Friday, February 23, 2024

Hal Draper - The Dictatorship of the Proletariat from Marx to Lenin

In preparation for writing my book Socialism or Extinction I read all five volumes of Hal Draper's books on Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution. It was an exciting and informative experience and links to reviews of each volume can be found below. For each book I was struck by how Draper's deep grasp of the material allowed him to draw out the revolutionary heart to Marx's ideas and give fresh insights to Marx's ideas. So I was pleased to discover this much shorter volume which is a "continuation", in Draper's words, of volume three of KMTOR, extending the story beyond Marx and Engels' lifetime into the early 20th century. The book follows much the same format, exploring the references to and meanings of Dictatorship of the Proletariat as used by key Marxists, from Marx and Engels, through the Second International and onto Luxembourg, Lenin and Trotsky.

But there is no doubt that Draper has a deeper purpose. He seems to be trying to rescue the Marxist kernal of the phrase, no doubt hoping to explore its meaning in the context of critics of revolution, on the left and right. The problem here is that the meaning of the phrase is one thing. How and why it was used is another. Draper has, particularly in the case of Lenin, abstracted the phrase from the context and undermined his own cause.

There is a lot of overlap with volume three of Draper's KMTOR. He begins, as he did there, by exploring the changing meaning of dictatorship. It is an important corrective, because he shows how its classical meaning, understood by Marx and Engels, but rarely today, is far from the modern interpretation. Instead it means an "emergency exercise of power by a trusted citizen for temproary and limited purposes". Marx rarely used the phrase except in specific periods. Draper explores these, but points out that until the Paris Commune, there "was not a single case of Marx's use of 'dictatorship of the proletariat'" in the preceeding two decades. When he does use it there, it is because "it was accepted as an example of the rule (or 'dictatorship') of the proletariat. The point is, Draper argues, that Marx was using the phrase despite the Commune not excercising dictorial power. Draper writes:

In the twentieth century, it was not uncommon to read that, according to Marx, a workeres' state might or might not be a 'dictatorship of the proletariat,' depending presumeably on how severly dictatorial it had to become. This interpretation is excluded by Marx's words: the workers' state 'can be nothing but; a dictatorship of the proletartiat; in other words the two terms are synonumous... For Marx this was a staetment about the societal content of the state, the class character of thre political power. It was not a statement about the forms of the government machines or other structural aspects of government or policies.

Later Marxists, Draper argues, miss this point and see the use of the D word simple as about method, not content. He repeatedly contrasts how these Marxists use the word and compares it to how Marx meant it. There is some usefulness in this, not least in exposing the limitations of many Second International thinkers. The problem comes when Draper gets to Lenin:

By the end of Year One, it was clear that Lnein was no longer using 'dictatorship of the proletariat' to denote a workers' state that was subject to the democratic rule of the working classes. It now meant a specially organised dictatorial regime, dictatorial in the sense that had become increasinly dominant, and increasingly counterposed to abstract democarcy... a number of Bolshevik spokesmen carried this process of theroretical degeneration even further, thus facilitating (though certainly not causing) the societal counterrevolution represented by Stalin.

Here Draper gives succour to the enemies of the Russian Revolution before Stalin's rise, because he undermines what Lenin was trying to do in this period. Despite a useful summary of the Revolution's isolation and economic collapse, he continues to judge Lenin by the classical definition of Dictatorship of the Proletariat understood by Marx. He then blames Trotsky and Bukharin for taking the theoretical lead in "gutting socialism" before Stalin.

Rather than trying to explore the real meaning of 'dictatorship' in the context of an isolated revolutionary movement and the needs of the struggle - which other Marxists not least Trotsky himself have tried to do since - Draper avoids this and spends his time in Marxology. Take this passage, describing how Lenin engaged with Marx's ideas:

The rather surprising outcome was that Lenin worked out for himself, or invented, a unique definition of 'dictatorship; which, as far as I know, came out of his own head. More than ever, different people discussing 'dictatorship of the proletariat' were using a different vocabulary, talking past each other.

But what is surprising about this is that Lenin developed some of the most vibrant and interesting Marxist works around related questions. But Draper judges him not on these works and their importance, but on his differences from Lenin. Indeed, the sections where Draper tracks the changing use of the phrase by Lenin were somewhat tiresome for me, as they felt more like heresay hunting than actual engagement with Lenin's revolutionary project.

Sadly this short volume falls short of the authors' ambitions. Hal Draper comes across as a smug writer, pleased that he alone has discovered Marx's true meaning and all others have fallen by the wayside. It would have been more useful if Draper had more deeply explored what Lenin's project was, rather than trying to damn him with faint praise.

Related Reviews

Draper - Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution Volume 1: State & Bureaucracy
Draper - Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution Volume 2: The Politics of Social Classes
Draper - Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution Volume 3: The 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat'
Draper - Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution Volume 4: Critique of Other Socialisms
Draper & Haberkern - Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution Volume 5: War & Revolution

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Arthur Ransome - Great Northern

Rereading Arthur Ransome's Great Northern led me to decide that it is perhaps the finest of the Swallows and Amazons stories. Yet when I read these books as a child I was not that found of it. Looking back I think that this is due to the tense final few chapters, when the Swallows, Amazons and Dick and Dorothy are pursued by multiple enemies as they seek to protect the titular birds. It is much more young adult territory than children's book.

Great Northern is the only one of Ransome's children's books to be set in Scotland. It's connections with the books set in the Norfolk Broads as the children are protecting a birds nest and eggs from an egg collector. Looking after birds was a key theme of Coot Club and the Big Six. In this sense it is quite a modern story, as egg collecting was not frowned upon in the 1940s when Great Northern was written. The children are on a sailing trip with Captain Flint, around the Western Isles (Ransome based the book on a trip to Lewis) which has been fairly uneventful. It is only on their last day, when Dick spots a pair of Great Northern's nesting that things take a turn for the excitement. The birds have never been known to nest in the British Isles and the discovery of the nest offers fame.

Dick's visit to a bird watcher turns from triumph to horror as he realises the watcher is an egg collector. A swift children's mutiny leads Flint back to the Island where the everyone embarks on a great subterfuge to avoid the collector locating the nest. As I said, there's a great chase, the children and Flint are imprisoned by the angry natives who think they are trying to scare his deer, and the birds are eventually protected. It is all very exciting, though Ransome's left politics did not prevent him relying on the autonomous power of the local laird to stop the robbery of the eggs!

There are some interesting aspects to the book. Firstly the locals speak little English, only Gaelic - with the exception of the Laird and his son. Secondly Ransome captures well the class relations on the island. Of further interest is the environmental context. Ransome, through the children, demonstrates a great empathy for nature and landscape. This is done, in this case, through the desire by all the children (though not Flint) to protect the birds. But this concern doesn't stretch to the wider environment. Take the aftermath of the picnic, when the two oldest children, John and Nancy, leave they "quickly poked their sandwich papers deep into the pear, sank their empty lemonade bottles in a small pool and set off, with empty knapsacks flapping on their backs."

Reading this sentence in 2024 really jars! The bottles are likely still there, though at least the sandwiches were wrapped in paper and not plastic. The other jarring bits are the gender roles. Ransome is usually quite good at letting his female characters take part in adventures on the same level as the boys, usually through the medium of Titty and Nancy. But once again Susan and Peggy are left to do all the household chores, especially feeding the crew - and Susan is forced to play a motherly role to her youngest brother Roger. Worrying, and bemoaning that the iodine for his cut shin is back on the boat.

Great Northern is certainly one of the best of the Ransome novels. But it is dated, and very much of its time. Despite this, Arthur Ransome's empathy for children and nature comes through and readers who enjoyed this back in their own childhood may enjoy the revisit. Younger readers perhaps deserve a little more.

Related Reviews

Ransome - We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea
Ransome - Peter Duck
Ransome - Missee Lee
Hardyment - Arthur Ransome and Captain Flint's Trunk
Chambers - The Last Englishman, The double life of Arthur Ransome

Friday, February 16, 2024

Kent Nerburn - Neither Wolf nor Dog

This book begins with a phone call. Author and artist Kent Nerburn gets contacted by the grandaughter of an Native American elder, who wants him to write his story. Nerburn has already published several books that present the stories and memories of Native Americans who lived on the Red Lake Ojibwe reservation, and Dave Bald Eagle (Dan), a member of the Lakota, feels that Nerburn can deliver. But this writing assignment becomes a spiritual journey for Nerburn when Dan, and his friend Grover, essentially kidnap Nerburn and take him on an intellectual journey to understand Native American history, thought and, above all, anger.

There is a great deal of mutual misunderstanding in this book. Nerburn often, and openly, fails to understand what Dan and Grover are telling him. He cannot comprehend the Lakota worldview, and he is helpless in answering and understanding what he is being told. Gradually he gets closer to it, after essentially having a breakdown in the face of the emotion, intensity and power of Dan's ideas. It is a journey (spiritually and physically) that is deftly told. Dan is hard on Nerburn, rarely allowing him space, and pressing him on points and the half-baked thoughts that the whiteman makes. There's a hard hitting bit when the three travellers visit some of Dan's family, and Dan tackles Nerburn for treating one of the children differently. One of the kids is half Indian and half white and Dan accuses Nerburn, "He wasn't an Indian to you. That's why you talked to him more." Nerburn doesn't see that he did anything wrong, and this just riles Dan more - "The little guy... he's never been as far as Rapid City. He speaks Lakota. He's never even seen his white dad. But to you the other kids are more Indian."

It's a powerful moment and Nerburn's protestations are frustrated and bitter. But it's honest. It leads the author, through Dan, to explore US politics around race, genocide and the reservations themselves. Nerburn is ill-equipped to deal with the onslaught of ideas, thoughts and new approaches to the world that Dan and Grover offer him. Dan complains:

You are still writing down our story, using your words, and you are still getting it all wrong. Your words are all full of sharp edges that cut us. But we have been bleeding so long we don't even feel it anymore.

It is a powerful lesson for Nerburn, and the reader. Nerburn is ill-equipped to tell it, and that's not just because he is not a Native American. It's also because he hasn't got any political framework to explain American history. If I have one disagreement with Dan's own politics its that it doesn't acknowledge that as capitalism sought to murder the Native Americans, it also destroyed the lives of countless other peoples whose world-views and livelihoods did not fit its model. The genocide of the Native Americans took place alongside the colonial destruction of peoples across the Global South as well as the destruction of European ways of life that had entirely different relationships to the world around them.  But Nerburn doesn't even appear to have heard of Wounded Knee. He's a great writer, and perhaps his naivety is the perfect foil for Dan's hard reality, but at times I was exasperated by him for different reasons to Dan's!

Nevertheless this "neither fiction nor non-fiction" account of a road trip is a powerful and illuminating read. Add it to your list, for a sense of the raging discontent and anger that remains at the heart of the so called "American Dream".

Related Reviews

Kimmerer - Braiding Sweetgrass

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Christopher Shaw - Liberalism and the Challenge of Climate Change

Christopher Shaw opens his book by quoting from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2022 report, which argued that "fundamental changes" were needed to society's "underlying values, world views, ideologies, social structures, political and econommic systems and power relationships." Those of us who have spent the last few decades arguing that capitalism cannot solve the environmental crisis that it has created could be forgiven for feeling somewhat vindicated. After all, fundamental change is what we've been calling for all along. But Shaw cautions us. His book

argues that the greatest barrier to bringing about these 'fundamental changes' is the stanglehold that liberalism has on our language, thoughts and imagination. What is presented as transformative climate action is actually action intendd to legitimise liberalism in the face of a catastrophe for which liberalism has no answers.

Liberalism, Shaw argues, is "irreconcilable" with a liveable climate. He goes further, suggesting that "our inability to even think it possible to look beyond liberalism... is a sign of ideology in action". Indeed, so embedded is liberalism as a viewpoint in Western capitalist society that it has not just shaped how we think about climate (or indeed everything) but it has also enforced a particular approach to climate solutions. I have long raged about the inadequacy of the UN COP process but Shaw shows how this politicians deliberately supplanted a scientificly driven approach with one governed by neoliberal politics and economics.

One interesting part of the book looks at the temperature limits set as the targets for climate action, in particular the often mentioned 1.5C marker. Shaw argues that this is a result of a liberal approach to nature and climate which set an arbitarary number as a target. This could be used as by politicians, conveniently shifting the problem into the future. He makes the point that the 1.5C "cultural artefact", was "constructed under a historically specific set of economic and social conditions by a handful of powerful actors... under different social and economic conditions, we might have expected a different construction of climate change to emerge".

As the world surges past the 1.5C level, we will have cause to rue the historic failure to build this different social and economic context. But Shaw's point here echoes Marx, "the prevailing ideas of society are those of the ruling class". Indeed, as he says "the political consensus drives a public consensus". This liberal consensus is that "apocalyptic scenarios... are resolved in the story through narratives of technological solutions, global negotiations and occult economic practices." But it has all failed.

To flesh out his argument Shaw posits five "guardrails" which are used by liberal politicians and thinkers to frame the climate crisis and the action that should be taken. Essentially these are ideological viewpoints enforced by the ideas and actions of capitalist society. They are worth listing:

  • Guardrail 1: Climate Change is not a challenge to individualism.
  • Guardrail 2: The liberal construction of climate change is universally true.
  • Guardrail 3: Climate change is not an historical phenomenon.
  • Guardrail 4: We have the tecnologies to solve climate change.
  • Guardrail 5: New stories will save us.
The climate movement has, in recent years, developed a serious and important component that has highlighted the importance of global justice to the fight for a sustainable future. Shaw points out the liberal guardrails entrench a view of climate solutions that see the future world as a mirror of the developed West. This view is both unsustainable and racist. Take the future envisaged by one western liberal writer:
There is flirting, gossip, philosophical cafes, street theatre, peaceful protest marches, farmers markets, marathons and rock concerts a plenty. The cars hum quietly around... beer and barbeques. Markets and trade are vibrant.
A fantasy dream for a liberal elite. Certainly a dream that is not sullied with the horror already dealt out to billions of people around the world by the existing environmental crisis. 

What is worrying about these viewpoints is that they are not just endemic to the politicians and the elite, they are also dominanting within the climate movement itself - at least the mainstream, NGO part of it. For these activists, "system change" mostly means tinkering with capitalism, not replacing it.

It is interesting then that Shaw's book finishes with the "third way". It is a breath of fresh air when Shaw says we must begin with Lenin and the Russian Revolution. The latter he rightly characterises as "a conscious intervention to end imperialism and class exploitation". Shaw continues that we need a similar "seismic historically significant social revolution today". 

While I think Shaw's arguements against liberalism are valid. I think it would have been good to draw out further his discussion about whether or not they will remain universal. As the climate crisis grows, the response from governments and elites will be to rein in liberal discourse, increase repression, border controls and racism. We get a glimpse of this with Putin and Trump, and far-right politicians around the world. I would have enjoyed more of Shaw's thoughts on this.

Nonetheless Liberalism and the Challenge of Climate Change is an important book. I opened it fearful that I was delving into a dry academic text. But instead I found an illuminating and engaging discussion, a powerful denunciation of the dominant political viewpoints that drew the most radical of conclusions. 

Related Reviews

Monday, February 12, 2024

Robin Wall Kimmerer - Braiding Sweetgrass

Braiding Sweetgrass is one of those books that defies easy categorisation. I picked it up expecting a book that distilled indigineous knowledge about plants, perhaps imaginging a discussion about what plants made for good food, medicine or had other benefits. The book definitely has this within it. But it has much more. It is also part autobiography, part reportage, part biological discussion. All of this often infused with anger and sadness. Robin Wall Kimmerer draws on her many varied experiences - as a mother, scientist and university tutor - as well as an indigenous person in North America - to draw out how Native American people understand the world and nature. It makes for a remarkable book.

One of the things about Braiding Sweetgrass is Kimmerer's mixing of scientific and indigenous insights. Towards the end of the book, she writes:

The very facts of the world are a poem. Light is turned to sugar. Salamanders find their way to ancestral ponds following magnetic lines radiating from the earth. The saliva of grazing buffalo causes the grass to grow taller. Tobacco seeds germinate when they smell smoke. Microbes in industrial waste can destroy mercury. Aren't these stories we should all know?

She continues, "The stories of buffao and salamanders belong to the land, but scientists are one of their translators and carry a large responsiblity for conveying their stories to the world". But she bemoans that "scientists mostly convey these stories in a language that excludes readers."

I think the point she is making is that Western thought teachers people to understand the world in a particular way. Nature is a commidity that has been tied into a global market. Capitalism teaches us to see the world in a particular way. We relate to nature, not as nature, but as a thing, separate from us.

Kimmerer shows this often in her descriptions of time spent with student. On field trips she finds students who are incredulous at her suggestions that they listen to nature, or think of a tree, plant or stone as a person that they should communicate with. I'll admit that it seems strange to me. But the point that Kimmerer is making is that we consider the world differently when we have to think about the consequences of our actions - when we have to ask the animal if it is ok to hunt them, or the crop to cut it. The action of making gifts to nature is in part about making a recognition that nature cannot be taken for grants.

There's an excellent chapter that looks at this through a PHd students work on crop yields. This student is studying the impact of different ways of harvesting crops. The university professors are incredulous that she thinks that the act of farming the crops would increase yields. "Anyone knows that harvesting a plant will damage the population. You're wasting your time" said the Dean. Yet the opposite was proved to be true. Indigenous knowledge trumped the academy.

Kimmerer is not suggesting that indigenous knowledge should replace Western science. What she is arguing is that the approach of indigenous people to the world offers ways of understanding the world that can supplement science. Her different chapters all, in various ways, make this case - often in convincing and interesting ways.

But I think there's something missing of her analysis. The problem is not science. The problem is a social and economic system that frames science in a particular way. Rightly Kimmerer talks about the appalling genocidal treatment of indigenous people. This saw the deliberate and violent destruction of a way of life - and a way of thinking. But the rise of capitalism did this to people everywhere - including in Europe. James D. Fisher's recent book The Enclosure of Knowledge makes this point well about the experience in England. This is not to downplay the violence inflicted on Native Americans, but to argue that the rise of the bourgeois way of thinking about nature is the problem. We cannot simply graft better and more helpful ways of thinking on existing science. We need to transform the system itself.

This is why I think Kimmerer's book is sometimes misunderstood by reviewers. Because it seems hard to imagine what she is suggesting taking place - because it can seem so alien. Interestinginly at the same time as writing this review I've been reading Kent Nerburn's book Neither Wolf Nor Dog, which features similar increduality between Nerburn and his Native American companions.

Of course, it is possible to shift how people think and view the world. Kimmerer's students often make that leap - and she writes touchingly about this. Her book will also contribute to this process. But making that change is only a first step. As she writes at the very end, we need "courage" to "refuse to participate in an economy that destroys the beloverd earth to line the pockets of the greedy, to demand an economy that is aligned with life, not stacked against it. It's easy to write that, harder to do."

Unless we shatter the Settler Colonial system that alienates us from nature, and shapes our way of thinking, we will remain trapped in its framework. Kimmerer's book is thus a powerful argument for a new way of thinking, but we need to go much further.

Related Reviews

Fisher - The Enclosure of Knowledge
Tully - Crooked Deals and Broken Treaties
McMillan & Yellowhorn - First Peoples in Canada
Hunter - Glencoe and the Indians
Cozzens - The Earth is Weeping

Thursday, February 08, 2024

Sylvain Neuvel - Until the Last of Me

*** Spoilers ***

This is the second volume of Sylvain Neuvel's Take Them to the Stars trilogy. It is an alternate history of the 20th century, focusing on two groups of human like aliens that live among the wider population. For three thousand years they have fought each other. One group, the Kibsu, have tasked themselves with getting humanity to space so that they can escape Earth. These women, have hidden themselves, gently prodding and encouraging humans to gain the necessary insights to develop science and move, slowly towards the stars. The Kibsu are all women, and one of the great insights of these books is how Neuvel links the difficulties of these gentle nudges, with the wider problems of women's oppression in society and science. 

He also doesn't fall into the trap of pretending this is easy for the Kibsu. One of the ironies of the historical chapters in Until the Last of Me, is that the Kibsu often fail, or find that human scientists are already gaining the insights they need, or that their women's insights are ignored. In fact Neuvel reinforces the idea, perhaps not deliberately, that scientific advance is a consequence of humanity's collective development - not just the insights of individuals. The greatest step forward taking by Kibsu Mia though was to get the Nazi Von Braun to the US after World War Two, and then to push the Soviets into space to make it happen. This is where the second novel opens - humans are in space, but the Kibsu need them to push further outward. But there is a problem.

For thousands of years the Kibsu have run from the Tracker. The aliens, all male, hunting them. For thousands of years the motto has been "run, do not fight". In this book the last Kibsu has to fight to protect what she has found out about her origins and humanity's destiny. 

Neuvel skillfully weaves the story of the Kibsu around 20th century space exploration - making Voyager the focus of the tale. This is itself enjoyable - in a way its a more exciting and innovative vision of humanity's voyage into space than the moon landings and the space race. But it is a dead end, and its notable that the book opens with Kibsu disappointment at the lack of movement in space.

For this reason, Until the Last of Me fails to develop some of the intensity of the first book - the space race provided a tension that is lacking in the second book. Instead Neuvel relies on the back story of the Kibsu and a somewhat implausible detective story as the Kibsu use an ancient artifact (locked in a vault in China) as a map to find their way to a secret. This is a little to Indiana Jones, and it contains one of the sillest museum heist scenes I've ever read.

I suspect that Until the Last of Me, suffers from being volume two of a trilogy. A bridge between beginning and end. We shall see. The ending is a pretty good cliff hanger.

Related Reviews

Neuvel - A History of What Comes Next

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Kenneth Austin - The Jews and the Reformation

This is an engaging book about European Jews and the Reformation. It mostly examines how Jews were perceived and treated before, during and after the Reformation. Author Kenneth Austin begins with a survey of Jewish life before the great changes of the 16th century, and quickly moves into what the Reformation meant for Christians - he says that this frames how they thought about Jews. 

The figure that looms largest over this period is, of course, Martin Luther. Austin explores Luther's own changing attitudes which began with a more friendly attitidue to the Jews but as they failed to come over to Reformed Christianity, turned into horrificly racism. Luther's words do not need to be quoted here again, suffice to say that they were taken up by antisemites at the time and since. Austin, however argues that such beliefs were not themselves universal. Rather:

Catholic and Protestant attitudes to the Jews in the Reformation era were highly complex and multivalent. Fortunately, few were quite as hostile towards Jews as was Luther, on the other hand, there were relatively few who could be considered genuinely tolerant either. The Reformation had made Europe a religiously pluralistic society, but the place of Jews in this world was far from secure.

Exploring these "complexities" takes Austin through a fascinating account of the history of Jewish people in Europe, their specific beliefs and how Christians understood Jews in terms of their relations to Christians and Jesus. One of the fascinating aspects to this is how the study of the Bible by those contesting the Reformation caused a renewed interest in Hebrew as scholars tried to read the Bible in its original language - meaning that some Jews became highly important as teachers, and their works were published and widely read.

Austin also explores how Christianity had varying attitudes to Jews, that were not simply shaped by religious prejudices or concerns. For instance, there were a number of places were Christian rulers encouraged Jews to live in their towns or cities, for economic reasons. Jews, Austin writes, became "particularly associated" with two roles - doctors and money lending. The former was often proscribed because Jews were commonly believed to deliberately kill a proportion of their Christian patients. The latter was often the reason Jews were invited into an area, though this was often accompanied by various restrictions on life - from bans on them joining Guilds, to restrictions on their rights to travel. It lead to some contradictions, Strasbourg for instance was a city that "could claim to be... almost entirely free from a Jewish presence, while at the same time accomodating Jews in various ways to their mutual benefit." The construction of Ghettos was often about restricting Jews, but allowing them space to continue working in ways that benefited the wider economy, watched over by the anti-Jewish rulers or city council. Such contradictions arose because there was no "monolithic" position towards the Jews. Indeed, successive Popes or monarchs seemed to vary their attitudes dramatically.

The antisemitic beliefs about Jews here, including the blood libel, are explored by Austin in detail. This makes for fascinating, if uncomfortable reading. Austin explores the "blood libels" and racist beliefs, particularly over antisemitic ideas that saw Jews as responsible for killing children. These were widespread in the period covered, but without foundation. Nonetheless they led to frequent pogroms and repression of Jewish communities.

The Reformation had contradictory outcomes for Jews. On the one hand Jews became pawns for arguments from boths sides. On the other, the political demand for religious equality by Protestants, also as a by product led to the toleration and acceptance of Jewish communities. It worked the otherway too. In France, in 1561, the Protestants asked Charles IX to tolerate them, "since the Jews are allowed, and the Turks".

Kenneth Austin's book is insightful and interesting. But not without problem. His tendency to see developments in terms of purely religious differences obscures his argument in places. He argues, for instance, that the Dutch Revolt and the Thirty Years war were the result of Reformation tensions. But the religious debates are better understood as reflecting the tensions caused by the rise of the capitalist order. This new economic system caused enormously changes and, this created new problems and opportunities for Jewish people. For instance, it would have been fruitful if Austin had explored the way that the concepts of bourgeois equality and freedom created spaces for the freedom to worship. Instead Austin tends to see this as a consequence of "ongoing" religious tensions, rather than the ideological expression of a new social and economic system.

Nonetheless, at the end of the Reofrmation, both wings of the Christian Church "tried to position themselves as the heir to the Jewish people". Why that could be true is a fascinating story and it is well told by Kenneth Austin.

Note: In this review I have used "antisemitism" to refer to anti-Jewish beliefs and racism. Kenneth Austin points out that this is "rather problematic", because it tends to relate to a modern racism based on racial and genetic ideas of Jewishness, that dates to the 19th century onward. Secondly, Austin writes:

"the term implies a more positive attitidue towards the Jews than was acutally the case. Most of the fitgures who are generally described as philo-Semites valued the Jews not on their own terms, but rather because of the role they could perform. Wanting Jews in the country in order that they could convert to Christianity, thereby heralding the Last Days, could hardly be construed as genuinely sympathetic."

Related Reviews

Fishman - East End Jewish Radicals 1875 -1914
Sand - The Invention of the Jewish People
Roper - Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet
Marshall - Heretics & Believers: A History of the English Reformation
MacCulloch - Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1490-1700
Pascal - The Social Basis of the German Reformation
Barton - A History of the Bible: The book and its faiths