Hobsbawm, part 2: The Apostle of Blairism

As the 1960s became the 1970s, Hobsbawm stopped defending the nationalised planned economy and became part of the Eurocommunist tendency whithin the Communist Party. He provided theoretical justifications not only for the dissolution of the Communist Party but also for the right-wing turn of the Labour Party in Britain, something which earned him the epithet “Kinnock's favourite Marxist”. [part 1]

Hobsbawm’s Break with Stalinism

In 1956 Khrushchev exposed the crimes of Stalinism at the 20th Congress of the CPSU. This fell like a bombshell on those who, like Hobsbawm, had slavishly defended Stalinism for years.

Although he formally broke with Stalinism, Hobsbawm persisted in justifying his Stalinist past, covering his tracks right to the end. In one of his last books, ironically entitled How to change the world, this is what he writes about Stalin’s notorious Purge Trials:

“It is impossible to understand the reluctance of men and women on the left to criticise, or even often to admit to themselves, what was happening in the USSR in those years, or the isolation of the USSR's critics on the left, without this sense that in the fight against fascism, communism and liberalism were, in a profound sense, fighting for the same cause. Not to mention the more obvious fact that, in the conditions of the 1930s, what Stalin did was a Russian problem, however shocking, whereas what Hitler did was a threat everywhere.” (How to change the world, p. 268)

The infamous Moscow Trials were nothing more than a one-sided civil war waged by Stalin against the Bolshevik Party. In order to consolidate his bureaucratic totalitarian regime, Stalin was compelled to exterminate all of Lenin’s comrades. Like any other common criminal he did not want any witnesses who could testify against him.

These monstrous show trials were constructed on the basis of confessions extracted by blackmail, torture and beatings. The charges against the accused were so patently false that many people at the time had doubts about their veracity. Moreover, they were comprehensively exposed as a gigantic fraud by the Dewey Commission.

Prominent British Stalinists like Campbell and Pritt wrote whole books, attempting to show that the Moscow trials were completely legal and fair. Taking its cue from Moscow, the Daily Worker carried a heading in big letters: “Shoot the reptiles!” They described the accused in the vilest terms: “They are ‘a festering, cankering sore’ and we echo fervently the workers’ verdict: Shoot the reptiles!” (Daily Worker, 24 August 1936)

Of all this our friend has absolutely nothing to say. His sole concern is not to denounce these monstrosities, which can only be compared to the murderous activities of the Spanish Inquisition, but only to justify the complicity of people like Hobsbawm, Pritt and Campbell who were prepared to support each and every crime of Stalin.

Nowadays, when everybody is well aware of Stalin’s crimes, Hobsbawm can no longer defend them. But he is eager to provide excuses for his past behaviour. It was all right to support the Purge Trials “because of the need to fight fascism.” About the pamphlet that he wrote together with Raymond Williams defending the Hitler-Stalin Pact, once more, he has nothing to say. Presumably, that too was part of the “struggle against fascism”!

Khrushchev’s revelations immediately provoked revolutionary ferment in Eastern Europe, which led to mass protests in Poland and a working class uprising in Hungary. In October 1956, the Hungarian Revolution was brutally suppressed by Soviet tanks. This provoked a serious crisis in Communist Parties, including in Britain where many people resigned in protest.

Hobsbawm later claimed that he denounced the Russian invasion of Hungary and wrote to the CP newspaper to protest. This is at best only a half-truth. This is what he actually wrote in the letter he published on 9 November 1956 in the Daily Worker:

“All Socialists ought to be able to understand that a Mindszenty Hungary [Mindszenty was the Catholic cardinal in Budapest], which would probably have become a base for counter-revolution and intervention, would be a grave and acute danger for the USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Rumania which border upon it.

“If we had been in the position of the Soviet Government, we should have intervened; if we had been in the position of the Yugoslav Government, we should have approved of the intervention”.

Hobsbawm then goes on to cover his backside – he describes the crushing of the Hungarian people as a ‘tragic necessity’:

“While approving, with a heavy heart, of what is now happening in Hungary, we should therefore also say frankly that we think the USSR should withdraw its troops from the country as soon as this is possible.

“This should be said by the British Communist Party publicly if the British people are to have any confidence in our sincerity and judgement; and if they have not, how can we expect them to follow our lead?

“And if they don’t follow our lead, how can we hope to help the cause of the existing Socialist states on which we know that Socialism in the world, and in Britain, largely depends?”

This cannot be presented as a “denunciation” of anything, but a cowardly way of facing all ways at the same time. Such a dishonest attitude was absolutely characteristic of Hobsbawm from start to finish.

“Eurocommunism”

While many CP members tore up their cards in disgust, he continued as a member of the British Communist Party until shortly before it was dissolved in 1991. In an article in World News, 26 January 1957, replying to the Assistant Secretary of the Communist Party, George Matthews, he wrote:

“We have presented the facts wrongly, or failed to face them, and unfortunately, though we have kidded few other people, we have kidded ourselves. I don’t mean primarily the facts revealed at the Twentieth Congress and others of the kind. Many of us had strong suspicions about them, amounting to moral certainty, for years before Khrushchev spoke, and I am amazed Comrade Matthews had none. There were overwhelming reasons at the time for keeping quiet, and we were right in doing so. No, the facts we really failed to face are those about Britain, our tasks and our mistakes”.

Hobsbawm’s break with Stalinism might have been a step forward if it had meant a return to the genuine traditions of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party. But instead of going back to Lenin, Hobsbawm and the other advocates of so-called Eurocommunism, decided to ditch Leninism altogether. The more independent the European CPs grew from Moscow, the more dependent did they become on their national bourgeoisie.

This was a development that Trotsky had predicted in his 1928 pamphlet Critique of the Draft Programme of the Communist International, where he warned that the adoption of the “theory” of Socialism in One Country would end up with the national-reformist degeneration of the parties in the Communist International. With a delay of some years, this was exactly what happened. The Italian, French and Spanish CPs removed themselves from control by Moscow, but in so doing they abandoned any pretence of following the ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin.

Hobsbawm became a leading light of the Eurocommunist faction in the CPGB that began to crystallise after 1968, when the CPGB criticised the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. But he did so from the standpoint of narrow nationalism. He wanted the British Party to have control over its own affairs, free from the meddling of Moscow. In the same way, the Italian, French and Spanish Party leaders were demanding the same thing.

In Britain, the theoretical journal of the CPGB Marxism Today became the factional organ of the revisionist tendency. In September 1978 it published Hobsbawm’s speech “The British Working Class One Hundred Years after Marx” in which, he claimed that the working class was inevitably losing its central role in society, and that left-wing parties could no longer base themselves on this class. This was precisely in a period of growing trade union militancy, when Britain was the scene of mass strikes that shook the ruling class, and members of the Communist Party had a leading role in them.

Hobsbawm chose this moment to deliver a Marx Memorial Lecture, later published as The Forward March of Labour Halted? He began to question the central role of the working class in the socialist revolution. This has since become a rallying call for every petty bourgeois and revisionist tendency, both inside and outside the labour movement. The former paper of the CPGB, the Morning Star, carried an obituary on 5 October in which we read the following:

“Writing at the time when the trade union movement was at the peak of its strength - and the left highly influential within it - Hobsbawm argued that the manual working class was in numerical decline and that the character of its politics was inherently economistic, trapped within the bounds of self-interested wage bargaining, and that consequently the left had to look in future to broader alliances and social movements.

“This lecture became an iconic text for that wing within the Communist Party that sought to steer it away from class politics and to challenge key elements of Marxism.”

These revisionist ideas did not drop from the clouds. After decades of opportunist politics, and with the enormous pressures of capitalism in the long post-war upswing, the process of nationalist and reformist degeneration of the Communist Parties was completed. They became just like any other reformist organisation. Breaking from Moscow, they felt increasingly under the pressure of their own capitalist class and bourgeois public opinion. This was the real meaning of so-called Eurocommunism.

Hobsbawm drew all the wrong conclusions from the coup in Chile in 1973. For him the lesson was not that Allende had failed to mobilise and arm the working class to crush the counterrevolution, but, on the contrary, that Allende had tried to go too far and too fast. Instead, he backed the reformist line of the Italian CP, the line of the “historic compromise”, that is, the line of class collaboration.

In the '60s and '70s he developed links with the right wing of the Italian Communist Party which advocated a break with the Soviet Union.  Hobsbawm was always an admirer of the Italian Communist Party. Of all the Eurocommunist parties, the PCI was the most degenerate and right wing. He became a close friend of Giorgio Napolitano, who since the seventies was the leader of the right wing of the PCI. He was the most reformist of reformists, a man who was so trusted by the Italian bourgeoisie that they made him President of the Republic.

In 1977 he staged a long interview with Giorgio Napolitano, then international secretary of the Italian Party (PCI) and one of the leaders of the Eurocomunist wing.  Later he published it in the form of a book, The Italian Road to Socialism, where Napolitano says the following:

“The only path that is realistically open to a socialist transformation in Italy and Western Europe – under peacetime conditions – lies through a struggle within the democratic process”.

The policy of “broad alliances” is a return to the policies of the Mensheviks, which was fiercely opposed by Lenin and resurrected by Stalin in the form of the popular front, which led to one defeat after another.  The idea of gradual reform is indistinguishable from the position of Social Democracy. The idea that it is possible to reform capitalism gradually is contradicted by the whole history of the last 100 years. The result of this “realism” can be seen today: the once all-powerful PCI has been completely liquidated.

With the fall of Stalinism after 1989, this process of degeneration was further intensified. In Belgium, Britain and Norway, the Communist Party has virtually collapsed as a result. In Italy, the once powerful PCI was turned into a bourgeois party by its Eurocomunist leaders. In Britain the former Communist Party “theoretician” Eric Hobsbawm completely capitulated to capitalism and stood far to the right of the Labour Lefts.

Hobsbawm Moves Right

Hobsbawm’s literary decline proceeded in tandem with his political degeneration and is closely linked to it. But where did this degeneration come from? In order to answer this question, one must first understand the historical context in which these books were written.

The 1960s saw a wave of radicalisation, especially among the students, which must have affected Hobsbawm. The process was deepened in the 1970s, which began with the first worldwide slump since 1945. There followed a wave of revolutions and revolutionary ferment in Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy and France. Britain itself was swept by a wave of strikes. There can be no doubt that these events must have had a positive influence on Hobsbawm’s writings, and it cannot be an accident that his best books were published around this time.

In April and May in 1974, following the downfall of the Caetano dictatorship, millions of Portuguese workers came onto the streets in a revolutionary movement that swept all before it. The Communist Party supported General Spinola, who later tried to organize a right wing coup. This was only prevented by the movement of workers and soldiers from below.

In March 1975 The Times wrote an editorial with the title: “Capitalism is dead in Portugal”. And that ought to have been the case. At that time, the majority of the economy had been nationalized and power was, in practice, in the hands of the working class. But the whole thing was undone by the policies of the leaders of the Socialist and Communist Parties. The same thing happened in Spain.

The death of Franco in November 1975 was the signal for a tumultuous revolutionary period, with mass strikes and demonstrations. There were elements of dual power. The movement had a clearly anti-capitalist character. The Communist Party was in an extremely powerful position. It had in its ranks a big majority of the proletarian vanguard. But, as in the 1930s, the leadership had a class collaborationist policy.

In 1973, when the dictatorship was tottering, they had already signed the infamous “Democratic Junta”, a coalition together with liberals, former fascists and even some monarchist parties. The workers were ready for anything. But the PCE (Spanish Communist Party) put the brakes on. At its 1978 congress the Party formally abandoned Leninism, although, if the truth be told, this was just a formal recognition of the fact that the party had long ago abandoned any genuine revolutionary position.

This period was known as “the Transition” (allegedly from dictatorship to democracy), but it was in fact, the fraud of the century. The hated monarchy was retained and played a central role. The Civil Guard and other repressive bodies remained in being. Nobody was made responsible for the crimes and atrocities of the old regime. The murderers and torturers walked freely in the streets. The people of Spain were told to forget the one million who were killed in the Civil War. None of this was supposed to have happened.

In those years Italy too was shaken to its foundations by a huge wave of strikes. The situation was becoming more and more revolutionary. The PCI had a crushing domination of the workers movement. But Eurocommunist leaders like Berlinguer and Napolitano were advocating an “historic compromise” with the bourgeoisie and the Christian Democrats. As in Spain, this derailed and destroyed the movement. The problem, as in Spain in the 1930s, was fundamentally a problem of leadership. The “Communist” leaders played a key role in aborting revolution movements everywhere.

The red 1970s, which were filled with so much hope, finally gave way to the grey 1980s, a period of disillusionment, despondency and despair. This wave of disillusionment that ensued prepared the way for a period of semi-reaction which began in the early 1980’s. As a result, capitalism survived and the bourgeoisie gradually recovered its nerve and passed onto the offensive.  Advanced workers were everywhere seized with a mood of scepticism and pessimism.

Hobsbawm’s writings reflect the general disillusionment with socialism that affected left-wing intellectuals at the time. As early as 1978 he was writing:  “We have no clear perspective on how the crisis can lead to a socialist transformation and, to be honest, no real expectation that it will”. Here we have the distilled essence of the petty bourgeois intellectual who, incapable of swimming against the tide, deserts the revolutionary struggle and retreats behind a wall of pessimism.

Hobsbawm and the Liquidation of the Communist Party

Hobsbawm moved further and further to the right. In his later books any slight connection with Marxism that may have been present before has disappeared completely. The Age of Empire (1987) contains lots of interesting material but is thoroughly imbued with a sense that there is no alternative to capitalism – an idea that obsessed Hobsbawm’s mind right to the end and conditioned his political evolution. The logical conclusion was liquidationism.

In common with many Lefts and “communists”, Hobsbawm’s outlook was influenced by the long period of capitalist upswing that followed the Second World War. On the basis of globalisation, the argument was repeatedly put forward by the bourgeois, and particularly the petty-bourgeois apologists for capitalism, that in effect the nation state does not matter anymore.

The same argument was put forward by Kautsky in the period of the First World War (the so-called theory of “ultra-imperialism")  when he argued in effect that the development of monopoly capitalism and imperialism would gradually eliminate the contradictions of capitalism. There would be no more wars because the development of capitalism itself would render national states redundant. The same theory was advocated by Eric Hobsbawm, in common with every other revisionist.

This ex-Stalinist argued that the national state was just a transient period of human history which has now passed. Bourgeois economists have put forward the same argument throughout history. They try to abolish the contradictions inherent in the capitalist system merely by denying their existence. Yet precisely at this moment in time, when the world market has become the dominant force on the planet, national antagonisms have everywhere acquired a ferocious character and the national question, far from being abolished everywhere, has assumed a particularly intense and poisonous character.
Hobsbawm tried to present the movement towards free trade and globalisation as an inevitable and automatic process leaving out of account all the contradictions and countervailing tendencies. In fact, even the most superficial examination of history shows that periods of greater free trade (such as before the First World War) have alternated with periods of ferocious trade wars and protectionism (such as the 1930s), and that the bourgeoisie will resort to protectionism whenever its interests are threatened.

That remains just as true of the present epoch as it was when Marx or Lenin were alive. But Hobsbawm was no longer interested in defending Marxism. In the last decades of his life he separated himself more and more from Marxism, as if blinded by the successes of capitalism and market economics. His real attitude was shown by his statement that Communism was of “limited historical interest” compared to the gigantic success of the capitalist “mixed economy” from the mid-1950s to 1973, which he described as “the most profound revolution in society since the Stone Age”.

In October 1979 Hobsbawm joined the Editorial Board of Marxism Today, the CPGB’s theoretical journal. Together with Martin Jacques, he used the journal as a platform for Eurocommunist views in the party. These right wing revisionists wanted nothing less than the disbandment of the CPGB. As early as 1983, Martin Jacques “thought the CP was unreformable ... but stayed in because he needed Party funds to continue publishing Marxism Today”.

The British Communist Party has ended up in a complete fiasco, split into four tiny groups. The Spanish Communist Party, which could have taken power in 1976-77, is a shadow of its former self. The ideological bankruptcy of the CP was summed up by Chris Myant, international secretary of the CPGB, who stated that the October Revolution was “a mistake of historic proportions.”

Jacques was convinced that the Communist Party was finished. As a matter of fact, from a political point of view, it was finished a long time before. But it took the likes of Hobsbawm and Jacques to act as its official gravediggers. In 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed, the Eurocommunist-dominated leadership of the CPGB, led by Nina Temple, having expelled all who disagreed, decided to disband the Party altogether.

Did Stalinism come from Leninism?

Socialism, Hobsbawm argues, ultimately fell because, eventually, “[...] hardly anyone believed in the system or felt any loyalty to it, not even those who governed it.”

This is an “explanation that explains nothing”. This man who for decades defended Stalinism without blushing, now concludes that there must have been something wrong with the October Revolution from the very start. Thus, he joins the bourgeois bandwagon that ascribes all the crimes of Stalinism to some original sin of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party.

While surreptitiously defending Stalin, Hobsbawm gives credence to the most disgusting slander invented by the bourgeois enemies of the October Revolution, namely, that the roots of Stalinism are to be found in Bolshevism, and that Leninism and Stalinism are essentially the same. The problem of this theory is that it is impossible to explain why Stalin, in order to consolidate the rule of the bureaucracy, had to exterminate all the Old Bolsheviks.

The truth is that Stalinism and Leninism are mutually exclusive. There is nothing in common between the regime of workers democracy established by Lenin and Trotsky and the totalitarian monstrosity that Stalin erected over the dead bones of the Bolshevik Party.

After the October Revolution, the young Soviet state was invaded by 21 armies of foreign intervention that plunged the country into a bloodbath. Even in the most democratic bourgeois republic, in time of war the workers will accept certain limitations on their rights. That was also the case in Russia during the Civil War.

The problem that confronted the Bolsheviks in 1917 was that they took power in conditions of extreme backwardness. It was this, and not any “original sin” of Leninist Bolshevism, which condemned the Russian Revolution to bureaucratic degeneration.

In The German Ideology (1846), Marx had already explained that in any society where poverty is general, all the old crap (“die ganze alte Scheisse”) revives. By that he meant inequality, oppression, bureaucracy, corruption and all the other evils of class society.

As early as 1920 Lenin honestly admitted that “ours is a workers state with bureaucratic deformations”. But these were relatively small deformations, and nothing like the monstrous regime later established by Stalin. Despite everything the working class enjoyed greater democratic rights than in any other country.

It was the great historical achievement of the Russian Revolution that it proved beyond doubt is that it is possible to run a vast economy like that of the USSR without private landlords, bankers and capitalists and to obtain excellent results. That was because it is clear that in the first few decades of a nationalized planned economy, the Soviet Union did get the most remarkable results. No such transformation has ever been seen in history as that which occurred in the USSR from 1917 to 1965.

After the death of Lenin, however, under conditions of frightful backwardness, the Russian Revolution suffered a process of bureaucratic degeneration under Stalin, which eventually undermined the planned economy.  This finally ended in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

As early as 1936 Trotsky explained that the Russian bureaucracy would not be satisfied with their enormous privileges (which, however, they could not bequeath to their children) but would inevitably move towards the restoration of capitalism.

Trotsky pointed out that a nationalized planned economy needs democracy just as the human body requires oxygen. Without the democratic control of the working class a nationalized planned economy will inevitably be overwhelmed by bureaucracy, corruption and mismanagement. That is just what happened.

The ghastly caricature that Hobsbawm persisted in calling “socialism” right to the end of his life did colossal damage to the idea of socialism and communism in the eyes of the workers of the world. For decades Hobsbawm, who was never a genuine Marxist, justified Stalinist totalitarianism and denigrated those who fought for a return to Lenin’s policies (the “Trotskyists”).

Disgracefully, even in his last writings, he still refers to the Stalinist regimes in Russia and Eastern Europe as “real socialism” or “communist”. And since “socialism” and “communism” has failed, he can provide a “theoretical” justification for defending capitalism.

Such a transformation may appear contradictory. In reality, it is very simple. By the same logic, most of the former leaders of the “Communist” Party of the Soviet Union have quietly transformed themselves into capitalists and billionaires. Like the Red Professor, they have accomplished this transition with the same ease as a man passing from a second class to a first class compartment on a train. This remarkable ease is explained by the fact that they were never communists in the first place.

Theorist of New Labour

Although the British Communist Party was nowhere as strong as its Italian equivalent, the bourgeoisie was nevertheless delighted to learn of its dissolution. And a key role in this was played by Professor Hobsbawm. Not only did Hobsbawm actively participate in destroying the CPGB from within, he also actively collaborated with the right wing of the Labour Party in defeating the Left. That was even more valuable to the establishment.

Hobsbawm and Jacques wished to dissolve the CPGB into the “Left”, in particular the soft left around Neil Kinnock in the Labour Party. It is therefore no accident that when Hobsbawm died, right wing Labour leader Ed Miliband did not waste any time before joining in the chorus of flatterers.

According to Miliband Hobsbawm was:

“[...] an extraordinary historian, a man passionate about his politics and a great friend of my family [...] But he was not simply an academic, he cared deeply about the political direction of the country. Indeed he was one of the first people to recognise the challenges to Labour in the late 1970s and 1980s from the changing nature of our society.

“He was also a lovely man, with whom I had some of the most stimulating and challenging conversations about politics and the world.”

In what way did Hobsbawm “recognise the challenges to Labour in the late 1970s and 1980s”? And what role did he play in the creation of New Labour? Like many on the Left in the 1980s Hobsbawm was plunged into pessimism. He had no confidence in the working class, or the perspective of socialism. These sceptical moods were reflected in his1982 article The State of the Left in Western Europe, which presents a bleak picture:

“... unlike the 1930s, the Left today can neither point to an alternative society immune to the crisis (as the USSR seemed to be) nor to any concrete policies which hold much promise for overcoming it in the short term (as Keynesian or similar policies seemed to promise then).”

As we have seen, Hobsbawm had by now completely written off the working class:

“The manual working class, core of traditional socialist labour parties, is today contracting and not expanding. […] It has been transformed, and to some extent divided, by the decades when its standard of living reached levels undreamed of even by the well-paid in 1939. It can no longer be assumed that all workers are on the way to recognising that their class situation must align them behind a socialist workers party, though there are still many millions who believe this.”

These ideas were music to their ears of the bourgeoisie and Labour’s right wing (which are basically the same thing). They immediately recognised in Professor Hobsbawm a most valuable ally. They provided a useful theoretical justification for Labour’s right wing, which was involved in a bitter struggle against the Left in the Labour Party. It is no accident that the press, particularly The Guardian, built him up at that time.

The ruling class had had a nasty shock when the Marxists succeeded in winning a sizeable influence in the Labour Party in the 1970s. They organized a split away of the right-wing, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), in order to undermine Labour, and at the same time orchestrated a vast witch hunt against the Militant Tendency and the Labour Left, especially Tony Benn. Their chief agent in the campaign to defeat the Labour Left and push the Labour Party to the right was the arch-careerist Neil Kinnock.

Hobsbawm enthusiastically supported Neil Kinnock's struggle against the Labour Left headed by Tony Benn, and the Militant Tendency. For his part Kinnock spoke approvingly (and ironically) of Hobsbawm as “my favourite Marxist.” This was at the very time he was organising a witch-hunt against the Marxists in the Labour Party.

Obediently taking his cue from the establishment and the media, he took up the struggle against the Left with the zeal of a crusader, which caused a damaging split in Labour, demoralised its activists and lost support. As a result, despite the unpopularity of the Thatcher government, he succeeded in losing two general elections. 

This loud-mouthed parvenu held the unenviable record of the longest-serving Leader of the Opposition in British political history to date, and the longest never to have become Prime Minister. Interviewed on Channel Four the day after Hobsbawm died, Kinnock, in his usual brash “boyo” style, bragged that he had used the arguments of this “Marxist” to combat “the Bennite Left and the Militant Tendency”, adding that when he mentioned this to Hobsbawm, “Eric thought it was a good idea.”

After the election defeat of 1983, Hobsbawm advocated an alliance with the traitors of the right-wing split-off from Labour – the SDP and their Liberal allies, presenting them as the “anti-Thatcher forces”. This Lib-Lab policy was the basis on which Blairism was founded. Blair himself believed that the Labour Party should never have been founded, and advocated closer links with the Liberals – a position still maintained by Labour’s right wing.

Hobsbawm’s rightward slide thus ended him right in the camp of Blairism and the right wing of the British Labour Party, for which he became an adviser and ideologue. He was Kinnock’s “favourite Marxist” for the very simple reason that he was not a Marxist at all. His only role was to provide the Labour right wing with “profound” arguments to justify their struggle against the Marxists in the Labour Party.

In order to justify his active support for New Labour, Hobsbawm said it was “better to have a Labour government than not.” Later on, when the name of Tony Blair stank so much that it was no longer possible for anyone remotely on the Left to defend him, Hobsbawm made a few feeble criticisms of him. This was an attempt to cover the tracks and make people forget that his right wing revisionist theories helped prepare the ground for the Third Way, New Labour, Tony Blair and all.

Some try to defend his capitulation to Blairism by pointing out that he was critical of the conduct of the “war on terrorism” and accused the United States of trying to “re-colonise” the world. That is not saying much, when the vast majority of people in Britain were opposed to the invasion of Iraq and cheap anti-Americanism is the most devalued of all currencies in the former Stalinist “Left”.

Labour’s right wing has every reason to be grateful to this man. But the Left has no reason whatsoever.

Part 3 >