In This Review

Viva la Revolución: Hobsbawm on Latin America
Viva la Revolución: Hobsbawm on Latin America
By Eric Hobsbawm
Little, Brown, 2016, 480 pp

Hobsbawm, an eminent historian who passed away in 2012, was one of the United Kingdom’s leading public intellectuals, widely respected for his erudition and literary productivity and for his enduring faith, leavened with a reasoned skepticism, in the forward march of human history. The bulk of his work was devoted to modern Europe, but he traveled to Latin America during the 1960s and early 1970s and witnessed a diverse continent in social upheaval—developments that appealed to his Marxian perspective. This collection of essays and reviews he wrote during that period, although reflective of the times, holds up remarkably well. It is refreshing to be reminded throughout that even for a person blessed with Hobsbawm’s intellectual powers, it is immensely difficult to foresee the future. Although his political sympathies are clear, he avoids the sarcastic bombast characteristic of some left-wing commentary. And he calls it like he sees it: writing in 1971, he chastised the ill-fated Allende government in Chile for lacking a long-term vision; in another essay, he wrote that Ernesto “Che” Guevara more closely resembled the hard-nosed Lenin than the romantic Lord Byron.