But while there were errors aplenty, what jumped out at me was the charge of anti-semitism. Which brings up the blacks-jews thing that our new colleague Temple3 brought up.
But Cruse reserved special venom for Jews. In ''The Crisis,'' he asserted that ''the great brainwashing of Negro radical intellectuals was not achieved by capitalism, or the capitalistic bourgeoisie, but by Jewish intellectuals in the American Communist Party.'' He also cited passages from Dostoyevsky, oddly enough, about how Jewish merchants exploited blacks in the South. When the book was published, reviewers tended to ignore its anti-Semitism. In a recent interview, Mark Naison, a professor of African-American studies at Fordham University, said he didn't think people take Cruse's analysis of black-Jewish relations ''very seriously'' today, especially not Cruse's dismissal of the role Jews played in the civil rights movement. ''It's too ahistorical and too conspiratorial to have much weight outside the sort of anti-Semitic fringe of the black intelligentsia, which is now a fringe, not mainstream,'' Naison said.
Now on the one hand Naison is right. There is an anti-Semitic fringe which has an intense love-hate relationship with Jews.
But on the other, I think Naison (and the author) are making a few critical mistakes in focusing on this particular component of Cruse's work, and they are making a critical mistake in choosing what aspects of this issue to focus on. Cruse's entire argument is that American society allocates individual rights through group rights. He focuses on three different cultural/ethnic groups--blacks, wasps, and jews.
Now there are probably less than five places in the country we could even have a serious discussion about this relationship that isn't driven by either jewish nationalists like abe foxman, or black nationalists like louis farrakhan. Detroit isn't one of them. DC isn't one of them.
New York City is.
But even here we have to get really specific--again with the exception of flashpoints like the Bensonhurst disturbance. When do they interact? Where do they interact? Are there zero-sum resources involved? Cruse makes an argument that this interaction occurs in two very specific sites--in theater (and later film), and in leftist politics. The type of loose conspiratorial rantings exemplified by Steve Cokely don't have any place in Cruse's work. If anything a much better argument can be made that Cruse was "racist" towards West Indians.
I wish Cruse were here to defend himself...having been around when he slapped Manning Marable about in Ann Arbor, this would have been an intellectual pimp slapping worth paying for.