Saturday, August 20, 2011

Class war and race war

It is sad but true that some very smart people are also very dumb.  This morning's WSJ includes an essay on Eric Hobsbawm ("How a True Believer Keeps the Faith").

Here are some choice passages: 

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.

I have several times cited Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands because the author provides all of the awful details of Stalin's and Hitler's mass murders.  But many years later, Hitler is recognized for what he was while Stalin still has defenders such as Hobsbawm.  Both dictators were monsters, but mass murder for reasons of class warfare seemingly gets a pass in some quarters whereas mass murder for reasons of race war is condemned as it should be.

I get antsy when class war rhetoric invades our politics.  Discomfort over inequality gets confused with discomfort over the poverty of some.  Policies that address the latter deserve a hearing, but can we ever have politics without class warfare?  It would probably be unrecognizable.

David Henderson would rather fight envy than inequality.  The likes of Hobsbawm seals his case.