Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Monday, May 07, 2007

Hobsbawm on Blair

Eric Hobsbawm, the most distinguished Marxist historian on the planet and soon to celebrate his 90th birthday, gives his verdict on Tony Blair in this week's New Statesman. He is too kind, I fear, to the lying mass-murdering war-criminal, but I will put up his comments anyway:

'Tony Blair, a gifted but unthinking politician perfectly suited to the media age, will be remembered for winning three elections, for failing to build "New Labour", for Iraq, and – not impossibly – for breaking up the United Kingdom. In spite of a very respectable domestic record, his period of government demoralised Labour's traditional supporters and antagonised the liberal/progressive educated classes.'

Edited to add: Hobsbawm has also commented on Blair for the Guardian, when asked how Blair would be remembered. This time he talks more about Iraq, but is still far too kind on Blair's support for PFI, PPPs and basically the corporate takeover of Britain in general. Still, here goes:

'Well, in the first place, he's definitely going to be remembered, unlike other prime ministers who are only known by those doing PhDs. That's not only because he won three elections, although that is something that interests the media a lot. It's mainly because he represents a certain post-Thatcher period.

In many respects, the government's domestic record is pretty respectable - due to people around Blair, as much as him. If not for Iraq, the critique of the government would have been that it carried on a Thatcherite tradition at the expense of Labour ideals.

He, and his administration, had three great domestic failures: in the first place he failed to create, or even renew, New Labour. He essentially created his government from people who had come to the fore under Kinnock, with the odd exception like Miliband. This left him with no successor but the one he clearly did not want - Brown. Second, his was the first government that completely subordinated governing to the needs of the media. He introduced an era where future prime ministers will be judged mainly on how they look on screen. Third, he continued to weaken the structure of British governance by short-term initiatives with unconsidered long-term implications (Scotland, Wales, the Lords) and headline-grabbing snap legislation which was poorly thought through.

The major positive is Northern Ireland. Blair is mainly responsible for what looked like an armistice turning into a lasting peace.

Except for Iraq, he would have been remembered as a reasonable PM, about the same level as Harold Macmillan. But Iraq wasn't an accident. He stopped being the brilliantly successful intuitive vote-getting politician and developed a missionary conviction for saving the world by armed interventions, most catastrophically with Bush. As Eden is remembered for Suez, Blair will be remembered for Iraq.'

On the subject of Blair, check out this

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