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MARCUS GARVEY

 

The Man and the Movement   Poetry and Oral Tradition   Liberty University
         
The Era   Dialogues   School of African Philosophy
         
Life and Lessons   Religious Influences   The Lessons and the Gospel of Success
         
The Doctrine of Success   African Fundamentalism   Ethiopianism
         
Self-Made Man   Classical Influences and the Ideal State   African Zionism
         
New Thought   Plato's Laws   Jewish Patronage
         
Boosterism   The Ideal State and the UNIA   Racial Success
         
Victorian Sensibility   Political Corruption   Anti-Semitism
         
Vanity Fair   Racial Education   Dissemination of the Lessons
         
The Place Next to Hell   Booker T. Washington University   The Legacy
 
 
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Marcus Garvey

Anti-Semitism

Yet even while Garvey supported Jews as positive socioeconomic and political role models, he was by no means free from the anti-Semitism of his time. He became increasingly anti-Semitic in his rhetoric following conviction on mail-fraud charges in 1923, when he became convinced that Jewish and Catholic jurors and Judge Julian Mack, a leading Zionist and former head of the Zionist Organization of America, had been biased in the hearing of the case because of their political objections to his meeting with the acting imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan---an avowedly anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic organization---in 1922. "When they wanted to get me," Garvey informed the African-American journalist Joel A. Rogers in 1928, "they had a Jewish judge try me, and a Jewish prosecutor. I would have been freed but two Jews on the jury held out against me ten hours and succeeded in convicting me, whereupon the Jewish judge gave me the maximum penalty."

This bitterness continued to pervade his thinking, and tainted the positive view of Jews he upheld earlier in his career. By the mid-1930s, racist suspicion of the motivation of Jews was mixed with a more positive identification with Jews as an oppressed minority, so that Garvey frequently made statements about Jewish solidarity that were contradictory.

Garvey was a propagator of the anti-Semitic rhetoric common in the political era epitomized by the formation of the Rome-Berlin Axis in October 1936. He identified with the rise of both Hitler and Mussolini from lower-class status, and admired the power manifested in their nationalistic brand of leadership. He praised both men in the early thirties as self-made leaders who had restored their nations' pride, and used the resurgence of Italy and Germany as an example to black people for the possible regeneration of Africa. He admired in particular the remarkable ideological stamp the fascist leaders had succeeded in imprinting on the world. "In politics as in everything else," he declared, "movements of any kind [once] established, when centralized by leading characters generally leave their impression, and so Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and the Japanese political leaders are leaving on humanity at large an indelible mark of their political disposition."

This admiration was tinged with jealousy over the spectacular impact of the fascist movement. In 1937 he went so far as to claim in a London interview with Joel A. Rogers that, as Rogers reported, . . . his Fascism preceded that of Mussolini and Hitler. "We were the first Fascists," [Garvey] said, "when we had 100,000 disciplined men, and were training children, Mussolini was still an unknown. Mussolini copied our Fascism."

Later the same year he declared that the "UNIA was before Mussolini and Hitler ever were heard of. Mussolini and Hitler copied the program of the UNIA---aggressive nationalism for the black man in Africa."

His naive identification with fascism in the mid-thirties merged readily with the unfortunate anti-Semitic beliefs he had been voicing since the mid-twenties. In his lessons for the School of African Philosophy---which were first delivered when the events of the past few years had brought Nazi policies of racial discrimination and oppression to the attention of the world---Garvey cautioned against relying on Jews, stating that the very racial solidarity he admired made Jews loyal only to themselves and not to other racial groups. These distasteful comments mark the development of anti-Semitism within the black community in the United States, reflecting the tension that had developed in urban areas, in the course of the previous twenty years, between black people who had migrated from the South or the Caribbean in the World War I era and Jewish immigrants already established in the cities. Black perceptions of Jews were influenced by personal resentment of Jewish landlords and shopkeepers, on whom many black people depended for housing and consumer goods. Jews, in turn, were influenced by the larger atmosphere of racial prejudice against black people and prevailing patterns of residential segregation. This economic tension and cultural dissonance between Jews and black people in areas where the UNIA was strong made black people receptive toward anti-Semitic theories of international financial conspiracy.

These racist theories, popular in the early twenties, were propagated by such widely distributed organs as Henry Ford's Dearborn Independent and The International Jew. Garvey admired Ford as a self-made captain of industry, and was undoubtedly familiar with the anti-Semitic leanings of the Ford publications. Garvey also subscribed to the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which went through six editions in the United States between 1920 and 1922. He told Joel A. Rogers in the course of a 1928 interview in England that "the Elders of Zion teach that a harm done by a Jew to a Gentile is no harm at all, and the Negro is a Gentile."

Garvey apparently accepted the theory---widely popular in the twenties and propagated by Ford's Dearborn Independent reporters and the Protocols---about the existence of a Jewish-capitalist-Bolshevik conspiracy. Garvey details the same conspiracy theory in his otherwise sympathetic editorials criticizing Nazi persecution of Jews. "Hitler is only making a fool of himself," Garvey argued in publicly denouncing Hitler's attacks upon Jews, declaring further:

Sooner or later the Jews will destroy Germany as they destroyed Russia. They did not so much destroy Russia from within as from without, and Hitler is driving the Jews to a more perfect organization from without Germany. Jewish finance is a powerful world factor. It can destroy men, organizations and nations. When the Jewish capitalists get together they will strike back at Germany and the fire of Communism will be lighted and Hitler and his gang will disappear as they have disappeared in Russia . . . If Hitler will not act sensibly then Germany must pay the price as Russia did.

Two years before, when Hitler rose to power in Germany, Garvey wrote of the ability of the Jews to ruin Germany financially. "The Jews are a powerful minority group," assayed Garvey, "and although they may be at a disadvantage in Germany, they can so react upon things German as to make the Germans, and particularly Hitler and the Nazis, rue the day they ever started the persecution."

While Garvey promulgated prejudicial theories about Jewish culture in the lessons from the School of African Philosophy and elsewhere, he also expressed contrary views, at times harshly criticizing racial discrimination against Jews. In 1933 he directly linked the Jewish reputation for business acumen with German anti-Semitism. He strongly denounced discrimination against Jews as a minority group and ascribed anti-Jewish prejudice to racism motivated by jealousy of Jewish economic success. "The Jewish race is a noble one," he wrote in a 28 March 1933 New Jamaican editorial, and "the Jew is only persecuted because he has certain qualities of progress that other people have not learnt." He then drew a direct analogy between the persecution of Jews and the prejudice directed against black people in the United States, and strongly denounced Nazi racial intolerance.  He specifically denounced Hitler's and Mussolini's designs on African colonies, and linked Nazi prejudice against black people with the persecution of Jews, describing both as racist policies that presented dangerous ramifications for world affairs.

 

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