- Written by Tim Heydon
Eric Hobsbawm. The Marxist BBC’s fawning Interview of a Hard Left Extremist Historian
Would the BBC ever celebrate the life of an academic apologist for the Nazis who justified his support for the extermination of millions of leftists, jews, homosexuals, Freemasons, gypsies and others? Hell would freeze over first.
Yet, like it or not, the paying public were this week treated to an hour of 'Eric Hobsbawm, a Life in History'. Hobsbawm is a man who has publicly proclaimed his support for the extermination of millions of 'class enemies' in the Soviet Union.
It might be argued that Hobsbawm, who, born in 1917 now has various academic posts of a largely honorific nature including the Presidency of Birkbeck College, University of London, is extremely prominent in his field. It might also be argued that he should be a good deal less prominent than he is.
Approving of the Death of Millions
Hobsbawm is the Marxist historian who, when in 1994 he was asked on TV by the Canadian politician Michael Ignatieff whether 20 million Soviet Deaths may have been justified had they brought about the promised communist utopia, asserted that they were. He confirmed that this remark was no slip of the tongue or momentary lapse the next year. When Sue Lawley asked him on Desert Island Discs if the ''sacrifice of millions of lives" would have been worth a communist utopia, he replied: "That's what we felt when we fought the Second World War".
Soviet Murders are to be equated with fighting the Nazis?
In other words he equated the necessary deaths fighting off the Nazi German invasions with the deliberate deaths of 20 million Class Enemies in the Soviet Concentration Camps. Not to mention those millions who died elsewhere; in the forced famines in the Ukraine and transportation of ethnicities, for example. (Solzhenitsyn put the total figure of unnecessary deaths at 60 million, a figure which makes the 'Holocaust' look relatively minor ). Hobsbawm also argued that, "In a period in which, as you might imagine, mass murder and mass suffering are absolutely universal, the chance of a new world being born in great suffering would still have been worth backing".
Well, isn't that exactly what the Nazis thought too? But can you see the BBC fawning over a Nazi historian who said that?
BBC Praise for an Old Marxist
The interview of Hobsbawm by Simon Schama was extraordinarily hands-off. True, the Desert Island Discs remark was touched on - lightly. But otherwise, Hobsbawm was given uncritical free rein. His work was 'universally acclaimed', it was said. No it wasn't. The famed Kremlinologist Robert Conquest, author of 'The Great Terror. Stalin's Purges of the 1930s' said of Hobsbawm's 'Age of Extremes', that the latter suffers from a "massive reality denial" regarding the USSR. The philosopher John Gray, though praising of his efforts on the nineteenth century, thought his work on the post-1914 period as "banal in the extreme' and ' highly evasive' about the realities of communism.
Belief in the Improvement of Humanity (By Whom?) makes one both dangerous and wrong
Hobsbawm was praised by Schama as having a grip on human nature and the way people behave that would ensure his lasting greatness. But a man who continues to believe in the 'improvement, if not the perfectibility of humanity' when he has his own personality and attitudes and the gross failure of the beliefs he continues to hold to as a standing reproach to this idea, does not understand himself, still less human nature in general.
A Case of Arrested Development
Hobsbawm came to Marxism at the age of 15, we were told. When he read 'The Communist Manifesto', he thought, 'that's it!' He became a communist activist in Germany. He came to Britain when he won a scholarship to Cambridge. Interestingly, while there he was a member of the Apostles, the society to which the Cambridge traitors Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt belonged in their time.
It seems he has made no progress emotionally since because such juvenile moments are emotional, not intellectual. Like many other leftist intellectuals, his is a case of arrested development. His adolescent fantasies of utopia have vitiated his undeniable talents and made them if not worthless, then worth much less than they might otherwise have done.
Hobsbawm is a Jew and it took another Jew, Tony Judt, to point out that Hobsbawm's bias in favour of the USSR and communism in general and his tendency to disparage any nationalist movement as passing and irrational, weakened his grasp of parts of the 20th century.
What a pity he has never really matured.