Eric Hobsbawn Passes

The last of the great Marxists has gone to wherever Marxists go when they die.

As the article points out, he also was a great historian. His bias was front and center on the page, so that you could easily filter for it; but his depth of knowledge, and his dogged adherence to the Marxist theory, always made him interesting to read. It is striking to reflect that a man of his obvious intelligence and historical awareness could remain a committed Communist after everything. He was born in the year of the Russian revolution, and grew up during a time when Communism was in its fullest flower as a movement that serious people took seriously: no longer the radical fringe that it had been in Marx's day, nor the small but committed revolutionary internationalists of Lenin's, but a powerful nation engaged in the experiment of trying to move a giant and sprawling nation several centuries' forward in a few short five-year plans.

Even granting the hour of his youth and young manhood, though, it's striking that he remained committed. Past Stalin; past Mao; past the collapse of the USSR, and the revelations of the Stasi. Even if you were to wave all of those off as somehow accidental rather than essential to the Communist process -- and it is not at all clear that you possibly can, for remaking Man and Society whether they like it or not lies right at the core of that process -- it is hard to believe that an intellect could adhere to the clear demonstration of economic inferiority. Marxism was an economic theory first, and Marx was just wrong. The facts bear this out, but if (like a good academic) you aren't satisfied with the facts, the theory bears it out as well.


Anonymous said...

His "Age Of . . ." books, at least the first three, remain central to getting an overview of the Long 19th Century in European history. Agree or disagree, he synthesized the period very well. As you say, you knew where he stood and took it from there.


MikeD said...

I have not read him, and will not judge him on his work. But I will maintain that if measured with open eyes, support of Communism, in spite of the hundreds of millions directly murdered to make it operational either requires blinding levels of hand waving (the "they just didn't do it right" school of Communist thought), or sheer evil.

Communism demonstrated that the only way for Marxism to function requires levels of oppression and stifling of freedom at a level so intolerable to most people as to require murder and absolute terror in order to maintain itself. People will not willingly work without reward, and that's precisely what Communism requires.

I've known Marxists who simply think if we'd all just realize that everyone would be happier if we all worked for the common good, utopia would follow. But when pressed on who would willingly study for nearly a decade to learn to practice medicine only to be rewarded the same as the high school dropout who sweeps floors, their only answer is "well... some people love medicine".

Communism IS slavery. You steal labor from a man, and if he dares try to escape or find a way to profit from his talents, he must be imprisoned or killed. It is the worst form of despotism ever devised, and only the wealthiest and most sheltered of intellectuals could actually believe that it would work, or that anyone else would want it.