Nationalism, Zionism and Ethnic Mobilization of the Jews in 1900 and Beyond

By Michael Berkowitz | Go to book overview

JEWISH NATIONALISM AND LIBERTARIAN SOCIALISM
IN THE WRITINGS OF BERNARD LAZARE

Michael Löwy
Sorbonne

Bernard Lazare is a paradoxical figure: Jewish nationalist and libertarian internationalist, pro-Zionist and anti-Theodor Herzl, an anarchist opponent of the bourgeois Republic and a defender of captain Dreyfus, a ferocious critic of the Catholic Church whose greatest admirer was the Catholic socialist Charles Péguy. He is what is called in French “inclassable, ” an outsider who does not fit into any of the established forms of politics or culture. By virtue of his romantic, subversive, iconoclastic and libertarian spirit, he is a unique and isolated figure in French Jewry. This is perhaps the reason why he was forgotten, and his life and writings remained ignored in France until recently, that is, up to the last ten or fifteen years.1

Bernard Lazare was born in the south of France (Nîmes), in 1865 into an assimilated Jewish family which had been settled in the country for several generations. Moving to Paris, he became known as a Symbolist writer and literary critic and published Entretiens politiques et littéraire (1891–93), an avant-garde magazine which served as a cultural cross-roads between Symbolist poets and libertarian authors such as Viellé-Griffn, Paul Adam, Henri de Régnier, Jean Grave, and Elisée Réclus. In both roles, as a Symbolist and anarchist, he evinced a passionate, romantic rejection of the modern industrial/ bourgeois civilization, and idealized certain moral, cultural or social values of the past. Lazare often emphasized these secret affnities between Symbolism—even when conservative—and anarchism, as in this surprising eulogy of Sar Peladan, the mystical Symbolist, founder of the new Rosicrucian Order. In spite of the intransigence of his Catholicism, Peladan “shares the same hatred of the bourgeoisie as

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1
For example—from my personal experience: when I asked for consultation in 1985, at the Bibliothèque de la Sorbonne, Bernard Lazare's pamphlet on the Romanian Jews from 1902, the pages in the copy I received had never been cut.

-179-

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