FW: Why Hobsbawm Was NEVER a Communist
donaloc at peterquinn.com
Thu Sep 19 08:42:15 MDT 2002
This was forwarded in reply to Lou's posting on Hobsbawm. It was written by
the editor of www.left.ru - well worth a visit, particularly if you have
>At all events I am certain that, standing by the Finland Station in the
marvellous winter light of that miraculous city I shall never get used to
calling St Petersburg, what we thought about the October revolution was not
the same as what our guides from the Leningrad branch of the Academy of
Hm... the Soviet society failed to correspond to Mr. Hosbawm's idea of the
October revolution. Too bad
for the Soviet society. But after all, October revolution was never
intended to satisfy the needs of Cambridge
professors. It was more about peasant children becoming scientists and
meeting with Cambridge professors.
>I returned from Moscow politically unchanged if depressed, and without any
desire to go there again. I did return but only fleetingly, in 1970 for a
world historical congress, and in the last years of the USSR for brief
tourist excursions from Helsinki, where I spent several summers at a UN
The truth is that Hobsbawn and, generally speaking, this applies to all left
Western professordom, has led comfortable
existence in imperialist academia. It was in all respects more comfortable,
free and scholarly satisfying
than for social scholars in the USSR.
>There are two 'ten days that shook the world' in the history of the
revolutionary movement of the 20th century: the days of the October
revolution, described in John Reed's book of that title, and the 20th
congress (14-25 February 1956). I cannot think of any comparable events in
the history of any major ideological or political movement. To put it in
the simplest terms, the October revolution created a world communist
movement: the 20th congress destroyed it.
This and the rest is but an attempt to find apology for 1) Hobsbawn's own
allegiance to the comforts and freedoms "Western civilization" and 2) for
the failure of Western marxism to sreate a revolutionary movement in the
imperialist core. In short, Hobsbawn is reperesentative of the bulk of
Western left intellectuals in the sense that he cannot be understoood
outside of Lenin's theory of social-imperialism. It goes without saying
that the latter has to be updated and developed further as a component of
"new imperialism" or "globalization".
Well, this one also deserves commentary.
>The late Isaac Deutscher, the biographer of Trotsky, but in his heart a
frustrated political leader, said to me, when I first met him at the peak
of the communist crisis of 1956-57: 'Whatever you do, don't leave the
Communist Party. I let myself be expelled in 1932 and have regretted it
ever since.' Unlike me, he never reconciled himself to the truth that his
political significance rested entirely on his being a writer. After all, it
was the business of communists to change the world, not merely to interpret.
This too, but more relevant is the obvious fact that Deutscher was a
revolutionary marxist, Hobsbawn -
a "chair marxist", comfortably doing his "historical science", his "trade"
in the lap of imperial academy.
H. was and is a socail-imperialist, who firmly believes that out of the all
bad worlds the British (Western)
is the best one. He would never say this, but that follows from everything
he says or writes. This is also why Deutscher
was able to write his incomparable biography of Stalin, while being his
political enemy, and Hobsbawn cannot rise
above trivial, thoroughly philistine Stalinophobia.
>But the second reason was pride. Losing the handicap of Party membership
would improve my career prospects, not least in the USA. It would have been
easy to slip out quietly. But I could prove myself to myself by succeeding
as a known communist - whatever 'success' meant - in spite of that
handicap, and in the middle of the cold war. I do not defend this form of
egoism, but neither can I deny its force. So I stayed.
This is one of the clearest signs of Hobsbawm's bad consciousness. Rather
than simply saying that he was afraid of becoming an open renegade and
living the rest of his life with the sense of his moral failure and
political betrayal, Hobsbawm makes virtue of his moral cowardice. I wonder
if this guy realizes that this piece demonstrates that he never was
communist. Perhaps, he does. After all, to WHO he addresses his excuse of
why he "stayed"? To the legion of open renegates and their masters.
This is also a useful document illustrating the ideological significance of
doing "science" and being "scientist" in the overall framework of bourgeois
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