similarities in the way that H!tler persecuted people and Stalin persecuted people, their ideologies themselves were vastly different.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind, however, that the far-left and the far-right mirror each other in regards to antisemitism. When those on the left repeat N*zi talking points — accusing Jews speaking on Jewish genetics of “eugenics” or “race science” or recycling N*zi propaganda, as was the case in Zahra Billoo’s recent speech at the Council on American-Islamic Relations — the horseshoe theory does resonate with me. And that’s worrisome, to say the least.
However, I also do not believe one has to be on the “far” end of either political spectrum to be an antisemite. It exists in the center — though evidently nowhere near as violently — as it exists everywhere else. In other words, the issue in my mind is not so much the validity of the horseshoe theory, but rather, the concerning issue of those who supposedly oppose N*zism and fascism adopting antisemitic N*zi talking points, as well as the normalization — both on the left and the right — of antisemitic discourse, conspiracy theories, and scapegoating.
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