Home / Sezioni / globi / The unrepentant Eric Hobsbawm, an obituary

facebook-link twitter-link


Registrati alla newsletter di sbilanciamoci.info


Ultimi link in questa sezione

Turni di 12 ore e dormitori, l’Europa di Foxconn sembra la Cina
La vera tragedia europea è la Germania
Redistributing Work Hours
Institutions and Policies
A Finance Minister Fit for a Greek Tragedy?
I dannati di Calais
Are creditors pushing Greece deliberately into default?

The unrepentant Eric Hobsbawm, an obituary


Eric Hobsbawm outlived his short twentieth century (1917-1991) by more than twenty years. And right to the end he was still the object of scandal for having been far too long a communist. ‘You see’, he might have said, (‘you see’ was one of his habitual linguistic tics) ‘there have been many communists among major historians, but they left. Some stayed on the left (E.P. Thompson), some moved right (Annie Kriegel, François Furet). I stayed until the end, the bitter end.’


Since even the popular media agree that Hobsbawm was a remarkable historian, a great historian, and some even say that he was the greatest living historian (something which he found rather unconvincing and a little embarrassing), it begs the question: how can an impenitent communist be a great historian? Indeed, whenever Hobsbawm was interviewed, especially in Britain or the United States, sooner or later, the utterly predictable questions would pop up. And why did you support the USSR? And why did you stay so long in the communist party? (the sub-text here being ‘the producer insisted I should ask you this because it would look odd if I didn’t’). The interviewer would offer a challenge: Here is the opportunity to denounce your past, to repent, to say sorry. Take the chance. Admit it: you were wrong!


Although he has consistently refused to abjure, he freely admitted mistakes, erroneous interpretations, his belated realization of the gravity of Stalin’s crimes (Khrushchev’s speech was to him a revelation). However, on the substance: ‘are you sorry to have been a communist?’ he always remained unrepentant.