Hobsbawm

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Thu Sep 19 04:56:51 MDT 2002


Hobsbawm's two main works on nationalism are
*Nationalism Since 1780* and *The Invention of Tradition*.
An excerpt from *Nationalism Since 1780* can
be found at http://www.nationalismproject.org/what/hobsbawm.htm.

I think his attitude towards nationalism is summed up in the
final paragraph of the excert where he writes:

"Finally, I cannot but add that no serious historian of nations
and nationalism can be a committed political nationalist,
except in the sense in which believers in the literal truth
of the Scriptures, while unable to make contributions to
evolutionary theory, are not precluded from making
contributions to archaeology and Semitic philology.
Nationalism requires too much belief in what is patently
not so. As Renan said: 'Getting its history wrong is part
of being a nation.' Historians are professionally obliged
not to get it wrong, or at least to make an effort not to.
To be Irish and proudly attached to Ireland - even to be
proudly Catholic-Irish or Ulster Protestant Irish - is not
in itself incompatible with the serious study of Irish history.
To be a Fenian or an Orangeman, I would judge, is not so
compatible, any more than being a Zionist is compatible
with writing a genuinely serious history of the Jews;
unless the historian leaves his or her convictions behind
when entering the library or the study. Some nationalist
historians have been unable to do so. Fortunately, in
setting out to write the present book I have not needed
to leave my non-historical convictions behind."

His skepticism towards nationalism in general seems
somewhat reminiscient of Rosa Luxemburg.  While
on the one hand this has enabled him to avoid the
temptations of Zionism, this has also precluded
him from understanding situations where nationalism
has the potential for revolutionary consequences.
For example his noteworthy failures to appreciate
Irish nationalism and republicanism.  In this, as
in some other matters his outlook is quite different
from Lenin's and even from Marx & Engels'.


Jim Farmelant

On Thu, 19 Sep 2002 16:59:51 +1200 Philip Ferguson
<plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz> writes:
> Gary wrote:
>
> > The below and his attitude towards the Paris uprisings of 1968 are
> two
> > reasons why I won't join any cheer squad for Hobsbawm
> >
> > His lectures in Belfast at the heiht of the imperialist attacks on
> the
> > Catholic working class were nothing less than treachery.
> Similarly his
> > sponsorship of the Irish Revisionists is another
> count--revolutionary
> > act.  Truly he did become a Companion of (Bourgeois Imperialist)
> Honour.
>
>
> Yes, indeed.  It seems an odd sort of 'unrepentant communist' who
> accepts an award of the British Empire (or what's left of it).
>
> Hobsbawm's attitudes to the Paris events of May 68 and the explosion
> in
> Ireland are good indications of his lack of any revolutionary
> impulses.
> His embrace of Euro-communism and the 'new times' outlook of Martin
> Jacques and co. at 'Marxism Today', complete with his and their
> support
> for the Liberal Democrats and Labour forming a 'grand coalition',
> indicated that he was much more of a social democrat than a
> communist.
>
> He also appears to be a kind of ideological god-father to people
> like
> Robert Brenner who downplay the role of slavery in the rise of
> capitalism.  This, again, reflects his euro-centrism and hostility
> to
> contemporary national liberation struggles when they impinge upon
> the
> British state.
>
> Hobsbawm happens to be the favourite historian of the Canterbury
> University history department's resident 'expert' on, and critic of,
> Marxism.  It's not hard to see how someone as hostile to Marxism as
> this
> guy at Canterbury is can nevertheless be a big admirer of Hobsbawm.
>
> Philip Ferguson
>


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