I was clearing out some papers over the Christmas break and came across various educational certificates dated from the 197o’s (when I was but a lad), and a copy of Marxism Today, then over on the Radio came an interview with Eric Hobsbawm who is now a venerable 93 years old and has the historians eye for evaluating the present with a sure knowledge of the recent Past.
This syncronicity was quite nostalgic as Hobsbawm was a regular contributor to MT and I had the pleasure of attending a number of his lectures as a flair wearing student with unruly hair. I was however always on my guard against his uncritical Marxism, as I was with another of his contemporaries Stuart Hall. This was the world of the History Man personified and I was there !
Hobsbawm was an impressive speaker and unless you were aware of his personal history and political affiliations you would listen to him and be quite comfortably drawn into his world view of class struggle.
Martin Jacques the last editor was an erudite intellectual always seen on the BBC as the acceptable resonable face of a philosophy that spawned Stalin,Pol Pot and other such humanist political leaders. Marxism Today was after all the in house magazine of the CPGB. Jacques believes that Marxism Today was easily the most ‘influential political magazine between 1978 and 1991. My rotting copy predates 1978 so I could not comment, but with my ageing eyes and historians 15 yard swimming certificate behind me, as a primary source it is telling how out of touch the contributors were with the real world going on outside their ivory towers. The talk of the ‘proletariat’ and of ‘continuing the revolutionary struggle’ de dah de dah. This was the comfortable middle class marxism beloved of Baader-Meinhof or the current practioners of Radical Chic.
As they propounded there theories of class struggle, the aspiring mondeo man voted repeatedly for the free market Thatcherism against the dinosaurs like Scargill. The Wall came down in Berlin, Eastern Europe was set free and Soviet Russia imploded. The CPGB folded along with it Marxism Today which was a bit of a surprise to Jacques and others.
I now realise in my mid fifties that I was part of that history, but as it is with history the present is created out of the seeds of the past.
In Milibandism, the unblinking, out of touch with the ‘working classes’ theorising Marxism still lives on.