For The National Interest, David A. Bell considers the late Hobsbawm’s life and work in light of the thinker’s posthumously published collection of essays, Fractured Times: Culture and Society in the Twentieth Century.
IN A FAMOUS EXCHANGE in 1994, Michael Ignatieff asked Eric Hobsbawm whether the vast human costs inflicted by Stalin on the Soviet Union could possibly be justified. Hobsbawm replied, “Probably not…. because it turns out that the Soviet Union was not the beginning of the world revolution. Had it been, I’m not sure.” Do you mean, Ignatieff pressed him, that “had the radiant tomorrow actually been created, the loss of fifteen, twenty million people might have been justified?” Hobsbawm answered, “Yes.”
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