Hobsbawm

Mark Jones markjones011 at tiscali.co.uk
Fri Sep 20 00:24:08 MDT 2002


At 20/09/2002 06:38, Chris wrote:

>It is far more to our advantage to accept him as one of us --and to
>subject his work and actions to the same rigorous criticism as anything
>else, but not to hurl him into the arms of our enemies.  They have
>enough already.

I agree with this if only in the principle that we have got to stop
anathematising one another; we can never build mass parties or make real
political progress while we do that. Only recently I was arguing the same
thing with the Marxism Internet Archive, which has got itself in the absurd
position (IMO) of archiving lots of people they think are not 'real'
Marxists-- like Mao, Stalin, Hoxha etc. They might just was well archive
Talcott Parsons and every other bourgeois social scientist on the same
logic, since practically all modern social science is derivative of
Marxism. But they don't do that because these people did not share the same
underlying commitment to active and conscious participation in class
struggle and to the noble cause of communism and revolution. Tacitly they
seem to concede that you can't call yourself a universal Marxist archive
without being truly comprehensive and without recognising the huge
diversity of views--and the many darker sides--to our common cause which do
all exist. They cannot say it out loud but, er, yes, Stalin was "also" a
Marxist, sort-of. Four out of ten for effort. Next time must do better.

I don't see how one can deny that Hobsbawm, however egregiously well-off
and middle-class he became, did make such a revolutionary political
commitment in his lifetime and did suffer as a result. Personally I agree
that he did not actually make much sense of phenomena such as nationalism,
stalinism, the causes of the industrial revolution or of classical
imperialism after 1880. These are some hefty drawbacks for someone in his
line of business. Deutscher's book on Stalin, first drafted in about 1947,
is indeed a classic must-read even for dyed-in-the-wool s*******ts like me.
There is nothing comparable in Hobsbawm or in the Stalinist hagiographical
oeuvre either for that matter. But you can only make sense of Deutscher if
you _also read Stalin_, IMHO. Part of the problem of our respective
sectarian trainings is that we simply have never seriously read and
encountered and grappled with the seminal texts of the opposition. No
Tankies I ever met EVER read Trotsky (I have, copiously). But how many
Trots have seriously studied Stalin? Come on now, admit it...

The bottom line probably still is the old means and ends one, whether in
its Enlightenment-optimism guise or in the form of the likely darker
choices between comparative evils which any new revolution will face when
it inherits a scorched and dying planet...

While in Moscow in the late 1980s I was lucky enough to meet with that
great British spy (and English gentleman) Kim Philby. He  made his
commitments, and paid the price for them; and altho he was affected by the
20th Congress like everyone else, he too never recanted. I found that
admirable, as well as politically correct.

Mark Jones


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