Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

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

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Before the Deluge

If you are feeling in anyway down about, say, the new Lib-Con coalition government in Britain, then either the storming of British Airways Acas Talks by Right to Work demonstrators chanting 'Willie Walsh, who are you? We support the cabin crew!' or the skewering of Christopher Hitchens by Decca Aitkenhead while trying to promote his memoirs may provide some amusing distraction...

Do you think, I ask him, you're a show-off?

"No, I don't. I don't. But obviously I wouldn't be the judge."

Hitchens would be the first to agree he cuts a less dashing figure than the beautiful young firebrand who illuminated the pages of the New Statesman in the 70s. As he dodders round his ex-wife's kitchen in west London, I wonder what that young self would have made of the man he is today.

"Well, I've done better than I thought I would. I've made more money than I ever thought I would. I've got more readers than I ever thought I would, and more esteem." He now earns "several hundred thousand dollars a year" – but claims his wealth hasn't influenced his opinions at all.

Does he think wealth ever affects people's opinions? "Well, yes, I'm a Marxist, after all." So why would his own opinions be mysteriously immune to his bank balance? "Well, because I can't trace any connection."



At 10:22 pm, Anonymous Grim and Dim said...

"the beautiful young firebrand ". Aitkenhead shouldn't believe the myths. I knew the young Hitchens. He was never beautiful, always ugly, arrogant, toffee-nosed and generally repellent, never an asset to the left.

At 11:11 am, Blogger Snowball said...

'never an asset to the left'

A harsh judgement on first sight - but one I would be reluctant to really challenge you on. The British left does have a tradition of not being exactly short of decent left wing journalists and 'pamphleteers' (as he likes to call himself), and so when one thinks of the young Hitchens I guess it is important to remember that he was never so original or unique as he claims to be. Critiquing Henry Kissinger and the Israeli state is important, but he was hardly the first to do so. Critiquing Mother Theresa was more original, but then again, she was hardly the first religious bigot in world history. I guess his literary criticism possibly is in a different category - and might represent some sort of longer lasting contribution to the left - but again, I don't really feel able to pass any kind of judgment on this as I have only read a small part of it (mainly some of his stuff on Orwell).

At 3:56 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Terry Eagleton in a rather soft review of the memoirs makes the case that Hitchen's cliched renegacy 'was a grievous loss to the left'.


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