Stalin, Pol Pot, Eric Hobsbawm, and me
Eisenhowers death camps, Stalins rape and liquidation of Germans, Mao's sixty million murdered brethren, Jewish influence and control over this worlds affairs and globalism since 1900 a.d. Hush! Hush! It is verboten! The auther of "Reading the Maps" is an obvious hateful devil of the same ilk as Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot etc.. Constant division and hate and change and revolution is their agenda, it is the enemy of mankinds agenda... it is in Marx's words International Socialism... constant division and revolution so that national bonding and unity is forever destroyed. Welcome to the conspiered and established global machine that no one can escape.
Any expression of anti-semitism depresses me, but I find something particularly melancholy about the conspiracy theory in which poodag and his ilk so often embed their Jew-hatred. For the poodags of this world, every aspect of political and economic life, from the vacillations of sharemarkets to parliamentary debates to industrial conflicts, is the product of a carefully guarded and impossibly clever scheme, hatched by a few crook-nosed men in a secluded beige room. All of the extraordinary variety of the world, with its two hundred or so nations and innumerable political and religious ideologies, and every curious niche and cranny of history is ultimately the product of this handful of conspirators. Opposition to the 'global machine' which these conspirators oil and polish is, of course, futile. The likes of poodag make an infinitely complex and endlessly malleable world into something homogenous and invulnerable to influence. Their ideology is not only bigoted - it is dull and hopeless.
Poodag's anti-semitism may be relatively rare today, but his inability to appreciate the complexity of the world and its history is not. I've argued before that citizens of the twenty-first century West have difficulty in relating to the past. We either treat the eras which preceded ours as completely alien, with no lessons to offer us, or else we go to the opposite extreme, and consider the past wholly in terms of our contemporary values and preoccupations.
The recent passing of a great historian has prompted a typical outpouring of historical misunderstanding. Eric Hobsbawm, who died last week at the age of ninety-five, had been the most famous and longest-surviving the young historians who socialised and studied together as members of the Communist Party of Great Britain during the years after World War Two. Where most other members of the Communist Party Historians Group, like Christopher Hill, who revolutionised our understanding of the English revolution, and John Saville, who helped bring oral history to Britain, left the party in 1956 or 1957, after the invasion of Hungary and revelations about the extent of Stalin's crimes, Hobsbawm remained in the organisation as a sort of 'internal exile'. His politics moved to the right over the years, and in the 1980s and early '90s he became a mentor to first Neil Kinnock and then Tony Blair, as they moved the Labour Party away from its working class and social democratic roots.
After making his name with a series of lapidarian studies of nineteenth and early twentieth century English history, including an essay which magisterially disposed of the myth that Methodism prevented an English revolution early in the nineteenth century and a long and contemptuous consideration of the Fabian Society, Hobsbawm began to travel in time and space, producing a book about Peru, a treatise on the history of banditry, and, eventually, a series of bestselling volumes which traced the history of the entire world from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution until the end of the Cold War.
Writing in the Daily Mail, one of Blighty's more febrile tabloids, AN Wilson called Hobsbawm a 'barmy old fool' who 'openly hated Britain' and thought Stalin 'wonderful'.
For blogger John Phelan, Hobsbawm was 'the Marxist version' of notorious Holocaust denier David Irving. Phelan cannot understand why an old commie like Hobsbawm, who was a member of the party during Stalin's rule of the Soviet Union, did not attract the same oppobrium as an ex-Nazi:
It is one of the great mysteries of intellectual life in the last few decades that anyone who confesses to a youthful flirtation with Nazism or fascism is shunned by polite society until a sufficiently long and intense period of penance had passed, while a youthful fondness for communism is presented as one of those harmless things...
Instead of trying to engage with the history of the most tragic years of the twentieth century, Hobsbawm's critics make a series of deductions. They are note that Stalin was a tyrant and a mass murderer, remember that Hitler was also a tyrant and a mass murderer, and then decide that members of a political party which supported Stalin in the 1930s and '40s must have been, for all intents and purposes, no different from members of a Hitlerite organisation.
humanitarianism and idealism, by contrast, motivated many rank and file communists in the '30s and '40s.
Hobsbawm's critics might reasonably argue that the veneration of Stalin by western communist parties was just as ignoble as the adulation that fascists gave to Hitler. But whereas Hitler's behaviour was a fulfilment of fascist doctrine, Stalin's crimes were a betrayal of the principles that he and his followers proclaimed. Stalin denounced imperialism whilst deporting whole nations, like the Crimean Tartars, to the obscurity of the Siberian taiga. He paid tribute to the workers of the world while assembling armies of slaves to dam and drain the Volga and a score of other rivers. He spoke of defending Spanish democracy whilst using Soviet troops to crush the democratic workers' and peasants' councils of Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia. He praised poetry while sending poets to their deaths.
The split between the rhetoric and reality of Stalinism reflected the history and sociology of the Soviet Union. The Russian revolution of 1917 was made by workers and peasants organised into grassroots democractic councils, but in the 1920s a caste of the bureaucrats gradually took control of the society the revolution had made. These usurpers claimed to represent workers and rank and file communists whilst serving their own ends. Their revolutionary rhetoric contrasted with their cynical stewardship of the Soviet state. As the usurper-in-chief, Stalin took hypocrisy to an extreme. He praised and buried the revolution at the same time.
Hobsbawm became a teenage communist in Berlin, while watching Hitler march towards political power in the early 1930s. In 1933 he fled to Britain, where he soon joined the local communist party. For Hobsbawm and thousands of other young men and women, the party was the only force in British life prepared to oppose the insurgent fascism and decadent capitalism of the '30s.
If we understand the differences in the policies and culture of communist and fascist parties of the 1930s and '40s, and if we consider Eric Hobsbawm's biography, then we can see his membership of the Communist Party of Great Britain as something other than an expression of 'hatred for Britain' or love of Stalin's purges and gulags. To appreciate the differences between a rank and file Nazi and a rank and a rank and file communist in Hobsbawm's era, though, we have to make an effort of historical imagination. We have to project ourselves into the world of the '30s, with all contradictions, complexities, and confusions, rather than make pat judgements from our perch in the twenty-first century.
[Posted by Scott/Maps]