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Thoughts on Eric Hobsbawm’s politics

28 March, 2019

Eric Hobsbawm

• RATHER surprisingly, Dan Carrier’s well-rounded review of the biography of Eric Hobsbawm failed to mention his Jewishness, something which he often referred to, (Multifaceted past master, March 14).

Considering the controversy that hung over his long membership of the British Communist Party it was more than revealing, in my opinion, that he once said that the Soviet Union bore the heaviest losses against Germany in the Second World War and if it had not been for their victory he – as a Jew – would not be alive.

In contrast to other Communist historians and academics who threw in their membership over the twists and turns of the party’s policies in the 1950s and 1960s Hobsbawm retained his.

I had the occasional conversation with him and often thought he was less a revolutionary Communist and more a Social Democrat in the tradition of the early radical Labour Party founders.

I attended one of his last talks at London University where, perhaps thinking about his past disappointments, he summoned his enthusiasm for what he seemed to see as the first steps in “socialism” then taking place in Bolivia, Venezuela and Brazil.

If he saw the latest turn of events in Latin America I feel somehow  he was the sort of socialist who would not allow it to dent his optimism.

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