The Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm died this past Monday. Hobsbawm was far inferior as a scholar to a great many other Marxists, but the British establishment’s lack of discernment made him a celebrity. There is an analogy here with Paul Krugman, who is doubtless viewed with contempt by superior Keynesian macroeconomists who wonder how this polemicist came to be the country’s spokesman for Keynesianism.
Hobsbawm — who later reversed his earlier enthusiasm for Stalin — was asked in 1994 whether, if communism could have achieved its goals with only 15-20 million deaths, he would have supported it. “Yes,” came his answer.
This man was eulogized in the major British newspapers this week.
Except in the Daily Mail, which skewered him, De mortuis nihil nisi bonum be damned.
Last week the world also lost the far superior historian Eugene Genovese, who even during his Marxist period exhibited high scholarly standards and did important and pioneering work. But unlike the celebrated Hobsbawm, Genovese came clean in the early 1990s, admitting that he had known of the communist atrocities and had simply looked the other way.
Genovese called out fellow leftists in a 1994 article in Dissent called “The Question.” The question was: what did you know, and when did you know it? He was asking about communist atrocities. He knew he had the Left dead to rights. They had known full well what was going on behind the Iron Curtain and in China, and had carried on in their communist apologetics all the same.