In a now infamous 1994 interview with journalist Michael Ignatieff, the historian was asked if the murder of “15, 20 million people might have been justified” in establishing a Marxist paradise. “Yes,” Mr. Hobsbawm replied. Asked the same question the following year, he reiterated his support for the “sacrifice of millions of lives” in pursuit of a vague egalitarianism. That such comments caused surprise is itself surprising; Mr. Hobsbawm’s lifelong commitment to the Party testified to his approval of the Soviet experience, whatever its crimes. It’s not that he didn’t know what was going on in the dank basements of the Lubyanka and on the frozen steppes of Siberia. It’s that he didn't much care.
Readers of How to Change the World will be treated to explications of synarchism, a dozen mentions of the Russian Narodniks, and countless digressions on justly forgotten Marxist thinkers and politicians. But there is remarkably little discussion of the way communist regimes actually governed. There is virtually nothing on the vast Soviet concentration-camp system, unless one counts a complaint that “Marx was typecast as the inspirer of terror and gulag, and communists as essentially defenders of, if not participators in, terror and the KGB.” Also missing is any mention of the more than 40 million Chinese murdered in Mao’s Great Leap Forward or the almost two million Cambodians murdered by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge.
KC Johnson on the difficulties of juggling Designated Victim Groups:
The contemporary academic majority worships the trinity of race, class, and gender. Class is clearly the third wheel - unsurprisingly given that most tenured professors are well-off financially and secure in employment, and therefore don’t have a personal connection to the preferred ideological viewpoints on the issue. The competition for primacy between race and gender, however, is less clear-cut. In a matter like the lacrosse case, where the preferred viewpoint on class, race, and gender all dictated a rush to embrace false accuser Crystal Mangum’s wild claims, the result - as we all saw with the Group of 88’s activities - can be vicious. But the rape of Katie Rouse, a white Duke student, by a local black man was met with utter silence from the Group. As I noted at the time, they seemed desperate to avoid making a politically difficult choice.
Armed and Dangerous finds affirmation in a flash mob Bolero:
Ravel could not even have imagined the cellphones the musicians used for coordination; our capacity to transvaluate old forms – and our willingness to do so – is unparalleled in human history. What I saw in that video is that embracing this process of perpetual reinvention is what being “Western” means. We have developed more than any previous or competing civilisation the knack of using our past without being limited by it. I looked at those musicians and that audience, and what I didn’t see was decadence or exhaustion or self-hating multiculturalism. I felt like pumping my fist in the air and yelling “This is my civilisation!” It lives, and it’s beautiful, and it’s worth defending.
And Laban Tall notes a lesson in cultural contrasts:
From time to time, I fly to Stockholm from Manchester. On arriving at Arlanda, I’m greeted by giant posters of Stockholmers saying (in English), “Welcome to my town!” On return to Ringway, I’m greeted by posters warning me not to assault airport staff. A few months ago I flew to Munich for the first time. On arrival I was greeted by a Bluetooth message from BMW, promoting their cars. Returning to Manchester, I was greeted at luggage reclaim by a giant poster offering me a test for chlamydia.
As always, feel free to add your own.