Looking for the Missing Clue

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I agree with Chris Harman that Eric Hobsbawm's autobiography shows both the best and worst sides of him (October SR)--on the one hand, the defender of Marxist history, with whom readers of 'Socialist Review' could differ only in matters of detail; on the other hand, the theoretician of 'Marxism Today', which genuine socialists have nothing in common with.

However, Harman fails to spot the clue that Hobsbawm gives us as to the connection between these two apparently opposed positions. Hobsbawm reveals that he never bothered with the work of ordinary Communist Party members, organising branches, selling papers and so on. He says this was not for him. Hardly surprising, therefore, that when he delivered the lecture that became the notorious 'forward march of labour halted', Hobsbawm notes that he entirely failed to realise what a furore it would cause in the labour movement, because he was not aware of what was going on in that movement. A rather odd position for a Marxist historian, it tells us a lot about how rotten the post-1956 Communist Party had become.

Keith Flett
London