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1 October 2012
[After a series of interruptions for various reasons this summer, we mark the onset of autumn by relaunching the blog today with the intention of resuming our practice of posting daily]
HOBSBAWM AND JOHN THE BAPTIST
The renowned if controversial Communist historian Eric Hobsbawm CH (Companion of Honour) died today. Born to Jewish parents in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1917, Hobsbawm wrote four seminal historical works: The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789-1848; The Age of Capital: 1848-1875; The Age of Empire: 1875-1914; and The Age of Extremes: the short twentieth century 1914-1991.
In an interview with BBC journalist Andrew Whitehead, originally published on 23 December 2011, Hobsbawm pointed out that it was now the middle class, not the working class, that was making waves:
The old left, to which Hobsbawm belonged, had been left on the margins of recent mass protests and occupations.
According to Hobsbawm:
“The traditional left was geared to a kind of society that is no longer in existence or is going out of business. It believed very largely in the mass labour movement as the carrier of the future. Well, we’ve been de-industrialised, so that’s no longer possible.
“The most effective mass mobilisations today are those which start from a new modernised middle class, and particularly the enormously swollen body of students.
“They are more effective in countries in which, demographically, young men and women are a far greater part of the population than they are in Europe.”
Speaking of the Arab Spring in particular, Hobsbawm added that the militants who kick-started the revolutions had been marginalized by Islamist organizations.
Antigone1984 points out that for a person who was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party of Great Britain for the greater part of his active life Comrade Hobsbawm sometimes took a political stance that is not easy to explain.
For example, he provided intellectual underpinning for the transmogrification of the British Labour Party from a party of the left into a party of the right under reactionary party boss Neil Kinnock – Kinnock playing John the Baptist to his next-but-one successor Anthony Blurr, the “Messiah”, who then abandoned socialism altogether.
Subsequently, Comrade Hobsbawm agreed to become a card-carrying member of the British establishment by accepting Blurr’s offer to make him a Companion of Honour in 1998. The Commonwealth Order of Companions of Honour was founded by King George V in 1917 as a reward for achievement in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry or religion. It is basically a gong for the great and the good. The establishment nature of the order can be seen from a glance at the list of current members: the reigning Monarch, Lord Carrington, Lord Tebbit, Lord Baker, Lord Hurd, Lord Owen, Lord Brooke, Lord Heseltine, Sir John Major….and so on. To be fair, however, we should point out that the 39 current Companions of Honour also include Doris Lessing, Stephen Hawking and Peter Brook. None the less, we are amazed that luminaries of the arts and sciences are so blinded by the stardust of royalty that they fail to see that the acceptance of such honours does nothing to enhance their own status or achievements, which either speak for themselves or do not. The purpose of the awards is to give a boost to a parasitic and philistine monarchy by associating it with the nation’s high achievers.
Why was Hobsbawm, a lifelong Marxist, chosen to join this august band of royal companions? An article entitled “Long live the Queen?”, published in Prospect magazine on 23 March 2011, may provide a clue. In it Hobsbawm said that constitutional monarchy in general had “proved a reliable framework for liberal-democratic regimes” and “is likely to remain useful”.
Curiouser and curiouser!
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question(3 Jan 2012)
2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices(2 Feb 2012)
4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
5.Ladder (21 June 2012)
6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat(31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.