Eric Hobsbawm, great Marxist historian who kept his cool

Published on People’s World, by Norman Markowitz, October 3, 2012.

I was saddened to hear of the death of Eric Hobsbawm, one of the great Marxist historians writing in the English language of my lifetime. Hobsbawm died Oct. 1 in London at age 95 … //

… Niall Ferguson, a leading historian of the contemporary Anglo-American right who is the exact opposite of everything that Eric Hobsbawm was – hip defender of imperialism, former Thatcherite, adviser to McCain in 2008, writer for Newsweek and Time, opponent of the Obama administration and supporter of Mitt Romney today – actually wrote that Eric Hobsbawm’s four-volume general world history (The Age of Revolution, The Age of Empire, The Age of Capital, The Age of Extremes – also published collectively as The Making of the Modern World) was “the best starting point for anyone I know to begin studying modern history.”

The Eric Hobsbawm I remember would have smiled at that and suggested that Ferguson take his own advice.

Eric Hobsbawm loved jazz, which the great CPUSA critic Sidney Finkelstein long ago rightly called “a people’s music.” Hobsbawm wrote about it under the name of Frankie Newton (Billie Holliday’s Communist trumpeter) for the left British publication The New Statesman.

He wrote as prolifically as Foner or Aptheker and continued to do so for the rest of his life, as they did.

For what might be called the academic establishment (work that graduate students are supposed to remember on examinations) his best known works were probably Primitive Rebels (1959) and, with George Rude, Captain Swing.

I have long used two of the general histories that Ferguson alluded to, The Age of Empire (1875-1914) and The Age of Extremes (1914-1991), in courses that I teach on the history of socialism and communism. Along with the first two volumes in the series, The Age of Revolution (1789-1848) and The Age of Capital (1848-1875), they are more than an introduction to modern history. They provide a framework for understanding history.

Eric Hobsbawm was involved in many battles within the Communist Party of Great Britain over the decades and as a scholar and an activist took positions that I and many readers would both agree and disagree with. Up to his death he was still active, still reading and still writing, fighting his last battle against leukemia. To the end, from my readings and personal acquaintance, he was both his own man and a man of the left. He lives on through his work and through all who knew him. (full text).

Links – Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez wins re-election:

Chavez wins his fourth term in office after defeating opposition challenger Henrique Capriles, electoral office says, on AlJazeera, by , Oct. 8, 2012: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been re-elected to another six-year term after defeating opposition leader Henrique Capriles, electoral council has said. The 58-year-old Chavez took 54.42 per cent of the vote, with 90 per cent of the ballots counted, to 44.97 per cent for young opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, official results showed on Sunday …

on YouTube (all languages);

video on Russia Today RT, 5.45 min;

on SOCIALIST UNITY, by John Wight, Oct. 8, 2012;

Venezuela’s Chavez re-elected to extend socialist rule, on Reuters.

Comments are closed.