Moses Hess

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Moses Hess
Moses (Moshe) Hess (June 21, 1812April 6, 1875) was a Jewish (Pharisaic) philosopher and one of the founders of socialism.

Hess was born in Bonn. He adopted the name "Moritz," but subsequently reverted to his birthname "Moses", thus re-claiming his Jewish identity. He was an early proponent of socialism, and a precursor to what would later be called Zionism. His works included Holy History of Mankind (1837), European Triarchy (1841) and Rome and Jerusalem (1862). He married a working-class woman (some say a prostitute) in defiance of bourgeois values.

Hess received a Jewish religious education from his grandfather, and later studied philosophy at the University of Bonn, but never graduated. As correspondent for a socialist newspaper that he helped to found, he lived in Paris, fleeing to Belgium and Switzerland temporarily following the suppression of the 1848 commune and again during the Franco-Prussian war. Hess originally advocated Jewish integration into the universalist socialist movement, and was a friend and collaborator of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Hess converted Engels to Communism, and introduced Marx to social and economic problems. He played an important role in transforming Hegelian dialectical idealism theory of history to the dialectical materialism of Marxism, by conceiving of man as the initiator of history through his active consciousness.

Hess was probably responsible for several "Marxian" slogans and ideas, including [need reference - more likely Heinrich Heine] religion as the "opiate of the people." Hess became reluctant to base all history on economic causes and class struggle, and he came to see the struggle of races, or nationalities, as the prime factor of past history.

From 1861 to 1863 he lived in Germany, where he became acquainted with the rising tide of German Anti-Semitism. It was then that he reverted to his Jewish name Moses in protest against assimilationism. In this period he apparently returned to religion in the form of Spinoza's pantheism, which he somehow did not find incompatible with orthodoxy. He published in 1862. Hess contemplated the rise of Italian nationalism and the German reaction to it, and from this he arrived at the idea of Jewish national revival, and at his prescient understanding that the Germans would not be tolerant of the national aspirations of others and would be particularly intolerant of the Jews. His book calls for the establishment of a Jewish socialist commonwealth in Palestine, in line with the emerging national movements in Europe and as the only way to respond to antisemitism and assert Jewish identity in the modern world.

Hess's Rome and Jerusalem. The Last National Question went unnoticed in his time, along with the rest of his writings. Most German Jews were bent on assimilation and did not heed Hess's unfashionable warnings. His work did not stimulate any political activity or discussion. Hess's contribution, like Leon Pinsker's Autoemancipation, became important only in retrospect, as the Zionist movement began to crystallize and to generate an audience in the late nineteenth century.

Hess died in Paris in 1875. As he requested, he was buried in the Jewish cemetery of Cologne. In 1961 he was re-interred in the Kinnereth Cemetery in Israel along with other Socialist-Zionists such as Nachman Syrkin, Ber Borochov, and Berl Katznelson.

Quotes

  • "You may don a thousand masks, change your name and your religion and your mode of life, creep through the world incognito so that nobody notices that you are a Jew yet every insult to the Jewish name will wound you more than a man of honour who remains loyal to his family and defends his good name."
  • "Even an act of conversion cannot relieve the Jew of the enormous pressure of German anti-Semitism. The Germans hate the religion of the Jews less than they hate their race - they hate the peculiar faith of the Jews, less than their peculiar noses."
(Quotes from Rome and Jerusalem by Moses Hess)

Reference

Bibliography

  • Shlomo Avineri, Moses Hess: Prophet of Communism and Zionism (New York, 1985).
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Zionism is an international political movement that supports a homeland for the Jewish People in the Land of Israel.[1] Although its origins are earlier, the movement was formally established by Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl in the late nineteenth century.
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Holy History of Mankind (Die heilige Geschichte der Menscheit) is a book by the Jewish philosopher Moses Hess. Although the work was completely disregarded at the time it was published, the work is significant not only as Hess’s first large-scale expression of
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Rome and Jerusalem. The Last National Question (German: Rom und Jerusalem, die Letzte Nationalitätsfrage) is a book published by Moses Hess in 1862 in Leipzig. It gave impetus to the Labor Zionism movement.
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University of Bonn (German: Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn) is a public research university located in Bonn, Germany. Founded in 1818 the University of Bonn is nowadays one of the largest universities in Germany.
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Friedrich Engels (November 28, 1820 – August 5, 1895) was a German social scientist and philosopher, who developed communist theory alongside his better-known collaborator, Karl Marx, co-authoring The Communist Manifesto (1848).
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