“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.

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