“The task of the Marxist historian”

I’m all for de mortuis nil nisi bonum but there are limits.

The obit for Stuart Macintyre in The Oz certainly is heavily weighted on the bonum side. And what is perhaps worth noting is that there is plenty in what was written even there that should make someone just a bit suspicious. Let me quote from here and there, following the opening sentence: “Stuart Macintyre was the most outstanding Australian historian of his generation.”

In his first published essay, he challenged the “bourgeois ideology” of the Melbourne history school, personified by its founders, Ernest Scott and Max Crawford.

The task of the Marxist historian, he declared, was “the analysis of the full complexity of class oppression”….

His first book, A Proletarian Science, based on his Cambridge doctoral thesis, was on the history of communism, as was his last, The Party – the second volume of his magnum opus, a history of the Australian Communist Party, completed during his last illness….

He remained firmly on the left, and was often critical of historical orthodoxy.

Just to round things out, please read Keith Windschuttle’s essay from 2008: Stuart Macintyre and the Blainey Affair. It does get a mention in the Obit in The Oz: “In 1990 succeeded Geoffrey Blainey as the Ernest Scott professor of history” but you might find out just that bit extra reading Keith’s article.

15 thoughts on ““The task of the Marxist historian””

  1. Went to school at Scotch. Very proletarian. Not. Again I ask, why do so so many of these hard core leftist hail from expensive, exclusive private schools?


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  2. Thanks Steve. Can people please cancel their subscriptions to the Australian? A hagiography of an unrepentant communist should not be supported by normal people.


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  3. A hagiography of an unrepentant communist should not be supported by normal people.

    I was watching Antiques Roadshow last week when a set of propaganda posters a woman had bought in the USSR c. 1970 when she was an exchange student there from the UK were being evaluated. The evaluator was waxing lyrical about the design and impact of the posters and put a considerable value on them for what they were, I thought. Then it struck to me – would they have evaluated Nazi propaganda posters so positively and without any ethical judgment as to the regime which produced them? You can be sure no African artifact presented gets by without a tut-tut about colonialism.


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  4. In the year 2000 Melbourne University Press published The Historian’s Conscience, edited by Macintyre. The volume told nothing of the conscience of the historian; the only concern was manipulating the mind of the reader. Even the late John Hirst joined this farrago of humbug: ‘Historians write from the evidence, but also from their understanding of how the world works and how they would like it to work’ (p. 84).

    And now? The historians (particularly, as far as I am concerned, relating to religion in the time of the Great War) are convicted of ideology, obfuscation and downright falsehood. Manning Clark, Macintyre and others have wrecked the discipline. Simply, the professoriate is untrustworthy. Is it capable of repair? Probably not.


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  5. Just to round things out, please read Keith Windschuttle’s essay from 2008: Stuart Macintyre and the Blainey Affair. It does get a mention in the Obit in The Oz: “In 1990 succeeded Geoffrey Blainey as the Ernest Scott professor of history”

    Only after Marxist Macintyre was in the forefront of the witch-hunt to destroy Blainey’s career.
    But I suppose The Australian left that part out?
    Absolutely disgraceful if it did.


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  6. Thanks Steve. Can people please cancel their subscriptions to the Australian? A hagiography of an unrepentant communist should not be supported by normal people.

    Exactly right. The legacy media needs to die.


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  7. My instincts as a descendant of the old rural working/small farmer classes always told me to beware of an Althusserian Marxist who went to Scotch College.

    As a friend from the old Labor Right in NSW observed of Macintyre’s Short History of Australia, it spends pages on the Communist Party and doesn’t even mention William McKell, by any measure the most successful Labor strategist Australia ever had. McKell, I suppose, was just a criminal running dog of revanchist capitalist/fascist imperialism.


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  8. It always astounded me that Marx was called a philosopher and his ideas philosdophy.

    The closest he got to philosophy was stealing Hegel’s idea and grafting it onto politics. And the closest his followers get to trying to describe the human condition is psychology, not philosophy.

    It was just a flawed idea that has been carried long after it should have expired. In fact, I think to keep it running they have had to make so many modifications that there is nothing of the original ideas left.

    But they cling to it. They invoke his name as something sacred.

    And they accuse Conservatives of being unable to let go of the past.


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