In Socialism of Fools, Michele Battini focuses on the critical moment during the Enlightenment in which anti-Jewish stereotypes morphed into a sophisticated, modern social anti-Semitism. He recovers the potent anti-Jewish, anticapitalist propaganda that cemented the idea of a Jewish conspiracy in the European mind and connects it to the atrocities that characterized the Jewish experience in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Beginning in the eighteenth century, counter-Enlightenment intellectuals and intransigent Catholic writers singled out Jews for conspiring to exploit self-sustaining markets and the liberal state. These ideas spread among socialist and labor movements in the nineteenth century and intensified during the Long Depression of the 1870s. Anti-Jewish anticapitalism then migrated to the Habsburg Empire with the Christian Social Party; to Germany with the Anti-Semitic Leagues; to France with the nationalist movements; and to Italy, where Revolutionary Syndicalists made anti-Jewish anticapitalism the basis of an alliance with the nationalists.
Exemplified best in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the infamous document that "leaked" Jewish plans to conquer the world, the Jewish-conspiracy myth inverts reality and creates a perverse relationship to historical and judicial truth. Isolating the intellectual roots of this phenomenon and its contemporary resonances, Battini shows us why, so many decades after the Holocaust, Jewish people continue to be a powerful political target.