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The Vampire, the Wandering Jew, and a False Critique of

Victor Sherazee

Two years ago, DIE LINKE, Germany’s left-wing party, printed a poster with a title that translates
t o TTIP: Dance of the Vampires. The poster meant to criticize the Transatlantic Trade and
Investment Partnership, which became the topic of a raging public debate in Germany. It pictured
several CEOs of big companies and neoliberal politicians as vampires with long incisors and pale
skin.2 At a regional party conference, a committed party member made a speech referring to the
poster as evidence of a broader tendency within the party, which he characterized as “structural
antisemitism.” He criticized that although the poster did not picture the personalities as indisputably
Jewish, the poster nonetheless conducted a critique of capitalism similar to a 19th-century petty
bourgeois form of anti-capitalism. This form of critique projected all bad parts of the capitalist
system on to the Other and blamed ‘Jewish’ capital for all wrongdoings of the capitalist system. The
questions to be asked are, therefore: Is the archetypal vampire essentially an antisemitic stereotype?
How does the image of the vampire contribute to a false critique of capitalism?
The essay is organized in the following way. In section one, I examine the vampire Count Dracula. I
address the question of how he corresponds with antisemitic stereotypes. But why Dracula? The
character from Bram Stoker’s novel of the same name is probably the most famous vampire in
literary history. The cultural history of the vampire can be divided into two distinct periods: the
period before Stoker’s Dracula was published and the period after the publication of the novel in
1897. Count Dracula became the archetypal vampire. So much that the less the following vampires
resembled Count Dracula, the less they were perceived as being vampires. Additionally, the above-
mentioned poster and Friedrich Murnau’s 1922 movie Nosferatu, which was a famous but illegal
adaption of Stoker’s novel, will be evaluated in this essay. These two further sources will be taken
into account because antisemitism in the fin-de-siècle period was also communicated through
caricatures, posters, and movies, that is to say, through visual media. Hence, the evaluation of a
cinematic medium can be a useful supplement to the evaluation of a literary source to explore
antisemitic imagery.
After having identified some features of Bram Stoker’s character that are typical of an antisemitic
depiction of the Jew, I will analyze the fictitious Count using a Marxist paradigm. Since the poster
specifically refers to Roman Polański’s 1997 musical Dance of the Vampires, it will be included in
my analysis in addition to the other sources mentioned above. I provide an answer to the question of
how the vampire is partly responsible for a false critique of capitalism. But what is a correct and a
false critique of capitalism? Here a philosophical presupposition—a paradigm—is indispensable.
According to Manfred Engel, professor for German studies at the Saarland University, paradigms
define certain objects and aspects that can be recognized and described. They thus determine the
“virtual totality of all that could be recognized and described in the text. Different paradigms are
thus interested in different aspects” (Engel 20 qtd. in V. Nünning and A. Nünning 13, transl. by
V. S.). A Marxist paradigm is appropriate here because no one has described and analyzed the
structure of the capitalist mode of production as sharply and precisely as Karl Marx. My aim is to
prove that the critique of the capitalist system presented by Stoker and the artist of the
aforementioned poster is incompatible with the teachings of Karl Marx. I substantiate this thesis on
three levels: In section two, emanating from Moishe Postone’s theory of antisemitism, I show that
1 This essay is dedicated to the Marxist philosopher Moishe Postone, who died on March 19, 2018.
2 The poster was commissioned by the politician Diether Dehm and rendered by the artist Arno Funke. The poster is
available at the following URL:
on the plane of the commodity-form, Stoker’s anti-capitalism is a one-sided attack on the abstract
dimension of the capitalist system. In section three, I suggest that this false critique of capitalism
offers only a moralizing and personalizing critique of the capitalist mode of production, meaning
that it greatly overstate the role of individuals within the economic system and minimizes the role of
economic categories and relations. Finally, in section four, I argue that Stoker and the poster’s artist
articulate a petty-bourgeois form of anti-capitalism that is directed against large-scale capital only,
but does not want to abolish the capitalist mode of production itself.
My thesis is that the criticism of the poster was justified since the archetypal vampire is another
incarnation of the Wandering Jew. The vampire contributes to a false critique of capitalism in that it
blames allegedly ‘greedy’ and ‘parasitical’ bankers, the lords of finance, and large-scale capital for
misery and exploitation, instead of offering a critique of the structure of commodity producing and
exchanging societies. This superficial analysis of the capitalist system is incompatible with Karl
Marx’s philosophy and is closely connected to antisemitic stereotypes. That is why I generally do
not recommend using the vampire metaphor to describe social relations.

1 The Vampire and the Wandering Jew

The vampire is closely linked to antisemitic imagery. First, the archetypal vampire incorporates
‘classical’ traits of anti-Judaic imagery which has its origins in medieval Christianity. An example
of medieval antisemitism is the figure of the Wandering Jew, also known as Ahasver. Ahasver is the
still nameless figure of a man from Jerusalem who does not let the Saviour rest on his way to
Golgotha and is then condemned by him to eternal wanderings. Generally, the Wandering Jew and
the vampire have structural similarities in that both are in a negative sense immortal. Since they
cannot die, they cannot attain Christian salvation (Müller 47). One can find another reference to the
Passion of Christ in the following passage in Stokerʼs novel: When the main character Jonathan
Harker recalls his last memory about his host in the castle in the Carpathians, he notices that “[t]he
last I saw of Count Dracula he was kissing his hand to me, with a red light of triumph in his eyes,
and with a smile that Judas in Hell might be proud of” (Stoker 50 qtd. in Davison 137). This is a
reference to the Jew as Christ-killer motif, of which the Wandering Jew legend forms an essential
part (Davison 137). Count Dracula also incorporates superstitious forms of medieval antisemitism.
For instance, he is often accompanied by rats, a longstanding symbol of the plague. Since at least
the Middle Ages, it was believed that Jews spread this and other infections while, as a result of
demonic pacts made with the devil, they remained immune (Davison 136). In Friedrich Murnau’s
movie Nosferatu, the vampire, Count Orlok, not only spreads the plague, but even his face
profoundly resembles that of a rat (Müller 41).
Second, the vampire incorporates traits of modern antisemitism, such as, according to Stephan
Grigat, noted scholar on antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the image of the
superior Jew who plunges the world into misfortune by skillfully using mind and money and who
therefore, ultimately, has to be annihilated (“Von Österreich lernen” 19). The Jews have always
been ‘a nation of students.’ The Talmud sets the scholar above the king; and a thorough training in
Hebrew is still held a matter of highest importance (Davison 134–35). Stephen D. Arata, professor
for English literature at the University of Virginia describes Count Dracula, the iconic vampire, in
the following way: “No one is more rational, more intelligent, more organized, or even more
punctual than the Count. No one plans more carefully or researches more thoroughly. No one is
more learned within his own spheres of expertise or more receptive to new knowledge” (123 qtd. in
Davison 143). Historical developments in Europe since the Middle Ages increasingly forced the
Jews to trade money to earn a living. The reasons for this were that pecuniary activities were
frowned upon by the Christian Church and were finally prohibited by her. Since then, the rich ‘bank
Jew’ and ‘Jewish usurer’ have been common characters in antisemitic imagery (Lange 40). In
accordance with this antisemitic stereotype, the means by which Dracula achieves his goals is the

use of money: Dracula makes an international investment in London real estate. The property he
purchases serves him as a ‘bridgehead’ to invade or infect British society. That he can afford such
an investment also makes him appear wealthy, upper class, and thus as a carrier of money (Davison
138–39). Antisemitism serves as a universal explanation by which the Jews are made responsible
for all social problems in the world (Rommelspacher 27). That is why the extermination of the Jews
by the Germans had to be total and was not determined by functional considerations (Postone 14).
Dracula has to be killed as he is the incarnation of absolute evil. Also, in Murnauʼs Nosferatu, the
mythical exaggeration of Ellenʼs death, the wife of the main character, stands out. The conflict
between the human protagonists and the vampire can no longer be dealt with rationally, but it must
be atoned by a sacrifice (Müller 41). The absolute necessity of the vampireʼs death is expressed
even more intensely in Nosferatu than in Dracula. Count Draculaʼs intelligence and wealth and the
fact that his death must be brought about at all costs are qualities that the vampire has in common
with the characteristics of the greedy and cunning Jew in modern antisemitism.
Third, the antisemitism of the intensifying nationalism of the fin-de-siècle period was accompanied
by a metaphor of vampirism in which the substance of the national body was allegedly sucked away
by foreign parasites. This semantic element is not only a product of a rather modern phenomenon—
namely nationalism—, but it represents a synthesis between modern forms and medieval, Christian
forms of antisemitism. That is to say that one could also associate vampirism with legends of the
Jewish ritual murder, in which the blood of Christians is drunk (Müller 51). In this context, Count
Dracula is guilty of the Blood Libel. He appears as a parasite from a racially alien nation who
desecrates the Christian host nation, Britain, by biting his victims (Davison 126). The Nazis also
heavily operated with this theme. For example, the Nazi author Artur Dinter wrote that “[i]f the
German people do not shake off the Jewish vampire [!], whom they unwittingly suckle with their
lifeblood, and fail to make it harmless […] they will perish in the foreseeable future” (278, transl.
by V. S.). In the Nazi ideology, the vampire appeared in line with a whole cluster of biologistic
metaphors, such as locusts, leeches, bacteria, and germs (Bein 137–38). These metaphors all served
to accuse Jews of living only for their own benefit at the expense of the public. This narrative was
also present in early forms of socialism. For example, to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, as to his kindred
spirit Charles Fourier, the Jews were economically counterproductive, so-called anti-producteurs,
and they, therefore, represented the antithesis to the ideal of a socialism of industrious small-scale
producers (Trimbur 658). Thus Proudhon called the Jews a “parasite race” and “an enemy of labor”
(qtd. in Trimbur 658, transl. by V. S.). Zeev Sternhell, now retired head of the department of
political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and noted scholar on fascism, stated that
“the idea of an alliance of all ‘producers’ against all ‘parasites’ […] was one of the main routes of
migration of the Left toward fascism” (248). Since the Jewish emancipation in Central Europe
coincided with the rapid expansion of industrial capital, the number of Jews in universities, liberal
professions, journalism, and the fine arts steadily increased in the last third of the 19 th century
(Postone 23), giving the impression that Jews had a natural predisposition for ‘intellectual work.’
The Jews became the target of such an alliance of all ‘producers’ against all ‘parasites’ due to the
accusation that they had a general antipathy towards physical labor (Krah 191). And since the
vampire feeds parasitically on the blood of others, he serves as the perfect metaphor for an
antisemitic imagination of the Jew, who is regarded as only wanting to fulfill his individual needs at
the cost of the common good.
The characteristics described in the last two paragraphs also apply to the depiction of the vampires
on the poster of the party DIE LINKE. The corporate bosses and neoliberal politicans portrayed as
vampires hoard bags of money behind their backs. As well as the gold-hoarding Transylvanian
Count and the antisemitic stereotype of the rich ‘bank Jew,’ they seem to have a natural affinity to
money and wealth. The vampires or personalities, respectively, are dancing while trampling on a
flag of the DGB, Germany’s biggest labor union, a broken golden Crucifix, presumably being a

symbolic expression of the Catholic social teaching, and a dead bee, standing for the disregard of
neoliberalism for ecological concerns. The poster portrays the politicians and CEOs as greedy
individuals, who only pursue their egoistic, materialistic aims while disregarding the common good.
The vampire metaphor illustrates this point aptly. However, this aspect of the poster also refers to
the above-mentioned antisemitic motif of the ‘Jewish parasite.’

2 Against the Tyranny of the Abstract

In his essay The Logic of Antisemitism, Moishe Postone, lately deceased professor for history at the
University of Chicago, explains antisemitism emanating from Marxʼs notion of commodity
fetishism. What precedes the concept of fetishism is Marxʼs analysis of the commodity:
According to Marx, the commodity has a twin-character: First, there is the notion of the use-value
that represents the use or benefit of a commodity to the subject plus its material quality. However,
its utility alone does not turn an object into a commodity. Only objects that are exchanged or are
produced for exchange are commodities. Since two commodities are materially different, a common
reference point is necessary to equate the concretely different commodities in an abstract sense in
the process of exchange. This common reference point is the value, synonymously named exchange
value. Hence, besides its use-value, every commodity has a value. The value is defined by the
amount of labor that was spent to produce a commodity (Grigat, Fetisch und Freiheit 42–43).
Simultaneously, however, value can only exist as a social relation; meaning, that only if the
commodity owners equate their different products and thus also their different kind of labors in the
process of exchange, the commodities will acquire their value character (Marx, Das Kapital 88).
Marxʼs concept of the fetish refers to the distinction he makes between the essence of capitalist
relations and their appearances (Postone 17). “According to his analysis, capitalist forms of social
relations do not appear as such, but express themselves in a reified form” (Postone 17, transl. by
V. S.). Things thus appear to possess certain qualities which, in reality, are simply social relations
between people. This is what constitutes fetishism. For instance, money is ascribed the quality of
possessing value in and for itself. Marx illustrates this point in his major work Das Kapital referring
to a bourgeois economist who believes that a “pearl or a diamond is valuable as a pearl or a
diamond.” Marx, however, objects, noting: “So far no chemist has ever discovered exchange value
either in a pearl or a diamond” (Das Kapital 97–98, transl. by V. S.). ‘Value’ is thus nothing but a
social relation between human beings, and is not a natural or physical property.
Although, as mentioned above, the commodity constitutes the dialectical unity of the exchange
value and use-value, it seems as if the commodity only represents the latter, since the commodity
only appears purely natural and material (Postone 18). The abstract dimension of the commodity
does not disappear out of the human consciousness but is also reified. The exchange value in human
consciousness is attributed to money. The twin-character appears “as money (hence as the
manifestation of the exchange value) and as commodity (hence as the manifestation of the use-
value)” (Postone 18, transl. by V. S.).
In contrast to feudalism, in capitalism, Jews appear not only as carriers of money but are identified
with the value. In the Middle Ages, Jews had to pursue the banking profession not out of free choice
but due to their social marginalization. Unsurprisingly, in the human consciousness, a connection
between Jews and money was universally present (Postone 23). Although in reality, Jewish banking
dynasties were gradually replaced by anonymous structured capital (Hansert 180–182), on the plane
of human consciousness, the universal connection between Jews and money persisted. During the
transformation from feudalism to capitalism, on the level of human consciousness, the connection
between Jews and money was also transformed to a universal connection between Jews and the
value-dimension of the commodity since in capitalism, money appears as the only place of the
value. Examining the characteristics attributed to Jews (abstractness, inconceivability, universality,

and mobility) one can notice striking similarities between these features and the characteristics of
the exchange value described by Marx (Postone 18). That Jews appear as personifications of the
value results from the same psychological mechanism as commodity fetishism. According to
Postone, “[m]odern antisemitism also is an especially dangerous form of the fetish” (24, transl. by
V. S.). In just the same way as with commodity fetishism, whereby social relations between persons
appear as material qualities of things, in the antisemitic consciousness, an economic category and
social relation—the value—appears as inherent quality of a specific ethnoreligious group, namely
the Jews.
The vampire shares—as well as the stereotypical Jew in the antisemitic consciousness—core
features of the value: The vampire appears inconceivable, abstract, and mobile. The
inconceivability of the vampire is especially expressed through the collective identity of Nosferatu
or Count Orlok, respectively. In Nosferatu, the emergence of the plague is tantamount to the
presence of the vampire. Count Orlok, however, appears lean and weak. The disaster Nosferatu is
causing on his trip to Wisborg could not have been caused by any vampire individual. To make this
destructive power appear plausible, the movie lends a collective existence to Count Orlok in the
form of rats. The double identity of the vampire corresponds to the change of his name. As an
individual, the monster is to be equated with Count Orlok, but its collective identity is only
expressed in the mysterious name of Nosferatu. The de-individualization of the vampire is also
expressed in the antiquated treatise on vampires from a book that the character Hutter finds in the
room of a tavern during his journey to Transylvania. This text source is important insofar as the
Terrifying Vampyre Book reveals another dimension of the monster. It is not only characterized by
the disintegration of collective and individual identity but also by a historical existence that seems
to reach through the ages (Müller 52–53). Nosferatu appears as an intangible and inconceivable
force, which does not seem to be bound to a concrete, mortal individual. Parallel to the
inconceivable nature of Nosferatu, the value also has no material carrier of its own (Grigat, Fetisch
und Freiheit 45). “The value of commodities is the very opposite of the coarse materiality of their
substance, not an atom of matter enters into its composition” (Marx, Das Kapital 62, transl. by
V. S.), as Marx puts it. The value is therefore perceived as uncontrollable, ‘rootless,’ intangible, and
inconceivable (Postone 15).
The characteristic of abstractness is especially expressed through the fact that Count Dracula,
though being careful not to violate British law, repeatedly violates Christian law (Davison 136).
Postone states that as a citizen the individual is abstract since all citizens, as empirically different
they might be, are equated in form of the equality before the law and by the principle ‘one person,
one vote.’ As a private person, however, the individual is concrete: One is Christian, Jewish, rich, or
poor but as citizens, they are in an abstract sense equal (Postone 23). Count Dracula, though being
empirically different—the fact that he breaks Christian law expresses his dissimilarity—, complies
with abstract law. The value also appears abstract because it equates materially different
commodities to a common reference point. Like the concept of citizenship, it equates the
empirically dissimilar.
Only by equating the concretely different goods, the goods become objects of circulation and can
change from owner A to owner B. Hence, the value is the prerequisite for the mobility of goods.
Here, too, one can draw a clear analogy to the figure of the vampire. Mobility can be attributed to
Count Dracula in the sense that he—and here the motif of Ahasver is resuscitated—is a traveler
from a faraway country. And also in Nosferatu, the vampire is characterized by restless wanderings:
“The hasty loading of the coffins filled with earth in his castle, the journey with the raft on the
raging river, the long crossing with the ship under full sails, the nocturnal arrival in Wisborg, and
the passage to the decayed house. Yes, even if Nosferatu enters the dilapidated building after the
many stations, it becomes clear that this is not a home and certainly not a homeland but only
another stop on his fateful journey” (Müller 47, transl. by V. S.).

The following text passage from Dracula further underpins my claim: When cornered by Van
Helsingʼs crew in one of his haunts, the Count imperils himself attempting to recover some of his
cash and figuratively ‘bleeds’ money when cut. After Harker cuts the cloth of Draculaʼs coat with
his great Kukri knife, a wide gap produces “a bundle of bank-notes and a stream of gold” (Stoker
306 qtd. in Davison 141). This striking text passage further substantiates the thesis that the vampire
is the embodiment of the abstract dimension of the commodity. Since money is the manifestation of
the value and money instead of blood seems to run through Draculaʼs veins, the vampire is the
embodiment, a fetishized object, of the value.
Bram Stoker makes the following distinction: He differentiates between ‘good,’ ‘Christian’ capital
and ‘bad,’ ‘Jewish’ capital (Davison 140). He thereby conducts a critique of capitalism that is
similar to the Nazi ideology. Parallel to the twin-character of the commodity, on the plane of
capital, the sphere of production and circulation are two complementary processes of the capitalist
mode of production that depend on each other. The material quality of the commodity, human labor,
and manufacturing are thus only the other side of money, trade, and the banking sector. The
industrial capital can appear as solely creating and material process fully independent of capital.
Industrial capital can easily self-stage that it is the genuine successor of ‘natural,’ manual labor in
opposition to the ‘parasitical’ financial capital and that it is ‘organically rooted’ in the race and the
national community. Production and circulation appear as two different spheres though being two
sides of the same coin (Postone 20). According to Postone, the Nazi movement was an anti-
capitalist revolt against the “tyranny of the abstract” (25, transl. by V. S.). This form of anti-
capitalism fell for the abstract appearance of capital 3 whereas affirming the concrete side of the
antinomy (Postone 24). They assumed that one can get rid of capitalism by removing the abstract
side, by removing the ‘money-grubbing,’ ‘Jewish’ financial capital but simultaneously leaving the
‘creating,’ ‘Aryan’ industrial capital untouched (Postone 21–22). The Nazis did not invent this
dichotomy, but rather the distinction dates back as far as the early modern period when the Jew was
regarded “as a calculating enemy of carnival, a repressive bearer of cold rationality and profiteering
individualism which ran counter to the communal spirit of free expenditure and careless exuberance
characteristic of the festival” (Stallybrass and White 55 qtd. in Davison 137). Stoker heavily
operates with this notion. For instance, the gold-hoarding Transylvanian Count only parts with his
capital in England when he makes the investment in London property hence, only if it is to his own
advantage. Stoker contrasts the greedy nature of the Count with the charitable character of the
wealthy Christian Englishman, Lord Godalming, and the American adventurer, Quincey Morris,
who unreservedly finance the Dracula crusade (Davison 140–41).
Stoker articulates a form of anti-capitalism that entirely remains in the antinomy of capitalist
relations. On the plane of the commodity, Stoker does not understand the abstract and the concrete
as two constituting parts of one unity of which the abolition requires the practical resolution of both
its sides (Postone 21). Rather, he seems to have chosen a form of anti-capitalism that is a unilateral
attack on the abstract dimension. On the plane of capital, Stoker directs his attack against ‘money-
grubbing,’ ‘greedy,’ allegedly ‘Jewish’ capital. He sees the ‘Christian,’ supposedly charitable form
of capitalism, however, as entirely unproblematic. From a Marxist point of view, this is anything
but wrong. Both types of capitalism, the financial and industrial, the supposedly abstract and
concrete, are both just different forms of the same phenomenon—capitalism—and are both to be

3 Capital also appears abstract because the central characteristic of capital, according to Marx, is its procedural form
as self-realizing value, as incessant and restless self-reproduction of the value. And it can appear as money or
commodity. It has no finished, completed form and thus appears as entirely abstract relation (Postone 19).

3 A Moralizing and Personalizing Critique of Capitalism
The poster itself also refers to the topos of greed. The most famous song from the musical Dance of
the Vampires is probably The Insatiable Greed, which is sung by the vampire character Count von
Krolock. Michael Kunze, who wrote the song, notes that “[t]he vampires are a metaphor for the
selfish and ruthless, successful people who have become the leading figures of our society” (Kunze,
transl. by V. S.). The creators of the poster refer to the greedy nature of the vampire characters from
the musical to describe the allegedly greedy nature of the corporate bosses. The implication of the
poster is clear: The greed of individuals and not the structure of the commodity producing and
capital accumulating society is the problem. This reinforces the dichotomy of ‘good’ versus ‘bad’
capital. If the morality of capitalists makes a difference, there can be a ‘good’ and moral form of
capitalism that differs from the immoral, ‘bad’ form. The notion that the immoral behavior of
individuals causes exploitation not only buys into the stereotype of the greedy ‘bank Jew’ but also
misunderstands the dynamic of the capitalist system. Capital is an “automatic subject” (Marx, Das
Kapital 169, transl. by V. S.) and acts according to only one principle: it strives for maximum
profit. Accusing capital of being ‘greedy’ is something like accusing a fish of needing water. And
even according to bourgeois economic theory, companies are forced out of the market if they do not
realize the highest possible profit. Greed is a necessity caused by the ruthless competition under
capitalism. Thus, greed is a by-product of the capitalist system and not its origin.
Perhaps the strongest argument against the case that the poster is incompatible with Karl Marxʼs
philosophy is that Marx himself once used the vampire metaphor in connection with capital:
“Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more,
the more labor it sucks” (Das Kapital 247, transl. by V. S.). There is a decisive difference between
the poster and Stoker on the one hand and Karl Marx on the other regarding the question of how
they use the vampire metaphor. Marx speaks of capital as vampire-like. In contrast to Marx,
however, the poster does not compare capital as a social relation with the vampire, but individual
capitalists are portrayed as vampires. The critique of capitalism conducted by the posterʼs artist and
by Stoker is not only a moralizing critique, but it also is a personalizing critique. It overstates the
role of individuals, their moral beliefs, and their individual actions within the capitalist mode of
production. Such a personalizing critique, however, was not in Marxʼs mind. In the preface of the
first German edition of Das Kapital, Marx wrote:
“To prevent possible misunderstanding, a word. I paint the capitalist and the landlord in no
sense in a rosy picture. But here individuals are dealt with only in so far as they are the
personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class-relations and class-
interests. My standpoint, from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is
viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other make the individual responsible
for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise
himself above them” (Das Kapital 16, transl. by V. S.).
The above quoted passage makes abundantly clear, that Marx criticized capital as a social relation
and did not condescend to the level of church sermons by persuading the capitalists to behave
morally. He did not do so, because he knew exactly that individuals are just embodiments of
economic categories and that the actions of the capitalists were hence determined by the logic of
capital: “His [the capitalistʼs] soul is the soul of capital” (Marx, Das Kapital 247, transl. by V. S.).
Acting morally is thus only possible within the narrow objective constraints of the capitalist system.
A real end to misery and exploitation can only be achieved by abolishing capitalism with all its
basic categories described and criticized by Marx; by abolishing private property of the means of
production, wage labor, the value, and the commodity form.

4 A Petty Bourgeois Form of Anti-Capitalism
The poster seems to be directed only against monopolistic capital while it is uncritical of medium-
sized companies—here again, affirming the notion of ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ capital. Among others,
the poster depicts the head of Microsoft, Bill Gates, and Dieter Zetsche, CEO of the Daimler car
company. But there are no representatives of small- and medium-sized enterprises, which is
surprising considering that Germany is regarded as a country with a strong mid-sized sector
compared to other developed countries. The Marxist philosopher Robert Kurz identifies this
uncritical attitude towards small and medium-sized businesses, coupled with a resentment against
large corporations and the financial sector as an ideology of the petty bourgeoisie. In the 19 th
century, there were always small, precarious niche businesses that tried to survive against the larger
companies with little equity capital. Because virtually no profit remained after repaying the interest
rate, the impression arose in this milieu that one “is merely working for the banks” (Kurz 20, transl.
by V. S.). According to Kurz, “[t]he idea that without the ‘vampiric’ interest-bearing capital there
could be a brisk prosperity of the honest and ‘productive labor’ is pure ideology based on the corner
shop mentality” (20, transl. by V. S.). Marx had nothing but contempt for such an ideology of
“petty-bourgeois democrats” (Karl Marx – Friedrich Engels – Werke 244, transl. by V. S.), as he
called them, “who now call themselves red and social-democratic” (Karl Marx – Friedrich Engels
– Werke 246, transl. by V. S.). He described this form of anti-capitalism, which in reality is only an
anti-plutocratism, as merely wanting to abolish “the pressure of large-scale capital on small-scale
capital, of the upper bourgeois on the lower bourgeois” (Karl Marx – Friedrich Engels – Werke
246, transl. by V. S.).
Stoker also seems to adhere to this class consciousness of the lower bourgeoisie. According to the
Marxist historian Eric J. Hobsbawm, fin-de-siècle Britain entered a new phase of capitalism. This
new form of capitalism—referred to as ‘monopoly capitalism’—heavily concentrated wealth and
advanced big business at the expense of small enterprises and thus appeared parasitical (Hobsbawm
44 qtd. in Davison 140–41). Monopoly capitalism was seen to be a serious threat to the previous
form of capitalism that was perceived to be characterized by individual liberty, free competition,
and the free flow of money (Davison 141). Carol Davison, professor for English literature at the
University of Windsor and noted scholar on Gothic and Victorian literature, argues that in Stokerʼs
Dracula, one can interpret blood as money. Parallel to the developments in capitalism in fin-de-
siècle Britain, two different types of transactions compete for domination: Van Helsing and his
brotherhood undertake the transaction of life—they selflessly donate their blood in a series of
hazardous transfusions undertaken to revive the vampireʼs victims (parallel to the free flow of
money). This type of transaction competes with the vampireʼs parasitical transactions which usually
end in death (parallel to the concentration of wealth by monopolistic capital) (Davison 142). Stoker
sees the monopolistic form of capitalism as immoral and considers the previous phase of capitalism
as good. And since for the antisemite not only is everything Jewish evil but all evil Jewish (Küntzel
5), Stoker sees monopoly capitalism as inherently Jewish. Hence, Count Dracula is the
personification of both monopoly capitalism (Davison 141) and the Wandering Jew (Davison 136).

5 Summary and Conclusion

In summary, the vampire fuses antisemitic stereotypes from different phases of the history of
antisemitism. For instance, he is closely connected to the iconography of the Wandering Jew, who
is cursed with immortality and who thus cannot be redeemed. The gold-hoarding Transylvanian
Count shares common features with the image of the superior Jew in modern antisemitism, who
plunges the world into misfortune by skillfully using mind and money and who, therefore,
ultimately, has to be annihilated.

Regarding the second question raised in the introduction of this essay, the vampire offers in many
respects a gateway to a false critique of capitalism, that is incompatible with Marxism: For instance,
the vampire—appearing inconceivable, abstract, and mobile—is the embodiment of the abstract
dimension of the commodity producing, capital accumulating society. By using the figure of the
vampire one can articulate a one-sided critique of capitalism that is solely directed against money,
commerce, and the banking sector. The vampire can also serve as a personification of the stereotype
of the greedy banker or corporate boss, respectively. These stereotypes are, however, connected to a
critique of capitalism that blames individual actors and their morality for crises of capitalism instead
of offering a structural explanation. And last but not least, through the figure of the vampire one can
promote an ideology of the petty bourgeoisie that is not directed against the capitalist mode of
production per se but only against monopoly capital.
Such a false critique of capitalism can be identified as one source of antisemitism on the political
left, along with a simplified anti-imperialism. But those who believe antisemitism on the political
left proves that the two extremes of the political spectrum are converging—those who talk of
Communism and Nazism as ‘totalitarian twins’—will be disappointed with my analysis. As I have
shown, an anti-capitalism that projects all evil onto greedy, allegedly parasitical capitalists, is
incompatible with Karl Marxʼs philosophy. Rather, the political left tends towards antisemitism
when it absorbs bourgeois elements, especially, when it abandons critical thinking and drifts
towards an objectified understanding of reality. The antisemitism of the left is not the result of
Marxʼs philosophy but of a break with it.
As I have showed above with reference to a passage from Marxʼs Kapital, the use of the vampire
metaphor in relation to the capitalist mode of production may be acceptable, provided that the usual
pitfalls described in this paper are avoided. However, Karl Marx lived in the 19 th century. But the
world after Auschwitz is no longer the same. In contrast to the time when Das Kapital was written
and published, today, a systematically conducted antisemitic mass murder with millions of deaths
does no longer belong in the realm of the impossible. That it happened proves it can happen again.
One should use such a metaphor with care and diligence and, if possible, refrain from using the
figure of the vampire to describe social relations.

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