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December 16, 2012

Video clips from the sage of Hampstead

Some felt I was hard on Hobsbawm here. Take a look at these interviews, and judge for yourself.

First Paxman – click here. At 2 mins 10 seconds in, Hobsbawm says “one element of production has become surplus to requirement, namely people”.  I guess that’s why wages – the price of people – keep rising. Real wage rises were a sign of falling demand in Hobsworld! Oh where was Julian Simon?

At 3:45, after noting that we can feed ourselves with the labour of two percent of people, and a similarly small fraction can provide most other basic goods, he says: “And that’s where the real danger lies.”  For Hobsbum, comfortable in his academic lifestyle, freeing others from the grind of subsistence farming was a problem.

Here’s the infamous Michael Ignatieff interview – key exchange about 13.05.

Ignatieff: “Had the radiant tomorrow actually been created, the loss of 15, 20 million people, might it have been justified?”

Hobsbawm: “Yes.”

It’s no slip of the tongue. When I first heard about it, I assumed it would look different in context. But the context makes it worse. Eric “for the Party the more blood the better” Hobsbawn, draws analogies between Stalin’s genocides  and deaths caused by the Allies in the 1st and 2nd World Wars. Pure sophistry. Does anyone really think the 1st WW deaths were justified by the fragile peace that came after? Who else compares Allied sacrifices to defeat Hitler, with Stalin killing his own people in the name of Communism?

There’s more. At 18:30, he openly admits to lying by omission about the Soviet Union. At 23:15, Ignatieff asks why he didn’t leave the Party after the repeated Soviet invasions of independent countries, and as analogy tells a politically incorrect joke about a Southern Belle: “It was rape, rape, rape, judge. All summer long”. Hobsbawm just sniggers.

Here is Sue Lawley from Desert Island Discs. At 22:40, referring to why he stayed in The Party after the Hungarian invasion, “I didn’t wish to lose that moral high ground.” Lawley is struck speechless!  At 29:00, “I’m a common sense communist!”  We’re all struck speechless!  At 32:30, he sees increasing barbarism in the West, and claims late 20th century life in Northern Ireland would have been intolerable in the 19th century. Was this man really a historian?

He’s dead now, but state violence in the name of communism isn’t, and his books still lie around. Don’t forget.

Jim Thornton

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