Also by Eric Hobsbawm. The Age of Revolution – The Age of Capital – The Age of Empire – The Age of Extremes – DAVID CANNADINE is Professor of History at Columbia University. His books include Lords and Landlords: The Aristocracy and the. Towns, () . University of St Andrews Eric Hobsbawm: An Intellectual History of a Dialectical Materialist, Andrea Bonfanti Student Number: Supervisor.
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Also by Eric Hobsbawm º AGE OF EXTREMES. THE AGE OF REVOLUTION – &. THE AGE OF CAPITAL – THE SHORT TWENTIETH. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data. Hobsbawm, E.J. (EricJ.), The Age of Revolution, / Eric Hobsbawm.—1st Vintage Books . Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data. Hobsbawm, EJ. (EricJ.), The age of empire, / E.J. Hobsbawm.—1st Vintage Books ed.
Last, and most seriously, the revolutionary syndicalists - perhaps the strongest purely proletarian tradition of revolution in France - tried and failed in , with the collapse of the great railway strike. Studies in History-Writing and Politics London, , pp. Mere materialism, which has often been referred to as vulgar or 5 Eric Hobsbawm, Interesting Times: And what, in any case, could the illegal organization do? An imperialist war it is. Enter the email address you signed up with and we'll email you a reset link.
In fact, Hill noted, more important than asking why it had occurred, one ought to ask why it had been belayed for so long compared to other Western countries — the main reason for this was the lack of a middle class, the bourgeoisie, due to the almost non-existence of an industrial apparatus in tsarist Russia.
But long-term causes work their effects through human agencies: Indeed, Hill and Hobsbawm met often at the time of writing their respective pieces of work, roughly during the biennium. The way to do this was by highlighting the relevance that past struggles had had in history and how there could be traced a tradition which linked the past to the present — it was no coincidence that the Marxist journal Past and Present was so titled.
From onwards, the Cold War temperature dropped to freezing levels and two blocs crystallised, one led by the United States, the other by the Soviet Union. One of the numerous speakers was Morton, who explained that the bourgeoisie lost its initial progressivism after it had reached hegemony in society.
Ever since then, it had been the working class to have played the revolutionary role in history. An instructive example is that of Edmund Dell who, in , expressed doubts on the efficacy of a dialectical materialistic approach to understand and explain change.
Capitalism or, rather, its latest stage imperialism, was in turn symbolised by America. It is in this light that the Group organised a Conference on the American threat to British Culture to be held in late April Whether the conference was successful is not clear since details on it are rather scarce. But it can be said with little doubt that it was strongly anti-imperialist, especially with regards to the cultural sphere.
Its end arrived, tragically, in , amidst the crashing words of Khrushchev at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the likewise crashing tracks of Soviet tanks rolling into Budapest. First, the dialectical study of history was a scientific attempt to discover laws and regularities in history, which ought to be studied as a whole.
That is, to explain why changes occurred rather than to describe what occurred. Third, to try to obtain analytical answers about the past never meant to support determinism and Hobsbawm always attacked mechanical determinists.
They did not include in their studies the unpredictable factors in history and could not explain the dialectical new which differentiated historical stages. Lenin was most likely one of the figures that Hobsbawm looked up to, as he had been concerned for all of his life with social change.
In fact, for the historians who upheld dialectical materialism as their philosophical outlook, history must matter to the present, and this was the fourth aspect of dialectical materialism. Marxist historians must provide practical solutions to real world problems, and this differentiated them from historians who worked in mere abstraction in a similar way to that linking the economist to the pure mathematician.
Indeed, the four decades after the First World War were tense times. After it, and with the foundation of the Soviet Union and the rise of Stalinism, the advocates of what they believed was Leninism focused on the achievement of political goals, i. This shifted the interest of Marxist philosophy to class-struggle. Given certain similarities with the dialectical materialism that Hobsbawm upheld in his young adulthood, it seemed fair to argue that these discussions influenced his thinking about this philosophical outlook.
This dissertation also attempted to take critical stances towards some claims proposed by past historians and the strings of this criticism ought here to be pulled together. The Historians were always wary of nationalism and used the attachment to British culture only to fight American cultural imperialism — never to foster dangerous nationalism.
This ought not to be forgotten. Of course, several important questions still remain unanswered, begging for further research and serious intellectual scrutiny. Amongst many, I find one of particular interest and by outlining it I intend to conclude this dissertation.
It is concerned with as a turning point. During a interview, he defended once again the achievements of the Marxist approach to the study of history and lamented the shift of focus that recent philosophical outlooks had had on Kaye, The British Marxist Historians, p. This is what my generation finds troublesome.
I shall leave this question open-ended and hope to find some answers in future research. Indeed, always to ask more questions is, it certainly seems to me, the only way that society, and history with it, can hope to change for the better.
Works by Eric Hobsbawm: Hassocks, . Other Authors: Bernal, J. Bloch, M. Manchester, Carritt, E. Dobb, M. Dutt, C. Hill, C. Lenin, V. Mirsky, D. Morton, A. An Introduction London, Branson, N.
Callaghan, J. A Study in British Stalinism London, Collini, S. Intellectuals in Britain Oxford, Critics, Historians, Publics Oxford, Dworkin, D. Eaden, J. Elliott, G. History and Politics London, Himmelfarb, G. Hobsbawm, E. A Twentieth-Century Life London, Judt, T. Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century London, Kaye, H.
Basingstoke, Klugmann, J. Formation and Early Years, London, Lih, L. Lindemann, A. Macintyre, S. Marxism in Britain, Cambridge, Debates of the British Communist Historians London, Shenk, T. Political Economist Basingstoke, Sisman, A. The Biography London, Studer, B. London, Wood, N. Worley, M. Articles in Journal Blackbourn, D. Breuilly, J. Foster, J. Hobsbawm E. LeMahieu, D. Menduni, E. Renton, D. Roberts, E. Tagliaferri, T.
Thorpe, A. Rebels and Their Causes: Morton London, , pp. Myant, M. It contains words. The Growth of British Marxism………………………………….
Hobsbawm in Context: Dialectical Materialism and the Cold War That class- struggle analysis was the primary analytical lens for him and other communist historians is the major claim that this dissertation attempts to challenge. It always accounted for unpredictable human agency and, though economic factors played a primary role in the development of history, this dissertation discourages the claim that Hobsbawm was a determinist.
Further, dialectical materialism aimed at fostering the socialist revolution though its ultimate goal was to overcome struggle and reach unity. Placing Hobsbawm within his intellectual context is another aim of this work as this helps to gain a more accurate understanding of his thinking. Communist Party of Great Britain Group: Their continuous economic and moral support enabled me to complete my studies.
My gratitude goes to Dr Riccardo Bavaj, who supervised this dissertation. In fact, he tutored me throughout this academic year and the brilliance of his advice was always matched by kindness and professionalism.
He certainly helped me to grow intellectually and academically, and I consider myself privileged to have been one of his pupils. For support throughout this past year, plenty of laughter and of serious intellectual engagement, and, not least, for commenting on and spell-checking this work, I thank Tess, Francis and Amy.
In he was appointed as a lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London, where he remained until his retirement in There he became a staunch supporter of the Communist Party of Great Britain CPGB and one of the few intellectuals to keep his membership after , i. Interestingly enough, there is at present no intellectual history of Hobsbawm although time is certainly ripe for it — though at the moment of writing an authorised biography is being worked on by Richard Evans.
More than that, the existing research specifically focused on the famous historian has barely analysed him in the period before It is for these reasons that this work will focus on these early years, from roughly to For the sake of clarity, before moving to a historiographical review, a definition of what dialectical materialism is and an explanation of how it differs from strict materialism must be attempted. Quite conveniently, Eric Hobsbawm has left fairly extensive traces of what this philosophical model is in the pages of On History It is based on the existence of different levels basis and superstructure within a social system and of contradictions within such system that represent the mechanism for change.
These contradictions are the norm, not the exception, since change, and not maintenance, is natural. Everything changes. Contradictions are generative in that they can bring about, through change, new elements in the social life. The Marxist model must account for both moments of stability and of disruption in society. For example, a period of growth for a certain class can be followed by, though not necessarily, a revolution whereby this class reaches hegemony.
Mere materialism, which has often been referred to as vulgar or 5 Eric Hobsbawm, Interesting Times: A Twentieth-Century Life London, , p. It is a determinist historical model whereby, instead of a generative, dialectical tension, there is an inevitable basis-superstructure relation that is mediated by class-struggle and predictable through historical laws. Human agency, then, is vanished. An Introductory Analysis new preface ed. Basingstoke, , pp.
History and Politics London, , pp. Tagliaferri has demonstrated that the CPGB historians, e. Hill and Hobsbawm, whilst being critical of Soviet determinist dicta such as those from Nikolai Bukharin, were influenced by Gramscian thought and recognised dialectical materialism as a systematic science, perfectly applicable to history and politics.
Theory and Practice New York, , p. A few words on the primary sources which will be used in this work are due. Suffice here to say that Hobsbawm engaged with different types of audience, from the more specialised or university-based ones — think of the Economic Journal or the Cambridge Journal — to some that included a more widespread readership, such as that of the Encounter, to those that were unambiguously left-wing, for example the readers of the Communist Review and of the CPGB organ, the Labour Monthly.
But, though intriguing, this question falls outside the scope of the present work. Critics, Historians, Publics Oxford, , pp. The first chapter is fairly descriptive and, for this reason, the shortest in this work. Particular attention will be paid to debates on dialectical materialism by members of the CPGB and, given the importance that the Party had on theoretical thinking in those years, the chapter will end with a short note on the CPGB political strategy in the interwar years.
First, dialectical materialism was a complete science that ought to be applied to study totalities. In other words, it paid attention to questions of causal relationship in historical explanation because it attempted to explain historical change rather than simply recounting the past.
Third, Eric Hobsbawm was not a determinist and, in fact, dialectical materialism allowed him to include elements of unpredictable human agency in his analysis. Fourth, Hobsbawm used dialectical materialism to turn history into a weapon for the socialist revolution.
One should never, nor could, do an intellectual history of one figure in isolation, so the third chapter will place Hobsbawm within his intellectual context, in the years.
The Growth of British Marxism represented a watershed in world politics. The Bolshevik Revolution was for many an unmissable opportunity for the long-awaited international socialist revolution and, following the Russian example, communist parties mushroomed all over the globe: Coming from different theoretical backgrounds, though all attributable to some form of Marxism, they believed in the necessity of organising to contribute to world communism, the sight of which appeared a realisable utopia in the late s and early s.
As well as a political turning point, represented an important moment for theoretical Marxism too. In Britain, as elsewhere, there began a general abandonment of the strictly materialist and mechanical views that had dominated the arena of theories on social development in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Dafydd Roberts trans. London, , pp. Volume One: Formation and Early Years, London, , pp. What Is to Be Done? Marxist-Leninists focused on the practical application of theories to the political realm and, in particular, to the seizure of power. Within this political philosophy there was space for human freedom men were subject to necessary laws only as long as they were unaware of those laws, i.
One of the figures who supported wholeheartedly this new doctrine, especially because of its anti-imperialist appeal, was Rajani Palme Dutt. As the author explained in the Labour Monthly, the Party journal edited by Dutt, dialectical materialism was the revolutionary philosophy of, and for, the proletariat.
Marxism in Britain, Cambridge, , pp. A Study in British Stalinism London, , pp.
Social change, he added, ought not to be seen as an effect of technological change but of class- struggle. Indeed, discussions on dialectical materialism were widespread in communist circles at the time, as the collection Aspects of Dialectical Materialism demonstrates.
The Philosophy of a Natural Scientist. Philosophy for a Modern Man, by H. Political Economist Basingstoke, , p. Finally, the third point that is significant to our analysis was the political relevance of history. Dobb maintained that history alone was dead unless it was combined, as the Marxian approach to it dictated, with contemporary politics. Unless stated otherwise, all italics in the dissertation are present in the original text. After this, the horror of the conflict and the justified fear to lose it avoided, at least nominally, major shifts in Soviet political strategy and all efforts were concentrated in defeating the Nazis.
Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century London, , p. It has also been shown that certain controversies arose during those years around dialectical materialism but that, overall, it was considered a non-mechanist science for the study of totalities with the aim of explaining why changes occurred or not. This chapter aims to demonstrate that Hobsbawm was a dialectical materialist by analysing four aspects of the dialectics that drove his thinking in the years after the Second World War, from roughly to For Hobsbawm, dialectical materialism was a science of totality.
It ought to analyse, rather than narrate, history in order to provide a realistic theory for historical explanation. Last, as a practical theory, dialectical materialism must have a social impact, fostering class-struggle and, perhaps, even conceiving its overcome.
As John Foster has argued, Hobsbawm staunchly believed that the dialectical materialist approach to the study of history, i. Marxism, could achieve objective truths about the past, should focus on society as a whole and ought to bring about social change.
Special causes were historical situations for example a form of political organisation , which changed over time and were therefore contingent to a particular historical moment.
Individual causes reflected individuality and could not be predicted — though their power to generate change was minimal. It is worth adding that the view that historical laws could explain the development of history was nothing new and, in fact, was fairly common during the s.
When Hobsbawm was a young student in Britain, one needed not be a Marxist to feel optimistic about the progress of history via laws, with influential figures such as the socialist thinker Bernard Shaw as well as many Fabians supporting scientific thinking about history, sometimes even arriving at concepts of historical inevitability.
During the war, the socialist-organised Soviet Union had worn the brunt of the German blitzkrieg and demonstrated an extraordinary will to fight, eventually defeating the Nazis — or at least deeply contributing to their demise.
Speakers included Bernal, who argued that technologies discovered during the war could bring about great opportunity for social improvement, and the writer Randall Swingler, who discussed issues related to the freedom of individuals.
These elements were in causal relations with each other, with the status of productive forces being the primary — though not exclusive — cause of change for other phenomena, for example the forms of social organisation. Before we move to the second aspect of dialectical 51 Branson, History, pp. First, capitalism was known to be a universal phenomenon that by-passed national barriers, habits and traditions and to study it on a global scale appeared the most appropriate, if not the only, way to do it.
That conflict had been truly global and its fate determined by a network of battles fought on different continents. So, as Michael Bentley has shown, the mind-set that most people developed, or at least grew accustomed to, during the war was framed on a global scale and this spatial framework of analysis remained with them after the conflict had ended.
An Introduction London, , p. In theory, therefore, it seems quite possible for a minority, willing to use terror without restrain, and multiplying its force by the monopoly of certain resources of coercion, to establish its rule over a majority, maintain it, and create in the end a stable order of sorts.
But the miners held together, were radicalized en bloc the South Wales Federation even thought of affiliating to the Comintern at one point , elected A. Cook in 1 and pushed the whole of labour into the General Strike - at a time when this had ceased to have much political significance. As Kendall notes rightly, their success 'staved off radical action during the war only to cause it to break out once the war was over'.
The shop stewards, on the other hand, by their very grass roots syndicalism, their distrust of any politics and officialdom, wasted their efforts and produced - as Kendall also points out - a mere supplement to official trade unionism. They expressed rather than led a genuine revolt, though unable to give it effectiveness or even permanence. Hence their movement melted away, leaving behind only a few score valuable recruits to the new CP. On 1 May 1 I led a demonstration through the streets.
A hundred was our full muster. The discouraging conclusion to be drawn from Mr Kendall's book is that there is no simple way out of this dilemma ; it is built into the situation. Nor is a reaction of simple rebellious rejection of all politics and 'bureaucracy'. Being a revolutionary in countries such as ours just happens to be difficult.
There is no reason to believe that it will be less difficult in future than it has been in the past. Such countries may be, and at various times in our century have been, involved in revolutionary activities arising out of the international contradictions of capitalism e. Nazi occupation , or reflecting the glow of fires elsewhere e. Neither the two world wars nor the intervening great slump, seriously shook the social basis of any regime between the Pyrenees, the southern border of the Alps, and the North Cape: In eastern Europe - to take the nearest example - the situation has been very different.
Here we have in the same period at least four and perhaps five cases of endogenous social revolutions Russia, Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece,1 perhaps Bulgaria , not counting temporary but serious upheavals.
In our generation it has emerged with much greater clarity, because of a combination of three factors: If we study that period at all for any reason other than academic curiosity, it is simply to help to explain what happened later, and perhaps to seek some clues about the operation of what was then usual, but is now rare, namely single national socialist movements organizationally united but ideologically pluralist.
The period of the Third International is still with us, at least in the form of the permanent schism between communist and social-democratic parties, neither of whose patterns of behaviour or traditions can be understood without constant reference to the October revolution.
It is one of the few mass communist parties in the 'advanced' economies of the west, and, with the exception of the Italian CP which operates in a country that came late and incompletely into the 'advanced' sector of the world economy , the only one to have become the majority party within its labour movement.
At first sight this poses no great problem. France is the classical country of 2 I do not say that it ought to be remote ; merely that, as a matter of observable fact, the Chinese revolution and the revolutions of national liberation have not impregnated the socialist and communist movements of the west in anything like the same extent that the October revolution did.
Yet on second thoughts the rise of the CP is rather more puzzling. The classical traditions of French revolutionism - even that of the working class - were not marxist and even less leninist, but Jacobin, Blanquist and Proudhonist. The socialist movement of before 1 9 1 4 was already a German graft on the French tree, and one which took only incompletely in politics and even less in the trade unions.
Guesdism, the nearest thing to social democratic orthodoxy, though still some way from it, remained a regional or minority phenomenon. Yet this time the graft took. The French Communist Party became and has remained not merely the mass party of most French workers, the main force on the French left, but also a classically 'bolshevik' party.
This poses the major problem of its history. Mrs Kriegel does not set out to answer it directly - her two volumes end with the Congress of Tours which founded the party - but she does answer it indirectly, as it were, by a process of eliminating alternative possibilities.
The history of the years she has taken as her subject did not complete this elimination. Indeed, one of the main points of her argument is, that the subsequent development of the CP was by no means readily predictable in 1 The impact of the war and the Russian revolution must be traced by parallel enquiries into the evolution of the working class and the loosely organized and sometimes unrepresentative minority which made up the French labour movement.
Mrs Kriegel's book tells us comparatively little about this evolution, though it clearly passed through four major phases: Its chief carriers were the demobilized soldiers - the rhythm of gradual demobilization maintained the momentum of radicalization - and the industries metals and railways which combined a record of wartime importance with the return of ex-servicemen to their old occupations.
Nevertheless, until the end of the war the deep-seated nationalism which is the oldest and strongest tradition of the French left, kept the masses remote from a revolution including the Russian revolution which seemed to imply a German victory. Compared with Britain, for instance, the movement of sympathy for the soviets in 19 17, was strikingly weak.
And when it did, it was dissipated by the failure of their labour movement. For the labour movement the years from to were a succession of defeats, and of historically decisive defeats. From early 19 I 5 a modest pacifist-internationalist but not revolutionary opposition emerged, though - significantly enough - not on the foundation of the prewar radical left.
There was at this stage no split in the French labour movement, or at any rate no more divergence than there had always been in it, since the formula of loose unity had been devised in the early I goos ; nor was there a serious prospect of a permanent split.
Unlike Germany, the war had not split the party. Unlike Britain, the leaders of class collaboration in such as Arthur Henderson did not carry a united party with them into opposition to the war and into a moderate socialism.
But like Austria, the former pacifist minority became a majority, without dividing the party. R E V O L U T I O NA R I E S Of course in the heady atmosphere of world revolution all sections of the movement except the tiny and discredited extreme nationalist right, looked forward to 'revolution' and 'socialism', though it is a moot point whether the battles fought in actually had it as their object.
Whatever their object, they all failed. The small ultra-left who dreamed of a western-style proletarian revolution based on 'councils' and equally hostile to Parliament, parties and trade unions, failed in the strikes of the spring of 19 19, for it never reached the masses. The political socialists had always put their money on elected socialist governments, and drafted an ambitious programme of what such a government would do. They failed in the autumn of 19 19, because the political shift of the electorate to the socialists was disappointingly small; only about 14 per cent, much smaJler than in other countries.
At all events the reformist road was temporarily barred. Last, and most seriously, the revolutionary syndicalists - perhaps the strongest purely proletarian tradition of revolution in France - tried and failed in , with the collapse of the great railway strike.
The traditional myth of French labour, the revolutionary general strike, was dead. So, more significantly, was revolutionary syndicalism as a serious trend in the French movement. It was in these circumstances - and only in these circumstances - that the bulk of the French socialist party was prepared to follow Moscow, and even then it did so only with tacit qualifications - 'unreservedly, but without inopportune clarifications', as Mrs Kriegel puts it.
It required the reflux of the majority of socialists into the old party shortly after and the elimination of the original C P leadership some years later, to lay the foundation for a real bolshevik party.
This is doubtless true, but one may still doubt whether the permanent emergence of a mass CP was as 'accidental' as she suggests. In fact, it was simply a political non-starter.
What is more, the traditional pride in France as the 'classical' country of European revolution, and French revolutions as international style-setters, which had kept the French movement largely immune to marxism, was broken.
The French had failed - lamentably, and for the first time in an era of European revolution - whereas the bolsheviks had succeeded. The way for a transformation of French revolutionaries was, for the first time, open. But in the epoch of the Third International such a transformation excluded any maintenance of the prewar formulae of socialist unity. A communist left would be bolshevik or it would not exist at all. In the second place, as Mrs Kriegel rightly observes, the entire social basis of the pre- French labour movement disappeared.
One way or another both the reformism and the revolutionism of before 4 had to change, to be re-defined or more precisely defined. In this sense also, the road back to was barred.
But this very change in the French economy and the relationship between employers, workers and the state, raised problems which neither the socialists nor the communists faced, or even fully recognized, and in this failure lies much of the tragedy of western socialism.
Leon Blum's Socialist Party became neither the ideal Fabian party approaching socialism via elections and piecemeal reforms, nor even a simple reformist party within capitalism. It degenerated into something like the Radical Party of the Third Republic, and indeed took over its political role in the Fourth: The Communist Party remained the party of international proletarian revolution and, increasingly, of effective labour organization.
Bolshevization made it almost certainly into the most effective revolutionary organization in French history. And, as she correctly observes, it discovered a pseudo-solution for them 'by turning itself into a sort of imaginary global society, on the model of the soviet Russian universe' ; and, we may add, by increasingly retiring from effective participation in politics.
Only one thing has firmly divided it from becoming a reincarnation of socialism. Unlike it, in the crucial crises which made a choice between nationalism and internationalism mandatory, it has opted for internationalism in the only available form, loyalty to the October revolution as embodied in the USSR. Was there - is there - no way out of this dilemma of the revolutionary party in a non-revolutionary environment?
To ask this question is not to deny the correctness of the international course prescribed for the communist movement by Lenin, whose towering political genius emerges from Mrs Kriegel's book as from all other serious studies of his activity. There was, after all, a revolutionary situation in half the world in , though this does not mean, and Lenin never supposed it to mean, that soviet republics were on the agenda in London and Paris.
Hindsight may show that the developed countries of capitalism - even Germany - remained fundamentally unshaken, but it was correct, not to mention natural, for political generalship at the time to see Europe - or at any rate central Europe - as a battlefield on which victory was possible and not as a territory to be promptly evacuated.
Furthermore, not to have divided the labour movement, even if this had been possible, would have solved nothing.
The record of movements which remained substantially united, like the British and the Austrian, 6 Under the conditions of stalinism this implied a total identification with all the actions of the CPsu, for any hesitation meant expulsion and the loss of contact with the reality of world revolution; but Mrs Kriegel may perhaps be defending her own past when she argues that 'any attempt to establish any distinction between the soviet state and.
This is not to accept the Comintern uncritically. Gross mistakes of political appreciation were made, which the military rigidity of its organization passed on to the communist parties. Its inevitable domination by the C P SU had extremely bad consequences, and eventually wrecked it.
But those who think that the international labour movement, especially in western Europe, should never have taken the road it did in 1 are merely expressing a wish that history ought to have been different from what it was. However, the historian's business is not praise and blame, but analysis. It is worth remembering that it was initiated by the French Communist Party.
Whether, or how far, the experiences of the I S and I S remain relevant, is a matter for discussion. In any case they fall outside the scope of Mrs Kriegel's book. Before 4 the marxist intellectual was a rare bird west of Vienna, though at one point in the early s it looked as though he would become a permanent and plentiful species.
The characteristic left-wing intellectual of Edwardian Britain was a liberal-radical, ofDreyfusard France a revolutionary of , but one almost certainly destined for an honoured place in the state as a teacher.
It was not until the first world war and the slump broke these old traditions and certainties that the intellectuals turned directly to Marx in large numbers. They did so via Lenin. The history of marxism among intellectuals in the west is therefore largely the history of their relationship with the communist parties which replaced social democracy as the chief representatives of marxism.
In recent years these relations have been the subject of a vast literature, mainly the work of ex-communists, dissident marxists and American scholars, and chiefly consisting of autobiographies or annotated who's whos of prominent intellectuals who joined, and mostly left, various communist parties.
David Caute's Communism and the French Intellectuals1 is one of the more satisfactory specimens of the second type, for it accepts - indeed it argues strongly - that the 1 David Caute, Communism.
The greater part of his book therefore deals not so much with communism and the intellectuals as with the intellectuals and communism. In countries like France and Italy, where the party has long been and remains the major force of the left, it is likely that political behaviour e.
We know this to be so among workers. Unfortunately the difficulties of finding a workable sociological definition of 'intellectuals' have so far deprived us of reliable statistics about them, though the few we have suggest that it applies to them also.
Thus party membership at the Ecole Normale Superieure dropped from 25 per cent after the war to 5 per cent in I , but the communists obtained 2 I per cent of the votes at the Cite Universitaire in I 95 I and 26 per cent in I Still, whatever the general trend of pofr: This is normally ascribed to the increasing conversion of these parties, following the Soviet lead, into rigidly dogmatic bodies allowing no deviation from an orthodoxy that finished by covering every conceivable aspect of human thought, thus leaving very little scope for the activity from which intellectuals take their names.
What is more, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, which preferred to keep its orthodoxy unchanged, communism changed it frequently, profoundly, and unexpectedly in the course of day-by-day politics.
The unpleasant aspects of life in the ussR also, it is argued, alienated many of them.
This is only part of the truth. The active adherent of a modern mass party, like the modern MP , abdicates his judgment in practice, whatever his theoretical reservations or whatever the nominal provision for harmless dissent. As Mr Caute sensibly points out: Similarly the communist intellectual, in opting for the USSR and his party, did so because on balance the good on his side seemed to outweigh the bad. Not the least of Mr Caute's merits is to show how, for example in the s, not only hard-shell party militants but sympathizers consciously refrained from criticism of Soviet purges or Spanish republican misdeeds in the interests of the greater cause of anti-fascism.
Communists did not often discuss this choice in public. It may be that not only the proverbial gallic logic but also the background of Roman Catholicism shared, in different ways, alike by believers and unbelievers made the idea of adhering to a comprehensive party with mental reservations more readily acceptable in France than in the Britain of a hundred religions and but a single sauce. Still, all allowances made, the way of the party intellectual was hard, and most of the actively committed ones had a breaking-point, even those who joined the party in the stalinist period and largely because of its stalinism, i.
Intelligent ones, though capable of much self-delusion, were more likely to retreat into the posture of the advocate or civil servant whose private opinions are irrelevant to his brief, or the policeman who breaks the law the better to maintain it. It was an attitude which grew easily out of the hard-headed party approach to politics, but one which produced a breed of professional bruisers of intellectual debate.
The French version of them is indeed an especially disagreeable one, and the book is largely dominated by the author's disgust with them. One can hardly fail to sympathize with him. Aragon's gifts as a writer are towering, but irrelevant to one's feelings about his intellectual gutter-journalism, and there are plenty of others whose personal talents command no respect.
Yet two important questions should not be obscured by this distaste. The first is about the object of the exercise. If it was to gain support for the party among intellectuals, as Mr Caute assumes, then the public activities in the s of MM Stil, Kanapa, Wurmser, et al.
The truth is rather that two motives conflicted: What is interesting is that in such periods the French party chose as the Italian never quite did the second aim, which was essentially to persuade the comrades that they did not need to listen to the outsiders who were all class enemies and liars. It implied the attempt to make the party artist or writer economically independent of the outside world. It also implied that at such times Aragon's outside reputation, like Belloc's for prewar English Catholics, was valuable as an asset within the movement, rather than as a means of converting outsiders.
The second question is the crucial one of how communist policy can be changed. Here again the Roman Catholic parallel of which French communists were more aware than Mr Caute allows is relevant. Those who have changed party orientation have not been men with a record of criticism and dissidence, but of unquestioned stalinist loyalty, from Khruschev and Mikoyan to Tito, Gomulka and Togliatti.
The reason is not merely that such men in the s and s thought stalinism preferable to its communist alternatives, or even that from the s criticism tended to shorten life among those domiciled in the ussR. It is also that the communist who cut himself off from the party - and this was long the almost automatic consequence of dissidence - lost all possibility of influencing it. Since the s, when Mr Caute's book ends, it has become clear that even hard-core intellectual functionaries like Aragon and Garaudy were more anxious than he allows to initiate policy changes.
Nor ought their arguments or their hesitant initiatives to be judged by the standards of liberal discussion, any more than the behaviour of the reforming prelates before and during the Vatican Council. However, to see the problem of communism and the French intellectuals chiefly as one of the relations between party and intellectuals, whether from the party's or the individual intellectual's point of view, is to touch it only at the margin.
It may be argued that party policy in general and in intellectual matters could have been more effective, particularly in certain periods such as the os and the os. But such arguments can, if they are to have value, be based only on the recognition of the limits imposed on the party by a situation over which it had little control. We cannot, for instance, make sense of the 'dilemma' of the communist intellectual in a proletarian party unless we recognize that the causes which have mobilized French intellectuals most fully have, since , rarely been popular ones.
One of the genuine difficulties of the Communist Party during the Algerian war, as of the Dreyfusard socialist leaders in the s, was the fact that their rank and file was largely out of sympathy with Dreyfus or the FLN. Why this was so requires analysis. So, more generally, does the failure of the entire French left since - and perhaps since before - to achieve political hegemony in the nation which it created during the great Revolution.
Between the wars governments of the left , were as rare in Jacobin France as in conservative Britain, though in the middle l 93os it did look for a moment as though the left might resume its long-lost leadership. One of the crucial differences between the French and the Italian Communist Parties is that the Italian Resistance, like the Yugoslav, was a national movement led by the left, whereas the French Resistance was merely the honourable rebellion of a section of Frenchmen.
The problem of breaking out of minority opposition into national hegemony was not only a communist one. This is probably one reason why French critics of all parties, whose political nerve it touches, have overrated it.
The aim of the French left has always been to become a movement of both workers and intellectuals at the head of the nation. The problem of the Communist Party has arisen largely from the extreme difficulty of achieving this ancient Jacobin object in the mid-twentieth century. The fortunes of the various C P S have fluctuated, but in the course of the half century or so since most of the European ones were founded few have substantially improved their international ranking order or what is much the same thing transformed the character of their political influence in their native country.
There have been some rare cases of 'promotion' from a lower to a higher division of the political league, as, presumably, the Spanish CP which was relatively insignificant until the Spanish Civil War,1 and some obvious cases of relegation such as the CP in Western Germany, which never recovered from the blows received under Hitler. But by and large, though their strength and influence have fluctuated, most of the communist parties at least of capitalist Europe have never played in their countries' political First Divisions, even when they emerged at the end of the last war with the prestige of their unparalleled record in the resistance.
On the other hand some of them, such as the French and the Finnish, have always been major political forces, even at the worst points of their careers. How far this is true of the world as a whole is more difficult to assess, but need not concern us here. The Italian CP is one of the rare examples of unquestioned 'promotion'.
Before fascism it was never more than a minority party within what was admittedly a rather left-wing socialist 1 The illegality under which several CPS have operated for most of their history, and a number still do, makes the assessment of their political strength and influence somewhat speculative. As the dust of the split settled down it became rapidly clear that it represented a comparatively modest minority, whatever the revolutionary sympathies and possibilities of the rest of the socialist movement.
In I 92 I it polled less than a fifth of the socialist vote, in I , despite the socialist decline, the proportion was still almost three to one against it.
Its own percentage of the popular vote never reached 5 per cent. Since the war it has emerged increasingly as the major force within the left, as the effective 'opposition' in a de facto two-party structure of politics, and, what is more, it has gained strength steadily and almost without interruption. However, there can be no doubt that the party has been incomparably more important in national politics since the war than it ever was before, and that it has not on]y maintained but strengthened its position for a generation.
What is really interesting about the history of the Italian cP is the startling contrast between its extreme weakness for most of the fascist period and its astonishing expansion during and after the Resistance ; or alternatively between the remarkable continuity of an unusually able party leadership, whose quality was internationally recognized, and the enormous difference between the party which was regarded by the Comintern as notoriously feeble and disappointing, and that which, in I , was one of the only two non-governmental parties to be invited to join the Cominform.
How great that difference was can now be established from Paolo Spriano's Storia del Partito Comunista Italiano, written with full access to the archives of state and C P , but not to those of the Percentage of communist vote in elections for Chamber of Deputies: The bulk of its leading cadres was in jail, the apparently inevitable destination of relays of brave and devoted militants sent into Italy during the past seven years.
Its activities in the country were minimal. The fascist regime was sufficiently self-confident to include several hundred communist prisoners in the amnesty with which Mussolini celebrated the tenth anniversary of the March on Rome. They reached a climax of unreality in the eighteen months after his advent to power.
The party's i. It cannot have been easy for a communist historian to record Italian party leaders trying desperately to retain a faint element of realism in their analysis 'We cannot say that in Italy social-democracy is the main support of the bourgeoisie' and obliged the next day to make a public recantation - and this ten years after the March on Rome.
Nevertheless, even after the Comintern adopted the line of anti-fascist unity with the enthusiastic support of Togliatti, who joined Dimitrov in the leadership of the International the Italian party failed to advance.
This was all the more surprising since the new line was both eminently sensible and uniquely designed to improve the prospects of the communist parties, virtually all of 8 Three volumes of Spriano,s history have so far been published, covering the period until 1 Turin 1 , 1 , Whether the Comintern archives have been closed for technical reasons - until the death of Stalin they appear not to have been even roughly catalogued, and unexpected discoveries can still, one is told on good authority, be made in them - or for political reasons, their inaccessibility is much to be regretted.
So, of course, did the Italians, in a modest way. Moreover, they remained by far the. In 1 there were among the Italian emigration in France some four to five thousand organized Communists, about six hundred members of the Socialist Party and a hundred or so anarchists. Still, it is worth remembering that, according to the CP's own estimates, there were at this time almost half a million Italian workers in that country, of whom the largest and broadest mass organization of the CP did not capture more than fifteen thousand.
The most genuine and publicized achievement of the party also demonstrates its weakness: Togliatti, Longo, Vidali. The Garibaldi Brigades played a notably heroic and effective part ; not only in the defence of Spain but - as the non-communist Giustizia e Liberta was, it must be admitted, quicker to see than the CP - in restoring the self-confidence of the Italian left.
Approximately a thousand of these arrived in the second half of , four hundred in the first, a little more than three hundred in the second half of 1 , rather less than three hundred in 1 Incidentally, of the 2, whose immediate provenance can be established, 2, came from the French emigration and only directly from Italy. Italian anti-fascism lacks a revolutionary glory. We must recognize that we have not known how to do battle against fascism.
The small political vanguard of the Italian emigration must generously sacrifice itself. It will acquire experience on the battlefields. It will make its name there. It will become the nucleus that will attract around itself the greater vanguard of tomorrow.
In a word, the anti-fascist emigration mobilized itself, and when it had done this it had nobody left to mobilize. This is the background to another phenomenon that has not been sufficiently well known until Paolo Spriano's work: After 1 it becomes impossible even to identify the leading committees of the International and their membership from published sources.
Togliatti's prominence in the International, Longo's in the International Brigades, have tended to divert attention from the fact that the m's criticisms became progressively more severe, until the point was reached where the Central Committee of the party was dissolved by Moscow in 1 , the financial aid on which it depended almost wholly was drastically cut in early 1 , and that there was talk of yet further reorganizations of the leadership until well into the war. No doubt personal animosities and byzantine court intrigues played their part in all this, but the major reason for the m's dissatisfaction was rational enough: It remained what it had long been, a group of a few hundred political emigrants, wholly dependent on the material support of Moscow, plus a large number of prisoners in Mussolini's jails, or in forced residence.
In some respects the situation in the first year of Italy's war was even more disastrous than in 1 , for then there had been a coherent body of leaders, whereas the Spanish war, the fall of France, and other events had now dispersed even this 'external centre'. This failure cannot be blamed on 'orders from Moscow' in any literal sense, however plausible. Nor can it be entirely blamed on the errors of the Italian party, whether these were their own or part of a general trend among communists.
They themselves failed to see fascism as a general phenomenon, and still tended when not forced into the official formulae of Moscow to analyze it as a special problem of one particular rather backward capitalism.
Nevertheless, the main reasons for the failure of the POI were probably objective, and the Comintern underestimated them, because, in spite of its long experience of illegality, fascism had no real precedent.
The POI itself had been taken by surprise: Their organizations were to be dissolved, their leaders and cadres down to local and works level were to be eliminated, and they were to be left, as Trotsky was later to put it 'in an amorphous state'.
So long as 'any independent crystallization of the proletariat' or any other class was to be prevented, it did not much matter what the workers thought. But what could an illegal movement do once decapitation and pulverization had been successful?
It could maintain - or rather re-establish - contact with existing groups of loyal supporters, and perhaps with luck form some new ones. This became progressively more difficult.
And what, in any case, could the illegal organization do? On the margins of modern society, or where the state power does not or cannot maintain intensive control, they might maintain themselves better: It is probably no accident that as organization in the industrial north collapsed, the centre of the illegal party in the late I S and early I S shifted to central Italy, which by then had twice as many known members as the north.
But in the short run, what difference did this make? When fascism fell, we hear of several touching cases of individuals and groups, out of touch with their party for years, who paid up all their back dues, which they had carefully saved up through the long internal exile of fascism. We know that the militants of the Sicilian village of Piana degli Albanesi took pride in never once omitting to send at least a token demonstration on May Day to the remote mountain glen where the founder of socialism in their region, the noble Nicola Barbato, had addressed them in I and where the bandit Giuliano was to massacre them in I 94 7.
But such examples, however moving, prove the efficacy of the fascist policy. It cut off the party even from its most persistent supporters and prevented effective expression of their loyalty. What could an illegal movement do under such circumstances? The then familiar refuge of weak illegal oppositions, individual terrorism, was unacceptable to marxists, the experience of tsarist Russia having proved to their satisfaction that it was ineffective.
At this period guerrilla insurrection of the Maoist or Guevarist kind was not yet fashionable. In any case the record of such activity in the nineteenth century, both by Mazzini's followers and by the anarchists, hardly recommended it to communists.
Communists could hope for such a crisis, and mistakenly thought either the slump or the Abyssinian war 7 We recall that the Russian terrorists at the peak of their effectiveness consisted of probably not more than five hundred individuals. All the International could think of was to urge the PCI to get back into Italy among the masses at all costs, and there was not much else the PCI could think of either. And this task seemed impossible. We can now see in retrospect that the basis of its subsequent success nevertheless existed or was being established.
In the first place, the mass of anti-fascist Italians remained unreconciled. The mass basis of Italian fascism remained narrower than that of Nazism. Secondly, the collapse of anarchism and the passivity of the Socialist Party transferred a substantial body of worker and peasant support at least potentially to communism. To this extent the party's persistent presence, and the fascists' own attitude to communism, established it as the major nucleus of anti-fascist opposition.
That there was such a transfer of loyalties in Italy, unlike Germany, was probably due to the very different structure of the left movement in the two countries. There was not in Italy the fatal polarization of the labour movement between mutually hostile parties of very different social structures. The Italian 'red' movement of the early s was still a spectrum of overlapping tendencies and groups.
Between the reformist Unitarians at one end and the Communists and anarchists on the other, stood the Maximalists, whose frustrated desire to affiliate to the Comintern together with the Pm's serious plans to reunite with them, demonstrate the common ground between them.
Just as it was to prove easier for socialists and communists to establish a working united front in , so it was easier for former socialists to emerge as communists after fascism. Thirdly, at some time during the IS - between and I - a certain revival of opposition within Italy may be noted. This is most easily documented among the young intellectuals who subsequently made their names both as party leaders Ingrao, Alicata and as leaders of the postwar communist hegemony of Italian culture.
Spain undoubtedly played an important part in this crystallization of the old and its reinforcement by a new generation of anti-fascists - a new generation which probably, though this is difficult to document, included workers also.
At all events the activists in the small and impermanent party cells appear to have been chiefly young people. It demonstrated that fascism was not all..