The British magazine, Prospect (no, not the American lot) recently organized a poll to identify the top five ‘public intellectuals’ in Britain. In fourth place was Eric Hobsbawm, the historian who has, for years, defended the delusions, and minimized the crimes, of communism. The poll was supposed to be based on the recent efforts of these learned folk, however, and the elderly Professor Hobsbawm has outlived the system he praised for so long.
So what has this ancient ogre (who has been discussed before both on the Corner and NR ) been up to recently? Blogger Oliver Kamm reminds us:
“According to the historian Robert Conquest, Hobsbawm was asked by Michael Ignatieff in a BBC interview in 1994: “What (your view) comes down to is saying that had the radiant tomorrow actually been created, the loss of 15, 20 million people might have been justified?” He replied: “Yes.”
“Moving to more recent panegyric, Hobsbawm remarks in On History (1997): “Fragile as the communist systems turned out to be, only a limited, even nominal, use of armed coercion was necessary to maintain them from 1957 until 1989.” He means the 27 Soviet divisions, 6,300 tanks and 400,000 troops sent into Czechoslovakia in 1968 to snuff out political reform.”
Now the readers of Prospect are entitled to vote for whom they want, and there’s no denying that the revolting Hobsbawm is, unaccountably, prominent in British intellectual circles, but there’s something else…
Kamm notes that “Prospect’s “five intellectuals” are to be accorded dinner with a Cabinet minister and a newspaper editor, with the conversation recorded for the magazine,” and then adds this:
” If Hobsbawm’s interlocutors have any gumption, they will refuse to sit with him.”