Hobsbawm, part 3: The Professor Joins the Establishment

“The news of the death of capitalism is at least premature, the economic and social system that has dominated the world for hundreds of years is not even sick, just look at China to be convinced and see the future. In the East, the masses of peasants are entering into the world of waged labour, leaving the rural world and becoming proletarians. A new phenomenon has been born, unprecedented in history, state capitalism, where the old enlightened bourgeoisie, creative, even if predatory – such as Marx described in the Communist Manifesto – has been substituted by public institutions. In short, we are not seeing the apocalypse and no revolution is around the corner. Capitalism is simply changing its skin”.

Crisis? What Crisis?

I have just read an interview with Eric Hobsbawm by Wlodek Goldkorn, in L'Espresso. Like most of his later writings, it is a collection of incoherent ramblings that are difficult to make head or tail of. But one or two sentences stand out in glorious Technicolor. Hobsbawm assures the readers of L'Espresso that there is no great cause for concern about the future of capitalism. This is how Goldkorn sums up the interview:

“The news of the death of capitalism is at least premature, the economic and social system that has dominated the world for hundreds of years is not even sick, just look at China to be convinced and see the future. In the East, the masses of peasants are entering into the world of waged labour, leaving the rural world and becoming proletarians. A new phenomenon has been born, unprecedented in history, state capitalism, where the old enlightened bourgeoisie, creative, even if predatory – such as Marx described in the Communist Manifesto – has been substituted by public institutions. In short, we are not seeing the apocalypse and no revolution is around the corner. Capitalism is simply changing its skin”.

Whenever he speaks about socialism, Professor Hobsbawm is plunged into the deepest pessimism. But when he speaks of the future prospects for capitalism, he immediately perks up and expresses his complete confidence in its future prospects. One would seek in vain in the editorials of the bourgeois press to find such optimism today. Indeed, the Italian journalist did not appear to be wholly convinced by the Professor’s hopeful diagnosis, and ventures to ask the latter whether there is a cure for a system, which, with due respect, is very clearly sick.

To the question, “Is there a cure?” the Professor replies:

“Yes, as long as you understand that the economy is not an end in itself, but affects humans [!]. It can be seen by looking at the progress of the crisis. According to the antiquated beliefs of the Left, the crisis is likely to produce revolutions. We have not seen this (except for some angry protests). And since we do not know what problems are going to arise, we cannot know what the solution will be.”

These statements resemble those of the Delphic Oracle. They sound mysterious and profound, but are totally lacking in any concrete content. Our attention is drawn to the fact that the economy is not an end in itself. When our Palaeolithic ancestors first made a stone axe, it seems that this was not a self-sufficient act but actually meant for some purpose. Such a wonderful discovery merits high recognition.

Pursuing this great discovery, the Professor now informs us that economic activity affects humans. This profound truth has a universal application, and can be shown to be true of every known aspect of human productive activity. It can be applied with confidence, not only to capitalism, but to every mode of production known to us, past present or future.

Someone might respectfully point out to Professor Hobsbawm that the capitalist system, as well as affecting humans, is well known to be based on production for profit. However, ignoring this well-known fact, the Red Professor continues his variations on the theme of economic activity “affecting humans”, from which he draws an interesting conclusion.

State Capitalism?

“It is not obvious that capitalism could function without institutions such as Welfare. Welfare is usually managed by the State. Therefore I think that state capitalism has a great future.”

Here again, the Professor returns to that spirit of optimism that always characterises his vision of capitalism. And if ordinary capitalism does not work, we can always have state capitalism instead. Precisely what this state capitalism consists of we are never told. But anyway, it has a wonderful future.

Hobsbawm claimed that state capitalism will replace the free market. This is his real perspective. There is no question of socialism. What is required is managed capitalism, regulated capitalism, well-mannered capitalism, and civilized capitalism – capitalism with a human face.

In this wonderful new Hobsbawmian world, the state will ensure that capitalism behaves itself. It will introduce the necessary rules and regulations to avoid unnecessary unpleasantness (“class struggle”) caused by excessive levels of inequality. The sun will shine. The era of universal happiness will dawn and humanity will live happy ever after.

Now since Professor Hobsbawm to the end of his life persisted in describing himself as a Marxist, we presume that he was aware of the Marxist theory of the state. Marx, Engels and Lenin explained that the state was an organ of coercion for the purpose of maintaining the rule of one class over the whole of society. There has never been, and there never can be, a state that exists in and for itself.

The idea that the state can be a neutral arbiter between the classes, an impartial organism standing above society, is a myth that is carefully cultivated by the ruling class in order to conceal the reality of its domination. This mystical idea of the state was swallowed by the Social Democratic reformists as an excuse for their abandonment of revolution. It was people like Kautsky and Bernstein who provided a theoretical cover for this capitulation.

Eric Hobsbawm is not even original in his revisionism. He merely regurgitated Bernstein’s reformist nonsense.One might say that there was apparently some justification for this idea before the First World War, when capitalism was still in an expanding phase. The economy was going forward, living standards were improving for many people, and the bourgeoisie could afford to give concessions and reforms. But that is not the case now.

Everywhere the bourgeoisie demands a reduction in living standards. They have plundered the state to save the private banks, and they are determined to pass the bill on to the workers and the middle class. The state is bankrupt in the most literal sense of the word. We are told repeatedly that there is no money for schools, hospitals, houses or pensions.

Far from standing for reforms, the Social Democrats are everywhere carrying out the cuts demanded by the bankers and capitalists. But this policy merely aggravates the crisis, creating conditions for a new collapse. The bourgeoisie and its tame economists have no idea how to get out of the crisis. The only thing they all agree upon is that there must be austerity for years, if not decades. And this is a finished recipe for an intensification of the class struggle.

Under these conditions, to imagine that the state, which is controlled by the bourgeoisie, can regulate the system and solve the crisis is worse than utopian. It is plain stupid. If you accept the existence of capitalism, then you must also accept the laws of capitalism. These laws are very simple.

If the economy is in private hands, it will depend upon private investment in order to function. But the capitalists will only invest if they can obtain what they consider to be an acceptable rate of profit. Therefore the duty of the state is to create favourable conditions for the bankers and capitalists to make the highest profits possible.

How is this to be done? By reducing what the capitalists see as unnecessary burdens and obstacles to making profit. The level of taxation on the rich must therefore not rise but fall to the lowest level. This means making the necessary adjustments (that is, reductions) in unnecessary items of state expenditure such as education, social housing, health and pensions.

That is why every government is slashing public spending on these things, and from a capitalist point of view that is absolutely correct and necessary. It is useless to complain about this. If we accept the capitalist system, it is pointless to protest about the consequences. The idea that we can have capitalism with a human face is approximately like asking a man-eating tiger to eat salad instead of flesh.

Socialism or Barbarism

Hobsbawm continues:

“I wrote a while ago that we lived with the idea of two alternative ways: capitalism on the one side and socialism on the other. But this is a weird idea that Marx never had. Instead, he explained that this system, capitalism, would one day be overcome. If we look at the reality: the U.S., the Netherlands, Britain, Switzerland, Japan, we can reach the conclusion that it is not a single and coherent system. There are many variants of capitalism.”

It is not the case that Marx only spoke of capitalism or socialism. Nor is it true that he simply envisaged a sudden leap “from here to there”. He wrote at some length in works such as Critique of the Gotha Programme that between capitalism and socialism there is a transitional period, a workers’ state or, to use the old expression, the dictatorship of the proletariat. He never used the phrase state capitalism for the very good reason that it is a confusing and unscientific formulation.

Marx and Engels did, however, deal with the tendency of the state to encroach on the economy under capitalism, a fact that indirectly shows the limitations of the capitalist market economy. The fact that today in every country the big banks are entirely dependent on state aid for their survival is a very dramatic indication that the capitalist system has indeed exhausted its potential and needs to be “overcome”, or to speak in plain English, overthrown and replaced with something better.

But our Eric does not want to overthrow anything. He has an altogether better idea. Since capitalism exists in a multiplicity of forms, one can presumably choose the best kind of capitalism, leaving aside bad, neo-liberal capitalism and selecting good, Keynesian, civilized capitalism instead. It is like an enormous smorgasbord, where one can pick the tastiest morsels, leaving the more unappetising items at the side of the plate.

It is a comforting picture. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the reality of the present situation. Everywhere the bourgeoisie is demanding deep cuts in public spending. Far from expanding and perfecting the welfare state, they are determined to abolish it altogether. The profound universal truth that “economics affects humans” cannot help us answer the question that was actually asked, which is whether there is a cure to the present crisis of capitalism.

Instead of telling us what the cure might be the Professor hastens to tell us what it is not. He rejects with the utmost disdain “the antiquated beliefs of the Left”, namely that the crisis is likely to produce revolutions. The man who wrote at such great length (and not at all badly) about revolutions in the past now assures us that there is no question of revolutions in the future. But since a revolution is only a fundamental change in society, in the mode of production and distribution and in the property relations that rest upon this, what he means is that, with capitalism, history has effectively come to a halt.

Why capitalism should be any different to other socio-economic systems that preceded it we do not know, and the Professor makes no attempt to enlighten us. His only logic is the following: since capitalism exists and has not yet been overthrown, it must continue to exist for the foreseeable future.

The fact that it is in crisis, that it is sinking and dragging society down with it, all this is a matter of supreme indifference to the Professor, although not to the millions of people who are suffering the consequences and acting accordingly. The real alternative before the human race is not between “bad” capitalism (“neo-liberalism”) and “good” capitalism (Keynesianism) but between socialism and barbarism, as Marx maintained.

The Happiness Principle

The Professor continues his lecture:

“Look at history. The USSR tried to suppress the private sector, and it was a resounding defeat. On the other hand, the attempt of the ultra-liberals also failed miserably. The question is not therefore what the mix of public with private will be, but what is the object of this mix. Or rather what the purpose of this is. And the purpose can not just be merely economic growth. It is not true that well-being is linked to the increase in the worldwide total output.”

We apologise to the reader for this incoherent gibberish. But, it is what the professor actually said. What then is the true purpose of the economy? The interviewer helpfully prods the old man in the right direction:

Q: “Is the purpose of the economy happiness?”
A: “Sure.”

Here the profundity of the argument reaches its zenith (or should we say its nadir?) The purpose of the economy is - happiness! But we knew that a long time ago, when Jeremy Bentham, that arch-bourgeois philosopher who Marx heartily despised, invented his “happiness principle”.

Now, as a matter of fact, the capitalist system is already designed to produce happiness, and it succeeds very well in this objective. The bankers, landowners and capitalists are in general quite happy with the present system. They are getting fabulous profits even when the vast majority see their living standards slashed. It is also quite true that their happiness is in inverse proportion to that of the vast majority of the human race.

All this is not surprising since, as Marx explained, the happiness of one class is obtained at the cost of the misery of the majority. This is what leads to the class struggle, which Professor Hobsbawm once wrote so eloquently about, but which in his old age was just a vague memory.

It is regrettably a bit late to ask old Eric a question, but we would like to pose it all the same, for the benefit of those misguided souls who still believe that the deceased was some kind of Marxist. We ask how is it possible to bring about an economy based on the achievement of “the greatest happiness for the greatest number” (to quote old Jeremy Bentham), while leaving the land, the banks and the big monopolies in the hands of the one percent of the population?

No matter how you twist and turn, it is impossible to answer this question except in the negative. In other words, it is impossible to arrive at “the greatest happiness for the greatest number” unless the fundamental levers of economic power are taken out of the hands of the one percent and placed under the control and direction of the majority, the people who actually produce the wealth of society – the working class.

But here we immediately hit a problem. Since the ruling one percent are extremely happy with their situation, they are not at all anxious to change it and would be extremely unhappy if anybody suggested such a thing. Moreover, since this happy one percent happen to have in their hands the mass media, a lot of money and the state, one might imagine that they would use all this to protect their happiness against the unhappy majority.

This naturally brings us back to the starting point. Hobsbawm denies any possibility of revolution. Yet all history shows (even the books of the Professor himself) that no ruling class or caste has ever surrendered its power, wealth and privileges without a fight – and that usually means a fight with no holds barred.

Why should matters be any different now? Do we honestly think that the present day ruling class is any different to the rulers of France in 1789 or of Russia in 1917? Are they kinder, wiser, more democratic, more humane? Evidently that is what reformists like Hobsbawm believe. And they have the audacity to describe the Marxists as utopians!

Do We Need Economic Growth?

We have already quoted Hobsbawm’s words: “the purpose is not just economic growth. It is not true that well-being is linked to the increase in the worldwide total output.”

These words make absolutely no sense. They certainly have nothing in common with Marxism. When we talk about a nationalised planned economy we are not talking about “the worldwide total output” but only of the national economy, at least in the first place. For it is on this that well-being depends above all.

The bourgeois economists and politicians (and also the reformists) are always saying to the workers and the middle class: “Look, we cannot give you more schools, hospitals and pensions because there is a crisis. We must first pay off the deficit. We must all make sacrifices.” In such a situation, it is impossible to speak of well-being. On the contrary, we face years if not decades of cuts, austerity and falling living standards.

When Hobsbawm says that well-being does not depend on economic growth, Hobsbawm is just talking nonsense. That is precisely what it does depend on. Unless we are able to say how a high rate of economic growth can be achieved, how the wealth of society can be increased, we will have no alternative but to accept the logic of cuts and austerity that flows inevitably from the crisis of capitalism.

Why do we need to nationalise the means of production? It is not because we are vengeful towards the bourgeoisie. Nor is it for sentimental or dogmatic reasons. It is because the only cure for unemployment is an economy based on a rational plan that is not subordinate to the vested interests of a small group of profiteers.

Once the fundamental levers of the economy are in our hands, we can plan the economy as a harmonious and rational whole. We would begin by mobilising the unemployed in a crash plan to build houses, hospitals, schools and universities. We could set in motion all the unused productive potential, such that the wealth of society would flow more freely than ever before. Under such circumstances, the problem of deficits would disappear immediately.

That is a clear and coherent strategy and programme for getting out of the crisis. Here there is not an atom of utopianism. All this would easily be possible on the basis of the existing productive apparatus and technology. The problem is not that the productive base for progress does not exist. It exists and has been in existence for a long time. But it is paralysed by the outmoded straitjacket of private ownership and the nation state.

Yet for our Eric this was impossible utopianism. He, on the contrary, regarded himself as a supreme realist. What does his realistic recipe consist of? Let us quote his words: “We have a moral obligation to try to build a society with more equality. A country where there is more equity is probably a better country, but what the degree of equality a nation can stand is not at all clear.”

Here we find ourselves in the purest of pure Utopias. We are time travellers who have landed back in the ideal world of Robert Owen, Saint Simon and Fourier. Or rather (for we do not wish to do an injustice to those mighty thinkers), we have gone back two thousand years and find ourselves listening to the Sermon on the Mount.

In this peculiar world in the clouds, we are motivated, not by objective conditions like the crisis of capitalism, but by a “moral obligation”, which sounds more like Emmanuel Kant (the Categorical Imperative) than Karl Marx. Our task is not to fight for socialism (which is utopian) but to “build a society with more equality”. This society would “probably be better” (we are not quite sure). Nor are we quite sure precisely “how much equality society can stand” (one can have too much of a good thing...).

All this is as clear as mud. What is really astonishing is how any serious person can take this empty chatter about “morality” and “equality” for serious argument. Capitalism is unequal by its very nature. And morality does not come into it.

Mixed Economy?

Let us now follow the Professor from Italy to Britain. In an interview with The Guardian published under the title: “Socialism has failed. Now capitalism is bankrupt. So what comes next?”, Hobsbawm is quoted as saying:

 “Impotence therefore faces both those who believe in what amounts to a pure, stateless, market capitalism, a sort of international bourgeois anarchism, and those who believe in a planned socialism uncontaminated by private profit-seeking. Both are bankrupt. The future, like the present and the past, belongs to mixed economies in which public and private are braided together in one way or another. But how? That is the problem for everybody today, but especially for people on the left.” (The Guardian, 10 April 2009)

This is the comfortable position of a man who, standing (or rather lying supine) on the sidelines, issues a stern judgment on the human race. He is neither for capitalism nor socialism. He is above it all. He repeats the words of wisdom of King Solomon: “vanity, vanity, all is vanity”.

To juxtapose a mixed economy to capitalism is as ignorant as it is foolish. Every capitalist economy is “mixed”, in the sense that there is always a degree of state participation in economic life. There are certain sectors that are unprofitable and of no interest to private investors, but at the same time are necessary for the functioning of the economy as a whole. For example, the nationalization of the post office in Britain was carried out by the Conservatives in the 19th century.

The policy of the bourgeois and the reformists is: nationalize the losses and privatise the profits. Marxists, on the contrary, advocate the nationalization of the key points of economic life under democratic workers’ control and management. We will not nationalize small businesses and farms, however. That is not at all necessary, since they have no independent existence under capitalism but are dependent on the banks, monopolies, supermarkets etc.

Only by removing the latter from private ownership will it be possible to put an end to the nightmare of capitalist anarchy and begin to plan production on rational lines, for the benefit of the majority not the profits of the few.

The most serious problem for the Left is that it does not propose an alternative to decadent capitalism. And this is to a large extent because it is dominated by ex-Stalinists like Hobsbawm who have completely abandoned socialism, and whose most earnest wish is to ensure that the road to socialism is blocked to the young generation.

Everyone, you see, is “impotent” – everyone, that is, except for Professor Hobsbawm who has a profound understanding of everything under the sun and a bit more besides. In fact, the most impotent people are those heroes of the university seminar, who consider themselves to be above history, society, the class struggle and the human race in general, whereas in fact, they stand on an infinitely lower level.

We await with growing impatience his solution to the problems of suffering humanity. Tell us, O Professor, what is the answer? But, as with the oysters in the tale of the Walrus and the Carpenter, “answer came there none.”

Apologist for the Establishment

On May 11, 2006 Repubblica carried an interview with Hobsbawm on Giorgio Napolitano. The journalist,nrico Franceschini, begins by informing the Professor that his old friend Giorgio Napolitano had been elected President of the Republic. Hobsbawm is in ecstasy: “What wonderful news!” he exclaims over the phone from his London home in Hampstead. “My friend Giorgo, President! I’m happy for him, for his party and for Italy. It is an excellent choice.”

Again:

“I think it’s the best choice possible. Napolitano has a very positive image and will be a great president. He is much more than an ex-Communist, as you call him: he had a central role in the political affairs of his party, but he was also a political figure of high quality, appreciated by all for his role as Speaker of the House and Minister of the Interior. I would say that he represents the best tradition of Italy.”

The Professor never stopped to ask why the Italian establishment had decided to make this ex- “Communist” President of the Republic. The answer is not hard to see. This was in grateful recognition for services rendered to the bourgeoisie by Napolitano, the man who, along with other “Communist” leaders, had transformed the once powerful PCI into a bourgeois party – the Democratic Party (PD). In other words, Giorgio Napolitano, like Eric Hobsbawm, has become part of the establishment.

In 1998, in grateful recognition for services rendered, Eric Hobsbawm was made a Companion of Honour by the Queen in the 1998 New Year Honours. This was shortly after Tony Blair became Prime Minister and Blair himself must have been behind it.

One year before his death, this former “communist” set the final seal on his political degeneration by grovelling before the monarchy:

“Constitutional monarchy without executive power has proved a reliable framework for liberal-democratic regimes, such as in the Netherlands, Belgium, Britain and Spain. It is likely to remain useful, if only because it removes politics from the succession problem. (Imagine having to choose any member of the present and past governments as president.) It won’t do any harm for a monarch to practise a religion, but there is no case for identifying a multi or non-religious country with a monarch who is the head of a single faith. Monarchy has ceased to be of relevance to most inhabitants of the Commonwealth. This is likely to become clear after the death of the present Queen.”

The same Hobsbawm who praised the Jacobins who cut off the head of Louis XVI now informs us that constitutional monarchy in general has “proved a reliable framework for liberal-democratic regimes” and “is likely to remain useful.” This little gem was contained in an article suitably entitled “God save the Queen” (Prospect, 23 March 2011)

Can one imagine a more disgusting example of bowing and scraping before the establishment – even in its most retrograde and reactionary manifestations?

Apostasy

In an interview published in La Stampa on 1st July 2012, Hobsbawm was asked:Are you still a communist? He replied as follows:

“Communism no longer exists. They are loyal to the hope of a revolution even though I do not think that will happen again. I do not know enough to be a communist. I’m a Marxist because I think that there will be no stability until capitalism turns into something unrecognizable from capitalism as we know it today.”

In an interview on BBC2 in early 2012, the Professor was asked by Jeremy Paxman whether capitalism was compatible with social justice. He replied: “it can be made to.” At the end of the interview he confessed that he was pessimistic, that he thought that no solution could be found, and that, consequently, we would face “a stormy period for the next 20-30 years.”

It may strike one as somewhat surprising that a man who spent the first half of his life writing books about the class struggle (in the 18th and 19th centuries that is) should spend the second half explaining how the class struggle is a thing of the past. It is even more surprising that he should come to such a conclusion precisely at a time when the class struggle is on the increase worldwide.

Everywhere we see the beginnings of resistance: general strikes, mass demonstrations, occupations, the indignados etc. But the worthy Professor could see nothing but a few “angry protests.” His attitude to revolution is strikingly revealed by his contempt for May 1968 in France. The Economist’s obituary writer noted with ill-concealed satisfaction: “The most famous modern manifestation of leftish fury, in Paris in May 1968, seemed to him a Club Med affair of spoiled middle-class kids[sic]”

In this one spiteful phrase we see not only the complete abandonment of any perspective for socialism, but absolute contempt for the revolutionary potential of the workers and youth. This organic mistrust in the masses was always a hallmark of Stalinism, even in the past when it still spoke of socialism and communism.

Karl Marx once wrote that the German poet Goethe, despite his achievements, still had the philistine’s tail hanging behind him. Despite all his protestations, Hobsbawm had the Stalinist tail hanging down behind him to the end of his days. Lack of confidence in the working class and a haughty contempt for the masses were always part of the bureaucratic psychology. But now, in the period of apostasy that followed the fall of the USSR, this has turned completely rotten.

When I was a child in Wales I grew up on the shores of the Atlantic. There were beautiful beaches with long stretches of golden sand. When one walked along these beaches at low tide, one could see all kinds of grotesque fauna, dead and dying fish. But the tide always came in again. The waves swept away all the old rubbish, and the cleansing waters brought with them oxygen and new life.

There is an analogy between the ocean tides and the class struggle. The latter also ebbs and flows for the obvious reason that the working class cannot always be in struggle. When the class struggle ebbs, it leaves behind traces of demoralisation. The minds of men and women are confused, gripped by moods of pessimism, scepticism and corrosive cynicism.

The tired old men and women who have abandoned any pretence of standing for socialism have become professional cynics whose only aim in life is to infect the young generation with their poisonous scepticism.They are to be found in the cafes in every capital city in Europe, weeping into their herbal tea as they moan about the alleged apathy of the youth while engaging in sentimental memories of the days when they were young and still believed in something.

This is the category of what I call the dead fish, and a dead fish begins to rot at the head. Eric Hobsbawm belonged to that category. Worse still, he tried to theorise his apostasy with all kinds of pretentious pseudo-Marxist arguments. He hid behind his reputation as a “Marxist” scholar to sow confusion and despair in the minds of the young. Whatever merit he may have had in the past as a writer was completely destroyed by this.

It was people like Hobsbawm who consistently defended Stalinism for decades. Then, when they finally abandoned ship, they immediately jumped onto the capitalist and reformist bandwagon, providing erudite reasons as to why socialism cannot work, and why it was impossible to overthrow capitalism, and therefore recommending that people should accept the inevitable and simply try to reform the system to make it a bit more palatable.

Hobsbawm finally concluded that the Russian Revolution was itself a ghastly mistake. As The Economist gloated in its obituary published on 5 October, “Communism collapsed ‘so completely’, he [Hobsbawm] wrote, ‘that it must now be obvious that failure was built into this enterprise from the start.’”

In an obituary in the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto, the author reported a speech by Hobsbawm, after the fall of Berlin wall, in which he said, “Maybe in 1917 it would have been better not to take power.” That sums things up very neatly. And every bourgeois politician, corrupt reformist and counterrevolutionary academic in the world will shout in unison: Amen!

This is false from start to finish. What failed in the USSR was not socialism in any sense that would have been understood by Marx or Lenin. What failed was a bureaucratic and totalitarian caricature of socialism. But what is Hobsbawm’s alternative? Here it is:

“Is there still room for the greatest of all hopes, that of creating a world in which free men and women, emancipated from fear and material need, will live the good life together in a good society? Why not? The nineteenth century taught us that the desire for the perfect society is not satisfied by some predetermined design for living, Mormon, Owenite or whatever; and we may suspect that even if such a new design were to be the shape of the future, we would not know, or be able today to determine, what it would be. The function of the search for the perfect society is not to bring history to a stop, but to open out its unknown and unknowable possibilities to all men and women. In this sense the road to utopia, fortunately for the human race, is not blocked.” (The Guardian, 10 April 2009)

Reading these lines, we can think of a very good final epitaph for Hobsbawm:“From nothing, through nothing, to nothing.” This is the kind of empty gibberish that today passes for profundity in academic circles and among those on the Left who have forgotten how to think.

It is only necessary to compare this nonsense to the crystalline clarity of the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky to see to what an abysmal level the post-modern intellectuals have sunk. One recalls the words of Hegel in The Phenomenology of Mind: “By the little which can thus satisfy the needs of the human spirit we can measure the extent of its loss.”

There are many who have long ago abandoned the struggle for socialism. But there are many more who are coming to the conclusion that capitalism must be overthrown. To those who are too tired, cowardly or demoralised to do so, we only ask one thing: kindly get out of the way and allow us to continue the fight!

19th October 2012.