Hobsbawm

Ed George edgeorge at usuarios.retecal.es
Fri Sep 20 02:04:25 MDT 2002


Mark: I never said that Hobsbawm wasn't a Marxist, I just don't think he
was a very good one. I don't think - and I'm sorry if this sounds
arrogant - he ever really understood Marxism. And - and I'm not going to
argue about it in these terms here, for reasons I explain below - for
him, as for many others, his Stalinism was the impediment to his
understanding of Marxism. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, he
sold out. Why I think this I've already explained: he used his
watered-down Marxism to construct a cosy niche for himself within
academe. As for Philby, he put his money where his mouth was so to speak
and for that I can respect him in a way that I cannot Hobsbawm.

But these labels - stalinist or trotskyist or marxist whatever - are in
the end useless, and function solely as insults and the means to make
insults. I engage with people like Hobsbawm (and your good self for that
matter) on the basis of what they do and what they say. On those grounds
I have little time for Hobsbawm, but - for example - a lot of time for
you, and on that level your description of yourself as 'a
dyed-in-the-wool s*******t' is for me irrelevant. For this reason I
agree with you on the need to study Stalin: on the national question, on
'dialectical materialism', you cannot ignore ideas that have influenced
so many people. One of the ironies here of course is that 95 per cent of
the people who would describe themselves as Trotskyists today have in
fact assimilated in good part the conceptions of Stalin and stalinism on
these questions. For me this is a big problem, and worthy of discussion,
but what I will debate is not the label but the content.

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