Eric Hobsbawm, "an object lesson in the dangers of ideological devotion"

Historians in the News

Matthew Boudway is an associate editor of Commonweal.

...Despite his lucidity and widely attested personal decency, Hobsbawm also became an object lesson in the dangers of ideological devotion. His passion for justice drew him into a cause that would require him to excuse the many injustices that took place in the Soviet Union under Stalin. A lot of Western Communists abandoned ship after the Soviet crackdown on Hungary in 1956. Not Hobsbawm. Nor did he quit after the tanks rolled into Prague twelve years later. In a 1994 interview with Michael Ignatieff he famously claimed that if the Soviet Union had succeeded in creating a true communist society, it would have been worth the deaths of the twenty million people who perished under Stalin. Didn’t Marx himself say that ”no great movement has been born without the shedding of blood”? So self-sacrifice wasn’t the only kind of sacrifice that socialism might require....

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