The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

Eric Hobsbawm and the Universal House of Justice - The Century of Light

The uhj's "Century of Light" is clearly aimed at the radical elements of
the NGO community and intended to play to their assumptions. For instance, 
this currying of NGO favor is blatant in the repeated citing of Eric Hobsbawm, the 
uhj's "favorite" historian, so at odds with the bahai Writings, but most appropriate
for its intended audience: 

In so far as the uhj has aligned itself with such cliches
versus the teachings of Baha'u'llah, preferring Hobsbawm,
in the Century of Light, race, gender, etc., I continue to
maintain that only the freedom of conscience Abdul-Baha
spoke of highly can provide an invigoratingly open arena
capable of protecting the Baha'i Faith from repeating the
appalling mistakes and crimes of the more totalitarian
forms of leftist liberalism. As many know, open
discussion is not permitted and tolerated today within the
bahai faith.

Baha'u'llah's emphasis is on unity that embraces values
beyond the cliches of the leftist liberalism of modernity,
while respecting the moral responsibility and complexity
of the individual.

One example FROM:
The Century of Light: [page 3] 
"Throughout the planet, Western imperialism was pursuing among the populations of other lands what it regarded as its "civilizing mission". In the words of one historian, the century's opening decade appeared to be essentially a continuation of the "long nineteenth century",[3] an era whose boundless self-satisfaction was perhaps best epitomized by the celebration in 1897 of Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee, a parade that rolled for hours through the streets of London, with an imperial panoply and display of military power far surpassing anything attempted in past civilizations."
[3] Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991 (London: Abacus, 1995), p. 584.

For further evidence of baha'i involvement in politics, see extensive manipulation of the United Nations

Also NITV in LA broadcasting pro- return of the Shah propaganda into Iran

Articles on Hobsbawm (for those unfamiliar with his work)

What a swell party it was. . . for him (Filed: 22/09/2002)
Niall Ferguson reviews Interesting Times by Eric Hobsbawm 

Times Literary Supplement. Not Fading Away Yet:
How British Identity Survived the Declinist Intelligentsia.
June 7, 2002. Includes a couple of fine barbs for Eric Hobsbawm, the uhj's favorite UK radical, as mentioned, in the "Century of Light." 

Voice of the Old Left
The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914-1991. By Eric Hobsbawm.
Pantheon Books. 627 pp. $30.
Reviewed by A. J. Bacevich
Eric Hobsbawm ranks among the most prolific and most influential British
historians of the entire postwar era. He is also a person who, throughout
his long career, has without apology identified himself as a man of the
left. So he remains today.
For Hobsbawm, history is the continuation of politics by other means. In
exploring the past, the historian's true purpose is to shape the future.
Thus, whether acknowledged or not, real history, serious history, is always
deeply political. Neither predisposed to avoid controversy nor willing to
confine himself to arid subjects of antiquarian interest, Hobsbawm makes no
pretense of dispassionate objectivity. His is political history in the grand
manner: he appropriates the largest canvas within reach and attacks it with
bold, slashing interpretative strokes. And Hobsbawm appears to relish
controversy. His overall aim is less to inform the ignorant or to enlighten
the befuddled than to rally the like-minded and to antagonize the
Among Hobsbawm's best-known works is a trilogy on the "long nineteenth
century," his term for the period from 1789 to 1914 during which European
influence reached seemingly unassailable heights. The Age of Extremes forms
a sequel to that trilogy, charting the course of what Hobsbawm has labeled
the "short twentieth century" extending from the outbreak of World War I
(and the ensuing demise of Europe) through the end of the Cold War-a
history, not incidentally, of Hobsbawm's own time.
This is a deeply personal account. Although the narrator seldom intrudes
directly into the story, Hobsbawm's version of the "short century" revolves
to a large extent around the great controversies that animated the era's
myriad progressives, social revolutionaries, and proponents of secular
utopia-in short, the sundry groups that comprise the modern left with which
Hobsbawm has aligned himself and that (with few exceptions) derived singular
inspiration from the upheaval that in 1917 overturned the old order in
Russia and gave birth to that beacon of social justice and humanitarian
virtue, the Soviet Union. The Age of Extremes can best be understood as a
testimonial to that left, Hobsbawm's effort to explain how such a worthy
enterprise has now ended in abject and humiliating failure, its ideals
discredited, its vast pretensions demolished. Above all, in recounting the
"short twentieth century's" descent into barbarism, Hobsbawm seeks to
absolve the left of any responsibility for the era's various horrors and to
refute any suggestion that the Grand Cause itself might have been from the
very outset misguided, if not inherently malignant.
It's a tough case to make, one requiring both bravado and guile. Hobsbawm
offers plenty of both. He regales his reader with tales of his heroes: "the
noble Ho Chi Minh," "the pacifically-minded Khrushchev," and, of course,
"Fidel"-"strong and charismatic [and] determined to demonstrate personal
bravery and to be a hero of whatever cause of freedom against tyranny."
Hobsbawm acknowledges, but cannot quite bring himself to condemn, the crimes
of Joseph Stalin. To do so would undermine his overall depiction of the
Soviet Union as brave and admirable, unappreciated and willfully
misunderstood. Thus, he advises, "the victory over Hitler's Germany was
essentially won, and could only have been won, by the Red Army." (Emphasis
added.) Having thus delivered the world from the scourge of fascism,
communism next proceeded to save capitalism from itself "by providing it
with the incentive, fear, to reform itself after the Second World War." Such
fear on the part of the West was, of course, quite misplaced, since the
Soviet Union at war's end yearned for nothing so much as to sustain "the
framework of the all-embracing anti-fascist alliance, i.e., it looked
forward to a long-term coexistence, or rather symbiosis, of capitalist and
Communist systems."
Responsibility for the ensuing Cold War thus rests squarely upon the West
(above all, upon the United States), which whipped itself into a frenzy over
"the supposed Soviet threat." That such a threat never existed, according to
Hobsbawm, is patently obvious. Stalin entertained no imperial aspirations.
There was no Soviet monolith, merely "a consortium of Communist states,
organized around the Soviet Union." (Did the residents of, say, Budapest in
1956 or Prague in 1968 somehow misconstrue the privileges accruing to them
as members of this consortium? On this point, Hobsbawm is silent.) Wherever
its political influence extended beyond its own borders, the USSR was
"specifically committed to [building] mixed economies under multiparty
parliamentary democracies."
Moreover, the economic and technological superiority of the West was from
the outset so evident that for the capitalist bloc to feel challenged by
communism was clearly absurd. The Cold War, "from the start, was a war of
unequals." Thus, if we are to believe Hobsbawm, the Soviet Union was
simultaneously so mighty that it alone possessed the strength to crush Nazi
Germany and so benign and so weak that mindless hysteria along could explain
why anyone would suspect Stalin's peaceful intentions.
And so it goes: that "passionate reformer" Mikhail Gorbachev is commended
for singlehandedly extricating the world from the jaws of the Cold War;
Israel is stigmatized and then quickly dismissed as simply a "new anti-Arab
state"; the Catholic Church is repeatedly denounced for siding with the
forces of political reaction against the forces of enlightenment. Indeed,
Hobsbawm's antipathy for virtually all religion forms a recurrent underlying
Were The Age of Extremes merely an apology for the left, it would be of
limited interest. To the author's credit, his book is much more than that.
According to Hobsbawm, future generations contemplating the furious
ideological rows that fixed the attention of elites in the decades after
1917 may well wonder what all the fuss was about-not that the arguments over
fascism or communism were pointless, but that in the long run they will turn
out to be of less consequence than the massive technological, social, and
cultural changes that have so transformed global society during the short
twentieth century. The result, Hobsbawm argues, is that the world in which
democratic capitalism has triumphed is, in fact, a world on the brink of
profound crisis.
That Hobsbawm all too predictably attributes that crisis entirely to the
crimes and excesses of capitalism is a point that need not detain us. That
the maladies to which he points do indeed constitute a crisis of historic
proportions is an argument that merits thoughtful consideration. Many items
in his bill of particulars-recurring episodes of unspeakable violence and
savagery decades after civilized peoples proclaimed "never again," growing
desperation throughout much of the so- called Third World, the malaise of
affluent societies suffering from the increasing "privatization of life" and
the growth of "consumer egoism," the inadequacy and corruption of politics
even in mature democracies, the diminished capacity of established
institutions to respond to the challenges that they face-transcend ideology.
Hobsbawm is on to something: with regard to the problems confronting mankind
today, there is something different, larger, and particularly frightening.
To turn to Hobsbawm and his colleagues on the Old Left for a remedy to those
problems, however, would be hazardous if not downright reckless. They have
had their moment and the world is still tallying up the cost of the havoc
they wreaked. Yet the collapse of the left's visions for a secular
utopia-however welcome-does not detract from the validity of its critique.
Rather, the very depth of that failure might remind us that the ultimate
solution to our present crisis-if solution there be-is likely to be found
not in the realm of politics but in the realm of the spirit.

A.J. Bacevich is Executive Director of the Foreign Policy Institute at the
Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.

May 22, 2001
The New World Trade Order - The Decisive Importance Of The Non-traded sector 

Eric Hobsbawn has written a book recently on the "New Century" where he
clearly establishes what kind of changes the new century will witness. Man
has been sailing seas and crossing mountains ever since he has emerged upon
this world as an intelligent species. We have had ancient voyages and
mediaeval trade routes and at the turn of the modern era with Vasco da Gama
and Columbus, momentous journeys in geographical discovery. We have had, all
over the world, at least two centuries of colonialism, where the resources
of the colonised nation continuously fed the industries and commerce of the
master nation. All of these events since time immemorial have taken place on
a global scale. Then, where is the singularity or uniqueness of the
globalisation which we are experiencing now?
Eric Hobsbawn says that the present globalisation is unique because this
time, it is neither trade nor conquest, but a reorganisation of production
upon the rational calculations of global optima which purports to bring
about an integration of the world as never before. Therefore, it is likely
that the resources will flow across the globe to settle into countries where
they can perform in the most competitive manner. In the days of Schumpeter,
i.e. in the sixties, technological sophistication was directly related to
competitiveness of manufactures. But in the present world of standardised
technology as well as of freely available knowledge and very mobile skilled
persons, the advantages due to technical competence no longer belongs
specifically to nations. What belong specifically to nations are other
things which cannot be separated or even be traded by nations. These, in
terms of economics will be called as non-tradeables and include water and
power supply, other civic amenities, political stability, compliance with
the more standardised rules of the WTO and a general work ambience of the
country. Such items and these items cannot be traded, nor can they be
accounted for but they constitute very crucial conditions for
competitiveness in the traded goods (manufacturing, agriculture and
services) to take effect.
In the days of globalisation, it is really not important to know how much a
nation trade and what it trades in, but how much of resources from all over
the world it has been able to attract towards itself. This is because, the
bulk of a nation's wealth would come from its production, and trade is
important because it makes the nation concentrate upon what it produces the
best. Presently, nations are likely to vie with each other in order to
attract more and more resources towards themselves so that international
capital, knowledge and skills flow within their boundaries generating income
and wealth. In the post-capitalist phase, or the advanced capitalist phase,
which started roughly around the mid-50's, was that it was no longer
important as to who owned the capital as much as the fact who controlled it.
Daniel Bell, a leading American sociologist said that production needs to be
controlled by the educated, intelligent, informed and innovative persons and
not by the ones who merely have the wealth to invest. Thus started a long
phase of the importance of "control of capital", where managers became more
important than the industrialists who owned business. Such a separation
between control and ownership of capital came into existence due to the
intensification of knowledge and skills into production.
In the days of globalisation, it is important to realise that knowledge and
skills may become relatively easy to access and acquire. Most of our
innovations are well-documented and technology and skills themselves have
become traded commodities. What remains as the "cutting edge" or the
differentiating factor is the non-traded sector - infrastructure. If
infrastructure is supposed to create all the difference to the
competitiveness of industries, then neither ownership, nor control, but the
location of production sites will become important. Managers can be posted
anywhere and skilled labour can migrate, but the stationary factor,
infrastructure will become the most deciding factor for a country's wealth
in the years to come. This means that every country will want to improve its
chances of attracting investments and in order to do this they will try
their level best to have the best of sanitations, best of environmental
purity, the best of power supply and so on. Health and education, two most
important factors in the employability of labour would also become engaging
political considerations.
What impact will this have on the nations' production structures? It may be
easily deduced that with such an importance on the infrastructure, the best
of the nation's resources will shift towards the production of such
non-tradeables, like road construction, schools, education, information
technology, environmental control and so on. But the problem with these
non-tradeables is that they are most of the times commercially unviable -
the full user cost will be very difficult to recover from a country like
India and many such developing economies. Then how will the government or
the investor ever hope to get back the funds. The only way one can realise
the investments into infrastructure projects is through the very long winded
indirect effect where the investor hopes that with improved infrastructure,
more investments will come into the country which will raise the income of
the people and with which they will either buy the firm's utilities, in case
the firm is in the private sector, or they will pay tax, if the investor is
the government. This is why, in the economic policies of nations as well as
the investments into infrastructure go hand in hand with the openness
towards foreign capital. Investments into infrastructure cannot be
profitable without a large inflow of investments. If this large inflow of
investments take place out of indigenous resources, then it is fine. But if
the domestic entrepreneurs do not come forth with their investments then,
one must keep one's doors open to the foreign investments. In other words,
foreign investments are intricately linked to the investments into
Therefore, the future of globalisation is likely to see an increase in the
production of non-traded goods all over the world. This will be because the
non-traded sector will serve as the condition of success for the traded
sector. The non-traded sector requires a very large amount of surplus
because its costs are not always directly recoverable. In the
macro-scenario, such costs can only be recovered from increased sale of the
traded goods. In other words, the traded sector must heavily cross-subsidise
the non-traded sector. This will make more and more demands on the traded
sector to become profitable and competitive, capture larger and larger
market share and add more value to the customer. It is true that we may
assign the increase in global competition to the harder pressures on the
commodity sector in particular and the traded sector in general, but when
seen wholistically, the need for competitiveness of the traded sector lies
precisely in the fact that it must now subsidise the non-traded sector.
According to Andre Gunder Frank and Samir Amin, leading economists of the
60's and the 80's respectively, the world production was likely to get
divided and specialised. One set of nations would continue to produce less
value-added products, while the other countries would continue to produce
the higher value-added products. The first set would be the developing
countries, while the latter would be the developed countries. The theories
said that even when both grew in terms of value-addition, the developing
countries would still be producing goods which were relatively less in
value-addition in comparison to the developed countries. In the present
context, the relationship between the countries may reverse and the extent
of reversal will depend on how far the traded sector in every country
subsidises the non-traded sector.
One of the most certain ways for generating a surplus in the traded sector
is to relocate industries - closer to outsourced units, closer to sources of
power and water, closer to centres of consumption. All of such efforts are
likely to reduce costs, increase value for the customers and in effect,
corner a larger market share for itself. This is why, the world is
increasingly likely to see intra-regional trade than interregional trade,
trade which takes place due to the relocation of plants seeking facilities
rather than specific resources. The global players of steel are increasing
getting interested in channelising their sales into a particular country
through service centres and other auxiliary facilities such that the final
costs of the commodity when it reaches the final customer may be contained.
Trade will now take place more in terms of relocation as well as get
concentrated within regions. This will not happen due to a rising economic
regionalism, as it is many a times made out to be, but will happen more out
of a definite economic need to maximise its subsidisation to the non-traded
Susmita Dasgupta 

Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century 1914-1991 was published in
Great Britain in 1994 and in the United States shortly after. It was soon
published in all the main international languages - except one. It has
appeared in German, Spanish and Portuguese (in both European and American
editions), Italian, Chinese (in both Taiwanese and Mainland characters),
Japanese, and Arabic. A Russian edition was soon underway. Editions were
also in progress in all the state languages of the European Union - except
one - and in the languages of most ex-communist states of central and
eastern Europe (Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Rumanian, Slovene, Serbocroat,
But not, until October, in French. Unlike publishers in Lithuania (with 3.7
million inhabitants), Moldavia (4.3 million) and Iceland (270,000),
publishers in France (with its population of 58.4 million) did not
apparently consider it feasible, or desirable, to translate Age of Extremes
into their national language. Yet the book was considered of sufficient
importance for the review Le Debat (January-February 1997) to devote almost
100 pages to a critical symposium on it - including several pages by eminent
French publishers explaining why the book could not be published in France.
But for the initiative of Le Monde Diplomatique and a Belgian publisher, it
would still not be accessible to the French-speaking world.
The resistance of French publishers, alone among those of some 30 countries,
to translating Age of Extremes is curious. The author is not the only one to
find it surprising. Most of my earlier books were translated into French and
some, indeed, have recently been republished in France. I had certainly not
expected the publishers of the three volumes of my history of the 19th
century - still in print - to refuse, without comment or explanation, to
publish Age of Extremes, which completes the series. Was it probable that
this book (unlike my earlier French titles) would have lost money, as French
publishers have suggested? To judge by its reception and sales in all the
countries in which it has been published, lack of public interest is
unlikely. The collective failure of French publishers to publish the present
book calls for some explanation.
Anti-Marxist bias
The most concise explanation comes from an American academic journal that
specialises in surveying intellectual debates and scandals, Lingua Franca:
"Twenty-five years ago", observes Tony Judt, a historian at New York
University, "Age of Extremes would have been translated in a week. So what
has changed? Three forces have apparently conspired to keep the book out of
translation: the growth of a vituperative anti-Marxism among French
intellectuals; a budget squeeze in humanities publishing; and, not least, a
publishing community either unwilling or afraid to defy these trends" (1).
That the present book appeared shortly before the late François Furet's
highly successful Le Passé d'une Illusion, an "equally ambitious treatment
of 20th century history and one considerably closer to current Paris taste
in its treatment of Soviet communism", may, says Judt, have "made French
publishers wary of coming out with a work like Hobsbawm's".
A similar explanation was offered by the new Newsletter of the Committee on
Intellectual Correspondence sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and
Sciences, the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin and the Suntory Foundation in
Japan (2). Current Parisian intellectual fashion, it argues, would find
Hobsbawm's unrepentant position on the left "something of an embarrassment".
This is also the view of Pierre Nora of Gallimard in an authoritative and
lucid account of the situation as seen by a French publisher. All the
publishers, he says, "whether they want to or not, are obliged to take into
account the intellectual and ideological circumstances in which they
publish. There are serious reasons to think . that [Hobsbawm's] book would
appear in an unfavourable intellectual and historical climate. Which
explains the unwillingness to take chances." France was "the longest and
most deeply Stalinised country". Thus "decompression", when it came,
"accentuated hostility to anything that could from near or far recall that
former pro-Soviet, pro-communist age, including plain Marxism. Eric Hobsbawn
cultivates this attachment to the revolutionary cause, even if at a
distance, as a point of pride . But in France at this moment, it goes down
badly" (3). It is not clear whether, or to what extent, the publisher
himself feels part of that France where the author's attitude "goes down
In the light of such arguments readers might expect Age of Extremes to be -
like Furet's Le Passé d'une illusion - essentially an extended political or
ideological polemic. It was not written as such. It is not the same kind of
book at all, as readers will immediately discover. It asks to be judged on
its merits as a comprehensive history of the 20th century (and the final
volume of a series, begun many years ago, which together constitutes a
history of the world since the late 18th century Age of Revolution). It has
been recognised and taken seriously as such in countries whose regimes and
intellectual fashions differ as widely as China and Taiwan, Israel and
Syria, Canada, South Korea and Brazil, not to mention the US. Much to the
financial satisfaction of author and publishers, it has also been very
widely sold - and read - in three continents. One may observe in passing
that publishers in countries at least as profoundly "Stalinised" in their
time as France, and exposed to an even more dramatic "decompression" -
namely the ex-communist states - have not hesitated to publish the book. (In
communist times my historical works were never published in Russia, Poland
or Czechoslovakia).
The publication of a French translation of Age of Extremes now make it
possible to discover whether reviewers and the intelligent reading public in
France are really as different from those of other countries as Pierre
Nora's unflattering assessment of the intellectual state of France suggests.
It will also allow readers to judge another argument which has been
privately used to justify the continued refusal to publish Age of Extremes
in France - namely that by the time a translation was made, the book would
already be out-of-date and hence no longer worth reading. In the author's
view, the time for a revised edition has not yet come. The world situation
has not changed fundamentally since the mid-1990s. If my general historical
analysis and observations on the world at the end of the century require
major revision, it is not because they have been invalidated by subsequent
The international situation remains as sketched in the first part of chapter
19. The dramatic and terrible events in the region of the Great Lakes of
central Africa (former Zaire) provide an additional illustration of this.
That the "short 20th century" ended in a general crisis of all systems, and
not simply with the collapse of communism, is central to the argument of
this book. If anything, it is confirmed by the eruption in 1997-98 of the
most serious global crisis of the capitalist economy since the 1930s.
Indeed, it suggests that the author was too optimistic in suggesting that
the world economy was "due to enter another era of prosperous expansion
before the end of the millennium", although he also noted - as it turned out
correctly -- "that this might be hampered for a while by the after-effects
of the disintegration of Soviet socialism, by the collapse of parts of the
world into anarchy and warfare, and perhaps by an excessive dedication to
global free trade". In short, in the author's view, the merits and
weaknesses of his interpretation of the 20th century have not - so far -
been significantly affected by what has happened in the world since 1994.
For this reason the text before French readers, apart from minimal
corrections, is the text as published, or about to be published, in other
languages. I leave it to their judgement However I would like to put on
record my thanks to Editions Complex, who have made this edition possible,
to P.E. Dauzat and the other translators who have produced a superb
translation of a long and difficult English text, and to those friends in
Paris who, over the past few years demonstrated that not all French
intellectuals are opposed to allowing their countrymen to read works by
authors of whom the bien-pensant fashions of the 1990s disapprove.

* Historian. Author inter alia of Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth
Century, 1914-1991, The Age of Capital, 1848-1875, and The Age of Empire,
1875-1914, all published by Abacus (Little, Brown)
(1) "Chunnel Vision", Lingua Franca, November 1997 pp 22-24.
"Furet vs. Hobsbawm", Newsletter, Fall/Winter 1997-98, p 10.
Pierre Nora, "Traduire: necessité et difficultés", Le Débat, Paris, no. 93,
January-February 1997, pp 93-95.