Highlights from The Jewish State (Theodor Herzl)

Taking over the meiert​.com series, here are some snippets and highlights from Theodor Herzl’s The Jewish State (1896).

Emphasis as it appears in the original work may be missing, and our own edits, though marked, may be broad. Important: By sharing these highlights we neither endorse nor recommend respective authors and their views. Assume that we know little of the authors, and that we have nuanced views on the matter—as with all our book recommendations.

The Jewish State

[…] the childish error that commodities pass from hand to hand in continuous rotation. […] the world is considerably altered by the production of new commodities. 

All our material welfare has been brought about by men of enterprise. 

We do not depend on the circulation of old commodities, because we produce new ones. 

I believe in the ascent of man to higher and yet higher grades of civilization; but I consider this ascent to be desperately slow. 

We naturally move to those places where we are not persecuted, and there our presence produces persecution. 

We are a people—one people.

We have honestly endeavored everywhere to merge ourselves in the social life of surrounding communities and to preserve the faith of our fathers. 

Jew-baiting has merely stripped off our weaklings; the strong among us were invariably true to their race […].

Whoever can, will, and must perish, let him perish. […] the distinctive nationality of Jews neither can, will, nor must be destroyed. It cannot be destroyed, because external enemies consolidate it. It will not be destroyed; this is shown during two thousand years of appalling suffering. It must not be destroyed […]. Whole branches of Judaism may wither and fall, but the trunk will remain. 

Far worse is the circumstance that unsatisfactory results tend to cast doubts on intelligent men. What is impractical or impossible to simple argument will remove this doubt from the minds of intelligent men. […] A small enterprise may result in loss under the same conditions which would make a large one pay. 

The Society is to be created first, the Company last; but in this exposition the reverse order is preferable, because it is the financial soundness of the enterprise which will chiefly be called into question, and doubts on this score must be removed first. 

Old prisoners do not willingly leave their cells. 

What is achieved by transporting a few thousand Jews to another country? Either they come to grief at once, or prosper, and then their prosperity creates Anti-Semitism. 

No one is wealthy or powerful enough to make civilization take a single retrograde step. 

Modern Anti-Semitism is not to be confounded with the religious persecution of the Jews of former times. 

The very impossibility of getting at the Jews nourishes and embitters hatred of them. 

[Anti-semitism’s?] immediate cause is our excessive production of mediocre intellects […].

He who would found his hope for improved conditions on the ultimate perfection of humanity would indeed be relying upon a Utopia! 

In its ignorance and narrowness of heart, [the word] fails to observe that prosperity weakens our Judaism and extinguishes our peculiarities. 

The emigrants standing lowest in the economic scale will be slowly followed by those of a higher grade. Those who at this moment are living in despair will go first. They will be led by the mediocre intellects which we produce so superabundantly and which are persecuted everywhere. 

[…] dissidents must remember that allegiance or opposition is entirely voluntary. He who will not come with us should remain behind. 

We should there [in Palestine] form a portion of a rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism. We should as a neutral State remain in contact with all Europe, which would have to guarantee our existence. The sanctuaries of Christendom would be safeguarded by assigning to them an extra-territorial status such as is well-known to the law of nations. We should form a guard of honor about these sanctuaries, answering for the fulfilment of this duty with our existence. This guard of honor would be the great symbol of the solution of the Jewish Question […].

[…] “practical” people are as a rule nothing more than men sunk into the groove of daily routine, unable to emerge from a narrow circle of antiquated ideas. At the same time, their adverse opinion carries great weight, and can do considerable harm to a new project, at any rate until this new thing is sufficiently strong to throw the “practical” people and their mouldy notions to the winds. 

[…] travellers do not produce railways, but, conversely, railways produce travellers[.]

The Jewish Company is partly modelled on the lines of a great land-acquisition company. […]

The Jewish Company is an organization with a transitional character. It is strictly a business undertaking […].

The Jewish Company will first of all convert into cash all vested interests left by departing Jews. […]

The Company’s branch establishments in various towns will become the central offices for the sale of Jewish estates, and will charge only so much commission on transactions as will ensure their financial stability. […]
It will take over the management of abandoned estates till such time as it can dispose of them to the greatest advantage. […]

At the same time the Company will sell estates, or, rather, exchange them. For a house it will offer a house in the new country; and for land, land in the new country; everything being, if possible, transferred to the new soil in the same state as it was in the old. 

Financial morality consists in the correlation of risk and profit. 

The men who carried out the extension of Paris made a successful speculation in land which was ingenious in its simplicity; instead of erecting new buildings in the immediate vicinity of the last houses of the town, they bought up adjacent pieces of land, and began to build on the outskirts of these. This inverse order of construction raised the value of building sites with extraordinary rapidity, and, after having completed the outer ring, they built in the middle of the town on these highly valuable sites, instead of continually erecting houses at the extremity. 

I said that the Company would build workmen’s dwellings cheaply. And cheaply, not only because of the proximity of abundant building materials, not only because of the Company’s proprietorship of the sites, but also because of the non-payment of workmen.

American farmers work on the system of mutual assistance in the construction of houses. 

Our unskilled laborers will first mutually erect these shelters; and then they will earn their houses as permanent possessions by means of their work—not immediately, but after three years of good conduct. 

I said before that the Company would not have to pay these unskilled laborers. What will they live on?

On the whole, I am opposed to the Truck system, but it will have to be applied in the case of these first settlers. The Company provides for them in so many ways, that it may take charge of their maintenance. In any case the Truck system will be enforced only during the first few years, and it will benefit the workmen by preventing their being exploited by small traders, landlords, etc. The Company will thus make it impossible from the outset for those of our people […].

[…] to re-establish themselves in the same trades over there. 

The seven-hour day is the regular working day. […] There will be fourteen hours of labor, work being done in shifts of three and a half hours. The organization of all this will be military in character; there will be commands, promotions and pensions […].

A sound man can do a great deal of concentrated work in three and a half hours. After an interval of the same length of time—which he will devote to rest, to his family, and to his education under guidance—he will be quite fresh for work again. Such labor can do wonders. 

I am convinced that it is quite possible to introduce this seven-hour day with success. The attempts to do so in Belgium and England are well known. Some advanced political economists who have studied the subject, declare that a five-hour day would suffice. 

Women will not be allowed to perform any arduous labor, nor to work overtime. 

What is the principle of relief by labor?

The principle is: to furnish every needy man with easy, unskilled work, such as chopping wood, or cutting faggots used for lighting stoves in Paris households. This is a kind of prison-work before the crime, done without loss of character. It is meant to prevent men from taking to crime out of want, by providing them with work and testing their willingness to do it. Starvation must never be allowed to drive men to suicide; for such suicides are the deepest disgrace to a civilization which allows rich men to throw tid-bits to their dogs. 

The small system of relief by labor which exists now preserves rectitude through industry till such time as the man who is out of work finds a post suitable to his capacities, either in his old calling or in a new one. He is allowed a few hours daily for the purpose of looking for a place, in which task the institutions assist him. 

[…] there is very little room in an old-established society for the successful application of the system of “Assistance par le Travail.”

But there is room in a new society. 

[…] we shall make ourselves independent as soon as possible. 

Officials include officers of our defensive forces, who will always form about a tenth part of our male colonists. They will be sufficiently numerous to quell mutinies […].

The Jews who emigrate to the United States always proceed in this fashion. As soon as one of them has daily bread and a roof over his head, he sends for his people; for family ties are strong among us. 

The Society of Jews and the Jewish Company will unite in caring for and strengthening the family still more, not only morally, but materially also. 

Seeing that the Company does not wish to earn anything on the building works but only on the land, it will desire as many architects as possible to build by private contract. This system will increase the value of landed property, and it will introduce luxury, which serves many purposes. Luxury encourages arts and industries, paving the way to a future subdivision of large properties. 

Jews are known to adapt themselves with remarkable ease to any form of earning a livelihood, and they will quickly learn to carry on a new industry. 

The Jews who stay [where they are, and not move to the to-be-established state] will be none the worse off, for they will be relieved of the competition of those who leave, and will no longer hear the Anti-Semitic cry: “Don’t buy from Jews!” 

The Jewish Company will offer to the States that come within its sphere of activity direct as well as indirect advantages. It will give Governments the first offer of abandoned Jewish property, and allow buyers most favorable conditions. Governments, again, will be able to make use of this friendly appropriation of land for the purpose of certain social improvements.

The Jewish Company will give every assistance to Governments and Parliaments in their efforts to direct the inner migration of Christian citizens.

The Jewish Company will also pay heavy taxes. Its central office will be in London, so as to be under the legal protection of a power which is not at present Anti-Semitic. 

Even the new clothing of the poor settlers will have the symbolic meaning. “You are now entering on a new life.” 

The Society of Jews will see to it that long before the departure and also during the journey a serious yet festive spirit is fostered by means of prayers, popular lectures, instruction on the object of the expedition, instruction on hygienic matters for their new places of residence, and guidance in regard to their future work. For the Promised Land is the land of work. 

Private property [is] is the economic basis of independence […].

This Society, the great “Gestor” of the Jews, will be formed by our best and most upright men, who must not derive any material advantage from their membership. 

The three methods of raising capital are:

  1. Through big banks;
  2. Through small and private banks;
  3. Through public subscription.

It would be an affront to our intelligent elements to point out everything that they have to do. 

Whoever refuses to do anything as a free man will be sent to the workhouse.

On the other hand, we shall not relegate the old to an almshouse. An almshouse is one of the cruelest charities which our stupid good nature ever invented. 

We will seek to bestow the moral salvation of work on men of every age and of every class; and thus our people will find their strength again […].

The bravest will naturally get the best out of the new world. 

[…] a little despair is indispensable to the formation of a great undertaking. 

A fanciful illustration will make my meaning more explicit: One of those philanthropists (whom we will call “The Baron”) and myself both wish to get a crowd of people on to the plain of Longchamps near Paris, on a hot Sunday afternoon. The Baron, by promising them 10 francs each, will, for 200,000 francs, bring out 20,000 perspiring and miserable people, who will curse him for having given them so much annoyance. Whereas I will offer these 200,000 francs as a prize for the swiftest racehorse—and then I shall have to put up barriers to keep the people off Longchamps. They will pay to go in[.]

We shall set about it in a different way. In places where trade is active, and these places we shall the more easily discover, since we ourselves direct trade withersoever we wish, in these places we shall build large halls, and call them markets. These halls might be worse built and more unwholesome than those above mentioned, and yet people would stream towards them. But we shall use our best efforts, and we shall build them better, and make them more beautiful than the first. And the people, to whom we had promised nothing, because we cannot promise anything without deceiving them, these excellent, keen businessmen will gaily create most active commercial intercourse. They will harangue the buyers unweariedly; they will stand on their feet, and scarcely think of fatigue. They will hurry off at dawn, so as to be first on the spot; they will form unions, cartels, anything to continue bread-winning undisturbed. And if they find at the end of the day that all their hard work has produced only 1 florin, 50 kreutzer, or 3 francs, or something similar, they will yet look forward hopefully to the next day, which may, perhaps, bring them better luck.

We have given them hope. 

[…] a State is formed, not by pieces of land, but rather by a number of men united under sovereign rule.

The people is the subjective, land the objective foundation of a State, and the subjective basis is the more important of the two. 

One sovereignty, for example, which has no objective basis at all, is perhaps the most respected one in the world. I refer to the sovereignty of the Pope. 

The legal basis of a State is sought either too much within men (patriarchal theory, and theories of superior force and contract), or too far above them (divine institution), or too far below them (objective patrimonial theory). The theory of rationality leaves this question conveniently and carefully unanswered. 

The Romans, with their marvellous sense of justice, produced that noble masterpiece, the negotiorum gestio. When the property of an oppressed person is in danger, any man may step forward to save it. This man is the gestor, the director of affairs not strictly his own. 

The action of the gestor of the State is sufficiently warranted if the common cause is in danger, and the dominus is prevented, either by want of will or by some other reason, from helping itself. 

This gestor cannot, of course, be a single individual. Such a one would either make himself ridiculous, or […] contemptible.

The gestor of the Jews must therefore be a body corporate.

And that is the Society of Jews. 

[…] the Society will find out for the first time whether the Jews really wish to go to the Promised Land, and whether they must go there. 

Externally, the Society will attempt […] to be acknowledged as a State-forming power. 

I believe that a good constitution should be of moderately elastic nature. […] I think a democratic monarchy and an aristocratic republic are the finest forms of a State, because in them the form of State and the principle of government are opposed to each other, and thus preserve a true balance of power. I am a staunch supporter of monarchial institutions, because these allow of a continuous policy, and represent the interests of a historically famous family born and educated to rule, whose desires are bound up with the preservation of the State. 

A democracy without a sovereign’s useful counterpoise is extreme in appreciation and condemnation, tends to idle discussion in Parliaments, and produces that objectionable class of men—professional politicians. 

“Le ressort d’une democratie est la vertu[.]”—Montesquieu

The masses are also more prone even than Parliaments to be led away by heterodox opinions, and to be swayed by vigorous ranting. It is impossible to formulate a wise internal or external policy in a popular assembly. 

Politics must take shape in the upper strata and work downwards. 

Hence I incline to an aristocratic republic. This would satisfy the ambitious spirit in our people, which has now degenerated into petty vanity. Many of the institutions of Venice pass through my mind; but all that which caused the ruin of Venice must be carefully avoided. 

Should any opposition [against the constitution] manifest itself, the Society will suppress it. 

Our community of race is peculiar and unique, for we are bound together only by the faith of our fathers. 

Army and priesthood shall receive honors high as their valuable functions deserve. But they must not interfere in the administration of the State which confers distinction upon them, else they will conjure up difficulties without and within. 

The Society of Jews and the Jewish Company will grant cheap passage and certain advantages in settlement to those only who can present an official testimonial from the local authorities, certifying that they have left their affairs in good order. 

We are probably disliked as much for our gifts as we are for our faults. 

Innumerable objections will be based on low grounds, for there are more low men than noble in this world. 

[…] we are showing them the way to the Promised Land; and the splendid force of enthusiasm must fight against the terrible force of habit. 

Every man need think only of himself, and the movement will assume vast proportions. 

The Jews who wish for a State will have it. 

Read the whole book: The Jewish State.