Eric Hobsbawm's Faith-Based Marxism


Writing at The Wall Street Journal, Reason Contributing Editor (and former staffer) Michael C. Moynihan takes aim at British historian Eric Hobsbawm's new book How to Change the World: Reflections on Marx and Marxism. As Moynihan writes:

For anyone who has visited an American college campus in the past half-century, Mr. Hobsbawm's core argument will be familiar: The Marxism practiced by Lenin, Stalin and Mao was a clumsy misinterpretation of Marx's theories and, as such, doesn't invalidate the communist project. True, the East Bloc societies practicing what was called "actually existing socialism" (which Mr. Hobsbawm determines, ex post facto, didn't actually exist) ended in economic disaster, but experiments in "market fundamentalism also failed," he says. It is unclear to which "fundamentalist" governments he is referring, but it's important for Mr. Hobsbawm to establish a loose moral equivalence between Thatcherism and the ossified economies controlled or guided by Moscow.

One wouldn't know it from "How to Change the World," but Mr. Hobsbawm wasn't always convinced that the Soviet Union, along with its puppets and imitators, was misunderstanding the essence of Marxism. He never relinquished his membership in the Communist Party, even after Moscow's invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Indeed, he began his writing career with a co-authored pamphlet defending the indefensible Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939. "To this day," he writes in his memoirs, "I notice myself treating the memory and tradition of the USSR with an indulgence and tenderness." There was some ugliness in the socialist states occupied by Moscow, he admitted in 2002, but "leaving aside the victims of the Berlin Wall," East Germany was a pleasant place to live. Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

Read the rest here.