Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

New Labour and the historians

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett was asked yesterday on The World at One on BBC Radio 4 whether historians would come to judge the disastrous US/UK invasion of Iraq as a foreign policy disaster. Her reply? 'Yes, they may. Then again, they may not.' Brilliant.

Yet I guess she is right in a way - it depends on which historian one asks. The New Statesman recently asked several people, including historians, for their view on how Blair would come to be remembered. The Conservative Party's historian Andrew Roberts gave the following answer:

'Tony Blair will go down in history as one of the greatest premiers of the postwar period. His destruction of British socialism and his principled, tough and timely prosecution of the war against Islamic fundamentalist terrorism make him a giant comparable to Churchill, Attlee and Thatcher. Britain will have cause to thank Tony Blair for decades to come.'

Which goes to show that one can always find a historian who is respectful enough of those with great power to say whatever the powerful want him to say. Incidently, when asked what he thought of Blair, the esteemed Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm had this to say:

'Not time yet for a reflection on the Blair years. They are not yet over.'

I look forward to hearing Eric reflect on how History will judge the Blair years. However, when it comes to judging the Iraq war, this is what Hobsbawm wrote in July 2003, in the immediate aftermath of the invasion:

'In military terms, the Iraq war was very successful. But, because it was purely military, it neglected the necessities of what to do if you occupy a country -running it, maintaining it, as the British did in the classic colonial model of India. The model "democracy" that the Americans want to offer to the world in Iraq is a non-model and irrelevant for this purpose. The belief that the US does not need genuine allies among other states, or genuine popular support in the countries its military can now conquer (but not effectively administer) is fantasy.

THE war in Iraq was an example of the frivolity of US decision-making. Iraq was a country that had been defeated by the Americans and refused to lie down: a country so weak it could be easily defeated again. It happened to have assets - oil - but the war was really an exercise in showing international power. The policy that the crazies in Washington are talking about, a complete re-formulation of the entire Middle East, makes no sense...How long the present superiority of the Americans lasts is impossible to say. The only thing of which we are absolutely certain is that historically it will be a temporary phenomenon, as all these other empires have been.'

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At 3:01 am, Blogger Frank Partisan said...

Really good post.

I do think history will be better to Blair, than Bush43. Although not much better.

Blair thought he was practicing "Permanent Revolution".

At 9:01 pm, Blogger Shamik Das said...

History will regard the great liberators Bush and Blair as heroes, and those who cosied up to Saddam, Milosevic & the Taleban - like Galloway and Alex Salmond - as vermin.


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