Anyone dealing with Progressives very quickly develops a low sycophancy tolerance threshold. In the USA this is known as a BS Detector. Progressives are devoid of any such apparatus and consequently swallow any amount of guff as long as the correct buttons are pushed. Facts are irrelevant, ideology is all.
We accept that when someone dies there is an understandable human tendency to remember their good points. When an important figure dies this is exaggerated and the encomiums fly thick and fast, so much so that we can easily lose sight of who the recently deceased actually was. Following the death on Monday of the historian Eric Hobsbawm the praise was laid on with a trowel.
The BBC altered its schedules to screen an hour long tribute with laudatory contributions from media intellectuals such as Melvin Bragg and Simon Schama. The Times and Guardian had fawning leading articles and extensive obituaries.
Tony Blair who in 1998 awarded him a Companion of Honour in, one of Britain’s highest awards for an intellectual, called him “a giant of progressive politics history, someone who influenced a whole generation of political and academic leaders. He wrote history that was intellectually of the highest order but combined with a profound sense of compassion and justice. And he was a tireless agitator for a better world.”
Ed Milliband, leader of Britain’s Labour Party, described him as “an extraordinary historian, a man passionate about his politics and a great friend of my family”.
His brother David Miliband, once Foreign Secretary, described Hobsbawm as “a piercing intellect and a restless radical … His humanity trumped his ideology.”
For those less familiar with Hobsbwam let me explain. He was a refugee from Nazi Europe who, with his ferocious intellect became a professor and eventually President of Birbeck College London and visiting professor at Standford. He was the leading Marxist historian of the twentieth century.
There are other, less laudable, estimations of Hobsbawm as a historian. According to David Pryce-Jones Hobsbawm was a professional historian who has “steadily corrupted knowledge into propaganda, and scorns the concept of objective truth”, as a consequence he was “neither a historian nor professional.”
Leafing through my copy of Hobsbawm’s 2002 autobiography Interesting Times I find such nuggets as the following which would tend to suggest that David Pryce-Jones is correct:
“To this day I notice myself treating the memory of the tradition of the USSR with an indulgence and tenderness.” p.56
“The Party (we always thought of it in capital letters) had the first, or more precisely the only real claim on our lives. Its demands had absolute priority. We accepted its discipline and hierarchy. We accepted the absolute obligation to follow ‘the line’ it proposed to us, even when we disagreed with it, although we made heroic efforts to convince ourselves of its intellectual and political ‘correctness’ in order to ‘defend’ it as we were supposed to do.” p.134
One example of Hobsbawm’s ‘heroic efforts’ to defend the Soviet Union is found in The Age of Extreme 1994 in which he discusses the Warsaw Uprising. In 1944 the Polish Home Army staged an uprising against the Nazi’s in order to liberate Warsaw. The revolt was timed to coincide with the retreat of the Germans as the Red Army approached the city’s eastern suburbs. When the uprising began the Soviets stopped short and sat still allowing the Germans to regroup, demolish the city and slaughter the resistance which fought on with incredible bravery for 63 days without any Soviet aid.
The Soviets wished to see any independent Polish leadership wiped out, they might hinder the eventual communist takeover. According to Hobsbawm the fault did not lie with the Soviets who waited for two months whilst the Nazis did their dirty work for them, the fault lay with the Poles who paid “the penalty of a premature uprising.”
To Progressives objective truth not only does not exist but any attempt to present a fair and balanced view of reality is worse than wasted effort it is a moral betrayal. All that matters is that ‘truth’ which serves the ideology which has ‘absolute priority.’
This Hobsbawm continued to do long after Soviet communism had been defeated. For him the fall of the Soviet Union was a disaster, and the revolts of 1989 which freed much of eastern Europe from Soviet tyranny a defeat for humanity.
Although he never recanted he eventually he went so far as to reluctantly criticise Stalin’s slaughter of tens of millions of Soviet citizens through famine and Gulag as “probably excessive.” He did, however, add the rider that if a communist society had emerged it would have been worth it. Stalin with his hundreds of millions held in virtual slavery was “disillusioning” but it would have been wonderful if the project had succeeded.
Hobsbawm openly admitted that if Stalin had recruited him for the KGB he would have answered the call, no matter what misgivings he had, and he didn’t have very many. Yet, David Milliband still claims, “His humanity trumped his ideology,” and Tony Blair praises his “profound sense of compassion and justice.”
Any historian, such as David Irving, who becomes an apologist for the odious Hitler and his Nazi regime is rightly excoriated and dismissed as a serious intellectual. Be an apologist for his fellow mass murderer Stalin and his far more lethal henchmen and Progressives will praise you for your humanity and laud your contribution to historiography.