France, Saint Simonism and Zionism 2.0
The French case is extremely interesting. Consequently, it is worthwhile starting here. First, it is instructive vis-a-vis Zionism 2.0, the moral vision and the large-scale projects under discussion. In mid-19th century France we can witness how a small number of brilliant Jewish financiers and intellectuals, who were devotees of the economic philosophy known as Saint-Simonism, largely transformed and set France off on a period of rapid industrialization. The Saint-Simonist philosophy could be described as a form of research driven entrepreneurial capitalism, marked by a strong element of ‘futurism’. The disciples of Saint Simon over the course of two generations were able to literally transform France into one of the world’s great economic powers. The Jewish devotees of Saint Simon, whose full name was Claude-Henri de Rouvroy, Comte de Saint Simon (1760-1825), put forward a series of transformative projects, many of which were on an extraordinary scale.
Count Saint Simon (1760-1825) viewed history as alternating through “civilizational epochs.” He considered himself a self-appointed prophet and secular saint of the third and final state of civilization. Remarkably, many of the scientific, engineering, and industrial projects of Count Henri de Saint Simon and his followers came to fruition. Many of these projects were financed and coordinated by the Sephardic Jewish brothers Emile and Isaac Pereire through the enormously influential bank they founded. That bank is known as the Credit Mobilier (Society Generale du Credit Mobilier). These Saint Simonian projects included mammoth engineering endeavours, such as the building of the Suez Canal, the creation of an underground tunnel between France and England for a high speed rail, and a national rail network connecting all of the major French Cities. Other projects included rebuilding most of Paris under Baron Haussmann’s direction, developing a subway network underneath Paris, and building dozens of gas lighting systems to illuminate the major cities of France and Europe.
Apart from the British channel tunnel, all of these projects came to pass. Through dozens of other companies, the Pereire brothers were able to set up much of the economic architecture that defines France today. Many of Saint Simon’s disciples were Sephardic Jews, a tiny elite and wealthy population descended from refugees of the 16th and 17th centuries who had fled from Spain and Portugal and had reestablished themselves, largely under the cover of the Portuguese “Nation,” in Bordeaux.
Chiefly and most important amongst these Sephardim was Saint Simon’s most devoted disciple, Benjamin Olinde Rodrigues. A brilliant mathematician, financier, and bibliophile, it was Rodrigues to whom the Comte Henri de Saint Simon would dictate his last testament and dying words. The Count de Saint Simon’s instructions to Rodrigues echoes back strongly and emotively in light of what I am proposing with Zionism 2.0. The words said to Rodrigues were these: “remember that in order to accomplish great things, one must be passionate…my whole life can be summed up in one sentence; secure to all men the freest development of their faculties.”
As described in various published accounts, the pall bearers and small but influential friends and disciples that gathered after the Count de Saint Simon’s funeral in 1825 (1760 –1825), sat down in their terrible grief and laid out the plan for implementing the Saint Simonist program. The political and economic movement of Saint Simonism begins literally on the day of its founder’s death. It is a movement that would have a great influence on generations of thinkers, economists, and theoreticians.
One of the most faithful devotees of Saint Simon was the saintly, otherworldly and utterly brilliant Gustave Seligmann D’Eichthal. Like many of Saint Simon’s disciples D’Eichthal came from the same milieu of wealthy Sephardic Jewry who had entered France in the 16th and 17th centuries and settled in the congenial Atlantic ocean-facing trading city of Bordeaux,largely under the cover of Portuguese ‘nationality.’ Jewish people had been expelled from France in 1394 and not subsequently readmitted (there were only 500 Jewish people in Paris and about 40,000 in all of France at the time of the revolution in 1789). D’Eichthal was involved in many utopian projects. He was an important promoter of the effort to revive and resurrect a very pure form of ancient Greek as a universal language.
D’Eichthal’s project and lofty purpose is very germane to Zionism 2.0, and in light of my advocating for the promotion of Hebrew as the Lingua Franca of medicine (see blog entry “Hebrew, The Lingua Franca of Medicine”). As previously mentioned, I believe that Saint-Simonism is very relevant as a model to Zionism 2.0. I will return to Saint Simon and his disciples in future blogs, particularly with an interest in better reprising the role of the Pereire brothers in developing French and European industry.
Unlike the Jews of most European countries, about three quarters of French Jewry survived World War 2. This allowed for the continuation of Jewish communal existence and some not insignificant capacity for economic activity and entrepreneurial action. Of France’s pre-war Jewish population of 340,000 about 270,000 survived. Seventy-five thousand Jews were deported to Auschwitz and other death camps. Of those, 73,000 souls perished. A mere 2,000 people returned from the camps. Yet despite substantial losses of population and wealth, a number of significant fortunes were retained and Jewish entrepreneurs have played a large role in different industries subsequently. Some notable examples would be: the global aerospace firm Dassault (Marcel Block/ Dassault family); Citroen automotive works (Maurice Citroen); the international yogurt, dairy and food company Danon (Issac and Daniel Carasso); the international fashion house Chanel (the Wertheimer family);and the Louis Dreyfus Company, one of the four great ‘ABCD’ conglomerates that dominate the global trade in agricultural and food products. Dreyfus currently produces, harvests, and trades about 10% of the world’s food supply. Many other firms could be mentioned.
Germany Economy — Global Ambition setting Markers for Zionism 2.0
The German economy, unlike that of America or England, was more highly planned. Ambitious German elites set out to ‘conquer’ certain economic spaces, and sought to push Germany’s industry to the forefront of world progress and development. Many German Jewish bankers and visionary industrialists were very involved in these ‘programmatic’ or ‘planned’ efforts. These plans led to Germany’s very rapid ascendance to the highest rank of the world’s industrial nations. A lot of insight and perspectives, I believe, can be drawn from the German-Jewish symbiosis that is highly relevant to the Zionism 2.0 vision.
Prior to World War 1, Germany was the principal locus and focus of the Jewish Diaspora. World Jewry has always functioned from a civilizational centre, be it Egypt, or Babylon, or Persian, or Spain, or Portugal or Poland, or Holland, or today’s America. From the 18th century forward, Germany or the German states in many ways acted as world Jewry’s civilizational focal point, a role that America was to take over and assume in the first quarter of the 20th Century, following World War 1. It is a mantel that Israel will soon enough assume if it has not already supplanted America in that role.
Understanding this civilizational role is crucial. It was in Germany in the 19th and early 20th centuries where we saw the most evolved Jewish business networks and social structures. It was a place where we can see the full potential of Jewish capability and talent. Prior to the general civil and political emancipation of Jews in 1848, almost all of the intellectual capacities and talents of the German Jewish population were channeled into finance, resulting in the accumulation of a considerable amount of liquid capital. It was possibly the largest ‘reserve’ of liquid and available capital in the world. This capital was channeled post-emancipation into a broad range of commercial and industrial projects, in ways that would re-shape the German economy. Much of this structure still remains intact and visible despite its separation from its original Jewish financing and managerial agents. I believe that much can be learned from studying the German case. Valuable lessons can be taken and used for understanding Jewish potentialities and talents. It is all highly relevant to Zionism 2.0.
In terms of German Jewish industrial successes, one could cite such examples as AGFA, one of the world’s largest chemical companies and Germany’s so-called brain trust. AGFA was founded by Paul Mendelssohn, a descendant of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. Mention could also be mentioned of the sprawling global German ink, paint, and dye company, Leopold Cassala, which had its humble origins in 1798 in Frankfurt’s Jewish Alley within the Frankfurt Ghetto. BASF, the largest fertilizer and specialty company in the world, was founded by the protean industrialist Kilian von Steiner, who came from Laupheim, the largest Jewish community in the Kingdom of Wurttemberg. BASF, which subsequently became the core company in the IG Farben conglomerate, was created to exploit the Jewish Nobel Prize winning chemist Fritz Haber’s breakthrough process for fixing atmospheric nitrogen, a problem that was generally viewed as unsolvable and technically infeasible ( for which a solution would be comparable to solving the issues related to harnessing energy from nuclear fusion, the holy grail of energy production). Haber’s process is credited with paving the way for the Green Revolution, without which billions of people now alive would not otherwise be alive.
The electrical industry driven by the electrical revolution was a focus of Jewish business interests across Europe. Emil Rathenau was to establish the largest electrical company in Europe, AEG. Walter Rathenau, the German politician, economist, and public intellectual was to take over this company from his father prior to his murder on June 24, 1922, an event that triggered a broad German economic crisis and sparked Germany’s hyper-inflation.
In the automotive sector, which was to define the German economy and still does to this day, the key mover was the same financier, Killian von Steiner, who amalgamated and created the Mercedes/Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft firm. Steiner also worked with the Nobel family’s interests to develop the gasoline refining and distribution industry. Gasoline had heretofore been considered a distillation product of little value due to its extreme flammability and the associated dangers of transporting the fuel. The machine tool industry, on which so much of Germany’s industrial prowess rests to this day, was overwhelmingly the product and accomplishment of the Jewish Ludwig & Isidor Loewe firm and its various industrial and armaments subsidiaries, particularly DWM (Deutsch Waffen und Munitionsfabriken). The Loewe brothers, by developing metal shaping tools for midsize assembly lines (unlike the American long-line machine tools), are generally credited with transforming and creating the basis for Germany’s so called Mittelstand, the medium size companies that provide the stable bedrock for the German (and also Czech and Swiss) economy. The Loewes established the machining and tolerance standards, ostensibly the ‘national codes’ for the German tool and die industry. Their own company standards were remarkably adopted as Germany’s standards. It is an extraordinary and unparalleled industrial accomplishment.
Through DWM, the Loewe brothers were the largest and leading small arms manufacturers in the world. The talents and skills of the famous engineers Karl Mayback, Georg Luger, and Hugo Borchardt were all developed at Loewe and DWM. Loewe and all of its associated firms across Europe would be aryanized, after an extended period of threats and harassment, by the Quandt family and related concerns. The Quandt heirs, descending from Magda Goebbels’s surviving son with her first husband Hermann Quandt, are today Germany’s wealthiest family (Magda subsequently married Joseph Goebbels and became the first lady of the German Reich only to die with all of her children and Joseph in Hitler’s bunker at the end of WW 2).
With respect to electronics, I could mention the brilliant Sigmund and Ludwig Loewe (unrelated to the machine tool concerns). These two brothers founded Loewe Technology GmbH, which built the first fully electronic Television in 1931 and displayed it at the 8th Berlin Radio Show. It has been said that Ludwig Loewe GmbH company would have developed into Germany’s Intel if not for WW2 and the destruction of Germany’s Jews. The Loewes went on to mentor Manfred von Arden, the brilliant and prolific German inventor and industrialist.
In terms of understanding Jewish potentialities and talent, it should be realized that the Jewish population of Germany consisted of just 450,000 individuals out of a total German population of 80 million. German Jewry owned an astonishing 500,000 thousand registered businesses prior to the Holocaust—more than one business for every able bodied man, woman and child. The Jewish community in Germany was almost entirely self-employed, which is probably what allowed the community to withstand the continuous assault it faced from 1933 to the outbreak of WW2 in 1939. Most of these businesses were, of course, not industrial undertakings but rather retail and wholesale establishments and other kinds of small shops and single man trade operations of various kinds. These businesses also included, however, the enormous department stores, which were very much an ‘invention’ of German Jewish entrepreneurs and consequently a major and sensational target of the Nazis and their molestation of their Jewish citizens. These great ‘retail palaces’ included such iconic and massive department stores as: Wertheim, Karstadt, Schocken, KaDeWe, and Nathan Israel amongst many others. These enormous operations utterly reshaped consumer German commercial culture and much of the underlying economy.
German Jews were also pioneers in the shipping and ocean liner business. Albert Ballin developed the iconic luxury Hamburg-American Line (HAPAG) into the world’s foremost steamship enterprise. Ballin ostensibly invented the concept of the cruise ship. Jewish entrepreneurs were also dominant players in the transport industry, developing elevated monorail trains, subway systems, and public transport conveyances (Orenstein & Koppel being one such example). Many metal trading firms, which were once confined to the Frankfurt Ghetto, transmogrified with emancipation into sprawling worldwide mining, specialty chemicals, and metals firms. Metallgesellschaft, with its 250 subsidiaries, was run by the Jewish Merton family. Until the outbreak of WW2, it was one of the ten largest firms in the World. Along with other Jewish firms, such as Aron Hirsch & Sohn and Beer Sondheimer and Co., these firms controlled the raw materials and metals supporting all of German and much of European industry.
Pure entrepreneurialism: The Italian Jewish model and Zionism 2.0
In Italy, despite their tiny population of less than fifty thousand, Jews played an outsized role in the country’s unification, and they were in the vanguard of Italy’s industrialization. Very large sums of liquid capital had been accumulated by Italian Jewry in the pre-emancipation period, which was channeled post-emancipation into developing Italy’s diverse economy. This included machine tools, the electrical industry, clothing and apparel, leather goods, shoewear, machine tools, and the all-important automotive sector in the early 20th century. Astonishingly, Jews were involved in the foundation or organization of almost every important Italian industry — many of them organized on a familial structure. This was particularly the case with the Jews of Turin.
Old Jewish firms, many of them of Spanish and Portuguese origin, played an important role in Italy’s private banking sector, and in organizing some of Italy’s larger joint stock banks and insurance companies. Jews also acted directly as pioneers in a large number of emerging industries.Olivetti is a representative example. Founded by the Jewish brothers Camillo and Adriano Olivetti, the company grew into one of Italy’s largest companies and at one point was the world’s largest producer of electronic typewriters and a world leader and second largest producer of business computers.
The current heirs to the Agneli family fortune (John Elkann and siblings) and the controlling figures in the Stellantis/Ferrari/Fiat and Exor industrial empire, one of the world’s wealthiest, are descendants (on their fathers side) of two old Italian Jewish and French Jewish families—the Turin-based Jewish Ovazza banking dynasty and the Elkann family of French-Italian origins.
Another example that could be cited is CEAT, once one of Italy’s largest tire manufacturers, which was founded by the supermodel Carla Sarkozy’s (nee Bruni) grandfather (Virginio Bruni Tedeschi). Many remarkable Jewish individuals fleeing Italy to escape the Nazi roundups founded significant enterprises overseas. The billionaire co-founder of Qualcomm Andrea Viterbi, the inventor of the Viterbi Algorithm at the heart of cellular telephone technology, is illustrative of the Italian Jewish communities’ incredible talents and enterprising spirit.
England–A Hybrid Economic Model for Zionism 2.0
In England, the number of Jewish originated firms could possibly be summarized. The small Jewish community that now numbers about 290,000 has been remarkably productive and successful. What is interesting about the Jewish economic structure that has been built up in England over the last two hundred years is its resemblance to the United States, and to a lesser extent Germany. As with Germany, there was originally a predominance of firms in private banking, with many firms having their origins in Medieval Europe. A fair number of very old Sephardic families with origins in pre-Inquisition Spain and Portugal were instrumental.
English Jewry has also produced a significant share of major entrepreneurs in mining. Late 19th-century electric industry pioneers parlayed their positions into very large enterprises in the early 20th century. As in America, Jewish businessmen built a huge presence in the retail industry from an early start in peddling. By the mid-20th century, English Jewish entrepreneurs had been strikingly successful in electronics, software, computers and pharmaceuticals. A quick snapshot of Jewish British originated firms would include many of England’s largest businesses: firms like Royal Dutch Shell,gigantic mining firms such as De Beers and Anglo America, as well as Elliott-Automation Inc. which was built by Leon Bagrit into one of the largest computer manufacturers in the world. Arnold Weinstock, the largest shareholder of GEC, British General Electric Corporation, developed the firm into England’s most profitable company, with sales exceeding $20 billion at the time of his retirement in the 1990s. The Gestetner company developed the world’s first photocopier, based on processes and patents of David Gestetner, who built the firm into one of the largest office equipment manufacturers in the world. Jewish entrepreneurs have been at the forefront of the British retail industry, developing many of the largest department stores and retail chains, including such iconic firms as Marks and Spencer, Selfridges, and Tesco, amongst dozens of others.
America- Zionism 2.0 Duplicating America’s Entrepreneurial Success
The American model, particularly the development of high technology and Silicon Valley, might be the most relevant model for thinking about Zionism 2.0 and the economic structure that can evolve in Israel. Many of the same elements that are present in Tel Aviv/Silicon Wadi bear a strong structural resemblance to the venture financed activity of Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay area. The people in the two cities have similar profiles, education, aptitudes and modes of thought. Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley could already be said to be co-evolving, and symbiotically interconnected.
The sort of companies that will develop in Israel will likely bear a close resemblance to the type of firms that have already been established by Jewish entrepreneurs over the last half-century in the United States, particularly in the tech sector. A quick survey of these Jewish-founded firms would read like a recital of the most important US tech companies. A very partial and incomplete list would consist of the following: Facebook, Google, Oracle, Intel, Microsoft, Polaroid, Dell, Dell, Hasbro, General Dynamics, Loral Space Group, TRW, Genentech, Purdue Frederick, Broadcom, Qualcomm, Comcast, Ebay, Paypal, Wolfram Research, Cisco Systems, SanDisk Corp., RealNetworks etc., etc. This is a multi-trillion dollar economy on its own. Any serious appreciation and appraisal of Jewish involvement in the American economy would lead one to conclude that Jews have been overwhelmingly the most creative and the most vital community in developing a large part of America’s industrial and economic structures of the 20th and 21st centuries. The objective of Zionism 2.0 is to duplicate this staggering success in Israel over the coming century.
Holland and Belgium–Restoration case lesson for Zionism 2.0
One of the most distinctive and most concentrated areas of Jewish commerce anywhere in the world is the so-called square mile in Antwerp, the world renowned Diamond District. Tightly packed with workshops, showrooms, and diamond trading exchanges, about 84% of the world’s rough diamonds pass through the diamond district of the City. Largely decimated in the Holocaust, the revival of Antwerp’s pre-war community is one of the few examples of the rebirth of a significant pre-war Jewish economic centre, and it is for this reason that I turn to this example.
Jewish people have been intricately connected to the diamond industry for centuries, largely dominating the entire enterprise. Indeed, Yiddish, the language of Eastern European Jewry prior to WW2, functions as the language of commerce, as the lingua franca, in the district. Many of the Yiddish rituals and patterns of transactions are imitated and copied by non-Jews— Indian, Armenian, and Lebanese dealers. The reconstituted Antwerp Diamond District is important in terms of holding on to hope and possibility of Jewish economic survival in the face of the greatest insults and threats, some of which are being currently experienced.
One additional firm of immense world stature and scale that could be mentioned as a model of global ambition and technological prowess, a firm of entrepreneurial Jewish creation, is the multinational industrial behemoth Philips. The company is one of the world’s largest consumer electronic companies. The company pioneered and developed many defining technologies. It should stand as a working example of the sort of firms we should strive to create in Israel. And there is no reason why this cannot be the case. Gerald Philips, the company’s founder, was descended from a prominent, long-assimilated German-Dutch Jewish family. Interestingly, the founder of the Philips industrial fortune was famously related to Karl Marx’s mother (Karl Marx’s mother was the sister of the Philips founder’s wife; their children were his cousins). Marx’s 1st or 2nd cousin and the scion of the family, Lion Philips, looked after Karl Marx’s many incessant, never ending financial needs. Marx was a great admirer of the Philips company and it was emblematic, in his mind, of the possibilities of modern technological capitalism.
(Part 4 of 4 to follow)