Special: Eric Hobsbawm - Age of Extremes The Late Show


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Special: Eric Hobsbawm - Age of Extremes

From 1994, celebrated historian Professor Eric Hobsbawm talks to Michael Ignatieff about his book Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century.


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HOBSBSAWM: We've all been engaged, for most of the 20th century,

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in a sort of war of religion.

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All of us.

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PATRIOTIC ANTHEM

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We didn't believe in radiant tomorrows.

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If you believe you are living in a world

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which is crashing about your ears, your choice is a future or no future.

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CHEERING

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I am not the only person who ends the 20th century

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with a feeling that things could have been different and better.

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I think that very few people who end the 20th century

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are not looking back with a certain amount of...

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melancholy, and forward with a certain amount of unease.

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Eric Hobsbawm is one of our most original historians.

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His trilogy on the 19th century,

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Age of Revolution, Age Of Capital and Age Of Empire,

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has been acclaimed as one of the great achievements

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of historical writing in recent decades.

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Together with fellow Marxists E.P. Thompson and Christopher Hill,

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Hobsbawm's work changed the way we think about British history.

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Now Eric Hobsbawm has turned for the first time to the 20th century

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in his new book, Age Of Extremes The Short 20th Century,

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published this week.

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This is a history Eric Hobsbawm has not only written about, but lived.

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He was born in 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution.

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He's a Jew who was forced to flee from Hitler's Germany,

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a communist through the Stalin years,

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he stayed in the party in 1956 and he lived to see 1989

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and now in the 1990's he sees the threat of a return to barbarism.

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Eric, you've written important books

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about the history of the 19th-century

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about imperialism, about labouring men.

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What are the challenges of writing the history of your own century,

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the times you yourself have lived?

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Well, one thing that makes it difficult to write

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contemporary history, is that you need, it seems to me,

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a certain amount of distance.

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Emotional distance as well as chronological distance from it.

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It's possible to do this now since the end of the '80s,

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beginning of the '90s, because you can look back

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and see the period from 1914 or thereabouts

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to 1989, '91, thereabouts,

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as something belonging together,

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as not simply a tract of time but something which has its unity.

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What then is the shape of that period, the short century?

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I think the shape is

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it begins with the breakdown of 19th-century society.

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The breakdown, the reconstitution of capitalist society

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on a different basis.

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One of the by-products of this breakdown was the October Revolution

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and the enormous effects, globally, which it had.

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Now, this period is over

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and we find ourselves in another of the...

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at another of the historic moments

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when we find the existing world system if you like,

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the world economy, the world civilisation, working up towards -

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or perhaps in the process of - a major restructuring, a major change,

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in a direction which may not be easy to predict, impossible to predict.

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What I noticed in your introduction to the book was a sense

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of historical change destroying the continuity between generations -

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erasing the past as it progresses

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so that what's truly terrible about this century

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is that people can't remember and it makes a historian's job more difficult,

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it makes a historian's job more important,

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but this there's this continual sense of the tape

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of the historical past being erased from people's memory

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by the sheer pace of change.

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I think this applies to the younger generation,

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the post-war generation, more than anything else and I think it happens

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not so much because of the pace of change

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but because of the change of character of society

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which concentrates on the individual

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rather than the individual as part of a community, a society,

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a continuum between generations, and on the now,

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namely buying things, enjoying things, here and now.

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And that's the enemy of historical continuity and historical memory.

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Yes, because for one thing, you see, the mechanisms...in the past

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there are always mechanisms by which the young generation is linked

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with the older generations.

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-For instance, Marc Bloch...

-The great French historian.

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..the great French historian, once pointed out that in actual fact

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in agrarian societies continuity is maintained by jumping generations.

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Children are brought up by grandparents

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because parents go out and work in the fields

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and so consequently children immediately get introduced

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to what grandparents remember about their past and so on in turn.

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And that's been broken up in our century.

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This has been broken completely for a variety of reasons,

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for one thing, indeed, the experience of the past is quite often

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no longer relevant, or no longer seems relevant

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to the younger generation

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and consequently it becomes something different.

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The only past which people,

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very young people, really recognise, is their own personal past.

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The rest is something like olden times.

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I wanted to now shift tack and talk about the ways

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in which your own life intersects with the history

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because I think this is what makes it such an unusual book, the sense

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in which your own life is implicated in the story you are telling.

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I mean, if you begin right at the beginning - you're born

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in Egypt, your father works for the Post and Telegraph Company.

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It's a very imperial beginning, in a sense.

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Your own life begins in the British imperial twilight.

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I mean, is that how you see your own beginnings?

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I have been conscious of, as it were, living in history

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for a very long time, but that is essentially because

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at a crucial stage,

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you know, when I was, whatever it is, a young teenager,

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I was lucky...

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Yes, lucky enough, to live in Berlin just in the last years

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when Hitler came to power

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and if you don't feel that you are part of world history

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at that time, you never will.

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So you are a very odd case, in fact.

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You're an English, Jewish boy,

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growing up in the Berlin in which Hitler comes to power.

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That's where we are. Now, at 14, you do something extraordinary -

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you join the Communist Party. Why?

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It isn't extraordinary, I can assure you that in 1931, '32,

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it was not at all extraordinary for somebody to become a Communist.

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Why?

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Because you can't understand anything

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about the first half of the 20th century -

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at least from 1914 until the Second World War right in the middle -

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without grasping that most people believed

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the old world was coming to an end.

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Inevitably. The old world was crashing,

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we were living in the crashing of an old world.

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And you had to look for an alternative.

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It was either the fascist alternative or it was a socialist alternative

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which in Germany in 1931, '32, would have meant Communism.

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THEY SING PATRIOTIC ANTHEM

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But Hitler is just about to take power. This is 1933.

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Is it becoming dangerous to engage in student activity?

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Obviously we had...

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We knew that this was a major catastrophe.

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I mean, I can still remember to this day,

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the afternoon when I was walking back from school and saw the headline

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"Hitler as"... you know, "Reich Chancellor."

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Personal danger in the sense of being personally afraid,

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that's a completely different matter.

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Whether you are personally afraid or not is a private matter,

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but, as it were, that you know that what is happening

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is something dramatic and for a long period at least irreversible,

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that we knew.

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Is that a moment when you become conscious of Jewishness

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or had you always been conscious of Jewishness?

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There's no way in which you can be brought up in Central Europe

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without being conscious of Jewishness if you are a Jew,

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even though I wasn't that conscious of anti-Semitism,

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because in some ways I was being treated as a foreigner,

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an English boy, rather than anything,

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but there's no way in which you can avoid

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the consciousness of being a Jew, which I've always had.

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You leave in 1933 for England,

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but you don't leave because of thing Hitler.

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-No, not because of Hitler.

-You're not Jewish refugees from Hitler.

-No.

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We were really refugees from the slump, you might say.

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Do you leave behind Jewish relatives in Austria and Germany?

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-Yes, of course.

-What happens to them?

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Some get out, some get into concentration camps and die.

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At about this period, '33, '34...

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..the kulak class is being liquidated

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and millions of peasants are dying, starved or being deported by Stalin.

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'33,'34, we're in the midst of the Five-Year Plan,

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or the second Five-Year Plan, I can't remember.

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But in any case millions of people are dying in the Soviet Experiment.

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If you had known that, would it have made a difference to you

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at that time? To your commitment to being a Communist?

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This is a sort of academic question

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to which an answer is simply not possible.

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Erm...

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I don't actually know that it has any bearing

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on the history that I have written.

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If I were to give you a retrospective answer,

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which is not the answer of an historian on something...

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..I would have said probably not.

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Why?

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Because...

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..in a period in which, as you might say,

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mass murder and mass suffering are absolutely universal,

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the chance of a new world being born in great suffering

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would still have been worth backing.

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Now, the point is,

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looking back as a historian...

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I would say that it was probably not.

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The sacrifices which were made by the Russian people

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were probably only marginally worthwhile.

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Their sacrifices were enormous,

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they were excessive by almost any standard, and unnecessarily great.

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But I'm looking back on it now

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and I'm saying that is because it turns out

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that the Soviet Union was not the beginning of the world revolution.

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Had it been...

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I'm not sure.

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After all, do people now say,

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"We shouldn't have had World War II

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"because more people died in World War II than died in Stalin's Terror?"

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So what that comes down to is saying

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that had the radiant tomorrow actually been created,

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the loss of 15, 20 million people might have been justified.

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Yes.

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Which is exactly what people said about World War I and World War II.

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Most people ended up by saying, "We think it was wrong in World War I."

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Very few people ended up by saying,

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"We think it was wrong in World War II."

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But isn't there some sense

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in which the radiant tomorrow can't, in principle, be built at that cost?

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Because it can't then be a radiant tomorrow,

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because human beings have memories

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and what they remember is desolation.

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In the first place, I think, you see,

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a radiant tomorrow was rhetoric.

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It was the rhetoric of the people that I believed in, too, that's true,

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but it was pure rhetoric.

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We didn't believe in radiant tomorrows.

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We believed in A world rather than NO world.

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We hoped that that would be a far better world.

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We hoped that it would be, quote-unquote, "a perfect world",

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in which, you know,

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in some of us, when you're young enough,

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you believed that there wouldn't be any unhappiness,

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there wouldn't be any unhappiness in love in this new world,

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but that isn't true,

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even if, rationally, one knew that this wouldn't be the case,

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nevertheless, the real secret of the whole business was,

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if you believe you are living in a world

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which is crashing about your ears,

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your choice is a future or no future.

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And it was that.

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If you remember, and I quote it somewhere in my book,

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the famous phrase by Walter Benjamin about the angel. Huh?

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The angel of history.

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The angel of history, you see?

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That what the angel of history sees as he moves backwards into progress

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is precisely the ruins

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that are being accumulated by the process of history.

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So, in a curious way,

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even though we, as Communists,

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and other Socialists, if you like,

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were committed to an upbeat view of the future,

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we really, living through the period in which we did,

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we knew we weren't living through a period in which all you have to do

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is to push the right kind of button

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and turn the right kind of switch,

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and everything's going to be lovely.

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I don't think any serious left-winger

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even believed that the Soviet Union,

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that everything in the Soviet Union was lovely. It was an awful place,

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even if you underestimated the number of people who were killed

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and imprisoned in it.

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You come to England in 1933.

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-By 1936, you're in Cambridge.

-Mm-hm.

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Right through your Cambridge years, and then in the post-war years,

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you're very actively in the Communist Party.

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What did it mean to be a party member in those years?

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Those of us who stayed in and committed ourselves,

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I suppose the only thing to do is, it's a lifetime commitment

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and a total commitment. It was the most important thing for us,

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because...

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..again, I've got to return to what we said earlier on,

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you didn't have the option, you see?

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Either there was going to be a future or there wasn't going to be a future

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and this was the only thing that offered an acceptable future.

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-So...

-When you say total commitment, I mean, how total?

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If the party told you to do something,

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it would have priority over everything else.

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I mean, if the party said,

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-"You can't be going out with that woman..."

-Yes.

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-Really? That far?

-Mmm.

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It dictated your personal life

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as well as your political convictions, completely?

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In theory, at any rate.

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Whether it always did so in practice, we don't know,

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but in fact, to a surprising extent,

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I mean, yes,

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you know, I mean...

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It would have complete priority.

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You see, what I find very difficult to square here is

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your obvious restless independence of mind

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with this party belief. I can't see how someone like you

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could remain within a kind of organisation of military Jesuits.

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I think if you found

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you couldn't actually hold still for what you were supposed to,

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you just kept quiet.

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You dealt with something else.

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For instance, I never professionally wrote anything or said anything

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about the Soviet Union or the Russian Revolution

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because it was perfectly clear to me

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that what you were officially supposed to say about it

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was just not so, or at any rate,

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contained large chunks which were simply not defensible.

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When did you know that to be the case?

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Oh, I mean, from the moment that

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they started saying, whatever it is,

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that Trotsky had been an agent of the British intelligence service

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going back to 1918, that kind of stuff,

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which was even before the war.

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Well, if you did that,

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the option was, either you wrote about the Soviet Union,

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in which case you couldn't be in the Communist Party,

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or you kept quiet and wrote about something else.

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Did you ever go to the Soviet Union in this early period

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and what impression did it make on you if you did?

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I went to the Soviet Union

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for the first and the only time, really,

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except for relatively short trips, which don't count,

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in the year after Stalin died,

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when they were just beginning to open up.

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It made a very poor impression on me,

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not so much because you could tell

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about all these awful things which had happened - you could merely see

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that it was an extraordinarily poor and backward country,

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but one knew that after the war and the destruction.

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It was a country in which one didn't recognise any Communists.

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Meaning?

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Meaning we knew what Communists were like

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and the only thing that one could see in Russia

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were people who lived in a Communist country

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and made their career in a Communist country.

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Now, of course, this was untypical in the early '50s

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because the guys had yet to come back from the camps

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and later on... Or from exile, and later on,

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one came across, again, people who were recognisable,

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-but whereas in...

-What you're saying there is interesting -

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that is, the people who actually burned with an original faith

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had been put in prison, in fact.

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-I don't know, but you didn't come across them.

-Right.

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Whereas, for instance,

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in the "People's Democracies," quote-unquote,

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you did recognise these people.

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You may have thought, you know,

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"These have now become bureaucrats" or this, that or the other

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but you could recognise how they worked, how their minds worked.

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They worked the way we worked. Not in Russia.

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What's it like to be in a church,

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assuming that Communism is a kind of secular religion,

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when you know, having seen with your own eyes,

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that the central mystery at the centre of the church,

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that is, the state of the Soviet Union, is rotten?

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How do you live with that?

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The Soviet Union...you see, for us,

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in the West, was not the central mystery.

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Socialism, Communism, were the central mystery.

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The Soviet Union is where it started

0:21:510:21:53

and for practical purposes, you absolutely had to work with it

0:21:530:21:58

because that was...between the wars, that was the only game in town.

0:21:580:22:02

There was no other kind of socialism.

0:22:020:22:05

If that had gone, there would be no chance at all.

0:22:050:22:09

In effect, you couldn't get anywhere without the Soviet Union.

0:22:110:22:15

And, you see, that was true.

0:22:160:22:18

Without Stalin, without the Red Army,

0:22:180:22:23

we wouldn't have won the war.

0:22:230:22:24

A couple of months ago,

0:22:260:22:28

I was at a conference in Italy about Nazi atrocities during the war,

0:22:280:22:32

the memory of World War II,

0:22:320:22:35

and there were people there from Russia too

0:22:350:22:38

who regarded the entire subject as merely a conspiracy

0:22:380:22:42

to stop people talking about the awfulness of Stalinism

0:22:420:22:47

and one of the Italians got up and said, "You must realise,

0:22:470:22:52

"Stalin was terrible for YOU.

0:22:520:22:54

"For US, it meant liberation."

0:22:540:22:58

Let me tell you... Let me tell you a story, Eric,

0:22:580:23:01

-that I grew up with about Claud Cockburn, who was in the party.

-Yes.

0:23:010:23:06

And they asked Claud Cockburn

0:23:060:23:07

what the experience was of being in the party

0:23:070:23:10

and he told the following, admittedly very sexist, joke,

0:23:100:23:14

about a southern belle in a rape trial

0:23:140:23:17

who is asked by the judge,

0:23:170:23:19

"When," he asks the southern belle, "did the rape actually occur?"

0:23:190:23:25

And the belle says, "Judge, it was rape, rape, rape all summer long."

0:23:250:23:29

But I mean, wasn't being in the party,

0:23:290:23:32

to an intelligent intellectual like you, at a certain point,

0:23:320:23:35

rape, rape, all summer long,

0:23:350:23:37

in the sense that you had '56, the Hungarian invasion.

0:23:370:23:41

You then had Prague, '68, the Soviet invasion again.

0:23:410:23:45

You had one constant thing, that was just unjustifiable, to justify.

0:23:450:23:52

'56 was the real turning point.

0:23:530:23:56

This was when the international communist movement went to pieces.

0:23:560:24:00

Until that time, it didn't.

0:24:010:24:04

In fact, it was held together, probably by the Cold War,

0:24:050:24:10

which prolonged, actually, the existence of the Soviet Union

0:24:100:24:13

and the existence of the international Communist movement.

0:24:130:24:16

So before that,

0:24:170:24:20

you had a number of things which were increasingly implausible,

0:24:200:24:27

not so much the actual terror,

0:24:270:24:30

because we really did not know,

0:24:300:24:33

nobody knew, how many people were killed.

0:24:330:24:36

Even now, they don't know.

0:24:360:24:38

Even the anti-Stalinist outsiders don't know

0:24:380:24:46

because the estimates about everything in the Soviet Union

0:24:460:24:50

are pure speculation. I mean...

0:24:500:24:52

Are you actually seriously telling me

0:24:520:24:56

that the Stalinist crimes are much exaggerated?

0:24:560:25:00

No, I'm not telling you that. I'm simply saying that nobody knows.

0:25:000:25:04

What we say about Stalin so far is...

0:25:040:25:07

Depends very largely on

0:25:070:25:10

the attitude of the people

0:25:100:25:12

who are making the estimates.

0:25:120:25:16

For instance, on the gulags, there is a difference.

0:25:160:25:19

All the estimates are terrible and indefensible

0:25:190:25:22

because they all run into millions.

0:25:220:25:24

But the estimates range from between

0:25:240:25:27

3-4 million to between 13-14 million.

0:25:270:25:29

And with a range like this,

0:25:290:25:32

they are not serious estimates,

0:25:320:25:34

they aren't even orders of magnitude.

0:25:340:25:38

All you can say is that whatever actually turns out in the end,

0:25:380:25:42

it was inhuman, indefensible,

0:25:420:25:44

and there is no way in which

0:25:440:25:47

you can minimise it.

0:25:470:25:49

GUNSHOTS

0:25:490:25:52

What happens in '56 to you?

0:25:540:25:57

Do you leave the party over the Soviet invasion of Hungary, or not?

0:25:570:26:00

No, we protested, all of us. I protested.

0:26:000:26:04

Others did too, but I personally didn't leave,

0:26:040:26:07

but most of the others did.

0:26:070:26:09

Why didn't you leave? And why didn't you leave for so long after?

0:26:090:26:13

It's very different for people who became

0:26:170:26:21

communists in Berlin

0:26:210:26:24

between 1931 and 1933.

0:26:240:26:27

Even though for most of us,

0:26:310:26:32

in this country and elsewhere,

0:26:320:26:36

the basic historic experience is that of the 1930s.

0:26:360:26:40

The broad popular front one. This is still the way I think about politics,

0:26:400:26:46

effectively and politically.

0:26:460:26:48

In fact, the commitment goes earlier.

0:26:480:26:53

And in a way...

0:26:540:26:56

..I, in the first place,

0:26:590:27:02

I never wanted to belong to the people

0:27:020:27:05

who had left and turned against.

0:27:050:27:08

I don't want to be in that company,

0:27:080:27:10

I didn't want to be in that company.

0:27:100:27:13

In the second place,

0:27:130:27:15

I did not want to betray the people I knew

0:27:150:27:19

who had actually

0:27:190:27:21

sacrificed their lives and lost.

0:27:210:27:26

You see, a lot of people,

0:27:260:27:28

people like myself,

0:27:280:27:30

had very easy lives, by and large.

0:27:300:27:33

But there were others of my friends

0:27:330:27:35

and comrades who haven't.

0:27:350:27:37

And, you know, I can show you

0:27:370:27:40

photographs of people and say,

0:27:400:27:43

"This man was killed

0:27:430:27:45

"in the Resistance.

0:27:450:27:47

"This man was killed..."

0:27:470:27:50

These were my contemporaries.

0:27:500:27:53

And I do not wish, I did not wish,

0:27:530:27:58

by renouncing this past, to diminish

0:27:580:28:06

the enormous commitment for the good

0:28:060:28:11

which this movement represented

0:28:110:28:14

and I still believe represents.

0:28:140:28:17

It just so happens that those of us

0:28:170:28:19

who were Communists in the West

0:28:190:28:22

never had anything much to, er,

0:28:220:28:24

shall we say, reproach ourselves with.

0:28:240:28:27

We fortunately never became governments

0:28:270:28:29

and were expected to do the things

0:28:290:28:31

which Communists in government in the East were expected to do.

0:28:310:28:36

We were on the right side.

0:28:360:28:38

What we did was, on the whole, on the right side in this country.

0:28:380:28:42

Very few...

0:28:420:28:44

All we can say is that when we talked about Russia,

0:28:440:28:47

which was neither here nor there

0:28:470:28:49

as far as I was politically concerned,

0:28:490:28:52

we were either fools,

0:28:520:28:53

or liars, or naive,

0:28:530:28:56

but that's quite a different thing

0:28:560:28:58

from saying that God failed.

0:28:580:29:00

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:29:000:29:04

In what sense do you still feel

0:29:080:29:11

there is something left to communism as a project?

0:29:110:29:14

Because it's not clear to me in the book what you think is left

0:29:140:29:19

that's viable politically about the communist project.

0:29:190:29:22

Communist Party - no, nothing.

0:29:240:29:26

Communism as something...

0:29:290:29:33

a state and society

0:29:330:29:34

organised on the model

0:29:340:29:36

on which it was in the Soviet Union

0:29:360:29:38

and on the model of the Soviet Union -

0:29:380:29:41

no, no future.

0:29:410:29:43

I believe - as I try to show in the book -

0:29:430:29:47

that, in a sense, this was a peculiar historical freak,

0:29:470:29:53

if you like,

0:29:530:29:54

that for understandable reasons,

0:29:540:29:58

the revolution triumphs in a country

0:29:580:30:02

in which communism...

0:30:020:30:04

or socialism as Marx and other socialists conceived it,

0:30:040:30:09

could not conceivably have been built.

0:30:090:30:11

So what is viable? What remains?

0:30:110:30:14

What remains is, in fact, that if the world is to have a future,

0:30:160:30:23

it will have to be, as it were,

0:30:230:30:27

it cannot rely on the spontaneous operations of the capitalist system.

0:30:270:30:32

It has to rely on, to some extent,

0:30:330:30:37

human communities taking conscious responsibility

0:30:370:30:44

for their welfare and their future.

0:30:440:30:48

Whether this implies something like...

0:30:480:30:52

whether this, that,

0:30:520:30:53

or all industries are to be run by the government,

0:30:530:30:57

these seem to me to be second-order questions.

0:30:570:31:00

But that it cannot be left to simply

0:31:000:31:05

the free play of the market,

0:31:050:31:10

or some equivalent. That seems to me to be absolutely basic

0:31:100:31:14

and that remains absolutely basic, it seems to me.

0:31:140:31:18

-Um...

-But that just makes you a good left-wing social democrat.

0:31:200:31:24

That doesn't make you a communist.

0:31:240:31:26

That is probably true that in a sense,

0:31:280:31:31

becoming a good left-wing social democrat

0:31:310:31:35

is the way in which Marxism

0:31:350:31:37

was clearly developing

0:31:370:31:39

before the Russian Revolution.

0:31:390:31:41

Marxism didn't actually have the reputation of being

0:31:410:31:44

essentially a theory of

0:31:440:31:46

revolution and barricades.

0:31:460:31:48

It was anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists which had this.

0:31:480:31:52

The idea of the revolution barricades

0:31:520:31:54

came back into Marxism

0:31:540:31:57

via October, you see?

0:31:570:31:59

Mmm. But what we come down to

0:31:590:32:01

at the end of it

0:32:010:32:03

is that you made a commitment

0:32:030:32:05

when you were 14 which was -

0:32:050:32:07

we either have socialism or we have barbarism,

0:32:070:32:10

and in a sense, you've remained true to that all your life.

0:32:100:32:14

I hope so.

0:32:140:32:16

And, alas, we haven't got socialism,

0:32:160:32:19

but we do have an increase in barbarism.

0:32:190:32:21

What exactly do you mean by barbarism?

0:32:210:32:24

I mean firstly that, in some sense,

0:32:240:32:29

the rules of social behaviour

0:32:290:32:32

which tend to govern all societies -

0:32:320:32:36

must govern them if they aren't to...

0:32:360:32:38

disintegrate into some kind of

0:32:380:32:42

Hobbesian anarchy - are under threat

0:32:420:32:45

or under disintegration

0:32:450:32:48

because of the change,

0:32:480:32:52

changes in society which we have seen and through which are going?

0:32:520:32:57

But, I mean...

0:32:570:32:59

Which changes are producing

0:32:590:33:00

barbarism within the capitalist world?

0:33:000:33:03

For one thing, the growth of big cities,

0:33:030:33:08

and I suppose I would say...

0:33:080:33:13

the fact that the mechanisms

0:33:130:33:17

for keeping these things under control in the past

0:33:170:33:21

are either weakened or may possibly disappear.

0:33:210:33:25

Which mechanisms do you mean?

0:33:250:33:27

The state, for one thing.

0:33:270:33:29

You yourself, if I may say so,

0:33:310:33:34

have pointed out that

0:33:340:33:36

one of the reasons why, in Yugoslavia,

0:33:360:33:39

you find that there is this extraordinary

0:33:390:33:43

uncontrolled outburst of almost...

0:33:430:33:48

erotic, I think you say, violence

0:33:480:33:52

is that these countries have got used,

0:33:520:33:55

over a long period, to government and law

0:33:550:33:58

having the monopoly of legitimate violence.

0:33:580:34:02

This now disappears.

0:34:020:34:04

There are no other rules about how to treat violence and what to do,

0:34:040:34:09

and the result is indeed cruelty,

0:34:090:34:13

atrocity, barbarism.

0:34:130:34:15

So barbarism means, to use your own phrase,

0:34:150:34:18

the democratisation of violence?

0:34:180:34:21

That, I think, is one aspect of it.

0:34:210:34:24

That's obviously the aspect which we mostly notice.

0:34:240:34:28

But at the same time, it seems to me

0:34:280:34:31

that barbarism is also much more specifically

0:34:310:34:35

the gradual weakening of the standards and aspirations

0:34:350:34:43

of 18th-century rationalism

0:34:430:34:46

and 18th-century enlightenment.

0:34:460:34:49

Finally, the last sentence of your book, as I recall, says,

0:34:490:34:54

"Unless we have a changed society, we'll be going into darkness."

0:34:540:35:00

A very sombre conclusion, and I wondered if

0:35:000:35:02

you could put some flesh and bones on that

0:35:020:35:06

very tenacious dream of a changed society

0:35:060:35:10

that still obviously drives you and still obviously inspires you.

0:35:100:35:13

It's difficult to imagine because we are gradually getting used,

0:35:180:35:25

you see, to living under conditions

0:35:250:35:28

which, in the days of our parents, my parents,

0:35:280:35:32

or grandparents, would have been regarded as intolerable.

0:35:320:35:36

And so what is darkness, you see?

0:35:360:35:41

Everybody thinks a catastrophe

0:35:410:35:44

is something which happens

0:35:440:35:46

from one day to the next, like a big earthquake, or something like this.

0:35:460:35:52

But what we are not easily used to is a slow-motion catastrophe,

0:35:520:35:56

such as we can see happening in large parts of Africa today.

0:35:560:36:00

GUNSHOTS

0:36:000:36:02

GUNFIRE CONTINUES

0:36:050:36:09

It is possible for human life to go on and people adjusting themselves

0:36:100:36:14

to living in the sort of conditions in which people have been living

0:36:140:36:20

for 20 years in Angola and Mozambique,

0:36:200:36:23

for, whatever it is, ten years or more in Somalia,

0:36:230:36:27

for five or six years in Liberia and a number of other places.

0:36:270:36:31

No doubt, in some way or other,

0:36:310:36:36

something like life,

0:36:360:36:38

on the basis of being nasty, brutish and short,

0:36:380:36:42

can nevertheless become regularised again.

0:36:420:36:46

And yet, looking at it from where we stand

0:36:460:36:49

and looking at it not only from our hopes,

0:36:490:36:52

but from the experience...

0:36:520:36:55

After all, living in Liberia or Mozambique

0:36:550:36:59

even in the early 1970s - or Somalia - was different.

0:36:590:37:04

Living in Tajikistan was different.

0:37:050:37:08

It wasn't ideal, it was even bad,

0:37:080:37:11

but it was better than what there is now.

0:37:110:37:15

And I think when to say darkness,

0:37:150:37:17

it doesn't mean that we shall all, kind of, commit suicide,

0:37:170:37:21

it means we shall get used to living under conditions

0:37:210:37:25

which should not be tolerated.

0:37:250:37:27

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0:37:590:38:04