Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

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

Monday, February 09, 2015

What a difference being a political careerist makes!

'Today, the power, incisiveness and passion of Engels's polemic remain undiminished. Far more so than Charles Dickens's Hard Times, Benjamin Disraeli's Sybil, or Thomas Carlyle's Past and Present, Engels's The Condition of the Working Class is the defining text of the British industrial experience. And, 150 years on, it speaks to our age with painful prescience - not only in its critique of the instability of the free market and the structural inequalities of British society, but in its unrivalled depiction of the inhumanity of capitalism ... Engels was relentless in charting the "social war" waged by the middle class on the operatives of the industrial city. Workplaces - mills, mines, factories, farms - resembled crime scenes. "Women made unfit for childbearing, children deformed, men enfeebled, limbs crushed, whole generations wrecked, afflicted with disease and infirmity, purely to fill the purses of the bourgeoisie." He was inflamed by the Manchester middle classes. "I once went into Manchester with a bourgeois, and spoke to him of ... the frightful condition of the working people's quarters, and asserted that I had never seen so ill-built a city. The man listened quietly to the end, and said at the corner where we parted: 'And yet there is a great deal of money made here; good morning, sir.'" ... Like Marx we can at last return to The Condition of the Working Class [by Frederick Engels] and appreciate the work on its own terms. To do so is to discover in its economic critique of unfettered markets, condemnation of capitalism's social injustices, angry reportage, and analysis of politics, poverty, feminism and urbanism all the power, passion and incisiveness which Marx rightly heralded'
Tristram Hunt on Engels's The Condition of the English Working Class, The Guardian, 9 May 2009.

'I’m enormously enthusiastic about businessmen and women making money, about delivering shareholder return, about making profit ... We have heard from some businesspeople. We have got 5 million great businesses working really hard across Great Britain, making money, as I say, and Labour is on their side. What is the problem our economy faces? It is a productivity challenge and that means the state has to play its role alongside business. What is the challenge for our business as well? It is markets. Only the Labour party is committed to ensuring we have got a successful UK working in Europe delivering those markets for modern British business. So we are a furiously, passionately, aggressively pro-business party.'
Tristram Hunt, now Shadow Education Secretary, quoted in The Guardian, 8 February 2015 - recall also that Hunt crossed a UCU picket line back in 2014 to give a lecture on Marxism

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At 8:01 am, Blogger Fred said...

A Labour politician. What is shocking about this?
Hell, the late Tony Benn was not as principled as he is often painted and people like Hunt and Miliband have no principles at all.

At 1:48 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

True - nothing shocking in that sense of course. However, it is still a little remarkable how Hunt has shifted so rapidly from writing a biography of Engels praising his relevance to contemporary debates about growing inequality, to five years later singing the praises of capitalism and the importance of the rich enriching themselves...

At 6:43 pm, Blogger Fred said...


This song could be the anthem of people like that. Hunt moved a bit quick but is probably just an example of opportunism at its chemically purest (yet utterly noxious). People like him would have been Nazis in Nazi Germany, just to get ahead.


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