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New Left Review 67, January-February 2011


Gregory Elliott

THE OLD MOLE’S PATH

With How to Change the World, Eric Hobsbawm marks over sixty years in books since editing Labour’s Turning Point in 1948 and making his authorial debut proper, with The Jazz Scene and Primitive Rebels, in 1959. [1] Eric Hobsbawm, How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism, Little, Brown: London, 2011, £25, hardback 470 pp, 978 1 4087 0287 1 Should it prove to be the last of his twenty-five or so titles to date, it would represent a fitting farewell to a career intimately bound up with the name, and intellectual and political legacy, of Karl Marx. Actually sub-titled ‘Marx and Marxism 1840–2011’, rather than the ‘tales’ of them advertised on the dust jacket, the book does not in fact assemble all its author’s writings on the subject, others of which can be found in two splendid earlier collections—Revolutionaries (1973) and On History (1997)—not to mention the new edition of the Dictionary of National Biography, which contains his long entry on Marx. As a result, the sole Marxist after Marx dealt with at length—two chapters of sixteen—is Gramsci; not coincidentally, perhaps, the only one to have met with Hobsbawm’s almost unqualified approval since his discovery of the Prison Writings in the 1950s, and gravitation to what (in a revealing aside in his 2002 autobiography) he described as ‘spiritual membership’ of the Italian Communist Party.

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