evening, the BBC altered its programme schedule to broadcast an
hour-long tribute to an old man who had died aged 95, with fawning
contributions from the likes of historian Simon Schama and Labour
peer Melvyn Bragg.
day, the Left-leaning Guardian filled not only the front page
and the whole of an inside page but also devoted almost its entire
G2 Supplement to the news. The Times devoted a leading article
to the death, and a two-page obituary.
imagine, given all this coverage and the fact that Tony Blair
and Ed Miliband also went out of their way to pay tribute, that
the nation was in mourning. . . .
came to Britain as a refugee from Hitlers Europe before
the war, but, as he said himself, he wished only to mix with intellectuals.
I refused all contact with the suburban petit bourgeoisie
which I naturally regarded with contempt. Naturally.. .
took part in one of the most extraordinary conversations ever
on British television. Speaking in 1994 to the author Michael
Ignatieff about the fall of the Berlin Wall five years earlier,
the historian was asked how he felt about his earlier support
for the Soviet Union.
had achieved its aims, but at the cost of, say, 15 to 20 million
people as opposed to the 100million it actually killed
in Russia and China would Hobsbawm have supported it? His
answer was a single word: Yes. . . .
what would happen if some crazed Right-winger were to appear on
BBC and say that the Nazis had been justified in killing six million
Jews in order to achieve their aims. We should be horrified, and
consider that such a person should never be allowed to speak in
public again or at least until he retracted his repellent
views and admitted that he had been culpably, basely, wrong.
Yet the awful
thing about the phenomenon of Eric Hobsbawm is that the exact
opposite to this is what happened.
He was awarded
a Companion of Honour by Tony Blair one of the highest
accolades it is possible to bestow upon a British intellectual.
A professor of history, he was regularly lionised on the BBC and
in the liberal newspapers as our greatest historian.
It is true
he modified his hard-line support for Stalin and his death-camps
as the years went by. The elderly Hobsbawm was not the same person
who, in 1939, co-wrote a pamphlet defending not only Stalin but
Hitler, too and justifying the Nazi-Soviet pact to carve
up Poland and dominate Eastern Europe. . . .
What is disgraceful
about the life of Hobsbawm is not so much that he believed this
poisonous codswallop, and propagated it in his lousy books, but
that such a huge swathe of our countrys intelligentsia
the supposedly respectable media and chattering classes
bowed down before him and made him their guru. Made him our greatest