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ERIC HOBSBAWM: RUINED BY COMMUNISM? (posted 1-17-03)
David Pryce-Jones, writing in the New Criterion (January 2003):
Eric Hobsbawm is no doubt intelligent and industrious, and he might well have made a notable contribution as a historian. Unfortunately, lifelong devotion to Communism destroyed him as a thinker or interpreter of events. Such original work as he did concerned bandits and outlaws. But even here there is bias, for he rescued them from obscurity not for their own sake but as precursors of Communist revolution. His longer and later books are constructed around the abstractions of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and the supposedly pre-ordained class struggle between them, capital and capitalism, empire and imperialism—in short the Marxist organizing principles which reduce human beings and their varied lives to concepts handy to serve a thesis worked up in advance and in the library. This material, needless to say, was derived from secondary sources.
The purpose of all Hobsbawm’s writing, indeed of his life, has been to certify the inevitable triumph of Communism. In the face of whatever might actually have been happening in the Soviet Union and its satellites, he devised reasons to justify or excuse the Communist Party right to its end—long after Russians themselves had realized that Communism had ruined morally and materially everybody and everything within its reach. He loves to describe himself as a professional historian, but someone who has steadily corrupted knowledge into propaganda, and scorns the concept of objective truth, is nothing of the kind, neither a historian nor professional.
It becomes quite a good joke that Communism collapsed under him, proving in the living world that the beliefs and ideas in his head were empty illusions, and all the Marxist and Soviet rhetoric just claptrap. This Hobsbawn cannot understand, never mind accept. His best-known book, Age of Extremes, published as recently as 1994, still attempts to whitewash Communism as “a formidable innovation” in social engineering, glossing with fundamental dishonesty over such integral features as enforced famine through collectivization and the Hitler-Stalin Pact, and omitting all mention of the massacre at Katyn, the terrifying secret police apparatus of Beria, and the Gulag. At the same time, Hobsbawm depicts the United States “unfortunately” as a greater danger than the Soviet Union. Presenting him with a prestigious prize for this farrago, the left-wing historian Sir Keith Thomas said, “For pure intelligence applied to history, Eric Hobsbawm has no equal.” Another left-winger, the journalist Neal Ascherson, held that “No historian now writing in English can match his overwhelming command of fact and source.” So much for Robert Conquest, Sir Kenneth Dover, Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Bernard Lewis, and other genuine scholars.
DANIEL PIPES: DEFENDED AGAINST CHARGE OF MCCARTHYISM (posted 1-9-03)Stanley Kurtz, in an article in National Review (January 7, 2003):
Ever since Daniel Pipes established the Campus Watch website, he has been accused of McCarthyism. That charge has been rebutted again and again, yet still the charge is leveled. It has become a convenient excuse for silencing Pipes. Yes, the Campus Watch website posts the work of professors who it believes are biased and misleading in their treatments of topics Middle Eastern. But that is a way of starting debate, not stopping it.
In"Balancing the Academy," I showed that, if anyone, it is actually the post-colonial theorists who dominate contemporary Middle Eastern Studies who"blacklist" their foes. Post-colonial theory is built around a technique that labels academic opponents bigoted"Orientalists." After naming the names of such supposedly reactionary scholars, and after claiming to expose their work as bigoted, the post-colonialists reward one another with tenured chairs. I think the post-colonialist's assessment of their foes is wrong. Even so, I don't doubt their right to speak and write as they do. Nothing Daniel Pipes has done holds a candle to the"blacklisting" technique of his foes. So why should he be silenced, while the post-colonialists remain in control of the academy?
In"Campus Conformity," a recent op-ed in the New York Post, I showed how one of Pipes's most prominent critics called Campus Watch"McCarthyite," yet did so on a website called"Israel Lobby Watch." So how is it that Campus Watch is condemned as McCarthyite, while Israel Lobby Watch gets a pass?
The only remaining excuse for the rank hypocrisy of Daniel Pipes's foes is that the Campus Watch website posts complaints by students of professorial bias. This, supposedly, is the heart and soul of Pipes's McCarthyism. It is true that the posting of student complaints is a less than ideal procedure — a last resort in a discipline that has all but shut out voices of those who support American foreign policy. But the decision to post student complaints ought to be the subject of reasoned debate, not an excuse to silence critics.
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namrata ganneri - 10/8/2003
this whole diatribe against the communist historians has strange echoes even in the academia in india. a lot of people are disenchanted with the leftist readings of indian history but sadly they do not have the academic guts and gumption to match the "leftist " scholars. It is more important to marshal ones academic resources and produce good work rather than just get bogged down by the left right debate. period.
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